Can’t see the forest for the trees

The reason I write so much is to think/pray about things I am led to do. And in hopes others might see ways they can engage in these struggles. We need massive numbers of people to make the radical changes outlined below immediately. I know people have been hearing this for years, but we have two choices today. If we continue to delay, we will absolutely continue to see escalating environmental chaos. I describe an the alternative here.

Writing yesterday’s post, Canadian pipeline and railway protests, I sensed many of my friends would disagree with the idea of sabotage. And question why a white male would be so focused on Indigenous ways in general, and the Wet’suwet’en actions to protect their water, land, and culture specifically.

All my words might result in people not being able to see my view of the forest for the trees. So, this morning I step back to show the forest. Some of the trees are found at the end.


The Forest

  • Settler colonialists stole the land in this country.
  • The land should be returned to Indigenous control (#LANDBACK) because
    • It is the right thing to do
    • Despite broken treaties, it is the legal thing to do
    • It is the only hope we have to slow down the devastation and begin to heal the land, water, air and ourselves
    • LANDBACK does not mean taking away private property. It means returning public lands to Indigenous practices
  • Environmental devastation has been caused by massively excessive fossil fuel burning.
  • Our environmental catastrophe will cause increasingly severe and frequent storms, drought, and damage.
  • There is no time for gradually decreasing fossil fuel emissions.
  • Any nonviolent action (for example, rail sabotage) to stop fossil fuel combustion should be supported.
  • The capitalist economic system drives excessive fossil fuel combustion, so must be replaced
  • Mutual Aid is a framework to organize communities in humane ways. Is an alternative to capitalism that can be implemented immediately. I’ve been working with Mutual Aid communities for the past year.
  • Mutual Aid has been how Indigenous communities worked for thousands of years.
  • As yesterday’s post said, “use your words to inspire others to action – not to beg for change from government bodies complicit in an active genocide.”
  • The efforts of the Wet’suwet’en peoples demonstrate how to accomplish the above. Might be our ‘last best hope’. And deserve our support.

The Trees

  • I am a lifelong Quaker, raised in Quaker communities. I seek and try to follow the guidance from the Spirit or Creator.
  • When I moved to Indianapolis in 1970, I was horrified by the filthy air (this before catalytic converters). I was strongly led to do whatever I could to address that, which included refusing to have a car.
  • I came to Indianapolis to participate in the Friends (Quaker) Volunteer Service mission project in inner city Indianapolis. My first experience in justice work with oppressed communities. I learned the importance of building long term relationships.
  • I tried many ways to convince others to stop burning fossil fuels, with no success.
  • In 2013 environmental activists recognized the decision to approve the Keystone XL pipeline was a chance, finally, to take on the fossil fuel industry. The Keystone Pledge of Resistance trained thousands to participate in acts of nonviolent civil disobedience. I was trained as an Action Lead, where I learned how to organize local civil disobedience acts, including training local activists.
  • Around that time, I was led to connect with the Kheprw Institute (KI), a youth mentoring community, because of their environmental work, including making rain barrels and developing an aquaponics system to grow food.
  • Also, at that time my Quaker meeting participated in the Quaker Social Change Ministry (QSCM) program, which trained us how to make connections with communities experiencing injustice. My experience with the Kheprw Institute made it logical for my Quaker meeting to engage with KI using the QSCM model. I learned much more about social justice work.
  • Next, there were many ways various groups in Indiana came together to try to stop the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL). This is how I began to learn about and engage with Indigenous peoples, who were part of the DAPL resistance.
  • Standing Rock showed Indigenous peoples from around the world coming together to try to stop DAPL. Demonstrated to necessity of prayer.
  • When I retired and returned to Iowa, I needed to find those who were doing similar environmental and social justice work. I was excited to make new connections, beginning by attending environmental justice rallies.
  • In 2018 I was blessed to participate in the First Nation-Farmer Climate Unity March. About a dozen Indigenous and a dozen non-native people spent eight days walking and camping along the route of the Dakota Access pipeline. Walking for ninety-four miles down empty gravel roads provided opportunities to share our stories with each other. That was remarkably successful in achieving one of the goals of the March, to create a community of native and non-native people who began to know and trust each other.
  • Since the March, there have been many ways we’ve worked together and deepened our relationships.
  • In January 2020, I came across a YouTube video that showed the Wet’suwet’en peoples in British Columbia evict Coastal GasLink pipeline workers from the pristine land and waters of the Wet’suwet’en territories. After so many years of struggle with little success to stop fossil fuel development I was astounded by the eviction and began to follow that closely.
  • The eviction was temporary and multiple actions to force the construction of the pipeline over the objections of the Wet’suwet’en continued.
  • Shortly after that eviction, militarized Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) violently invaded and arrested Indigenous peoples.
  • This news was not covered by mainstream media, so the Wet’suwet’en peoples wanted their supports to share what was happening on their social media platforms.
  • I wrote daily blog posts about the Wet’suwet’en and shared those on Facebook and twitter as well.
  • I wanted to make sure I was expressing the situation accurately and appropriately. Not being there in person, I connected with a media contact for the Wet’suwet’en which helped in that regard. That was important to do to avoid what happens too often as supporters cause more harm than good.
  • In February (2020) a few of us had a rally to support the Wet’suwet’en. We advertised the event on Facebook.
  • Ronnie James, and Indigenous organizer in Des Moines saw the event and came to see who was doing this work. That meeting changed my life. Ronnie taught me a great deal about organizing.
  • Ronnie patiently taught me the concepts of Mutual Aid, something I hadn’t known about. Eventually I asked if I could join in the work of Mutual Aid and for over a year, I’ve been part of the grocery giveaway program, one of several Mutual Aid projects in Des Moines.
  • I’m convinced Mutual Aid is the model needed to address justice and survival issues.
  • The Wet’suwet’en peoples are being attacked and arrested again by the RCMP.
  • Environmental devastation continues to unfold with much more severe weather occurring more frequently. With both the pollution of water and increasing drought.
  • Groups like the Extinction Rebellion are using direct action to force attention on the existential threats of environmental chaos and the need to act now.
  • Too many tipping points have been reached to stop evolving environmental chaos.
  • Not only the environment, but social, economic, and political systems are collapsing.
  • Mutual Aid is the way to replace those systems and provide immediate help to all who are impacted.
  • Indigenous peoples’ intergenerational trauma from the policies of forced assimilation is overwhelming as the remains of native children are found on the grounds of the so-called boarding schools
  • Indigenous ways are needed to attempt to heal Mother Earth.
  • Indigenous peoples are taking back control of their lands.

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