Editor’s Note: For the past few decades, the environmental movement has tried lobbying, educating, and holding rallies with the notion of protecting the natural world. This approach has not led to success. Instead of the destruction of the planet being slowed down, it has been progressing (in some cases, accelerating). This inefficacy has forced us to consider other means that might have better results. The deep green environmental movement has always called for use of any means necessary to protect the natural world. The following analysis highlights how more are opening up to the idea.
This story was originally published by Grist. Sign up for Grist’s weekly newsletter here
By Kate Yoder/Grist
It’s hard to think of something more wholesome than gardening. But the New Zealand gardening collective at the heart of Birnam Wood, a new political thriller by the Booker Prize-winning author Eleanor Catton, have a rebellious streak. The guerrilla gardeners trespass on unused land to grow carrots, cabbages, strawberries, and other crops. They tap private spigots and snipe the occasional tool from a shed in a wealthy neighborhood, imagining themselves as environmental revolutionaries.
Bookshelves are beginning to teem with radical environmentalists. In the sci-fi writer Kim Stanley Robinson’s The Ministry for the Future, a group called the Children of Kali target conspicuous “carbon burners,” knocking jets out of the sky and sinking yachts. A purported ecoterrorist also drives the plot of the mystery Hummingbird Salamander by Jeff VanderMeer, sending the main character on a risky mission into the world of wildlife trafficking. Then there’s Stephen Markley’s novel The Deluge, released in January, where a group of climate radicals called 6Degrees tries to avoid detection by the surveillance state as they instigate attacks on oil and gas infrastructure.
That eco-sabotage has captured so many authors’ imaginations seems to reflect a broader frustration with governments’ failure to rein in carbon emissions — a feeling that decades of peaceful protest weren’t enough, and the world is out of options. It has propelled climate fiction, once a niche genre, into the mainstream. Think of The Overstory by Richard Powers, a sweeping novel that follows activists who seek to save trees at all costs, employing human barricades, tree-sitting, and arson. It won the 2019 Pulitzer Prize and generated glowing praise from Bill Gates as well as Barack Obama, who said it “changed how I thought about the Earth and our place in it.”
History suggests that fictional stories about eco-sabotage, sometimes called “monkeywrenching” after Edward Abbey’s book of the same name, could inspire people to try something similar in the real world.`
“The world right now is ripe for radical activism,” said Dana Fisher, a professor of sociology at the University of Maryland. Last week, a report from the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change warned that the risks from climate change — both present and future — were even more severe than previously thought. In the last year alone, heavy rainfall submerged a third of Pakistan with massive floods and China endured a heat wave more intense and longer-lasting than any in recent history. The panel of scientists called for a “substantial reduction” in the use of fossil fuels, with the United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres declaring that the world needed a “quantum leap in climate action.”
Yet earlier this month, the Biden administration approved the Willow project, a ConocoPhillips oil drilling operation that could release up to 260 million metric tons of carbon over its lifetime. For progressive groups in the United States who spent recent years working with the Biden administration to pass the landmark Inflation Reduction Act, the single largest climate package in the country’s history, it felt like a betrayal — one that might lead to a shift in tactics.
“I mean, everybody knows that we are nowhere near where we need to be,” Fisher said. “And so the natural progression is you’re going to see folks, particularly young people, rise up.”
Apocalyptic storylines have long dominated environmental fiction — including Nevil Shute’s On the Beach, Octavia Butler’s Parable of the Sower, and Cormac McCarthy’s The Road — a frame that’s tailor-made to ramp up concern about planetary crises. “I think that a lot of climate fiction has been perhaps stuck in this mold of cautionary tales, of bad climate futures,” said Matthew Schneider-Mayerson, an English professor at Colby College in Maine.
Now reality is doing the work that fiction once did. With a quorum of Americans sufficiently frightened about the world’s trajectory — a full quarter of the population is now “alarmed” about climate change — writers are branching out. Authors are modeling for readers a transition from “apathetic awareness” to “meaningful action” by showing different kinds of political engagement, Schneider-Mayerson said.
That might explain the variety of unconventional activism in recent novels, such as the guerrilla gardeners of Birnam Wood and the utopian commune in Allegra Hyde’s Eleutheria (2022). Hyde’s novel follows a woman who joins a camp of eco-warriors in the Bahamas, after she read a guide to fighting climate change called Living the Solution. “I felt like a lot of climate fiction that I was encountering was purely apocalyptic,” Hyde told Grist. “But I wrote this because I wanted to use fiction as a space to imagine other possibilities, imagine utopian possibilities, and maybe open up that imaginative space for people.”
Eleutheria was inspired in part by The Great Derangement, a nonfiction book by the Indian author Amitav Ghosh published in 2016 that bemoaned the lack of serious literature about climate change, especially outside of science fiction, at the time. “I think it is a real call to arms to fiction writers to recognize how storytelling can and does shape how we live our lives in the real world,” Hyde said.
Another inflection point for climate fiction was the widespread popularity of The Overstory, the 512-page novel that brought attention to the ways trees communicate and wound up as a global bestseller. “It wasn’t hived off into the usual silos of climate change or speculative fiction, but was treated as a mainstream novel,” Ghosh told the Guardian in 2020, noting that he’s seen an “outpouring of work in this area” since the book’s publication.
Monkeywrenching is also spilling over into film. The movie How to Blow Up a Pipeline, coming out next month, is inspired by the Swedish writer Andreas Malm’s book of the same name, a manifesto that encourages sabotage and critiques the pacifism of the climate movement. The film adaption takes that idea and turns it into a work of fiction, following a group of disillusioned young people on a heist to sabotage an oil pipeline. The trailer shows them making bombs and features dramatic background music punctuated by klaxons. “They will defame us and claim this was violence or vandalism,” one activist says. “But this was justified.”
Previous films have tended to “pathologize” activists who destroy property, psychoanalyzing them to figure out what was wrong with them, Schneider-Mayerson said. “I think maybe there’s a sense that, like, you can kind of touch these topics, but you can never endorse it.” On the other hand, How to Blow Up a Pipeline ends with “a wink and a nudge,” according to an early review of the film. “You can almost hear the movie say that the sabotage doesn’t need to stop when the credits roll,” Edward Ongweso Jr wrote in Vice.
The idea that people might take a cue from the movie isn’t far-fetched, experts say. “I can just say for sure that there are a whole bunch of dissatisfied young people around the country,” said Fisher, the sociologist. “And if they start watching movies about blowing up pipelines, what will that do?”
Photo by Krists Luhaers on Unsplash
Editor’s Note: The following are two press releases by Ox Sam Camp. As communities get more radical against corporations, corporations use their power against them. This is not the first time that this has happened and it will not be the last. As activists, it is necessary for us to understand the risk associated with any action against the system. The earlier we understand this, the better we can strategize.
The article is followed by a short reflection piece by Elisabeth Robson on the need for the environmental movement to put our allegiance with the natural world, as is demonstrated in this fight to protect Thacker Pass.
Ox Sam Camp Raided by Police at Thacker Pass
One Arrested as Prayer Tipis Are Dismantled and Ceremonial Items Confiscated
Contact: Ox Sam Camp
THACKER PASS, NV — On Wednesday morning, the Humboldt County Sheriff’s department on behalf of Lithium Nevada Corporation, raided the Ox Sam Newe Momokonee Nokutun (Ox Sam Indigenous Women’s Camp), destroying the two ceremonial tipi lodges, mishandling and confiscating ceremonial instruments and objects, and extinguishing the sacred fire that has been lit since May 11th when the Paiute/Shoshone Grandma-led prayer action began.
One arrest took place on Wednesday at the direction of Lithium Nevada security. During breakfast, law enforcement arrived. Almost immediately without warning, a young Diné female water protector was singled out by Lithium Nevada security and arrested, not given the option to leave the camp. Two non-natives were allowed to “move” in order to avoid arrest. The Diné woman was quickly handcuffed and subsequently loaded into a sheriff’s SUV for transport to Winnemucca for processing.
While on the highway, again without warning or explanation, she was transferred into a windowless, pitch-black holding box in the back of a pickup truck. “I was really scared for my life,” the woman said. “I didn’t know where I was or where I was going. I know that MMIW is a real thing, and I didn’t want to be the next one.” She was transported to Humboldt County Jail, where she was charged with criminal trespass and resisting arrest, then released on bail.
Just hours before the raid, Ox Sam water protectors could be seen for the second time this week bravely standing in the way of large excavation equipment and shutting down construction at the base of Sentinel Rock.
To many Paiute and Shoshone, Sentinel Rock is a “center of the universe,” integral to many Nevada Tribes’ way of life and ceremony, as well as a site for traditional medicines, tools, and food supply for thousands of years. Thacker Pass is also the site of two massacres of Paiute and Shoshone people. The remains of the massacred ancestors have remained unidentified and unburied since 1865, and are now being bulldozed and crushed by Lithium Nevada for the mineral known as “the new white gold.”
Since May 11th, despite numerous requests by Lithium Nevada workers, the Humboldt County Sheriff Department has been reticent and even unwilling to arrest members of the prayer camp, even after issuing three warnings for blocking Pole Creek Road access to Lithium Nevada workers and sub-contractors, while allowing the public to pass through.
“We absolutely respect your guys’ right to peacefully protest,” explained Humboldt County Sheriff Sean Wilkin on May 12th. “We have zero issues with [the tipi] whatsoever… We respect your right to be out here.”
On March 19th the Sheriff arrived again, serving individual fourteen-day Temporary Protection Orders against several individuals at camp. The protection orders were granted by the Humboldt County Court on behalf of Lithium Nevada based on sworn statements loaded with misrepresentations, false claims, and, according to those targeted, outright false accusations by their employees. Still, Ox Sam Camp continued for another week. The tipis, the sacred fire, and the prayers remained unchallenged for a total of twenty-seven days of ceremony and resistance.
The scene at Thacker Pass this week looked like Standing Rock, Line 3, or Oak Flat. As Lithium Nevada’s workers and heavy equipment tried to bulldoze and trench their way through the ceremonial grounds surrounding the tipi at Sentinel Rock, the water protectors put their bodies in the way of the destruction, forcing work stoppage on two occasions.
Lithium Nevada’s ownership and control of Thacker Pass only exists because of the flawed permitting and questionable administrative approvals issued by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM). BLM officials have refused to acknowledge that Peehee Mu’huh is a sacred site to regional Tribal Nations and have continued to downplay and question the significance of the double massacre through two years of court battles.
Three tribes — the Reno-Sparks Indian Colony, Summit Lake Paiute Tribe, and Burns Paiute Tribe — remain locked in litigation with the Federal Government, challenging the BLM’s permit process from the beginning. The tribes filed their latest response to the BLM’s Motion to Dismiss on Monday. BLM is part of the Department of the Interior, which is led by Deb Haaland (Laguna Pueblo).
On Wednesday, at least five Sheriff’s vehicles, several Lithium Nevada worker vehicles, and two security trucks arrived at the original tipi site that contained the ceremonial fire, immediately adjacent to Pole Creek Road. The one native water protector was arrested without warning, while others were issued with trespass warnings and allowed to leave the area. Once the main camp was secured, law enforcement then moved up to secure and dismantle the tipi site at Sentinel Rock, a mile away.
There is a proper way to take down a tipi and ceremonial camp, and then there is the way Humboldt County Sheriffs proceeded on behalf of Lithium Nevada Corporation. Tipis were knocked down, tipi poles were snapped, and ceremonial objects and instruments were rummaged through, mishandled, and impounded. Empty tents were approached and secured in classic SWAT-raid fashion. One car was towed. As is often the case when lost profits lead to government assaults on peaceful water protectors, Lithium Nevada Corporation and the Humboldt County Sheriffs have begun to claim that the raid was done for the safety of the camp members and for public health.
Josephine Dick (Fort McDermitt Paiute-Shoshone), who is a descendent of Ox Sam and one of the matriarchs of Ox Sam Newe Momokonee Nokutun, made the following statement in response to the raid:
“As Vice Chair of the Native American Indian Church of the State of Nevada, and as a Paiute-Shoshone Tribal Nation elder and member, I am requesting the immediate access to and release of my ceremonial instruments and objects, including my Eagle Feathers and staff which have held the prayers of my ancestors and now those of Ox Sam camp since the beginning. There was also a ceremonial hand drum and medicines such as cedar and tobacco, which are protected by the American Indian Religious Freedom Act.
In addition, my understanding is that Humboldt County Sherriff Department along with Lithium Nevada security desecrated two ceremonial tipi lodges, which include canvasses, poles, and ropes. The Ox Sam Newe Momokonee Nokutun has been conducting prayers and ceremony in these tipis, also protected by the American Indian Religious Freedom Act. When our ceremonial belongings are brought together around the sacred fire, this is our Church. Our Native American Church is a sacred ceremony. I am demanding the immediate access to our prayer site at Peehee Mu’huh and the return of our confiscated ceremonial objects.
The desecration that Humboldt County Sherriffs and Lithium Nevada conducted by knocking the tipis down and rummaging through sacred objects is equivalent to destroying a bible, breaking The Cross, knocking down a cathedral, disrespecting the sacrament, and denying deacons and pastors access to their places of worship. It is in direct violation of my American Indian Religious Freedom rights. This violation of access to our ceremonial church and the ground on which it sits is a violation of Presidential Executive Order 13007.
The location of the tipi lodge that was pushed over and destroyed is at the base of Sentinel Rock, a place our Paiute-Shoshone have been praying since time immemorial. After two years of our people explaining that Peehee Mu’huh is sacred, BLM Winnemucca finally acknowledged that Thacker Pass is a Traditional Cultural District, but they are still allowing it to be destroyed.”
Josephine and others plan to make a statement on live stream outside the Humboldt County Sheriff’s Office in Winnemucca on the afternoon of Friday, June 9th around 1pm.
Another spiritual leader on the front lines has been Dean Barlese from the Pyramid Lake Paiute Tribe. Despite being confined to a wheelchair, Barlese led prayers at the site on April 25th which led to Lithium Nevada shutting down construction for a day, and returned on May 11th to pray over the new sacred fire as Ox Sam camp was established.
“This is not a protest, it’s a prayer,” said Barlese. “But they’re still scared of me. They’re scared of all of us elders, because they know we’re right and they’re wrong.”
Land Defenders Arrested, Camp Raided After Blocking Excavator
First arrests are underway and camp is being raided after land defenders halted an excavator this morning at Thacker Pass.
OROVADA, NV — This morning, a group of Native American water protectors and allies used their bodies to non-violently block construction of the controversial Thacker Pass lithium mine in Nevada, turning back bulldozers and heavy equipment.
The dramatic scene unfolded this morning as workers attempting to dig trenches near Sentinel Rock were turned back by land defenders who ran and put their bodies between heavy equipment and the land.
Now they are being arrested and camp is being raided.
Northern Paiute and Western Shoshone people consider Thacker Pass to be sacred. So when they learned that the area was slated to become the biggest open-pit lithium mine in North America, they filed lawsuits, organized rallies, spoke at regulatory hearings, and organized in the community. But despite all efforts over the last three years, construction of the mine began in March.
That’s what led Native American elders, friends and family, water protectors, and their allies to establish what they call a “prayer camp and ceremonial fire” at Thacker Pass on May 11th, when they setup a tipi at dawn blocking construction of a water pipeline for the mine. A second tipi was erected several days later two miles east, where Lithium Nevada’s construction is defacing Sentinel Rock, one of their most important sacred sites.
Sentinel Rock is integral to many Nevada Tribes’ worldview and ceremony. The area was the site of two massacres of Paiute and Shoshone people. The first was an inter-tribal conflict that gave the area it’s Paiute name: Peehee Mu’huh, or rotten moon. The second was a surprise attack by the US Cavalry on September 12th, 1865, during which the US Army slaughtered dozens. One of the only survivors of the attack was a man named Ox Sam. It is some of Ox Sam’s descendants, the Grandmas, that formed Ox Sam Newe Momokonee Nokotun (Indigenous Women’s Camp) to protect this sacred land for the unborn, to honor and protect the remains of their ancestors, and to conduct ceremonies. Water protectors have been on-site in prayer for nearly a month.
On Monday, Lithium Nevada Corporation also attempted to breach the space occupied by the water protectors. As workers maneuvered trenching equipment into a valley between the two tipis, water protectors approached the attempted work site and peacefully forced workers and their excavator to back up and leave the area. According to one anonymous land defender, Lithium Nevada’s action was “an attempted show of force to fully do away with our tipi and prayer camp around Sentinel Rock.”
Ranchers, recreationists, and members of the public have been allowed to pass without incident and water protectors maintain friendly relationships with locals. Opposition to the mine is widespread in the area, and despite repeated warnings from the local Sheriff, there have been no arrests. Four people, including Dorece Sam Antonio of the Fort McDermitt Paiute-Shoshone Tribe (an Ox sam descendant) and Max Wilbert of Protect Thacker Pass, have been targeted by court orders barring them from the area. They await a court hearing in Humboldt County Justice Court.
“Lithium Nevada is fencing around the sacred site Sentinel Rock to disrupt our access and yesterday was an escalation to justify removal of our peaceful prayer camps,” said one anonymous water protector at Ox Sam Camp. “Lithium Nevada intends to desecrate and bulldoze the remains of the ancestors here. We are calling out to all water protectors, land defenders, attorneys, human rights experts, and representatives of Tribal Nations to come and stand with us.”
“I’m being threatened with arrest for protecting the graves of my ancestors,” says Dorece Sam Antonio. “My great-great Grandfather Ox Sam was one of the survivors of the 1865 Thacker Pass massacre that took place here. His family was killed right here as they ran away from the U.S. Army. They were never buried. They’re still here. And now these bulldozers are tearing up this place.”
Another spiritual leader on the front lines has been Dean Barlese, a spiritual leader from the Pyramid Lake Paiute Tribe. Despite being confined to a wheelchair, Barlese led prayers at the site on April 25th (shutting down construction for a day) and returned on May 11th.
“I’m asking people to come to Peehee Mu’huh,” Barlese said. “We need more prayerful people. I’m here because I have connections to these places. My great-great-great grandfathers fought and shed blood in these lands. We’re defending the sacred. Water is sacred. Without water, there is no life. And one day, you’ll find out you can’t eat money.”
The 1865 Thacker Pass massacre is well documented in historical sources, books, newspapers, and oral histories. Despite the evidence but unsurprisingly, the Federal Government has not protected Thacker Pass or even slowed construction of the mine to allow for consultation to take place with Tribes. In late February, the Federal Government recognized tribal arguments that Thacker Pass is a “Traditional Cultural District” eligible for the National Register of Historic Places. But that didn’t stop construction from commencing.
“This is not a protest, it’s a prayer,” said Barlese. “But they’re still scared of me. They’re scared of all of us elders, because they know we’re right and they’re wrong.”
For more, go to Ox Sam Camp.
Hug Trees Not Pylons
By Elizabeth Robson
In the past couple of weeks both The Economist and Mother Jones have published covers showing people embracing industrial objects and exhorting “environmentalists” to get on board with the green building boom.
The Economist cover shows a man hugging a massive steel electric grid pylon and says “Hug Pylons Not Trees: The Growth Environmentalism Needs.” The Mother Jones cover shows a woman hugging an excavator, and says “Yes in Our Backyards: It’s time for progressives to fall in love with the green building boom.”
The latter is made even worse by the fact that it is Bill McKibben saying this. We expect relentless pro-industry, pro-growth propaganda from The Economist. But Mother Jones? Bill McKibben? McKibben begins his article in Mother Jones, Getting to Yes, by saying “I’m an environmentalist” and then proceeds to spend multiple pages telling us exactly how he is not an environmentalist but rather a pro-technology industrialist. To solve our “biggest problems” he pleads with us to “say yes” to “solar panels, wind turbines, and factories to make batteries and mines to extract lithium.”
Max Wilbert, co-founder of Protect Thacker Pass, climbed on top of an excavator on April 25, 2023 to protest the Thacker Pass Lithium Mine, currently being constructed in northern Nevada by Lithium Nevada Corporation. He was there with about 25 other people including Northern Paiute Native Americans Dorece Sam and Dean Barlese, who spent the day blocking mine construction and saying prayers to this land considered sacred by their people.
In Max’s book, Bright Green Lies, he describes “environmentalists” like McKibben as “bright greens”. These “environmentalists” understand that environmental problems exist and are serious, but believe that green technology and consumerism will allow us to continue our current lifestyles indefinitely. As Max writes: “The bright greens’ attitude amounts to: ‘It’s less about nature, and more about us.’”
In his Mother Jones article, McKibben illustrates how he’s less about nature, and all about us (meaning humans, our technologies, and our lifestyles). “Emergencies demand urgency,” he writes, and what he urges us is not to stop destroying nature, the source of all life on planet Earth, but rather to destroy more of it, by building more industry and mining more, for “electrons… a crop we badly need.”
McKibben acknowledges that “repeating the mistakes of our history” by building “a lithium mine on sacred territory in Nevada” is “truly unforgivable,” but then immediately dismisses the concerns of regional tribes by saying that “if we can’t make a quick energy transition, then the impact of that will be felt most by the poorest.” Does he not understand that for many traditional cultures and traditional spiritual practitioners, everywhere is sacred? Does he not understand that everywhere not already destroyed by industry is home to someone — sage-grouse, pronghorn, endangered spring snails, swallows, endangered trout, old growth sagebrush, and so many more? Apparently he does not, or perhaps he doesn’t care, because his article is all about promoting industry, nature be damned.
“So there’s one general rule you could derive: If something makes climate change worse, then we shouldn’t do it,” McKibben writes. I agree. Does McKibben think the 150,000 tons of CO2 the Thacker Pass lithium mine will emit per year don’t count? Clearly those emissions will make climate change worse. Does he think that the carbon emissions caused by digging up thousands of acres of ancient soil at Thacker Pass don’t count either? And what about the 700,000 tons per year of molten sulfur trucked into Thacker Pass from oil refineries; where will that molten sulfur come from if it doesn’t come from oil refineries, and do those oil refineries and their CO2 emissions not count? If we use McKibben’s rule, then clearly the Thacker Pass lithium mine should not be built, and yet he urges us to support more lithium mining.
McKibben and those pursuing the “electrify everything” agenda promoted by The Economist and Mother Jones are stuck in blinders about climate change. McKibben exposes these blinders when he writes: “slowing down lithium mining likely means extending the years we keep on mining coal.” He believes that this is our choice: lithium mining and batteries and electric vehicles, or coal and CO2 emissions. To him and the “electrify everything” crowd those are the only two options.
But there is another option: we can resist industrial culture and work to end it. We can block construction equipment rather than embracing it. We can dramatically lower our profligate energy use — no matter how it’s powered. We can protect the land and the natural communities, including human communities, that depend on unspoiled land, unpolluted soil, clean air, and clean water. We can be real environmentalists, deep green environmentalists, who understand that we must live within the limits of the natural world, and work to transform ourselves, our culture, our economy and our politics to put the health and well-being of the natural world first.
We can be more like Max and Dorece and Dean and the other activists who stood their ground to protect the land at Thacker Pass. We can block excavators, not hug them. Our very lives depend on it.
Editor’s Note: The following events are not organized by DGR. We stand in solidarity with both of these and encourage our readers to get involved in these if possible.
Radical Resilience and Restoration for Wetland Rights
On June 28th CELDF’s Kai Huschke will be presenting at the Society for Wetland Scientists annual conference. Joining Kai on the panel Socio-Ecological Resilience and Adaptation: Implementing Rights of Wetlands will be Senior Ecologist/Natural Climate Solutions Specialist Gillian Davis from BSC Group, Inc. and Tufts University Global Development & Environment Institute, Matthew Simpon, Director from the UK based organization 35percent, and Bill Moomaw, Tufts University Professor Emeritus. The four have been active as part of a global collective working on the community and national levels for the legal rights of wetlands.
The talk is a part of the Society for Wetland Scientists annual conference which will be held from June 27-30, 2023 in Spokane, WA, USA at The Davenport Grand Hotel.
Here are some excerpts from Kai’s talk:
Globally for the last 200 years the prevailing directive governmentally, legally, economically, scientifically, and culturally has been to extract and exploit the natural world for the wants and needs of a single species – humans. Colonization has never stopped; it has merely changed its stripes and patterns of speech but behaviorally it continues to conquer into submission and extinction the life forces of the planet with wetlands receiving a disproportionate amount of abuse.
The emergence of legal rights of nature efforts over the last 20 years in North America and across the globe is a potent force for the cultural shift necessary to actualize living from, in, with, and as nature. Wetlands restoration efforts in the name of rights of wetlands can only occur if there is a restoration of the human species on a massive scale that would allow for the healthy and harmonious balance of living from, in, with, and as nature. Science along with other aspects of the culture must reject colonizing systems of law, economics, governance, and even science itself and develop methods and systems outside the dominant one.
How Wealth Rules: Part III
CELDF’s Ben G. Price has been hosting lively and engaging discussions on his award-winning book, How Wealth Rules the World: Saving Our Communities and Freedoms from the Dictatorship of Property.
Many books have been written about wealth, power and politics in the United States. Most of them make intuitive sense. Wealthy people use their power to influence and control politics. But Ben Price’s new book is often counterintuitive as he explores how wealth itself is imbued with power.
CELDF is making available, a serialization of Ben Price’s book. You can read this award-winning book in free installments of downloadable pdf files and join Ben Price for monthly webinars to discuss the book in the sequence of shared chapters.
You can find earlier webinars: One Right to Rule Them All, The Dark Side of Property and Property is Not an Unalienable Right.
You can register for the next webinar (The Ongoing Counter Revolution) at June 13th from 7:00 – 8:30 PM EDT.
Photo by Sara Cottle on Unsplash
Editor’s Note: Civilization is destructive. It endangers everyone in its quest for development, including vulnerable human communities. We stand in solidarity with all efforts by communities to protect themselves and the natural communities they live in. The following is a press release by Women’s Earth and Climate Action Network International (WECAN). You can find the original statement here.
USA, May 25, 2023 — Today, Indigenous women leaders from the Indigenous Women’s Treaty Alliance, joined by over 150 organizations, representing millions nationwide, submitted a letter to the Biden Administration with an emergency request to decommission Enbridge Line 5 pipeline due to imminent threats of oil spills impacting the Bad River Watershed and the Great Lakes.
Enbridge’s Line 5 pipeline was originally built in 1953, and continues to operate nearly 20 years past its engineered lifespan, transporting crude oil through northern Wisconsin, Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, and under the Straits of Mackinac. The letter to President Biden and representatives of the Environmental Protection Agency follows the advocacy of the Bad River Band of Lake Superior Chippewa who submitted a court filing in May calling for the shutdown of Line 5 after showing evidence that record snowfalls, and heavy rains and winds have further compromised the integrity of the pipeline.
Due to recent flooding, erosion of a local riverbank has led to Line 5’s centerline to be within 11 feet or less of the river waters, creating an immediate threat. The letter notes that erosion from receding waters or the next rainfall could cause a “guillotine rupture” – a vertical break causing oil to gush from both sides, poisoning the Bad River watershed and Lake Superior, impacting the Great Lakes region which holds one-fifth of the world’s fresh surface water, and provides drinking water for 40 million people in North America.
The letter points to the significant harms an oil spill would have on waterways, ecosystems, wild rice beds, and clarifies how it directly undermines Indigenous rights and Indigenous Sovereignty:
“Imminent pipeline ruptures at the Bad River in Wisconsin and into the Straits of Mackinac threaten our drinking water, fisheries, manoomin and cultural survival…Our sovereignty and treaty-protected rights to hunt, fish, and gather food and medicine are all at risk.”
Already, Line 5 has spilled over 30 times, dumping more than a million gallons of oil. Independent consultants have estimated clean-up costs for a crude oil spill in the Great Lakes at $1.878 billion.
The signatories urge President Biden to revoke the Presidential Permit and force Enbridge to cease Line 5’s operations, pointing to the Administration’s climate directives and goals.
The letter comes from Indigenous women who are advocating to stop Line 5, and is endorsed by local and national groups representing Indigenous groups, environmental organizations, faith groups, and more. Please see quotes from the initiating signatories of the letter below:
Aurora Conley, Bad River Ojibwe, Anishinaabe Environmental Protection Alliance:
“As a Bad River Band of Lake Superior Ojibwe member, I am calling on the Biden Administration to shut down Line 5 immediately. Our territories and water are in imminent danger, and we do not want to see irreversible damage to our land, water, and wild rice. We do not want our lifeways destroyed. The Ojibwe people are here in Bad River because of the wild rice. A rupture from this oil spill will irreversibly harm the Great Lakes and wild rice beds. This is unacceptable. We will not stand for this. Shut down Line 5 now.”
Jannan J. Cornstalk, Citizen of Little Traverse Bay Bands of Odawa Indians, and Director of the Water is Life Festival:
“Our very lifeways and cultures hang in the balance as Line 5 continues to operate illegally in Indigenous territories and water. These are our lifeways– when that water is healthy enough that rice is growing– that not only benefits our communities, but that benefits everybody up and down stream. Allowing Line 5 to continue to operate is cultural genocide, and the Biden Administration must listen and shut down Line 5. That water is our relative, and we will do whatever it takes to protect our water, our sacred relative.”
Jaime Arsenault, White Earth Band of the Minnesota Chippewa Tribe, Tribal Historic Preservation Officer:
“We are urging the Biden Administration to revoke its Presidential Permit and shut down Line 5. We saw a multitude of preventable environmental tragedies occur in Minnesota with the destruction brought by Line 3. As a result – wild rice, watersheds, traditional lifeways and the wellbeing of Indigenous communities are still under constant threat. Right now, the Biden Administration has the opportunity to protect waterways, rice watersheds and lands threatened by a rupture of Line 5. Honor the treaties and the leadership of Tribes, and shut down Line 5.”
Rene Ann Goodrich, Bad River Tribal Elder, Native Lives Matter Coalition and Wisconsin Department of Justice MMIW Task Force Member:
“Line 5 crosses over tribal treaty territory and one of those ceded territories is my own reservation of Bad River. So the age of the pipeline, the danger that it brings to the environment is our biggest concern here. We have that need, we have that responsibility, we have that duty to protect our life givers. Our life givers are the earth, the aquifers underneath the earth, the women that are sacred water carriers, and water itself that brings life. As sacred water carriers we stand with the water, and urge the Biden Administration to take action and shut down Line 5 immediately.”
Carrie Chesnik, Oneida Nation Wisconsin, Founder of the Treaty Land Trust:
“We have an opportunity here to shut down the Line 5 pipeline, and protect what we all hold dear. We all have the responsibility and agency to act in a good way, to care for the land and waters. What our communities have known for a long time is that the water is hurting, Mother Earth is hurting, and pretty soon we won’t have clean water for our kids, for future generations. As a Haudenosunee woman, an auntie, daughter, and sister, I have an inherent responsibility to the water and our children. Every single one of us has agency and a responsibility to take action, honor the treaties, and protect Mother Earth. It is the time to be brave and courageous.”
Gaagigeyaashiik – Dawn Goodwin, Gaawaabaabiganigaag, White Earth-Ojibwe, Co-founder of R.I.S.E. Coalition, Representative of Indigenous Environmental Network:
“As a member of the Wolf Clan I have an inherent responsibility to protect the environment and the people. I want us to imagine a world where we are working as one team as we should be working together. The government has failed to protect the water in the past, yet there is an opportunity now to protect the water before irreparable damage occurs. Our treaties are being ignored and yet, treaties are the SUPREME LAW of the land. It is time to honor and respect the treaties as the supreme law of the land, as they were written and intended, and to listen to Tribes and Indigenous leaders calling for an immediate shut down to the Line 5 pipeline. We are the women of the Indigenous Women’s Treaty Alliance calling upon you to rise and to protect all that is sacred – shut down Line 5!”
Nookomis Debra Topping, Nagajiiwanong, 1854 Treaty Fond du Lac, Co-founder of R.I.S.E. Coalition:
“Nibi (water) is sacred, Manoomin is sacred, that is our life blood, that is us, that is why we are here. We will not allow any further destruction to our sacred ecosystems and water. Everyday the threat increases, allowing Canadian Corporation Enbridge’s Line 5 to continue operating is genocide! We’ve followed every process, Tribes and the Governor of Michigan have called for a shut down of Line 5. The science is there, the evidence is there. Deny Enbridge any further allowance to destroy Mama Aki (Earth), and shut down Line 5.”
Since 2022, the Women’s Earth and Climate Action Network (WECAN) has been honored to facilitate the Indigenous Women’s Treaty Alliance. In response to the call for action, Osprey Orielle Lake, Executive Director of the Women’s Earth and Climate Action Network (WECAN) stated: “The Bad River Band continues to sound the alarm, and the Biden administration must listen and immediately shut down Line 5. The imminent danger of a rupture to Line 5 due to increased erosion on the Bad River threatens Indigenous Peoples existence and rights, biodiverse ecosystems, and the Great Lakes, which holds one-fifth of the world’s freshwater. The Administration has the necessary tools to cease operations, and must take action before it’s too late. The Great Lakes and local communities cannot be the next sacrifice zone.”
Photo by Andrew Ling on Unsplash
Editor’s Note: The following events are not being organized by DGR. We may not agree with all of the content on the events. Yet, we encourage you to attend these events to learn more about the amazing kangaroo.
Kangaroo Walks and Talks Program
We are excited to launch the Kangaroo Walks and Talks Program with a webinar 7pm-8pm (AEST) Tuesday 30th May.
Back to Country, Save Kangaroos on Mornington Peninsula and Kangaroos Alive have developed a special program to introduce communities to their local kangaroo mob.
A Kangaroo Walk and Talk allows communities to build appreciation and understanding of kangaroos. By observing and learning from our kangaroos we are able to connect to Country. The Kangaroo Walk + Talk Kits will provide logistical, promotional and legal advice to help you set up a Kangaroo Walk and Talk in your area.
Host Kate Clere will speak to special guests:
Mick McIntyre will present the example of Whale Watching and how that can be used in the development of Kangaroo Watching.
Dr Anthony ‘Macka’ McKnight on Connection to Country and the Yuin Kangaroo Declaration.
Craig Thomson will talk about the success of the pilot program on the Mornington Peninsula and will answer all your questions on the practicalities of running a Walk and Talk.
Join us on Kangaroos Alive Youtube or Facebook channels.
If you want to organize a local Walk and Talk, you can find resources here.
World Environment Day Kangaroo Forum
Another exciting event is World Environment Day Kangaroo Forum which will be held from 10am Sunday 4th June 2023 at Boneo Community Hall on the Mornington Peninsula. This interactive forum will include short 5-10 minute presentations and then brainstorm break-outs, with the goal of raising awareness on kangaroo conservation and to develop a draft of a tailored wildlife protection plan for the peninsula kangaroos.
This is a free and catered event so please RSVP the number of people and dietary requirements by 22 May to email@example.com.
We look forward to you joining us,
The Kangaroos Alive Team 🦘
Photo by Suzuha Kozuki on Unsplash
Editor’s Note: The mainstream environmental movement has failed to save the natural world. A baby step in the right direction has been counterbalanced by a giant leap against Earth. DGR has been speaking up for sabotage of key infrastructures for the past decade. Now, more and more individuals and groups are waking up to the asymmetrical nature of our struggles and to the necessity to use any means that we can. The following piece from Truthout argues that ecosabotage of gas and oil pipelines has become a heroic action to save the planet.
By David Klein/Truthout
The environmental movement has offered waves of demonstrations, petition drives, lobbying and other forms of protest. Yet, despite all that, Earth and its inhabitants are losing the war waged against us by capitalism. It follows that a reevaluation of strategy and tactics of the environmental movement is in order, including a closer examination of how nonviolence should be understood and practiced.
Consider first the current trajectory of global greenhouse gas emissions. Concentrations of carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide, the three main greenhouse gases, continue to rise setting new records each year. Earth’s atmosphere now has carbon concentrations not encountered since 15 million years ago, about the time our ancestors became recognizably hominoid.
Alas, more is on the way. According to the International Monetary Fund: “Globally, fossil fuel subsidies were $5.9 trillion in 2020 or about 6.8 percent of GDP and are expected to rise to 7.4 percent of GDP in 2025.” Moreover, global direct subsidies nearly doubled in 2021, and to facilitate fossil fuel transport, more than 24,000 kilometers of new oil pipelines are under development around the world.
While it is true that renewable energy systems are also expanding worldwide at a rapid pace, solar panels, wind turbines and the like neither help nor harm the climate. What matters for the climate are greenhouse gas concentrations, and, as noted above, those are on the rise. By its very nature, capitalism expands in all profitable directions, and fossil fuels continue to be profitable.
In this context, we need to ask ourselves whether the destruction of planet-killing machinery is necessarily an act of violence. The answer should be no, because it prevents violence against nature. But, as a whole, the environmental movement’s dedication to the strict avoidance of property destruction is extreme in comparison to virtually all other social justice movements.
As Andreas Malm ironically writes about the movement in his book, How to Blow Up a Pipeline “admittedly, violence occurred in the struggle against slavery, against male monopoly on the vote, against British and other colonial occupations, against apartheid, against the poll tax, but the struggle against fossil fuels is of a wholly different character and will succeed only on the condition of utter peacefulness.” Has nonviolence, even against the machinery of planetary ecocide, devolved from a tactic to a fetish?
The Example of Jessica Reznicek and Ruby Montoya
Consider the case of Jessica Reznicek and Ruby Montoya. In the summer of 2016, Jessica Reznicek, then a 35-year-old spiritual activist following the tradition of the Catholic Worker and the Plowshares movements, and Ruby Montoya, a 27-year-old former preschool teacher and Catholic Worker, carried out multiple acts of sabotage against pipelines and machinery used in the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline at Standing Rock.
During the night Donald Trump was elected president, the two women trespassed onto the construction site of Energy Transfer, the conglomerate of companies behind the pipeline, and burned down five pieces of heavy machinery. Thereafter they learned how to use welding torches to destroy valves on steel pipes, and during the year 2017 managed to sabotage pipelines up and down the state of Iowa. They also successfully continued their arson attacks against the heavy machinery used in the construction of the pipeline. Both took great care to make sure that no people were ever harmed by their actions, and their campaign of sabotage was not precipitous. In a press release just after their arrests in 2017, Reznicek and Montoya wrote:
After having explored and exhausted all avenues of process, including attending public commentary hearings, gathering signatures for valid requests for Environmental Impact Statements, participating in Civil Disobedience, hunger strikes, marches and rallies, boycotts and encampments, we saw the clear deficiencies of our government to hear the people’s demands.
Instead, the courts and public officials allowed these corporations to steal permissions from landowners and brutalize the land, water, and people. Our conclusion is that the system is broken and it is up to us as individuals to take peaceful action and remedy it, and this we did, out of necessity…
If there are any regrets, it is that we did not act enough.
Please support and stand with us in this journey because we all need this pipeline stopped.
Water is Life, oil is death.
Both women had previously locked themselves to backhoes and had been arrested several times for nonviolent civil disobedience, but with little impact. By way of contrast, the organization Stop Fossil Fuels described Reznicek and Montoya’s eco-sabotage as “1000 times more efficient than the above ground campaigns,” resulting in a two-month delay of the pipeline completion, from their solo actions alone. Their destruction of heavy machinery and steel pipes was impressively effective, but their protection of Earth’s biosphere came at a high cost.
Following one of the most aggressive prosecutions of environmentalists in U.S. history, Reznicek and Montoya each faced a maximum of 110 years in prison. After accepting plea agreements, Reznicek expected to get four years, but Judge Rebecca Ebinger added a terrorism enhancement to her sentence which doubled her time in prison to eight years. Subsequently, Montoya was given a terrorism enhancement by the same judge resulting in a sentence of six years. Each has been ordered to pay $3.2 million in restitution.
The severity of the sentences given to Reznicek and Montoya may be contrasted with sentences meted out to January 6, 2021, attackers of the U.S. Capitol. During the January 6 attack, defendant David Judd launched a lit object into a tunnel full of police and others in order to clear a path so that the mob could stop the transfer of power from Trump to Joe Biden. The judge, Trevor McFadden, sentenced Judd to 32 months, barely over a third of what prosecutors had requested, and declined to add a terrorism enhancement requested by prosecutors.
Another January 6 attacker, Guy Reffitt, was shown in court to have “carried a firearm, was a member of a right wing militia group and threatened a witness afterward.” The Judge, Dabney Freidrich, rejected a terrorism enhancement and sentenced Reffitt to 7.25 years, less time than Reznicek’s sentence.
Based on the decisions of the three federal judges involved in these cases, one may conclude that the U.S. legal system considers defending Earth in the manner of the Plowshares Movement as terrorism, whereas attempting to overthrow the U.S. government via a right-wing coup is not. This conclusion is reinforced by the recent charges of domestic terrorism of 42 forest defenders in Atlanta. Even legendary environmental activist Erin Brockovich has been linked to terrorist threats by Ohio police. The real purpose of lengthy prison terms and the “terrorism” designation is to defend the interests of capital above all else.
Certainly, Reznicek and Montoya are not the only activists who have made major personal sacrifices in the defense of nature. More than 1,700 environmental defenders from around the world have been murdered between 2012 and 2021 for that cause, and more recently, forest defender Manuel Esteban Paez Terán (Tortuguita) was killed by Georgia police. There are also other courageous U.S. activists, including “valve turners” facing prison terms, but they have largely been ignored and neglected by the U.S. environmental movement.
Using current technology, researchers have unequivocally demonstrated that renewable energy generation, electrified mass transportation, regenerative agriculture, and sustainable building structures are easily within the grasp of humanity. Alternative, eco-socialist systems of human relations that could replace the cancer of capitalism have also been discussed and proposed. Such a future is still possible, but barely so. It is time to put more emphasis on resistance, as opposed merely to protest. Ultimately, saving the planet from the worst effects of the climate crisis will require global working-class leadership and self-emancipation, together with broad support from the middle classes.
At the time of this writing, the environmental movement is losing the struggle to save the biosphere and losing badly. Punishments for civil disobedience are increasing and can be as severe as punishments for property destruction. Republican legislatures in 34 states have introduced 81 anti-protest bills in 2021 alone. These range from criminalizing protests and making blocking traffic on a highway a felony, to granting immunity to drivers who injure or kill protesters.
The kinds of actions carried out by Reznicek, Montoya and others have the potential to capture greater attention, galvanize a broader mobilization, and thus play a critical role in resisting the destruction of the planetary biosphere. As Malm puts it in How to Blow Up a Pipeline:
The immediate purpose of such a campaign against CO2 emitting property, then, would be twofold: establish a disincentive to invest in more of it and demonstrate that it can be put out of business. The first would not require that all new devices be disabled or dismantled, only enough to communicate the risk. Strict selectivity would need to be observed.
Not every environmental activist is willing to risk the long prison terms, or worse, that could result from such actions. Nor should they be expected to. That kind of commitment requires extraordinary courage and self-sacrifice, like that exhibited by Reznicek and Montoya. But the rest of us can at least honor and support those who do take those risks.
These two women, now languishing in prison, deserve more support from U.S. environmentalists than they have received so far (though an online petition is available). Demanding presidential pardons would be a first step. But beyond that, nominations for awards to recognize their sacrifices and contributions would be an important step forward. Nominating Reznicek and Montoya for awards such as the Right Livelihood Award, Nobel Peace Prize, the Congressional Gold Medal, or Presidential Medal of Freedom would go a long way in advancing the movement to save Mother Earth.
If climate justice activists are unable to recognize and offer full-throated support to the most selfless and courageous among us, what chance do we have to reverse the course of destruction of our planet?
Copyright, Truthout.org. Reprinted with permission
Photo by SELİM ARDA ERYILMAZ on Unsplash