Note: His partner Peggy Flanagan was in St. Cloud and Foley while Tim visited with us in Bemidji on Sunday at 1:30 PM.
While I was not happy to vote for Tim Walz, I felt I had to in order to prevent Trump loving Johnson from winning. The fact that he and Peggy Flanagan are doing a Listening Tour at all is encouraging, as it was to see the group of Water Protectors welcomed at their Transition Office on the 19th of November after the Public Utility Cowards finalized their love fest with Enbridge in approving the requested Line 3 pretty much exactly as Enbridge wanted it.
I thought I was recording so didn’t take notes but there were many excellent comments. From Education, especially pre-K education for impoverished people, to many iterations of Water Protection including Treaty Rights, Walz got an earful from us. I didn’t have time to read my statement and questions but I was able to give them to his staffer who assured me he would get it in the car. I’d put all my contact info on the sheet but I’m not sure I’ll get any kind of response. Time will tell… Here’s what I wrote:
Minnesota’s focus on clean energy has allowed over a 30% reduction in greenhouse gases in the decade since the Next Generation Energy Act and Renewable Energy Standard was signed into law by Governor Tim Pawlenty in 2007. Minnesota is currently above average in the U.S. with 50% of our energy coming from renewables. Renewable energy aligns with the million reasons people visit Northern Minnesota for hunting, fishing, lakes, and trees. Our northland economy relies on clean water, land, and air to support tens of thousands of jobs, not just in tourism but also in farming, our largest industry in rural Minnesota.
We know from the Department of Commerce that Enbridge’s proposed Line 3 is not needed in the Minnesota Region. The current route approved by the PUC would run through Minnesota’s wetlands and across its many streams, lakes and rivers to pipe Tar Sands oil, and the chemicals needed to make it flow, from Western Canada to global markets offshore and in doing so would produce the same greenhouse gas as 50 coal-fired power plants.
We know two facts: The Alberta Tar Sands are currently the largest generator of air pollution in North America. And we know that every pipeline leaks meaning it’s not a matter of IF but WHEN Tar Sands will devastate our watersheds and impact our vibrant economy.
Can you as Governor justify allowing Minnesota to be used as a conduit for bringing such a devastating increase to our global climate emergency while also creating such a substantial risk to our local economy largely based on a clean environment? What will you do, Governor-elect Walz, to assure that Minnesota divests itself from supporting the Tar Sands economy?
Tim began the session by stressing that local folks are the best decision makers. He wanted from us, ideas on who he should be placing as Commissions to be most effective. He used some capitalistic language, he failed to mention Treaty Rights when bringing up Line 3, and he spoke about a “business climate”. But he did appear to be listening in the the room of over 160 citizens as he sat at the front with Bemidji Mayor Rita Albrecht and took a LOT of notes.
He has put together a team of 30 very diverse people from Mayors to Educators, Fortune 400 CEOs to Spiritual Leaders to look for the people that will be best incoming “servant leaders” to partner the state and local agencies to make government work for Minnesota. He did say the agencies were NOT regulatory agencies to tell you what to do and not do, but instead to help us all figure out how to do things like make economic activity and still protect the environment or assure resources and equity in education. He assured us this was the first of many meetings to assure the public is heard. And he emphasized unity while still holding our own core beliefs.
Quite a lot of what he said was attractive and I appreciated that he replied to people by name on the few times he did respond. He spent most of the time listening to the people voice concerns and ideas rather than giving his own stances for each new item.
Many people spoke and some I knew. Michael Lane, Assistant Professor at BSU, commented on Native Sovereignty, including his concern about the Brackeen v. Zinke case where the Indian Child Welfare Act was recently deemed unconstitutional. This is an important case to watch as it could signal a very bad future. Consider whether it would be acceptable for Americans to go to Mexico and simply tell families which children they wanted to take home with them, regardless of what the family wanted. Or do you need to try to visualize Germans trying to take the children of Poland at will to truly comprehend the wrongness of this? I mean, what’s next if you can steal the children of a sovereign nation? What more could you do? Literally anything you want.
A woman named Kasey spoke of how limited and difficult her life is because of the lack of resources available for people with mental illness like her. Several members of Lake Associations spoke on the massive amounts of dollars and volunteer hours they commit to protecting our lakes without having any access to being involved as citizen members with the DNR, without having a seat at the table in those discussions even though there are many scientists in these citizen organizations. A Director of Northern Dental Access (a non-profit in Bemidji) spoke about the need for finding commissioners for the Departments of Health and of Human Services who can work together (apparently an ongoing difficult issue with the present commissioners) and that we bring more rural people in advisory roles. [I believe we can do this easily with technology as I’ve sat in my Harn watching PUC hearings or participating in Webinars globally.] She also cautioned on reimbursement changes to assure continued and increased coverage which is very necessary at present. Walz did speak after this calling for us to support him on these measures. He LIVES in “Greater Minnesota” so he gets it but he also stressed again that we all should be making suggestions to his committee or going online to apply for the positions that are open through 12/7/18.
Eugene Summers from Natawash (Minnesota Chippewa Tribe band member) asked how the voice of the Indigenous will be heard and Tim noted that an enrolled member of the White Earth Band of the Ojibwe will be sitting in the Lieutenant Governor’s seat in short order. He did note here that there are eleven sovereign nations and that each has its own treaty rights that differ so he will need help from all. Dialogue should be on the front end and respectful. He mentioned that he lives in Mankato six blocks from the execution site of the 38. Reconciliation and healing are necessary. Even in this room today he noted the wide array of political, religious, ethnicities, etc. but that we also have common goals: improving the lives of citizens, assuring freedoms are respected, and creating fiscally and morally responsible budgets.
Several talked about the growing concern with aquatic invasive species (AIS). An educator said we need to fix the differences between metro and rural education opportunities. Willis Mattison (28 years with the MN Pollution Control Agency) spoke on the fact that the voice of science is filtered through policy issues which prohibits the Governor from hearing the true and vital voice of science. An independent panel of scientists, unbeholden to any agency, would be a good addition to assure the Governor gets good information. Willis’ own experience showed that when he spoke the truth in some administrations, he was successful while under other administrations he was punished.
Audrey Thayer spoke from the perspective of a simple citizen on three issues:
- Considering the recent shooting in Bemidji, there is a need, not for more officers, but for more diversity and understanding in our communities. (As a light-skinned Indigenous, she hears more than many… being somewhat invisible.)
- We’re not going anywhere if our water is not taken care of and we have to understand this. Yes, we need jobs but we can’t afford to lose our wild rice.
- Education needs to be true. Middle school children are still learning about Christopher Columbus but our history needs to reflect the truth, including that of our Anishinaabe and Dakota heritage.
Tim applauded all of us for attending and being civically minded. He is visiting places both where he won and where he lost. He is listening to all constituents. He still sounds like a typical politician. And I agree with him… even for this white woman, it’s pretty difficult to trust another old, white man telling me he knows where I’m coming from. I really only voted against Johnson, not truly for Walz. I hope he can prove me wrong and make me a believer. Today I heard his words but I will be watching for his actions. He asked all of us to hold him accountable. I plan to do my part.
I hope both Walz and Flanagan hear another earful on Protecting Minnesota Water this afternoon in Duluth when they wrap up this 2018 tour.
This past Thursday, I spent quite a lot of time reading about the history of the Thanksgiving holiday. It’s been a topic for a while now. And having more and more interaction with the Indigenous friends in our lives makes this kind of contemplation ever more prevalent.
I think it started with a call to some friends, a couple we know – one Indigenous and one non-Indigenous, about a family matter. After discussing the situation, I ended up asking what their Thanksgiving plans were. There was hesitation. Then one said they were working. And I got this kind of uncomfortable feeling like I’d committed a social faux pas as I hung up the phone. I texted an Anishanaabe Elder I know for an opinion. I know their opinion isn’t the be all end all. I know there are a WIDE variety of opinions and beliefs but I trusted this person to know my heart and give me thoughtful input about the situation. They assured me that they are not usually offended by someone asking of their Thanksgiving Day plans as they get what people mean by asking. Personally, they just answer “honestly and briefly… No political debate necessary”. If it becomes a big deal, they suggested, perhaps these folks just don’t want to be friends. Well, I will definitely talk this through with my friends when I see them again in person and hopefully their input will again give me more food for thought.
I do agree with my Elder friend that this is typically just a day to join with others, have a meal, and be thankful for the harvest. And I think more than ever these days, it’s just a mindless part of our culture – yes, a predominantly white colonizer culture (is mindless a necessary descriptor or inherent in this one?) It’s very complex. For most in the Unites States I would guess it’s just “what we do every year”. We have turkey and dressing, cranberry sauce and sweet potatoes. It’s maybe that one time a year yams get any attention for many.
Then I noticed much more posting this year on FB about the downside of this holiday, the horror of it. And so I began to think about it a bit more. I began reading. And I started considering the thoughtlessness and materialism of it all as I became more informed.
It’s largely a capitalist dream come true for turkey sellers, cranberry growers, grocery stores, airlines, and Big Oil as the biggest travel day of the year. Everyone makes plans to begin the “holiday season” (though I guess some consider Halloween the start of the season now…) with visits and overeating and football. Oh, yeah, the NFL. Oh, and I guess basketball too. Eat and watch TV. This is pretty much the holiday for many. And if you really think about it, it’s kind of a mindless mess. And it’s very typical of what has been United States mainstream culture for most of my life.
Our holiday was not exactly typical: nuclear family sitting down for a meal that took all day to prepare with multiple layers of appetizers, drinks, meal, dessert, coffee, sandwiches later, more dessert, more drinks. But it wasn’t too far from typical. Mom and I prepared some simple food. Dan and I brought a pork roast from a pig friends of ours raised that we cooked overnight in the crock pot (and which turned out pretty amazing if I do say so myself). Mom baked a cherry pie and I made pumpkin custard (though I forgot my own organic pumpkin prepared last fall and frozen so had to get some canned organic pumpkin puree while we were in Duluth just prior to being at Mom’s). She found a GF corn soufflé recipe and made it and we boiled some potatoes for mashing. We took the juice from the roast and made a quick corn starch gravy and I baked some new GF rolls I’ve been trying to perfect. This was the third attempt and they were once again good… but AGAIN the yeast failed me – they were not light and fluffy. They were, once again, more biscuits than rolls. But they were tasty. All in all, we put in a couple hours on preparation but we were not harried, we were relaxed. It was not super complex, it was a pretty simple meal. And we invited over a friend who lives alone to join us. We called the boy in Colorado and chatted with him and his partner. We spent much more time and attention on their cat, Jax, than psychologists would likely say is healthy. After dinner, we did a brief round of saying what we’re thankful for and I felt like we’d put at least some thought into it. Could it have been much more thoughtful? Yes. And perhaps next year we will have a better plan as this seems for me to be a year of learning.
While we were at Mom’s, MSNBC had a brief story about Lincoln’s declaration of the Thanksgiving holiday back in 1863. Dan informed me that Lincoln made his declaration for a day of thanksgiving just after the battle of Chickamouga, one of the bloodiest losses of the Civil War with 34,624 casualties. However, Lincoln’s proclamation said nothing of pilgrims or Indians or turkeys for that matter. It was a imploring that God heal the “wounds of the nation” and restore a “full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquility and union.”
Washington issued a similar proclamation 74 years earlier to the day on 10-3-1789. While his did not create a national holiday, it too had nothing to do with pilgrims, Indians, or turkey. Again, it was in deference to “Almighty God” and requested our humble thanks for “his Providence in the courfe and conclufion of the late war” (Revolutionary) among other things. [I’m not sure if there just weren’t enough “s” type pieces or if the “f” and “s” pieces were somehow in proximity and thus often interchanged during typesetting.]
And now there is evidence that the “first” Thanksgiving may have happened in St Augustine, Florida! (1565) [But, of course, this is Fox News so there is little evidence or fact offered in the story… ] The Catholics had more on it along with a second “Thanksgiving” held April 30, 1598 in Texas! This Texas Almanac link was full of details on this and closes with enough examples of claims to the holiday to prove there are too many claims to the beginnings of “Thanksgiving” to give an exhaustive list.
In reality, any discussions of the “first Thanksgiving” are wrong regardless as peoples of all kinds have for centuries practiced feasts of “thanksgiving”. Even though it began officially in the U.S. as the last Thursday in November under Lincoln, Roosevelt moved it to the earlier fourth Thursday in 1939, prompted by requests from the National Retail Dry Goods Association because the later date only allowed 20 shopping days for Christmas! [Told you it was a capitalist dream come true!] Roosevelt had declined their request in 1933 as he thought it would create confusion and he proved this was the case in 1939 when he granted it and only 23 states joined him in the move while 23 states stayed with the original last Thursday. Texas and Colorado apparently celebrated both days… Confusion continued in 1940 and, in 1941 Roosevelt made it official with a national law declaring the fourth Thursday as Thanksgiving Day. Texas held out until 1957 in adhering to the new national law by finally changing their state law to match.
After quite a bit of time reading about the history and the mythology, I found many good links for further edification. Rebecca Beatrice Brooks gave a shorter historical review of what many think of as the “first Thanksgiving” in her History of Massachusetts Blog. A longer and more complex explanation, with detailed journal entries, was given by Karen Felte in 2001.
For most Americans, the main idea of Thanksgiving’s beginnings lie in the mythology of a struggling colonial population learning skills from their Native friends , which culminated in a celebration in 1621 of a great “thanksgiving” feast after the harvest.
The details are a bit trickier when you dig into it. The colonists did struggle after arriving in 1607 at Jamestown because of severe drought and cold winters. Their arrival coincided with a seven-year drought (1606–1612), the driest stretch in 770 years. The subsequent pressure by the English on the Natives for help led to conflict and eventually a siege of their fort by Powhatan, the main chief of many local Natives, in 1609 that resulted in something I don’t recall learning about, the Starving Time. This only ended when reinforcements brought advantage back to the English and allowed the capture of Powhatan’s daughter – someone you might have heard of… Pocahontas – who was used as leverage to negotiate a peace. After all this, I find it hard to believe there could ever have been a “peaceful celebration feast between pilgrims and Indians” less than ten years later.
There is also belief that the true meaning of Thanksgiving is a result of the Mystic Massacre of 1637. Part of the Pequot Wars, this May 23rd attack occurred during the Native’s own Green Corn Festival. The two exits to the Pequot Fort were set afire by forces commanded by Captains John Mason and John Underhill after an initial rush into Fort Mystic was found to be overwhelming. In this burning, the colonists killed hundreds, most of the village, including many women, elderly, and children. Anyone who attempted escape was killed by the English forces or the Narragansett and Mohegan allies that backed them. Following the attack, the Governor John Winthrop of Massachusetts Bay Colony declared a “day of thanksgiving”.
“The 12th of the 8th m. was ordered to bee kept a day of publicke thanksgiving to God for his great m’cies in subdewing the Pecoits, bringing the soldiers in safety, the successe of the conference, & good news from Germany.” ~ Nathaniel Shurtleff, ed. Records of the Governor and Company of the Massachusetts Bay in New England, Vol I. Boston, 1853. p.204
As with any portion of history, there are many sides to the story and many perspectives of belief. Yes, some were grateful for the Fort Mystic Massacre. But others expressed regret for the injustice. Just like the German Holocaust, some Germans failed to evade the brainwashing of the Nazis while others, namely the White Rose Society members, stood strongly against them throughout. Even today we cannot find common ground on killings. And while some in the long ago past may have celebrated a massacre of the Pequot with a day of “publicke thanksgiving to God for his great m’cies in subdewing the Pecoits”, I would hope to believe that few if anyone today is celebrating Thanksgiving with the massacre of Indians in mind.
“While few would suggest that Thanksgiving should become the occasion for a yearly guilt trip, we would do well to remember the price the first Americans paid for European expansion into their territories as we sit around the bountiful table with our family and friends. Only by openly acknowledging the sins of our collective past, is it possible to proceed toward a future that all Americans can feel thankful for.” ~ Richard Schiffman, Huffington Post
In reality, every time we feast, we are truly, consciously or subconsciously, giving thanks. And this is more in line with an idea expressed in Braiding Sweetgrass by Robin Wall Kimmerer where she discusses The Thanksgiving Address of the Haudenosaunee. In this video, these people discuss the beauty and power of this practice. We are dependent on Creator and all of Creation for our continued survival. It is thoughtful and respectful to remember this with ongoing thanks-giving. To remember that we are all connected to Mother Earth and all her residents.
I have friends who offer tobacco (aka kinikinik) daily. Not growing up in a religious household or one that followed any daily rituals, this is somewhat foreign to me. Though I have incorporated some forms of ritual that I’ve gathered over the years as part of my own practices, I’m quite inconsistent with anything. I have quite an eclectic mix of practices but I am more of an as-it-comes-to-mind-in-my-daily-endeavors kind of practitioner rather than one who prays before each meal or as a morning routine. But I kind of live in a constant state of gratitude as best I can. It’s difficult in these trying times to hold to gratitude but I do my best.
From this year’s coverage, I thought these stories were interesting:
Sioux Chef Sean Sherman shares his perspective with Carol Hills of PRI’s The World.
After years of racism and sexist news out of NC, this story highlights a controversy regarding teaching of Thanksgiving in schools that occurred in North Carolina’s Wake County public schools district after a tweet by Lauryn Mascareñaz of the district’s Office of Equity Affairs. IMO, this article appropriately references this excerpt:
“More than a century later, the U.S. still wrestles with challenges of diversity, and we’re still tempted to distort the “first Thanksgiving” into one of two equally present-minded morality tales: the heart-warming multicultural celebration or the cruel reminder of European colonialism. Both tell us more about current perspectives than historical realities. If such caricatures are really our best options, historical truth would be better served by deleting Thanksgiving from the curriculum entirely.” ~ NY Times opinion by Robert Tracy McKenzie
I believe what’s important to remember is that there are many ideas and memories around this holiday. Some are happy and inclusive and compassionate and some are horrible and cruel and brutal. I believe they are all a part of the history of where we are today and can be thoughtfully incorporated into perhaps a new day in the future where we heal the hurts of the past and celebrate our communal bounty. But first we must find a way to come together to determine what wounds need healing and how we can best go about doing that. And likely first we need to find a way to find common ground together as we strive to forge a more loving and compassionate world. We have a long way to go… but we can take a first step.
The latest Minnesota Public Utilities Commission meeting was another disappointment. But the expectation level for them is so low now that it wasn’t that far of a fall. Expecting to hear from the Intervening Parties and from all parties on the technical merits and shortcomings, I expected a full day potentially going into Tuesday. But no. The PUC adjourned the meeting at 2 hours 8 minutes.
From the outset, Chairwoman Lange made clear that there would be no opening statements taken today. “Questions will happen and parties will come to mic to answer.” Later in the day, Senator John Marty read, to a group of Water Protectors gathered at the Senate Building, the statement he’d prepared to read to the PUC today. They’d previously allowed State Representatives give statements in the proceedings but perhaps that’s only if you’re a pro-pipeine member… They told him today that “this was not the beginning of a meeting but the continuation of a past one…”
The PUCowards asked no questions and had little comment on the first two items on the agenda.
- What action should the Commission take on the Enbridge Motion to Strike Filings?
- Should the Commission reconsider its September 5, 2018 Order Granting Certificate of Need as Modified and Requiring Filings?
In the motion to strike fillings, Lipschultz moved to deny admission of reconsiderations as they were late. Motion Carried 5-0 9:35 AM The timely motions for reconsideration were denied with a motion, again from Lipschultz, to deny reconsideration. Chairwoman Lange noted Reconsideration is a time to see if there were any errors by law or reason or judgment – none of these conditions exist, no new ideas to consider except DOC’s idea that they can’t consider current line which does not make sense. Carried 5-0 9:41 AM
This decision was followed by about a minute of LOUD Protest in the room. “Scientists have spoken – 12 years to resolve.” and multiple rounds of “Line 3 is an immediate climate disaster – we will stop Line 3.” Order was restored by 9:42 AM
The next agenda item was…
3. What action should the Commission take on the Honor the Earth Motion to Disclose Insurance Exclusion Clauses?
Chairwoman Lange asked for any questions. NONE!! WTF! Sieben moved to deny HTE as the information was not justified to be released to the public. Tuma seconded. Lipschultz noted that the parties had access to this information; he supports the motion too. Carried 5-0 9:44 AM [I’m thinking, “This could be done by 10 AM!!]
4. What action should the Commission take concerning the certificate of need modifications compliance filing filed by Enbridge on July 16, 2018, pursuant to the Commission’s June 28, 2018 oral directives on certificate of need modifications? Specifically, regarding these five items: Parental Guarantee, Landowner Choice, Decommissioning Trust, Neutral Footprint Program/Tree for Tree Replacement, and Enbridge Liability Insurance.
There are gory details for all of these issues as this was the ONLY portion of the day when Commissioners asked questions. This item accounted for 88% of the meeting time. But I’ll limit the reporting to the highlights.
A) Parental Guarantee
While I was not happy with some of the highlighted elections that could have gone more progressive, this year’s midterms were not as disappointing as they could have been. It would have been nice to have Gillum, O’Roarke, and Abrahms elected, it’s kind of nice to think about them possibly being available for the next Democratic Presidential run… However, the midterms were bad enough with the many corporate candidates, especially here in Minnesota. The only good thing on our ballot was Ellison who might give us a chance at defeating Enbridge. Walz has given no indication to date that he will be any help. But we can continue to pressure him and give him reason to change his tune. You can click here to give him your input. The Transition Team is awaiting our voices. Please Speak Up! Perhaps Dayton will do something prior to leaving office. That would be exciting. But I’m not holding my breath… The PUC had another hearing starting today on the Line 3 issue. I was not expecting it to be such a railroaded process but in just over two hours, they made all their needed decisions and adjourned. They continue to act as Enbrige Lap Dogs, to show they have no respect for Treaty Rights, to give no consideration to the Climate Catastrophe they are resigning this state to endure. There will be more on this next week because I want us to continue to comprehend how the PUC is letting down the people of Minnesota. But for today I will focus on election results and why we need to maintain hope.
With many positives happening in the courts favoring fossil fuel opposition you’d hope that we’d see government entities beginning to ditch Big Oil too. Keystone XL was recently stopped, and Juliana v. United States should soon be moving forward again… or maybe not. But hey, did I mention Keystone XL was stopped?!? Globally the Dutch courts are holding their government to account, and there are similar cases in the US, Belgium, Norway and Ireland. But then, there’s also three dudes in Delaware who want to challenge climate change regulations because their electricity bills will increase…
Big Oil Money seemed to still be powerful in the midterms, defeating opponents in both of their highly financed campaigns against Washington Initiative 1631 (which would have implemented a fee on carbon emissions) and Proposition 112 in Colorado (which would impose a 2500′ minimum from buildings and vulnerable areas for new gas and oil developments – instead leaving in place restrictions specifying that wells must be 1,000 feet from high-occupancy buildings such as schools and hospitals, 500 feet from occupied buildings such as homes, and 350 feet from outdoor areas like playgrounds… Sorry, kids!) They also killed Ballot Measure 1 with 12:1 spending though I’m not sure that oil and gas state Alaska would have found protections for salmon – there’s just more money in oil than fish… for now.
Have I mentioned I don’t think enough people are contemplating how long we will be able to grow food for ourselves? Maybe you read last week’s blog which started a bit on our growing food concerns. I mean, what about a recurrence of the Great Drought? See South Africa, India, lots of other places where we are seeing ground water shortages already. Park Rapids just had to re-dig a well to support the city due to agricultural damage. Or what about how fast we’ve killed off all other mammals? 60% since 1970?? And that’s not to mention insects… Wonder how we’ll all feel about our special paint brushes we carry everywhere once our pollinators are decimated.
“God has cared for these trees, saved them from drought, disease, avalanches, and a thousand tempests and floods. But he cannot save them from fools.” ~ John Muir (1838-1914), Father of the National Parks
Activists like Muir who went ahead of us, gives me hope that we may win some upcoming battles. A recent letter from MN Senator John Marty (DFL Senate District 66) to the PUC made excellent points and I include it here.
More on John Marty and his three fellow DFL Senators (Jim Carlson – SD 51, Chris Eaton -SD 40, and Patricia Torres-Ray – SD 63) who are supporting the StopLine3 movement in next week’s blog…
And what was the GOOD NEWS from the midterms?
Nevada did pass Question 6 regarding a 50 percent renewable energy mandate on state utilities by 2030. And Amendment 9 in Florida passed banning offshore oil and natural gas drilling (but it’s not clear if that was due more to people who are annoyed by vaping, rather than those concerned with climate change, as these two unrelated ideas were slammed together in this Amendment).
And there is lots more happening. Here are the cases to watch as we close out 2018.
Try not to lose hope. And PLEASE DO ANYTHING YOU CAN. Write to Governor Dayton. Call your Senators and Representatives. Talk with your neighbors. Here is what I sent Governor-Elect Tim Walz today:
Many of the people I know and love met today with your Transition Team. I am hopeful that you will heed their advice and do everything you can to Stop Line 3. There is nothing more than MN can do as a state to mitigate the current Climate Catastrophe than to Stop Line 3. It is the equivalent to stopping 50 coal burning power plants. It will help us preserve the pristine waters of our North Woods and honor the Treaty Rights we agreed to uphold (I’m hopeful that you need no reminder that this is the highest law of the land), not to mention prevent the loss of thousands of tourism jobs that will be affected by a spill. Never forget. ALL PIPELINES LEAK.
There is much in the record of the Line 3 PUC Hearings: Intervenor Testimony, Public Commentary, Expert Evidence. But you can look no further than the latest news to see evidence of the Climate Crisis on our planet.
As a Native Nebraskan, you likely understand better than others the water crisis fast approaching. Nebraska is doing much to mitigate that aspect of our Climate Crisis. Protecting our Water means protecting our Farmers, the source of our local food. As a member of the National Guard, perhaps you were privy to the planning being done in our Military to assure needed resources for National Security. You may well know of the work being done on renewables as we siphon out the last of the dinosaur blood in the rocks below us. As an educator and father, you know the importance of our children. Hope and Gus are counting on you to protect this planet, not only for them, but for their children… and theirs. If only so you can proudly look them in the eye, do what is right for our planet, our country, and our state… our water, our land, our wildlife… our Indigenous and our loved ones.
Thank you for your consideration.
I know I can look myself in the eye when I look in the mirror. I know my son is proud of the work his dad and I are doing. My momma is proud too. Take a moment today and do one thing to help in some way to keep our planet livable. And then do it again tomorrow.
We are our best hope.
I recently joined the Non-Fiction Book Club of Alexandria, Minnesota in reading This Blessed Earth: A Year in the Life of an American Family Farm. This is a beautifully written and very informative book on the history of agriculture in the United States. And it includes stories from the Hammonds, a Nebraska farming family that grows crops and runs cattle. I highly recommend it. I only wish I could have had internet to be able to join the club for their meeting to discuss this work as I’m sure it would have informed this blog…
The writing is a mix of investigative reporting and chronicle of life for Rick and Heidi as well as their daughter Meghan and her husband Kyle, the next generation in this farm family. I learned about moisture levels and pricing, irrigation and Roundup, community and the importance of family. But first? Soybeans. A timely subject matter.
The book begins with the tale of how soybeans became “the most successful crop introduced to the American farm in the last century.” Going from less than a million acres in 1920 to over 85 million acres today, you might be surprised to learn that Henry Ford played the biggest role in this transition. His vision of a decentralized production plant was revolutionary, as was his use of soybeans for everything from lubricants to raw materials for gear shift knobs. If it hadn’t been for the discovery of the oil reserves in Saudi Arabia in 1938, the soybean might have held prominence for decades. Genoways gives a detailed history of how Archer Daniels Midland and Cargill (Monsanto came later) became who they are in large part due to the bean. The government too had much to do with the way things developed. But the farmer’s own work ethic and willingness to buy into the “bigger is better” mentality may have been the biggest factors in their own demise over time as family farms were replaced by giant corporate farms.
The story is not just crops but also cattle. The coverage of the pros and cons of branding is eye-opening but particularly interesting is that on implants. If a producer is NI, no implants, it means that their cattle do not have implanted growth stimulant pellets. These cattle often fetch a slightly higher price at auction. However, these cattle may very well end up being injected with hormones at the feedlot – where they will have a big reaction to them – thus making them just like all the other cattle in the lot which have been raised with hormones all along.
The history of how Centennial Hill became this family’s farm is an interesting one and likely similar to that of many family farms that grew out of the Homestead Act. Thomas Barber (Heidi’s great-great-grandfather) came from Suffolk, England and, through hard work and saving (along with bad environmental luck of those already settled in Nebraska), he was able to secure a piece of land in 1874. Though he ended up losing the farm, it was reacquired later through extraordinary means. As Genoways tells the stories of land ownership changes, he notes, “it is a kind of geography of the gone… all the people and families that disappeared off the land, leaving only their names, like tombstones, as a record of the generations spent there.”
Also interwoven is the story of Meghan’s high school sweetheart who was killed in Iraq, re-iterating the importance of community. And the brief explanations of the family’s opposition to the Keystone XL pipeline, shows how quickly that community support can fade.
Rick knew from natural gas lines in his Curtis, Nebraska farm how pipelines ruin the land so when the TransCanada land agent assured the community that he would give them a fair deal, Rick was doubtful. He researched tar sands and the summer of 2010 brought the massive failure of Enbridge’s tar sands pipeline in Marshall, Michigan, making the dangers even more clear. He was angry. And afraid.
Along with TransCanada’s talk of fairness were threats of land seizures if landowners dared resist. In the end, after being threatened twice with eminent domain, Rick signed the easement, regretting it immediately. He felt he could not win against their lawyers. All he had was a gut feeling that what they were doing was illegal. In the end, TransCanada moved the pipeline route. But they refused to give back the easement Rick had signed over to them. And repercussions didn’t end there. The new route was even worse for his family’s farm business and, when they worked to resist the pipeline, their neighbors to the south withdrew from the contract that had allowed the Hammonds to farm the land.
This Blessed Earth gives as in-depth presentation on the development and controls around seed corn, including the geopolitical ramifications. Genoway’s discussion on the development and health hazards of farm chemicals is disturbing, as is the sad state of where we are now agriculturally. There are no easy answers.
There is a thorough discussion of irrigation, including the history of the author’s own family in this arena. The water shortages faced by families like the Hammonds should be of concern for every American, or at least those of us who don’t grow all our own food. The fact that we irrigate much of our farmland is obvious from the crop circles you can see as you fly across America. Each bright green circle represents an irrigation system that pivots around a center point, bringing growth. But many of us do not comprehend the entire system. Aquifer data is scary as we use more and more water for cattle and crops. And little heed seems to be given to those crying, “Conserve!”
Ted notes a 2015 US Geological Survey study that reported on aquifer levels compared to the two decades previous which found alarming decreases of 64% across all wells. Some areas were harder hit than others. Southwestern Kansas, after 70 years of tapping the aquifer, showed water at 25% of the original level and in the southern High Plains of Texas some farmers had no water at all. Without serious conservation efforts, the Hammond family reports, there will not be enough rain to grow crops like we have been.
Again, Genoways delves into a historical review of water usage in agriculture, including the discovery of the Ogallala aquifer. Depending on where a farm is in relation to the aquifer determines availability of water and how fast the source recharges. In places where the water does not recharge, the water is referred to as “fossil water”… like oil, a nonrenewable and finite resource. And while we don’t think of it, just having the water in the aquifer is not the only need. If we want to use it for growing, we need to have a way to bring it to the surface.
The Great Cattle Bust of the mid-twentieth century should have been a sign. But as with most history, it is not always widely shared and, oftener than not, quickly forgotten. Some though, including David Eigenberg of the Upper Big Blue Natural Resource District (NRD), are working to try to educate farmers on the importance of conservation. In Nebraska they use a system of “reasonable use” as opposed to Texas’ method of “rule of capture”. Reasonable use ensures oversight by locally elected boards while rule of capture allows each farmer to use what they can tap from their property – which can be very much based in luck of the draw and often leads to competitive overuse. In 2012, a study comparing an NRD managed field (using soil-moisture monitors) with one managed by a farmer applying water to his own judgment found similar crop yields with the NRD field using only a third of the water used by the farmer.
As climate change effects continue to develop, we could be facing catastrophe. A 2013 study by Don Wilhite (founding director of both the International Drought Mitigation Center and the International Drought Information Center at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln) foresaw an increase of as much as 9 degrees in Nebraska temperatures in less than a few years. Temps will regularly exceed 100°F by 2060 and the water available will not be capable of supporting demand at those temperatures.
And worse yet, we’ve been fooling ourselves to a degree by pumping up cold water from the aquifer, thus reducing temps and increasing humidity. By masking the effects of climate change, we’ve doomed ourselves to a more sudden wake up once we are past the current mitigation capabilities.
Another key example is the Texas Water Report of May 2015 which showed the drop in water level for their aquifer fell 300 feet since the 1940s but a third of that happened between 2001 & 2011. California too has been known to pump their water until it is gone. The cautionary tales are being ignored in large part.
Even the saying “knee high by the 4th of July” seems dead in this era of chest or even head high by July hybrids… another illusion of technology that blinds us to the coming hardships caused by climate change. As water supplies diminish, farmers continue to think only as far ahead as next season rather than further down the road. And with the enormous debt in land and machinery that farming entails, that can be catastrophic when the bills come due. Especially now. With all the farms that foreclosed in the Farm Crisis of the late 1980s, each farm that dies today carries the weight that four did back then.
How do we fix this? Genoways writes: “To address the problem adequately, we may need to rethink what kind of food we grow where, and how much agriculture is feasible in certain landscapes.” And current trends do not look good. Rick Hammond, in 2014, warned of big trouble if record harvests continued for two more years… and that is exactly what happened. Excess production drives pricing down, As pricing on livestock fell as well, there was no capitalizing on the low grain prices. Farmers are holding tight at present – no new equipment, no new trucks, no visits to town for dinner and a movie. And this not only affects the rural economy but our economy as a whole.
Perhaps the most damning lines in the book ~ and possibly the most sadly ironic for farmers that voted in force for “Trump and his protectionist, antiglobalist policies” ~ are on the last page.
“Now Trump is threatening to cancel manufacturing trade deals with China, and China is responding by threatening to cancel its purchases of American grains. If such a thing were ever to happen, it would make the Farm Crisis seem like a minor economic ripple.” This Blessed Earth, p. 221
Sorry, soybean farmers. The future may be more dire than the next year looks to you right now. And sadly, it’s likely you aren’t looking any farther ahead than that.
As some of you knew, I participated in a direct action in downtown Bemidji on August 29 this past summer. We blocked an intersection for several hours and ended up being cited for disorderly conduct after refusing to disperse. The event was only the third civil disobedience direct action that Sierra Club has supported in its 120+ year history. The first two civil disobedience actions were in Washington, D.C., one in opposition to the Keystone XL pipeline and a second regarding voting rights. This third action was requested by local SC Ex Comm member, Marty Cobenais, and, after much deliberation and planning, Sierra Club agreed to support it. Bemidji would be the first trial of a civil disobedience outside D.C.
One of the main reasons we got a “Yes” from Sierra Club is because of the tremendous strength of the local Line 3 opposition movement. While most Minnesotans may have heard of Enbridge’s Line 3 Replacement project, via articles in the news or coverage on FB, it still amazes me how little many know about this project and the devastating effects it would have on our state, our people, our environment, and our wildlife. In this area, there are many of us who have been protecting the water for some time and watching closely as this Enbridge proposal processes through our legal and political systems. The sad part is how many of our neighbors we know would oppose it if the facts about this line were clearly presented. And the most difficult thing for me of late is how few have answered the call for support in light of the grave danger this line poses, not just for Minnesota, but for the entire planet. I don’t know if Governor Dayton will realize the enormity of the problem if there are only a couple dozen of us holding signs and banners telling him to stop the project.
- Did you know that the Alberta Tar Sands are the largest source of air pollution in North America?
- Did you know that Enbridge’s preferred route will require their new Line 3 pipeline to cross under the Mississippi not once, but twice?
- Did you know their corridor easement for this new pipeline is not 50-70’ as for most new pipelines, but 220’? [This is because it’s not just planned as a “replacement” pipeline but is in fact where they plan to move all their pipelines once the leases run out on their pipelines running through Reservation lands.]
So on August 29th, about 100 people joined forces to chant and speak and hold an intersection while we livestreamed into Governor Dayton’s office asking him to stop this Tar Sands pipeline project. Loren Blackburn, President of Sierra Club wrote a nice piece after participating in this event.
There were people in the Governor’s office, assuring the live stream was being seen. There were people holding signs and banners around the intersection in Bemidji. There were police liaisons and marshalls and support people assuring that we could hold the intersection with our presence. And there were 26 of us who ended up being cited and had to appear in court to plead our case last Friday.
The FB Event MN Neighbors Protecting MN Waters was meant to bring out supporters for the Resistance to Line 3. This 11/2 event consisted of an update on where we are in the fight to Stop Line 3, lunch and socializing, a press conference on why we took direct action, and our first appearance in court defending ourselves on the charges from 8/29/18. Optimist I am, I hoped for a couple hundred people standing alongside us showing Governor Dayton that we have big numbers supporting the StopLine3 effort. I was very happy for those who did come out, even if it was less than 10% of my anticipated presence.
We had local friends Ron and Dawn Sjostrand. Even though she has difficulty leaving the house for long these days, he pushed her in a wheelchair all the way to the courthouse! And they both were on stage behind our press conference speakers as they expressed why they’d done the direct action. Nerd got there after we finished court but we were excited to have her join us for the celebration at Rail River Folk School. Sharon from Bemidji, Sarah and Finn, family members, and a handful of others cheered us on as we headed to court. We even got some cars honking support as we walked with our banners and signs.
At the press conference, Margaret Levin, Sierra Club North Star Chapter Director, gave the welcome and reviewed the goals we had in taking our direct action: highlighting risks; calling on Governor Dayton to act; assuring the stories of what motivated us are heard. She introduced Dawn Goodwin, Anishinaabe from White Earth and expert witness at the PUC hearings on Line 3, who was granted permission to speak on behalf of her people. She explained how the Treaty Rights were not given to the Indigenous by the colonists, they were allowed by the Natives to the settlers. In order for these rights to be honored we must assure clean water and a healthy ecosystem. She explained the serious danger the Tar Sands would bring. Akilah Sanders-Reed, Youth Climate Intervenor, was the next speaker. She focused on how the system failed them as they presented data, scientific experts, elders, and more but were simply dismissed by the Public Utility Commissioners. The PUC failed the public but young people will not abide this failure. They are taking the PUC to court!
My fried, Doug Rasch of Horsehill Gardens in Clearbrook explained the diversity of our group. While claims were made by politicians that the protesters were out of state elements and Natives, he confirmed that there were 2 of 26 from out of state (I believe one of them was a Native Minnesotan), 12 were from the Cities, and 12 were local. Of our group, only 8 were Native. And then he explained how a pipeline is built. Specifically the process of clearing the land to be able to dig a pipeline. He explained how Enbridge’s easement of 220’ is far in excess of what was needed to run another pipeline 10 years ago in this area. In wetlands, all the brush is stripped from the surface and ground into the dirt to freeze the ground hard. All the Black Ash, all the White Ash, all the Willows, all the Red-stemmed Dogwoods, all the Cattails. And for all the wildlife in the area, the frogs, the turtles, all the wildlife, this terminates their hibernation. In the uplands, forests of Spruce, Balsam Fir, Sugar Maples, and Basswood are ground to nothing as Enbridge prepares to install their pipeline. Doug explained how the way people feed themselves, how they earn and spend money, and how they obtain energy has resulted in the loss of 60% of our wildlife. And he stressed that all Enbridge can say about their pipeline is that it is “safe” and they have to say this because it’s implicitly dangerous. Scott Russell, Co-Chair, Beyond Oil and Tar Sands Committee, Sierra Club North Star Chapter shared about how we have played by the PUC rules and have been disappointed. Enbridge could not prove a need for Line 3 but the PUC ignored the Department of Commerce. Science experts were ignored by the PUC in making their decisions. They ignored the Administrative Law Judge and Treaty Law and Indigenous Rights. He stands today with his MN Neighbors standing together against a PUC decision that ignored our input to the process. [You should check out his blog Healing Minnesota Stories…] And Tom Schmidt, Bemidji area Interfaith Minister, wrapped us up with a message on how Faith Looks Forward. He spoke of how Line 3 serves the past and gives no benefit to Minnesota. Investment in the future that our youth deserve must happen now. Faith calls us forward to renewables, which are already the second largest form of our energy at 25%. Climate change requires mitigation and that means we need to keep the fossil fuels in the ground and build an energy infrastructure that supports the future of Minnesotans.
We enjoyed a few more rays of sunshine as we made our way into the courthouse for our appearance. There was an extremely high population of deputies at the entrance. We each filed through the metal detector at the entrance, squeezing more people into the entry as we could, and eventually made our way to the courtroom lobby. When they opened the doors for the 2 o’clock appearances, we filed in and filled the rows.
I was late in the group coming into the courtroom and found most of the first and second rows full. Andy Pearson was sitting on the open end in row 2 and I went to sit next to him. As I was sitting, I realized I was sitting next to him as the Valve Turners were acquitted and I said, “Well, the last time I sat by you in court turned out pretty good…”
Judge John Melbye came in and quickly got to work. He confirmed that Frank Bibeau was representing 17 of our group (we had 22 of 26 present ~ several took a Rule 15 to make a plea without appearance via the attorney.) He would deal with Frank’s clients first and then the remaining half dozen of us. I hadn’t resolved to be represented by Bibeau. In fact, I was still arguing in my head as to whether I was going to plead guilty or not guilty.
You see, the county attorney was currently prosecuting City of Bemidji cases on their behalf, including this one, but the contract for that work will end 12/31/18. SO… this would push any “not guilty” cases today to the City docket and, with all the other cases that may be coming their way as this contract ends, they could decide to simply dismiss it. That’s what I wanted to try to accomplish – a dismissal.
So our appearances started with Chelsea DeArmond who plead guilty and made a short statement about being proud to stand in civil disobedience with this group of people today. The punishment for the charge against her was read by the county prosecutor as, “$150 fine and a 1-month stay of adjudication”. When Frank asked him to clarify if he’d heard correctly, the prosecutor said, “One year, not one month”. Frank and the judge both assured him that he had said one “month” and then the judge told him that, in this case, he felt a 6-month stay would be more appropriate. Whoo-hoo! It’s getting better already!! That’s a big reduction in our sentence! One of my fears with pleading guilty was that I’d have to not support protests for a whole year! I was really hoping for a not guilty plea resulting in the dismissal by the City, leaving me free of punishment and restriction.
The next defendant was Dawn Goodwin who pleaded not guilty. She was given a new court date of 1/25/19 – but all I heard was the judge offering 11/30/18 as he thought he would schedule any second appearances 4 weeks out from today… which would kill my strategy in pleading not guilty. I’d still be on the County docket. So I basically decided at that point that I’d plead guilty. Even though Doug was sitting right next to me teasing that a real activist response would be to plead not guilty – just to fuck with the system. 🙂
A few more people plead guilty and made statements. The judge had already acknowledged that what we were doing was civil disobedience and that he appreciated our efforts being respectful and controlled during our day of action. But after Brian PaStarr gave his statement to the judge for why he’d joined the action that day, the judge asked the room, “Is everybody still here? Is everyone who has been charged today still in the courtroom?” The room assured him we all were still present. He then agreed that our group was so socially active in our communities that, in lieu of payment for our fines today, he would accept community service hours as payment. The response from our crowd was appreciative disbelief. This was making a guilty plea look even better.
Once Frank’s clients were completed, Nancy Beaulieu was up. She too pleaded not guilty and when I heard the judge say her next court date would be 1/25/19, I was like, “I COULD plead not guilty too! There’s still a possibility for dismissal!” But I was up next so I had to decide quickly. I struggled with this plea decision until the point at which the judge asked me how I would plead. I literally said, “I’m not sure how I should plead but think I want to plead guilty.” And he said (smiling), “Well, you need to be sure.” 🙂 He was really lovely. He’d just admonished me for nodding in answer to his question on knowing my rights noting that the record can’t hear that kind of answer. 🙂
So I took the deal. And I did so in part because I really admired this judge for his leniency and his appreciation of us. I told him I didn’t think I could ever hope for a better day in court. In fact, I don’t know that any other group has ever had such a lovely day in court!!
I then read this statement, struggling with tears as I did:
I stood in that intersection to defend the water, the plants, the animals, my grandchildren yet to be born – all those who cannot speak for themselves.
I stood as an act of civil disobedience, an idea which has allowed protection for the weak from the strong and powerful throughout our country’s history from the Boston Tea Party to Women’s Suffrage to Civil Rights.
I knew there would be little risk for public harm as the police knew we were coming.
I knew we were representing tens of thousands of our fellow citizens who wrote in opposition to Line 3. Anti-Line 3 comments outnumbered pro-pipeline comments 17:1. The Department of Commerce, Department of Natural Resources, and Pollution Control Agency have all opposed the project. Yet just last week, the PUC gave approval for the Route Permit, even with conditions around the Certificate of Need not yet being resolved. It is clear that our system of governance is not working to protect Minnesota’s people and environment.
I watched the PUC hearings as the Youth Climate Intervenors were given patronizing treatment in their very serious pursuit of justice for their generation. I watched as the Tribes were teased with questions about which route they would prefer and then tortured with a decision by the PUC selecting the absolute worst, Enbridge’s preferred route that would create a new 200’ wide scar, hundreds of miles long, through our state.
It is clear we are running out of time to address climate change. Our stand in Bemidji was a small piece in the larger puzzle of what we need to do as a society to fight for our very continued existence. I am hopeful that the court will show mercy in its verdict of my behavior. It would seem the fair thing, the just thing, in light of all we are facing as a civilization.
I believe it was at this moment that the judge turned to the room and explained that he wanted to thank us for making this such a pleasant day. He said that the courtroom is not typically a fun place to be. He deals with divorce and criminals and people who find themselves in hard circumstances. The only happy days are the Adoption Days. But this day was really enjoyable for him and he thanked us for making it so.
We wrapped up the last few defendants and the judge prepared to end our day together. He’d earlier mentioned that they were concerned they would be faced with an angry mob. So as he closed court for the day, I reminded him to spread the word about who we are. I’m pretty sure he’ll be sharing about how “Minnesota Nice” we Water Protectors are. [Especially if all those us who pledged to get a card in the mail to him…]
Our press conference was important for us as participants and I hope it brings recognition to the dangers of a Tar Sands pipeline, the importance of Treaty Rights, the injustice of the PUC process, and the solidarity of this diverse group. However, I believe that the best part of our November 2nd day in that Bemidji courtroom was in our respectful treatment of the officers, the court, the judge, and the process. We made clear that we are citizens who are standing for our children, our environment, our clean water, our treaties, our faith. We showed that Water Protectors are good people, kind people, civic minded people. Thanks much to Ellen Hadley for her Livestreaming of our success that day (and for her coverage of so many of the Water Protector events statewide).
I’m grateful for the judge’s leniency and happy to report that, as of this morning, I already have 2 hours of community service under my belt for entering some tabling data for Bimi’ji 350 from the BSU Pow Wow event (my first!!). Only 15 more hours to go!
My only disappointment for the day was in not having more support. I try to comfort myself with an understanding that all who were supposed to be there were. I know a Friday afternoon isn’t great timing. I’m sure most had better things to do that hang out to watch a press conference or witness to our day in court. But I have to wonder to myself… if the Governor doesn’t see a large crowd supporting him in opposing Line 3, why would we think he’d have a reason to heed our request to stop it? If you’d like to tell Governor Dayton you don’t want Line 3, you can do so right here.
And I thank you for your support.
Well it’s been a productive time at Anne’s place. I am finally feeling like we are going to make it with getting her a place for winter. We have a nice week ahead of us and the recent progress has been amazing.
Less than 2 weeks ago, the trailer had a saggy kitchen, holes through the floor, two old electrical boxes (one with screw-in fuses, one with breakers), a cracked toilet. We had no electricity, no heat, no plumbing. We had two scrappy trailers in the yard that need to be hauled away. Then there was a ceremony for quick progress and, like magic, it seems to be working. Thank you amazing goddesses!!
Thanks to many people (and for sure I am forgetting several someones) we have made a TON of progress. Noreen Hautala, Ralph and Paulette Friday, Larry and LaVonne, Peggy, Steven and his buddy, Cheyenne and Gene, Cedar, Becky Littlewolf, Corey, and, of course, Anne herself.
The old bathroom toilet and kitchen cabinets have been removed. The floor has had all the holes fixed and new subfloor is in the process of being added to the LR/Kitchen. And the flashing and caulking have been done for the doors so no more moisture infiltration! 😀
The kitchen has been primed! This top cabinet may still have to go… it looks really saggy and we can give Anne something better.
All the windows have been covered with plastic for winter. It already feels warmer. We have a new electrical panel which has been hooked up and THERE IS ELECTRICITY!! It was positively roasting in there with two space heaters Anne has in the LR/Kitchen – I had to take off my coat, & long-sleeve shirt and wear only my short-sleeve t-shirt!
The Bedroom is painted and has the new subfloor, luan, AND FLOORING installed!!! Just need the trim, boxing around the electrical wires, final light fixture repair, a bit more paint and we’re ready to install furniture and decorate!!
The sewing room was pretty good though Anne has really made it hers with a paint wash on the barn wood wall – it looks really great. Perhaps in another year or so, all the walls will have this treatment… 😉
The bathroom has a good floor but we’ll need to tweak the cabinets for better storage. And, we still need to get the plumbing in place…
This week we hope to get a propane tank set – let’s hope the furnace works!
We hope to finish the subfloor so we can begin the kitchen reconstruction. We need to move a bunch of stuff around and then reconfigure the outlet for her new fridge placement. Then we’ll need to build some new cabinets and paint as Anne sees fit.
Meanwhile Anne is there everyday getting lots accomplished. I’m feeling better as we’ve made good progress and I’m going to hope it continues. It’s a village working on this and it’s been really fun to be a part of the crew.
As many of you know, we’ve been following the Valve Turner Trials since their Direct Action on October 11, 2016. The last of the first round trials happened near our place this past week. It was a whirlwind of excitement, surprise, happiness, and disappointment.
On the way home from the first day of trial last Monday I was overcome with feelings of concern. I knew the jury pool was weak and worried that NO ONE on the jury would have a clear understanding of Climate Change. With the judge ruling that none of the expert witnesses could testify to Climate Change or Civil Disobedience (because “everyone understands” them), and with all but two jurors in the pool saying they did not think it was okay to break the law for moral reasons, I knew it would be an uphill battle. And I knew that most of those people were lying to themselves and everyone else. Who hasn’t broken the speed limit because they had to get to church on time?
Seriously, I was fretting. It seemed the ability of the defense attorneys to prove our case was being shredded. But as I drove south on County 2 toward home, an eagle flew across the road just as I was approaching. I looked at that eagle and remembered a story a friend told me recently when she was talking about being nervous about an upcoming action. She said that an eagle had flown in front of the car as they were heading to the action and she remembered many Indigenous telling her, “If you see an eagle, you know the Ancestors are with you,” so she relaxed and felt like all would be well.
So I saw this eagle and felt a bit better. But I also knew that we see eagles often up here. So there was still some doubt. That evening, as I wrote a reply to Mom’s comment that my blog last week made her proud and happy, I burst into tears. I was suddenly overwhelmed by the emotion I was feeling for her and it was like a dam burst and my entire being just succumbed to the terrible feelings of fear for our trial, for our children, for our community of beings, for our planet. I thought about the IPCC report that was just issued that day basically giving us a dozen years until we reach a tragic, unrecoverable situation with regard to climate change. I thought about the Valve Turners and their words on how urgent this crisis is. I thought about how many people are doing nothing, except maybe holding the pedal to the floor burning through fossil fuels without thought or consideration. I just sobbed and sobbed.
Dan said to me, “Are you all right?” I replied moaning through tears with a towel held to my face, “Nooooo!” He said, “Don’t forget…” And this was a moment. I wailed, “I know, I know! The asteroid!!” You see Dan keeps saying, “Just think, any moment, an asteroid could hit the planet and it’s game over!” Sometimes he adds on, “Splat!” And he’s been doing this for a while so now it’s basically to a point where he just says “Splat” and it’s all clear.
I managed to stop crying and work on the pots of soup for Wednesday’s party and watched some TV to take my mind from it – numbing behavior is sometimes the only way to deal with the pain. And in the morning, I resolved to be calm, to keep my head in a book, to just watch the process as calmly as I could. And as I drove to the trial that morning, as I drove down US 2, an eagle flew directly across the highway in front of me. I calmed. I thanked the Ancestors for telling me they are here. I decided to trust in the Universe – at least for today. And then the first day of testimony began and it was crazy.
We had entered the day finalizing the jury pool – wasn’t sure any of these were good potential jurors as we’d been removed from the courtroom during jury selection (voir dire). I just couldn’t put many faces with their answers from the previous day. But I knew chances were good we had a total jury of climate deniers.
It was pretty remarkable to watch the judge as he thanked the jurors for their service and walked everyone through the process. If you haven’t experienced this, I recommend a visit to your next local jury trial so you can see how things work. Hopefully you will have a judge as dedicated to the record as Judge Tiffany.
Then began the opening statements. Al Rogalla had a very strong performance presence, full of deliberate placements of evidence, strong and dramatic language, and only a few stumbles in his verbiage. It was a bit overdone in my opinion and much of the jury seemed unphased as he breathlessly said (complete with a cutting motion as if there was a giant hedge in front of him), “And then they CUT the CHAINS!” His main point was that there was video evidence of the crime that the jury would see in testimony so they must convict. Then Lauren Regan of the Civil Liberties Defense Center presented the opening statement for the defense team. She gave a well-presented explanation of what she intended to present, what her clients had done and a bit of why, and some information on the urgency of climate change. It was thorough, informative and professional.
After this, Al Rogalla presented the case for the State of Minnesota with two witnesses, Clearwater County Sheriff Darin Halverson and Bill Palmer, Enbridge Energy’s Clearbrook Terminal Supervisor. Sheriff Halverson was able to assure chain of custody for the evidence and identify the three defendants sitting at the table adjacent to him.
Halverson walked through the events of the day and was on the stand as the video footage that Ben Joldersma (third defendant) took during the action was shown for the jury. It depicted the entry into the valve stations and included the safety phone call that Ben made to Enbridge before the action occurred asking them shut down the line.
Kelsey Skaggs of the Climate Defense Project did the cross-exam. She asked about the two calls made to the Sheriff that morning, the first from the media and the second from Enbridge, both around 9:15 AM. She verified that the defendants were waiting for him on arrival at about 10:30 AM. She asked if he could identify the fourth person arrested that day, Steve Liptay (seated in the rear of the small courtroom, 4th row), but he was unable to identify him. This, planted a small seed of doubt in the Sheriff as Kelsey made clear that the original fourth defendant was present.
As I put the pieces together, it seems that the action took place about 8:30 but the Sheriff was not informed until 9:15 with a call from WCCO who had seen footage on FB. They didn’t get to the scene until 10:30 so the defendants waited two hours for their arrest. This behavior doesn’t seem consistent with people who want to get away with criminal damage.
Next on the stand was Bill Palmer. His work history was reviewed and his assessment of the photographic evidence was gained by Rogalla who seemed tickled by reminding Palmer of the flowers in the chain that had been added to the valve after it was turned off. Palmer confirmed that oil flow was stopped for about 8 hours that day on Lines 4 & 67 and he noted the extra staff verification that was done in turning the valves back to open. This included a flyover (which is done regularly by the pipeline anyway – not sure if it’s a safety requirement or something the company just does but they fly over our place regularly).
Lauren did the cross-exam for this witness asking if he was one of fifteen employees at the Clearbrook site. Palmer corrected her noting 17 plant employees but agreed. He agreed that this is an automated facility and that he was informed that morning (but could not specifically tell her when) by Enbridge of the shutdown. (I was kind of thinking, gee, if I knew I had to testify on this at a trial, I probably would have brought all my notes on the day with me and been able to answer a question like this. But then, I am a woman, of German heritage, who has a strong tendency for documentation so I’m left with the impression that this guy isn’t real strong on documentation or details. Not sure if this is the guy we want running a major fossil fuel terminal…) Palmer was only informed of one call (though the defendants had assured two calls, one from a party off-site and one ten minutes later from Ben, fifteen minutes prior to closing the valves). Lauren asked if Enbridge shut down the line for batch changes and he noted that they do not but they do shut down for maintenance. He also noted that a shutdown does not cause damage “if done correctly”. He verified that Enbridge shut down the line at 6:40 MST that day (seeming to have a little trouble translating that to local time of 8:40 CST for a moment). When asked if there was ever damage to the pipeline from others, he agreed sometimes there is third party damage but he could not recall an instance where he ever received fifteen minutes notice prior to any of these instances.
The State rested its case and Lauren asked for a 5 minute break.
On return, Minneapolis-based attorney Tim Phillips read the defense team’s motion for acquittal. It should be noted that the jury was not in the room at the time – the court took care of a lot of administrative type activities while the jury was out, bringing them in only when it was time for evidence to be presented. Tim asked the Judge to approve a motion for acquittal for all three defendants based on the fact that the State did not prove their case that the evidence would not allow a reasonable juror to find guilt.
I sat in the rear of the room next to Andy Pearson of MN350 and I looked at Andy expectantly. He is one cool character, this Andy. He leaned over and quietly said in my ear, “He’s going to deny.” Well, Judge Tiffany kept us at bay, first explaining the legal code that allowed for a defense team to request acquittal following the presentation of the State’s case. He noted the requirements on him as a judge for considering said motion in making his ruling. Then he spoke about the Minnesota code defining pipelines and I began to get hopeful again. He was doing a LOT of explaining… Andy looked at me with a surprised hopeful look and then grabbed my hand as we continued to listen. And it was just a matter of a few more moments until the Judge granted their motion for acquittal and banged his gavel noting that, “We are adjourned.”
The courtroom erupted in cheers, tears, and a level of dumbfoundedness. Could it all really be over like that? It was surreal. This was almost immediately followed by the realization that our Climate Necessity Defense was not going to be presented. With cheers, smiles, and disappointment, we gathered at the stairs to hug, celebrate that our friends would not face prison, and commiserate our loss. Annette’s husband put it very succinctly. He said he was happy for his wife but wished we would have been able to present our case.
The press conference that followed was amazing (second half of press conference here). Expert witnesses Dr. Jim Hanson (former NASA Chief Scientist), Dr. Anthony Ingraffea (an expert who authored the American Pipeline Institute pipeline safety guidelines), and Dr. Bruce Snyder (reporting on the public health concerns and associated financial aspects) appeared alongside the defendants and attorneys Kelsey and Lauren. Vivienne joined as well, bringing the real reason for our fight to the forefront. I was always so amazed with Ben’s ability to bring the focus back to our children – all our children – and his feeling of obligation to do all he can to protect their future. It was nice to get a quick chance to hear some of the testimony we would have heard had our experts been able to take the stand.
After this excitement, I headed to Split Oak Farm to drop off a pig bucket. I gave Jeff and Angie the update on what happened. I texted their expected house guest for the evening to let them know of the acquittal and the two of them decided to turn back at St. Cloud. The fun of logistics begins anew! People who planned to come support the trial canceled plans or turned around mid-trip. Folks from Seattle to LA to NY worked on their plans for returning home. It would be a whirlwind for the next few days.
I headed home to regroup and prepare for an evening of James Hansen and a likely good celebration at Brigid’s Pub with the Valve Turner gang. I needed a nap! And as I drove east toward County 2, I spotted an eagle as it flew over my car. I guess I need to start trusting the Ancestors are with us… especially in times of need.
Democracy Now! did a great interview with Kelsey, Emily, Annette, and James the next day. (Part 3 is more of a summary of the story including some footage of our good friends Leonard Higgins & Michael Foster along with more explanation of the Necessity Defense.) It was nice to get some exposure for the movement and share some information with the public.
Bill McKibben did an MPR interview on the issue and also wrote an Op-Ed in the LA Times giving much of what he would have testified to had be been allowed to do so in Bagley and indicating that we need climate civil disobedience if we are to save our planet.
“Politics as usual is not working to address the climate emergency, save for a few outliers like California or Norway. And a few outliers is not enough.” ~ Bill McKibben, LA Times
And for my friends in Alexandria (with a REAL newspaper), here’s the coverage from the Echo Press which was in large part accurate (compared with the confusing and unclear coverage the trial got in our local Bagley paper).