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.

Eco-despair

I’m finding it difficult to put into words what I think and feel now.

I say this not as “I told you so”, but to put environmental devastation into some context related to time. Fifty years ago, this farm boy moved to Indianapolis, and was horrified by the thick, noxious clouds of smog pouring out of thousands of cars. And was led to a spiritual vision of a life without owning a car. Though I still needed them, or city buses, occasionally for transportation. But I planned where I lived so I had a walkable environment. Grocery store, laundry and work within walking distance.

Of course, I am not the only one to do so, but vast numbers of people chose the path of the automobile. The path of least resistance, or most convenience.

Indigenous peoples have lived with a fraction of my carbon footprint for thousands of years. That was one of the reasons I wanted to develop relationships with Indigenous peoples. And am blessed that happened.

So, for fifty years I’ve tried all different ways to warn of what we were doing to Mother Earth. As far as I know, I didn’t convince anyone to give up their car. In 2015 I wrote about cars as weapons of mass destruction. Seven years ago, I wrote “now is the time.” The common refrain from all of us warning of what was coming. Every year we would say now is the time.

It is now painfully obvious that we must stop burning fossil fuel now if we are to avoid the extinction of the human race.  We are out of time.  We have to stop using personal transportation now.  We have to lead the movement to embrace mass transit now.  Cars are the seeds of war.  I ask you to join me in rejecting personal automobiles.  I’m not really comfortable being this assertive now, but I regret not being assertive enough thirty years ago.  Now is the time.

Cars as weapons of mass destruction, Jeff Kisling, 9/13/2015

It was easy for people to ignore what we were doing to Mother Earth because so much of the damage was invisible or occurring slowly. Catalytic converters covered up auto emissions. Carbon dioxide and methane are invisible gases. Air temperatures were increasing gradually and helped by the oceans absorbing so much of the heat.

But the signs began to be visible. Polar bears on tiny pieces of ice. Mountain snows disappearing. Islands being covered by rising waters. Water levels of lakes and rivers falling dramatically. Forests burning, frequent, wild storms.

But this summer we can no longer hide from the earth on fire.

Those of us who paid attention had an idea of what to expect from rising greenhouse gas emissions. The devastation unfolded as we anticipated.

But we are in new territory now. I think we have all been caught by surprise at the pervasive and prolonged record-breaking air temperatures. These will likely trigger tipping points, like unthawing methane deposits in the oceans, which would cause a rapid escalation of air temperatures.

Who knows what will happen now? People assume the heat will relent. But will it?


 It took me almost a year to figure out, first, what ailed me and then to develop a remedy for it. I was, it turned out, like the miners’ canary, among the early victims of an emerging virus, the one that causes eco-despair. Unlike the canary I was still walking and talking, though my spirit had a hard time getting out of bed. The first symptom was a growing awareness that our way of life had put us on a high-speed train headed for a nasty ecological crash. Then came the question that felled me: was there any reason to hope that we would be able to change course in time to avoid it, or at least to slow the train enough to minimize the damage?

I feared the answer was no. The train was propelled by a hyper-consumption lifestyle that we equated with progress and success for us as both individuals and as a species. We were addicted to it. I didn’t think enough people could be convinced to quit or quit aspiring to it. In developed countries it would mean giving up too many conveniences that we considered our birthright. Like cars and air conditioning and ever-increasing supplies of electricity and running water, both cold and hot. In the developing ones it would mean letting go of the dream of attaining that lifestyle.

A case of eco-despair by A.J. Chopra


What can I do?

I recently came across the idea of learned helplessness, and wrote about it in Reject Learned Helplessness. Be at the IUB tomorrow.

As expected, I would estimate forty people did show up at the Iowa Utilities Board (IUB) to express their opposition to the construction of carbon pipelines in Iowa. Which is about what those of us working for change have come to expect. But that’s a ridiculously small number when the entire state of Iowa will suffer the consequences if those pipelines are built.

Iowa Utilities Board

According to the American Psychological Association, learned helplessness occurs when someone repeatedly faces uncontrollable, stressful situations, then does not exercise control when it becomes available.

They have “learned” that they are helpless in that situation and no longer try to change it, even when change is possible.

What is learned helplessness? by Jayne Leonard, Medical News Today, May 31, 2019

Learned helplessness has helped me understand, a little, why so many people seem to have given up on working for change. Any change, anywhere. It is an understatement to say we face “uncontrollable, stressful situations” today. Situations that have significantly worsened in just the past few months. To name just a few:

  • a collapsing economy
  • significantly rising gas prices
    • impacting the personal budget of everyone
    • affecting the prices of all good
  • global, dangerously high air temperatures
  • widespread drought and significantly diminished rivers and lakes
  • pandemics
  • famine
  • war
  • domestic terrorism
  • abusive policing
  • paralyzed legislatures
  • rogue Supreme Court

This blog post has gone in an unanticipated direction, but that’s often the case. I had intended to discuss the many positive effects of Mutual Aid. It looks like that is going to be delayed. Because it won’t do much good to talk about the positive changes Mutual Aid can bring about, if people are really stuck in learned helplessness. If they will not change.

“everywhere people ask, “what can we do?” The question, what can we do, is the second question.

The first question is “what can we be?” Because what you can do is a consequence of who you are. Once you know what you can be, you know what you can do”

Arkan Lushwala

In May 2018, I was blessed to hear Arkan Lushwala speak about “Indigenous Ways of Restoring the World” during a call sponsored by the Pachamama Alliance.  “Arkan Lushwala is a rare indigenous bridge of the global north and south, carrying spiritual traditions from the Andes in his native Peru as well as being adopted and initiated by the Lakota people of North America.”


The answer to “what can I do?”

Speaking about what is happening on Earth right now,
many of the conditions of life that we used to take for granted,
now are really out of balance.
Hopefully we still have time to get back into balance
so life may continue.
I travel around the world and meet people and talk to people
from all different cultures.
And everywhere people ask, “what can we do?”
The question, what can we do, is the second question.
The first question is “what can we be?”
Because what you can do is a consequence of who you are.
Once you know what you can be, you know what you can do,
and we cannot afford wasting time;
we have little time.
We need to be precise now.
When someone sincerely asks, “what can I do?”
my humble answer,
the only answer that I find in my heart to be sincere is,
“First find out what you can be.”
Action is extremely necessary at this time.
This is not a time just to talk about it.
The most spiritual thing now is action.
To do something about what’s happening.
To go help where help is needed.
To stand up when we need to stand up,
and protect what is being damaged.
And still, this action needs to be born
from a place in ourselves
that has real talent,
real intelligence, real power,
real connection to the heart of the Earth,
to universal wisdom,
so our actions are not a waste of time.
So our actions are precise,
our actions are in harmony with the movement,
the sacred movement,
of that force that wants to renew life here on Earth
and make it better for the following generations.

Arkan Lushwala


The most spiritual thing now is action.
This action needs to be born from a place in ourselves.

Arkan Lushwala

Public comments at Iowa Utilities Board

I was glad to see a number of friends, and others I don’t know, at yesterday’s monthly Iowa Utilities Board Meeting (IUB). Some traveled some distance. From Iowa City, for example.

And yet, it is discouraging to see so few people engaged with things like this carbon pipeline resistance. Additionally, it is crazy to see the US Supreme court gut the ability of the Environmental Protection Agency to protect almost anything. And the Biden administration doing all it can to stimulate oil production.

There was the expected Iowa State Patrol presence at the IUB, both outside and in the hearing room.

I was struck by the symbolism of the board versus the crowd. The board members on a dais, everyone dressed in suits. The participants dressed casually. Seated a long way from the board members.

Video monitors were all over the place. Initially displaying the agenda. But then during open comments, showing the time clicking down from three minutes, the limit for each person to comment. You could feel the reluctance of the board members to hear the comments. And yet, the instructions from the board to individual participants were polite.

I wish I could have stayed longer, but all the comment I heard were articulate expressions of strong opposition to the carbon pipelines. One county supervisor said he was convinced that the approval was a foregone conclusion, and these hearings were a sham. A farmer described how the pipeline would not only destroy his tile system but impact the farms upstream from his.