Don’t you find there are periods of rapid change interspersed among long plateaus in your life? Although those plateaus are becoming fewer and lasting shorter periods of time.
The last three years have been a time of momentous change, both in my life, and in the world. I’m trying to explain what has been happening to me, because these experiences convince me we must all make similar changes if we are going to make the major adjustments needed to try to mitigate deepening environmental damage. The world has been spiraling out of control these past three years, dramatically impacting all our communities and individual lives. I think of these changes as related to the idea of a house of cards. The cards in this case being dollars of the capitalist economy.
I was born into a rural Iowa Quaker community and have been a Quaker all my life. I attended Scattergood Friends School, a Quaker boarding high school on a farm in Eastern Iowa.
Recently I was challenged to consider what my foundational stories are, how they began, how they changed over time, and what they are now. I’ve been writing this series of blog posts about these stories, which are related to the intersections between my Quaker faith, protecting Mother Earth, and photography. You can read my foundational stories here: https://quakersandreligioussocialism.com/foundational-stories/
I spent my entire adult life in Indianapolis. I arrived in 1970 to spend two years in a Quaker community organizing project, Friends Volunteer Service Mission. To support myself financially, I received on-the-job training to be a respiratory therapy technician. I later obtained a degree in Respiratory Therapy, and a career in neonatal respiratory therapy, and then thirty years doing research in infant lung development and disease in Indianapolis at Riley Hosptial for Children, Indiana University Medical Center. I retired and returned to Iowa in the summer of 2017.
Part of the Mother Earth piece of my foundational stories was “driven” by a spiritual leading that showed me I could not contribute to the pollution from owning a personal automobile, so I didn’t. That had all kinds of repercussions.
Although my leading to try to live without a personal automobile grew over time, the actual decision came about abruptly. I had a couple of used cars but felt increasingly uncomfortable having one. When my car was totaled in an accident, I took the opportunity to see if I could live without a car in the city. It took some time to work out the bus schedules, especially because I was working all kinds of hours and on weekends. And I had to learn how to shop such that I could carry everything home.
But because we derive our sense of identity and socioeconomic status from work embedded in a profit driven economy, transformative day-to-day self-sufficient activities, when they are applied in an urban or suburban setting, give rise to second set of intangible sociocultural barriers that involve taking significant social risks. Peter Lipman the former (founding) chair of Transition Network and Common Cause Foundation encourages us to take these social and cultural risks. But what exactly are the more difficult risks needed to move us in the right direction? It is important to identify intangible socioeconomic challenges in order to side-step them.
In short, our identities are tied up in what we do for a living and how we do what we do for a living must radically change. Because, let’s be honest, living and working, having lifestyles and livelihoods that are truly regenerative and sustainable look nothing like how most of us currently live and work.Against the Economic Grain: Addressing the Social Challenges of Sustainable Livelihoods by Kim Kendall, originally published by Resilience.org, January 27, 2023
It was difficult for us (environmentalists) to find pressure points, places where we could call attention to the existential threats of environmental chaos from burning fossil fuels. In 2013, activists recognized the application for approval of the Keystone XL Pipeline as such an opportunity. This decision was solely up to President Obama, allowing us a focus for our efforts. I was trained as an Action Lead in the Keystone Pledge of Resistance in 2013. There I learned many skills related to community organizing. Four of us trained about forty people in the Indianapolis community, and organized many demonstrations and actions against fossil fuel companies and the banks that fund them.
We were able to train others in those skills later when the White Pines Wilderness Academy in Indianapolis wanted to bring attention to the dangers of the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL).
I was always looking for news about fossil fuels and our environment. This blog post from 1/14/2020 describes my discovery of the Wet’suwet’en peoples and their struggles against the Coastal GasLink (CGL) liquid natural gas pipeline being constructed through their pristine territory in British Columbia.
I have just begun to learn about the Wet’suwet’en people. A friend of mine from the First Nation-Farmer Climate Unity March traveled to the Unist’ot’en camp about 4 years ago and found it to be a life-changing experience. I also asked other friends I made during the March about this, and they indicated support for these people.
You may wonder why I am trying to learn and write about the Wet’suwet’en people now. The literal answer is I saw this article recently: Hereditary First Nation chiefs issue eviction notice to Coastal GasLink contractors. TC Energy says it signed agreements with all 20 elected First Nations councils along pipeline’s path. Joel Dryden · CBC News · Posted: Jan 05, 2020.
Any efforts to stop pipelines catch my interest.Wet’suwt’en People, Jeff Kisling, 1/14/2020
I wrote this booklet about the Wet’suwet’en struggles, including some videos of confrontations with Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP). Assault rifles trained on unarmed youth.
Spirit led connection to Mutual Aid
The title THREE YEARS LATER refers to my introduction to Des Moines Mutual Aid a little over three years ago. I took the photo below on Feb 7, 2020, when a small group of us organized a vigil in support of the Wet’suwet’en. I know the Spirit led Ronnie James, from Des Moines Mutual Aid, to join us. He was surprised that anyone outside his circle knew what was happening to the Wet’suwet’en. Ronnie is an Indigenous organizer working with the Great Plains Action Society (GPAS), and as such was interested to see if these were people who could become allies.
That meeting changed my life in many ways, all stemming from what I was learning from Ronnie and others about Mutual Aid, which has become the focus of my justice work since.
Over the years I’ve enjoyed documenting justice actions photographically. I like the challenge of an ever-moving group of people, the varieties of signs, the reactions of the people and the public. But for the past several years posting photos of demonstrations is discouraged if people’s faces are visible. Which police sometimes later use to bring charges against those people.
Ronnie and I are both part of Des Moines Mutual Aid’s free food project. The Wet’suwet’en being part of our history, we continue to support them. Because of COVID and people wearing masks, we were comfortable taking this photo during one of our Mutual Aid gatherings for the food project.
Three Years Later
And yet, three years later, the Wet’suwet’en peoples’ struggles continue.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
March 29, 2023
Contact: Jennifer Wickham, Media Coordinator, Gidim’ten Checkpoint, email@example.com, 778-210-0067
URGENT MEDIA ADVISORY: RCMP C-IRG Raid Wet’suwet’en Village Site, Make 5 Arrests
WET’SUWET’EN TERRITORY (Smithers, BC) – This morning, a large force of RCMP C-IRG raided a Gidimt’en village site and arrested five land and water defenders, mostly Indigenous women, including Gidimt’en Chief Woos’ daughter. The raid accompanied a search warrant for theft under $5000 with no clear relation to the Gidimt’en village site.
This large-scale action by the RCMP’s Community Industry Response Group (C-IRG) involved more than a dozen police vehicles and officers drawn from throughout British Columbia. The arrests come just weeks after the Civilian Review and Complaints Commission (CRCC) announced they have “initiated a systemic investigation into the activities and operations of the RCMP “E” Division Community-Industry Response Group (C-IRG).”
In the days leading to this police action, RCMP C-IRG have been found patrolling Wet’suwet’en traplines and cultural use areas, harassing and intimidating Wet’suwet’en members and disrupting constitutionally protected Wet’suwet’en cultural activities. Members of a private security firm hired by Coastal Gaslink pipeline, Forsythe, have also escalated harassment and surveillance efforts against Wet’suwet’en members in recent days.
Both the RCMP’s C-IRG unit and Forsythe are named as defendants in an ongoing lawsuit launched by Wet’suwet’en members, which alleges that police and private security have launched a coordinated campaign of harassment and intimidation in an effort to force Wet’suwet’en people to abandon their unceded territories.
Sleydo’, spokesperson for Gidimt’en Checkpoint, said:
“This harassment and intimidation is exactly the kind of violence designed to drive us from our homelands. The constant threat of violence and criminalization for merely existing on our own lands must have been what our ancestors felt when Indian agents and RCMP were burning us out of our homes as late as the 50s in our area. The colonial project continues at the hands of industry’s private mercenaries–C-IRG”
The arrests come days before Indigenous delegates are set to arrive at Royal Bank of Canada’s Annual General Meeting to oppose expansion of fossil fuels without consent on their territories, including Wet’suwet’en Hereditary Chiefs who oppose RBC’s funding of the Coastal Gaslink pipeline.
Wet’suwet’en Hereditary Chief Na’Moks offered the following:
“This is harassment, and exactly what Royal Bank of Canada is funding. Ahead of its shareholder meeting next week, RBC continues to fund corporate colonialism, and displace Indigenous peoples from our lands at gunpoint – all for a fracked gas pipeline we cannot afford now or in the future. In the context of the theft of our ancestral land, alleging stolen saws and clothing is outrageous.”
Yesterday morning at my Quaker meeting, we considered the following set of questions related to our environmental responsibilities.
All of creation is divine and interdependent: air, water, soil, and all that lives and grows. Since human beings are part of this fragile and mysterious web, whenever we pollute or neglect the earth we pollute and neglect our own wellsprings. Developing a keen awareness of our role in the universe is essential if we are to live peacefully within creation.
The way we choose to live each day‑‑as we manufacture, package, purchase and recycle goods, use resources, dispose of water, ‑design homes, plan families and travel‑affects the present and future of life on the planet. The thought and effort we give to replenishing what we receive from the earth, to keeping informed and promoting beneficial legislation on issues which affect the earth, to envisioning community with environmental conscience, are ways in which we contribute to the ongoing health of the planet we inhabit.
Preserving the quality of life on Earth calls forth all of our spiritual resources. Listening to and heeding the leadings of the Holy Spirit can help us develop qualities which enable us to become more sensitive to all life
- What are we doing about our disproportionate use of the world’s resources?
- Do we see unreasonable exploitation in our relationship ‑with the rest of creation?
- How can we nurture reverence and respect for life? How I can we become more fully aware of our interdependent relationship with the rest of creation?
- To what extent are we aware of all life and the role we play? What can we do in our own lives and communities to address environmental concerns?
Faith and Practice, Iowa Yearly Meeting (Conservative)