Stop Doing Harm

The Climate Summit is underway. The gathering is supposed to allow all countries equal footing to negotiate the perils of climate change. Once again the fossil fuel industry is driving the agenda to continue the abusive use of coal, gas and oil.  And once again governments, who are the greatest emitters of greenhouse gasses, are refusing to wind down.  Climate justice groups are given little space to talk about the need to stop harmful polluting, while fossil fuel industries set up elaborate booths to sell their products. It’s more than a conflict of interest; it’s death by greed.

The request for financial help to repair the damage caused by large polluters is being sidestepped. The request to “stop doing harm” is going unheard. 

The summit is called COP 27. That means for the past 27 years this spin has continued while our overuse of fossil fuels impacts the climate and adversely affects our health. 

So when I learned about our school district receiving grants and loans to do a makeover, I looked to see if there were plans to use renewable energy. There were none. The plans are for larger spaces that will require more energy. 

And energy costs are rising and will continue to. Taxpayers will foot the bill for the construction AND for the operational costs. That figure was left out the planning as well. 

The Inflation Reduction Act is ready and waiting for makeovers like this one. Switching to renewables in this moment makes total sense.

I can’t be at COP 27, but I can make my voice heard and I did. I will not be voting to approve the plans for the school makeover unless renewable energy is used. It’s time to stop doing harm. We can.

Photo from an article Misconceptions about solar energy

Thanks to Edward Kimmel via Wikipedia Commons for the image of the sign from the 2017 Climate March in Washington, DC. Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0

Why do we keep allowing the fossil fuel industry to call the shots?

VANESSA NAKATE to Democracy Now: Well, apparently, we have more than 600 fossil fuel lobbyists at this COP, and yet so many communities and activists from the frontlines of the climate crisis weren’t able to make it here. There is a quote that I read recently that said, “If you’re going to discuss about malaria, do not invite the mosquitoes.” So, for me, it’s a worry that we have over 600 fossil fuel lobbyists in this place. It’s a worry for our future. It’s a worry for our planet. It’s a worry for the people.

Where Everyone is Welcome

Gentrification is colonizing. Colonize: to appropriate (a place or domain) for one’s own use.

It’s likely before land was owned it was held in common among people living in a given place. It also seems likely that those people worked to ensure their common interests in a way that was most beneficial to everyone – including the environment. Most likely they were agrarians who lived off the land and cared for animals who supported their way of life.

Skills were shared and bartered. And peacekeeping was left to the peaceful who held a deep appreciation for equity and dignity. 

There are many places on earth that still maintain the understanding of shared commons. There are people who still understand how important each individual is to the whole. 

For the most part capitalism, as we know it, has destroyed this sense of community. Ownership trumps the notion of shared commons. And the hierarchy that ownership creates breeds distrust. The deference that is expected from worker to employer has unleveled the playing field. We’ve lost our ability to be content and the scramble to get ahead leaves most far behind.

Individual “freedoms” now supersede any concern of the common good – that applies to all people on the spectrum of left and right. 

The word gentrification describes inner city take over by wealth as it displaces people of lesser means. But what do we call it when wealth and privilege come knocking on our rural doors?

The gentrification of the Driftless is making it hard for people to choose simple living. Suburbia is finding us. Laws on how we should live come with a price. 

Support cooperative ventures that champion the rights of Nature and human dignity. This isn’t about a hand out. It’s about paying attention to what is happening. It’s about restoring the commons.

Where everyone is welcome. 

Ubuntu

If the past few years have shown us anything it’s this: it’s time for us to rediscover the meaning of the Zulu word Ubuntu, “I am because we are.” I say rediscover because I have a firm belief that Ubuntu is rooted in every human being. It’s just that some of us have forgotten.

A society that has lost its ability to care for one another – that holds individual freedom, wealth and ownership as top priority  – has lost its way. And while we may be top heavy in wealth we are lopsided in humanity.

A society that does not support the welfare and goodwill of all will fall short of its dreams of equality. A people who refuse to acknowledge the sins of our forbearers and do not act to correct them will remain divided. A house divided will surely fall.

People boast of patriotism. Flags are waved. The Pledge is affirmed. The checklist is checked and then we go on our individual way. But the celebration of individuality is a curse unless it’s rooted in the understanding of oneness.

People demand freedom. We have fought wars with “freedom” being the carrot that drove our youth to their graves – not to mention the blood of countless innocents.

The word freedom should not be used lightly. It demands a reawakening to Ubuntu, and the resurgence of our collective humanity and our strength as individuals.

That reawakening is internal. It cannot be taught; it must be felt. It cannot be found in useless debates of right and wrong. It won’t be felt in the endless game of judgment. 

But there it is. Waiting. Tied to our compassion and our empathy. We are worthy of this reawakening and we are capable.

For a look at Ubuntu as inclusion.

Inherit the Wind

For those not paying attention: The earth is undergoing traumatic change. Debates can rage, but facts are undeniable. We’re having one of our driest years. A few years back the waters raged. These are the fluctuations predicted for us. Our terrain gives way to a downward flow but history has informed us trees and grasses play a significant role in slowing the floodwaters when they do arrive.

Wood is at a premium right now. And taking down mature forests make sense to the pocketbook, but little sense when we consider trees’ advantages.

Trees give us oxygen and improve the air we breathe. They sequester carbon, preserve soil, conserve water and support wildlife. Not to mention the joy of a swing and other childhood memories they provide. 

I’m not a gambler, but taking into account climate swings, odds are pretty good that we will have some heavy rains and flooding in the not too distant future. People living in valleys are particularly aware of the dangers of fast moving run-off.  

If you’ve driven around lately, you can see that short-term gain is winning and old growth trees are coming down. The mills are loaded and “useless” treetops are an ugly sight on our hillsides. While I understand the need to survive financially, I must wonder why we cannot find better ways.

I know I’ll hear, “I can do what I want with my land.” Unfortunately that is true. No one can make anyone care about consequences to wildlife or to the future of our grandchildren’s children and what they will inherit. But we can try.

Every January Vernon County’s Land and Water Conservation offers a sapling sale. Plant a few. It’s not a solution to the destruction but may lessen the loss of desperately needed trees. 

The concept of “Inherit the Wind” is from Proverbs chapter 11, verse 9 “He that troubles his own house shall inherit the wind…”

It is also a great 1960 movie, Inherit the Wind, depicting the 1920’s school teacher, Bertram Cates who is put on trial for teaching evolution instead of creationism. 

Rethinking Progress

Our township is quaint. Most people have lived here their whole lives. Many were dairy farmers before the time of “Get big or get out”. They’re first hand witnesses to the shortcomings of that adage. To some the small family farm die off of is “progress”. But progress shouldn’t have to come on the backs of people or in the destruction of the earth.

It was progress that drove most indigenous people away. Had they been encouraged to stay, or allowed to teach their ways of stewardship of the earth, things might be different for all of us.

But as it is, I hear the bulldozers cutting new paths for the loggers who are going to cash in on the land. There is no regard for animal life. No regard for the fellowship of the trees. Freshly cut-logging roads in these hills will add to heavy spring runoff and an increase in floods. There’s little regard for life when money is at stake.

In the beginning of autumn colors we will watch the trees come down. It ‘s dark now but I can still hear the bulldozing. There is no legal recourse to stop it and talk is futile when you’re a woman telling men there are better ways.

“This is how we’ve always done it”, ends the conversation. Maybe you have always done it this way, but there are people who understand their relationship to the land and to one another. 

The Menominee are internationally heralded for the way they harvest their forests.  Care is taken to ensure an ongoing healthy ecosystem. It is never too late to learn.

Just because you can do something doesn’t mean you should. I’m weary of living in a world driven by ignorance. Money will not heal unconsciousness.

“Give Me Your Tired, Your Poor”

It’s not everyday you welcome those without a home driven from their beloved country for fear of life and liberty. It’s not everyday you’re reminded of the tenants of our country as proclaimed in Emma Lazarus’ poem “Give me your tired, your poor.”

I read of human beings escaping Afghanistan with little to no belongings. Families, occupations and dreams shattered. Many will reside at Fort McCoy. To date nearly nine thousand, mostly children, have arrived. Barracks meant to house soldiers in training are now housing families in need. It was heartwarming to learn that non-profits and some church organizations are gathering donations to provide culturally appropriate clothing for our guests. Bolts of cloth and sewing machines are on their way to empower people. 

I can only hope they are and will continue to be met with the kindness and compassion that each of us requires in order to thrive. 

I hear they are in need of Wi-Fi to connect with loved ones left behind. Living in this rural Wi-Fi dessert I can commiserate with that and hope they are able to get it in a timely way. 

In truth I am frightened for them. They have left hostility and war and have arrived on the doorstep of a country reckoning with its own national identity. I am hoping they ignore the numerous Christian radio stations that denounce the Islamic faith and its followers. These Christians are apparently unaware of their kinship with the sons of Abraham and prefer to fear the unknown. Perhaps a change of heart will transpire.

Perhaps, too, the legacy of Ft. McCoy as the largest concentration camp for Japanese, Germans and Italians during WWII will be rectified. And the soldiers training in drone warfare will look more carefully at their human targets.

This is a great article from the UK that included the wikimedia commons photo above.

This is a compilation of do’s and don’ts to consider.

Blessed Existence

Hardship has never escaped the human family. We are pummeled by Nature and by the ignorance that compounds suffering.

My Navajo friend told me how her grandmother fought to keep her baby alive during the forced Long Walk. Mothers who lost their own babies would give what little breast milk they had to the infant. That infant was my friend’s mother. I’ve often reflected on the courage, perseverance and kindness that enabled Annie, my friend, to exist. And how blessed was that existence with all of its hardships. 

I remember witnessing her in morning prayers. Though humble, she was not docile. She stood boldly in her life and welcomed all of the winds that blew her way. 

The story of shared breast milk was not new to me. My mother had been the recipient of wet nurses as they were called. My grandfather had been killed and my grandmother lost her ability to breastfeed. Poverty demands help. And help came in the form of neighbors. I’ve often reflected on the strength and the compassion that surrounded my mother’s existence. And how blessed was that existence with all of its hardships. She, too, had the gift of powerful prayer. 

I am the recipient of the Love of these two matriarchs. With that kind of Love mountains can move.

All of us have been blessed with existence and while our stories vary, hardships and blessings have come our way. Be nourished by them.

These are hard times. These are the times to dig for strength and to uncover our gifts, to seek and offer help. We have the potential to flourish, individually and collectively, despite the hardships.

Have the clarity to be guided by Love. Find the courage to hold onto it.

Regardless of hardship, it is a blessed existence.

The above photo is of Annie.

My Grandmother and me.
My mom and me.

What Time is it?

“What time is it on the clock of the world?” I remember the first time I heard Grace Lee Boggs use the phrase her husband James had brilliantly coined. Not simply what time is it in my day, in my existence, but what is the time on the clock of the world? For decades now the couple’s passion for humanity helped spark a revival of community in Detroit and beyond.

There are precious few who call us to a greater awareness of our commonality. Yet everyone has the ability to feel the preciousness of our interconnection. Everyone enjoys the benefit of unity. 

In many cultures children are raised to understand their position within a lineage and the importance of community. They’re taught to maintain the circle of life and are invited to play their significant role, whatever that may be.

How fortunate are those who have maintained their cultural relevance in a time when many are hell bent on assimilation. Spending time with indigenous people who recognize the sacredness of all life and who understand the concept of “all my relations” is a cherished gift. We can learn so very much as we unlearn separation.

What time is it on the clock of the world? It’s time to relinquish our self-importance. It’s time to return the garden.  

If you have the good fortune to find yourself in the company of those who are striving for the good of all, play your part.  Play it to the best of your ability. 

As long as we’re alive the game is afoot. And not all the plays have yet been made. There’s still time on the clock for human kindness to prevail.

Disarm the Police

The ruthless killing of Black men and others by police is being challenged, as it should. Thinking people and those who suffered the consequences of force run amuck are working towards creating new systems. Phrases like “defund the police”, “disarm the police”, and “abolish the police” are being discussed as we come to this fork in the road. 

Some are willing to explore the possibility of life without policing, as we have known it. They are championing funding for mental health care and community support. They’re educating us on the historical roots of policing that was created to maintain the wealth and property of the upper class. And they’re upending the myth “to serve and protect.”

In truth we should all welcome this evolutionary moment. But some do not believe in evolution. And it shows. We were all handed a system and some are determined to stick with it – for good or for bad. Their resistance to change shows in “Back the Blue” signs. It shows in comments of how people should obey the police. “If you are innocent, no need to run, right?” Wrong.

As an institution the police force is beyond repair. Doubt it? When a twenty-six year veteran, instructor and past union president of the police force can’t tell the difference between a Taser and a gun…they’re either lying or living proof that the system is beyond repair. Some police are driven by fear of other, some by hatred and some are all too clear what betrayal to their comrades will mean.

Make no mistake; we have arrived. The conversation has begun and we will either go kicking and screaming into that good night or we will embrace what should have happened long ago. 

Disarm the police. Demilitarize our lives.

We’re better than this. 

photo: Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic

“We Should All Be Water Protectors”*

Writing from a hotel after visiting the StopLine3.org Welcoming Center in Palisade, Minnesota.

In the wake of destruction, the pandemic opened a door for us to walk into a new day.  Our consumption of fossil fuels is at an all time low. The need for extreme extraction is over. Good by KXL. The pipeline that would have sliced through the Ogallala aquifer is history. And DAPL will be next. The courts are getting ready to end the permits that should have never been granted and for the arrogance of a company that has ignored court orders and kept on pumping. 

This is the last gap of oil. 

And yet Enbridge continues with Line 3 – leaving the older corroded pipeline for us to clean up.  Investors are jumping ship facing the reality that renewables are a far safer alternative. And many of us are coming to the realization that less is more as we leave an abusive relationship with over – consumption behind.  

We have all noticed the pristine skies and the fresher air. And now it is time for the reckoning of corroded pipelines that pierce the land and waterways.  Now is time for everyone to be a water protector as Winona LaDuke reminds us.

So as a water protector what can you do? You can reduce consumption and divest from fossil fuels. You can write letters to Governor Walz, to congress and the new administration. You can support the needs of those on the front lines, as they stand in nonviolent resistance, to end something that should have never gone this far. 

And if you are able as we were to bear witness you can make the trip to 5 or 6 camps that dot the 300-mile pathway of destruction and bring your love, support and the supplies they need to carry on.

Let’s make this just transition for everyone.

*”We should all be water protectors.” – Winona LaDuke