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.”

and

“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.

NLG STATEMENT IN SOLIDARITY WITH ATLANTA FOREST DEFENDERS, January 28, 2023


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.

Signed,
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
https://bittersoutherner.com/feature/2023/little-turtles-war-cop-city-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.”

Defend the Altanta Forest

DEFEND THE ATLANTA FOREST
an autonomous movement for the future of South Atlanta

https://defendtheatlantaforest.org/


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

JANUARY 21, 2023ANNOUNCEMENTSFEATURED NEWSFRONTRT NEWSWIRERT PRESS RELEASES

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.”

https://risingtidenorthamerica.org/2023/01/in-solidarity-with-atlantas-forest-defenders-rising-tide-statement-on-tortuguitas-murder/


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 defendweelaunee@riseup.net.

https://defendtheatlantaforest.org/solidarity/


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.
https://jeffkisling.com/2015/09/13/cars-as-weapons-of-mass-destruction/

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.

JUDGE ORDERS REMOVAL OF GAS PIPELINE FROM NATIVE AMERICAN PROPERTY By Staff, nativefire.blogspot.com, November 25, 2017

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

Hothouse Earth

World We Used to Know

Did it come overnight or did it come on slow?
It’s out of our hands and it’s out of control
I don’t think that this
Is the world we used to know

Alan Walker & Winona Oak

Environmental catastrophe is upon us

In years past, those of us who came to believe we could never reduce greenhouse emissions and began to talk about adaptation to evolving hostile conditions were stigmatized as alarmists. And while I wrote about this daily and organized and participated in numerous environmental campaigns and events, I rarely wrote how terrible the dangers were and would become. People quickly grew tired of hearing about these things.

Now I regret that. Fifty years ago, if those of us who advocated living without cars had convinced a critical mass to join us, we would not be in the situation we are now.

I’ve begun reading the new book, “Hothouse Earth” by Bill McGuire, He writes, “there is now no chance of dodging a grim future of perilous, all-pervasive, climate breakdown.” I agree.

The crucial point, he (Bill McGuire) argues, is that there is now no chance of us avoiding a perilous, all-pervasive climate breakdown. We have passed the point of no return and can expect a future in which lethal heatwaves and temperatures in excess of 50C (120F) are common in the tropics; where summers at temperate latitudes will invariably be baking hot, and where our oceans are destined to become warm and acidic. “A child born in 2020 will face a far more hostile world that its grandparents did,” McGuire insists.

In this respect, the volcanologist, who was also a member of the UK government’s Natural Hazard Working Group, takes an extreme position. Most other climate experts still maintain we have time left, although not very much, to bring about meaningful reductions in greenhouse gas emissions. A rapid drive to net zero and the halting of global warming is still within our grasp, they say.

Such claims are dismissed by McGuire. “I know a lot of people working in climate science who say one thing in public but a very different thing in private. In confidence, they are all much more scared about the future we face, but they won’t admit that in public. I call this climate appeasement and I believe it only makes things worse. The world needs to know how bad things are going to get before we can hope to start to tackle the crisis.”

‘Soon the world will be unrecognisable’: is it still possible to prevent total climate meltdown? by Robin McKie, The Guardian, July 30, 2022.


There is now no chance of dodging a grim future of perilous, all-pervasive, climate breakdown.

Bill McGuire, Hothouse Earth

This book takes as its starting premise, then, the notion that, practically, there is now no chance of dodging a grim future of perilous, all-pervasive, climate breakdown. It is no longer a matter of what we can do to avoid it, but of what we should expect in the decades to come, how we can adapt to a hothouse world with more extreme weather and what we can do to stop a bleak situation deteriorating even further.

I ought to make clear here that the terms ‘hothouse Earth’ or ‘greenhouse Earth’ are used formally, in a definitive sense, to describe the state of our planet in the geological past when global temperatures have been so high that the poles have been ice-free. A hothouse state, however, is not required for hothouse conditions, which are already becoming far more commonplace, and fast becoming the trademark of our broken climate. What I mean by hothouse Earth, then, is not an ice-free planet, but a world in which lethal heatwaves and temperatures in excess of 50°C (122°F) in the tropics are nothing to write home about; a world where winters at temperate latitudes have dwindled to almost nothing and baking summers are the norm; a world where the oceans have heated beyond the point of no return and the mercury climbing to 30°C+ (86°F+) within the Arctic Circle is no big deal.

McGuire, Bill. Hothouse Earth (p. 11). Icon Books. Kindle Edition.

The climate catastrophe was born not from “mankind” but from the slave plantation, the settler town, the prison, the reservation. It is unsurprising, then, that the solutions being forwarded by those in power are more of the same— the border wall, the immigration detention centre, the refugee camp, the open-pit mine. For us to live in anything that I hope we can one day call freedom, it is necessary to put a swift end to the death-drive-disguised-as-worldview—the murderous episteme that is being imposed on us by the master/settler/CEO.

Maynard, Robyn; Simpson, Leanne Betasamosake. Rehearsals for Living (Abolitionist Papers) (p. 29). Haymarket Books. Kindle Edition.

Foundational stories: Transitions

This is the continuation of a series of posts about the evolution of my foundational stories, which are related to the intersection between my Quaker faith, protecting Mother Earth, and photography. Up to this point the stories have been from my life in Indianapolis, and about protecting the water and Mother Earth from the Keystone and Dakota Access pipelines, and all the implications of that.

My reason for doing this is because our world has changed dramatically, in many ways, in my lifetime. And I want to see if I’m doing the best I can today to prepare for increasingly dystopian times. Although it’s taking longer than I planned to get there, it is an important part of the process for me to reflect on the ways my foundational stories have evolved.

Transitions

At the end of June 2017, I retired from my career doing research in the Infant Pulmonary Function Lab at Riley Hospital for Children and returned to Iowa, where I had grown up, and where my parents still lived.

It was difficult to move away from the many friends and communities I had developed relationships with over my five decades in Indianapolis. And it was difficult to leave a career I loved. Every day brought significant challenges to the scientific software development and medical engineering I was doing. In a lab where most of us had worked together for thirty years.

It was a Spirit-led decision to retire.

Another thing that made this move difficult was knowing I would be living in a small community that didn’t have a public transit system. Living without a car was part of my foundational story, impacting my life in so many ways. And I’d been agitating others to give up their cars. I walked whenever possible in Indianola. But the justice work I eventually found often meant borrowing my parents’ car to drive to Des Moines.

My friends in Indianapolis heard about my plans to use a bicycle as much as possible when they asked about my plans for retirement. I was very touched when a large number of people contributed to help me buy a good bicycle for this purpose, including my co-workers at Riley Hospital for Children, and friends from North Meadow Circle of Friends, and my friends at the Kheprw Institute (KI). In addition, Dr. Robert Tepper, a lifelong friend and the Director of the Infant Pulmonary Function Lab where I spent most of my career, gave me a great backpack designed to be used with bicycles, which included a sleeve to carry a laptop computer. The backpack is designed to hold the pack away from one’s back, keeping sweat away from the pack itself.

I had hoped to build up the stamina to ride my bicycle to Des Moines, about fifteen miles. And perhaps even the forty miles, one way, to Bear Creek meeting!

The following PDF (which can be downloaded) describes the three-day, forty-mile journey I undertook in September 2017 (two months after moving to Iowa).



Bear Creek Friends Meeting

My Quaker meeting, Bear Creek Friends, has struggled to figure out how to reduce fossil fuel transportation when so many Friends live in rural areas or towns without public transit. We wrote the following Minute, which was approved by our yearly meeting, Iowa Yearly Meeting (Conservative) in 2017. And below is a pamphlet from Friends World Committee for Consultation (FWCC), which had asked meetings to submit their work on sustainability.


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.

Minute approved by Iowa Yearly Meeting (Conservative) 2017

Foundational stories: Videos

[Note: This is a continuation of a series of posts about the evolution of my foundational stories, which are related to the intersection between my Quaker faith, protecting Mother Earth, and photography. As is often the case, it is taking me much longer than expected to tell my foundational stories (See: https://quakersandreligioussocialism.com/?s=foundational). Dramatic changes in the world have me re-evaluating how I see my Quaker faith, love of Mother Earth, and photography now. And seeking the way forward.]

There are many branches of these stories. Thus far the focus has primarily been on being a water protector, protecting Mother Earth, although my Quaker faith and photography are also parts of almost every story.

Having spent my adult life in Indianapolis, I returned to Iowa when I retired at the end of June, 2017.

But before I begin the Iowa stories, there are a couple more from Indianapolis.

I mentioned the Kheprw Institute (KI), a Black youth mentoring community I was involved with, in an earlier story about the Keystone Pledge of Resistance. KI played a huge role in my education about faith, social, racial, and environmental justice. I plan to share those stories later.

KI allowed us Keystone Action Leads to speak at a public meeting about the Keystone Resistance. Each of us spoke about why we were willing to risk arrest to stop the pipeline. We hadn’t really spoken about this before, and I was moved by what my friends said. I could tell the audience was as well.

Kheprw Institute, Indianapolis

Additionally, Ra Wyse, associated with KI, interviewed Aghilah Nadaraj (KI) and I about the Dakota Access pipeline. Following is the audio from that interview with a slideshow of photos I had taken.

Dakota Access Pipeline

Coming full circle in a way, the video below is of me talking about the Keystone Pledge of Resistance at a Dakota Access Pipeline gathering at the Indiana State Capitol in 2017. That was a moving ceremony for those of us who had been working on the Dakota Access pipeline together.


I previously shared the Keystone Pipeline video Derek Glass and I made: https://youtu.be/gf08zb7t6UQ


Those of us involved with DAPL supported Alex Red Bear when he wanted to organize a gathering and march related to DAPL in downtown Indianapolis.


NODAPL at PNC bank


Foundational Stories: DAPL beginnings

[Note: This is a continuation of a series of posts about the evolution of my foundational stories, which are related to the intersection between my Quaker faith, protecting Mother Earth, and photography. The following occurred when I was living in Indianapolis.]

The previous post described how those of us trained to bring attention to the Keystone XL pipeline connected with Joshua Taflinger and Brandi Herron of the White Pines Wilderness Academy. They wanted to support those at Standing Rock who were praying to stop construction of the Dakota Access pipeline (DAPL).

This photo was taken the first time we gathered at the Wilderness Academy, 9/8/2016. They had already made that great sign that was brought to all our gatherings, including the first one on the Circle in downtown Indianapolis the next day. The second photo from the same evening shows me inside the Academy making additional signs. The next morning sign making supplies were brought downtown where people made more of them.

Gathering at White Pines Wilderness Academy to plan first action related to the Dakota Access Pipeline, Indianapolis
Me making NODAPL signs at White Pines Wilderness Academy

Making signs at a gathering in downtown Indianapolis

That gathering downtown on 9/9/206 was the first time Native Americans joined us. Sage was burned and there was drumming.

Burning sage

Drummers on the Circle, downtown Indianapolis

These are some photos from that gathering. Joshua is in the first photo.



On November 15, 2016, we gathered to go to the two banks in Indianapolis that were involved in funding DAPL, which were PNC and Chase. We stood outside each bank in silence as those who had accounts went in to close them. $110,000 was withdrawn that day.



I had my own experiences when I was living in Indianapolis, at the downtown Chase bank, where I closed my account.



Divestment is a strategy that has been used in many instances related to funding fossil fuel projects. In November 2015, several of us went to the Indianapolis offices of Morgan Stanley. We had a polite conversation with the manager about funding coal projects.


On 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.

Although we had communicated by email, this was the first time I met Ed. Among the others involved were Sikowis (Christine) Nobiss and Donnielle Wanatee. It was a beautiful day with falling snow.


Defunding projects continue to this day. This was a gathering at a Chase bank in Des Moines in December 2021. Peter Clay and Jon Krieg were present.

Des Moines, December 2021

My foundational stories: Keystone Pledge of Resistance

This is a continuation of a series of posts about the evolution of my foundational stories, which are related to the intersection between my Quaker faith, protecting Mother Earth, and photography.

Much of my justice work for the past twenty years has been and continues to be related to pipelines because they are the critical infrastructure needed to transport oil and natural gas from where they are mined, to the refineries. And against proposed “carbon” pipelines to transport carbon dioxide to storage facilities. Pipelines are usually hundreds of miles long, often traveling through fragile ecosystems and/or rivers and lakes.

It is at the construction sites that activists can resist the pipelines. Or, in the case of the Keystone XL pipeline, prevent the approval of the pipeline permit required to cross the US/Canadian border.

The stories related to each pipeline are so long that they require separate articles for each. I learned a great deal about designing and training for different ways to resist pipelines. And developed deep friendships with many amazing people. These are some of the stories related to the Keystone XL pipeline. We were able to stop its construction.

The (Keystone XL pipeline) project was delayed for the past 12 years due to opposition from U.S. landowners, Native American tribes and environmentalists.

Keystone pipeline officially canceled after Biden revokes key permit. CNBC, JUN 9, 2021

Protecting Mother Earth

Looking back over the past fifty years, it is obvious the industrial world made a fundamental error by the unrestrained use of fossil fuels. We would not be experiencing evolving environmental chaos and social collapse today if not for those tragic decisions. We disregarded the indigenous wisdom of considering the effects our actions would and are having on future generations.

But as my friend Ronnie James, an Indigenous organizer says, “it was not always this way, which proves it does not have to stay this way.”

It is sad to realize young people today have little idea of what life was like just a few decades ago, in the times before rampant fossil fuel consumption.


I’ve written many times about living my life without a car. And my futile efforts to get even one other person to give up theirs. To say I was discouraged is an understatement. (See the story about Cars as Weapons of Mass Destruction at the end of this article).

But then I found some hope. One of the benefits of the emerging use of the Internet was a way to learn about what others were doing and organizing like-minded people to work together. I discovered the Keystone Pledge of Resistance on the Internet.

Keystone Pledge of Resistance

The Keystone Pledge of Resistance was an Internet campaign designed to put pressure on President Obama to deny the permit for the Keystone XL pipeline, which would carry the thick tar sands oil from Canada to the refineries on the Gulf of Mexico.

Environmentalists were having a difficult time persuading the public and industry to transition away from fossil fuels. The environmental organizations Rainforest Action Network (RAN), CREDO, and The Other 98% recognized the Keystone decision as an opportunity to both raise awareness about the dangers of tar sands and possibly even stop the construction of the pipeline. President Obama alone would decide whether to approve the pipeline’s permit, required because it would cross the US-Canada border.

The Pledge was posted on the Internet for people to sign.

“I pledge, if necessary, to join others in my community, and engage in acts of dignified, peaceful civil disobedience that could result in my arrest in order to send the message to President Obama and his administration that they must reject the Keystone XL pipeline.”

97,236 activists signed the Pledge.

Keyston resist

The brilliant part was also collecting the contact information of those who signed, creating a grass roots network.

The website also asked if you were willing to lead in organizing an action in your community, which I did. The Rainforest Action Network identified the twenty-five cities that had the most people who had signed the Pledge and spent the summer of 2013 going to those cities to train Action Leaders. Indianapolis was not one of those twenty-five, but Des Moines, Iowa, was. Todd and Gabe held our training session at Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement. The syllabus took 8 hours to complete, with discussion about the pipeline, dangers of fossil fuels, theory of nonviolent resistance, legal aspects, all the necessary roles (media, police liaison, jail support and how to organize an action and train others to participate. Role playing was another part. Below we experience being handcuffed. The second day of the training involved the participants doing the training we received the day before.

You can see the syllabus for this training here: KXL_Pledge_Participant_Guide

Practicing being handcuffed for civil disobedience.

I returned to Indianapolis where three others, Jim Poyser, Ted Wolner, Wayne Moss, and I designed a nonviolent direct action at the Federal Building in Indianapolis. (We didn’t have to execute the action because President Obama denied the permit).


Jim Poyser, Ted Wolner and Jeff Kisling, Keystone Pledge of Resistance organizers, Indianapolis

Over the next several months we held training sessions for local people who had signed the Pledge, eventually training about 50 people. Nationwide about four hundred action leaders trained nearly 4,000 people. President Obama was made aware of this nonviolent “army” and its plans. All this was done in the open.

We used other opportunities to raise awareness about the Keystone Pipeline, fossil fuels and the effects of greenhouse gas emissions. The Indianapolis Star published this letter to the editor I wrote. Senator Donnelly had been talking about the jobs the pipeline would create. In reality less the fifty full-time jobs would be created. After this editorial, he didn’t talk about jobs again.

We also held multiple demonstrations related to the pipeline. Quakers from the North Meadow Circle of Friends often participated.

Stop the Keystone pipeline, downtown Indianapolis

The Kheprw Institute (KI), a Black youth mentoring community I was involved with, allowed us to hold a public meeting about the Keystone Resistance. Each of the Action Leaders spoke about why we were willing to risk arrest to stop the pipeline.

Kheprw Institute, Indianapolis

In addition, my friend Derek Glass created this video about KXL from some of my photos and a script I wrote.



November 6, 2015, President Obama rejected the Keystone XL pipeline permit. Then on one of the first days of the Trump administration (January 2020) the pipeline permit was approved. Finally, the Biden administration revoked the permit, and TC Energy gave up on building the pipeline.

  • Keystone XL was halted (2021) by owner TC Energy after U.S. President Joe Biden this year revoked a key permit needed for a U.S. stretch of the 1,200-mile project.
  • The Keystone XL pipeline was expected to carry 830,000 barrels per day of Alberta oil sands crude to Nebraska.
  • The project was delayed for the past 12 years due to opposition from U.S. landowners, Native American tribes and environmentalists.

Keystone pipeline officially canceled after Biden revokes key permit. CNBC, JUN 9, 2021



A Bear Creek Friend gave me this sign which meant a lot to me.

A more detailed account of my years of work in resistance to the Keystone XL pipeline can be found here: Lessons Learned from the Keystone Pledge of Resistance.


Summary

In summary, the Keystone Pledge of Resistance and actions against other pipelines and fossil fuel projects played a significant role in my foundational stories.

Protecting Mother Earth

Besides the greenhouse gas emissions from burning the oil transported in the Keystone and other pipelines, construction of pipelines disturbs the topsoil where the pipeline is constructed, often excellent soil in Iowa. Drainage systems are destroyed. And the clay that gets mixed in with the topsoil when the pipeline trench is refilled means the fields no long drain water well.

Photography

I learned a lot about taking photos as I documented our many actions related to the pipelines. And later used those photos when I wrote stories about the actions. You can see of some of those photos related to the Keystone pipeline resistance here: https://tinyurl.com/KeystoneResistance

I should note these days I don’t take photos at events that don’t have a public permit because law enforcement uses such photos to identify who was present.

Quaker

It was my Quaker faith that led me to be trained as an Action Lead in the Keystone Pledge of Resistance. Members of the Quaker meeting I attended in Indianapolis participated in demonstrations against the Keystone and Dakota Access pipelines.

Additionally, following are several reports and Minutes that were approved by my Quaker Yearly Meeting, Iowa (Conservative) over the years.


The following Minute was approved by Iowa Yearly Meeting (Conservative) in 2017.

 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.


Although we have tried to find ways to promote environmental concerns, such as supporting Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulations, engaging with the Occupy Movement, and protesting the Keystone XL Pipeline, it has become increasingly clear that traditional approaches to creating political change are not working well. Civil liberties are being eroded, making it more difficult to petition for change.
We have been trying to understand a system of irresponsible actions on the part of policy makers across the developed world related to the environment and our changing climate. It is painful to conclude that concern for each other and the environment has largely been replaced with protecting and promoting economic growth and profit without regard to the environmental consequences.

Report of the Earthcare Subcommittee, Iowa Yearly Meeting (Conservative) 2012

ENVIRONMENTAL STATEMENT OF CONCERN
Addendum to Peace and Social Concerns Committee Report 2013

[It was agreed in business session that this statement was too long to be
read and discussed and that instead it could be used as a resource and as
background material to the minute proposed by the Peace and Social
Concerns Committee and approved by the yearly meeting on Seventh
Day.]


Every good that we can do, every good that we can imagine
doing, will be for naught if we do not address climate change.

Van Jones, Rebuild the Dream, February 2013


We, members of Iowa Yearly Meeting (Conservative) of the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers), are dismayed at the damage that has been done, and continues to be done, to our environment.

The widespread availability of refined fossil fuels began to revolutionize societies worldwide early in the last century. Progress came to be defined as the development and use of a vast array of products and devices to make work and living tasks easier or to do things that weren’t
possible before. Initially the industrial revolution resulted in widespread employment, but eventually human labor was largely replaced with work done by machines, which were either directly powered by gasoline or indirectly by electricity which was usually produced by fossil fuel.

One huge effect of this was the migration from the farm to the city. Very inexpensive gasoline and the availability of personal automobiles led to urban development that assumed people would travel some distance from their homes to get to work, school, grocery stores and other businesses. That requires the use of significantly greater volumes of fossil fuel for daily life and a sprawling infrastructure of highway, water, waste, and electrical systems, and emergency and other services.

A culture evolved that changed priorities to material consumption and convenience. Business profits from that became the key drivers of economic and political policies. This move to cities tended to disconnect people’s close relationship with nature, and environmental consequences
of these changes were purposely minimized. Businesses did not want protecting the environment to impact profits, so subsidies (tax incentives, price controls, favorable trade regulations, etc.) were employed to hide the true costs of energy and water production. Environmental concerns were not the priority when they conflicted with profits. We didn’t have
ways to understand, quantitate, and price environmental damage.

There are three major problems we are now facing as a result of this:

  1. We are passing the point of peak oil production. Supplies of this nonrenewable resource are dwindling, and it will be much harder to extract the fossil fuel supplies that are left (such as tar sands). Energy return on energy investment (EROEI, or EROI) is an important concept, being the ratio of the amount of usable acquired energy divided by the energy expended to
    produce that energy. Hydroelectric power has an EROEI of 100. In the early days of easy oil extraction, oil’s EROEI was about 100, but has been falling steadily, and was 19 by 2006. Tar
    sands’ is making it hard to justify extracting it.
  2. Our economic system is dependent on continual growth. We are reaching limits to available resources to sustain that growth. Much of industry has replaced human and animal
    labor with fossil fuels and is not prepared for rapidly increasing costs and decreasing supplies of energy and water. Widespread unemployment is the root of many social problems and injustices today. Through tax laws and business regulations, this economic
    system is facilitating greater inequities in the distribution of wealth.
  3. Greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions are increasing. Carbon dioxide (CO2), primarily from burning fossil fuel, and methane (from animal digestive gases and released from thawing
    frozen deposits) trap heat in the atmosphere. That is what has kept earth air temperatures moderate. But rapidly increasing atmospheric greenhouse gas concentrations are increasing the atmospheric temperature. The consequences include melting ice caps, which results in less sunlight reflected off the ice and more heat absorbed by the earth’s surface, rising ocean water levels from the melting ice, and release of methane deposits that had
    been frozen, further increasing greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. These changes also affect ocean currents and are thought to be contributing to changing weather patterns. Warmer air holds more water. Less water returned to the earth as rain and changing precipitation patterns are contributing to desertification of some areas of the earth.

The two major ways CO2 is removed from the atmosphere (known as carbon sinks) are by:

  1. Photosynthesis of plants: Chlorophyll combines CO2 from the air with water to produce sugar and oxygen. Destruction of forests decreases this carbon sink, reducing CO2 removal (as well as decreasing oxygen production).
  2. Absorption into the ocean: CO2 combines with water to form carbonic acid. Increasing atmospheric CO2 leads to increased CO2 absorbed into the ocean, resulting in abnormal
    acidification of the ocean, which damages coral reefs and other marine life.

Unfortunately, the rate at which carbon sinks remove CO2 is significantly slower than the rate at which CO2 is being added. It is estimated that it takes about 100 years to remove CO2 after it has been added to the atmosphere. The over 14 TONS of CO2 dumped into the atmosphere by the U.S. alone in a 24 hour period will remain there for nearly 100 years, unless ways are found to increase CO2 extraction. For example, some progress is being made in developing artificial
photosynthesis, but the impact this could have on CO2 removal is not yet known.

Public education is required so that informed personal decisions and economic policies can be made. Protecting and restoring our environment must become the primary goal of political and economic policies. Addressing greenhouse gas emissions and preserving our water and food supplies must become our overriding principles. As a case in point, it is crucial that the Keystone pipeline to transport tar sands oil from Canada to the U.S. Gulf Coast not be built. CO2 from burning tar sands oil must not be added to the atmosphere, and the very high risk of contamination of the Ogallala aquifer, the primary water supply for many f the Great Plains states, cannot be justified. The construction of the Keystone pipeline has become the defining issue for our future direction. Ecocide refers to the destructive impact of humans upon the
environment, leading to human extinction. Many believe we must immediately stop greenhouse gas emissions if we are to have any chance of avoiding ecocide. Construction of the Keystone pipeline will both signal that environmental concerns will continue to be systematically
denied and likely assure that ecocide will occur. Some Friends are engaging with others in acts of civil disobedience to try to stop construction of the Keystone pipeline and raise awareness of the
consequences of building it. This is seen as an opportunity to make others aware of the climate catastrophe that continued fossil fuel extraction and use represents.

Similarly, hydraulic fracturing (fracking) for buried natural gas inserts toxic chemicals into the earth that are polluting drinking water supplies.

Approved Minute:
Iowa Yearly Meeting (Conservative) opposes the practices of both tar sands extraction and hydraulic fracturing.

Conservation (reducing use and recycling) is one of the most efficient and readily available ways to conserve energy and other resources.

Simple supply and demand will inevitably result in rapid and dramatic increases in the cost of fossil fuel products and water. Because so many sectors of the present economy rely on cheap energy and water, severe stress, and possibly even collapse of this system, will occur. Widespread travel will significantly decrease as result of both the scarcity and cost of fossil fuels. Transoceanic transport of food and other goods will cease. Changing weather patterns, droughts, desertification, pollution, and increased energy costs will increase the cost of water, since a great deal of energy is needed for water distribution. Distribution of goods, especially food, will be severely impacted. Social unrest will result.

In broad terms, a cultural shift is required to reverse what led to this point. The recent cultural shift toward secular materialism does not reflect Friends’ values. In addition, we are faced with the moral travesty of consuming nonrenewable resources and the additional environmental
damage done in the process, knowing at least some of the catastrophic effects this will have on future generations. Since this cultural and economic model is not sustainable, as it fails, we have an opportunity to help move toward a more nearly equal and socially just society. We should examine our own lives, and how our lifestyle could be changed.

Two minutes have been approved by the yearly meeting (2008, 2012) that address these issues. As they state, one of our goals is to reduce the use of or get rid of personal automobiles. It is obviously significantly more efficient to share public transportation vehicles, more and more of which use alternatives to fossil fuels. Each time we think of travel, we should consider alternatives to using a car, such as walking, bicycling, or using public transportation. Bicycles in particular can easily cover significant distances without great effort and are at the same time good exercise, as well as being enjoyable to ride. Adult tricycles are available for those who need the extra stability. Various devices can be used to help carry things like groceries. Pedal-powered trolleys can be found in more and more cities. We can encourage shared bicycle systems in our communities and the development of bicycle paths through city streets. Friends meetings should encourage bicycling, including providing bicycle racks and perhaps offering help with bicycle maintenance. This can be a visible witness.

Jeff Kisling and Sherry Hutchison, co-clerks
Peace and Social Concerns Committee


Sustainable Indiana staff include John Gibson, Jim Poyser, Shannon Anderson, Judy Voss and Richard Clough.  They have appeared in many of my blog posts, because they are involved in so many environmental efforts.  John and Jim were very active in the Keystone Pledge of Resistance, and they have all been involved in Indiana Moral Mondays and many other projects.

“Sustainable Indiana 2016 is a Indiana  Bicentennial Legacy Project of Earth Charter Indiana.  Our mission has been to collect and celebrate stories of people who are taking the lead on a sustainable future in Indiana.  This book contains some of those stories, for Hoosiers and by Hoosiers, to serve as a guide to a future that gives us a deeper and healthier connection to our environment and each others.”

They were kind enough to include one of my stories, Cars as Weapons of Mass Destruction in the Transportation chapter.

My foundational stories: 1970’s

My previous post was a description of the beginnings of my foundational stories, which related to the intersection between my Quaker faith, protecting Mother Earth, and photography. The intention of this series of articles is to show how these foundational stories changed over time.

The beginnings of the stories were about my struggles and eventual decision to resist the draft. Although I wasn’t prosecuted for that felony offense, there were other consequences. During the time it took for my family to adjust to my intention to resist the draft, I joined the Friends Volunteer Service Mission (VSM) in inner city Indianapolis in 1971. This was a Quaker part of my foundational story.

Quaker

VSM was set up to provide alternative service work for conscientious objectors. The two-year program involved working at the type of job that qualifies for alternative service, most often in a hospital. And saving enough money from that job to support yourself to work full time in the community. Others, not doing alternative service, were also able to apply.

VSM was impactful in my life in two ways. The work I found was in respiratory therapy, then called “inhalation therapy”. I received on-the-job training to do this work during my first year at VSM. After my VSM experience, I obtained a degree in respiratory therapy and worked for about five years as a neonatal respiratory therapist. And for the rest of my career worked in an infant pulmonary function research lab.

VSM was also where I began to learn important (foundational) lessons about community organizing, Quaker faith in action. Others at VSM did what I thought of as traditional organizing, which included many meetings about setting up a neighborhood health clinic or trying to prevent the construction of an interstate highway through the local community.

I quickly found I didn’t like that type of community organizing. And felt a little guilty that I didn’t. But I eventually discovered what kind of community organizing I was led to do. During my first year at VSM I spent a lot of time with the kids in the neighborhood. The VSM house was next to Second Friends Church, which had a nice yard where we played games like capture the flag. One of our VSM projects involved setting up a basketball hoop in front of the garage of the church.

There were no programs for kids in the neighborhood and I really enjoyed working with them. When thinking about what to do during my second year at VSM, it became clear I should continue to work with the kids full time. We organized a 4-H club, went swimming, and rode bicycles to shopping centers, where we played “wall ball” on the walls at the back of the stores.

This would determine my approach to social justice work for the rest of my life. What was important was being in the communities where the work was to be done. And to focus on building friendships.


Photography

At VSM, there became another way photography became important in my life. I knew how to set up a basic darkroom and did that in the VSM house bathroom. Photography became one of the kids’ favorite things to do. We would ride around the city on bicycles with a couple of (film) cameras. Then develop the negatives and print the photos. I can still see the wonder in their faces as the image gradually appeared on the paper (in the red light of the darkroom).

Now, fifty years later, on two separate occasions, kids from that time found me on Facebook. They both talked about those darkroom experiences.


Protecting Mother Earth and photography

During this time in Indianapolis (early 1970’s) I didn’t have a car, simply because I couldn’t afford one. So, riding a bicycle everywhere, including to the hospital for work, was my routine.

But moving to Indianapolis had a major (foundational) impact on me, which influenced the rest of my life. I couldn’t believe how foul the air was. I saw clouds of fumes pouring out of the exhaust of every car. This was before the availability of catalytic converters, which cut out the visibility of the exhaust, but didn’t stop the greenhouse gas emissions. No one was talking about global warming and greenhouse gases then.

But I had a profound vision of clouds of pollution blocking the view of my beloved mountains. Specifically, obscuring Long’s Peak in this photo I took and developed around the time I moved to Indianapolis. That horrific vision stayed with me the rest of my life. As a consequence, I refused to have a personal automobile for the rest of my life. (Protecting Mother Earth).

Long’s Peak, Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado

These are more of the ways my foundational stories are about the intersection between my Quaker faith, protecting Mother Earth, and photography.