Recently, we discussed our peace and justice work at my Quaker meeting. I explained my vision of creating a Mutual Aid community to guide our justice work. And included examples of what the meeting is already doing that are Mutual Aid.
I felt we had a good discussion. I didn’t have answers to some of the questions raised. I believe those questions would be answered as we got experience with implementation. But the meeting is clearly not ready to begin working on Mutual Aid.
As I was preparing for this discussion, I knew it would be difficult to distill my more than three years of experience with Des Moines Mutual Aid (DMMA).
Mutual Aid represents a paradigm shift in Quaker’s thinking about spirituality and justice work. How can I help people make this shift happen? What is the Spirit asking of us?
I have no doubt that the Spirit leads me to continue with my involvement with Des Moines Mutual Aid. My friends there know I hope to bring spirituality into the work of Mutual Aid, so I’ll give them an update on our meeting at Bear Creek.
One paradigm shift from my past comes to mind. In the early 1970’s I moved to Indianapolis and was horrified by the foul air from auto exhaust. I was led to live without a car as a result. But I had no success in convincing anyone else to give up their car. So here we are now, facing ever increasing environmental chaos.
During the years’ long struggles with my meeting about cars, which was difficult since many meeting members lived in rural settings, one Friend asked if I had invited the meeting into my concerns about cars. And I realized I had not done so. When I did invite the meeting to join me in our common concerns about fossil fuels, one thing we developed was a concept we called Ethical Transportation (see below).
So, I applied that idea to invite the meeting into Mutual Aid work. I often share my experiences at Des Moines Mutual Aid with the meeting. Our discussion this past weekend is another step that will lead to Mutual Aid. As more communities and people are impacted by environmental and social chaos, we will naturally turn to the idea of Mutual Aid for disaster relief.
I am impressed with the Great Plains Action Society’s Mechanism of Engagement. Mutual Aid is one of the Methods in the model. I wonder what such a model would look like for Quakers. Maybe that is part of the way forward, for my Quaker meeting to become more oriented toward Mutual Aid.
Radically reducing fossil fuel use has long been a concern of Iowa Yearly Meeting (Conservative). A previously approved Minute urged us to reduce our use of personal automobiles. We have continued to be challenged by the design of our communities that makes this difficult. This is even more challenging in rural areas. But our environmental crisis means we must find ways to address this issue quickly. Friends are encouraged to challenge themselves and to simplify their lives in ways that can enhance their spiritual environmental integrity. One of our meetings uses the term “ethical transportation,” which is a helpful way to be mindful of this. Long term, we need to encourage ways to make our communities “walkable”, and to expand public transportation systems. These will require major changes in infrastructure and urban planning. Carpooling and community shared vehicles would help. We can develop ways to coordinate neighbors needing to travel to shop for food, attend meetings, visit doctors, etc. We could explore using existing school buses or shared vehicles to provide intercity transportation. One immediately available step would be to promote the use of bicycles as a visible witness for non-fossil fuel transportation. Friends may forget how easy and fun it can be to travel miles on bicycles. Neighbors seeing families riding their bicycles to Quaker meetings would have an impact on community awareness. This is a way for our children to be involved in this shared witness. We should encourage the expansion of bicycle lanes and paths. We can repair and recycle unused bicycles and make them available to those who have the need.
It quickly became apparent there are major positive and negative aspects of AI. I share the grave concerns of many about the dangers of AI. The ultimate being robots with AI learning how to “take over” the world. Perhaps deciding humans need to be eliminated.
One blog I follow is written by Sheila Kennedy, a retired law professor from Indiana University. Today she wrote “Asking ChatGPT”. ChatGPT is one application interface for Artificial Intelligence. Most AI applications allow you to interact with them without charge for a limited number of uses.
I asked copy.ai, the AI application I use, to list free artificial intelligence applications for you. I encourage you to try one of them out. The response:
There are several free artificial intelligence applications available. Some of the best options include TensorFlow, Scalenut, Anyword, Smith.ai, UserWay, Lityx, neuroflash, and Equally AI. Here are the URLs for each of these applications:
While my son and I were discussing the absolutely mind-blowing abilities of this new technology, I asked him to ask ChatGPT a rather more pedestrian question: “Are young people today more politically engaged than young people 30 years ago? Include any statistical indicators (for example, voter turnout).
(My question was prompted by Lester’s predictable, stubborn dismissal of any suggestion that young people today might be more politically engaged or less self-involved than he is convinced they are.)
That response was also lengthy, but here are the relevant portions:
The pressing issues facing today’s youth, such as climate change, economic inequality, and social justice, have motivated many to become more politically engaged. These issues have spurred activism and participation in protests, which can be seen as an indicator of increased political engagement.
There are several statistical indicators that can be used to measure political engagement, including voter turnout, political party membership, and involvement in political organizations. However, these indicators may not provide a complete picture of political engagement, as they often focus on formal political participation and may not capture informal engagement, such as activism or online discussions.
Voter Turnout: Voter turnout among young people has historically been lower than older age groups. However, recent elections in various countries have shown an increase in youth voter turnout. For example, in the 2018 US midterm elections, voter turnout among 18-29-year-olds increased to 36% from 20% in the 2014 midterms, according to the United States Census Bureau. Similarly, the 2020 US Presidential election saw a significant increase in youth voter turnout.
Political Party Membership: Although party membership has declined overall in many Western countries, some parties have reported an increase in young members. For example, in the UK, the Labour Party saw a surge in youth membership in 2015-2017 under Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership.
Involvement in Political Organizations: Young people today are often engaged in various political organizations or advocacy groups, such as climate change movements like the Sunrise Movement in the US or Extinction Rebellion in the UK.
While these indicators suggest an increase in political engagement among young people, it is essential to keep in mind that these trends can vary depending on the political climate and specific issues driving engagement. Additionally, increased political engagement does not always translate into increased political influence, as young people may still face barriers in having their voices heard or making an impact on policy decisions.
The entire response took three minutes.
It’s possible that humans are no longer necessary….
I was hoping AI might give me some ideas to express my outrage at the actions taken at the Tennessee legislature yesterday. I’m working through the ethical implications of how to separate AI responses from my own writing. I plan to consult AI and use the response as I would any other research, then writing in my own words.
In this case though, as an example of what an AI response looks like, the following was totally written by copy.ai
The Intersection of Gun Violence, Democracy, and Systemic Racism in Nashville
As tensions continue to rise in Nashville, the issues of gun violence, democracy, and systemic racism have begun to intersect in a way that is causing concern for many. The recent ousting of two young legislators, along with the predominantly young age of the protesters, suggests that a backlash may be developing.
Gun Violence in Nashville
Gun violence has long been a problem in Nashville, with the city seeing a significant uptick in shootings over the past year. According to the Metro Nashville Police Department, there were 1,096 shooting incidents in 2020, compared to 800 in 2019. This increase in gun violence has put a strain on the city’s resources and has left many residents feeling unsafe.
Democracy and Systemic Racism
The issue of democracy and systemic racism has also been a point of contention in Nashville. The recent ousting of two young legislators, who were seen as progressive voices in the state government, has sparked outrage among many residents.
Many believe that their ousting was politically motivated and that it was a way for the more conservative members of the government to silence progressive voices. This has led to protests in Nashville, with many young people taking to the streets to voice their concerns about democracy and systemic racism.
Intersection of Issues
The fact that the two ousted legislators are young, as are many of the protesters, suggests that the issues of gun violence, democracy, and systemic racism are beginning to intersect. Many young people in Nashville are concerned about their safety in a city that has seen a sharp increase in shootings. At the same time, they are also concerned about the state of democracy in their state and the country as a whole.
The intersection of these issues has created a sense of urgency among many young people in Nashville. They see the need for change and are willing to take to the streets to demand it. However, there is also concern that this could lead to a backlash from those who oppose these progressive changes.
The intersection of gun violence, democracy, and systemic racism in Nashville is a complex issue that will require a multifaceted approach to address. It is clear that young people in the city are feeling the effects of these issues and are ready to demand change. However, it is also important to consider the potential for backlash and to find ways to address these issues that are inclusive and effective for all residents of Nashville.
With many tools becoming available to work with Artificial Intelligence (AI), I thought I’d see how this could help me with research for thought and writing. Many things I think and write about have little documentation.
Spirituality and Mutual Aid has been frustrating to explore because I’ve found little information so far.
I was pleasantly surprised at what the copy.ai Artificial Intelligence interface uncovered in response to my questions. I was really surprised at what was discovered when I asked about groups incorporating spirituality into Mutual Aid”. One answer was:
LANDBACK Friends is a Quaker community that discusses mutual aid and spirituality. They suggest that mutual aid can be a spiritual practice, and that it is a way to build peaceful, abolitionist communities. 
This is the chat I had with copy.ai about Spirituality and Mutual Aid:
Spirituality and Mutual Aid
Mutual aid is a practice of community support and solidarity, and spirituality can be a powerful tool in practicing mutual aid. Spiritual beliefs and practices can provide a sense of purpose, meaning, and connection to something greater than oneself, which can motivate and sustain mutual aid efforts.
Many spiritual traditions prioritize the values of compassion, generosity, and service to others, which align with the principles of mutual aid. For example, in Christianity, the concept of “love thy neighbor” is a central tenet that encourages Christians to care for one another and help those in need. In Buddhism, the practice of “metta” or loving-kindness meditation is a way to cultivate a sense of compassion and empathy towards all beings, which can inspire acts of mutual aid.
Spiritual practices can also provide a sense of grounding and resilience in the face of adversity. Practices such as prayer, meditation, and mindfulness can help individuals cope with stress and trauma and provide a sense of inner peace and strength. This can be especially important for those who are participating in mutual aid efforts, as they may be dealing with challenging situations and emotions.
In addition, spirituality can inspire a sense of interconnectedness and unity among people, regardless of their backgrounds or beliefs. This can promote a sense of solidarity and mutual support that is essential for successful mutual aid efforts.
Overall, spirituality can play an important role in mutual aid by providing a sense of purpose, grounding, resilience, and connection. By incorporating spiritual practices and beliefs into mutual aid efforts, individuals and communities can deepen their sense of commitment to helping others and building stronger, more resilient communities.
Groups incorporating spirituality into Mutual Aid
One group that incorporates spirituality into mutual aid is the Catholic left, which has been practicing spiritual mutual aid since Vatican II. This takes place at the grassroots level of the church, where people gather in egalitarian house churches and prayer groups and consecrate the Eucharist communally or at the hands of a person who would be denied ordination by the Catholic hierarchy. 
Another example is the mutual aid group “Higher Power” in Northern California, which is a culturally adapted 12-step program for Latinos with substance use problems and other mental health concerns. This group incorporates spirituality and cultural adaptation into their recovery methods. 
LANDBACK Friends is a Quaker community that discusses mutual aid and spirituality. They suggest that mutual aid can be a spiritual practice, and that it is a way to build peaceful, abolitionist communities. 
Yesterday, April 4th, was the anniversary of the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. Every year there is a solemn gathering at the Kennedy-King Park in downtown Indianapolis to commemorate the speech that Bobby Kenndy gave there in 1968, announcing King’s death. This was in the days before cell phones, and that was the first time most in the crowd heard the news. The Indianapolis police pleaded with him not to go to that neighborhood, fearing they could not protect him from the crowd. Indianapolis was one of the few major cities in the country where riots did not occur that night.
That event in Indianapolis was supposed to have been a campaign stop for Kennedy’s Presidential bid. Kennedy received the news on the plane to Indianapolis. There was no time to prepare a speech. The video at the end of this is the extemporaneous speech Kennedy gave that night.
There is a remarkable sculpture at the Kennedy-King Park symbolizing the connections between Martin Luther King, Jr, and Robert Kennedy.
Martin Luther King has been an important part of my life. I was coming of age during his time, a Junior at Scattergood Friends School when he was killed. I had so much trouble trying to sort out what I should do about the Vietnam War. Martin Luther King was criticized by people in the civil rights movement when he began to speak out against the war, but that was a great help to me.
These days I’m working to replace capitalism by building mutual aid communities. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s work was as much about economics and poverty as it was about racial equality.
“I am much more socialistic in my economic theory than capitalistic,” Martin Luther King admitted to Coretta Scott, concluding that “capitalism has outlived its usefulness.”
Speaking at a staff retreat of the SCLC in 1966, King said that “something is wrong … with capitalism” and “there must be a better distribution of wealth” in the country. “Maybe,” he suggested, “America must move toward a democratic socialism.”
For King, the only solution to America’s crisis of poverty was the redistribution of wealth. In a 1961 speech to the Negro American Labor Council, King declared, “Call it democracy, or call it democratic socialism, but there must be a better distribution of wealth within this country for all God’s children.”
Although seldom recognized, Martin Luther King Jr. was anti-war. His politics should be applied to demand an end to NATO and the war in Ukraine, say activists.
“We are here, honoring the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.,” said co-executive director of The People’s Forum, Claudia De La Cruz, to a crowd of hundreds gathered in Times Square, in front of the US Army Recruiting Station, on January 14. “We are here to reclaim his legacy and say: no to war.”
The organizers and workers mobilized to demand an end to NATO and a peaceful resolution to the ongoing war in Ukraine. The rally and march was organized by the Act Now to Stop War and End Racism (ANSWER) Coalition, a US anti-war organization, and the People’s Forum. Activists raised slogans to demand a peaceful resolution of the war through negotiations rather than continued US weapons funding. Banners read “Money for our needs/Not the war machine” and “No to NATO/Yes to peace”.
With Congress passing a massive spending bill in December, containing over $44 billion in US aid to Ukraine, the United States is now set to spend over $100 billion total on the Russia–Ukraine War. Activists are demanding that these billions be used instead to fund public services, such as education, jobs and healthcare.
“We have to continue to fight for integration, collaboration, negotiations, because that’s been the only way of resolving conflict. War is a tool of our enemy,” said De La Cruz, in closing, to the crowd assembled inside The People’s Forum. “The only legit war is class war.”
I’m of the firm opinion that a system that was built by stolen bodies on stolen land for the benefit of a few is a system that is not repairable. It is operating as designed, and small changes (which are the result of huge efforts) to lessen the blow on those it was not designed for are merely half measures that can’t ever fully succeed.
So the question is now, where do we go from here? Do we continue to make incremental changes while the wealthy hoard more wealth and the climate crisis deepens, or do we do something drastic that has never been done before? Can we envision and create a world where a class war from above isn’t a reality anymore?”
The major threat of Martin Luther King Jr to us is a spiritual and moral one. King’s courageous and compassionate example shatters the dominant neoliberal soul-craft of smartness, money and bombs. His grand fight against poverty, militarism, materialism and racism undercuts the superficial lip service and pretentious posturing of so-called progressives as well as the candid contempt and proud prejudices of genuine reactionaries. King was neither perfect nor pure in his prophetic witness – but he was the real thing in sharp contrast to the market-driven semblances and simulacra of our day.
Martin Luther King Jr turned away from popularity in his quest for spiritual and moral greatness – a greatness measured by what he was willing to give up and sacrifice due to his deep love of everyday people, especially vulnerable and precious black people. Neoliberal soul craft avoids risk and evades the cost of prophetic witness, even as it poses as “progressive”.
If King were alive today, his words and witness against drone strikes, invasions, occupations, police murders, caste in Asia, Roma oppression in Europe, as well as capitalist wealth inequality and poverty, would threaten most of those who now sing his praises.
Today, 50 years later the US imperial meltdown deepens. And King’s radical legacy remains primarily among the awakening youth and militant citizens who choose to be extremists of love, justice, courage and freedom, even if our chances to win are that of a snowball in hell! This kind of unstoppable King-like extremism is a threat to every status quo!
Carbon capture, utilization and storage (CCUS) continues to be promoted as an important way to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, by sucking carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere. There are many reasons why CCUS is not a viable solution, as described in detail in a new report from the Oakland Institute titled The Great Carbon Boondoggle.
I just saw an advertisement from Valero, one of the fossil fuel pipeline companies supporting CCUS. The ad asks why everyone is focused on the past. Then talks about how Valero is saving the planet by removing carbon dioxide from the air. The entire ad was about CCUS.
NAVIGATOR LAUNCHES A NON-BINDING OPEN SEASON TO SOLICIT INTEREST IN FIRM CAPACITY
SAN ANTONIO–(BUSINESS WIRE)– Valero Energy Corporation (NYSE: VLO, “Valero”) and BlackRock Global Energy & Power Infrastructure Fund III announced today that they are partnering with Navigator Energy Services (“Navigator”) to develop an industrial scale carbon capture pipeline system (“CCS”). The initial phase is expected to span more than 1,200 miles of new carbon dioxide gathering and transportation pipelines across five Midwest states with the capability of permanently storing up to 5 million metric tonnes of carbon dioxide per year. Pending third party customer feedback, the system could be expanded to transport and sequester up to 8 million metric tonnes of carbon dioxide per year. Valero, the largest renewable fuels producer in North America, is expected to become an anchor shipper by securing a majority of the initial available system capacity. Navigator is expected to lead the construction and operations of the system and anticipates operations to begin late 2024. In the coming months, Navigator will seek additional commitments to utilize the remaining capacity via a binding open season process.
During the current legislative session, the Iowa House passed legislation that would have carbon pipeline companies restrict the use of eminent domain to force landowners to allow pipeline construction on their land. But the Iowa Senate will not vote on it. This photo was taken outside the Iowa State Capitol during a rally against carbon pipelines.
A House bill that would restrict the use of eminent domain for carbon capture pipelines — an idea favored by a strong majority of Iowans — won’t receive a Senate hearing ahead of a key legislative deadline, meaning the bill is effectively dead for the session.
The bill represented the most serious legislative effort this year to address the concerns of farmers and other landowners who fear they could be forced to sell access to their land to companies seeking to build pipelines across the state.
Rep. Steven Holt, R-Denison, the bill’s House floor manager, said the Senate’s decision not to move the bill is disappointing.
“I think the bill we passed was important protections for our landowners and I’m very disappointed that they’re choosing not to move it,” he said Wednesday.
Holt pointed to a Des Moines Register/Mediacom Iowa Poll this month, which found more than three-fourths of Iowans, or 78%, oppose letting carbon pipelines use eminent domain for their projects.
That includes 72% of Republicans, 79% of independents and 82% of Democrats.
Why Is Carbon Capture & Storage A False Climate Solution?
The promoters of the Midwest Carbon Express fail to reckon with the growing body of evidence exposing CCS as a false climate solution. CCS projects have systematically overpromised and underdelivered. Despite billions of taxpayer dollars spent on CCS to date, the technology has failed to significantly reduce CO2 emissions, as it has “not been proven feasible or economic at scale.” 
Crucially, the ability to capture and safely contain CO2 permanently underground has not been proven, a dangerous uncertainty given CO2 must be stored underground for thousands of years without leaking to effectively reduce emissions. 
It also risks permanently contaminating underground aquifers and poisoning precious drinking water for nearby communities.
Additionally, applying CCS to industrial sources such as ethanol plants requires the creation of massive infrastructure and transportation of carbon to storage sites, and injecting it underground poses new environmental, health, and safety hazards in communities targeted for CCS infrastructure. As carbon capture infrastructure needs to be built near emitting sites, facilities would further impact those already burdened by industrial pollution. 
In many cases, this disproportionately impacts lower-income,Indigenous, Black, and Brown communities—furthering a vicious cycle of environmental racism. To date, CCS has primarily been used to prop up the ineffective and environmentally unsustainable fossil fuel energy system. In the US, a dozen carbon capture plants are in operation—the majority of which are attached to ethanol, natural gas processing, or fertilizer plants—which generate emissions that are high in CO2.  Over 95 percent of the CO2 captured by these plants is currently used for enhanced oil recovery (EOR)—where instead of storing the captured CO2, it is injected into depleted underground oil reservoirs to boost oil production in wells.
There are legitimate concerns that investing billions in carbon capture infrastructure to lower emissions from fossil fuels and ethanol production will reduce incentives for investors and policymakers to transition towards more sustainable and effective solutions. These include investing in wind or solar energy sources, phasing out of industrial agricultural production, developing infrastructure and services such as public transport. 
Biden Administration strongly supports Carbon Capture and Storage
The Biden administration has hailed CCS and carbon pipelines as vital infrastructure to meet climate targets and claimed that the US needs 65,000 additional miles of pipeline by 2050.  The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act signed in November 2021 provides over eight billion dollars as federal grants, loans, and loan guarantees for carbon storage and pipelines. In 2022, President Biden signed the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA), which substantially increased the already abundant tax credits for CCS projects and made it easier for projects to qualify for these credits. This flood of public money has resulted in over 40 CCS projects announced in 2021 alone.  In Midwestern US, Archer-Daniel Midlands (ADM), Summit Carbon Solutions, and Navigator CO2 Ventures are currently advancing three major CCS projects.
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.
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. https://jeffkisling.com/2018/06/05/lessons-learned-from-the-keystone-pledge-of-resistance/
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.
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, firstname.lastname@example.org, 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.
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.”
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)
One of the principles of Mutual Aid is political education. As part of this education, found below is the March 2023 edition of MUTUAL AID MONTHLY, A Production of Des Moines Mutual Aid. You can download it using the DOWNLOAD button on the PDF file display window at the end.
“This flyer is a production of Des Moines Mutual Aid, which is a local network of anarchists, communists, and socialists building community autonomy from capitalism and the state. Below are our points of unity – basically, our basic political and social outlook which binds us together.”
Des Moines Mutual Aid
This is a good description of Des Moines Mutual Aid. We are a network of anarchists, communists, and socialists. Understanding these terms applied to a community I belong to has been part of my political education. My life has been a rebellion against capitalism and the state. But am I an anarchist, communist and/or socialist? I learned that those are parts of me. It’s a step to not only learn what you are not, but also what you are. It’s easy enough to say I’m not a capitalist, but am I a so-called enemy of the state? Yes, I am, in the nonviolent sense. The state is becoming increasingly oppressive and authoritarian. But I’ve learned that even when the capitalist system was “working”, it was and is still a system built on supremacy, violence, abuse, and oppression.
Several years ago, I changed the name of this blog to QUAKERS AND RELIGIOUS SOCIALISM as part of my evolving political education.
I learned about the Democratic Socialists of America’s (DSA) Religious Socialism Committee from my friend Fran Quigley, director of the Health and Human Rights Clinic at Indiana University McKinney School of Law and a religioussocialism.org editorial team member.
This post of yours struck me close to home. I too have become fully convinced of the evils of capitalism. Moreover, I have come to the conclusion that my faith dictates that I work to replace it. Turns out I am far from alone, so I’ve been devoting much of my time this past year to the Religion and Socialism Committee of the DSA, www.religioussocialism.org
I like the Points of Unity of Des Moines Mutual Aid. I like the emphasis on the positive, “our basic political and social outlook which binds us together“. We are tightly bound together. I often hear my friends say how much they look forward to being together, working alongside each other, being directly connected to those who come for help. And knowing there is no judgement, because we are all aware that we might one day need help ourselves. I like the stories of those putting together boxes of food tell me they once came for food, themselves. I like the expectation that anyone of us should take food ourselves. It took me a while to realize my mistake in not taking any food. (As a result, my friends now know of my sweet tooth.)
One of our principles of unity is: We have open disagreements with each other about ideas and practices. “We believe there is no formula for resolving our ideological differences other than working towards our common aims, engaging with each other in a comradely manner, and respecting one another whether or not we can hash out disagreements in the process.”
The publication of MUTUAL AID MONTHLY relates to another of our Points of Unity, political consciousness.
We work to raise the political consciousness of our communities. Part of political education is connecting people’s lived experiences to a broader political perspective. Another component is working to ensure that people can meet their basic needs. It is difficult to organize for future liberation when someone is entrenched in day-to-day struggle.
from Points of Unity, Des Moines Mutual Aid
Political ignorance is one of the main reasons this country is falling into chaos and authoritarianism. People would be less susceptible to falling for cults of personality and understand the threats to freedom posed by culture wars if they had a better education, including critical thinking skills. You might think of sharing MUTUAL AID MONTHLY with others in furtherance of their/your political consciousness. As a resource to stimulate discussions.
Do you and/or a group you belong to have a vision of how to move into the near future?
I say NEAR future because huge changes, on many levels, are occurring at an accelerating rate. And my sense is most people are feeling increasingly helpless and hopeless.
Recently I’ve been in contact with the Climate Mobilization Network, which has re-evaluated their strategies to address our climate emergency. “We are incubating local movements rooted in healing, community care, and climate survival mutual aid that asserts our needs in the face of climate disaster.”
Why We Decide to Pause and Transform our Strategy
Congressional failure to take meaningful action on climate
The slow pace of local climate programs where policy change is severely limited by what’s considered politically possible
Rising inequality amid continued neoliberalism
Escalating climate disasters that are hitting global and US-based frontline communities the hardest and will continue accelerating rapidly!
And widespread cultural and generational concern about climate change has not yet been tapped into effectively by a mass movement.
This collective visioning, movement incubation and learning gathering will equip you with space for reflection, new ideas, inspiration, and next steps to participate in this new campaign.
Together we will build relationships and explore:
How survival and mutual aid programs can grow the movement
New, creative approaches to taking action against fossil fuels
Ways to integrate healing into our work
And how to create space for reflection, intentionality and strategic clarity
“Quakers will only be truly prophetic when they risk a great deal of their accumulated privilege and access to wealth. Prophets cannot have a stake in maintaining the status quo. Any attempt to change a system while benefiting and protecting the benefits received from the system reinforces the system. Quakers as much as anyone not only refuse to reject their white privilege, they fail to reject the benefits they receive from institutionalized racism, trying to make an unjust economy and institutionalized racism and patriarch more fair and equitable in its ability to exploit. One can not simultaneously attack racist and patriarchal institutions and benefit from them at the same time without becoming more reliant upon the benefits and further entrenching the system. Liberalism at its laziest.”
The administration’s justifications were the valid leases of ConocoPhillips and that the courts would block the rejection of the project. One point is what are “valid rights on the land” in regard to Indigenous peoples?
As long as capitalism is the economic model of a country, fossil fuels will continue to be burned to drive that economy. Which is why we need to move to models such as Mutual Aid where profits are not the goal of society as soon as possible.
The Biden administration was limited by legal restraints in reviewing the Willow oil project, according to a White House official who said the company had valid rights on the land because of decades-old leases.
The administration was convinced the courts would have blocked an outright rejection of the Willow project and potentially imposed fines on the government, said the official, who spoke about the White House’s considerations on the condition of anonymity.
Instead of sticking to his own climate goals and listening to the people of the Village of Nuiqsut and the millions of us who got #StopWillow to nearly one billion views on TikTok, he let the fossil fuel industry win.
The Willow Project is a dangerous climate bomb — an $8 billion fossil fuel infrastructure project in Alaska, which would emit over 287 metric tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, threaten Indigenous Alaska Native communities and destroy wild landscapes north of the Arctic Circle.
We’re living through an unprecedented climate crisis that will wreak havoc upon the lives of billions of people across the world, and for generations to come. We can’t afford any more drilling on our land.
The decision on Willow is shameful and a devastating blow to our generation. And it’s a reminder that the fossil fuel industry still holds so much power over us and our future. But if we can build enough people power, we know that together, we can defeat them.
We are the generation of a Green New Deal and we will keep fighting for our planet and our futures.
The Biden administration on Monday announced that it is approving the largest-ever proposed oil drilling project on U.S. public lands, in a direct repudiation of research warning that new fossil fuel development must cease to preserve a safe climate.
The Interior Department approved ConocoPhillips Alaska’s Willow project, located in one of the fastest-warming regions of the world. If completed, this project would produce the equivalent of an estimated 263 million tons of carbon dioxide over 30 years. This is about the same as building 20 new gas plants and running them for the same time period; burning 8.8 billion pounds of coal every year for 30 years; or adding 1.7 million cars to the road.
Willow is not just an “environmentalist” concern. HEATED analyzed 30 national news stories about the Willow project and found that 75 percent framed its importance as primarily political by Arielle Samuelson and Emily Atkin, HEATED, March 15, 2023
Quakers have a long history of working for justice and social change. But what do we (Quakers) do when we realize change is necessary now? Throughout our history we have been led to see we are implicated in injustice. “Led” means the Spirit has shown what the injustices are, and what changes should be made. Most commonly, individuals discern what change is needed, and over time they and the Spirit convince others.
As my friend Lucy Duncan writes, “we as White Quakers like to think of ourselves as ahead or better than dominant culture, but we have been complicit in a system and mindset that are ubiquitous.”
The myths we tell ourselves and the lies those myths uphold are embedded in our contemporary faith practice. When we believe and perpetuate falsehoods about ourselves, it not only disconnects us from the truth, it also limits our ability to act with full integrity today. Telling the truth about ourselves and our White Quaker ancestors grounds us in reality, in a sense of the complexity of our identity. It allows us to create a different future, not built from delusion and half of the story but from an honest and grounded reckoning with who we are and who we have been. My friend Mila Hamilton calls this “intergenerational transformative justice.” As we deal with the uncomfortable truths of our White Quaker ancestors, we release them from the amber in which our myths have captured them. As we allow them to become the full, flawed humans they were, we also free ourselves to reckon with our present, which arises from their past, and to tell the full truth of who we are.
We as White Quakers like to think of ourselves as ahead or better than dominant culture, but we have been complicit in a system and mindset that are ubiquitous. Claiming the full truth of our history and committing to repair the harms done are deeply spiritual acts of healing our own wounds of disconnection. I would argue it is the pathway upon which we can, perhaps for the first time, discover and invigorate our faith with its full promise.
What would it mean for us to take seriously and collectively as a Religious Society a call to finish the work of abolition, hand in hand and side by side with those affected and their loved ones? What would it mean for us to stand fully with the calls to abolish the police and fully fund community needs instead? What would it mean to reckon with our past complicity with harm and fully dedicate ourselves to the creation of a liberating Quaker faith that commits to build the revolutionary and healing faith we long to see come to fruition? What would it look like to finally and fully abolish slavery?
It can take a long time for change to occur. Personally, I’ve been working since the early 1970’s to convince Friends to consider my spiritual leading to drastically reduce our carbon footprint, including not having an automobile.
Most of our values, beliefs and assumptions regarding livelihoods need to be radically transformed in order to move into activities that are sustainable. If this transition is ever to occur, we must be able to visualize and share the details of these alternative occupations and embrace new social metrics to support those occupations.
I try to imagine myself making a move into a livelihood that would be fundamentally sustainable like the critical but overlooked work done by a young man I know who shuttles vegetable waste from homes in his neighborhood to a small composting center in his community by bicycle. He then sells and delivers by bike finished compost to neighbors with gardens. If I chose to move into this “career” my friends would think I had lost my mind. My friends might ridicule me. Certainly, they would worry about me! And worse, some people, perhaps even including my spouse, might simply think they no longer had anything in common with me. It’s like giving up alcohol in an alcohol inundated world. You stand outside, you are not one of the groups any longer. In reality, I would need to build an entirely new social network with different values and notions of success, a network that would respect my choices and understand their importance. Because living and working, having lifestyles and livelihoods that are truly regenerative and sustainable look nothing like how most of us live and work now. The cultural transition and change in our values and the metrics we use to measure our sense of success, therefore our identities, is hard to imagine, not to mention implement.
Nevertheless, I have interviewed people with very low carbon livelihoods and lifestyles, highly moral people who work and live outside of mainstream jobs and careers. And guess what? They did indeed initially have to suffer social backlash from family and friends for their lifestyle and work choices.
One of the things I appreciate in our spiritual practice is for the Quaker meeting to use questions to consider where we are today in our faith. For example, the following are the queries related to social and economic justice.
“For when I was hungry you gave me food, when thirsty you gave me drink, when I was a stranger you took me into your home, when naked you clothed me, when in prison you visited me.” Matthew 25:35‑36
We are part of an economic system characterized by inequality and exploitation. Such a society is defended and perpetuated by entrenched power.
Friends can help relieve social and economic oppression and injustice by first seeking spiritual guidance in our own lives. We envision a system of social and economic justice that ensures the right of every individual to be loved and cared for; to receive a sound education; to find useful employment; to receive appropriate health care; to secure adequate housing; to obtain redress through the legal system; and to live and die in dignity. Friends maintain historic concern for the fair and humane treatment of persons in penal and mental institutions.
Wide disparities in economic and social conditions exist among groups in our society and among nations of the world. While most of us are able to be responsible for our own economic circumstances, we must not overlook the effects of unequal opportunities among people. Friends’ belief in the Divine within everyone leads us to support institutions which meet human needs and to seek to change institutions which fail to meet human needs. We strengthen community when we work with others to help promote justice for all.
How are we beneficiaries of inequity and exploitation? How are we victims of inequity and exploitation? In what ways can we address these problems?
What can we do to improve theconditions in our correctional institutions and to address the mental and social problems of those confined there?
How can we improve our understanding of those who are driven to violence by subjection to racial, economic or political injustice? In what ways do we oppose prejudice and injustice based on gender, sexual orientation, class, race, age, and physical, mental and emotional conditions? How would individuals benefit from a society that values everyone? How would society benefit?
“We are part of an economic system characterized by inequality and exploitation. Such a society is defended and perpetuated by entrenched power. How are we beneficiaries of inequity and exploitation? How are we victims of inequity and exploitation? In what ways can we address these problems?”
Injustice cannot be addressed as long as we are involved in the system of injustice, in this case, capitalism. As my good friend Ronnie James says:
I’m of the firm opinion that a system that was built by stolen bodies on stolen land for the benefit of a few is a system that is not repairable. It is operating as designed, and small changes (which are the result of huge efforts) to lessen the blow on those it was not designed for are merely half measures that can’t ever fully succeed.
So, the question is now, where do we go from here? Do we continue to make incremental changes while the wealthy hoard more wealth and the climate crisis deepens, or do we do something drastic that has never been done before? Can we envision and create a world where a class war from above isn’t a reality anymore?”
The following is a diagram I’ve been working on for several years to visualize unjust systems and possible alternatives. On the left is capitalism, built on colonialism. The red vertical bar indicates forces that interfere with making changes. Failing and corrupt institutions, authoritarianism, and environmental chaos. If we can move past those resistances, we can build communities for a viable and just future.
I’ve been part of a Mutual Aid community for the past three years. That experience convinces me the Mutual Aid is a vital component of a more just future for us all. It is a way to escape the capitalist economic system, which I’ve written about extensively. (See: https://quakersandreligioussocialism.com/mutual-aid/ )