Three Years Later

Don’t you find there are periods of rapid change interspersed among long plateaus in your life? Although those plateaus are becoming fewer and lasting shorter periods of time.

The last three years have been a time of momentous change, both in my life, and in the world. I’m trying to explain what has been happening to me, because these experiences convince me we must all make similar changes if we are going to make the major adjustments needed to try to mitigate deepening environmental damage. The world has been spiraling out of control these past three years, dramatically impacting all our communities and individual lives. I think of these changes as related to the idea of a house of cards. The cards in this case being dollars of the capitalist economy.

(c)2023 Jeff Kisling

Foundational Stories

I was born into a rural Iowa Quaker community and have been a Quaker all my life. I attended Scattergood Friends School, a Quaker boarding high school on a farm in Eastern Iowa.

Recently I was challenged to consider what my foundational stories are, how they began, how they changed over time, and what they are now. I’ve been writing this series of blog posts about these stories, which are related to the intersections between my Quaker faith, protecting Mother Earth, and photography. You can read my foundational stories here:

I spent my entire adult life in Indianapolis. I arrived in 1970 to spend two years in a Quaker community organizing project, Friends Volunteer Service Mission. To support myself financially, I received on-the-job training to be a respiratory therapy technician. I later obtained a degree in Respiratory Therapy, and a career in neonatal respiratory therapy, and then thirty years doing research in infant lung development and disease in Indianapolis at Riley Hosptial for Children, Indiana University Medical Center. I retired and returned to Iowa in the summer of 2017.

Part of the Mother Earth piece of my foundational stories was “driven” by a spiritual leading that showed me I could not contribute to the pollution from owning a personal automobile, so I didn’t. That had all kinds of repercussions.

Although my leading to try to live without a personal automobile grew over time, the actual decision came about abruptly. I had a couple of used cars but felt increasingly uncomfortable having one. When my car was totaled in an accident, I took the opportunity to see if I could live without a car in the city. It took some time to work out the bus schedules, especially because I was working all kinds of hours and on weekends. And I had to learn how to shop such that I could carry everything home.

But because we derive our sense of identity and socioeconomic status from work embedded in a profit driven economy, transformative day-to-day self-sufficient activities, when they are applied in an urban or suburban setting, give rise to second set of intangible sociocultural barriers that involve taking significant social risks. Peter Lipman the former (founding) chair of Transition Network and Common Cause Foundation encourages us to take these social and cultural risks. But what exactly are the more difficult risks needed to move us in the right direction? It is important to identify intangible socioeconomic challenges in order to side-step them.

In short, our identities are tied up in what we do for a living and how we do what we do for a living must radically change. Because, let’s be honest, living and working, having lifestyles and livelihoods that are truly regenerative and sustainable look nothing like how most of us currently live and work.

Against the Economic Grain: Addressing the Social Challenges of Sustainable Livelihoods by Kim Kendall, originally published by, January 27, 2023

It was difficult for us (environmentalists) to find pressure points, places where we could call attention to the existential threats of environmental chaos from burning fossil fuels. In 2013, activists recognized the application for approval of the Keystone XL Pipeline as such an opportunity. This decision was solely up to President Obama, allowing us a focus for our efforts. I was trained as an Action Lead in the Keystone Pledge of Resistance in 2013. There I learned many skills related to community organizing. Four of us trained about forty people in the Indianapolis community, and organized many demonstrations and actions against fossil fuel companies and the banks that fund them.

We were able to train others in those skills later when the White Pines Wilderness Academy in Indianapolis wanted to bring attention to the dangers of the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL).

Wet’suwet’en peoples

I was always looking for news about fossil fuels and our environment. This blog post from 1/14/2020 describes my discovery of the Wet’suwet’en peoples and their struggles against the Coastal GasLink (CGL) liquid natural gas pipeline being constructed through their pristine territory in British Columbia.

I have just begun to learn about the Wet’suwet’en people. A friend of mine from the First Nation-Farmer Climate Unity March traveled to the Unist’ot’en camp about 4 years ago and found it to be a life-changing experience. I also asked other friends I made during the March about this, and they indicated support for these people.

You may wonder why I am trying to learn and write about the Wet’suwet’en people now. The literal answer is I saw this article recently: Hereditary First Nation chiefs issue eviction notice to Coastal GasLink contractors. TC Energy says it signed agreements with all 20 elected First Nations councils along pipeline’s path. Joel Dryden · CBC News · Posted: Jan 05, 2020.

Any efforts to stop pipelines catch my interest.

Wet’suwt’en People, Jeff Kisling, 1/14/2020

I wrote this booklet about the Wet’suwet’en struggles, including some videos of confrontations with Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP). Assault rifles trained on unarmed youth.

Spirit led connection to Mutual Aid

The title THREE YEARS LATER refers to my introduction to Des Moines Mutual Aid a little over three years ago. I took the photo below on Feb 7, 2020, when a small group of us organized a vigil in support of the Wet’suwet’en. I know the Spirit led Ronnie James, from Des Moines Mutual Aid, to join us. He was surprised that anyone outside his circle knew what was happening to the Wet’suwet’en. Ronnie is an Indigenous organizer working with the Great Plains Action Society (GPAS), and as such was interested to see if these were people who could become allies.

That meeting changed my life in many ways, all stemming from what I was learning from Ronnie and others about Mutual Aid, which has become the focus of my justice work since.

Over the years I’ve enjoyed documenting justice actions photographically. I like the challenge of an ever-moving group of people, the varieties of signs, the reactions of the people and the public. But for the past several years posting photos of demonstrations is discouraged if people’s faces are visible. Which police sometimes later use to bring charges against those people.

Ronnie and I are both part of Des Moines Mutual Aid’s free food project. The Wet’suwet’en being part of our history, we continue to support them. Because of COVID and people wearing masks, we were comfortable taking this photo during one of our Mutual Aid gatherings for the food project.

Des Moines Mutual Aid supports Wet’suwet’en peoples’ struggle again Coastal GasLink natural gas pipeline

Three Years Later

And yet, three years later, the Wet’suwet’en peoples’ struggles continue.

March 29, 2023
Contact: Jennifer Wickham, Media Coordinator, Gidim’ten Checkpoint,, 778-210-0067

URGENT MEDIA ADVISORY: RCMP C-IRG Raid Wet’suwet’en Village Site, Make 5 Arrests 


WET’SUWET’EN TERRITORY (Smithers, BC) – This morning, a large force of RCMP C-IRG raided a Gidimt’en village site and arrested five land and water defenders, mostly Indigenous women, including Gidimt’en Chief Woos’ daughter. The raid accompanied a search warrant for theft under $5000 with no clear relation to the Gidimt’en village site.

This large-scale action by the RCMP’s Community Industry Response Group (C-IRG) involved more than a dozen police vehicles and officers drawn from throughout British Columbia. The arrests come just weeks after the Civilian Review and Complaints Commission (CRCC) announced they have “initiated a systemic investigation into the activities and operations of the RCMP “E” Division Community-Industry Response Group (C-IRG).”

In the days leading to this police action, RCMP C-IRG have been found patrolling Wet’suwet’en traplines and cultural use areas, harassing and intimidating Wet’suwet’en members and disrupting constitutionally protected Wet’suwet’en cultural activities. Members of a private security firm hired by Coastal Gaslink pipeline, Forsythe, have also escalated harassment and surveillance efforts against Wet’suwet’en members in recent days. 

Both the RCMP’s C-IRG unit and Forsythe are named as defendants in an ongoing lawsuit launched by Wet’suwet’en members, which alleges that police and private security have launched a coordinated campaign of harassment and intimidation in an effort to force Wet’suwet’en people to abandon their unceded territories. 

Sleydo’, spokesperson for Gidimt’en Checkpoint, said: 

“This harassment and intimidation is exactly the kind of violence designed to drive us from our homelands. The constant threat of violence and criminalization for merely existing on our own lands must have been what our ancestors felt when Indian agents and RCMP were burning us out of our homes as late as the 50s in our area. The colonial project continues at the hands of industry’s private mercenaries–C-IRG”

The arrests come days before Indigenous delegates are set to arrive at Royal Bank of Canada’s Annual General Meeting to oppose expansion of fossil fuels without consent on their territories, including Wet’suwet’en Hereditary Chiefs who oppose RBC’s funding of the Coastal Gaslink pipeline.

Wet’suwet’en Hereditary Chief Na’Moks offered the following:

“This is harassment, and exactly what Royal Bank of Canada is funding. Ahead of its shareholder meeting next week, RBC continues to fund corporate colonialism, and displace Indigenous peoples from our lands at gunpoint – all for a fracked gas pipeline we cannot afford now or in the future. In the context of the theft of our ancestral land, alleging stolen saws and clothing is outrageous.”

Yesterday morning at my Quaker meeting, we considered the following set of questions related to our environmental responsibilities.



All of creation is divine and interdependent: air, water, soil, and all that lives and grows. Since human beings are part of this fragile and mysterious web, whenever we pollute or neglect the earth we pollute and neglect our own wellsprings. Developing a keen awareness of our role in the universe is essential if we are to live peacefully within creation.

The way we choose to live each day‑‑as we manufacture, package, purchase and recycle goods, use resources, dispose of water, ‑design homes, plan families and travel‑affects the present and future of life on the planet. The thought and effort we give to replenishing what we receive from the earth, to keeping informed and promoting beneficial legislation on issues which affect the earth, to envisioning community with environmental conscience, are ways in which we contribute to the ongoing health of the planet we inhabit.

Preserving the quality of life on Earth calls forth all of our spiritual resources. Listening to and heeding the leadings of the Holy Spirit can help us develop qualities which enable us to become more sensitive to all life


  • What are we doing about our disproportionate use of the world’s resources?
  • Do we see unreasonable exploitation in our relationship ‑with the rest of creation?
  • How can we nurture reverence and respect for life?  How I can we become more fully aware of our interdependent relationship with the rest of creation?
  • To what extent are we aware of all life and the role we play? What can we do in our own lives and communities to address environmental concerns?

Faith and Practice, Iowa Yearly Meeting (Conservative)

Nothing like how most of us currently live and work

It is humbling to realize mistakes I’ve made over the course of many years. In the 1970’s, when I moved to Indianapolis, the foul air from automobile exhaust convinced me I could not add to the environmental damage, and I was led by the Spirit to live without a car since. People of faith believe our actions should reflect our convictions. And while a life without a car was right for me, I could not convince others to do the same. This was a source of contention with my Quaker meeting. This is a significant challenge for people living in rural areas, as was the case with many of the meeting members.

There was a breakthrough of sorts when a Quaker friend asked if I had invited the (Quaker) meeting into this concern, and I realized I had not done so. That led us to consider, together, what could be done, i.e. what would be possible for us to do in the current circumstances. And led to the Minute we called Ethical Transportation (see below).

While riding bicycles might not seem that significant, the importance is that it is a concrete thing that could be done. My error in pleading for people to give up their cars was not working, in part because I hadn’t shared ways to make the transition. I knew it was possible, if not often inconvenient, to do so where mass transit is available.

But I hadn’t fully realized “living and working, having lifestyles and livelihoods that are truly regenerative and sustainable look nothing like how most of us currently live and work.”

I’m exploring these things now as I advocate for the adoption of Mutual Aid. Being involved in Mutual Aid for three years has given me the experience to speak from. It was the Spirit that led me to Des Moines Mutual Aid. And that leads me to advocate for Quakers and others to adopt Mutual Aid. This time, I’m trying to envision practical ways to transition to the Mutual Aid model.

Capitalism is destroying our environment (because it is based upon fossil fuels), and the hierarchies of capitalism enforce structures of superiority, privilege, and oppression. Historically Quakers have worked for justice, against injustice. Capitalism is a profoundly unjust system. At the end of this is a Quaker statement about economic justice.

The concept of dual power means transitioning from current circumstances to desired change. I am hoping my Quaker meeting will support my leading to explore how Mutual Aid can be used to support our justice work. And how Mutual Aid can support our spirituality, and connections with others in the communities our meetings are located in.

There is much more detail in this blog post: Mutual Aid is the Quaker Way of Being in the World.

Living and working, having lifestyles and livelihoods that are truly regenerative and sustainable look nothing like how most of us currently live and work.

Kim Kendall

Living and working, having lifestyles and livelihoods that are truly regenerative and sustainable look nothing like how most of us currently live and work.

When we are told we need to cut fossil fuel emissions in half by 2030 we not only need to completely reorganize our energy systems (deep decarbonization), we also need to completely reorganize our day-to-day lives. When thoughtful authors speak of the need for “the deep transformation” of our values and sense of connection to Earth, the need for transformative or “quantum” social change, what exactly are they getting at? What would that transformation look like on a day-to-day basis for the majority of us? And what is getting in the way?

I hear a lot of vague talk about the need for a shift in our spiritual orientation and economic goals in order to move forward more sustainably and grapple with the inevitable stressors fueled by the climate crisis. Some authors also refer to the greater levels of happiness we could experience living more simply. Gratefully these latter authors are coming close to describing the changes that the large majority of us need to make implied in the idea of living more simply. But notions of increased happiness and simplicity while helpful, are not sufficient to get us going, because they omit reference to practical strategies that are available to us and overlook significant sociocultural barriers in our way.

Against the Economic Grain: Addressing the Social Challenges of Sustainable Livelihoods by Kim Kendall,, January 27, 2023

Ethical transportation

Radically reducing fossil fuel use has long been a concern of Iowa Yearly Meeting (Conservative).  A previously approved Minute urged us to reduce our use of personal automobiles.  We have continued to be challenged by the design of our communities that makes this difficult.  This is even more challenging in rural areas.  But our environmental crisis means we must find ways to address this issue quickly.

Friends are encouraged to challenge themselves and to simplify their lives in ways that can enhance their spiritual environmental integrity. One of our meetings uses the term “ethical transportation,” which is a helpful way to be mindful of this.

Long term, we need to encourage ways to make our communities “walkable”, and to expand public transportation systems.  These will require major changes in infrastructure and urban planning.

Carpooling and community shared vehicles would help.  We can develop ways to coordinate neighbors needing to travel to shop for food, attend meetings, visit doctors, etc.  We could explore using existing school buses or shared vehicles to provide intercity transportation. 

One immediately available step would be to promote the use of bicycles as a visible witness for non-fossil fuel transportation.  Friends may forget how easy and fun it can be to travel miles on bicycles.  Neighbors seeing families riding their bicycles to Quaker meetings would have an impact on community awareness.  This is a way for our children to be involved in this shared witness.  We should encourage the expansion of bicycle lanes and paths.  We can repair and recycle unused bicycles, and make them available to those who have the need.


May we look upon our treasures, the furniture of our houses, and our garments, and try whether the seeds of war have nourishment in these our possessions. John Woolman, A Word of Remembrance and Caution to the Rich published posthumously, 1793

I will never adjust myself to economic conditions that will take necessities from the many and give luxuries to the few. Martin Luther King, Jr., speaking in Cleveland Heights, Ohio, [St Paul’s Episcopal Church] 1963

Friends’ historical testimony has included the message that all people are equal, and deserve to share equally in the blessings of creation. The world is far from this ideal, and most in Iowa Yearly Meeting (Conservative) have benefited from global and local inequalities, however inadvertently. But we also suffer spiritually and otherwise because of the injustice in which we participate.

Friends believe that we should live in ways that do not “sow seeds of war.” Many are called to act in quiet or public ways to promote lifestyle choices, policies, laws, and treaties that will ensure the basic human rights of all people, including the rights to safe and healthy places to live and work. Historically, Friends have been able to help correct major injustices such as slavery, inhumane conditions for prisoners, and inequality in the treatment of women. The magnitude of current problems caused by economic injustice does not excuse Friends from the struggle against it, but makes obedience to God’s call all the more necessary.

Friends are reminded that there can be no peace without justice, and to live simply, so others may simply live. Many Friends find seeds of war and injustice in their lifestyles. Friends are challenged to participate constructively in the economy by supporting fair trade, choosing investments with attention to their social impact, and purchasing products produced under safe and healthy conditions. What each can do individually may not seem like much, but, guided by the Spirit and added to the efforts of others, it can make a difference.

The Book of Discipline of Iowa Yearly Meeting of Friends (Conservative)
Religious Society of Friends

Quakers and Change

Quakers have a long history of working for justice and social change. But what do we (Quakers) do when we realize change is necessary now? Throughout our history we have been led to see we are implicated in injustice. “Led” means the Spirit has shown what the injustices are, and what changes should be made. Most commonly, individuals discern what change is needed, and over time they and the Spirit convince others.

As my friend Lucy Duncan writes, “we as White Quakers like to think of ourselves as ahead or better than dominant culture, but we have been complicit in a system and mindset that are ubiquitous.”

The myths we tell ourselves and the lies those myths uphold are embedded in our contemporary faith practice. When we believe and perpetuate falsehoods about ourselves, it not only disconnects us from the truth, it also limits our ability to act with full integrity today. Telling the truth about ourselves and our White Quaker ancestors grounds us in reality, in a sense of the complexity of our identity. It allows us to create a different future, not built from delusion and half of the story but from an honest and grounded reckoning with who we are and who we have been. My friend Mila Hamilton calls this “intergenerational transformative justice.” As we deal with the uncomfortable truths of our White Quaker ancestors, we release them from the amber in which our myths have captured them. As we allow them to become the full, flawed humans they were, we also free ourselves to reckon with our present, which arises from their past, and to tell the full truth of who we are.

We as White Quakers like to think of ourselves as ahead or better than dominant culture, but we have been complicit in a system and mindset that are ubiquitous. Claiming the full truth of our history and committing to repair the harms done are deeply spiritual acts of healing our own wounds of disconnection. I would argue it is the pathway upon which we can, perhaps for the first time, discover and invigorate our faith with its full promise.

What would it mean for us to take seriously and collectively as a Religious Society a call to finish the work of abolition, hand in hand and side by side with those affected and their loved ones? What would it mean for us to stand fully with the calls to abolish the police and fully fund community needs instead? What would it mean to reckon with our past complicity with harm and fully dedicate ourselves to the creation of a liberating Quaker faith that commits to build the revolutionary and healing faith we long to see come to fruition? What would it look like to finally and fully abolish slavery?

A Quaker Call to Abolition and Creation by Lucy Duncan, Friends Journal, April 1, 2021

It can take a long time for change to occur. Personally, I’ve been working since the early 1970’s to convince Friends to consider my spiritual leading to drastically reduce our carbon footprint, including not having an automobile.

Most of our values, beliefs and assumptions regarding livelihoods need to be radically transformed in order to move into activities that are sustainable. If this transition is ever to occur, we must be able to visualize and share the details of these alternative occupations and embrace new social metrics to support those occupations.

I try to imagine myself making a move into a livelihood that would be fundamentally sustainable like the critical but overlooked work done by a young man I know who shuttles vegetable waste from homes in his neighborhood to a small composting center in his community by bicycle. He then sells and delivers by bike finished compost to neighbors with gardens. If I chose to move into this “career” my friends would think I had lost my mind. My friends might ridicule me. Certainly, they would worry about me! And worse, some people, perhaps even including my spouse, might simply think they no longer had anything in common with me. It’s like giving up alcohol in an alcohol inundated world. You stand outside, you are not one of the groups any longer. In reality, I would need to build an entirely new social network with different values and notions of success, a network that would respect my choices and understand their importance. Because living and working, having lifestyles and livelihoods that are truly regenerative and sustainable look nothing like how most of us live and work now. The cultural transition and change in our values and the metrics we use to measure our sense of success, therefore our identities, is hard to imagine, not to mention implement.

Nevertheless, I have interviewed people with very low carbon livelihoods and lifestyles, highly moral people who work and live outside of mainstream jobs and careers. And guess what? They did indeed initially have to suffer social backlash from family and friends for their lifestyle and work choices. 

Against the Economic Grain: Addressing the Social Challenges of Sustainable Livelihoods by Kim Kendall,, January 27, 2023

One of the things I appreciate in our spiritual practice is for the Quaker meeting to use questions to consider where we are today in our faith. For example, the following are the queries related to social and economic justice.


“For when I was hungry you gave me food, when thirsty you gave me drink, when I was a stranger you took me into your home, when naked you clothed me, when in prison you visited me.”     Matthew 25:35‑36


We are part of an economic system characterized by inequality and exploitation. Such a society is defended and perpetuated by entrenched power. 

Friends can help relieve social and economic oppression and injustice by first seeking spiritual guidance in our own lives. We envision a system of social and economic justice that ensures the right of every individual to be loved and cared for; to receive a sound education; to find useful employment; to receive appropriate health care; to secure adequate housing; to obtain redress through the legal system; and to live and die in dignity. Friends maintain historic concern for the fair and humane treatment of persons in penal and mental institutions.

Wide disparities in economic and social conditions exist among groups in our society and among nations of the world. While most of us are able to be responsible for our own economic circumstances, we must not overlook the effects of unequal opportunities among people. Friends’ belief in the Divine within everyone leads us to support institutions which meet human needs and to seek to change institutions which fail to meet human needs. We strengthen community when we work with others to help promote justice for all. 


  • How are we beneficiaries of inequity and exploitation? How are we victims of inequity and exploitation? In what ways can we address these problems?
  • What can we do to improve the conditions in our correctional institutions and to address the mental and social problems of those confined there?
  • How can we improve our understanding of those who are driven to violence by subjection to racial, economic or political injustice? In what ways do we oppose prejudice and injustice based on gender, sexual orientation, class, race, age, and physical, mental and emotional conditions? How would individuals benefit from a society that values everyone? How would society benefit?

“We are part of an economic system characterized by inequality and exploitation. Such a society is defended and perpetuated by entrenched power. How are we beneficiaries of inequity and exploitation? How are we victims of inequity and exploitation? In what ways can we address these problems?”

Injustice cannot be addressed as long as we are involved in the system of injustice, in this case, capitalism. As my good friend Ronnie James says:

I’m of the firm opinion that a system that was built by stolen bodies on stolen land for the benefit of a few is a system that is not repairable. It is operating as designed, and small changes (which are the result of huge efforts) to lessen the blow on those it was not designed for are merely half measures that can’t ever fully succeed.

So, the question is now, where do we go from here? Do we continue to make incremental changes while the wealthy hoard more wealth and the climate crisis deepens, or do we do something drastic that has never been done before? Can we envision and create a world where a class war from above isn’t a reality anymore?”

Ronnie James

The following is a diagram I’ve been working on for several years to visualize unjust systems and possible alternatives. On the left is capitalism, built on colonialism. The red vertical bar indicates forces that interfere with making changes. Failing and corrupt institutions, authoritarianism, and environmental chaos. If we can move past those resistances, we can build communities for a viable and just future.

I’ve been part of a Mutual Aid community for the past three years. That experience convinces me the Mutual Aid is a vital component of a more just future for us all. It is a way to escape the capitalist economic system, which I’ve written about extensively.
(See: )

Contradictions of the Imperialist ‘Rules-Based Order’

Have your views about our environmental situation changed? It is more difficult to deny environmental damage in the face of all kinds of climate chaos occurring globally.

Did you know the U.S. Military emits more carbon dioxide than many nations?

This leads to an existential paradox. If we are ever going to begin to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions, we must end military operations. Could this be a path to peace? Or will imperialism continue to feed increasing environmental devastation?

The new document described below, “Eight Contradictions in the Imperialist ‘Rules-Based Order’” identifies conflicts between imperialist nations and the rest of the world.

The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists has now moved the Doomsday Clock to 90 seconds to midnight, the closest it has been to the symbolic time of the annihilation of humanity and the Earth since 1947. This is alarming, which is why leaders in the Global South have been making the case to halt the warmongering over Ukraine and against China. As Namibia’s Prime Minister Saara Kuugongelwa-Amadhila said, ‘We are promoting a peaceful resolution of that conflict so that the entire world and all the resources of the world can be focused on improving the conditions of people around the world instead of being spent on acquiring weapons, killing people, and actually creating hostilities’.

In line with the alarm from the Doomsday Clock and assertions from people such as Kuugongelwa-Amadhila, the rest of this newsletter features a new text called Eight Contradictions in the Imperialist ‘Rules-Based Order’ (which you can download as a PDF here). It was drafted by Kyeretwie Opoku (the convenor of the Socialist Movement of Ghana), Manuel Bertoldi (Patria Grande /Federación Rural para la producción y el arraigo), Deby Veneziale (senior fellow, Tricontinental: Institute for Social Research), and me, with inputs from senior political leaders and intellectuals from across the world. We are offering this text as an invitation to a dialogue. We hope that you will read, circulate, and discuss it.

We are now entering a qualitatively new phase of world history. Significant global changes have emerged in the years since the Great Financial Crisis of 2008. This can be seen in a new phase of imperialism and changes in the particularities of eight contradictions.

CONTRADICTIONS OF THE IMPERIALIST ‘RULES-BASED ORDER’ by Vijay Prashad, Tricontinental: Institute For Social Research, March 10, 2023

Eight Contradictions in the Imperialist ‘Rules-Based Order’

  • The contradiction between moribund imperialism and an emerging successful socialism led by China.
  • The contradiction between the ruling classes of the narrow band of imperialist G7 countries and the political and economic elite of capitalist countries in the Global South.
  • The contradiction between the broad urban and rural working class and sections of the lower petty bourgeoisie (collectively known as the popular classes) of the Global South versus the US-led imperial power elite.
  • The contradiction between advanced rent-seeking finance capital versus the needs of the popular classes, and even some sections of capital in non-socialist countries, regarding the organisation of societies’ requirements for investment in industry, environmentally sustainable agriculture, employment, and development.
  •  The contradiction between the popular classes of the Global South and their domestic political and economic power elites.
  •  The contradiction between US-led imperialism versus nations strongly defending national sovereignty.
  • The contradiction between the millions of discarded working-class poor in the Global North versus the bourgeoisie who dominate these countries.
  • The contradiction between Western capitalism versus the planet and human life.

In my mind, Indigenous nations, Indigenous homespaces, Indigenous homelessness must be engaged in a radical and complete overturning of the nation-state’s political formations and a refusal of racial capitalism. My vision to create Nishnaabeg futures and presences must structurally refuse and reject the structures, processes and practices that end Indigenous life, Black life and result in environmental desecration. This requires societies that function without policing, prisons, and property.

Nishnaabeg formations of nationhood mean a radical overturning of the current conditions and configurations within which we live—an absolute refusal of capitalism.

Maynard, Robyn; Simpson, Leanne Betasamosake. Rehearsals for Living (Abolitionist Papers) (p. 125). Haymarket Books. Kindle Edition.

Epic battle

The battle to stop construction of the proposed militarized police training facility being referred to as “Cop City” in the Atlanta Forest has many components.

    Militarized policingAt this time of endless instances of militarized policing the last thing we need is a facility to train police to use these tactics. To train police from all over the country. International?
    Training will be provided for urban warfare. Including helicopter pads and a mock city.
    Of course, the location chosen was right next to communities of Black, Indigenous, and other people of color. Where men, women and children who are already traumatized by policing would hear all the shooting from the training facility.
    Police from multiple agencies have continually harassed tree defenders. Manuel Teran (Tortuguita) was killed by police.
    Indigenous rights“You must immediately vacate Mvskoke homelands and cease violence and policing of Indigenous and Black people in Mvskoke lands” (Atlanta Forest)
    Civil libertiesAs is occurring all over the country, civil disobedience and protest is being threatened by elevating charges to domestic terrorism.
    66 Organizations Urge that Domestic Terrorism Charges Against Defend the Atlanta Forest Protesters Be Dropped
    EnvironmentTrees are more important now than ever to pull carbon dioxide out of the air.

    an autonomous movement for the future of South Atlanta

    We call on all people of good conscience to stand in solidarity with the movement to stop Cop City and defend the Weelaunee Forest in Atlanta.


    MY GOODMAN: On Wednesday, a group of Mvskoke Creek activists interrupted a Regional Commission meeting and attempted to give an eviction notice to the Atlanta mayor.

    MVSKOKE CREEK ACTIVIST 1: Objection. Objection. We have a letter being delivered from the Mvskoke Creek Nation on behalf of Mvskoke Creek spiritual leadership in opposition to Cop City.

    MVSKOKE CREEK ACTIVIST 2: I came all the way on the Trail of Tears to deliver this letter to you folks.

    UNIDENTIFIED: You’re welcome to leave.

    MVSKOKE CREEK ACTIVIST 2: We want you to know that the contemporary Mvskoke people are now making their journey back to our homelands and hereby give notice to Mayor Andre Dickens, the Atlanta City Council, the Atlanta Police Department, the Atlanta Police Foundation, the Dekalb County Sheriff’s Office, and so-called Cop City, that you must immediately vacate Mvskoke homelands and cease violence and policing of Indigenous and Black people in Mvskoke lands. We also ask for an independent investigation into the assassination of our relative Tortuguita and that the charges be dropped against Weelaunee Forest defenders.

    Opposition Grows to Atlanta “Cop City” as More Forest Defenders Charged with Domestic Terrorism

    A number of people and organizations are calling for the cancellation of “Cop City”
    Students of the Atlanta University Center Denounce the Building of the Atlanta Public Safety Training Center
    Forest Defenders Vow Resistance After Court Okays Phase I Of ‘Cop City’
    Detroit ‘Cop City’ rally held in solidarity with Atlanta environmental defenders – BridgeDetroit
    CrimethInc. : The Forest in the City : Two Years of Forest Defense in Atlanta, Georgia
    Sign the petition: No massive police training complex. Stop Cop City!
    Elders Say Stop Cop City!
    Multiple State and Local Police Agencies Violently Raid Weelanuee Forest Music Festival, Week of Action Perseveres  

    On 1/31/2023, a number of people who are involved in justice work in central Iowa gathered at the offices of the law firm that represents Corporation Services Company. Which in turn represents U.S. Multifamily Capital Markets at Cushman and Wakefield. John O’Neill is the President of U.S. Multifamily Capital Markets. He sits on the executive committee board for the Atlanta Police Foundation, which is building “Cop City” in Atlanta. Where Manuel Teran (Tortuguita) was killed by police who were clearing tree sitters from the proposed construction area.

    Following are some of the photos I took at our action that morning.

    See more about “Cop City” here:

    Pause and Transform

    I recently attended a Zoom meeting hosted by the Climate Mobilization Network. I was interested because I’ve been following the Climate Mobilization Network’s work for years.

    They articulate what has not been working and that they are looking into different strategies that might be successful. I was especially interested to discover their emphasis on Mutual Aid programs.

    This collective visioning, movement incubation and learning gathering will equip you with space for reflection, new ideas, inspiration, and next steps to participate in this new campaign.

    Together we will build relationships and explore:

    • How survival and mutual aid programs can grow the movement
    • New, creative approaches to taking action against fossil fuels
    • Ways to integrate healing into our work
    • And how to create space for reflection, intentionality and strategic clarity

    Why We Decide to Pause and Transform our Strategy

    • Congressional failure to take meaningful action on climate
    • The slow pace of local climate programs where policy change is severely limited by what’s considered politically possible
    • Rising inequality amid continued neoliberalism
    • Escalating climate disasters that are hitting global and US-based frontline communities the hardest and will continue accelerating rapidly!
    • And widespread cultural and generational concern about climate change has not yet been tapped into effectively by a mass movement.

    Climate Mobilization Network

    Movement Analysis

    We reached out to more than 20 leaders across the Just Transition movement to guide our strategic planning process – we asked them about what learnings, gaps, and critical takeaways they saw emerging in their movement work. The opportunities that interviewees identified our movement needs to build on included:

    • We need more support for escalating, disruptive direct actions
    • We need work building a movement of movements
    • We need local organizing & base building as a foundation for larger mass movement
    • We need solutions outside of government
    • We need a more coherent, clear, and unified narrative strategy and message
    • We need more training on healing and community care as the center of our movements – and a politics of empathy and love at the center of our movements

    Climate Mobilization Network

    Climate Mobilization’s 2023 Pilot Programs: Political Education on Climate Survival, Healing Justice, Movement History and the Need for Escalated Direct Action

    After processing our movement analysis, as well as the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and challenges of our current focus campaigns and Network – and realizing the need for more radical and inventive approaches to addressing the climate emergency – we decided to build for our pilot program to focus on building out a transformational, motivational and commitment-driven political education training program that builds understanding, alignment and action around the need for climate survival programs and escalated, coordinated, and creative direct action. 

    This includes: 

    • Direct action strategy and tactics from Indigenous struggles, from the Global South & from history, encouraging participants to develop their emergent ideas
    • Why and how to start mutual aid based climate survival programs – pulling case studies for effective models of sustained community resilience 
    • Mass movement history  & state of current climate / need for climate survival 
    • Healing Justice organizing practices addressing burnout, trauma, climate grief at the root cause; integrating organizing and healing justice approaches into one, making climate organizing a more joyous, community-oriented, accessible, and sustainable practice for all peoples to get involved in – with a focus on building out leadership of resilience of frontline communities 

    Why This: Political education is movement connective tissue and a key resource for organizers to become more resilient, effective and reflective. Climate organizing in the US is particularly disconnected from the important resources offered by movement history rooted in global context.

    Why Now: This program addresses several emergent movement needs:

    • Burnout is at an all-time high, a signal to reflect, rebuild resilience, shift organizing practices across the movement to center healing, and re-root our organizations in movement history. 
    • Climate groups’ interest in direct action remains high, while increasing numbers of groups working on other issues will be trying to add climate programs. We will provide a container for this work. 
    • We’ve also heard concerns that the direct action toolbox and strategy need to be expanded and strengthened.

    This program will forge common ground among a burgeoning climate survival movement that brings together climate and non-climate groups. Alignment and political education around direct action, healing justice and mass movement history is an unmet need across sectors; the training will also provide an appealing, approachable framework for groups new to climate work to launch climate survival programs. The focus is on moving people to launch direct action and climate survival programs, change their organizing practices (to incorporate a climate survival focus and become more healing justice centered), and access improved resilience in the work they are already doing.

    Climate Mobilization’s New Direction for 2023

    Here are the slides from the presentation

    #NoCarbonPipelines #NoCO2Pipelines #MutualAid

    We lost someone unnecessarily to police violence

    How do you feel about the police shooting treesitter Manuel Teran (Tortuguita) in Atlanta?

    I’ve been wondering why I felt so much sorrow about this. Some of the statements below have shed some light on this. My whole life I have been in resistance to capitalism and the state. I quickly learned there were such a small number of others engaged in this work, at least in this country. I felt a connection to, respect for them.

    I’ve been a lifelong environmentalist. Among other things, refusing to own a car. So, I identify with the treesitters trying to protect the forest, the environment, Mother Earth.

    For the past several years I’ve become involved in the abolition of police and prisons work.

    I’ve just recently come across the concept of prefigurative work, which is living today in a manner consistent with the society you are working to create. All these concepts guide our Mutual Aid work (see: Points of Unity, Des Moines Mutual Aid below).

    My heart is hurting over the death of Tortuguita, a forest defender I never met, for so many reasons. One is the loss of this young person, under any circumstance. Theirs was a life cut far too short. I also feel a sense of kinship in loss. I know many other activists who have worked encampments and tree-sits are also feeling this way, because there’s something special about that kind of struggle. There’s something in the prefigurative work, in the effort to rehearse the world we want, to care for each other, in the face of the elements, in the face of police, even when you’re under siege – it’s beautiful, messy work, and whether our battles are won or lost, we carry it with us, always

    The Death of a Forest Defender at “Stop Cop City” by Kelly Hayes, TRUTHOUT, January 26,2023

    I’m sharing this video from Unicorn Riot again, to show the excessive police presence at the Weelaunee Forest.

    Those in the forest at the time of the police raid refute the police contention that Tortuguita first fired at the police. But the statement in this video, “today we lost someone unnecessarily to police violence” is true. They would not be dead if the police had not raided the forest.

    So, today we lost someone unnecessarily to police violence. I believe everybody here agrees with the fact that nobody should die at the hands of the state. And in the midst of this grief and sorrow I want you to make space for that. We are organizing for a future free from oppression, free from violence.

    Title: Atlanta Community Reacts to Police Killing of Forest Defender Manuel Teran
    Uploader: Unicorn Riot
    Uploaded: Thursday, January 19, 2023 at 4:16 PM EST via Parallel Uploader
    License bync

    1. We believe in working shoulder to shoulder and standing in solidarity with all oppressed communities
      We ourselves are oppressed, and our mutual aid work is a fight for our collective liberation. We do not believe in a top-down model of charity. Instead, we contrast our efforts at horizontal mutual aid, the fostering of mutually beneficial relationships and communities, to dehumanizing and colonizing charity.
    2. We believe in community autonomy.
      We believe that the communities we live and organize in have been largely excluded from state social services, but intensely surveilled and policed by the state repressive apparatus. Capitalism is fundamentally unable to meet people’s needs. We want to build self-sustaining communities that are independent of the capitalist state, both materially and ideologically, and can resist its repression.
    3. We are police and prison abolitionists.
      Abolition and the mutual aid that we practice are inextricably linked. We don’t rely on capitalist institutions or the police to do our work. We believe in building strong and resilient communities which make police obsolete, including community systems of accountability and crisis intervention.
    4. We work to raise the political consciousness of our communities.
      Part of political education is connecting people’s lived experiences to a broader political perspective. Another component is working to ensure that people can meet their basic needs. It is difficult to organize for future liberation when someone is entrenched in day-to-day struggle.

    Atlanta, Georgia – The ongoing protests against the construction of a police training center in the Weelaunee Forest in Atlanta, Georgia are a testament to the spirit of resistance that was ignited by the Black Lives Matter movement and the George Floyd Protests of 2020. For two years, brave activists and protesters have occupied the forest and taken to the streets to demand that the city reverse its decision to spend tens of millions of taxpayer dollars to further fund a police force that has historically been used to violently repress, control and limit the power of working class people and people of color in particular.

    But the protesters in Atlanta are not only fighting against further wasteful spending on police and the “Cop City” training center, they are also fighting against the destruction of the region’s natural environment and the further pollution and degradation of land that will disproportionately affect the poor and working-class who live in the area. As those who oppose the massive development (which would include, among other things, several shooting ranges and a landing pad for Black Hawk helicopters!) have made clear, the forest is a vital part of the wetlands that help to contain and filter pollution and rainwater, preventing and limiting the threat of floods to the predominantly Black neighborhoods that border the forest.

    IN STANDOFF OVER COP CITY, POLICE ARE THE REAL TERRORISTS by James Dennis Hoff, Left Voice, January 29, 2023

    In this episode of “Movement Memos,” Atlanta organizer Micah Herskind and host Kelly Hayes discuss the death of Tortuguita, a forest defender who was gunned down by police while resisting the construction of “Cop City.” “It’s all hands on deck for the forces of the prison-industrial complex, the forces of capitalism … they are willing to use any and all tactics and tools available to them, whether that’s literal murder, whether that’s trying to deter the broader movement by slapping people with domestic terrorism charges. As environmental catastrophe is upon us, I think the forces of capital are organizing themselves,” says Herskind.

    Kelly Hayes: Welcome to “Movement Memos,” a Truthout podcast about organizing, solidarity and the work of making change. I’m your host, writer and organizer Kelly Hayes. Today, we are talking about the struggle to Stop Cop City in Atlanta and DeKalb County, Georgia, and the death of forest defender Manuel Esteban Paez Terán, who was gunned down by police on the morning of January 18. The Guardian has called the deadly shooting “unprecedented” in the history of U.S. environmental protest. While the killing of protesters, including environmentalists, is not unprecedented by any means in this country, law enforcement entering a forest occupation and killing a protester does mark an escalation of state violence for this era. Co-strugglers have described Terán as “a trained medic, a loving partner, a dear friend, a brave soul, and so much more.”

    A lot of people may shy away from solidarity with the forest defenders, because the police are claiming that Tortuguita fired first. But we have plenty of reasons to be skeptical of the police narrative, and we cannot abandon this struggle, as the violent and legal repression of protesters has implications for all of our fights against state violence and environmental destruction.

    My heart is hurting over the death of Tortuguita, a forest defender I never met, for so many reasons. One is the loss of this young person, under any circumstance. Theirs was a life cut far too short. I also feel a sense of kinship in loss. I know many other activists who have worked encampments and tree-sits are also feeling this way, because there’s something special about that kind of struggle. There’s something in the prefigurative work, in the effort to rehearse the world we want, to care for each other, in the face of the elements, in the face of police, even when you’re under siege – it’s beautiful, messy work, and whether our battles are won or lost, we carry it with us, always. Ruth Wilson Gilmore tells us that “where life is precious, life is precious.” In every encampment and forest defense scenario I’ve been a part of, people were trying to cultivate a place where life was precious and where people were precious to one another. In those spaces, I have seen things that made me believe we could remake the world. When I think about all of that power and potential, the thought of a young person, who was out there for the love of the trees, being struck down — it just rips right through me.

    The Death of a Forest Defender at “Stop Cop City” by Kelly Hayes, TRUTHOUT, January 26,2023

    In Tortuguita’s own words, 

    “The right kind of resistance is peaceful because that’s where we win. We’re not going to beat them at violence. They’re very, very good at violence. We’re not. We win through nonviolence. That’s really the only way we can win. We don’t want more people to die. We don’t want Atlanta to turn into a war zone.”


    “The abolitionist mission isn’t done until every prison is empty,” Teran told me. “When there are no more cops, when the land has been given back, that’s when it’s over.” I must’ve shaken my head a little at the grandiosity of this statement because Teran immediately broke into a sheepish smile. “I don’t expect to live to see that day, necessarily. I mean, hope so. But I smoke.” 

    On Wednesday, January 18, Georgia State Patrol murdered Manuel “Tortuguita” Teran, who was camping in a public park to defend the Weelaunee Forest and stop the construction of Cop City. Over the weekend, six protesters were arrested and charged with domestic terrorism. In solidarity with the protesters, the National Lawyers Guild (NLG) calls for an end to the construction of Cop City and the ongoing police brutality against demonstrators.

    NLG National joins our Atlanta and University of Georgia Chapters and comrades in mourning the devastating loss of a beloved community member. Tortuguita was a kind, passionate, and caring activist, who coordinated mutual aid and served as a trained medic. The Atlanta Community Press Collective is compiling memories and accounts of their life, and we encourage everyone to honor and remember Tortuguita through the words of those who love them.

    As radical movement legal activists, NLG recognizes that this horrific murder and the related arrests are part of a nationwide attack on protesters, land defenders, and marginalized folks, especially Black, Indigenous, and other activists of color. Labeling these demonstrators “domestic terrorists” is a harrowing repetition of No DAPL activist Jessica Reznicek’s terrorist enhancement last year, and both are clear indicators that the people in power view protesters and environmental activists as enemies of the state.

    Though Atlanta city officials continue to insist that Cop City will keep the community “safe,” the destruction of the Weelaunee Forest will undoubtedly exacerbate the climate crisis and expand the policing of Black, Indigenous, and other communities of color in Atlanta. The ongoing arrests and brutalization of demonstrators opposing the deforestation of stolen Muscogee land proves that policing is the true threat to our collective safety.

    We reject the various attempts by the Georgia State Patrol and Atlanta officials to disregard these community members as “outside agitators.” This kind of language attempts to discredit the very important, justice-oriented goals of the community members defending the Forest.

    Our comrades defending the Weelaunee Forest are advocating for racial, environmental, and economic justice. In solidarity with their efforts, NLG encourages everyone to support the movement in whatever way is most accessible to them. Please see below for information directly from the organizers about the best ways to support their efforts:

    • Donate to the Atlanta Solidarity Fund to support legal costs for arrested protestors and ongoing legal action.
    • Call on investors in the project to divest from Cop City (list of APF investors). Call on builders of the project to drop their construction contracts.
    • Organize political solidarity bail funds, forest defense funds, and forest defense committees where you live.
    • Participate in or organize local solidarity actions.
    • Endorse and circulate this statement of solidarity.


    PRESS RELEASE: Emory doctors condemn police violence against Cop City protests

    Monday, January 23, 2023
    Defend the Atlanta Forest has received the following submitted statement:

    As health care workers, we strongly condemn the repeated escalation of police violence in their interactions with members of the public protesting the construction of Cop City. On various instances, in both the streets of Atlanta as well as in the Weelaunee Forest/Intrenchment Creek Park which is under threat of destruction, police have used violence including reports of toxic chemical irritants such as tear gas, rubber bullets and now live ammunition which most recently resulted in the police killing of one of the forest defenders, Manuel ‘Tortuguita’ Teran. A year after police in the U.S. killed more people than any prior year since records started to be tracked in 2013, we recognize violence perpetrated by police to be harmful to public health. We are also concerned by the detentions and the charges of domestic terrorism levied at individuals arrested while protesting the destruction of the forest. This fits within the context of a disturbing pattern and threat to public health whereby the USA has one of the highest incarceration rates in the world; perpetuated by a judicial and legislative system that targets Black and Indigenous peoples, migrants, those living in poverty, those who are unhoused, as well as environmental and social activists.

    The construction of Cop City will not solve a government’s failures to listen to the wishes of members of the community, its failure to stop the widening gap between rich and poor, the lack of affordable housing, the negative effects of gentrification and racism, or the poor and unequal access to nutritious food, healthcare and mental health services. As physicians, we recognize that these failures have negative consequences on the public’s mental and physical health. Instead of strengthening community health, Cop City will be a dangerous attempt to invest in harmful and violent solutions, strengthening the corporate and political powers that seek profit over the well-being of the people, while simultaneously eroding and transforming natural and public spaces into privately owned property. The public health evidence for developing healthy and thriving communities strongly opposes the expansion of policing and its subsequent violence. All Atlanta communities deserve more life affirming investments, not those that value private property over human life.

    Michel Khoury, MD, Co-director of Georgia Human Rights Clinic
    Amy Zeidan, MD, Co-director of Georgia Human Rights Clinic
    Mark Spencer, MD, Co-Leader, Internal Medicine Advocacy Group
    Suhaib Abaza, MD, Co-founder, Campaign Against Racism ATL chapter
    Social Medicine Consortium

    In Solidarity with Atlanta’s Forest Defenders

    I’ve heard of tree sitting as a form of civil disobedience/protest for many years and admire those who do that. The Atlanta Defend the Forest movement of this story is also directly related to abolition and defunding the police. The Atlanta Police Foundation wants to destroy the forest in order to construct a national police training facility.

    This article is a moving remembrance to the police killing of Tortuguita.

    Little Turtles’s War. The shooting death of a protestor at the hands of police feels like both an inevitable outcome of this long battle over Atlanta’s South River Forest and a completely preventable tragedy by David Peisner, The Bitter Southerner, January 20, 2023

    “We call on all people of good conscience to stand in solidarity with the movement to stop Cop City and defend the Weelaunee Forest in Atlanta.”

    Defend the Altanta Forest

    an autonomous movement for the future of South Atlanta

    Rising Tide Statement on Tortuguita’s Murder: In Solidarity with Atlanta’s Forest Defenders


    Rising Tide North America statement on the murder of Tortuguita by the police in Atlanta, Georgia:

    “The news has spread around the country and around the world. On the morning of January 18, police began an attack on the Weelaunee Forest in south Atlanta. In this assault, they shot and killed Cami Teran, known by friends in the movement to defend the forest as Tortuguita.

    Tortuguita, remembered by many as “fierce and loving,” was a Black and Indigenous anarchist. Their life was spent seeking a world without prisons and without police where people could care for each other and be in relationship with the natural world. This moving rememberance shares just a small part of their spirit and their story.

    The Atlanta Police Foundation wants to clear hundreds of acres of forest to build a massive training facility that would include a mock city and be a site for police forces from across the country to come train in urban warfare.  Tortuguita was part of the movement to protect the Atlanta forest and stop this project.  The movement is centered in Atlanta and includes community groups, forest defenders, lawyers, activists fighting gentrification, racism, and police brutality, and neighbors of the forest. But the movement is not only in Atlanta. Everywhere that police oppress indigenous people to protect pipelines, everywhere that forests are cleared, everywhere that profit and control are valued more than life, this movement resonates. The struggle in Atlanta is all of our struggle.

    You can learn more about this movement and how communities in Atlanta and around the country are responding in recent reports from Democracy Now and Rolling Stone. Police would like to blame their brutality on Tortuguita and their fellow forest defenders. There must be an independent investigation of Tortuguita’s murder.

    Our hearts are filled with love, sorrow, and rage in solidarity with all those grieving their death.

    If you are moved to gather or act in Tortuguita’s memory, vigils are planned in many towns and cities through the weekend. If there is nothing planned near you, organize something with your friends and invite your communities. Support the people arrested in the raid. The outpouring of love and solidarity feeds those grieving and gathering in Atlanta as they care for each other in coming days and weeks.

    Here are some other ways to support the movement from the statement in Solidarity with the movement to stop Cop City & defend the Weelaunee Forest, endorsed by RTNA:

    • Donate to the Atlanta Solidarity Fund to support legal costs for arrested protestors and ongoing legal action.
    • Call on investors in the project to divest from Cop City (list of APF investors). Call on builders of the project to drop their construction contracts.
    • Organize political solidarity bail funds, forest defense funds, and forest defense committees where you live.
    • Organize or participate in local solidarity actions.
    • Endorse and circulate this statement of solidarity.”

    On January 18, in the course of their latest militarized raid on the forest, police in Atlanta shot and killed a person. This is only the most recent of a series of violent police retaliations against the movement. The official narrative is that Cop City is necessary to make Atlanta “safe,” but this brutal killing reveals what they mean when they use that word.

    Forests are the lungs of planet Earth. The destruction of forests affects all of us. So do the gentrification and police violence that the bulldozing of Weelaunee Forest would facilitate. What is happening in Atlanta is not a local issue.

    Politicians who support Cop City have attempted to discredit forest defenders as “outside agitators.” This smear has a disgraceful history in the South, where authorities have used it against abolitionists, labor organizers, and the Civil Rights Movement, among others. The goal of those who spread this narrative is to discourage solidarity and isolate communities from each other while offering a pretext to bring in state and federal forces, who are the actual “outside agitators.” The consequence of that strategy is on full display in the tragedy of January 18.

    Replacing a forest with a police training center will only create a more violently policed society, in which taxpayer resources enrich police and weapons companies rather than addressing social needs. Mass incarceration and police militarization have failed to bring down crime or improve conditions for poor and working-class communities.

    In Atlanta and across the US, investment in police budgets comes at the expense of access to food, education, childcare, and healthcare, of affordable and stable housing, of parks and public spaces, of transit and the free movement of people, of economic stability for the many. Concentrating resources in the hands of police serves to defend the extreme accumulation of wealth and power by corporations and the very rich.

    What do cops do with their increased budgets and their carte blanche from politicians? They kill people, every single day. They incarcerate and traumatize schoolchildren, parents, loved ones who are simply struggling to survive. We must not settle for a society organized recklessly upon the values of violence, racism, greed, and careless indifference to life.

    The struggle that is playing out in Atlanta is a contest for the future. As the catastrophic effects of climate change hammer our communities with hurricanes, heat waves, and forest fires, the stakes of this contest are clearer than ever. It will determine whether those who come after us inherit an inhabitable Earth or a police state nightmare. It is up to us to create a peaceful society that does not treat human life as expendable.

    The forest defenders are trying to create a better world for all of us. We owe it to the people of Atlanta and to future generations everywhere to support them.

    Here are some ways to support the defense of the forest in Atlanta:

    • Donate to the Atlanta Solidarity Fund to support legal costs for arrested protestors and ongoing legal action.
    • Call on investors in the project to divest from Cop City (list of APF investors). Call on builders of the project to drop their construction contracts.
    • Organize political solidarity bail funds, forest defense funds, and forest defense committees where you live.
    • Participate in or organize local solidarity actions.
    • Endorse and circulate this statement of solidarity. Email

    Life without a car

    Aside from the spiritual leadings that guided me to my career, being led to live without a car and struggling to convince others to not use fossil fuels were the most important spirit-led actions of my life. This also created a great deal of tension with my Quaker meeting. I made a lot of mistakes related to this over the years. When I say “I made mistakes” that’s a clue that I didn’t always hear, or follow what the Spirit was guiding me to do.

    Growing up on farms, I had the connections to the land and creatures and the cycles of the seasons common to farmers. Scattergood Friends School is on a farm, the name changed to Scattergood Friends School and Farm since I attended. Working on the farm was an important part of our education. Over the years this has expanded significantly. In the Sophomore year we raised pigs as part of our biology class.

    Being led to live without a car was at the intersection of my foundational stories, my Quaker faith, protecting Mother Earth, and photography.

    I am very grateful my parents chose to take us on camping trips across the United States for our summer family vacations, specifically selecting National Parks to camp in.  Actually camping in the Parks was key to the whole experience.  Our first camper was a King camper, which was an aluminum trailer with a canvas covered framework that unfolded to form the top half when we stopped at the campsite.  Being in the woods, hearing the sounds of the wind and wildlife and the glacier streams rush over the boulders, feeling the cold at night, and smelling the pine trees made the experience so much better than traveling into the park during the day and returning to a motel at night.

    Hiking through the meadows and forests and upon mountainsides with countless, stunning vistas, were life changing experiences for me.  I was overwhelmed by the intense beauty.  Rocky Mountain National Park was our favorite, and we returned there time and again as we were growing up. We quickly found that not many people traveled too far from the parking areas, and with even a short hike we were practically alone in the woods.  Hikes of just a mile or two brought us to lakes, canyons, waterfalls, cliffs, meadows, snowfields, boulder fields, and rock walls to climb. Places we were able to appreciate alone.

    Quaker worship was a natural extension of the quiet of the mountains.

    I hadn’t reflected much on why we sought opportunities to be by ourselves in the mountains. It just seemed a much better experience that way. Now I think it was related to feeling closer to God when we were deep in the quiet of the forests. Having grown up in Quaker communities, I was used to worshiping in silence, as we do so we can hear the whisper of the Spirit. Being enveloped in the silence of the mountains was a natural extension of Quaker worship. Or rather, Quaker worship was a natural extension of the quiet of the mountains. Quiet rather than silence.

    This was also a reciprocal relationship. I was always challenged to find ways to share my spiritual experiences with others. These experiences are ineffable, that is they can’t be adequately expressed with words. But art can often better express spirituality. So I hoped some of my photographs might show glimpses of the Spirit.

    The writer’s lonely, harrowing struggle to give shape to his or her elusive vision of the world—to complete a book, to discover among the fragments of a thought or a dream the precise image needed to breathe life into a poem—is a familiar chapter in the annals of pain and grief.

    How can we save the wilderness? I was a mountain climber whose affection for the high peaks had evolved gradually into political commitment to the cause of preservation. I was, too, a fledgling writer searching for direction. I knew the importance of craft, experience, doggedness, and the other familiar requisites for literary success, but I lacked vision—an understanding of my relationship to the world.

    How could we convince lawmakers to pass laws to protect wilderness? (Barry) Lopez argued that wilderness activists will never achieve the success they seek until they can go before a panel of legislators and testify that a certain river or butterfly or mountain or tree must be saved, not because of its economic importance, not because it has recreational or historical or scientific value, but because it is so beautiful.

    I left the room a changed person, one who suddenly knew exactly what he wanted to do and how to do it. I had known that love is a powerful weapon, but until that moment I had not understood how to use it. What I learned on that long-ago evening, and what I have counted on ever since, is that to save a wilderness, or to be a writer or a cab driver or a homemaker—to live one’s life—one must reach deep into one’s heart and find what is there, then speak it plainly and without shame.

    Reid, Robert Leonard. Because It Is So Beautiful: Unraveling the Mystique of the American West . Counterpoint. Kindle Edition

    One reason I began to write was to explore why I took a given photograph.  I hadn’t appreciated this until I was repeatedly told the same thing, which is that a photograph can help the viewer see the subject in a way they hadn’t before.  So as I prepare to shoot a picture, I think about what I am trying to show with it, how to compose it, and set the exposure and focus in such a way as to create the photograph as closely to the image I am envisioning, as possible. 

    Note that I said “envision”. I don’t take photos to be as realistic as possible, which would be like make a Xerox copy of a scene.

    My hope is that some of my photographs might help others to see and understand the subject as I understand it, and may see/understand it differently than before viewing the photo.

    One of the many things I’m learning from Indigenous ways is the Spirit is in all things, including animals, plants, water, sky and mountains. I felt this deeply when I was in the forests and mountains. I’ve heard others express this in various ways as feeling closer to God, and that was how I felt.

    This spiritual connection I developed with the mountains, lakes and forests had profound consequences in my life.

    When I moved to Indianapolis in 1971, the city was enveloped in smog. This was before catalytic converters, which began to appear in 1975. When I saw the polluted air, I had a profound spiritual vision of the Rocky Mountains being hidden by clouds of smog. The possibility that I would no longer be able to see the mountains shook me to my core.

    Long’s Peak from Moraine Park, Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado

    I was thinking specifically about the photo above, and how terrible it would be to no longer be able to see Long’s Peak. Although I now have many photos of the same view, I was thinking of this black an white photo specifically when I had that vision even though the quality isn’t near what I get now with a digital camera. I developed the film and the print of this in a darkroom. This is the image connected to my vision.

    From that moment on I saw cars as evil because of the damage they were doing. I decided I could not be part of that, and have lived without a car since then. I began my lifelong study of environmental science and work to try to bring awareness about the catastrophic damage being done to Mother Earth. Although I give thanks that catalytic converters took care of the visible smog, I knew of the continued damage and consequences of the tons of carbon dioxide and other gases coming from the exhaust of ever increasing numbers of cars.

    I saw automobiles as the ‘seeds of war’.  Many wars are literally fought over fossil fuel supplies. But these seeds of war are found in the way we live our lives.

    “I told [the Commonwealth Commissioners] I lived in the virtue of that life and power that took away the occasion of all wars… I told them I was come into the covenant of peace which was before wars and strife were.” 

    George Fox

    “Oh! that we who declare against wars, and acknowledge our trust to be in God only, may walk in the light, and therein examine our foundation and motives in holding great estates! May we look upon our treasures, and the furniture of our houses, and the garments in which we array ourselves, and try whether the seeds of war have nourishment in these our possessions, or not. Holding treasures in the self-pleasing spirit is a strong plant, the fruit whereof ripens fast.” 

    John Woolman

    It was camping in the national parks, and spiritual connections to the lakes, forests, wildlife, sky and mountains, that made me become a lifelong environmental activist. And photography was how I tried to express that for myself, and others. I knew environmental damage from burning fossil fuels would damage the mountains, forests and rivers, so I tried to preserve those scenes with photographs. Significant damage will happen with higher air temperatures, forest fires, infestation with migrating insects, torrential downpours, and drought.

    It is sad to think such photographs might be historic records of the way things used to be, and no longer are. This is actually one of the reasons I am led to write my foundational stories, wondering if I shouldn’t do more to use photography to try to create change.

    Recently at the annual meeting of Iowa Yearly Meeting (Conservative) I was grateful to be asked to show my photographs during one of the evening programs. The program was titled “Finding Truth and Beauty.” For about an hour the meetinghouse full Quakers watched the slideshow of photos in silence. Then, as the slideshow continued, Friends (Quakers) were invited to share their thoughts, which many did. I was grateful for this experience of sharing photos that had a spiritual significance for me, with my Quaker community in the context of silent worship.

    My story of Cars as weapons of mass destruction was included in this book by my friends at Sustainable Indiana.

    Court: First Nation Farmer Climate Unity March

    Iowa Supreme Court September 12, 2018

    September 12, 2018 was the day Iowa landowners and the Sierra Club’s oral arguments in the case against the Iowa Public Utilities Board (IUB) were heard before the Iowa Supreme Court. The landowners and Sierra Club contend that the Public Utilities Board improperly allowed Energy Transfer Partners to use eminent domain to force Iowa landowners to let the Dakota Access Pipeline be constructed on their land.

    One of the main objectives of the First Nation-Farmer Climate Unity March was to call attention to this court case.  We had a large banner saying Stop Eminent Domain Abuse with us on the March. A similar sign was painted on our portable rest room/shower.

    I didn’t enter the Court that day because I had my camera with me, and photos weren’t allowed inside. As my friends left the Court, they told me the justices seemed pretty well informed about the issues. The Court’s decision may not come for weeks or months. It is unclear what will happen if the Court decides for the landowners.

    The other primary purpose of the March was to build a community of activists who began to know each other so we could work together. This court date was the first opportunity for that to happen, and I was very glad to see quite a few of my fellow Marchers at the Court this morning.

    The decision several months later was against the landowners and for the pipeline.

    Back at the Iowa Utilities Board

    We’re back at the Iowa Utilities Board (IUB) these days, this time to object to proposed carbon pipelines.

    Another pipeline and the courts

    In a decisive victory for Native American rights, a federal judge just ordered an energy company to completely remove a natural gas pipeline.

    Seventeen years after the expiration of an easement, a federal judge has ordered an energy company to completely remove its pipeline from the properties of 38 Native American landowners — none of whom have been compensated for the company’s use of their land since the year 2000.

    Now, the pipeline company will have just six months to dismantle and completely remove the structure.

    “Having carefully reviewed the parties’ submissions, and in light of the facts and circumstances in this case,” Judge Vicki Miles-LaGrange wrote in the 10-page decision for the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Oklahoma, “the court finds that a permanent injunction should be entered in this case. Specifically, it is plaintiffs’ interests in the exclusive possession of their land which has been invaded by the presence of the pipeline and defendants’ continued use of the pipeline.


    I’m having trouble finding much more information beyond this article saying the US 10th Circuit Court of Appeals stayed the permanent injunction of the case cited above.

    While Enable Midstream Partners LP recently lost a U.S. 10th Circuit Court of Appeals ruling regarding its pipeline operation near Anadarko, the company will not be forced to rip up 1,300 feet of the pipeline.

    It came out of the Tenth Circuit court this week in a case involving a group of tribal landowners who filed suit a few years ago and accused the company of trespassing.

    The Tenth Circuit ruling this week stayed a permanent injunction handed down earlier by Oklahoma City U.S. District Judge Vicki Miles-LaGrange in which the company had been ordered to remove the pipeline by May 5.

    Enable Won’t Be Forced to Remove Pipeline After Losing Lawsuit, OK Energy Today, April 26, 2018