The Great Carbon Boondoggle

I’ve written about a new report from the Oakland Institute titled The Great Carbon Boondogglewhich focuses on the resistance to Summit’s CO2 (carbon) pipeline here in the Midwest. Summit is one of three proposed CO2 pipelines, so far, to be built in the Midwest. (See: Oakland Institute Report)

Boondoggle: work or activity that is wasteful or pointless but gives the appearance of having value

Notice how the proposed pipeline route travels past so many Native American reservations. A different pipeline, the Dakota Access pipeline was moved from passing near Bismarck, North Dakota, when the (primarily White) people there raised concerns about contamination of their water. Instead, the pipeline was constructed on the edge of the Standing Rock reservation. These pipeline routes are just one example of environmental racism.


Map courtesy of Pipeline Fighters, pipelinefighters.org

The report opens with a statement from my friend, Sikowis Nobiss.

https://www.oaklandinstitute.org/sites/oaklandinstitute.org/files/great-carbon-boondoggle-final.pdf

I won’t repeat all the work we have done to try to stop carbon pipelines. (Seehttps://quakersandreligioussocialism.com/?s=carbon) But I want to share our most recent actions yesterday, which included delivering a copy of The Great Carbon Boondoggle to Governor Reynolds.

We’ve been attending meetings of the Iowa Utilities Board, which will make the decision about approving the carbon pipelines. Following is a video of the presentations made yesterday to argue against approval of the pipelines.



Then we met at the Iowa State Capitol, where the legislature is in session.


Photos: Jeff Kisling


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.” [27]

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. [28]

It also risks permanently contaminating underground aquifers and poisoning precious drinking water for nearby communities.[29]

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. [30]

In many cases, this disproportionately impacts lower-income,Indigenous, Black, and Brown communities—furthering a vicious cycle of environmental racism.[31] 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. [32] 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.[33]

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. [34]

The Great Carbon Boondoggle


It is disturbing that the Biden Administration is strongly supporting 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. [3] 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.[4] 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.[5] This flood of public money has resulted in over 40 CCS projects announced in 2021 alone. [6]
In Midwestern US, Archer-Daniel Midlands (ADM), Summit Carbon Solutions, and Navigator CO2 Ventures are currently advancing three major CCS projects. The Great Carbon Boondoggle

End notes

[27] Center for International Environmental Law. Confronting the Myth of Carbon-Free Fossil Fuels: Why Carbon Capture Is Not a Climate Solution. July, 2021.
https://www.ciel.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/07/Confronting-the-Myth-of-Carbon-Free-Fossil-Fuels.pdf
[28] Center for International Environmental Law. Carbon Capture and Storage: An Expensive and Dangerous Plan for Louisiana. June 25, 2021.
https://www.ciel.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/07/Confronting-the-Myth-of-Carbon-Free-Fossil-Fuels.pdf
[29] Physicians for Social Responsibility. “Danger Ahead: The Public Health Disaster That Awaits From Carbon Capture and Sequestration (CCS).” February 10, 2022.
https://www.ciel.org/carbon-capture-and-storage-an-expensive-and-dangerous-proposition-for-louisiana-communities/
[30] Ibid.
[31] For example, in Louisiana, proposed CCS infrastructure would impact Black and Brown, lower-income communities living in “Cancer Alley,” the industrial region named after decades of poor air and water quality from industrial pollution increased cancer rates and other health risks. Ibid.
[32] Kusnetz, N. “Fossil Fuel Companies Are Quietly Scoring Big Money for Their Preferred Climate Solution: Carbon Capture and Storage.” Inside Climate News, August 17, 2021.
https://insideclimatenews.org/news/17082021/carbon-capture-storage-fossil-fuel-companies-climate/
[33] Iowa Chapter of Physicians for Social Responsibility. Fact Sheet: Low Carbon Standard, Ethanol and Carbon Capture. August 24, 2022. https://psriowa.org/event_ccs2022.html
[34] Ibid.

INDIGENOUS COMMUNITIES RISE TO RESIST CARBON PIPELINES

NOTE: I am truly blessed to have many Indigenous friends, many who are involved in the Great Plains Action Society (GPAS), including the founder Sikowis Nobiss. As a White person I’ve tried hard to learn how to appropriately engage with my friends. I’ve made mistakes.
I’ve written a lot about my experiences, hoping other White people might benefit.
(See: http://bit.ly/3FIx6yd)


This is a continuation of a series of posts related to The Great Carbon Boondoggle report about proposed carbon pipelines in the Midwest, and the resistance to them.

The first paragraph of the following section of the report highlights the environmental racism common to pipeline projects in this country. The original route of the Dakota Access pipeline was changed after the people of Bismarck, North Dakota raised concerns about the impact on their drinking water. The new route was near the Standing Rock Reservation.

Environmental racism is one of the reasons Des Moines Black Liberation Collective is part of the Buffalo Rebellion. (See: bit.ly/3PL3G79)


INDIGENOUS COMMUNITIES RISE TO RESIST THE PIPELINE

The proposed route for Summit’s pipeline will pass near several Native American reservations and cities with high Indigenous populations across the Midwest. This has sparked massive resistance from frontline communities, all too familiar with the devastation these projects bring. While the landowners’ opposition has garnered most of the media coverage, Indigenous groups are firmly against the pipeline. Great Plains Action Society (GPAS), a non-profit advocating for Indigenous communities throughout the Midwest, opposes the Midwest Carbon Express, stating it “only serves the interests of the fossil fuel industry.” GPAS is working alongside area tribes, including the Ho-chunk (Winnebago) and Umonhon (Omaha) Nations, to mobilize against the project.

On June 2, 2022, the Winnebago Tribe of Nebraska — which has reservations in Dakota County, Nebraska, and Woodbury County, Iowa — requested that the Iowa Utilities Board (IUB), the US Army Corps of Engineers and the two counties, conduct independent environmental impact studies of the pipeline. The request was filed given Summit’s proposed pipeline route comes near their land and the Missouri River. On October 6, 2022, the IUB denied the request, stating, “IUB will consider specific environmental issues raised by the IUB and the parties in the Summit Carbon docket as part of the public evidentiary hearing and in consideration of whether to grant Summit Carbon a hazardous liquid pipeline permit.” [35] The decision follows the precedent set by the IUB in 2015 during approval for the Dakota Access Pipeline, where the regulatory body found “no explicit legal requirement, in statute or in rules, for an independent environmental impact report as a part of the permit proceeding.” [36]

The Great Carbon Boondoggle, Inside the Struggle to Stop Summit’s CO2 Pipeline, The Oakland Institute

The IUB’s rejection of an independent environmental impact study on the project has heightened fears of the devastation that would occur in the event of a pipeline rupture. According to the Iowa Chapter of Physicians for Social Responsibility, in the case of a rupture, “extremely cold liquid CO2 forms a cloud that settles on the ground and displaces oxygen — potentially sickening or killing people and animals for miles around and rendering internal combustion engines inoperable.” [37]
In February 2020, a carbon pipeline in Yazoo County, Mississippi, exploded and immediately impacted residents of the nearby small town of Sartia. Just minutes after the explosion, people passed out up to three quarters of a mile away from the pipeline. “I thought I was gonna die,” said Linda Garrett, a Sartia resident. [38] The explosion led to 45 people being hospitalized and the evacuation of 300 residents. Following the rupture, the Yazoo County Emergency Management Agency Director, who oversaw the response effort, warned, “We got lucky…If the wind blew the other way, if it’d been later when people were sleeping, we would have had deaths.” [39]

For some Winnebago tribe members, the question is not if the pipeline will rupture but when. “Pipelines break all the time as you are putting manmade material against Mother Nature, something we cannot control.” [42] A rupture could be catastrophic, especially if it occurred near tribal lands with limited response resources. “I like to think we are resourceful on the reservation but when the pipeline breaks, how are we going to be able to get people the help that they need? We don’t have the capacity as first responders and emergency personnel to protect our people in that situation.” [43]
Given the lack of experience dealing with large-scale carbon pipeline ruptures, even larger urban areas are currently unprepared, as they lack the necessary special equipment and emergency response training. [44] With majority of the Indigenous people living outside the reservation land and in nearby cities that will be near the proposed pipeline route, they too will be in danger in case of a rupture. Sikowis Nobiss, Executive Director for GPAS, also noted the danger a rupture will pose to farmworkers, “There are areas with large groups of migrant workers and it is doubtful they be given the necessary protective equipment in case of a pipeline rupture. So far, nobody is talking to them about this project and their communities are unaware of the dangers.”

Indigenous communities have also raised concerns with the project degrading the land and disturbing sacred ceremonial and burial sites. [45]

Indigenous communities, rightfully, are also sounding the alarm on the impact an influx of transient pipeline construction workers will have. In the past “man-camps” — built for out of state workers for large construction, fossil fuel, or natural resource extraction projects — have led to increased risk of violence towards Indigenous communities. [49] The former UN Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, James Anaya, corroborated, “Indigenous women have reported that the influx of workers into Indigenous communities as a result of extractive projects also led to increased incidents of sexual harassment and violence, including rape and assault.” [50]

Calling for a “reduction and phasing out of fossil fuels as a wider part of a just transition,” GPAS challenges CCS projects like the Midwest Carbon Express for delaying necessary action. Sikowis Nobiss, Executive Director for GPAS, has called for necessary investments to restore prairie across Iowa and the Midwest. “The colonial capitalist model sees our prairie land as ‘empty trash’ when in fact restoring it would control erosion and sequester lots of carbon — solving many of the biggest issues caused by Big Ag.” [54] Indigenous communities have experience resisting past pipeline projects and are building from it in resisting Summit. “Carbon pipelines are nothing new to us. Standing Rock educated us on how to build power within our own communities — but not only that — it taught us how to build that resistance against the pipeline route,” said Etringer. [55] Mobilization of Indigenous communities against the project stems from a commitment to protect the land despite historical injustices. Sikowis Nobiss explained what is driving these efforts: “We continue to put aside the historical trauma we face to help protect stolen land… this hurts your head and your heart, but we continue to support this work.” [56]



Great Plains Action Society’s Statement on C02 Pipelines

Great Plains Action Society is firmly opposed to proposed carbon capture and sequestration or storage (CCS) projects (aka, CO2 Pipelines) such as Summit’s Midwest Carbon Express, Navigator’s Heartland Greenway, and Wolf Carbon Solutions’ ADM pipelines. The reasons for our opposition are numerous, however, our greatest concern is that CCS only serves the interests of the fossil fuel industry and that the government will sanction further land theft and harm to communities on Indigenous territories. Carbon capture and sequestration is by design a way to prolong the usage of fossil fuels while reducing CO2 emissions. Amidst this climate emergency, we must demand a reduction and phase out fossil fuels as a wider part of a just transition. 

We are also concerned about intense water usage as drought and warmer temperatures are greatly affecting access to clean water. Fossil fuel companies have known that their products were contributing to climate change for over forty years and now they see CCS as a government bail-out with many governmental subsidies providing just the type of perverse incentive for CCS operators to manipulate the system. Additionally, there are the same concerns present with other pipeline projects in the area regarding degradation of the land, disturbance of sacred ceremonial and burial sites. CO2 pipelines are also dangerous because when they rupture, they can spread over 1300 ft in under 4 min making it impossible to breathe and for vehicles to drive. First responders are not at all prepared to deal with such a catastrophe and many have been pushing back C02 pipelines for this reason alone. Furthermore, Indigenous communities will inevitably face encroachment on to treaty land, including environmentally racist moves on behalf of individual states to make sure that CCS does not negatively affect wealthy, white communities with influential power.

CCS is greenwashing rather than a solution to the climate emergency that Iowans deserve, as Indigenous people, we remain committed to the water, the land, and the future generations of Iowans.  

http://bit.ly/3PLkhrN


Here are some photos I’ve taken related to our Buffalo Rebellion’s carbon pipeline resistance.


Endnotes

35 Iowa Utilities Board. “IUB Addresses Request for Environmental Impact Study on Proposed Summit Carbon Solutions CO2 Pipeline.” Press Release. October 6, 2022.
https://iub.iowa.gov/press-release/2022-10-06/iub-addresses-request-environmental-impact-study-proposed-summit-carbon
36 Eller, D. “Iowa pipeline regulators reject tribe’s request for environmental impact study.” Des Moines Register, October 10, 2022.
https://www.desmoinesregister.com/story/money/business/2022/10/10/winnebago-tribe-loses-bid-require-summit-carbon-pipeline-iowa-environmental-impact-study/69545547007/

37 Zegart, D et al. Fact Sheet: CO2 Pipeline Safety. Iowa Chapter Physicians for Social Responsibility, September 14, 2022.
https://psriowa.org/PDFs/ccs2022/2022-09-14_fact_sheet_co2_pipeline_safety.pdf
38 Warden, B. “Residents near CO2 pipeline rupture in Mississippi share their story.” DakotaNewsNow, October 6, 2022.
https://www.dakotanewsnow.com/2022/10/06/residents-near-co2-pipeline-rupture-mississippi-share-their-story/
39 Zegart, D. “The Gassing of Sartia.” HuffPost, August 26, 2021.
https://www.huffpost.com/entry/gassing-satartia-mississippi-co2-pipeline_n_60ddea9fe4b0ddef8b0ddc8f

42 Direct communication with Trisha Etringer, Operations and Missing and Murdered Indigenous Relatives Director, Great Plains Action Society. October 11, 2022.
43 Ibid.
44 Iowa Sierra Club Chapter. “Carbon Pipelines: A Disaster Waiting to Happen.” Webinar. September 19, 2021. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1K_w5VzBZ6s
45 Great Plains Action Society. “No CO2 Pipelines.”
https://www.greatplainsaction.org/ccs?fbclid=IwAR3-8F-0Db5iijQl95YhMf_AhiI44yzbUrJafW3UH6fmzfXRbh9D8hJJCjs
49 Great Plains Action Society. “The Impact of CO2 Pipelines and ‘Mancamp Construction.” Webinar. September 19, 2022
https://www.facebook.com/GreatPlainsActionSociety/videos/623167659476503
50 Great Plains Action Society. “UN PFII Intervention on Man-Camps and Violence in Indigenous Communities.” May 3, 2019.
https://www.greatplainsaction.org/single-post/un-pfii-intervention-on-man-camps-and-violence-in-indigenous-communities
54 Direct communication with Sikowis Nobiss, Executive Director, Great Plains Action Society. October 13, 2022.
55 Direct communication with Trisha Etringer, Operations and Missing and Murdered Indigenous Relatives Director, Great Plains Action Society. October 11, 2022.
56 Direct communication with Sikowis Nobiss, Executive Director, Great Plains Action Society. October 13, 2022.



The Great Carbon Boondoggle

Publisher: The Oakland Institute is an independent policy think tank bringing fresh ideas and bold action to the most pressing social, economic, and environmental issues. This work is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0
International License (CC BY-NC 4.0). You are free to share, copy, distribute, and transmit this work under the following conditions:
Attribution: You must attribute the work to the Oakland Institute and its authors.
Non-Commercial: You may not use this work for commercial purposes.

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS
This report was authored by Andy Currier, Eve Devillers, and Frédéric Mousseau and draws from the previous Oakland Institute publication: The Midwest Carbon Express: A False Solution to the Climate Crisis.
Special thanks to the landowners and Indigenous community members who shared their experiences. Several remain anonymous to protect their identities

The Great Carbon Boondoggle, Inside the Struggle to Stop Summit’s CO2 Pipeline, The Oakland Institute

Pipeline Resistance: Landowner Harassment and Field Damage

Yesterday I wrote an introduction to one of the key elements of the Buffalo Rebellion’s work that was discussed during a recent community call via Zoom, i.e. carbon (CO2) pipeline resistance. The call was to build upon this new coalition’s first year of work together, and plans for the future. Resistance to the proposed carbon pipelines has been and will continue to be a focus of the Rebellion.

During the community call I learned about a new report from the Oakland Institute titled The Great Carbon Boondogglewhich focuses on the resistance to Summit’s carbon pipeline here in the Midwest. The Introduction to the report was the subject of yesterday’s blog post: Buffalo Rebellion Community Call: Carbon Pipeline Resistance.

The next part of the report is FALSE PROMISES & HARASSMENT OF LANDOWNERS.

Who owns the land?

Before getting into that, we must continue to raise awareness about who owns the land. There is a long and complex history of ways Indigenous peoples globally were forced to cede (give up power or territory) their lands to settler colonists. There is a growing movement to return lands to native peoples. #LANDBACK

Settler colonialism is a structure that perpetuates the elimination of Indigenous people and cultures to replace them with a settler society.[1][2]  Some, but not all, scholars argue that settler colonialism is inherently genocidal.[3] It may be enacted by a variety of means ranging from violent depopulation of the previous inhabitants to less deadly means such as assimilation or recognition of Indigenous identity within a colonial framework.[4]

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Settler_colonialism


For the purposes of discussions related to pipelines now, landowner refers to those with legal title within the colonial framework of this country. The next section of the report is FALSE PROMISES & HARASSMENT OF LANDOWNERS. As that title suggests, there is usually an adversarial relationship between pipeline companies and landowners.

Starting in the summer of 2021, Summit Carbon Solutions began pursuing landowners in Iowa to sign voluntary easements — ceding parts of their land — so it could construct the Midwest Carbon Express. In August, Summit announced it had reached agreements with 1,400 landowners to obtain 2,200 tracts of land across the entire Midwest.[14] In Iowa, while Summit claims to have received easements from 700 landowners for 1,200 parcels of land,[15] it has acquired only an estimated 40 percent of the land needed for the pipeline route in the state.[16] On August 5, 2022, the company announced plans to begin filling for eminent domain against landowners.[17]

Landowners in Iowa, approached by Summit for voluntary easements, allege that the company has resorted to “harassment” tactics.[18] Despite informing Summit they were not interested, the company has failed to respect their decision. “My experience over the last year has been nothing short of a scenario of elder abuse, domestic terrorism, and psychological warfare,” one farmer shared.[19] Another landowner was called at least once a week over a three-month period by land agents, while others have received numerous emails, letters, and unannounced visits by land agents. When turned down, several land agents reportedly threatened that the land would be taken by eminent domain eventually and landowners might as well sign now. One farmer alleged “Good faith negotiations is not what is happening. They are exerting their will on the farmers and landowners. Preying on the elderly and widowed who don’t know any better.” [20]

The Great Carbon Boondoggle

First Nation-Farmer Climate Unity March

I first learned about the harassment of landowners during the First Nation-Farmer Climate Unity March. One of the people on the March was a landowner and told stories of harassment by the land agents of the Dakota Access pipeline. Harassing her son as he walked home from school. Shining bright lights on her house during the night. We were walking along the route of the Dakota Access Pipeline during that March, from Des Moines to Fort Dodge, Iowa. Each time we walked over the pipeline, we stopped and held hands in a circle. Several people, including the landowner, broke down in tears. It was very emotional.

Emotions evoked as we stood over the Dakota Access Pipeline

The First Nation-Farmer Climate Unity March was a precursor to the Buffalo Rebellion. The intent was for a small group of native and nonnative people to get to know each other as we walked and camped for eight days during that ninety-four mile sacred journey. So we could begin to know and trust each other, which would make it possible for us to work together on issues of common concern. That was very successful, and we have worked together on various things since. A number of us are part of the Buffalo Rebellion now.


In pursuit of voluntary easements, Summit is making promises that farmers believe it cannot fulfill. Many worry that if they sell portions of their land for the pipeline, construction will result in long term damage to their remaining farm. The company acknowledges that the construction will likely impact farming on areas of land adjacent to the pipeline and commits to cover lost crop yields — 100 percent the first year, 80 percent the second and 60 percent the third — and that it will pay to cover any other damages. [24] For farmers, these assurances are insufficient. One farmer with hilly land and particularly erodible soil, who invested lots of time and money in building terraces to retain water
in the soil, shared, “They’re going to be digging these trenches right through our terraces, which will destroy them. And they’re going to have to be redone. And they say they’ll do that…but it took us years to get them the way we want them.” Multiple farmers interviewed shared fears that once soil is dug up to make way for the pipeline, replacing it will not be as simple as Summit claims, given the complex nature of soil structure.

Another potential impact the pipeline may have on farmland concerns damage to drainage tiles, which play a crucial role in moderating the level of water held by the soil. While Summit maintains it will comply with requirements relating to land restoration — including temporary and permanent tile repair — farmers fear that damage to drainage tiles will lead to sinkholes in the soil on other areas of their land. A pervasive lack of trust in Summit to provide the necessary financial resources to repair drainage tile to the standard they require is common among many farmers.

A farmer explained, “My grandfather and my great uncle dug the tile on that farm by hand… And when they come in and say, oh, we’re gonna put this pipeline through here, we’re gonna fix the tile, though, that is not something that happens. You do not cut through tile, and have it fixed to the functionality it was before.” Another farmer remarked: “When you lay tile, the best practice is to never disturb it. And they’re going to, you know, rip the stuff wide open… Summit might say they’ll go the whole nine yards and repair your tile and put your dirt back just perfect. But there’s no way that they can promise that and back it up.”

These fears are informed in part by the damage caused by the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL), built through Iowa in 2017. Farmers, whose land DAPL crosses, shared that as a result of heavy machinery and digging, the soil composition has been “forever altered” and that “no amount of money is worth what they did to this ground.” [25] Damage to drainage tiles have also impacted crop yields for farmers, justifying fears raised by the potential impact of the Midwest Carbon Express. These claims are not just anecdotal. Research conducted by Iowa State University found that in the two years following completion of DAPL, yields of corn fell by 15 percent while soybean yields dropped 25 percent on land impacted by pipeline construction. [26] Concerns of lower crop yields, beyond the timeframe Summit will reimburse farmers, remain widespread among landowners.

The Great Carbon Boondoggle

During the First Nation-Famer Climate Unity March we saw the damage from construction of DAPL affecting water drainage from the fields.

Field drainage damaged by Dakota Access pipeline, First Nation-Farmer Climate Unity March, 2018
Standing water, not draining because of damage from the Dakota Access pipeline construction. First Nation-Farmer Climate Unity March, 2018

Endnotes

14 Summit Carbon Solutions. “Summit Carbon Solutions Partners with Over 700 Iowa Landowners To Sign More Than 1,200 Voluntary Easements.” Press Release. August 5, 2022.
https://summitcarbonsolutions.com/summit-carbon-solutions-partners-with-over-700-iowa-landowners-to-sign-more-than-1200-voluntary-easements
15 Ibid.
16 Food and Water Watch. “Summit Plans to File For Eminent Domain Against Landowners on 60% of IA Carbon Pipeline Route.” Press Release. August 5, 2022.
https://www.foodandwaterwatch.org/2022/08/05/summit-plans-to-file-for-eminent-domain-against-landowners-on-60-of-ia-carbon-pipeline-route/.
17 Ibid.
18 Direct communication with several Iowa farmers, names withheld. August 2022.
19 Direct communication with Iowa farmer, name withheld. August2022.
20 Ibid.
21 Beach, J. “Landowners facing lawsuits over surveyor access for Summit Carbon pipeline in North Dakota, South Dakota.” AgWeek, September 7, 2022. https://www.agweek.com/news/landowners-facing-lawsuits-over-surveyor-access-for-summit-carbon-pipeline-in-north-dakota-south-dakota
22 Ibid.
23 Direct communication with farmers in Iowa. August–October 2022.
24 Summit Carbon Solutions. “Frequently Asked Questions.”
https://summitcarbonsolutions.com/frequently-asked-questions/
25 “Dakota Access Pipeline: 18 Months Later.” The Gazette, August 17, 2021
https://www.thegazette.com/iowa-ideas/dakota-access-pipeline-18-months-later/
26 Brooker, J. “Pipelines keep robbing the land long after the bulldozers leave.” Grist, January 7, 2022.
https://grist.org/energy/new-research-shows-sustained-damage-to-agricultural-land-near-pipelines/


Publisher: The Oakland Institute is an independent policy think tank bringing fresh ideas and bold action to the most pressing social, economic, and environmental issues. This work is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0
International License (CC BY-NC 4.0). You are free to share, copy, distribute, and transmit this work under the following conditions:
Attribution: You must attribute the work to the Oakland Institute and its authors.
Non-Commercial: You may not use this work for commercial purposes.

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS
This report was authored by Andy Currier, Eve Devillers, and Frédéric Mousseau and draws from the previous Oakland Institute publication: The Midwest Carbon Express: A False Solution to the Climate Crisis.
Special thanks to the landowners and Indigenous community members who shared their experiences. Several remain anonymous to protect their identities

The Great Carbon Boondoggle, Inside the Struggle to Stop Summit’s CO2 Pipeline, The Oakland Institute

Buffalo Rebellion Community Call: Carbon Pipeline Resistance

Care for Mother Earth and all our relations is why the Buffalo Rebellion coalition was formed. Most of us have been fighting against fossil fuels for many years. In 2013 I was one of about four thousand people in this country trained as Action Leads in the Keystone XL Pledge of Resistance. That pipeline was defeated.

There is a renewed urgency as greenhouse gas concentrations continue to rise. All climate models show we must dramatically decrease greenhouse gas emissions. We have already crossed or will soon cross many environmental tipping points.

Those who had refused to face these truths can no longer do so as the rapidly evolving environmental chaos impacts their families, homes and communities. Kills and injures their friends and neighbors. Suddenly there is a public cry for solutions now, desperately hoping for someone, somehow to stop the environmental violence.

As always, the fossil fuel industry sees opportunities for great profit. Radically reducing burning fossil fuels cannot be done without significantly impacting the lifestyles of those who have wantonly consumed far more than their share of energy. The search is on for some sort of magical solution.

During the recent Buffalo Rebellion Community Call I’ve been writing about, carbon (CO2) pipelines were a focus of attention. Our coalition has had several public demonstrations against these pipelines.
(See: https://quakersandreligioussocialism.com/?s=carbon)


Jake Grobe, Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement. Buffalo Rebellion action

Oakland Institute

The Great Carbon Boondoggle

During the community call I learned about a new report from the Oakland Institute titled The Great Carbon Boondoggle, which focuses on the resistance to Summit’s CO2 (carbon) pipeline here in the Midwest. Summit is one of three proposed CO2 pipelines, so far, to be built in the Midwest. The plan is to deliver this report to Iowa Governor Reynolds.

Boondoggle: work or activity that is wasteful or pointless but gives the appearance of having value:

Even a school child would think this idea is crazy. To suck a little CO2 from the air, compress it into a liquid, pump it under pressure (1,000 psi) through hundreds of miles of pipeline to be buried in rock formations. And hope the CO2 doesn’t eventually escape, nullifying the whole thing. This idea of the CO2 remaining where it is deposited is unproven. What has been proven is how hazardous, life threatening it is when the pipeline ruptures.

There is a lot of greenwashing going on. In a situation like this it is helpful if we (pipeline resisters) speak with a consistent message. So, I’m going to use this report to discuss carbon capture and storage. It is great that the Oakland Institute gives permission to share their work.

Map courtesy of Pipeline Fighters, pipelinefighters.org

The report opens with a statement from my friend, Sikowis Nobiss.


NOTE: The following graphic is from Summit Carbon Solutions with an emphasis on safety and permanent storage. There has already been an accident with significant harm to those in the area of the rupture. And there is no proof that the CO2 will remain where it is stored permanently.


Despite these claims, a diverse coalition of Indigenous organizations, farmers, and environmentalists have banded together to stop the project. Opposition has grown across the Midwest in 2022, as Summit attempted to secure the necessary permits and land to begin construction in Iowa. After Summit failed to obtain voluntary easements for the land to build the pipeline in Iowa, it requested the Iowa Utilities Board (IUB) to grant eminent domain for the company to take land from the landowners unwilling to voluntarily cede to the pipeline. While the timeline remains uncertain, the IUB will ultimately determine the fate of the project. The Great Carbon Boondoggle

(See: https://quakersandreligioussocialism.com/?s=carbon)


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.” [27]

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. [28]

It also risks permanently contaminating underground aquifers and poisoning precious drinking water for nearby communities.[29]

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. [30]

In many cases, this disproportionately impacts lower-income,Indigenous, Black, and Brown communities—furthering a vicious cycle of environmental racism.[31] 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. [32] 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.[33]

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. [34]

The Great Carbon Boondoggle


It is disturbing that the Biden Administration is strongly supporting 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. [3] 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.[4] 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.[5] This flood of public money has resulted in over 40 CCS projects announced in 2021 alone. [6]
In Midwestern US, Archer-Daniel Midlands (ADM), Summit Carbon Solutions, and Navigator CO2 Ventures are currently advancing three major CCS projects. The Great Carbon Boondoggle


Endnotes

[3] Douglas, L. “U.S. carbon pipeline proposals trigger backlash over potential land seizures.” Reuters, February 7, 2022.
https://www.reuters.com/business/environment/us-carbon-pipeline-proposals-trigger-backlash-over-potential-land-seizures-2022-02-07
[4] Department of Energy. “Fact Sheet: The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act – Opportunities to Accelerate Deployment in Fossil Energy and Carbon Management Activities.” September 29, 2022.
https://www.energy.gov/fecm/articles/fact-sheet-infrastructure-investment-and-jobs-act-opportunities-accelerate-deployment
October 10, 2022).
[5] Gibson Dunn. “The Inflation Reduction Act Includes Significant Benefits for the Carbon Capture Industry.” August 12, 2022.
https://www.gibsondunn.com/the-inflation-reduction-act-includes-significant benefits-for-the-carbon-capture-industry/
[6] Paul, S. “Global carbon capture projects surge 50% in 9 months–research.” Reuters, October 11, 2021. https://www.reuters.com/business/sustainable-business/global-carbon-capture-projects-surge-50-9-months-research-2021-10-12


[27] Center for International Environmental Law. Confronting the Myth of Carbon-Free Fossil Fuels: Why Carbon Capture Is Not a Climate Solution. July, 2021.
https://www.ciel.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/07/Confronting-the-Myth-of-Carbon-Free-Fossil-Fuels.pdf
[28] Center for International Environmental Law. Carbon Capture and Storage: An Expensive and Dangerous Plan for Louisiana. June 25, 2021.
https://www.ciel.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/07/Confronting-the-Myth-of-Carbon-Free-Fossil-Fuels.pdf
[29] Physicians for Social Responsibility. “Danger Ahead: The Public Health Disaster That Awaits From Carbon Capture and Sequestration (CCS).” February 10, 2022.
https://www.ciel.org/carbon-capture-and-storage-an-expensive-and-dangerous-proposition-for-louisiana-communities/
[30] Ibid.
[31] For example, in Louisiana, proposed CCS infrastructure would impact Black and Brown, lower-income communities living in “Cancer Alley,” the industrial region named after decades of poor air and water quality from industrial pollution increased cancer rates and other health risks. Ibid.
[32] Kusnetz, N. “Fossil Fuel Companies Are Quietly Scoring Big Money for Their Preferred Climate Solution: Carbon Capture and Storage.” Inside Climate News, August 17, 2021.
https://insideclimatenews.org/news/17082021/carbon-capture-storage-fossil-fuel-companies-climate/
[33] Iowa Chapter of Physicians for Social Responsibility. Fact Sheet: Low Carbon Standard, Ethanol and Carbon Capture. August 24, 2022. https://psriowa.org/event_ccs2022.html
[34] Ibid.



Publisher: The Oakland Institute is an independent policy think tank bringing fresh ideas and bold action to the most pressing social, economic, and environmental issues. This work is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0
International License (CC BY-NC 4.0). You are free to share, copy, distribute, and transmit this work under the following conditions:
Attribution: You must attribute the work to the Oakland Institute and its authors.
Non-Commercial: You may not use this work for commercial purposes.

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS
This report was authored by Andy Currier, Eve Devillers, and Frédéric Mousseau and draws from the previous Oakland Institute publication: The Midwest Carbon Express: A False Solution to the Climate Crisis.
Special thanks to the landowners and Indigenous community members who shared their experiences. Several remain anonymous to protect their identities

The Great Carbon Boondoggle, Inside the Struggle to Stop Summit’s CO2 Pipeline, The Oakland Institute

Buffalo Rebellion Community Call: Des Moines Black Liberation

I am so glad to be part of the Buffalo Rebellion
(See: https://quakersandreligioussocialism.com/buffalo-rebellion/ )

Last night we had a Community Call via Zoom to reflect on the past year, hear updates of work being done, and what the future might hold.

The main accomplishments of this year were

Using Zoom breakout rooms, we got to know each other better and hear what work we are each doing. I talked about being involved in Des Moines Mutual Aid, and that I’ve been talking about this in our Quaker meeting. That I hoped more people of faith would become involved in Mutual Aid. There were only two other people in our breakout room. One said he had attended Quaker meeting in Connecticut, and the other said this resonated with her.


Des Moines Black Liberation Collective

1. Removal of armed school resource officers from Des Moines Public Schools

Jaylen Cavil of Des Moines Black Liberation Collective (https://www.desmoinesblm.org/) reported on something I hadn’t known about, getting police out of schools. From my time in the Kheprw Institute community in Indianapolis, I knew how children of color and their parents distrust and fear the police. It was an awful thing to bring the police into the schools. The school to prison pipeline is a horrible situation and Des Moines Black Liberation Collective (Des Moines BLM) was recently about to get “school resource officers” (SRO) out of the public schools.

Before the pandemic, armed officers known as ​“school resource officers,” or SROs, from the Des Moines Police Department would patrol the school hallways. But during the summer of racial justice marches and protests after the police murder of George Floyd, students, parents and community members spoke out against SROs at Des Moines School Board meetings. In the end, the police contract with the schools was terminated. After scrambling to make remote schooling work during the long, mournful slog of the pandemic, Des Moines Public Schools (DMPS) were left to find a way to reimagine school safety — and fast.

The district moved quickly to implement restorative practices, an increasingly popular educational model for school safety, violence prevention and mediation. 

The 2021 – 2022 school year was a huge opportunity with the highest of stakes: DMPS could become one of the only districts in the nation to succeed in concurrently removing SROs and implementing restorative practices, or the district and its students could be thrown into crisis.

The City That Kicked Cops Out of Schools and Tried Restorative Practices Instead. Here’s what happens when a school rethinks punishment by ANDY KOPSA, In These Times, DECEMBER 12, 2022

Vanessa says she sometimes asks to go to the ​“Think Tank,” a designated area created by RP staff for kids who violate school rules. While in the Think Tank as a punishment, students cannot talk, have outside meals or snacks and must turn off electronics. But the Think Tank can also be a respite; for Vanessa, it’s a safe space to deal with the anxiety that drove her to wander the halls.

“I would get overwhelmed and then I would ask to go to the Think Tank so I was able to do my work,” Vanessa says. ​“And Mr. Musa had snacks.” The snacks made a lasting impression.

When I drop by Roosevelt’s Think Tank with Mr. Musa, eight kids have opted to be there in lieu of suspension. Two girls are there because of a scuffle in the bathroom, though they say they were bystanders. Then there are a couple hallway roamers and two boys caught vaping.

In the Think Tank, students are required to do school work. In many cases, that’s a back catalog of assignments and writing about what they did, how it made them feel and how they might handle it differently in the future.

The subtle, important difference between the Think Tank and traditional in-school suspension, according to Jake Troja, DMPS director of school climate, is that students are there by choice. In the past, the message from the school district to students was, ​“You have a suspension, that’s it,” he says. Now, RP staff have a new message: ​“We’d love [for students] to be in class, but we can’t do that, so here’s another option.”

“It’s about power and authority,” Troja says.

The district asked for reform — such as installing ununiformed and unarmed officers in schools — but the Des Moines police department responded, in February 2021, with a surprise termination of the contract. Sgt. Paul Parizek, Des Moines police public information officer, did not respond to multiple requests for comment.

Des Moines schools had already begun training teachers in restorative practices in 2018. With the $750,000 saved from the broken contract, the school district funded 20 new positions and hired specially trained RP staff across the city’s five public high schools. The district even invited Sellers and other students to observe the hiring process, and students picked up on red flags that staff missed, Sellers tells me, like candidates who called students ​“delinquents.”

The City That Kicked Cops Out of Schools and Tried Restorative Practices Instead. Here’s what happens when a school rethinks punishment by ANDY KOPSA, In These Times, DECEMBER 12, 2022

2. Prison letter writing and abolition

Jaylen talked about Des Moines BLM’s support of Central Iowa Democratic Socialist of America’s (DSA) prison letter writing project. This is something I’ve been involved with in several ways. Jade, my friend from Des Moines Mutual Aid is the organizer for this project that a number of us from DMMA participate in. https://landbackfriends.com/2021/11/28/prison-abolition-letter-writing-project/

I am writing to you as a part of the Central Iowa Democratic Socialists of American prison abolition group. I am inviting you to join our solidarity and pen-pal network. We are connecting with people incarcerated in Iowa because we believe the struggles of people both inside and outside of prison walls are intertwined. Specifically, we recognize the need to eliminate systemic injustices produced by the current criminal justice system.

Please let me know if you are interested in taking part in this project. I would love to receive any information from you so that we can make a case to those on the outside to take action on the demands of incarcerated people.

We are the Central Iowa chapter of the Democratic Socialists of America (DSA). Promoting the concept of democratic socialism through political action, direct service, and education. We are building for the future beyond resistance.
https://www.facebook.com/CentralIowaDSA


Quakers for Abolition Network

My blog made it possible for one of my new friends, Jed Walsh, to contact me about the work he and Mackenzie Barton-Rowledge are doing related to abolition of police and prisons. I wrote a little in their article that was published by the Western Friend, https://westernfriend.org/article/quakers-abolition-network.


3. Des Moines BLM and Des Moines Mutual Aid

Jaylen also spoke about the collaboration of Des Moines BLM with Des Moines Mutual Aid. Mutual Aid is the alternative to the capitalist system that drains all the resources that should be invested in our people and communities. That houselessness is by design because those in power want us to feel desperate, so we can’t focus on change.

He told of the City of Des Moines periodically razing the houseless camps, which served no good purpose because they are rebuilt shortly after. Last year it cost about $30,000 to provide propane and heaters for those in the camps. Funds for this purpose are behind now.

Information about camper support and to make donations can be found here: https://iowamutualaid.org/camper-support

https://iowamutualaid.org/camper-support

4. Demands for the Department of Corrections

Help uplift demands from individuals incarcerated at Anamosa State Penitentiary https://linktr.ee/demandsfordoc

Jaylen asked us to send emails to the DoC to support the demands of incarcerated individuals.


In subsequent posts I’ll report on the other work that was presented at this Buffalo Rebellion Community Call last night.


You can read more about these issues in the Iowa Mutual Aid publication, We Gather Here in Disservice of the State

https://iowamutualaid.org/zine

Scenarios for “nascent” carbon capture technologies

NASCENT: just coming into existence and beginning to display signs of future potential

It was a foregone conclusion that the fossil fuel industry would find a new way to generate profits as fossil fuels are becoming more difficult to extract, and resistance to fossil fuel infrastructure, i.e. pipelines, continues to rise.

[capitalism] is causing five massive problems, problems so grave they were genuine existential threats to this thing this species called a “world”: climate change, mass extinction, economic stagnation, social inequality, and political extremism. 

The Beginning of the End of the World. Why We Have to Take the Idea of Civilizational Collapse Seriously, and What it Really Looks Like by umair haque, Eudaimonia and Co, Dec 15, 2022

Most unconventional energy sources have much lower efficiencies than conventional gas and oil, which operate at a combined energy-returned-on-investment ratio of about 18:1. Shale gas, for example, performs at about 6.5:1 to 7.6:1—a bit better than the 2.9:1 to 5.1 for tar sands oil. Corn ethanol, with an EROI of about 1.3:1, sits at the bottom of the barrel for investment pay off.

Oil Sands Mining Uses Up Almost as Much Energy as It Produces by Rachel Nuwer, Inside Climate News,
February 19, 2013

“Nascent” isn’t the correct term for carbon capture technologies. Although these technologies are just coming into existence, they only have the potential to remove insignificant amounts of greenhouse gases from the atmosphere. And there is no evidence at all that the extracted carbon will remain where it is proposed to be buried for any length of time.

And what proponents don’t want known is much of this recovered carbon dioxide will be used to push more oil out of shale rock.

Yet as the general public is seeing increasing environmental devastation, and finally realizing the causes, they are demanding immediate solutions that preferably don’t require changes to their lifestyles. So, they gladly support the false claims of carbon capture.

The general public is also unaware that the carbon dioxide transported by pipelines from the sites of carbon capture is a hazardous material. When pipelines rupture, they replace the oxygen, causing confusion, brain injury or death. The lack of oxygen means internal combustion engines, like those in emergency response vehicles, can no longer work.

I’m glad to be working with the many people and organizations that have formed the Buffalo Rebellion that is fighting against these technologies. (See: https://quakersandreligioussocialism.com/buffalo-rebellion/) I took the photos below during a Buffalo Rebellion rally in November, when there was a national meeting of supporters of carbon capture in Des Moines.

THERE ARE TWO DIFFERENT KINDS OF SCENARIOS that leave the planet, in the year 2100, below 1.5C of warming. One involves a “high overshoot,” but spending decades above 1.5C in such a world is an unsettling prospect. It raises the possibility, for instance, of the world experiencing dangerous tipping points and even calamities such as the irreversible loss of the West Antarctic ice sheet.

So it is worth focusing on those 26 scenarios that allow for only a “low” overshoot (or none at all).Many of these scenarios require the world, by mid-century, to go well beyond the popular“net zero” goal for fossil fuel emissions. Rather, the world will have to be removing more carbon dioxide from the atmosphere than it is putting in — “net negative.” And that will require the wide-scale deployment of nascent “carbon capture” technologies to remove what is already present, storing it underground, and likely also massive reforestation or other efforts to store carbon in the land itself.

We looked at 1,200 possibilities for the planet’s future. These are our best hope by Chris Mooney, Naema Ahmed and John Muyskens, The Washington Post, Dec 1, 2022


Reasonable, challenging or speculative?

Potsdam Institute researchers rated 1.5°C scenarios as speculative, challenging, or reasonable on these five dimensions, based on progress by 2050

  • 1. Carbon dioxide removal and storage underground
    • The amount of CO₂ pulled from the air by carbon capture technology and stored in large underground repositories, or through chemical interactions with rock. Challenging = over 3 billion tons annually; Speculative = over 7 billion tons.
  • 2. Carbon dioxide removal using land
    • How much CO₂ is absorbed by trees and land, including through agriculture. Challenging = over 2.5 billion tons per year; Speculative = over 8.6 billion tons.
  • 3. Carbon intensity reductions
    • The reduction in carbon emissions from energy production due to renewables, electrification and electric vehicles, among other things. Challenging = above a 75 percent reduction; Speculative = above 93 percent reduction.
  • 4. Changing energy demand
    • The change in the world’s total need for energy in 2050. Challenging = any decrease in energy demand; Speculative = a decrease of 40 percent or more.
  • 5. Fewer methane emissions
    • The reduction in emissions of methane, the second most important greenhouse gas. Challenging = reductions above 54 percent; Speculative = reductions above 67 percent.

We looked at 1,200 possibilities for the planet’s future. These are our best hope by Chris Mooney, Naema Ahmed and John Muyskens, The Washington Post, Dec 1, 2022


The best overview about carbon capture I’ve found is the following webinar hosted by my friends Mahmud Fitil and Sikowis Nobiss.

Check out the first webisode of Prairie Not Pipelines, an Indigenous web series focused on climate, water and resource extraction on the plains.

Hosted by Mahmud Fitil and Sikowis Nobiss. Folks from across the Great Plains in ND, SD, NE and Iowa will be discussing the recent push for CO2 pipelines across the region.

Currently, the majority of the media and public pushback is coming from white landowners. However, these pipelines are being proposed to be forced through stolen land and treaty territories where Indigenous voices need to be heard. This forum will discuss the legal, environmental and tribal perspectives of Carbon Capture and Storage. These projects are being touted as environmentally sound when in fact they are huge greenwashed projects which extends a lifeline to the fossil fuel industry which is responsible for our current climate emergency in the first place. These investors and corporations are merely looking to profit from government programs and subsidies rather than address our climate woes in any meaningful way. The people, land and water in the way of their profiteering ambitions are of little concern.



Great Plains Action Society and Midwest Quakers

What follows is a history of the development of relationships among people of the Great Plains Action Society (GPAS) and some Quakers in the Midwest. I’ve had a lifelong concern for our environment and always wanted to learn more about Indigenous peoples and their spiritual and sustainable ways of living. But I hadn’t known how to make that happen. My intention in writing this is to share my recent experiences, and show various ways I’ve found to make such connections, so you might make your own.

Friends are involved with Indigenous peoples in a number of ways in the Midwest. Many members of my Quaker meeting have been involved in the annual Prairie Awakening/Prairie Awoke celebration at the Kuehn Conservation Area for many years. Other Friends have lobbied legislators. Friends are involved with Friends Peace Team’s program Toward Right Relationship with Native Peoples.

The reason for my focus on the Great Plains Action Society is because of the many friends I have there, and the many wonderful things they do. Things I have been led to join in, when appropriate for a white person.

As a Quaker I know that everything is grounded in faith and I believed that was true for Indigenous peoples, too. I was truly blessed when opportunities started to appear about seven years ago that began to teach me about these things. What follows is an account of how I have been led on this journey thus far.

[NOTE: this is not about calling attention to myself. At the end of this post is a statement about humility.]

Fundamentally, relationships can only be made by spending a lot of time together over an extended period. And only when this is something you are led to do. It doesn’t work if you are only doing this out of a sense of obligation and/or not able or willing to spend a lot of time in the endeavor. And White people, such as I, must constantly guard against bringing along an attitude of White superiority. I find it helpful to try to move outside myself, to evaluate the situation I’m in and what I’m doing from a distance. The less we say and the more deeply we listen, the better. You will often feel vulnerable. That’s part of the process, how you grow, and how relationships deepen.

It is urgent now to develop relationships to support each other as environmental devastation will continue to collapse economic, political, and social systems. The only choices will be to return to Indigenous ways or violent tribalism.

Damage to Mother Earth from extreme extractive industries and fossil fuel infrastructure is a focus of much of the work of Indigenous peoples, and of the new coalition, the Buffalo Rebellion. It is because of these shared concerns that I began to make connections. I was trained as an Action Lead in the Keystone Pledge of Resistance in 2013 and have been involved in resistance to the Keystone XL, Dakota Access, and Coastal Gaslink pipelines. And now against carbon (CO2) pipelines.

TRUTHSGIVING

The concept of truthsgiving is why I’m writing this extended article. To share the truths that I have been learning. My intention is to show the variety of ways we can become involved, or more involved, in building relationships with native peoples. And to show the reasons why the Mutual Aid work that has been my focus for the past three years is so important.

It is time for Quakers, for everyone to acknowledge the atrocities of the Indian Boarding Schools. Which must begin with truth telling. “The Truth will not be Whitewashed” calls out those, not only many Quakers but most White people who don’t want to face these truths. Locating the remains of thousands of children on the grounds of Indian Boarding Schools in this country and Canada is bringing attention to these atrocities. And opening wounds.

Truthsgiving is a concept of my friend, Sikowis Nobiss, who is the founder of the Great Plains Action Society (GPAS). GPAS created the website TRUTHSGIVING. The Truth will not be Whitewashed. The Truthsgiving Collective includes GPAS, Des Moines Mutual Aid, and others.

Truthsgiving is an ideology that must be enacted through truth telling and mutual aid to discourage colonized ideas about the thanksgiving mythology—not a name switch so we can keep doing the same thing. It’s about telling and doing the truth on this day so we can stop dangerous stereotypes and whitewashed history from continuing to harm Indigenous lands and Peoples, as well as Black, Latinx, Asian-American and all oppressed folks on Turtle Island. 

https://www.truthsgiving.org/about

Mutual Aid

Mutual Aid comes up frequently in these stories because this is the framework to escape the colonial capitalist system that is oppressing all of us now. Mutual Aid communities exist all over. You can search for “mutual aid” on the Internet and social media platforms. The website Iowa Mutual Aid Network is an excellent resource. https://iowamutualaid.org/

You can read much more about my mutual aid story here: Mutual Aid in the Midwest

Dean Spade has written an excellent book, Mutual Aid, Building Solidarity During This Crisis (And the Next).

Mutual Aid is important because it provides an alternative to the capitalism and white superiority that mainstream society is built upon. Mutual aid can help us Walk a Path of Doing the Truth as my friend Ronnie James wrote in “Doing Truth When the World is Upside Down.”

Mutual Aid is important because it truly builds community. These are troubled times with many people in despair, feeling hopeless. Mutual Aid communities help people help each other and restore a sense of self-worth. Opportunities to make a difference.



I’ve often written about my first meeting with Ronnie James as being Spirit led. February 2020, I posted an event to support the Wet’suwet’en peoples who were trying to stop a pipeline from being built through their territory. I didn’t expect anyone to attend who wasn’t already involved in this issue. Thank God, literally, Ronnie James, an Indigenous organizer, saw the event and joined us. He was surprised anyone beyond those he knew was aware of the struggles of the Wet’suwet’en. That meeting changed my life. It makes me sad to think I would have missed everything that came from this meeting if it had not occurred.


Queries about Mutual Aid

  • How are we working to deal with existing chaos and preparing for further collapse?
  • Do we provide for everyone’?
  • What is our relationship with Mother Earth? Do we honor and conserve the resources we use?
  • What systems of dominance, of vertical hierarchies are we involved in?
  • Do we work to ensure there aren’t vertical hierarchies in our communities, in our relationships with all our relatives?
  • Do we have the courage to follow what the Spirit is saying to us? To not force those messages to conform to our existing beliefs and practices.
  • How do we connect with communities beyond our Quaker meetings? What are we learning about spiritual connections beyond our meetinghouses? Are we sharing these spiritual lessons with others?

Some of my writing about Mutual Aid: https://quakersandreligioussocialism.com/mutual-aid/

And my mutual aid booklet here: Mutual Aid in the Midwest

You can read much more about my mutual aid story here:
Mutual Aid in the Midwest


 There is an aspect of self-determination and ethical engagement in organizing to meet our peoples’ material needs. There is a collective emotional lift in doing something worthwhile for our peoples’ benefit, however short-lived that benefit might be. These spaces become intergenerational, diverse places of Indigenous joy, care and conversation, and these conversations can be affirming, naming, critiquing, as well as rejecting and pushing back against the current systems of oppression. This for me seems like the practice of movement-building that our respective radical practices have been engaged with for centuries.

Maynard, Robyn; Simpson, Leanne Betasamosake. Rehearsals for Living (Abolitionist Papers) (p. 39). Haymarket Books. Kindle Edition.

Building Relationships

What follows are some of my stories about how such relationships developed. It takes time to build these relationships, which is why it is important to begin now.

Guidelines

I begin with some general guidelines that I, as a White person, have learned about making connections with communities of Black, Indigenous, and other people of color (BIPOC).

This graphic summarizes some of what I have learned from my own experience. I learned much of this during the years I spent in the Kheprw Institute youth mentoring community in Indianapolis. A community of people of color. And these guidelines have been very helpful in the context of the last five years as I was led to connect with my Indigenous friends.

I also learned a great deal from participation in the American Friends Service Committee’s (AFSC) Quaker Social Change Ministry program and recommend it. https://www.afsc.org/quakersocialchange


Don’t be a burden

From that initial meeting, Ronnie and I began to exchange text messages. Related to “don’t be a burden”, text messaging is far less intrusive than phone conversations, for example.

Do NOT ask or expect to be taught

This can be one of those gray areas. There is a difference between expecting to be taught and accepting what someone is offering to teach you. Ronnie was/is very generous with his time and encouragement. He is what I would call a very effective organizer. He recognized our Wet’suwet’en vigil would be a chance to find allies for the work he does. Since then, I’ve seen how often, and how well he writes to educate others. And he always shows up. In the nearly three years I’ve known him, he and I have rarely missed being at our weekly food giveaway. And those times when he isn’t there, it is often because of other things related to his activism. He is involved in many things besides our food project.

Listen deeply-this is how you learn

Think about what is being said. Learn the language, so to speak. Pay attention to body language and facial expressions. This is hard when people are wearing face masks, which are always required at our food project. No face mask, no participation. This is done to reduce the chance of any of us passing the virus on to others.

Observe common tasks and help do them. For example, every Saturday morning tables need to be set up outside, where the food boxes will be put for distribution. So do that if there is idle time. You don’t need to ask for permission. It is expected that you will use your own initiative. Because of everyone being aware of what needs to be done, and doing it, our work is done really efficiently. As Ronnie says, at the end of the hour you will be tired, sweaty and felling good. And that’s true.

Do NOT offer suggestions/leadership until invited to do so

It can take a long time (months) to understand all that is involved in the work you are participating in. It has taken a lot of work, trial and error, for those involved in the community you are connecting with to get things to function well.

The rest of the list is self-explanatory. Accepting being vulnerable is likely the most difficult part of this. You are being vulnerable just by doing what it takes to join in the work, to show up. When uncomfortable things happen, they are often not your fault. Try not to take things personally.


Great Plains Action Society and Iowa Yearly Meeting (Conservative)

A number of Friends (Quakers) in the Midwest have had opportunities to work with the Great Plains Action Society (GPAS) and the people who are part of that organization. My first connection was being present at a panel discussion at Iowa Yearly Meeting (Conservative) about building bridges with Native Americans in 2017. Sikowis (Christine) Nobiss, Donnielle Wanatee and Peter Clay were on the panel. (See: Iowa Panel Looks at Building Bridges with Native Americans | American Friends Service Committee)

Great Plains Action Society (GPAS)

Sikowis was involved in Indigenous Iowa, and Seeding Sovereignty, then moved on to establish the Great Plains Action Society (GPAS). My friends Ronnie James, Trisha Cax-Sep-Gu-Wiga Etringer, Mahmud Fitil, Regina Tsosie, Foxy and Alton Onefeather, and Jessica Engelking are among the people of GPAS.

I only mention that I took this photo as an example of building relationships. With time, people learn what you have to offer. During the Buffalo Rebellion Climate Conference we were all attending, there was a spontaneous opportunity for a group photo of GPAS. I was glad to be asked to take the photo.

Great Plains Action Society (5).png
photo: Jeff Kisling

History

Resist and Indigenize

GPAS started to build in 2014 and became an official non-profit in 2017 with two full-time staff, two part-time staff, and two youth interns. Founder, Sikowis Nobiss, who started organizing over twenty-five years ago during the Burnt Church Indigenous fisheries crisis in New Brunswick, Canada, saw that Iowa needed more Indigenous voices to speak up for the Earth. During the NoDAPL resistance movement in 2016, she created a platform for Great Plains Action Society to empower Indigenous voices in Iowa concerning extreme resource extraction perpetuated by the fossil fuel industry. During this fight, GPAS worked tirelessly in both Iowa and North Dakota, bridging the gap between Indigenous communities and rural landowners. This led GPAS to form Little Creek Camp, an Indigenous-led resistance hub in Iowa and to finally register as a 501(c)4 that is 100% Indigenous run. Our efforts have truly brought the voice and actions of Indigenous Peoples to the forefront of Iowa’s climate movement, which is much needed in the most biologically colonized state in the country and the number one contributor to the dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico due to colonial-capitalist farming practices. By uplifting traditional Indigenous ecological knowledge, we are making it clear that Iowa needs to rematriate prairie, bring back first foods and increase Indigenous land stewardship. 

Great Plains Action Society’s Vision

“We are a collective of Indigenous organizers of the Great Plains working to resist and Indigenize colonial institutions, ideologies, and behaviors. Our homelands are located in the vast grassland of Turtle Island, situated between the Rocky Mountains and the Mississippi River and stretching from the Northern Tundra to the Gulf of Mexico.”

Great Plains Action Society Mission Statement

Great Plains Action Society addresses the trauma Indigenous Peoples and our Earth have faced and works to prevent further colonial-capitalist violence through education, direct action, cultural revival, mutual aid, and political change.


Gatherings and actions

What follows is a history of my experiences with my Indigenous friends. Although each episode is with at least one person who is part of the Great Plains Action Society (GPAS), many are not official GPAS actions or events.

US Bank, Super Bowl weekend, 2/3/2018

February 3, 2018, Super Bowl weekend, Ed Fallon organized a van trip to Minneapolis to call attention to USBank’s funding of fossil fuel projects. USBank’s headquarters are in Minneapolis, and the game was played at the USBank stadium. Sikowis, Donnielle, Trisha and I were among those who attended.


Missing and Murdered Indigenous Relatives MMIR

One lesson I learned from the trip to Minneapolis was to be aware of the interrelationships among justice issues. The epidemic of the kidnapping and murder of Indigenous women, men and children is something I had not known about prior to getting to know native people. But this happens to a shocking number of people. I heard a story about a family member from a new friend on the First Nation-Farmer Climate Unity March.

This is yet another consequence of building pipelines. Many are built near native lands–another example of environmental racism. The “man camps” of pipeline construction workers are thus found near native lands. Adding to the problem was that native law enforcement could not arrest nonnative people. Recent Federal legislation that several of us lobbied for has changed that.

When in Minneapolis, Sikowis Nobiss and Donnielle Wanatee both spoke about MMIR. During the First Nation-Farmer Climate Unity March, Foxy Onefeather carried this sign.

Foxy Onefeather on the First Nation-Farmer Climate Unity March

This spring, MMIR was part of a GPAS rally for reproductive justice.

This sign was erected at the event, with the Wells Fargo Arena in the background. Wells Fargo is one of the banks that fund pipelines.


First Nation-Farmer Climate Unity March, Sept 1-8, 2018

September 1 – 8, 2018, Sikowis, Donnielle, Trisha, Mahmud, Regina, Peter Clay (Iowa Quaker) and I and others participated in the First Nation-Farmer Climate Unity March. We walked and camped together from Des Moines to Fort Dodge (ninety-four miles) along the path of the Dakota Access pipeline.

Some Iowa Quakers had worship sharing each morning of the March to support us. Also, each evening there was a discussion on various topics. My friend and Scattergood Friends School schoolmate and member of Iowa Yearly Meeting (Conservative), Lee Tesdell, talked about his progressive agricultural practices. Sikowis had something to say about Indigenous agriculture.

Lee Tesdell speaks during First Nation-Farmer Climate Unity March, 2018

The purpose of the March was to create a community of native and non-native people who began to know and trust each other so we could work on things of common concern. That was really successful, and we have done many things together since.


First Nation-Farmer Climate Unity March website


Lobbying Senator Grassley, December 2018

One of the first was when several of us from the March, including Sikowis (in the center of this photo), Iowa Quakers Shazi and Fox Knight, and I lobbied Senator Grassley’s staff to support several bills related to native concerns.


Sunrise, Green New Deal, Des Moines, 2019

The Sunrise Movement was launched as a national campaign for a Green New Deal (GND) in 2017. From the beginning I heard my native friends talk about the importance of a GND to be Indigenous led. In 2019 Sunrise’s Green New Deal tour began with a stop in Des Moines. There my friends Trisha Cax-Sep-Gu-Wiga Etringer and Lakasha Yooxot Likipt spoke about Indigenous leadership as a requirement for a GND.

Trisha, Lakasha and I at Sunrise Green New Deal Tour, Des Moines, 2019

National Network Assembly, summer 2019

The summer of 2019 Sikowis suggested I attend the National Network Assembly at the Des Moines YMCA Camp near Boone, Iowa, that she helped organize. I was aware that if I wanted to build on relationships with native peoples, I should respond when invited to do something like this. I don’t usually attend conferences, but seeing this as one of those opportunities, I did attend. And I got a lot out of it. This was a conference for justice organizers.


Climate Crisis Parade in Des Moines, Feb 1, 2020

Many of us participated in the Climate Crisis Parade in Des Moines, Feb 1, 2020.


Wet’suwet’en Vigil, Feb 7, 2020, Des Moines

As I began to discuss above, in early 2020, I began to hear about the struggles of the Wet’suwet’en peoples in British Columbia, as they worked to prevent the construction of a liquid natural gas pipeline (Costal GasLink) through their pristine lands and waters. There was little being written about this in the mainstream media, so supporters were asked to write about what was happening on our social media platforms.

This photo is from a post about a rally I organized to support the Wet’suwet’en in Des Moines on February 7, 2020. Iowa Friend Peter Clay attended.

As I wrote earlier, I’m sure my meeting with Ronnie James was spirit-led. We’ve become good friends in the three years since this Wet’Suwet’en rally. Ronnie is one of the people involved in GPAS, the person who leads the Mutual Aid efforts.

We are both at the food project almost every Saturday morning. Although it doesn’t take much space here, DMMA is the focus of my justice work. And I have found it to be healing. At the end of this is A Love Letter to Y’all about the work of DMMA.

This is a link to a booklet I wrote about the Wet’suwet’en.
Wet’suwet’en and LANDBACK


Indigenous People’s Days (annual)

As often happens, once people know I love photography, I get invited to events for that purpose (even though I’d want to go, anyway). This photo of Sikowis was taken at last year’s Indigenous People’s Day. She’s holding a Great Plains Action Society bag.


“Fourth of He Lies” (annual)

Another event where I took photos was a gathering on the State Capitol grounds related to racist statues. On July 4th, 2020 and 2021 we gathered for the “Fourth of He Lies”. In this photo on one of those days, Sikowis is speaking at the Pioneer statue. Ronnie James and Donnielle Wanatee also attended.


December 2021 Summit Carbon pipeline

Last December, Sikowis asked me to come to Ames to take photos of a rally at the office of Summit Carbon, one of the companies that want to build a CO2 pipeline.


Buffalo Rebellion

I’m blessed to have been invited to join the newly formed Buffalo Rebellion, a new coalition of Iowa organizations that are growing a movement for climate action that centers racial and economic justice. Peter Clay, my friend and also a member of Iowa Yearly Meeting (Conservative) was also invited.

Buffalo Rebellion is a new coalition of Iowa organizations that are growing a movement for climate action that centers racial and economic justice. The Earth Day Rally will be an afternoon of honoring Mother Earth through sharing stories and visions for climate justice and taking action together for a world that puts people and the planet before profits for a few.

Following the Earth Day Rally, Buffalo Rebellion will be holding two days of immersive training to develop 100 grassroots leaders who will build local teams to take on climate justice issues in their community and come together to create a thriving state-wide movement.

Formed in 2021, Buffalo Rebellion is comprised of seven Iowa organizations: Great Plains Action Society, DSM Black Liberation Movement, Iowa Migrant Movement for Justice, Sierra Club Beyond Coal, Cedar Rapids Sunrise Movement, SEIU Local 199, and Iowa CCI.

Buffalo Rebellion


Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement (Iowa CCI)

Iowa Citizens for Community improvement is very active in environmental and many other concerns and a member of the Buffalo Rebellion. “We talk, we act, we get it done” is their motto. I’ve participated in several environment related actions led by my friend Jake Grobe, ICCI’s Climate Justice Organizer. He has focused on getting MidAmerican Energy to close their five coal burning plants in Iowa. And Jake is very active in the resistance to carbon (CO2) pipelines.

This is a photo I took of Sikowis and Jake at this summer’s Earth Day Rally in Des Moines. After the speakers we marched to the offices of MidAmerican Energy.

In an example of interconnections, the mural below is by GPAS and made during the First Nation Farmer-Climate Unity March in 2018. In another connection, Jake often comes to our Mutual Aid food project.

Sikowis Nobiss and Jake Grobe at Earth Day Rally 2022

The Buffalo Rebellion coalition in action

The resistance to carbon pipelines continues. This flyer and the photo I took below are about an action by the Buffalo Rebellion at the time a national meeting of those promoting carbon pipelines was occurring in Des Moines. In the photo Jake is speaking using a bullhorn, in the street that we blocked temporarily to call attention to the pipeline meeting. He said these people (in the cars) are impatient and angry, but we’re angry and inpatient, too, at the decades of inaction to respond to climate devastation.

Jake Grobe (ICCI) speaks against carbon pipelines in Des Moines, Nov 2022

Forced Assimilation/Indian Boarding Schools and Quakers

One of the tensions between Indigenous peoples and Quakers is the tragic history of forced assimilation of over 100,000 native children in the Indian residential schools. And the deaths and abuses that occurred there. Some Friends were involved in such schools. Several times I was led to speak about this with Sikowis, Ronnie and other Indigenous friends. We could not develop much of a relationship if this went unacknowledged. It is important to not do this until you have a relationship with who you talk to about this.

This became personal when one of my friends introduced me to his teenage son. I could not imagine the conversations they must have had about forced assimilation. Continue to have as the remains of thousands of children are located on the grounds of so many of the sites of forced assimilation.

Last year I was clerk of Iowa Yearly Meeting (Conservative)’s Peace and Social Concerns Committee. The committee had a small budget to support organizations doing justice work. Last year we were led to a choice of rather than giving token amounts to a number of organizations, to instead see if an opportunity arose to give the entire budget to make an impact on the work that presented itself. I believe because of our discussions about the residential schools, Sikowis asked if Quakers could support showings of the film “They Found Us” that had been made about the residential school of her nation, the George Gordon First Nation. Our Peace and Social Concerns Committee gladly agreed to donate our budget to this. https://quakersandreligioussocialism.com/2022/04/13/they-found-us/


Orange Shirt Day is Canada’s Day of Truth and Reconcilliation–a time of mourning and remembrance.

Great Plains Action Society has felt this pain firsthand, as many of our close family members attended these schools, and we are rising to meet the needs of our communities. Last year, in Sioux City, we hosted a large community feast and ceremony to honor nine children whose bodies were reMatriated back to Sicangu Oyate lands from the grounds of the Carlisle Boarding School. We have also raised funds to help one of our relatives, Curt Young, show his film, They Found Us, about the search for children’s bodies at the George Gordon First Nation. If we can raise enough funding, we would like to get his film shown throughout Iowa and the Midwest.


Your Invitation to be an Ally

A fundamental principle of justice work is to make sure that your (i.e. ally) work is directed by those impacted by injustice. “Nothing about us without us.” Great Plains Action Society’s Open Letter Campaign is such an opportunity, an invitation for non native peoples to support their work.

Resolutions are not just for January! As we are gathering momentum for the daunting work 2022 has in store for us, we would like to invite you to join us in ushering in a New Year/New Iowa. Things need to change. The harm we are doing to the environment is devastating. The attack on truth in public education is a contributing factor to our attempted erasure. The ongoing use of racist mascots harms children, and perpetuates dehumanization. Iowa has a lot of issues. The work we need to do to make Iowa better is not going to be easy. But it can be done, and the best chance we have is working together. And that is why we are coming to you with our Open Letter Campaign.

Over the course of 2022, we will be sharing with you Open Letters we’re addressing to those who are in positions of power. We’re doing this in the format of an Open Letter for a few reasons. First, these issues are important, and this is an opportunity to explain the issues to a broader audience. The more people who understand what is going on, the better. Second, we need numbers. We are mighty, but we are few. The more people we have putting pressure on those with power, the more likely we are to see results. And finally, it’s something that you can do that doesn’t require much of you. Although it’s only February, 2022 can already feel exhausting. The thought of having to leave home to do things can be overwhelming, even frightening as COVID is still a very real threat. But this is something you can do from home, without investing energy you are probably running low on. Working with us can be as simple as tweeting out a hashtag. But it can be more too, if you’d like. It’s an opportunity to write the words that express your frustration and join them in an agitated choir. This is a chance to remind yourself that you deserve to be heard and that you are capable of taking action that affects change.​

We have always appreciated when allies and accomplices approach us to ask how they can be of help. Things can be complicated, and it is considerate to be mindful of how one engages. This is absolutely a situation that we request your help with. We need your voices to make something happen. Our land, our water, our children are under attack. The truth is under attack. We need to stand strong together to create the change that so desperately needs to happen. This Open Letter Campaign is a means for us to unite our voices to call for change. You are welcome to use the words we share, or to express your own. If all you have it in you to do is share an article or use a hashtag, every little bit helps. If you have letters of your own you’d wish to share with us, we’d love to hear from you! Again, we look forward to putting our voices together with you, to call for the New Year/New Iowa we so desperately need. Thank you.

The New year, New Iowa Open Letter Campaign is led by Jessica Engelking. If you have ideas or thoughts to share, please contact her at jengelking@greatplainsaction.org 

We look forward to putting our voices together with you, to call for the New Year/New Iowa we so desperately need. Thank you.

https://www.greatplainsaction.org/newyearnewiowa


There are three Open Letters I’ve been involved with.

1. An Open Letter to the Sports Page

One is the Letter to Sports Page, a restaurant in Indianola that native images on their walls. This is the story I wrote about this. https://quakersandreligioussocialism.com/2022/02/09/open-letter-to-sports-page/


2. Letter to Indianola School Board

Ronnie James once lived in Indianola. He wrote about his experiences with the Indianola School board when he asked them to stop using native imagery for their sports teams. Knowing I am a photographer and live in Indianola, he asked me to take some photos of that imagery, which I was glad to do. 


3. Truth and Healing with Friends

Jessica Engelking of the Great Plains Action Society is the contact person for the Open Letters campaign. Fortunately, I met Jessica when we both attended the Buffalo Rebellion Climate Justice Summit this summer. A lot of networking occurred at the summit.

When she asked what Quakers were doing related to the Indian Boarding Schools, I was very glad to share the Friends Committee on National Legislation’s letter writing tools. And specifically, to the one to support the establishment of a Truth and Healing Commission on Indian Boarding Schools. This became one of the Open Letters of the GPAS.

Support the Establishment of a Truth and Healing Commission on Indian Boarding Schools: Friends Committee on National Legislation (FCNL)

As children are returning to school, we are reminded that school has not always been a safe place for Native children. For many years, Native children were taken from their homes and placed in government and religious run institutions with the aim of stripping away their Native language, culture, and identity. We are only now beginning the painful process of bringing home the children left in unmarked graves at the boarding schools they were sent to (U.S. report identifies burial sites linked to boarding schools for Native Americans). We are still working on healing the damage of boarding school and intergenerational trauma (American Indian Boarding Schools Haunt Many : NPR). Healing from the damage caused by the boarding school system will require effort by not just those harmed, but the institutions that did the harming. There is great work being done by our comrades at the Friends Committee On National Legislation (Native Americans | Friends Committee On National Legislation). For this edition of our Open Letter Campaign, we are directing you to a letter from our friends at FCNL to help you in urging your representatives to support the Truth and Healing Commission on Indian Boarding School Policies in the United States Act (S. 2907/H.R. 5444).

The following is courtesy our much appreciated Quaker friends

:

https://fcnl.quorum.us/campaign/35660/

As another way to encourage the passage of this legislation, David and Jean Hansen of Ames Meeting, Iowa Yearly Meeting (Conservative) and my friend activist Rodger Routh, and I went to the Des Moines office of US Senator Joni Ernst. Jessica Engelking of the GPAS had planned to attend but was unable to do so.

Lobbying US Senator Ernst to support legislation to create a Truth and Healing Commission on Indian Boarding Schools

The Great Plains Action Society recently published their Theory of Change.
https://www.greatplainsaction.org/single-post/great-plains-action-society-theory-of-change.

MUTUAL AID is one of the METHODS.


Great Plains Action Society addresses the trauma Indigenous Peoples and our Earth have faced and works to prevent further colonial-capitalist violence through education, direct action, cultural revival, mutual aid, and political change. We believe that Indigenous ideologies and practices are the antitheses of colonial capitalism, and we deploy these tools to fight and build on our vision–tools that are deeply embedded in a culture of resistance. 

Indigenous Peoples in the US and around the world have created a culture of resistance, built on the frontlines, that is now a way of life. It can be found in our dancing, singing, clothing, art, and in our political motivations. For instance, the American Indian Movement (A.I.M.) song was created out of the Red Power Movement and is sung at many of our cultural events and in our movement spaces, which are often one and the same. It began with the need to protect our homes and way of life from settler invaders, colonial militias, and imperialist governments. There is over a 500-year history of Indigenous resistance to the violent nature of colonial-capitalist genocidal and extractive practices. As stewards of the land, our ancestors saw right away that settler invaders, who were directly harming us, were also harming the environment and throwing the ecosystem off balance. The resistance is ongoing as long as genocide and colonization are perpetuated by the nation-state and its settler citizens. To be in a constant state of resistance is traumatic, hence why we suffer from intergenerational and historical trauma. Yet, it is necessary to protect our land, our people, and our ways from colonial-capitalist forces.

Great Plains Action Society’s Theory of Change, Sikowis Nobiss
https://www.greatplainsaction.org/single-post/great-plains-action-society-theory-of-change

I’ve been working on this graphic for several years, to visualize the connections I see. Mutual Aid and the Buffalo Rebellion are part of this.


A Love Letter to Y’all (a thread)

One year ago yesterday Des Moines Mutual Aid participated in a march protesting the potential for war or increased hostilities with Iran that followed the fallout of the assassination of Qassem Soleimani by drone strike in Baghdad.

This was our first “public” event since adopting the name Des Moines Mutual Aid, a name we gave our crew during our growing work with our relatives at the houseless camps throughout the city and our help with coordinating a weekly free grocery store that has a 50 year history, founded by the Des Moines Chapter of The Black Panther Party For Self Defense.

A year ago we started laying the foundation for work we had no idea what was coming.

As we were adjusting our work with the camps and grocery re-distribution in response to the Covid-19 pandemic, both that continued to grow in need and importance, the police continued their jobs and legacy of brutality and murder.

This nation exploded in righteous rage in response to the pig murders of Breonna Taylor and George Floyd.

DMMA realized we were in a position to organize a bail fund to keep our fighters out of jail, both to keep the streets alive as a new phase of The Movement was being born, and because jails are a hotspot of Covid-19 spread.

Not to mention the racial and economic oppression that is the cash bail system.

In the past year DMMA has expanded it’s work in multiple directions and gained many partners and allies.

We partnered with the Des Moines Black Liberation Movement (@DesMoinesBLM) to create the DSM BLM Rent Relief initiative to help keep families in their homes in the midst of a pandemic and the winter.

The camp work has grown exponentially, but is being managed with our collaboration with Edna Griffin Mutual Aid (@egma_dsm), DSM Black Liberation Movement (@DesMoinesBLM), and The Great Plains Action Society (@PlainsAction).

The bail fund remains successful because of desire from the public and a partnership with Prairielands Freedom Fund (@prairielandsff) (formerly The Eastern Iowa Community Bond Project).

The weekly free food store has maintained itself, carrying on the legacy it inherited.

Every one of our accomplishments are directly tied to the support of so many people donating time, talent, and funds to the work. We are overwhelmed with all of your support and hope you feel we are honoring what we promised.

All of these Mutual Aid projects are just a few of many that this city has created in the last year in response to the many crises we face, not only confronting the problems and fulfilling the needs directly in front of us, but creating a sustainable movement that will be capable of responding to what’s next and shaping our collective futures as we replace the systems that fail us.

These last 12 months have been wild and a real test of all of our capabilities to collectively organize.

But it is clear that we as a city have what it takes to do what is needed in 2021, no matter what crisis is next.

Much gratitude to you all.

In love and rage,
Des Moines Mutual Aid

Originally tweeted by Des Moines Mutual Aid (@dsm_mutual_aid) on January 6, 2021.



We need to be careful when we talk about humility. The kind of humility this work brings isn’t the kind that would have us reject or repress our gifts. This kind of false humility leads us to oppress each other in the name of preventing pridefulness. This happens far too often. Real, life-giving humility means living up to the light that we have been given without judgment of how bright or dim that light is. False humility is hiding this light under a bushel for fear of jealousy or judgment. The challenge is to be faithful right where we are—no more, no less. This takes courage. To be faithful, we have to make space.

Prophets, Midwives, and Thieves: Reclaiming the Ministry of the Whole by Noah Baker Merrill

Resources

You can read much more about my mutual aid story here:
Mutual Aid in the Midwest

This is a link to a booklet I wrote about the Wet’suwet’en:
Wet’suwet’en and LANDBACK

First Nation Famer Climate Unity March website:
First Nation-Farmer Climate Unity March


Great Plains Action Society

Web – greatplainsaction.org

FB – @GreatPlainsActionSociety

IG – @greatplainsactionsociety

Tw – @PlainsAction


Des Moines Mutual Aid

Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/DesMoinesMutualAid/

Iowa Mutual Aid Network – https://iowamutualaid.org/

https://iowamutualaid.org/des-moines-mutual-aid

Buffalo Rebellion

Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/IowaBuffaloRebellion/


https://www.iowacci.org/


Home – https://quakersandreligioussocialism.com/

Mutual Aid – https://quakersandreligioussocialism.com/mutual-aid/

Buffalo Rebellion – https://quakersandreligioussocialism.com/buffalo-rebellion/

Abolition – https://quakersandreligioussocialism.com/abolition/

Forced Assimilation – https://quakersandreligioussocialism.com/forced-assimilation/


Friends Committee on National Legislation (FCNL)

FCNL – https://www.fcnl.org/

Native Americans – https://www.fcnl.org/issues/native-americans


You have to be in it with them

When I say I pray each morning, seeking what to write, I do spend time in quietness. But I also research what my sources are saying.

I came across this photo I took in 2013 that I found on the Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement’s (ICCI) website. The photo was taken at ICCI’s offices during the two days of training for leaders in the Keystone Pledge of Resistance. Where I learned so much about community organizing.


Keystone Pledge of Resistance training, Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement, Des Moines, Iowa 2013

This reminds me we have been working on pipeline resistance for ten years. We defeated the Keystone XL pipeline, but not the Dakota Access pipeline. It also looks like the Coastal GasLink pipeline in British Columbia, on Wet’suwet’en lands, will be completed.

Now we are faced with the “false climate solutions” of several proposed carbon (CO2) pipelines in Iowa. The liquified carbon dioxide in these pipelines is a hazardous material that can be lethal when ruptures occur. If that happens in a densely populated area, there could be many deaths.

On November 9th, we held a rally against carbon capture in Des Moines, organized by the Buffalo Rebellion I’m a member of. See: https://quakersandreligioussocialism.com/2022/11/10/dont-look-down/


Part of that rally was blocking Third Street, in front of the Iowa Event Center, where the carbon pipeline supporters were meeting, for about twenty minutes.

Blocking traffic on third street in front of the Iowa Event Center.
Jake Grobe, ICCI and Buffalo Rebellion organizer

In this photo my friend Jake Grobe says “yes, these people stuck in traffic are impatient and angry. But so are we. How long have we waited for action on real climate solutions?”

That is demonstrated by the time span between this photo, and the one above, taken in 2013.

The images of the latest environmental catastrophe, Hurricane Nicole, are really stunning. And, of course, the erosion of beach fronts will only worsen. As another warning, the article below was published just today.

SHARM EL-SHEIKH, Egypt — Nations will likely burn through their remaining carbon budget in less than a decade if they do not significantly reduce greenhouse gas pollution, a new study shows, causing the world to blow past a critical warming threshold and triggering catastrophic climate impacts.

World has nine years to avert catastrophic warming, study shows. Scientists say gas projects discussed at U.N. climate conference would seriously threaten world’s climate goals, by Sarah Kaplan, The Washington Post, November 11, 2022

The question of human survival

Running throughout (Lopez’s book) Horizon is the question of human survival. The multiple threats we now face, especially the very real possibility of climate disaster, expose the tensions between human aspiration and ecological reality. Perhaps what is most needed, Lopez suggests, is for us to lament what we’ve destroyed, but also to praise and love the world we still have. “Mystery,” he writes, “is the real condition in which we live, not certainty.

Bahnson: You’ve confronted the darkness you see on the horizon with anthropogenic climate change. How do you talk about this with audiences? People need to know what’s coming, yet if you overwhelm them with depressing news, they might freeze. How do you strike the balance between educator and artist?

Lopez: Whenever I speak in public, I write out a new talk. I begin by stipulating, with a modulated voice, that things are way worse than we imagine. And I offer some examples: the collapse of pollinating insect populations; the rise of nationalism; belligerent and ignorant narcissists like Donald Trump; methane gas spewing out of the Siberian tundra. You’re saying to everybody, “Let’s take off the rose-colored glasses now and see what our dilemma really is.” And then the second part of the talk is an evocation of the healing that is necessary and possible, a gradual elevation of the human spirit. It’s about the mobilization that is needed and which is within our reach. Then people know you’ve spoken truthfully, and you have evoked in each person a desire to help, to take care of their families, to have self-regard. I see this pattern in every talk I give. To remember, geographically, exactly where you are speaking that night, and to know whether there might be a full moon outside the building; to offer that sense of immediacy and groundedness; to underscore the specificity of the moment; and to be sure that you implicate yourself in the trouble. It all helps in these situations. If you attempt any version of “I know, and you don’t” or “This is not my fault” or “I am the holy messenger, and you’re the fools,” the evening ends in darkness. You have to be in it with them.

The World We Still Have. Barry Lopez On Restoring Our Lost Intimacy With Nature BY FRED BAHNSON, The Sun, DECEMBER 2019


You have to be in it with them

“And then the second part of the talk is an evocation of the healing that is necessary and possible, a gradual elevation of the human spirit. It’s about the mobilization that is needed and which is within our reach. Then people know you’ve spoken truthfully, and you have evoked in each person a desire to help, to take care of their families, to have self-regard”

I have experienced this healing with my Des Moines Mutual Aid community.

You have to be in it with them” is the core concept of Mutual Aid. Perhaps more accurately stated, “we are all in this together”.

Please build Mutual Aid communities where you are.


Don’t Look Down

Don’t Look Down is a spoof of the recent movie Don’t Look Up in which people refuse to acknowledge a meteor heading for earth. That’s what came to me as I’m praying about what to write this morning.

One of the things I heard my friend Sikowis say recently was the earth below the surface is also sacred ground, part of Mother Earth. And we don’t know the consequences of digging pipelines underground. Thus, the title Don’t Look Down.


Some of the most powerful experiences I’ve had were each time we walked over the Dakota Access pipeline during the First Nation-Farmer Climate Unity March in 2018. We could feel the sinister black snake below. Several of us broke down in tears.

Ed, Miriam, Lakasha and Mahmud standing over the Dakota Access pipeline, 2018

As an example of how long many of us have been fighting, Miriam and Mahmud (in the photo) were at the rally against carbon pipelines yesterday. Most of us were fighting against fossil fuels for many years before that March. (My own fight began in the early 1970’s when I moved to Indianapolis and was so horrified by the clouds of noxious auto exhaust that I refused to own a car since.)


For a long time, I’ve been begging people to speak out against pipelines. Most recently carbon pipelines.
(See: https://quakersandreligioussocialism.com/?s=carbon+co2 )

Few people have done so, as is the case in so many justice struggles, including opposition to the Keystone XL, Dakota Access, and Coastal GasLink pipelines. And yet we did defeat the Keystone XL pipeline.

There were probably less than two hundred people who showed up for yesterday’s rally. But the same small, core group of people were there, again. Sharing this work together, battling discouragement at times, has brought us closer together. We’ve formalized our connections by forming the Buffalo Rebellion.
(See: https://quakersandreligioussocialism.com/buffalo-rebellion/ )

The Buffalo Rebellion is a coalition that includes Iowa Citizens for Community ImprovementGreat Plains Action SocietyDes Moines Black Liberation MovementIowa MMJ (Iowa Migrant Movement for Justice), SEIU Iowa (Service Employees International Union – Healthcare Minnesota & Iowa), Sierra Club Iowa Beyond Coal, and Cedar Rapids Sunrise Movement.


the earth below the surface is sacred ground

Sikowis


I’ve been to a lot of rallies, but yesterday’s Rally Against False Climate Solutions was the best organized I’ve experienced. As it says above, it was organized by the Buffalo Rebellion, which I’m glad to be a part of. My friend Jake Grobe, is Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement’s climate justice organizer. He sent many emails and social media posts ahead of the rally and was the leader for the rally’s march to the site of a convention of carbon pipeline supporters at the Iowa Event Center.

Jake and several others, including Jaylen Cavil of Des Moines Black Liberation, spoke out against carbon pipelines in the middle of the carbon capture convention the day before the rally.

The day before, members of CCI Action and Des Moines BLM disrupted a nationwide carbon capture convention in Des Moines during a panel that featured the 3 companies who want to force their greenwashing scam on America’s heartland– Summit, Navigator, and Wolf. 

When the panel claimed that most Iowans and landowners are in support of their pipelines, seven of us rose up to speak the truth. 

Watch today’s action here!

We’re not done shaking things up yet– we need you to join us tomorrow to give these corporate polluters a proper sendoff! 

Buffalo Rebellion will be holding a rally against false climate solutions tomorrow at 1PM

My friends Sikowis Nobiss and Mahmud Fitil, also part of the Buffalo Rebellion, were also very involved in preparing for, and being present at the rally. I was honored when Mahmud said they had an emblem for me and pinned it on my back.


One of the important things yesterday was safety. Water was available. There were several people that acted as parade marshals, wearing orange vests, who walked with us. And several street medics. There were also several cars that blocked intersections. Those cars also completely blocked the street where we stopped walking and rallied in front of the Iowa Event Center where the carbon pipeline conference was going on. Traffic was blocked for about twenty minutes. Jake (with a megaphone) said those driving might be angry and impatient but spoke of how angry we’ve been for years waiting for anything to be done about the climate crisis.

At the rally yesterday, Sikowis spoke of why it is so important for Indigenous voices to be heard.


Traffic blocked for a short time

Video slideshow of photos of the march.

Carbon pipeline resistance

Today I plan to be in Des Moines for a rally against false climate solutions.
(https://quakersandreligioussocialism.com/2022/11/08/peacemaking-means-stopping-carbon-capture-and-pipelines/)

  • 1 pm rally at Cowles Commons
  • 1:30 pm March to the Iowa Events Center
  • 2:00 pm Protest outside as the convention is concluding
  • 3:30 pm Report back to the CCI office for food, refreshments and to debrief


There are several terms related to Carbon Capture and Storage/Sequestration (CCS). I like carbon pipeline resistance. It reminds me of the Keystone Pledge of Resistance that I was deeply involved with when in Indianapolis. A campaign that, after years of work nationally, defeated the Keystone XL Pipeline. (See: https://jeffkisling.com/?s=Keystone)

Also, that is the name of a coalition I belong to, Iowa Carbon Pipeline Resistance.

A summary I wrote about carbon pipelines can be found here: https://landbackfriends.com/2021/12/04/carbon-capture-in-iowa/


On July 12, 2022, I was at the Iowa Utilities Board meeting where many people spoke against carbon pipelines in Iowa.


The best overview about carbon capture I’ve found is the following webinar hosted by my friends Mahmud Fitil and Sikowis Nobiss.

Check out the first webisode of Prairie Not Pipelines, an Indigenous web series focused on climate, water and resource extraction on the plains.

Hosted by Mahmud Fitil and Sikowis Nobiss. Folks from across the Great Plains in ND, SD, NE and Iowa will be discussing the recent push for CO2 pipelines across the region.

Currently, the majority of the media and public pushback is coming from white landowners. However, these pipelines are being proposed to be forced through stolen land and treaty territories where Indigenous voices need to be heard. This forum will discuss the legal, environmental and tribal perspectives of Carbon Capture and Storage. These projects are being touted as environmentally sound when in fact they are huge greenwashed projects which extends a lifeline to the fossil fuel industry which is responsible for our current climate emergency in the first place. These investors and corporations are merely looking to profit from government programs and subsidies rather than address our climate woes in any meaningful way. The people, land and water in the way of their profiteering ambitions are of little concern.



Mahmud and Sikowis organized a gathering at the offices of Summit Carbon Solutions in Ames. Following are some of the photos I took there.