Transforming justice strategies

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.

Mutual Aid

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.

Needed Changes

From my experiences over the past five years, I have been led to see Mutual Aid as the model for justice work now. (See: )

  • 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?
    • Spirituality?
    • 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?


  1. I will continue my involvement with Des Moines Mutual Aid. And would continue to share what I’m learning with my Quaker meeting
  2. Bear Creek could decide to replace the Peace and Social Concerns committee with a Mutual Aid community, OR
  3. 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.

Des Moines Mutual Aid
Des Moines Mutual Aid

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

Climate Mobilization Network

Injustices of Capitalism

I am a hierarchy resister

I spend so much time praying and writing about Mutual Aid because I believe Mutual Aid is the correct path for our peace and justice work. And because I get to spend time with my Des Moines Mutual Aid friends every week, where we catch up with each other and our work while we fill boxes of donated food to distribute.

Mutual Aid is the framework that models the Beloved communities we strive to create. And gets to the roots of injustice.

Those living in capitalist societies usually need some education to understand why Mutual Aid should be the framework for our justice work. Simply put, capitalism is a system that enforces injustice and oppression. It does this by violently enforcing strict hierarchies.

The greatest resistance I’ve found to embracing mutual aid is the difficulty people have in seeing the injustices of capitalism. So, I distilled this in the following diagram.

My experiences with mutual aid include:

  • My introduction to Mutual Aid was a Spiritual leading.
  • Maintaining a flat or horizontal hierarchy is what makes Mutual Aid work.
    • MUTUAL is the key.
  • Removing artificial hierarchies eliminates grouping people by race, class, gender, education, etc.
  • Mutual Aid resists authoritarianism and colonization.
    • There cannot be white supremacy, for example, if there is no hierarchy.
  • Mutual Aid is NOT charity.
  • A fundamental principle of justice work is to follow the lead of the oppressed community. In Central Iowa, a coalition named the Buffalo Rebellion is providing such leadership. 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
  • I believe Mutual Aid is the Quaker way of being in the world.

Our Quaker Queries recognize the injustices of our capitalist economic system.

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

The advice also says “we envision a system of social and economic justice that ensures the right of every individual to be loved and cared for…” 

Faith and Practice, Iowa Yearly Meeting (Conservative)

Queries related to Mutual Aid
Do we recognize that hierarchies are about power, supremacy and privilege? What are Quaker hierarchies?
Do we work to prevent hierarchies in our peace and justice work?
What are we doing to meet the survival needs of our wider community?
How are we preparing for disaster relief, both for our community, and for the influx of climate refugees?
Are we examples of a Beloved community? How can we invite our friends and neighbors to join our community?

Des Moines Mutual Aid

Mutual aid is essential to building social movements. People often come to social movement groups because they need something: eviction defense, childcare, social connection, health care, or help in a fight with the government about something like welfare benefits, disability services, immigration status, or custody of their children. Being able to get help in a crisis is often a condition for being politically active, because it’s very difficult to organize when you are also struggling to survive. Getting support through a mutual aid project that has a political analysis of the conditions that produced your crisis also helps to break stigma, shame, and isolation. Under capitalism, social problems resulting from exploitation and the maldistribution of resources are understood as individual moral failings, not systemic problems. Getting support at a place that sees the systems, not the people suffering in them, as the problem can help people move from shame to anger and defiance. Mutual aid exposes the failures of the current system and shows an alternative. This work is based in a belief that those on the front lines of a crisis have the best wisdom to solve the problems, and that collective action is the way forward.

Dean Spade. Mutual Aid: Building Solidarity During This Crisis (and the Next) (Kindle Locations 163-171). Verso.

Today, around the world, people resort to alternative forms of autonomous organization to give their existence a meaning again, to reflect human creativity’s desire to express itself as freedom. These collectives, communes, cooperatives and grassroots movements can be characterized as people’s self-defense mechanisms against the encroachment of capitalism, patriarchy and the nation-state.

Kurdish scholar-activist Dilar Dirk

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’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

Eyes of the Future

How can Friends achieve the 2022 theme of World Quaker Day, “Becoming the Quakers the World Needs,” while functioning in a blatantly and politically corrupt, racialized world?

Black Quaker Project


These are times of upheaval, with greater changes rapidly approaching. Times of uncertainty and fear. These are also times of opportunity. Can we use this collapse to envision and build more just communities?

I believe we can. But first, we need to understand the injustices the capitalist economic system is based upon. And use this understanding to guide the development of mutual aid communities. which reject capitalism.

It is difficult to escape the status quo. But that is the only way we can protect and heal Mother Earth and build communities for future generations. The status quo in this country is about preserving the capitalist economic system and White superiority. Maintaining the status quo will only deepen environmental devastation and collapse. And collapse of the systems built on capitalism.

The eyes of the future are looking back at us, and they are praying for us to see beyond our own time. They are kneeling with hands clasped that we might act with restraint, that we might leave room for the life that is destined to come.

Terry Tempest Williams

The Seventh Generation Principle is based on an ancient Haudenosaunee (Iroquois) philosophy that the decisions we make today should result in a sustainable world seven generations into the future.

Climate Justice March, Des Moines, Iowa



I’ve had my own experiences of looking back and trying to help people “to see beyond our own time“. Over fifty years ago, I moved to Indianapolis, a big change for a farm boy. I was not prepared for the noxious clouds of auto exhaust enshrouding the city. I was led to live without a car. Of course, that was not the status quo.

Looking back to that time, I feel sorrow for what might have been. How different the world would be if we had rejected the car culture in this country. Our cities and towns would have been built to be walkable. Land would not be covered by asphalt and concrete. Most importantly, we would have been able to live in a sustainable manner and would not be on a path toward extinction.

Looking back now, who doesn’t wish we had rejected the car culture in this country? Wish we had not let banks and fossil fuel companies rape the earth?

If those who lived prior to the rise of the car culture could have visited our world today, to see the disastrous consequences we are dealing with now, I believe many people who lived then would have chosen to live a different (sustainable) lifestyle.


Wealth is attended with power, by which bargains and proceedings, contrary to universal righteousness, are supported; and hence oppression, carried on with worldly policy and order, clothes itself with the name of justice and becomes like a seed of discord in the soul.

John Woolman, “A Plea for the Poor.”

As the sign in the photo above says, Colonial Capitalism = 7th Generation Genocide

Despite trying every way I could think of, regardless of my prayers, I was not able to convince others to give up their car. People chose convenience over care for Mother Earth and future generations.

It is the same when I urge others to build alternatives to capitalism. Those who are comfortable economically strongly resist any suggestion to abandon capitalism. Capitalism is the materialism Martin Luther King warned about. “The giant triplets of racism, materialism and militarism”.

How has hunger for millions become acceptable? Houselessness? Lack of access to medical care? Police brutality? Locking people away for years for nonviolent crime? Profligate consumption of nonrenewable fossil fuels? Poisoning water?

As Americans honor King on his birthday, it is important to remember that the civil rights icon was also a democratic socialist, committed to building a broad movement to overcome the failings of capitalism and achieve both racial and economic equality for all people.

Capitalism “has brought about a system that takes necessities from the masses to give luxuries to the classes,” King wrote in his 1952 letter to Scott. He would echo the sentiment 15 years later in his last book, Where Do We Go From Here: Chaos or Community?: “Capitalism has often left a gap of superfluous wealth and abject poverty [and] has created conditions permitting necessities to be taken from the many to give luxuries to the few.”

In his famous 1967 Riverside Church speech, King thundered, “When machines and computers, profit motives and property rights are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, materialism and militarism are incapable of being conquered.”

“What good is having the right to sit at a lunch counter,” King is widely quoted as asking, “if you can’t afford to buy a hamburger?” In King’s view, the Greensboro lunch counter sit-ins, the voter registration drives across the South and the Selma to Montgomery march comprised but the first phase of the civil rights movement. In Where Do We Go From Here, King called the victories of the movement up that point in 1967 “a foothold, no more” in the struggle for freedom. Only a campaign to realize economic as well as racial justice could win true equality for African-Americans. In naming his goal, King was unflinching: the “total, direct, and immediate abolition of poverty.”

THE FORGOTTEN SOCIALIST HISTORY OF MARTIN LUTHER KING JR. By Matthew Miles Goodrich, In These Times, January 16, 2023


What will the eyes of the future see when they look back upon us today? How will they feel about the state of the world we are leaving them?

What are we willing to do now to make the world a better place for ourselves and future generations?

Will we:

  • Radically reduce our fossil fuel consumption?
  • Continue to build renewable energy infrastructure?
  • Resist false solutions such as carbon capture?
  • Reject capitalism?
  • Reject White superiority?
  • Build Mutual Aid communities?

There is an urgent need for reflection on these questions. And to seek and implement ways to answer them.

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

“Quakers will only be truly prophetic when they risk a great deal of their accumulated privilege and access to wealth. Prophets cannot have a stake in maintaining the status quo. Any attempt to change a system while benefiting and protecting the benefits received from the system reinforces the system. Quakers as much as anyone not only refuse to reject their white privilege, they fail to reject the benefits they receive from institutionalized racism, trying to make an unjust economy and institutionalized racism and patriarch more fair and equitable in its ability to exploit. One cannot simultaneously attack racist and patriarchal institutions and benefit from them at the same time without becoming more reliant upon the benefits and further entrenching the system. Liberalism at its laziest.”   

Scott Miller

How can Friends achieve the 2022 theme of World Quaker Day, “Becoming the Quakers the World Needs,” while functioning in a blatantly and politically corrupt, racialized world? In engagement with this exciting theme, offered by the Friends World Committee for Consultation (FWCC), the Black Quaker Project would like to remind Friends of the tools at our disposal to challenge those aspects of society which we wish to change and to see changed. Our fractured societies are further divided by enormous gaps of inequality in almost every imaginable category—psychological, social, political, cultural, economic. How might we, as Quakers, achieve justice, equity, and peace under these circumstances? 

Black Quaker Project

New Perspectives

I grew up in Quaker communities, which defined my justice work for much of my life.

Then a decade ago I was led to engage with a number of communities, working outside Quaker meetings. By engagement I mean spending significant time in these communities. These experiences have taught me decidedly different approaches to justice work. These new perspectives convince me that Quakers, particularly White Quakers, need to change how we think about and do justice work.

My perspectives include:

  • The need to advocate for Indigenous leadership to help protect and heal Mother Earth.
  • Black, Indigenous and other people of color (BIPOC) do not see any distinction between White Quakers and other White people in this country.
  • The capitalist economic system is fundamentally unjust.
    • Capitalism transfers great wealth to the wealthy by exploiting and oppressing those who aren’t.
    • Capitalism impoverishes millions of people
    • Capitalism is economic slavery
    • Capitalism treats natural resources as commodities to be exploited for profit
    • Capitalist systems do not feel the need to conserve resources
  • Police and prisons must be abolished.
    • The criminal justice system enforces the policies of the White dominant culture.
    • The criminal justice system violently targets BIPOC people
    • It is inhumane to lock people in cages.
  • White Quakers are settler-colonists. We continue to live on and profit from Indigenous lands.
  • The involvement of some White Quakers in the native boarding schools and how to begin healing related to that, is crucial for authentic relations between White Quakers and native peoples.
    • I have witnessed the multigenerational trauma affecting Indigenous people today.
  • Increasingly, as environmental chaos worsens, responding to the disastrous consequences will consume our attention and resources.
Black, Indigenous and other people of color (BIPOC) do not see any distinction between White Quakers and other White people in this country.

The most significant new perspectives are about the capitalist economic system. I hadn’t been as aware of many of the injustices fueled by capitalism prior to spending time in oppressed communities. Now I have witnessed the devastating effects of capitalism in these communities.

The nearly universal resistance to my attempts to convince White people to build systems not based upon capitalism is because the system works for them.

Capitalism is an unjust system. A different system is required. Mutual Aid is such a system.

Justice cannot be attained by incremental changes to an unjust system.

Accelerating environmental chaos is increasingly disrupting life as we know it. Which means, among other things, that the current political and economic systems in this country will continue to collapse. Now is the time to envision and build alternatives such as mutual aid.

Justice cannot be attained within an unjust system

Our Quaker Queries recognize the injustices of our capitalist economic system.

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

The advice also says “we envision a system of social and economic justice that ensures the right of every individual to be loved and cared for…” 

Faith and Practice, Iowa Yearly Meeting (Conservative)

This is well summarized by my friend Ronnie James. We work together at Des Moines Mutual Aid.

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

This is a simplified schematic of the consequences of White dominance (Red), and the alternatives for a transition to justice and disaster preparedness (Green).

Implementing the transition to a more just society will be impeded by

  • Environmental chaos
  • Corrupt and failing institutions
  • Authoritarianism

This diagram shows the current systems in the column labeled White.
The column under Black, Indigenous and other people of color shows the injustices resulting from the current systems.
The Red/Green New Deal shows how we can address these injustices.
The solid red column indicates the challenges to moving to systems of justice, sustainability, and resilience.

I’ve written about these concepts on my blog:

Nico Santos and Artificial Intelligence

I share the significant concerns of many about some uses of Artificial Intelligence (AI). My profession as a software engineer gives me a unique perspective.

I’ve been doing a lot of research and some writing in the area of Artificial Intelligence (AI) recently

One thing is clear is that AI is a powerful research assistant. I’ve written about forty AI prompts over the past week. See an example at the end of this.

Nico Santos

I was really surprised to find the new music video (Number 1) by one of my favorite artists, Nico Santos, was directed by Artificial Intelligence. CHATGPT is a very commonly used AI interface.

Show a palm tree. NICO’s expression!!

EXAMPLE: AI prompt and response

Explain how Mutual Aid is a way to work against the authoritarianism growing in the United States and provide examples and references


Mutual aid is a voluntary, reciprocal exchange of resources and services among individuals and communities. This concept, rooted in the principles of solidarity and cooperation, has gained traction as a way to counter the growing authoritarianism in the United States. By prioritizing the needs of marginalized and vulnerable groups, mutual aid seeks to dismantle oppressive systems and foster a more equitable society. In this context, let’s explore how mutual aid can work against authoritarianism and provide examples and references to support this argument.

1. Decentralization: Mutual aid operates on a grassroots level, which means that it is decentralized and not controlled by a single, centralized authority. This decentralization empowers local communities to make decisions and take actions to address their specific needs. By doing so, mutual aid weakens the influence of centralized power structures, which are often associated with authoritarian regimes.

Example: The efforts of the mutual aid network in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, such as organizing food drives and providing support to quarantined individuals, showcase the effectiveness of decentralized, community-led initiatives.

Reference: Spade, Dean (2020). “Mutual Aid: Building Solidarity During This Crisis (and the Next).” Verso Books.

2. Building solidarity: Mutual aid encourages people from diverse backgrounds and circumstances to come together and support one another, fostering a sense of solidarity among community members. This solidarity, in turn, can act as a powerful force against authoritarianism, as it promotes unity against oppressive systems and policies.

Example: The Black Panther Party’s Free Breakfast for School Children Program in the late 1960s and early 1970s is an example of a mutual aid initiative that built solidarity within the African American community, which helped to counteract racist policies and state repression.

Reference: Bloom, Joshua, and Waldo E. Martin Jr. (2013). “Black Against Empire: The History and Politics of the Black Panther Party.” University of California Press.

3. Empowering marginalized communities: Mutual aid initiatives often focus on providing resources and support to marginalized communities that are disproportionately affected by oppressive systems. By empowering these communities and addressing their needs, mutual aid can help to dismantle the hierarchical structures that perpetuate authoritarianism.

Example: The UndocuFund for Disaster Relief in Sonoma County provides financial assistance to undocumented immigrants who have been affected by natural disasters. This mutual aid initiative empowers a marginalized group that is often neglected by government relief programs.

Reference: Ramos, Dante (2018). “In Sonoma County, an undocumented community rises after fires.” The Boston Globe.

4. Encouraging active citizenship: Mutual aid promotes active citizenship by encouraging individuals to participate in their communities and address local issues. This active involvement can counteract the passivity and disengagement that often accompany authoritarian systems.

Example: Time banking, a form of mutual aid where participants exchange services based on time spent rather than monetary value, encourages active citizenship by fostering cooperation and skill-sharing within communities.

Reference: Cahn, Edgar S. (2004). “No More Throw-Away People: The Co-Production Imperative.” Essential Books.

In conclusion, mutual aid serves as a powerful tool to counter growing authoritarianism in the United States. By decentralizing power, fostering solidarity, empowering marginalized communities, and encouraging active citizenship, mutual aid initiatives directly challenge oppressive systems and work towards creating a more just and equitable society.

AI revisited

As I wrote yesterday, I’ve been enthusiastic about my recent experiences with Artificial Intelligence (AI). I know AI works well as a research assistant, because yesterday AI discovered many sources of information I had not found after months of searching on my own.

And the AI results not only returned new pieces of information but was even more impressive at combining concepts to reveal new relationships among them, often providing a new path of information and concepts to explore.

But I also have grave concerns about AI.

My experiences with computers are relevant. When I was a student at Scattergood Friends School (late 1960’s), the University of Iowa (about fifteen miles away) donated time on their mainframe computers for use by students in nearby schools. My math teacher suggested I read a book about the FORTRAN computer language, which is how I began to learn, i.e. taught myself to program computers. In those days, prior to the availability of classes in computer science, most of us were self-taught. I went on to teach myself about six computer languages. A computer programmer has to be a life-long learner, because computer languages and systems were changing very rapidly. I usually spent about 20 percent of my time at work downloading and learning evolving information. It wasn’t always a smooth process. I spent about six months trying to learn the PROLOG language, and never mastered it.

During the summer prior to my Senior year at Scattergood, Don Laughlin (an Iowa Quaker and mentor) arranged for me to spend the summer at the University of Iowa Hospitals working with him in his medical electronics lab. The lab had just purchased one of the first commercially available desktop computers and wanted me to write the software to automate the process of calculating results from pulmonary function testing, which took a couple of hours, each, to do manually.

This was at a time when laboratories were transitioning from using oscilloscopes to measure and display data, to using computers, instead. The many advantages included real time display of signals (from babies breathing, in my case), the opening and closing of various valves to regulate the testing proedure, immediate calculation and display of complex results, and automatic storage of all the data in databases. But it immediately became apparent that developing such software was a complex and very long-term process. The last software system I worked on, which measured how well gases in a baby’s lungs diffused between the alveoli in the lungs, and the capillary blood, took three years to finish. That involved measuring eight channels of data (flow, volume, gas concentrations), reading gas concentrations in thousandths of a percent, monitoring and displaying the signals in real time, and making decisions, in real time, of when to turn a specific valve on or off. But as a result, ours is the only lab in the world that can do those measurements.

I also spent a lot of time writing “teaching programs”, using computers to display information, and giving and grading “tests” to students about the material. I especially liked “simulations”, such as a mathematical model that allowed students to make adjustments to how the respiratory system was functioning, for example, and to display the results of those changes.

This is on the “other side” of machine learning, which is a large part of AI. AI can sort through huge amounts of data to discover patterns, i.e. “learn” about the data.

My ultimate concern is AI might be used by computer systems to learn what humans don’t know, and use their ability to control devices, including movement, to somehow overcome humans in certain situations.

Prior to that, now actually, there are many concerns about how “well” AI is working in many instances. This would not be the time to allow AI to make decisions for you.

I thought I would see what AI had to say about cautions related to artificial intelligence. What follows was completely written by the AI system I’m using,

NOTE: The following was completely generated by from a list of keywords I entered related to caution about artificial intelligence.

Caution about artificial intelligence


Artificial intelligence (AI) is the use of computers to imitate human intelligence. AI can be used for many purposes, including making recommendations about what products to buy or which advertisements to view. It has become a hot topic in business and politics but also raises concerns about its potential dangers. This post will address some common questions about artificial intelligence such as:

Artificial intelligence will never be perfect.

AI is not perfect yet, but it can be improved.

AI is still a work in progress, and there’s still plenty of room for improvement. The best way to know if your AI system is up to par is by testing it against other models—that way you’ll know if it’s performing well or not. If you’re in doubt about the accuracy of your model (or how well it’s working), consider running some tests on it!

AI can make mistakes.

AI can make mistakes. It’s not perfect, and it should be treated with the same respect as any other human being.

AI can make mistakes in the same way that humans do: by making assumptions about their environment and then acting on those assumptions without much thought or consideration of consequences. For example, if your computer tells you “There’s a dog at the door,” this isn’t necessarily accurate—sometimes dogs are just dogs and don’t have a door (or even an owner). On top of that, computers aren’t really good at perceiving subtle differences between different kinds of animals like dogs; if you don’t want your house cat getting into mischief because someone told you there was a big black dog outside waiting for her to come home from school with cookies from Dunkin’ Donuts…well…then maybe we should stop using AI altogether until we figure out how best to train these programs?

What exactly do we mean when we say that a computer program is “learning”?

When you’re talking about artificial intelligence, the term “learning” is used a lot. But what exactly does it mean?

First of all, learning is a process that occurs over time. It involves changing the way you do things and/or think about things. Learning also involves changing your view of everything around you—your environment and its contents are part of this change as well (e.g., when someone learns how to drive). Finally, learning means changing from one state or stage in life to another stage or state—for example: from childhood into adulthood; from being single into getting married; etcetera

Can you teach a computer to learn?

When you learn something new, are you teaching the information to yourself?

  • The answer is yes. When you’re learning something new, your brain has to store that information in order for it to be useful later on. This process of storing and retrieving information is called memory and memory storage is what makes up human intelligence.

So can computers learn? Well… sorta… but not exactly like us humans do! A computer learns by reproducing patterns from previous experiences (e.g., if they’ve seen an object before, they’ll recognize its shape). It doesn’t necessarily understand why these patterns exist — just what they do when combined with other objects or situations (for example: how many squares are needed around a triangle?). That said, computers have been programmed with algorithms designed specifically for teaching machines how best to learn tasks like memorizing lists of words or playing chess against humans using only their neural networks as processors instead of traditional CPUs/GPUs (which require lots more energy).

When it comes to the use of AI, there is always a trade off between accuracy and speed.

When it comes to the use of AI, there is always a trade off between accuracy and speed. The speed of artificial intelligence is limited by the speed of your computer, which can be improved with faster processors and more RAM (Random Access Memory). The accuracy of artificial intelligence is limited by the accuracy of your data, which can be improved with more advanced statistical methods.

Although both these factors play important roles in determining how fast or accurate an algorithm will be at identifying objects in photographs, they don’t necessarily have to be mutually exclusive—you may have both high-quality images as well as good computational power available when building an algorithm for this task!

We need to think about how to continue developing and improving artificial intelligence, but also recognize its limitations

We need to think about how to continue developing and improving artificial intelligence, but also recognize its limitations.

The development of artificial intelligence is a complicated process that involves many different fields. The field of computer science has developed new ways of thinking about the problem, but there are still many unanswered questions. For example, what does it mean for an artificially intelligent system to have “intelligence”? What would it mean if we created an artificial being with no emotions or empathy?

We must continue developing and improving our understanding of these issues so that we can make informed decisions about how best to use AIs in our daily lives – as well as what they’re capable of doing in general terms!


We now know that artificial intelligence is still in its infancy, but it’s a fascinating topic to explore. There are many potential applications of AI today, including self-driving cars and robots capable of performing complex tasks. While AI can make our lives easier by performing certain tasks more efficiently, we should be careful not to forget its limitations—and the need for human oversight when it comes to making decisions about our own safety or well-being.

Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, circa 1980. Permission was obtained for patient photo for a publication about Riley Hospital for Children.

My new friend, AI

With many tools becoming available to work with Artificial Intelligence (AI), I thought I’d see how this could help me with research for thought and writing. Many things I think and write about have little documentation.

Spirituality and Mutual Aid has been frustrating to explore because I’ve found little information so far.

I was pleasantly surprised at what the Artificial Intelligence interface uncovered in response to my questions. I was really surprised at what was discovered when I asked about groups incorporating spirituality into Mutual Aid”. One answer was:

LANDBACK Friends is a Quaker community that discusses mutual aid and spirituality. They suggest that mutual aid can be a spiritual practice, and that it is a way to build peaceful, abolitionist communities. [4]

NOTE: LANDBACK FRIENDS is another of my websites.

This is the chat I had with about Spirituality and Mutual Aid:

Spirituality and Mutual Aid

Mutual aid is a practice of community support and solidarity, and spirituality can be a powerful tool in practicing mutual aid. Spiritual beliefs and practices can provide a sense of purpose, meaning, and connection to something greater than oneself, which can motivate and sustain mutual aid efforts.

Many spiritual traditions prioritize the values of compassion, generosity, and service to others, which align with the principles of mutual aid. For example, in Christianity, the concept of “love thy neighbor” is a central tenet that encourages Christians to care for one another and help those in need. In Buddhism, the practice of “metta” or loving-kindness meditation is a way to cultivate a sense of compassion and empathy towards all beings, which can inspire acts of mutual aid.

Spiritual practices can also provide a sense of grounding and resilience in the face of adversity. Practices such as prayer, meditation, and mindfulness can help individuals cope with stress and trauma and provide a sense of inner peace and strength. This can be especially important for those who are participating in mutual aid efforts, as they may be dealing with challenging situations and emotions.

In addition, spirituality can inspire a sense of interconnectedness and unity among people, regardless of their backgrounds or beliefs. This can promote a sense of solidarity and mutual support that is essential for successful mutual aid efforts.

Overall, spirituality can play an important role in mutual aid by providing a sense of purpose, grounding, resilience, and connection. By incorporating spiritual practices and beliefs into mutual aid efforts, individuals and communities can deepen their sense of commitment to helping others and building stronger, more resilient communities.

Groups incorporating spirituality into Mutual Aid

One group that incorporates spirituality into mutual aid is the Catholic left, which has been practicing spiritual mutual aid since Vatican II. This takes place at the grassroots level of the church, where people gather in egalitarian house churches and prayer groups and consecrate the Eucharist communally or at the hands of a person who would be denied ordination by the Catholic hierarchy. [1]

Another example is the mutual aid group “Higher Power” in Northern California, which is a culturally adapted 12-step program for Latinos with substance use problems and other mental health concerns. This group incorporates spirituality and cultural adaptation into their recovery methods. [2][3]

LANDBACK Friends is a Quaker community that discusses mutual aid and spirituality. They suggest that mutual aid can be a spiritual practice, and that it is a way to build peaceful, abolitionist communities. [4]



Martin Luther King, Jr. 2023

Yesterday, April 4th, was the anniversary of the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. Every year there is a solemn gathering at the Kennedy-King Park in downtown Indianapolis to commemorate the speech that Bobby Kenndy gave there in 1968, announcing King’s death. This was in the days before cell phones, and that was the first time most in the crowd heard the news. The Indianapolis police pleaded with him not to go to that neighborhood, fearing they could not protect him from the crowd. Indianapolis was one of the few major cities in the country where riots did not occur that night.

That event in Indianapolis was supposed to have been a campaign stop for Kennedy’s Presidential bid. Kennedy received the news on the plane to Indianapolis. There was no time to prepare a speech. The video at the end of this is the extemporaneous speech Kennedy gave that night.

There is a remarkable sculpture at the Kennedy-King Park symbolizing the connections between Martin Luther King, Jr, and Robert Kennedy.

(c)Jeff Kisling, Kennedy-King Park, Indianapolis, IN

Martin Luther King has been an important part of my life. I was coming of age during his time, a Junior at Scattergood Friends School when he was killed. I had so much trouble trying to sort out what I should do about the Vietnam War. Martin Luther King was criticized by people in the civil rights movement when he began to speak out against the war, but that was a great help to me.

These days I’m working to replace capitalism by building mutual aid communities. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s work was as much about economics and poverty as it was about racial equality.

“I am much more socialistic in my economic theory than capitalistic,” Martin Luther King admitted to Coretta Scott, concluding that “capitalism has outlived its usefulness.”

Speaking at a staff retreat of the SCLC in 1966, King said that “something is wrong … with capitalism” and “there must be a better distribution of wealth” in the country. “Maybe,” he suggested, “America must move toward a democratic socialism.”

For King, the only solution to America’s crisis of poverty was the redistribution of wealth. In a 1961 speech to the Negro American Labor Council, King declared, “Call it democracy, or call it democratic socialism, but there must be a better distribution of wealth within this country for all God’s children.”

The Forgotten Socialist History of Martin Luther King, Jr. by Matthew Miles Goodrich, In These Times, January 16, 2023

“War Is An Enemy Of The Poor.”

Although seldom recognized, Martin Luther King Jr. was anti-war. His politics should be applied to demand an end to NATO and the war in Ukraine, say activists.

“We are here, honoring the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.,” said co-executive director of The People’s Forum, Claudia De La Cruz, to a crowd of hundreds gathered in Times Square, in front of the US Army Recruiting Station, on January 14. “We are here to reclaim his legacy and say: no to war.”

The organizers and workers mobilized to demand an end to NATO and a peaceful resolution to the ongoing war in Ukraine. The rally and march was organized by the Act Now to Stop War and End Racism (ANSWER) Coalition, a US anti-war organization, and the People’s Forum. Activists raised slogans to demand a peaceful resolution of the war through negotiations rather than continued US weapons funding. Banners read “Money for our needs/Not the war machine” and “No to NATO/Yes to peace”.

With Congress passing a massive spending bill in December, containing over $44 billion in US aid to Ukraine, the United States is now set to spend over $100 billion total on the Russia–Ukraine War. Activists are demanding that these billions be used instead to fund public services, such as education, jobs and healthcare.

“We have to continue to fight for integration, collaboration, negotiations, because that’s been the only way of resolving conflict. War is a tool of our enemy,” said De La Cruz, in closing, to the crowd assembled inside The People’s Forum. “The only legit war is class war.”

US Activists Honor the Anti-War Legacy of Martin Luther King, Jr by Natalia Marques, People’s Dispatch, January 17, 2023

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

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

Ronnie James

The major threat of Martin Luther King Jr to us is a spiritual and moral one. King’s courageous and compassionate example shatters the dominant neoliberal soul-craft of smartness, money and bombs. His grand fight against poverty, militarism, materialism and racism undercuts the superficial lip service and pretentious posturing of so-called progressives as well as the candid contempt and proud prejudices of genuine reactionaries. King was neither perfect nor pure in his prophetic witness – but he was the real thing in sharp contrast to the market-driven semblances and simulacra of our day.

Martin Luther King Jr turned away from popularity in his quest for spiritual and moral greatness – a greatness measured by what he was willing to give up and sacrifice due to his deep love of everyday people, especially vulnerable and precious black people. Neoliberal soul craft avoids risk and evades the cost of prophetic witness, even as it poses as “progressive”.

If King were alive today, his words and witness against drone strikes, invasions, occupations, police murders, caste in Asia, Roma oppression in Europe, as well as capitalist wealth inequality and poverty, would threaten most of those who now sing his praises.

Today, 50 years later the US imperial meltdown deepens. And King’s radical legacy remains primarily among the awakening youth and militant citizens who choose to be extremists of love, justice, courage and freedom, even if our chances to win are that of a snowball in hell! This kind of unstoppable King-like extremism is a threat to every status quo!

Martin Luther King Jr was a radical. We must not sterilize his legacy by Cornel West, The Guardian, April 4, 2018

YouTube video I created of speeches by Martin Luther King, Jr, and Bobby Kennedy using photos I took at the Kenned-King Park in Indianapolis.

Carbon Capture update 4/4/2023

Carbon capture, utilization and storage (CCUS) continues to be promoted as an important way to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, by sucking carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere. There are many reasons why CCUS is not a viable solution, as described in detail in a new report from the Oakland Institute titled The Great Carbon Boondoggle.

I just saw an advertisement from Valero, one of the fossil fuel pipeline companies supporting CCUS. The ad asks why everyone is focused on the past. Then talks about how Valero is saving the planet by removing carbon dioxide from the air. The entire ad was about CCUS.


SAN ANTONIO–(BUSINESS WIRE)– Valero Energy Corporation (NYSE: VLO, “Valero”) and BlackRock Global Energy & Power Infrastructure Fund III announced today that they are partnering with Navigator Energy Services (“Navigator”) to develop an industrial scale carbon capture pipeline system (“CCS”). The initial phase is expected to span more than 1,200 miles of new carbon dioxide gathering and transportation pipelines across five Midwest states with the capability of permanently storing up to 5 million metric tonnes of carbon dioxide per year. Pending third party customer feedback, the system could be expanded to transport and sequester up to 8 million metric tonnes of carbon dioxide per year. Valero, the largest renewable fuels producer in North America, is expected to become an anchor shipper by securing a majority of the initial available system capacity. Navigator is expected to lead the construction and operations of the system and anticipates operations to begin late 2024. In the coming months, Navigator will seek additional commitments to utilize the remaining capacity via a binding open season process.

Valero and BlackRock Partner with Navigator to Announce Large-Scale Carbon Capture and Storage Project

Boondoggle: work or activity that is wasteful or pointless but gives the appearance of having value

During the current legislative session, the Iowa House passed legislation that would have carbon pipeline companies restrict the use of eminent domain to force landowners to allow pipeline construction on their land. But the Iowa Senate will not vote on it. This photo was taken outside the Iowa State Capitol during a rally against carbon pipelines.

(c)2023 Jeff Kisling

A House bill that would restrict the use of eminent domain for carbon capture pipelines — an idea favored by a strong majority of Iowans — won’t receive a Senate hearing ahead of a key legislative deadline, meaning the bill is effectively dead for the session.

The bill represented the most serious legislative effort this year to address the concerns of farmers and other landowners who fear they could be forced to sell access to their land to companies seeking to build pipelines across the state.

Rep. Steven Holt, R-Denison, the bill’s House floor manager, said the Senate’s decision not to move the bill is disappointing.

“I think the bill we passed was important protections for our landowners and I’m very disappointed that they’re choosing not to move it,” he said Wednesday.

Holt pointed to a Des Moines Register/Mediacom Iowa Poll this month, which found more than three-fourths of Iowans, or 78%, oppose letting carbon pipelines use eminent domain for their projects.

That includes 72% of Republicans, 79% of independents and 82% of Democrats.

Senate won’t curb eminent domain for carbon pipelines; most Iowans say they want limits by Stephen Gruber-Miller, Des Moines Register, March 29, 2023

Why Is Carbon Capture & Storage A False Climate Solution?

The promoters of the Midwest Carbon Express fail to reckon with the growing body of evidence exposing CCS as a false climate solution. CCS projects have systematically overpromised and underdelivered. Despite billions of taxpayer dollars spent on CCS to date, the technology has failed to significantly reduce CO2 emissions, as it has “not been proven feasible or economic at scale.” [27]

Crucially, the ability to capture and safely contain CO2 permanently underground has not been proven, a dangerous uncertainty given CO2 must be stored underground for thousands of years without leaking to effectively reduce emissions. [28]

It also risks permanently contaminating underground aquifers and poisoning precious drinking water for nearby communities.[29]

Additionally, applying CCS to industrial sources such as ethanol plants requires the creation of massive infrastructure and transportation of carbon to storage sites, and injecting it underground poses new environmental, health, and safety hazards in communities targeted for CCS infrastructure. As carbon capture infrastructure needs to be built near emitting sites, facilities would further impact those already burdened by industrial pollution. [30]

In many cases, this disproportionately impacts lower-income,Indigenous, Black, and Brown communities—furthering a vicious cycle of environmental racism.[31] To date, CCS has primarily been used to prop up the ineffective and environmentally unsustainable fossil fuel energy system. In the US, a dozen carbon capture plants are in operation—the majority of which are attached to ethanol, natural gas processing, or fertilizer plants—which generate emissions that are high in CO2. [32] Over 95 percent of the CO2 captured by these plants is currently used for enhanced oil recovery (EOR)—where instead of storing the captured CO2, it is injected into depleted underground oil reservoirs to boost oil production in wells.[33]

There are legitimate concerns that investing billions in carbon capture infrastructure to lower emissions from fossil fuels and ethanol production will reduce incentives for investors and policymakers to transition towards more sustainable and effective solutions. These include investing in wind or solar energy sources, phasing out of industrial agricultural production, developing infrastructure and services such as public transport. [34]

The Great Carbon Boondoggle

Biden Administration strongly supports Carbon Capture and Storage

The Biden administration has hailed CCS and carbon pipelines as vital infrastructure to meet climate targets and claimed that the US needs 65,000 additional miles of pipeline by 2050. [3] The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act signed in November 2021 provides over eight billion dollars as federal grants, loans, and loan guarantees for carbon storage and pipelines.[4] In 2022, President Biden signed the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA), which substantially increased the already abundant tax credits for CCS projects and made it easier for projects to qualify for these credits.[5] This flood of public money has resulted in over 40 CCS projects announced in 2021 alone. [6]
In Midwestern US, Archer-Daniel Midlands (ADM), Summit Carbon Solutions, and Navigator CO2 Ventures are currently advancing three major CCS projects. 

The Great Carbon Boondoggle

Endnotes from The Great Carbon Boondoggle

[3] Douglas, L. “U.S. carbon pipeline proposals trigger backlash over potential land seizures.” Reuters, February 7, 2022.
[4] Department of Energy. “Fact Sheet: The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act – Opportunities to Accelerate Deployment in Fossil Energy and Carbon Management Activities.” September 29, 2022.
October 10, 2022).
[5] Gibson Dunn. “The Inflation Reduction Act Includes Significant Benefits for the Carbon Capture Industry.” August 12, 2022. benefits-for-the-carbon-capture-industry/
[6] Paul, S. “Global carbon capture projects surge 50% in 9 months–research.” Reuters, October 11, 2021.

[27] Center for International Environmental Law. Confronting the Myth of Carbon-Free Fossil Fuels: Why Carbon Capture Is Not a Climate Solution. July, 2021.
[28] Center for International Environmental Law. Carbon Capture and Storage: An Expensive and Dangerous Plan for Louisiana. June 25, 2021.
[29] Physicians for Social Responsibility. “Danger Ahead: The Public Health Disaster That Awaits From Carbon Capture and Sequestration (CCS).” February 10, 2022.
[30] Ibid.
[31] For example, in Louisiana, proposed CCS infrastructure would impact Black and Brown, lower-income communities living in “Cancer Alley,” the industrial region named after decades of poor air and water quality from industrial pollution increased cancer rates and other health risks. Ibid.
[32] Kusnetz, N. “Fossil Fuel Companies Are Quietly Scoring Big Money for Their Preferred Climate Solution: Carbon Capture and Storage.” Inside Climate News, August 17, 2021.
[33] Iowa Chapter of Physicians for Social Responsibility. Fact Sheet: Low Carbon Standard, Ethanol and Carbon Capture. August 24, 2022.
[34] Ibid.

Three Years Later

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

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

(c)2023 Jeff Kisling

Foundational Stories

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wet’suwet’en peoples

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

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

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

Any efforts to stop pipelines catch my interest.

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

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

Spirit led connection to Mutual Aid

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

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

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

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

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

Three Years Later

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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


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

Faith and Practice, Iowa Yearly Meeting (Conservative)