America is big on heroes. From what I can tell there is a resurgence of heroes among us, yet we are not being told their story.
Across this beautiful land of abundance, a war is being waged and very few of us are aware of it. It is a war that is pitting the extreme extraction of resources against the land, the water and the people.
You could say I have become enamored with this rise of humanity that seems to be erupting. I feel a need to tell their stories, to participate as I can and most importantly to encourage everyone who understands this need to step up in this defining moment and take a stand. What are you stepping into? A leaderless awakening of people who are accepting the mandates of being alive: We are on people with one earth and it is our right, duty and privilege to stand together for one another and all of the living yet to come. There is something happening that no amount of arrests, tear gas and rubber bullets will stop. We are finding one another and we are finding our way.
From my extended stay and recent visits to the still existing camps of North Dakota standing for clean water in spite of horrific circumstance and to my most recent (albeit short) visit to Lancaster, Pennsylvania to witness the three year vigil of community members preparing for nonviolent civil disobedience in the face of sprawling pipelines moving fracked gas, I have come to appreciate, admire and learn from these unsung heroes.
It would be wise to ask why mainstream media is willing to accept the story line of corporate oil, fracked gas and cracker plants, but we should not wait until the media catches up with the truth in order to act. We can be honoring these people and their actions and supporting them with dollars, phone calls to legislators and most importantly, following their lead on creating community, reducing consumption and learning to live in ways that do not require extreme extraction and destruction.
You see, I grew up across the street from an industrial park, allowed to spill toxins into the air and corrupting the water supplies. And I have seen first hand the cost in health to the people in that area. I have also experienced the corruption of elected officials, who are willing to allow pollution in order to hold the carrot of “jobs” and “progress” over people. My recent visit back to the place of my birth tells me, nothing has changed and more “progress” is on the way, now in the form of a “cracker plant”. Studies are concluding that the air quality will be severely diminished, and that the reality is that Americans are using less energy (due to improved technologies and quite simply a need to reduce costs), but still the polluters charge on. Add to this the recent improvements of solar and wind renewables – and one has to ask, “Why are we still willing to piss on the ground and water we live on?” More importantly, “Why are we not trying to leave this world a better place to those who will come after us?”
I am perplexed by the priorities we often choose – or the lack thereof. I realize too many of us are heaped in debt that keeps us too busy to contribute to meaningful dialogue regarding the environment – but I am not certain this is a worthy argument. We do seem to make time for entertainment and other luxuries. This is a bit reminiscent of the orchestra playing while the Titanic sunk…”Nearer My God to Thee”.
And the complete irony of my present moment is that I now live in a pristine area of Southwestern Wisconsin, and within the 150-mile radius of sand mining, which has proven to be the distance silica (read carcinogenic) sand particles can find their way into the lungs of innocent and reluctant victims of this “progress”. Couple that with the fact that the sand being dug is destroying beautiful farming landscapes and being shipped to where? The fracking sites in Pennsylvania and other states. You can see that I am witnessing this brutal assault on land, water and people from both ends of the spectrum. And I do not like what I see.
So imbedded in this blog, besides my imploring people to take an active stance to save the environment, are links to help you navigate the storylines too often omitted or buried. Please take time to read and understand. It is my hope that more people will rise up to protect the land, water and air upon which they depend. That we will come to realize this path of destruction and eradicating the lifestyles of indigenous people world over, and here in North America deserves our attention and our clarity.
And perhaps it is time for a bigger awareness. There is no “us and them”. What has been done to “them” is continuing and is also being done to “us” – just ask the Appalachian people who have witnessed mountain top removal. Just ask the folks from Midland Pa and other Beaver County residents who have been burdened by Shippingport nuclear and will now be faced with the calamity of a cracker plant. Just ask the over 800 people arrested on trumped up charges in North Dakota because they dared to say, “No”.
We all must say “No”. Take a moment to read about the three year stand of the people of Conestoga, Pennsylvania – and how Amish and Mennonites, Native Americans and good ole Whites are coming together in community to stop the Marcellus shale-turned-gas pipelines. Or the Nebraska farmers refusing to sell their land for the Keystone XL pipeline – which will be transporting Canadian tar sands oil through America’s heartland and aquifers to be sold to foreign countries without benefit to our people, but benefitting only international corporations (while being defended by the United States government and militarized police).
It is in our hands. People all over this country are demonstrating this with victories large and small. As Martin Luther King understood, “We must learn to live together as brothers or perish together as fools.
Choose your path wisely. Your children’s children will thank you. The Earth will hold you dearly in its memory, but most importantly, you will be able to sleep at night knowing you were among the Ones who said, “Not on my watch.”
Find an environmental issue near you – trust me they are not too hard to find – discover community, find your joie de vivre and give it the best you can. Even one phone call a day to a friend or legislator to share what you are learning is valuable and helpful. Speaking from experience, you will not be disappointed. There are American heroes standing up every day. Be one of them.
This short video by my friend Kahstosera’a Paulette Moore captures the meeting of two world-views on a singular day, Oct 10, 2016 in unceded Sioux territory, Morton County ND, and the continued repercussions of that day. Centuries of extreme extraction and an unwillingness to view the earth as sacred meet up with indigenous people recognizing, “It is our moment”, and reclaiming the sacred. The juxtaposition of this human collision of values demands our attention. While the question, “What are they afraid of?” is one that we all must answer.
Cover photo: from Lancaster Against Pipelines