Building the Future We Want

I wrote about the Rally for Reproductive Justice at the Iowa Women of Achievement bridge in downtown Des Moines last Friday. The event was a case study of how I hope and pray we find our way toward the goal of Beloved community. This is urgent now as the systems we have depended on continue to collapse around us.

White Christian problem

I’m always uncomfortable talking about myself but being asked to take photos at this event represents one principle of how we can work together. White males represent/perpetuate the systems of dominance that we must get rid of. Being a white male, I work to avoid those attributes in what I do.

White people need to wait to be invited into this work. So, I was honored that one of my friends, Sikowis Nobiss, of the Great Plains Action Society asked me to take photos at the rally. It takes a long time for this trust to develop. I’ve been working with the Great Plains Action Society for five years.

Sikowis Nobiss

There were several signs at the gathering like the one below that say “end the white Christian problem and keep abortions legal”. White supremacy is at the root of systems of dominance and oppression. White Christians should work to liberate themselves from their systems of dominance and oppression. In the process, helping liberate those oppressed by those systems.


I’m going to try to explain how the principles of the Red/Green New Deal in the diagram above were represented at the Reproductive Justice event. The Green New Deal (GND) represents the idea of modeling bold initiatives to address environmental disaster on the New Deal of the 1930’s.

LANDBACK

The Red New Deal stands for Indigenous led Green New Deal. This is represented in the diagram above as LANDBACK.

The Reproductive Justice rally was supported by the many justice organizations in Iowa listed in this graphic. My friend Sikowis Nobiss of the Great Plains Action Society was one of the main organizers (and who asked me to take photos). Other Indigenous friends included Mahmud Fitil who took video via a drone, Donnielle Wanatee, who gave prayers, and Ronnie James of Des Moines Mutual Aid who setup the Wells Fargo Kills Communities banner. Our gathering was just across the street from the Wells Fargo Arena.

NOTE: I have another blog which is about LANDBACK titled LANDBACK Friends.

It is the reclamation of everything stolen from the original Peoples.

  • Land
  • Language
  • Ceremony
  • Medicines
  • Kinship

It is a relationship with Mother Earth that is symbiotic and just, where we have reclaimed stewardship. 
It is bringing our People with us as we move towards liberation and embodied sovereignty through an organizing, political and narrative framework. 
It is a catalyst for current generation organizers and centers the voices of those who represent our future. 
It is recognizing that our struggle is interconnected with the struggles of all oppressed Peoples.
It is a future where Black reparations and Indigenous LANDBACK co-exist. Where BIPOC collective liberation is at the core. 
It is acknowledging that only when Mother Earth is well, can we, her children, be well. 
It is our belonging to the land – because – we are the land. 
We are LANDBACK!

LANDBACK Manifesto


Black Liberation

BIPOC stands for Black, Indigenous, and other people of color. White supremacy is the attempt of White people to dominate those who are not white, i.e. BIOPC people. Much of what I’ve been writing about regarding Indigenous peoples applies to black and other people of color. The obvious differences relate to the history of enslavement and continued injustices related to skin color.

From the LANDBACK Manifesto (above): “It is a future where Black reparations and Indigenous LANDBACK co-exist. Where BIPOC collective liberation is at the core.” This is represented by Black Liberation in the diagram above.

One of the main organizations involved in the Rally for Reproductive Justice was Des Moines Black Liberation. The concept of black liberation represents moving beyond the concept of Black Lives Matter.


Abolition

Today abolition commonly refers to abolition of police and prisons. The public lynching of so many unarmed Black and other people of color appear relentlessly because of news and bystander videos. There are incredible inequities of prison populations and long sentences of BIPOC people compared to white people. Prisons are abused to keep BIPOC people off the streets.

There are numerous examples of the success of dispatching mental health personnel instead of police where appropriate.

Mutual Aid

Mutual Aid has been my focus for justice work for the past several years. While Des Moines Mutual Aid is not listed in the organizations supporting the Rally for Reproductive Justice, several of us were at the Rally. One thing they did while I was taking photos was set up this banner calling attention to missing and murdered Indigenous relatives (MMIR).

The Rally for Reproductive Justice was in solidarity with the annual day of awareness about MMIR that is observed at this time. The Wells Fargo banner calls attention to the bank’s financing fossil fuel projects. Pipelines are often intentionally built near native communities. Violence against native peoples occurs from the men in the camps at the construction sites. The Wells Fargo Arena is just across the street from where the rally was held.

The color red is associated with MMIR. Many in the crowd at the rally wore red, and the Women of Achievement bridge was lit in red for the same reason.

Bridge lit in red in support of missing and murdered Indigenous relatives

As shown in the graphic above, Mutual Aid is about getting rid of vertical hierarchies, which is fundamental for building Beloved communities. There won’t be power structures of superiority, dominance, and oppression if we commit to the framework of Mutual Aid.

Conservation

For healing for Mother Earth to occur, it is essential to dramatically reduce extraction and consumption of resources. We must act in a manner that will be best for the next seven generations.

Spirituality (Religious socialism)

My friend Donnielle Wanatee offered prayers during the Rally.

Donnielle Wanatee

That briefly covers what is included in the graphic above (Red/Green New Deal).


I wanted to mention there were people at the rally to sign for those with hearing impairments.

One of the other organizations supporting the Rally was Iowa CCI (Citizens for Community Improvement) that I’ve just begun to become involved with. One of my friends is Jake Grobe, who is the Climate Justice Organizer for Iowa CCI. Jake and I often see each other at the Des Moines Mutual Aid food giveaway each Saturday morning.

Jake and Sikowis are two of the people who did a great deal of work creating a new coalition, the Buffalo Rebellion. This coalition will do much to help us build the future we want. The Buffalo Rebellion recently held an intense Climate Summit that I was blessed to attend, to build a network of climate and justice advocates.

Sikowis Nobiss and Jake Grobe

As my Mutual Aid friends and I left the Rally we said, “I’ll see you in the morning” where we’ll be at our food giveaway.

Reproductive Justice

NOTE: Date changed to Friday, May 6

The recently unveiled draft of a Supreme Court decision to end Roe and Casey has sparked vigorous national conversations and actions related to reproductive justice.

My thoughts went to White supremacy and colonization because of my past few years of learning from my Indigenous and Mutual Aid friends.

“We must abolish white supremacist and christian institutions that perpetuate colonial harm to oppress those that don’t fall into their manifest destiny paradigm.”

This comes just before the National Day of Awareness for Missing and Murdered Indigenous Relatives, May 6.

Event by Great Plains Action SocietyDes Moines Black Liberation Movement and 2 others

700 Robert D Ray Dr, Des Moines, IA 50316, United States
May 6, 2022
6:45 – 8:30 pm
Public  · Anyone on or off Facebook

Wear red and join us on the east side of the Women of Achievement Bridge (which will be lit red for MMIR day) in the Muto Recreation Area in Des Moines to demand reproductive justice!

The draft to end Roe and Casey was leaked just two days before the National Day of Awareness for Missing and Murdered Relatives (aka, Missing and Murdered Women and Girls). We are honoring this day by uplifting radical solidarity within all communities affected by colonial violence when body sovereignty is stolen from us.

Join our coalition of organizations and grassroots activists for a rally to demand abortion access, which plays a huge role in ending the MMIR crisis. Lack of access increases violence and health disparities in BIPOC, Disabled, LGBTQIA+, and Two-Sprit communities. Learn more from speakers and crowd testimony on how this affects these communities and take action on a wider scope than just abortion. We must abolish white supremacist and christian institutions that perpetuate colonial harm to oppress those that don’t fall into their manifest destiny paradigm.

Thank you to the Iowa Coalition Against Domestic Violence for lighting the bridge and amphitheater red on May 5th in honor of MMIR Day of Awareness! The bridge will also be lit red on May 6th for our event!

ASL provided.
LiveStreamed to this page.

This event was organized by:
– Iowa Coalition for Collective Change
– Great Plains Action Society
– The Disability Caucus of the Iowa Democratic Party
– Iowa CCI
– Des Moines BLM
– Sierra Club Beyond Coal
– Deaf Dome
– The Progressive Caucus of the Iowa Democratic Party
– Iowa Abortion Access Fund
– One Iowa

The leaked draft Supreme Court opinion written by Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. posits not only the total evisceration of constitutional protection for abortion but of an entire line of substantive due-process cases. Alito’s draft includes a disclaimer that “nothing in this opinion should be understood to cast doubt on precedents that do not concern abortion,” but in ridiculing “appeals to a broader right to autonomy,” he implicitly casts doubt on precedent prohibiting prosecution of gay sexual relations and of same-sex marriage.

The Supreme Court’s religion-driven mission sets off a firestorm by Jennifer Rubin, The Washington Post, 5/3/2022

Over the past 50 years, Americans (and for that matter, citizens of other Western democracies) have become accustomed to a legal system that draws a line between permissible and impermissible government actions. We have become accustomed to a culture in which we are entitled to a degree of personal autonomy, to control of the most meaningful, personal aspects of our own lives. In the U.S., polling repeatedly shows that large majorities believe that a woman should be able to control her own body and make her own reproductive decisions, that people of the same sex or different races should have the right to marry, that decisions to use or forgo contraception is none of government’s business.

A minority of paternalistic religious critics have worked  tirelessly to turn back the clock– to return to a time when these decisions were made by the White Christian Males in charge, those Rubin properly characterized as a “fading racial, religious and political minority.” Alito’s draft represents a massive victory for that minority. If it is seen accurately for what it promises–a steady stream of decisions depriving citizens of hard-won rights to live their “intimate” lives as they see fit– I believe furious Americans will launch a civil revolution of massive proportions.

About That Civil War.. by Sheila Kennedy, Sheila Kennedy blog, 5/4/2022

These are photos from previous observations related to awareness about missing and murdered Indigenous relatives.


Path of Peace

I refused to have a car for the nearly fifty years I lived in Indianapolis, initially for environmental reasons. That was possible by walking, running, and using the city bus system. Moving to Indianola, Iowa, which doesn’t have public transportation, has made it necessary to use my parent’s car for long distance travel. I still walk in town. But I always feel bad when I drive.

We usually drove the forty miles in each direction to attend Bear Creek Meeting on Sundays. But that ended with the pandemic, for now.

It’s a testament to how important Mutual Aid is to me that I drive to Des Moines every Saturday morning.

I try to make the most of each trip by taking photographs on the way in, or out of Des Moines, sometimes both. I leave a little early to have time for that. Yesterday I left later than usual and wondered if I had time to stop somewhere. I drove past the usual places, like Ewing Park and Easter Lake, but as I neared the church where our food project was done, I saw I did have about ten minutes to spare. The sculpture, “Path of Peace” was nearby. My dad, Burt Kisling, and Chuck Day were involved in having the sculpture installed on the Des Moines Area Community College campus.

I’m grateful for this video by my friend Rodger Routh.

Dedicated to peace and peacemakers, a ten-ton limestone sculpture, named “Path of Peace,” by Ron Dinsdale, portrays of three doves. It was installed on May 10, 2012 near Interstate 235 just south of Des Moines Area Community College’s Urban Campus. The sculpture was created out of a solid 14-ton block of Indiana Bedford limestone, one of the materials used to construct the Iowa State Capital in the late 1880s (between 1871 and 1886). This sculpture was supported by the Urban DMACC Campus, the Des Moines City Council, and the Iowa State Department of Transportation, as the first “I-235 Corridor Gateway Sculpture.”

Path of Peace.  Ron Dinsdale

It was a life-long dream that flourished in my soul.

Ron Dinsdale

#StopBurningCoal

I was talking with my friend Jake Grobe, of Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement (ICCI) recently as we were working at the Des Moines Mutual Aid free food project. (see: Des Moines Mutual Aid Networking). He knows I am a photographer and asked me to take photos at the Iowa Energy Center Meeting yesterday. The reason for going to the meeting is MidAmerican’s CEO Kelcey Brown has refused multiple requests to meet with ICCI and she was going to be at this meeting.

Jake is ICCI’s Climate Justice Organizer. From his bio: He believes that climate justice is an intersectional fight for racial, economic, and social justice. “Humanity confronts a great dilemma: to continue on the path of capitalism, depredation, and death, or to choose the path of harmony with nature and respect for life.”

“Climate justice is an intersectional fight for racial, economic, and social justice” is the premise of Religious Socialism. https://quakersandreligioussocialism.com/

Jake said, “our climate justice team organized this action. We had the intention of shutting down the meeting if we were ignored and did because these coal plants are a leading contributor to the climate crisis which is an existential threat to everything we love.”

There were handouts (below) and signs. And preparation prior to going into the building together. Jake summarized the intention of the meeting, the issues, and what the action would be if the board did not address their coal power plants. Including leaving as a group if the police were called. No arrests were planned. The police were called and showed up right after we walked out of the building.

Here is what Iowa Energy Center Board’s agenda was supposed to be: https://www.iowaeda.com/board-agenda/ieda-energyfeb22/

Our group entered the conference room quietly. Signs were kept out of sight by hiding them under coats. When the meeting asked if anyone wished to speak during public comments, four people from our group raised their hand (who had prepared ahead of time what they would say). Each person was allotted two and a half minutes.

When the first person began speaking, the signs “Your Greed Kills. MidAmerican Iowa’s #1 Polluter” were uncovered and passed among us. But everyone listened quietly with some finger snapping to support certain comments.

When the time for public comments had expired, Jake continued to speak. Asking Kelcey Brown to explain why MidAmerican was not going to shut down their five coal plants, raising many of the points in the handout below. Kelcey Brown said something like thanks for your comments and then didn’t respond when Jake made the ask that she meet with us to discuss our demands. When he kept going after that she briskly walked out. 

Jake continued to speak over calls from the board that the time for public comments was over. He spoke about the existential threat of greenhouse gas emissions. Asking if members of the board weren’t worried how their own children would be affected. He pointed out MidAmerican’s development of wind power wouldn’t matter if they continued burning coal until 2049.

This made me think of the term, going into the belly of the beast, meaning “being in the middle of a very bad situation or a dangerous place.” Also, “speaking truth to power.”

Humanity confronts a great dilemma: to continue on the path of capitalism, depredation, and death, or to choose the path of harmony with nature and respect for life.

Jake Grobe

The issue of CO2 pipelines came up, which we are definitely against.

Jake and a few others in our group continued to ask questions. After some time, the board adjourned, and we were told it was time to leave. Jake said a few more things, then asked us if we were ready to go. In the preparation Jake said we would leave on our own terms, and we did.

Katie Bryan, ICCI’s communication director called me prior to the action to make sure I knew there might be some intervention at the meeting. And we discussed how I would get the photos to her. She also suggested if possible, sharing photos as the action was occurring. Not being adept at either using my phone camera, or using twitter, I did manage to send her the photo that she was able to use in the tweets below.

Our Demands

  • Shut down coal plants by 2030 at the latest 
  • No utility shut offs and utility bill relief for working people who don’t qualify for LIHEAP 
  • Reinvest into energy efficiency programs above pre-2018 levels

Facts 

MidAmerican Energy is the single biggest carbon polluter in the state

  • They own five coal-powered plants to generate electricity and plan to keep burning coal until 2049
  • A report of MidAmerican’s electricity generation in 2020 shows that all the electricity they generated from coal was in excess of Iowa’s needs 
  • In fact, nearly a third of all the electricity they generated was sold to other utilities out of the state for $124.3 million
  • It’s clear that MidAmerican Energy is burning coal for greed, not for need. And we’re paying the price. 
  • In 2020, the excess coal generation in Iowa sent 16,977,124 tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, representing economic harm ranging from $865 million to $2.58 billion.
  • Sponsoring a *small* fleet of electric buses in our city is a greenwashing scheme and an empty gesture when you consider that in order to offset the last two years of MidAm’s C02 emissions, they’d have to electrify 193,000 buses! 

MidAmerican Energy is making working families pay more to keep their homes warm

  • In 2018, MidAmerican spent over $100,000 dollars to lobby Republicans in the Iowa state legislature to pass a bill that made massive cuts to energy efficiency programs
  • This included $9,000 to State Rep. Gary Carlson who spearheaded the bill, $16,000 to Republican Senate Majority Leader Jack Whitver, $11,5000 to Republican Senate president Jake Chapman, $10,000 to Republican House Majority Leader Pat Grassley, and $10,000 to Kim Reynolds since 2018
  • Since that bill passed, working families are getting less help to weatherize their homes to keep them warm in the winter and cool in the summer
  • MidAmerican Energy reported kilowatt-hour savings for 2020 that were 64% lower than what the utility achieved the year before the law took effect.
  • Now, MidAmerican customers are paying twice as much for their heat and 61,000 Iowan families have been forced to apply for utility assistance because they can’t pay their bills!  
  • Meanwhile – MidAmerican is on track to make over a billion in yearly profits, another record year! 
  • This is corporate greed and political corruption at it’s finest! 

MidAmerican Energy could save ratepayers over $1 billion by retiring their coal fleet by 2030

Study published by Synapse Energy Economics, a nationally recognized energy analytics firm

  • Recent expert analysis shows that retiring MidAm’s coal fleet by 2030 and replacing it with solar, wind, battery storage, and energy efficiency would save ratepayers $1.2 billion through 2040, while creating high-quality jobs for Iowans.
  • $1.2 billion is their conservative estimate! — In the likely scenario that high gas prices continue and we finally see a national tax on carbon emissions, MidAm would save $5 billion by retiring its coal fleet by 2030 instead of allowing it to remain online indefinitely!!!! 
  • That same scenario would also reduce carbon emissions by 318 million tons by 2040!
  • When the captive customers of MidAmerican pay for their power, they certainly are not agreeing to health impacts or death as a part of the deal. Yet, MidAmerican corporate greed results in 5 to 13 Iowans dying per year and increases the health care costs of Iowans by $64,681,145 to $145,675,343.  

MidAmerican Energy is poisoning Iowa’s water

  • MidAmerican has coal plants and stores ash on the banks of the Missouri, Des Moines, and Mississippi rivers, at least 3 sites have been found to be polluting groundwater above federal advisory levels 
  • MidAmerican emissions are worsening the climate crisis which is making droughts worse and drying up Iowa’s waterways. Hotter temperatures combined with lesser water flow is increasing blue-green algae blooms which make the water toxic. This has gotten so bad, that the major water sources for the Des Moines metro area have been untappable at times during the last two summers. 
  • Water is life!

#StopBurningCoal

CO2 Pipeline Dangers

After nearly a decade of work to resist the Keystone XL, Dakota Access, Coastal GasLink and other fossil fuel pipelines it is so discouraging to witness plan for an entirely new type of pipeline. These pipelines go by several names, including CO2, or Carbon pipelines. They have the potential to do so much damage, represent grave dangers and have already done so.

My friends Rodger Ruth and Mahmud Fitil have an excellent discussion about these pipelines in the video at the end of this.

But I want to tell you about an event tonight. The carbon in these pipelines is under high pressure. When there is a rupture there is an explosion and then the rapid release of vast amounts of carbon dioxide, which displaces oxygen in the air. People immediately become disorientated. Vehicles stop working because there is not enough oxygen to burn the gas in the engines. The deaths of large numbers of people could occur if such a rupture happened in a highly populated area. First responders become disoriented as well. That is what will be discussed in this webinar.

Such an explosion and those consequences actually happened in Satartia, Mississippi, and will be the discussion of a webinar tonight.

https://www.facebook.com/events/930148724538738/

Join us Monday, January 24, for a webinar hosted by Food & Water Watch and the Iowa Chapter of the Sierra Club, featuring stories from first responders and residents of Satartia, Mississippi, site of the 2020 carbon pipeline rupture, moderated by Dan Zegart, the investigative journalist who broke the story nationally in 2021

Event by Food & Water Watch Iowa and Iowa Chapter Sierra Club
https://www.facebook.com/events/930148724538738/