The approval for the construction of the Mountain Valley Pipeline (MVP) remained in the debt ceiling legislative just passed by the US Congress. This is an egregious act on many levels.
The Mountain Valley Pipeline (MVP) is a project proposed in 2014 that would transport fracked gas from West Virginia to southern Virginia through a 300-mile pipeline. The project has sparked widespread opposition for years from environmentalists, civil rights activists, and local residents who are concerned about its impacts on water quality, wildlife, climate change, and Indigenous and property rights.
The MVP was approved by Congress as part of the debt ceiling deal that was just passed. The deal included a provision that declared the MVP as “required in the national interest” and ordered the federal agencies to issue the necessary permits within 21 days and shield the project from legal challenges. The provision also weakened the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), a law that requires environmental reviews for major federal actions that affect the environment.
Many of us have criticized the deal that undermines:
the rule of law
and environmental justice
The MVP contradicts President Biden’s pledge to combat the climate crisis and transition to clean energy..
I recently wrote “What should be non-negotiable” to try to explain, yet again, why we can not allow continued construction of fossil fuel infrastructure, from pipelines to carbon capture to gas stations.
I know what it’s like to work year after year, fighting to protect Mother Earth from fossil fuels. I was going to say that for me this began in 2013 when I was trained as an Action Lead in the Keystone Pledge of Resistance. But it began much earlier when I was led to live without a car when I moved to Indianapolis in 1970. My love for nature actually began from growing up on farms and camping trips to national parks.
Of course, Indigenous peoples have worked to protect Mother Earth for centuries.
It’s not easy to maintain years-long resistance to a cause. That is one reason why approval of MVP is devastating. It is difficult to find people who are willing to work for justice causes. Difficult to organize and get people to commit to various actions. To get people to move outside their comfort zone. To face all kinds of opposition, time and time again. And all too often the cause is defeated. The pipelines and other infrastructure continue to be built. Mother Earth takes another hit.
Such is the case with the Mountain Valley Pipeline. Its approval hurts not only those who worked so hard against MVP, but everyone working on any environmental cause. It shows yet again the Federal administration and Congress do not understand the gravity of our evolving environmental devastation.
It also shows, again, that environmental solutions will not come from the dominant political culture in this country. Which is why I am so grateful to have been led to my Mutual Aid community. We work locally, within the community, to address basic needs. Instead of talking and having committee meetings, we come together to help our neighbors with food and shelter.
And we strive to advance Indigenous leadership. Indigenous ways can help clean our waters and move toward living sustainably. Help us heal our relationships with Mother Earth and all our relations.
The circle is completed when Indigenous peoples support Mutual Aid, as Des Moines Mutual Aid is supported by the Great Plains Action Society (GPAS). Mutual Aid is one of the methods in the GPAS’s mechanism of engagement.
Yesterday was another episode in the saga of not only carbon pipelines but Indigenous rights more broadly.
There is increasing pressure from many places to use the idea of carbon capture and storage to meet the goals of reducing greenhouse gas emissions. The Biden administration is supporting this unproven technology, which even if it worked would not impact global greenhouse gas concentrations. This is something I’ve written about extensively. (See: https://quakersandreligioussocialism.com/?s=carbon+pipeline )
Carbon dioxide (CO2) pipelines are classified as carrying hazardous materials because they pose significant safety risks in case of a rupture. CO2 is a colorless, odorless gas that can displace oxygen and cause asphyxiation at high concentrations. It can also travel long distances from the pipeline after a leak, creating a large danger zone for people and animals. According to the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA), CO2 pipelines require special safety measures such as corrosion control, leak detection, emergency response plans, and public awareness programs.
There is environmental racism in building pipelines and storage facilities near Indigenous lands. This occurred when the route of the Dakota Access Pipeline was moved away from Bismark, to Standing Rock, when Bismark residents feared contamination of their water.
This environmental racism also facilitates the epidemic of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Relatives because of the “man camps” of pipeline/storage construction workers.
Now there is a similar situation, where landowners, developers, and politicians in Bismark are opposing a proposed carbon dioxide storage project near them.
Not in my backyard
They are showing up in earnest in opposition to the Midwest Carbon Express pipeline, a plan of Summit Carbon Solutions to gather up 12 million tons of CO2 from 31 ethanol plants in five states and send it through pipelines to be sequestered at an underground storage facility in western North Dakota.
The project is well underway, but an apparently well-funded and vocal group of folks, many of them who no doubt appreciate the jobs and tax revenues provided by fossil fuels, are fighting the proposed pipeline tooth and nail.
To be fair, these developers, home builders, politicians and homeowners don’t seem to oppose the pipeline in general, they just don’t want it to be close to places where they live or where they might enrich their businesses with new housing development and construction.
In other words, they don’t mind if the pipeline impacts someone else, they just don’t want it to impact them.
My friends at the Great Plains Action Society continue to teach us about Indigenous views and rights. My friend Sikowis Nobiss worked to have a panel discussion related to Indigenous peoples as part of this PHMSA gathering. You can hear her, and others’ remarks here: https://fb.watch/kUlb4S3XCb
Sikowis spoke about most tribal nations not being consulted about these pipelines.
And spoke about the safety equipment that is required for first responders wherever the pipeline is built. Such as oxygen supplies and electric vehicles. Leaked carbon dioxide can spread quickly and stays near the ground, potentially causing asphyxia. Sikowis asks, where is the money going to come from for tribal nations to purchase such safety equipment?
She also spoke about the biome below ground and how we don’t know how pipelines and carbon storage affect that.
Sikowis concluded by pointing out how these are unproven technologies. And asks for a moratorium on these projects until more research is done.
Our Executive Director, Sikowis Nobiss, is speaking today on the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration’s (PHMSA) Technical Safety Panel regarding safety concerns in light of several proposed projects slated for Iowa and the Great Plains region after a recent incident in 2021 at Satartia, Mississippi. Earlier this year PHMSA has stated updated safety regulations tailored specifically for carbon dioxide pipelines are needed and will take 1-3 years to establish—the same timeframe these proposed projects aim for completion.
As such, we call for a federal moratorium until regulations are complete and moreover don’t believe they should be actualized at all! Rather, re-Matriation of Prairie can safely, effectively and efficiently sequester carbon dioxide just as good or better than any of these techno-solutions.
It was very important that Sikowis was able to speak during the PHMSA meeting.
We had also planned to hold a rally outside the Marriott Hotel the meetings were held at. Unfortunately our efforts were thwarted by police who were working for the hotel. So we gathered across the street with our signs, and people spoke about these issues.
This public public meeting and forum on carbon dioxide (CO2) pipeline safety is entitled: “CO2 Public Meeting 2023.” The public meeting will serve as an opportunity for pipeline stakeholders to help inform pipeline safety-related rulemaking decisions and share information surrounding CO2 pipeline safety. Key stakeholders include the public, states, tribal governments, other federal agencies, industry, and international regulators and/or organizations. Key topics are expected to include:
Safety expectations for pipeline operators.
General state of CO2 pipeline infrastructure – current mileage and forecasts.
Federal and state jurisdictions and authorities.
Public awareness, engagement, and emergency notification.
Emergency equipment, training, and response.
Safety measures to address other constituents besides CO2 in CO2 pipelines.
February 22, 2020, a carbon capture pipeline ruptured in Satartia, Mississippi, which brought attention to the multiple hazards of carbon pipeline ruptures.
Just after 7pm on February 22, 2020, a carbon capture pipeline ruptured in Satartia, Mississippi. Shortly after a greenish cloud settled into the valley surrounding the little town. Within minutes, people were inside the cloud, gasping for air, nauseated, and dazed. What follows are firsthand accounts of the victims and first responders.
PHMSA Announces New Safety Measures to Protect Americans From Carbon Dioxide Pipeline Failures After Satartia, MS Leak
WASHINGTON – The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) today announced it is taking steps to implement new measures to strengthen its safety oversight of carbon dioxide (CO2) pipelines around the country and protect communities from dangerous pipeline failures. The new measures, as well as an enforcement action taken today are a result of PHMSA’s investigation into a CO2 pipeline failure in Satartia, Mississippi in 2020 that resulted in local evacuations and caused almost 50 people to seek medical attention.
To strengthen CO2 pipeline safety, PHMSA is undertaking the following:
initiating a new rulemaking to update standards for CO2 pipelines, including requirements related to emergency preparedness, and response;
issuing an updated nationwide advisory bulletin to all pipeline operators underscoring the need to plan for and mitigate risks related to land-movements and geohazards that pose risks to pipeline integrity like the 2020 incident in Satartia, Mississippi; and
“I recently visited with the first responders in Satartia to hear firsthand of the pipeline failure so that we can improve safety and environmental protections for CO2 pipelines and work to protect communities from experiences like this,” said PHMSA Deputy Administrator Tristan Brown. “The safety of the American people is paramount and we’re taking action to strengthen CO2 pipeline safety standards to better protect communities, our first responders, and our environment.”
PHMSA’s investigation identified a number of probable violations in connection with the 2020 accident, including the following alleged failures:
the lack of timely notification to the National Response Center to ensure the nearby communities were informed of the threat;
the absence of written procedures for conducting normal operations, as well as those that would allow the operator to appropriately respond to emergencies, such as guidelines for communicating with emergency responders; and
a failure to conduct routine inspections of its rights-of-way, which would have fostered a better understanding of the environmental conditions surrounding its facilities that could pose a threat to the safe operation of the pipeline.
Although carbon capture and storage is a false solution to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, there is tremendous pressure from many sources to build these systems so companies can claim they are meeting requirements to reduce emissions.
Great Plains Action Society is firmly opposed to proposed carbon capture and sequestration or storage (CCS) projects (aka, CO2 Pipelines) such as Summit’s Midwest Carbon Express, Navigator’s Heartland Greenway, and Wolf Carbon Solutions’ ADM pipelines. The reasons for our opposition are numerous, however, our greatest concern is that CCS only serves the interests of the fossil fuel industry and that the government will sanction further land theft and harm to communities on Indigenous territories. Carbon capture and sequestration is by design a way to prolong the usage of fossil fuels while reducing CO2 emissions. Amidst this climate emergency, we must demand a reduction and phase out fossil fuels as a wider part of a just transition.
We are also concerned about intense water usage as drought and warmer temperatures are greatly affecting access to clean water. Fossil fuel companies have known that their products were contributing to climate change for over forty years and now they see CCS as a government bail-out with many governmental subsidies providing just the type of perverse incentive for CCS operators to manipulate the system. Additionally, there are the same concerns present with other pipeline projects in the area regarding degradation of the land, disturbance of sacred ceremonial and burial sites. CO2 pipelines are also dangerous because when they rupture, they can spread over 1300 ft in under 4 min making it impossible to breathe and for vehicles to drive. First responders are not at all prepared to deal with such a catastrophe and many have been pushing back C02 pipelines for this reason alone. Furthermore, Indigenous communities will inevitably face encroachment on to treaty land, including environmentally racist moves on behalf of individual states to make sure that CCS does not negatively affect wealthy, white communities with influential power.
CCS is greenwashing rather than a solution to the climate emergency that Iowans deserve, as Indigenous people, we remain committed to the water, the land, and the future generations of Iowans.
Writing these blog posts can be difficult. It can be hard to discern what to write. To listen to the silence is a spiritual practice. And I most often write about spiritual matters, which are difficult to put into words.
Then publish what is written on the Internet for anyone in the world to read. That was intimidating at first. But after a while, you find you don’t usually get much response, positive or negative.
Perhaps the most difficult is writing things likely to upset or hurt people you care about. But I try to discern/speak/write the truth as I understand it to the best of my ability.
Religious and faith groups that have existed for a long time have often done things and/or held beliefs that resulted in injustice. For example, there is the doctrine of a “just war.” Of the Christian Crusades. Or the Doctrine of Discovery (1452) that specifically sanctioned and promoted the conquest, colonization, and exploitation of non-Christian territories and peoples.
These and many other injustices occurred because White Christians had significant political influence. And were involved in the theft of land from and subjugation of many Indigenous peoples. These injustices persist because White supremacy and oppression continue.
It is common to be most critical of those we look to be examples of our beliefs. I was raised in Quaker communities, where there is great emphasis on living our lives consistent with our beliefs. I’ve been led to see most White Quakers are failing to achieve that.
One way Quakers work for justice is to refuse to participate in organizations that are involved in unjust work. That sometimes involves boycotting products or services from such companies. Or refusing to invest in or work for such organizations.
It is much more difficult to divorce oneself from systems of injustice we live in. For example, it is difficult to live without a car in today’s sprawling cities and towns, or in rural areas. These assaults on Mother Earth are environmental injustice. I refused to have a car because of this. That began in 1970. Yet, in all the time since, I was unable to convince other Quakers to give up their cars. This was a source of ongoing tension with Quakers. It is haunting to know that if our society had embraced mass transit systems instead of the car culture, we would not be dealing with environmental devastation that will only worsen, probably to the point of extinction.
For over three years I’ve been part of a Mutual Aid community, where I’ve been learning more about these injustices, and an alternative to White supremacy and capitalism. I’ve been sharing what I’ve been learning with my Quaker communities, but similar to the car situation, I’m making little progress in convincing Quakers to embrace Mutual Aid. (See: Quakers and Mutual Aid)
Spending time in marginalized communities has given me different perspectives on White supremacy, colonialism, and capitalism. I am now struggling because these new perspectives convince me those systems of oppression must be abolished.
When working for change, the choices are:
Incremental changes to existing systems, or
Replacing unjust systems
Incremental changes to unjust systems perpetuate the injustices.
But replacing unjust systems takes time. The concept of Dual Power refers to transitioning from an unjust system to a just one. My Mutual Aid community is building just alternatives to capitalism.
I just wrote Social and Economic Justice which was critical of Quakers today. “The capitalist economic system only works if you have money. It’s so frustrating to me that I can’t make my White friends, Quaker friends see how incredibly unjust this is. They don’t see a problem with capitalism because they have a source of income.”
I call capitalism Economic Slavery.
As mentioned, Quakers have a practice of refusing to be associated with unjust organizations and systems. So what do I do when Quakers are part of the unjust systems of capitalism and White supremacy?
Spending time in marginalized communities shows me the depth of the consequences of White supremacy and capitalism. Seeing the families coming to our Mutual Aid food giveaway is heartbreaking. Making me viscerally aware of the failure of capitalism and the need for Mutual Aid.
My friend Jed Walsh recently shared this with me:
For me, there’s a lot of grief around thinking about moving away from Quakerism, as Quakers have really significantly shaped the person I try to be and the ways I want to be part of social movements. But my fear/pessimism right now has been telling me for some time that Quakers as a whole can’t let go of our collective attachments to white supremacy and capitalism. I’m tired of being in the margins of a Quakerism that’s clinging to the status quo, and hoping to find other places to practice faith and spirituality where I can feel more aligned with others.
I, too, am tired of being in the margins of a Quakerism that’s clinging to the status quo. I’m exhausted from fifty years of work against environmental devastation, which included Quakers and their cars.
From my years in oppressed communities, I understand how people in these communities view White people. I know they see no distinction between White Quakers and other White people. I feel the unspoken questions of my Mutual Aid friends. Wondering, now that I’ve seen the injustices of capitalism and White supremacy, am I going to do anything more than help give away food? Because Mutual Aid is about abolishing unjust systems and replacing them by building Beloved communities.
I have talked with some Mutual Aid friends about Quakers and spirituality. I plan to continue to look for opportunities to explore spirituality with them.
There is an urgency to make changes now because White supremacy and capitalism continue their oppression today.
I am in a spiritual dual power mode (defined above), remaining with Friends until I might be led to a different spiritual community. I hope, instead, Quakers might seek how we can replace systems of capitalism and White superiority.
I used to call myself a Quaker. I never joined a meeting, and honestly, I had suspicions from the beginning that it just wasn’t going to work. But I was desperate for people, and I really wanted the Quakerism I’d read about.
I couldn’t find it, though, and now I’m not sure it exists.
In the meantime, I’ve been talking, and writing, and a number of Friends say my critical observations about Quaker institutions and culture are illegitimate, either because of my lack of membership or because of my newness. I don’t have a right to point out classism and white supremacy, they say.
It’s been hard finding my place and voice in the Religious Society of Friends. And honestly, I’ve given up. I don’t see the point.
When I read what early Friends wrote, I’m drawn to their vision. Friends lived out of step with the world. Their yielding to Christ demanded deep listening, joy in suffering for the truth, abandonment to the movement of Love. They declared the end of days and rejected the idolatry of nationalism. They were living into a new Society of Friends.
George Fox wrote about the Kingdom of God breaking into this world – and it came from within – this was the gospel I knew, the gospel I needed. Quakers were holy fools, apocalyptic evangelists, soldiers of prophecy. They were about liberation and creating the age-to-come. That was the Spirit I knew. This was the church I longed for.
Then I found Quakers. They weren’t exactly what I’d read about, and it was kind of confusing. But I decided to stick around for a while. After all, maybe God could use existing Quaker institutions to renew the Society of Friends. I believed and hoped that some of these institutions might lead Friends of all branches into convergence, and then that the Spirit might dissolve our dependence on institutions. I thought that as we yielded to the Spirit, she would return us to that apostolic and anarchic ecclesiology of early Friends.
What I’ve found, instead, is that Friends have converged on a shared history and a handful of practices.
But if the Society of Friends is to ever again carry the anointing of early Quakers, if it is to ever embody the vision of Margaret Fell, going “hand in hand in the unity and fellowship of this eternal Spirit,” it must do more than embrace a convoluted historical connection and some shared practices.
If we are converging on history and practice, we are missing the point. If we are depending on institutions to create a new society or usher in the Kingdom, then we are deceived. These will not bring the radically egalitarian and Spirit-filled communities that God fostered among early Friends. These are forms, and Friends must follow the Spirit.
I’ve met others who need a Spirit-led Society. We share this vision, and we share the disappointment of being drowned out in meeting by classism, ageism, and racism. Some of us wonder if Quakerism isn’t all that different from the rest of liberal religion. From what we’ve seen, it isn’t apocalyptic. It isn’t radical. It doesn’t sound like Fox or look like Jesus. It works at incremental transformation while simultaneously shushing those who need the system overthrown.
I’ve moved on.
But even as I’ve stopped attending meeting – even as institutional Quakerism has, for the most part, become irrelevant to me – I cannot deny that I am a Friend. Quaker conceptions of Christ’s gospel have led me closer to Jesus and it’s integral to what I believe and how I live. At the end of the day, though, if tables aren’t being turned, if people aren’t being healed and set free, if the prophets aren’t marching naked, I’ll have to follow Jesus elsewhere.
I hear early Friend Sarah Blackborow’s words ringing in my heart: “Christ is trying to make a dwelling place within you but he is left rejected and homeless.”
Jesus is still seeking his people, people who see the Spirit of God in the suffering and offer refuge. I’m seeking those people, too.
On Saturday, May 13th, the Walk for River Rights begins at Schwiebert Park (101 17th St, Rock Island, IL 61201) at 11:30AM and closes at 12:30PM at the Figge Entrance Plaza (225 W 2nd St, Davenport, IA 52801). There is a map of the walk on the discussion page.
***There will be a bus that can drive folks back to their cars after we are done the walk.***
Join leading BIPOC organizers who have converged in the Quad Cities to begin working towards reclaiming Rights of Nature for the Mississippi River. We will walk across the Centennial Bridge in solidarity as one River community advocating for the Rights of the Mississippi River, from the headwaters to the Gulf, and for the rights of all communities whose lives are supported by the waters. All are welcomed and encouraged to attend! A brief introduction and explanation of our convergence will begin at 11:30AM at Schwiebert Park.
The Walk for River Rights is part of The Mississippi River Summit (May 11th-14th, 2023, Quad Cities, IA-IL), a summit centering and advancing the leadership of 40 organizers of historically racially marginalized communities working to protect water, natural places, and sacred spaces. The goal is to build a BIPOC-led coalition from the Mississippi Headwaters to the Gulf of Mexico, and eventually claim the rights of nature for the entire river system and develop an organized frontline group working to protect the Mississippi watershed and all living beings that rely on it as their home.
Organized by Great Plains Action Society. For questions email@example.com
*We have modified the route to accommodate for the effects of flooding on downtown Davenport and will now end at the Figge plaza
May 11-14, 2023 (Davenport, IA) The Mississippi River Summit is a BIPOC led event where folks from the headwaters to the Gulf of Mexico are converging to talk about the health of the river basin and all that rely on it and to work towards rights of nature for our river relative.
Why are we meeting in Iowa? The state of Iowa has the unique designation of being bordered by the Nation’s two largest rivers, the Mississippi and Missouri. However, water does not adhere to colonial borders and unfortunately, Iowa is the number one contributor to the ‘Dead Zone’ in the Gulf of Mexico. Iowa is also the most biologically colonized state in the country because of Big-Ag, CAFOs (concentrated animal feed operations), meatpacking plants, ethanol production, etc.
My friends at the Great Plains Action Society (GPAS) continue their years of work providing Indigenous leadership on a number of fronts.
Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls
First, we want to recognize that today (5/5/2023) is National Day of Awareness for Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls. On May 2, the City of Iowa City declared its first Day of Awareness for Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women. The proclamation was accepted by Sikowis Nobiss, our Executive Director. It was through her work on the Iowa City Truth and Reconciliation Commission that she was empowered to advocate for this proclamation. It was inspired by the first MMIW proclamation in Iowa made last year by the City of Sioux City, which was influenced by the work of Trisha Etringer, our Siouxland Project Director. This year, Trisha accepted the second proclamation made by the City of Sioux City on May 1 and is currently working towards a state wide proclamation for 2024.
Several environmental organizations have been working to get MidAmerican to shut down their coal burning power plants in Iowa. Today there will be a protest and round dance during the Berkshire Hathaway shareholder meeting today. MidAmerican is a subsidiary of Berkshire Hathaway.
Next, we want all our friends and relatives to know that we are fighting for the health and well-being of the nation’s two mightiest rivers–the Missouri and the Mississippi. Iowa is the only state bordered completely on the East and West borders by these rivers, making it a special place and one that needs to be protected. Over the next week, we will be on both banks carrying out important events to fight for what is right.
Two of the nation’s oldest and dirtiest coal plants, owned by the subsidiary of Berkshire Hathaway–MidAmerican, sit on the Missouri River and are situated in the largely Indigenous corridor between Sioux City, Winnebago, and Omaha reservations. They have already been polluting our air, water, and soil and now one of the plants is lobbying to release their toxic coal ash into the Missouri, which is directly north of the Winnebago and Omaha reservations. So we have partnered with Project Beacon and the Clean Up MidAm Coalition for a protest and round dance during the Berkshire Hathaway shareholder meeting in Omaha to demand that they shut down these coal plants! Please join us tomorrow, May 6th at 11:45am, on the Corner of Cass Street and 10th Street. Great Plains Action Society
Relatives in Omaha, Lincoln, Sioux City, Omaha Nation, and Winnebago Nation–Join Great Plains Action Society and Project Beacon for a Round Dance in Omaha during the Berkshire Hathaway shareholder meeting to demand that they shut down their MidAmerican coal plants! We will be joined by Douglas Esau, who will bring his hand drum. The larger rally is being organized by the Clean Up MidAm Coalition.
The event is taking place on the SE corner of the Big Lot Parking B of the CHI Health Care Event center. On the Corner of Cass Street and 10th Street. There is a map in the discussion of this event page.
PARKING WILL NOT BE EASY AS THERE WILL BE A LOT OF FOLKS IN THE AREA THAT DAY! You will need to find parking in lots or ramps in the downtown area OR if you feel like taking a scenic walk you can park on the Council Bluffs side of the river at Tom Hanafan River’s Edge Park and and walk across the Bob Kerrey Pedestrian Bridge to the event site–it’s about a 20 minute walk.
Two of the nation’s oldest and dirtiest coal plants are situated in the corridor between Sioux City, Winnebago, and Omaha reservations, polluting our air, water, and soil. Now, they want to start releasing their toxic coal ash directly into the sacred waters of the Missouri River and we are here to say NO!
Next week, May 11-14, in the Quad Cities of IA and IL, we are hosting the first Mississippi River Summit with 40 BIPOC leaders and specialists joining us to talk about their respective fights to keep the water safe and healthy and to work towards Rights of Nature.Great Plains Action Society has ties to BIPOC folks at the headwaters all the way to the Gulf of Mexico and we have invited them to Iowa for an important reason! Iowa is the number one contributor to the ‘Dead Zone’ in the Gulf of Mexico and the most biologically colonized state in the country because of Big-Ag, CAFOs (concentrated animal feed operations), meatpacking plants, ethanol production, and general disregard for the land. The time will be utilized for grassroots assessments, specialist lectures, a tour of the Mississippi, and community-building exercises. On May 13th, at 11:30 AM at the Schwiebert Riverfront Park, Summit attendees will join the Quad Cities community for a Walk for River Rights in solidarity as One River community advocating for Rights of Nature for the Mississippi River and for the rights of all communities whose lives are supported by the waters. If you’d like to learn more, visit our event page linked here.
We truly appreciate your participation in our advocacy and frontline efforts and need your support to continue. Please consider making a donation to help support Great Plains Action Society and allow us to continue organizing for the health and safety of Indigenous communities and our lands.
Although the daily news is flooded with stories of police violence toward Black people, the incidence of police violence against Indigenous peoples is higher.
When I began to spend time with Indigenous people, I was surprised to find out about the epidemic of missing and murdered Indigenous relatives (MMIR). And how that is related to oil pipelines and capitalism. That became easy to understand as I learned about the environmental racism of building pipelines near Indigenous reservations. The man camps, construction worker camps, were thus near Indigenous communities.
One of the first actions I was involved with after retiring to Iowa was to rally against USBank’s funding of fossil fuel projects. But besides demonstrating against the Dakota Access Pipeline, a number of people held signs, and spoke about MMIR.
Our heart goes out to Bemi (Shyla Wolf) – Meskwaki – who was assaulted on March 30, 2023 by Officer Kyle Howe while three of her young children watched from the car and screamed in fear. She ended up with contusions on her lip, neck, arms, and full body soreness. Officer Howe is known for targeting Meskwaki folks in Tama and represents the continuation of a long history of police violence and injustice perpetrated on Indigenous Peoples across Turtle Island. Though Indigenous Peoples are targeted at alarming rates by cops, these disturbing statistics are not being heard by the rest of society due to the intense efforts to erase us and our place in the US.
Maggie Koerth from FiveThirtyEight, reports that “depending on the year, either Native Americans or African-Americans have the highest rate of deaths by law enforcement. The fact that Indigenous Peoples have such high police murder rates is not a well-known statistic because the population is smaller and because violence to Indigenous folx is not of particular interest to mainstream media. According to a CNN review of the Center for Diseases Control, “for every 1 million Native Americans, an average of 2.9 of them died annually from 1999 to 2015 as a result of a legal intervention”. For the Black population the number is 2.6, for Latinx it is 1.7, for Whites it is 0.9 and for Asians it is 0.6.”
This is a startling statistic because Native Americans only make up 0.9% (2.9 million people) of the population. Furthermore, these deaths are most likely under-reported just like the other epidemics that Native Americans face, such as missing and murdered women, abuse, rape, stalking, runaway children and violence committed by non-tribal members. In fact, the deadliest mass shooting in US history, known as the Wounded Knee Massacre, occurred in 1890 when United States Army troops murdered up to 300 Lakota, including women and children. According to Matthew Fletcher, director of the Indigenous Law and Policy Center, “The data available likely does not capture all Native American deaths in police encounters due to people of mixed race and a relatively large homeless population that is not on the grid.” (CNN) In a paper written by B Perry in 2006 titled, “Nobody trusts them! Under- and over-policing Native American communities”, they presented evidence from 278 individual interviews with eight separate Native Nations that police action toward Native people ranged from ignoring victims to outright brutality against suspects. (Fatal Encounters Between Native Americans and the Police)
Policing in this country began in the 1700’s with “slave patrols” to capture and return those fleeing their enslavement or planning uprisings. Policing has always been about protecting capitalists and their property.
The only way to end police violence and abolish this inherently white supremacist institution built on colonization and the greed of capitalism is for communities to take collective action. Centering mutual aid and radical healing in our communities will take back power and end erasure of us, our history and our culture. Taking back power builds strength and increases resources, which we need to oust violent cops and create our own culturally appropriate systems of accountability and wellness programs. Great Plains Action Society remains committed to this goal and will continue to work diligently towards abolition of systems set up to eradicate us.
It is by building mutual aid communities that we take back our power from “inherently white supremacist institution built on colonization and the greed of capitalism”.
I’m of the firm opinion that a system that was built by stolen bodies on stolen land for the benefit of a few is a system that is not repairable. It is operating as designed, and small changes (which are the result of huge efforts) to lessen the blow on those it was not designed for are merely half measures that can’t ever fully succeed.
So, the question is now, where do we go from here? Do we continue to make incremental changes while the wealthy hoard more wealth and the climate crisis deepens, or do we do something drastic that has never been done before? Can we envision and create a world where a class war from above isn’t a reality anymore?”
Ronnie James, Des Moines Mutual Aid
mutual aid is the new economy. mutual aid is community. it is making sure your elderly neighbor down the street has a ride to their doctor’s appointment. mutual aid is making sure the children in your neighborhood have dinner, or a warm coat for the upcoming winter. mutual aid is planting community gardens.
capitalism has violated the communities of marginalized folks. capitalism is about the value of people, property and the people who own property. those who have wealth and property control the decisions that are made. the government comes second to capitalism when it comes to power.
in the name of liberation, capitalism must be reversed and dismantled. meaning that capitalistic practices must be reprogrammed with mutual aid practices.
Des Moines Black Liberation
I belong to the Quakers for Abolition Network, described in this excerpt from Western Friend.
Mackenzie: Let’s start with: What does being a police and prison abolitionist mean to you?
Jed: The way I think about abolition is first, rejecting the idea that anyone belongs in prison and that police make us safe. The second, and larger, part of abolition is the process of figuring out how to build a society that doesn’t require police or prisons.
M: Yes! The next layer of complexity, in my opinion, is looking at systems of control and oppression. Who ends up in jail and prison? Under what circumstances do the police use violence?
As you start exploring these questions, it becomes painfully clear that police and prisons exist to maintain the white supremacist, heteronormative, capitalist status quo. The racial dynamics of police violence are being highlighted by the recent uprisings and the Black Lives Matter movement.
We are in the same place, with a call to imagine a culture radically different than the one in which we live. Abolishing police and prisons, like abolishing slavery, would change the structure of our society: dramatically decreasing violence and undoing one set of power relationships that create domination and marginalization. And in place of this violence, we could, instead, have care.
Recently, we discussed our peace and justice work at my Quaker meeting. I explained my vision of creating a Mutual Aid community to guide our justice work. And included examples of what the meeting is already doing that are Mutual Aid.
I felt we had a good discussion. I didn’t have answers to some of the questions raised. I believe those questions would be answered as we got experience with implementation. But the meeting is clearly not ready to begin working on Mutual Aid.
As I was preparing for this discussion, I knew it would be difficult to distill my more than three years of experience with Des Moines Mutual Aid (DMMA).
Mutual Aid represents a paradigm shift in Quaker’s thinking about spirituality and justice work. How can I help people make this shift happen? What is the Spirit asking of us?
I have no doubt that the Spirit leads me to continue with my involvement with Des Moines Mutual Aid. My friends there know I hope to bring spirituality into the work of Mutual Aid, so I’ll give them an update on our meeting at Bear Creek.
One paradigm shift from my past comes to mind. In the early 1970’s I moved to Indianapolis and was horrified by the foul air from auto exhaust. I was led to live without a car as a result. But I had no success in convincing anyone else to give up their car. So here we are now, facing ever increasing environmental chaos.
During the years’ long struggles with my meeting about cars, which was difficult since many meeting members lived in rural settings, one Friend asked if I had invited the meeting into my concerns about cars. And I realized I had not done so. When I did invite the meeting to join me in our common concerns about fossil fuels, one thing we developed was a concept we called Ethical Transportation (see below).
So, I applied that idea to invite the meeting into Mutual Aid work. I often share my experiences at Des Moines Mutual Aid with the meeting. Our discussion this past weekend is another step that will lead to Mutual Aid. As more communities and people are impacted by environmental and social chaos, we will naturally turn to the idea of Mutual Aid for disaster relief.
I am impressed with the Great Plains Action Society’s Mechanism of Engagement. Mutual Aid is one of the Methods in the model. I wonder what such a model would look like for Quakers. Maybe that is part of the way forward, for my Quaker meeting to become more oriented toward Mutual Aid.
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.
Is working for justice important to you? Are you satisfied with your justice work?
Working for justice has been a lifelong focus of mine. Being a Quaker, I have many examples of how people and organizations have worked for justice. But, no, I am not satisfied with my justice work. I don’t believe we can be as long as there is injustice.
Over the past decade, I have connected with many great activists and organizations. In addition, I’ve been fortunate to have received several types of training for community organizing.
Much of what I’ve learned relates to working with different communities and cultures, which I summarize here:
Significant changes are occurring that add impetus to re-evaluating how we (Quakers) do justice work.
Accelerating environmental chaos is increasingly disrupting communities and lives
There is rising resistance to political systems based upon White superiority and evolving authoritarianism
Economic, food, transportation, energy, education, political, and healthcare systems are failing
Indigenous peoples are reclaiming their leadership and ways of protecting and healing Mother Earth
Change is hard
I plan to discuss these things this weekend with my Quaker meeting (Bear Creek Friends). I’ll share my recent experiences with Mutual Aid, Indigenous friends, and the Buffalo Rebellion. Change is hard, and this might involve some challenging discussions. And may involve changes in how we do justice work together.
First, there are many ways my Quaker meeting is already working regarding the concepts of mutual aid. Such as connections in the nearby town of Earlham, working to deliver meals, staffing the museum, and the Sunshine sewing circle. Years of work supporting the annual Prairie Awakening/Prairie Awoke ceremony. And connections with the nearby Grade A Gardens.
I believe Friends can add to the spirituality of Mutual Aid.
We must replace the current structure of using committees to do justice work. Because Mutual Aid is fundamentally about not having hierarchies.
What would a Quaker Mutual Aid community look like?
Who would be involved?
When and how would the community meet or communicate?
How would decisions be made?
How do we center the voices of the oppressed? Of Indigenous peoples?
How would we interact with Quaker organizations?
How would we physically build community structures?
I will continue my involvement with Des Moines Mutual Aid. And would continue to share what I’m learning with my Quaker meeting
Bear Creek could decide to replace the Peace and Social Concerns committee with a Mutual Aid community, OR
Bear Creek could continue its Peace and Social Concerns Committee structure and create a Mutual Aid community for justice work.
Creating a Mutual Aid community at Bear Creek would require:
Ways for community members to communicate in real time
Des Moines Mutual Aid uses the Signal app, an encrypted real-time messaging system
Permission for Bear Creek Mutual Aid to make decisions in real time
As the graphic below shows, Mutual Aid is one of the methods the Great Plains Action Society (GPAS) uses as an engagement mechanism.
GPAS supports Des Moines Mutual Aid (DMMA) by funding the work of Ronnie James. Ronnie has been my Mutual Aid mentor.
GPAS is part of the Buffalo Rebellion, a coalition of environmental justice organizations in Iowa. Continued connections with GPAS and the Buffalo Rebellion are how to center the voices of Indigenous and other oppressed peoples.
The Buffalo Rebellion is a coalition consisting of
Des Moines Black Liberation
Great Plain Action Society
Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement
Iowa Migrant Movement for Justice
Sierra Club Beyond Coal
Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 199, and
Cedar Rapids Sunrise Movement
Also below are the Des Moines Points of Unity, which explain what DMMA is about.
Finally, other justice organizations are re-evaluating their strategies. The Climate Mobilization Network describes why they decided to pause and transform their strategy. Mutual Aid is a focus of their new strategy. I’ve been in touch with Climate Mobilization Network about working with them.
Why We Decide to Pause and Transform our Strategy
Congressional failure to take meaningful action on climate
The slow pace of local climate programs where policy change is severely limited by what’s considered politically possible
Rising inequality amid continued neoliberalism
Escalating climate disasters that are hitting global and US-based frontline communities the hardest and will continue accelerating rapidly!
And widespread cultural and generational concern about climate change has not yet been tapped into effectively by a mass movement.
This collective visioning, movement incubation and learning gathering will equip you with space for reflection, new ideas, inspiration, and next steps to participate in this new campaign.
Together we will build relationships and explore:
How survival and mutual aid programs can grow the movement
New, creative approaches to taking action against fossil fuels
Ways to integrate healing into our work
And how to create space for reflection, intentionality and strategic clarity
Don’t you find there are periods of rapid change interspersed among long plateaus in your life? Although those plateaus are becoming fewer and lasting shorter periods of time.
The last three years have been a time of momentous change, both in my life, and in the world. I’m trying to explain what has been happening to me, because these experiences convince me we must all make similar changes if we are going to make the major adjustments needed to try to mitigate deepening environmental damage. The world has been spiraling out of control these past three years, dramatically impacting all our communities and individual lives. I think of these changes as related to the idea of a house of cards. The cards in this case being dollars of the capitalist economy.
I was born into a rural Iowa Quaker community and have been a Quaker all my life. I attended Scattergood Friends School, a Quaker boarding high school on a farm in Eastern Iowa.
Recently I was challenged to consider what my foundational stories are, how they began, how they changed over time, and what they are now. I’ve been writing this series of blog posts about these stories, which are related to the intersections between my Quaker faith, protecting Mother Earth, and photography. You can read my foundational stories here: https://quakersandreligioussocialism.com/foundational-stories/
I spent my entire adult life in Indianapolis. I arrived in 1970 to spend two years in a Quaker community organizing project, Friends Volunteer Service Mission. To support myself financially, I received on-the-job training to be a respiratory therapy technician. I later obtained a degree in Respiratory Therapy, and a career in neonatal respiratory therapy, and then thirty years doing research in infant lung development and disease in Indianapolis at Riley Hosptial for Children, Indiana University Medical Center. I retired and returned to Iowa in the summer of 2017.
Part of the Mother Earth piece of my foundational stories was “driven” by a spiritual leading that showed me I could not contribute to the pollution from owning a personal automobile, so I didn’t. That had all kinds of repercussions.
Although my leading to try to live without a personal automobile grew over time, the actual decision came about abruptly. I had a couple of used cars but felt increasingly uncomfortable having one. When my car was totaled in an accident, I took the opportunity to see if I could live without a car in the city. It took some time to work out the bus schedules, especially because I was working all kinds of hours and on weekends. And I had to learn how to shop such that I could carry everything home.
But because we derive our sense of identity and socioeconomic status from work embedded in a profit driven economy, transformative day-to-day self-sufficient activities, when they are applied in an urban or suburban setting, give rise to second set of intangible sociocultural barriers that involve taking significant social risks. Peter Lipman the former (founding) chair of Transition Network and Common Cause Foundation encourages us to take these social and cultural risks. But what exactly are the more difficult risks needed to move us in the right direction? It is important to identify intangible socioeconomic challenges in order to side-step them.
In short, our identities are tied up in what we do for a living and how we do what we do for a living must radically change. Because, let’s be honest, living and working, having lifestyles and livelihoods that are truly regenerative and sustainable look nothing like how most of us currently live and work.
It was difficult for us (environmentalists) to find pressure points, places where we could call attention to the existential threats of environmental chaos from burning fossil fuels. In 2013, activists recognized the application for approval of the Keystone XL Pipeline as such an opportunity. This decision was solely up to President Obama, allowing us a focus for our efforts. I was trained as an Action Lead in the Keystone Pledge of Resistance in 2013. There I learned many skills related to community organizing. Four of us trained about forty people in the Indianapolis community, and organized many demonstrations and actions against fossil fuel companies and the banks that fund them. https://jeffkisling.com/2018/06/05/lessons-learned-from-the-keystone-pledge-of-resistance/
We were able to train others in those skills later when the White Pines Wilderness Academy in Indianapolis wanted to bring attention to the dangers of the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL).
I was always looking for news about fossil fuels and our environment. This blog post from 1/14/2020 describes my discovery of the Wet’suwet’en peoples and their struggles against the Coastal GasLink (CGL) liquid natural gas pipeline being constructed through their pristine territory in British Columbia.
I have just begun to learn about the Wet’suwet’en people. A friend of mine from the First Nation-Farmer Climate Unity March traveled to the Unist’ot’en camp about 4 years ago and found it to be a life-changing experience. I also asked other friends I made during the March about this, and they indicated support for these people.
You may wonder why I am trying to learn and write about the Wet’suwet’en people now. The literal answer is I saw this article recently: Hereditary First Nation chiefs issue eviction notice to Coastal GasLink contractors. TC Energy says it signed agreements with all 20 elected First Nations councils along pipeline’s path. Joel Dryden · CBC News · Posted: Jan 05, 2020.
I wrote this booklet about the Wet’suwet’en struggles, including some videos of confrontations with Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP). Assault rifles trained on unarmed youth.
Spirit led connection to Mutual Aid
The title THREE YEARS LATER refers to my introduction to Des Moines Mutual Aid a little over three years ago. I took the photo below on Feb 7, 2020, when a small group of us organized a vigil in support of the Wet’suwet’en. I know the Spirit led Ronnie James, from Des Moines Mutual Aid, to join us. He was surprised that anyone outside his circle knew what was happening to the Wet’suwet’en. Ronnie is an Indigenous organizer working with the Great Plains Action Society (GPAS), and as such was interested to see if these were people who could become allies.
That meeting changed my life in many ways, all stemming from what I was learning from Ronnie and others about Mutual Aid, which has become the focus of my justice work since.
Over the years I’ve enjoyed documenting justice actions photographically. I like the challenge of an ever-moving group of people, the varieties of signs, the reactions of the people and the public. But for the past several years posting photos of demonstrations is discouraged if people’s faces are visible. Which police sometimes later use to bring charges against those people.
Ronnie and I are both part of Des Moines Mutual Aid’s free food project. The Wet’suwet’en being part of our history, we continue to support them. Because of COVID and people wearing masks, we were comfortable taking this photo during one of our Mutual Aid gatherings for the food project.
Three Years Later
And yet, three years later, the Wet’suwet’en peoples’ struggles continue.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE March 29, 2023 Contact: Jennifer Wickham, Media Coordinator, Gidim’ten Checkpoint, firstname.lastname@example.org, 778-210-0067
URGENT MEDIA ADVISORY: RCMP C-IRG Raid Wet’suwet’en Village Site, Make 5 Arrests
WET’SUWET’EN TERRITORY (Smithers, BC) – This morning, a large force of RCMP C-IRG raided a Gidimt’en village site and arrested five land and water defenders, mostly Indigenous women, including Gidimt’en Chief Woos’ daughter. The raid accompanied a search warrant for theft under $5000 with no clear relation to the Gidimt’en village site.
In the days leading to this police action, RCMP C-IRG have been found patrolling Wet’suwet’en traplines and cultural use areas, harassing and intimidating Wet’suwet’en members and disrupting constitutionally protected Wet’suwet’en cultural activities. Members of a private security firm hired by Coastal Gaslink pipeline, Forsythe, have also escalated harassment and surveillance efforts against Wet’suwet’en members in recent days.
Both the RCMP’s C-IRG unit and Forsythe are named as defendants in an ongoing lawsuit launched by Wet’suwet’en members, which alleges that police and private security have launched a coordinated campaign of harassment and intimidation in an effort to force Wet’suwet’en people to abandon their unceded territories.
Sleydo’, spokesperson for Gidimt’en Checkpoint, said:
“This harassment and intimidation is exactly the kind of violence designed to drive us from our homelands. The constant threat of violence and criminalization for merely existing on our own lands must have been what our ancestors felt when Indian agents and RCMP were burning us out of our homes as late as the 50s in our area. The colonial project continues at the hands of industry’s private mercenaries–C-IRG”
The arrests come days before Indigenous delegates are set to arrive at Royal Bank of Canada’s Annual General Meeting to oppose expansion of fossil fuels without consent on their territories, including Wet’suwet’en Hereditary Chiefs who oppose RBC’s funding of the Coastal Gaslink pipeline.
Wet’suwet’en Hereditary Chief Na’Moks offered the following:
“This is harassment, and exactly what Royal Bank of Canada is funding. Ahead of its shareholder meeting next week, RBC continues to fund corporate colonialism, and displace Indigenous peoples from our lands at gunpoint – all for a fracked gas pipeline we cannot afford now or in the future. In the context of the theft of our ancestral land, alleging stolen saws and clothing is outrageous.”
All of creation is divine and interdependent: air, water, soil, and all that lives and grows. Since human beings are part of this fragile and mysterious web, whenever we pollute or neglect the earth we pollute and neglect our own wellsprings. Developing a keen awareness of our role in the universe is essential if we are to live peacefully within creation.
The way we choose to live each day‑‑as we manufacture, package, purchase and recycle goods, use resources, dispose of water, ‑design homes, plan families and travel‑affects the present and future of life on the planet. The thought and effort we give to replenishing what we receive from the earth, to keeping informed and promoting beneficial legislation on issues which affect the earth, to envisioning community with environmental conscience, are ways in which we contribute to the ongoing health of the planet we inhabit.
Preserving the quality of life on Earth calls forth all of our spiritual resources. Listening to and heeding the leadings of the Holy Spirit can help us develop qualities which enable us to become more sensitive to all life
What are we doing about our disproportionate use of the world’s resources?
Do we see unreasonable exploitation in our relationship ‑with the rest of creation?
How can we nurture reverence and respect for life? How I can we become more fully aware of our interdependent relationship with the rest of creation?
To what extent are we aware of all life and the role we play? What can we do in our own lives and communities to address environmental concerns?
Faith and Practice, Iowa Yearly Meeting (Conservative)