Earth Day 2019: “Prayer for the Planet” Interfaith Vigil
Our planet is in peril. Accepting this is as much a matter of the heart as the head. The discussion around climate change is often dominated by secular voices. But we need everyone, religious and non-religious, to come together at this critical moment in history. Our diverse religions remind us of the sacredness of the earth, call us to heal the planet, and give us the strength to persist in the face of shortsighted opposition.
On April 27, 2019, we held an interfaith vigil at the Gary Aquatorium with representatives of Buddhist, Christian, Humanist, Jewish, Mormon, Muslim, Pagan, and Sikh religious communities present. Representatives of diverse faiths shared–in word, song, and prayer–their unique understanding of the sacred calling to protect our planet.
This event was held in coordination with the Indiana Dunes National Park “Green Gary” event.
Update on the Whiting 41: FBI tracking peaceful protesters
On December 13, 2018, the Guardian reported that the FBI is keeping files on at least three of 41 peaceful protesters who were arrested at the BP Whiting Refinery in May 2016. (For more information on the protest, see below.)
It is disturbing to learn that the FBI is tracking civil disobedience arrests. The FBI is prohibited from investigating individuals or groups solely for their political beliefs. In spite of that, the FBI has in the past treated non-violent civil disobedience as a form of terrorism. In 2010, the Office of the Inspector General released a report detailing how, since 9/11, the FBI has inappropriately tracked activist groups such as Greenpeace and the Catholic Worker for engaging in non-violent protest.
350.org founder, Bill McKibben, responded to the news saying, “Trying to deal with the greatest crisis humans have stumbled into shouldn’t require being subjected to government surveillance. But when much of our government acts as a subsidiary of the fossil fuel industry, it may be par for the course.”
May 2018: We “Walked the (Pipe)Line”
We “Walked the Line” of the tar sands pipelines again as they pass through Hammond and East Chicago on their way to the BP refinery.
Tar sands oil from Canada is the dirtiest form of oil there is, and it passes near our schools, homes, waterways, and nature preserves. The tar sands pipeline has already spilled twice, with disastrous consequences for people and nature. Renewable energy is the future, and Northwest Indiana can be a leader in the green energy revolution.
This was a fun, family-friendly event, designed to raise awareness about the existence of tar sands pipelines in Northwest Indiana communities and to show support for a just transition to a renewable energy economy. We also raised money for and brought bottled water to the residents of East Chicago who have been most affected by the lead crisis. Extra food from the event was delivered to a local nursing home.
Below are news articles about the event:
Earth Day 2018: We introduced the “Reluctant Radical”
On Earth Day weekend, we co-sponsored the screening of “The Reluctant Radical”, a film by Lindsey Grayzel, about activist Ken Ward.
Ken Ward is one of the “valve turners” who was arrested and prosecuted in 2016 for shutting the valves on pipelines bringing tar sands oil into the US. He argued in court that the urgency of climate change justified his actions. The film follows Ken as he struggles to find an effective way to combat climate change in the face of seemingly insurmountable indifference.
Following the movie, we held virtual Q&A with Ken Ward himself and director Lindsey Grayzel.
On Earth Day, we also tabled at at the 13th annual NWI Earth Day Celebration at the Porter County Expo Center. We shared information with hundreds of people about the tar sands pipelines and the fossil fuel industry in the Region.
October 2017: We hosted a free 4-week non-violent direct action class
“Direct action” refers to various forms of public protest which bypass the usual, institutional forms of communication. Examples of non-violent direct action include sit-ins, strikes, workplace occupations, and blockades. Direct action often includes acts of civil disobedience, in which a person intentionally breaks a law to place themselves in an “arrestable” situation in order to make a symbolic statement. Direct action can be used to complement other forms of political action. Every effective political movement throughout history, from the struggle for the eight hour workday to the fight for women’s suffrage, has used some form of direct action.
The non-violent direct action class taught participants how to choose a demand that’s ambitious but winnable, identify a target and where they are vulnerable, develop creative tactics to make our actions effective, press-worthy, and fun, and escalate over time in a way that builds pressure and our power.
September 2017: We walked the tar sands pipeline through Northwest Indiana communities
Pipelines carrying tar sands oil, the dirtiest form of oil, are running through our neighborhoods in Northwest Indiana. To bring awareness to the existence of the pipelines and the effect of the tar sands, on September 30, 2017, we walked the path of the Enbridge Line 6 tar sands pipeline as it passes through Northwest Indiana. Our route started at the Hoosier Prairie Nature Preserve, which sits next to the Griffith Enbridge terminal. The pipeline passes under the nature preserve, near schools and homes, and over waterways.
The pipeline walk was a fun, educational, family-friendly event which raised awareness about the existence of tar sands pipelines in NWI communities and showed support for a just transition to a renewable energy economy. For many who walked, it was the first time they had participated in any form of activism. Below are links to news articles about the event:
June 2017: We co-sponsored a screening of the film From the Ashes
Northwest Indiana has ties to mining communities through industry. We need coal for steel mills. Yet that industry polutes our air, water, and land. From the Ashes goes beyond the rhetoric of the “war on coal,” and allows us to experience the compelling and often heartbreaking stories about what’s at stake for our economy, health, and climate. From the Ashes captures Americans in communities across the country as they wrestle with the legacy of the coal industry and what its future should be under the Trump Administration. Learn more at www.fromtheashesfilm.com. Co-sponsored with the Sierra Club.
April 2017: We brought NWI residents to Washington D.C. for the People’s Climate March
We Resist. We Build. We Rise. And We Provided the Ride!
In April 2017, we organized a charter bus for residents of Northwest and Northcentral Indiana to the People’s Climate March in Washington, D.C. We also raised money to subsidize tickets for residents of the West Calumet Housing Complex in East Chicago, Indiana, who had been forced from their homes due to lead contamination by industry. The People’s Climate March was held on the 100th day of Trump’s presidency. We gathered with 200,000 people and marched up Pennsylvania Avenue to the National Mall with the signs we had made and brought from Indiana.
January 2017: We rallied for the Whiting 41
In May 2016, 41 peaceful protesters were arrested at the BP refinery in Whiting, Indiana, as part of the Break Free Midwest rally and march, demanding a just transition from fossil fuels to an economy based on renewable energy. The final hearing in their case was set for Jan. 13, 2017 (one week before the Presidential inauguration).
On the date of the hearing, we gathered at the Lake Superior Court in Hammond, Indiana to show the incoming administration that we are still committed to breaking free from fossil fuels! It was a fun, non-confrontational event, with singing and street theater. After the hearing, we marched to the office of Sen. Joe Donnelly at the Federal Plaza to deliver our demand that he reject Donald Trump’s reckless climate denying cabinet nominees. Below are links to news articles about the event:
How We Got Started …
May 2016: Break Free Whiting
In May 2016, thousands of activists gathered in 20 coordinated actions on six continents to take direct action against the fossil fuel industry. The actions were organized by 350.org as part of the Break Free from Fossil Fuels campaign.
One of these actions took place at the tar sands refinery in Whiting, Indiana. The BP Whiting refinery is the largest tar sands refinery in the U.S. It is also one of the largest sources of industrial pollution into Lake Michigan. The BP refinery has spilled hundreds of gallons of oil and tons of industrial waste into Lake Michigan. BP is also a major source of air pollution, which is exacerbated by the fact that processing of tar sands from Canada is dirtier than other forms of oil.
As part of the Break Free action, 41 people took part in a non-violent direct action and were arrested. After the Break Free action, local members of the “Whiting 41” and other activists organized 350 Indiana-Calumet, the first chapter of 350.org in Indiana. Below are links to articles about the Break Free event:
Breaking Free By Getting Jailed in Whiting, Indiana, Occupy.com, 5/23/16
Protesters seek switch to renewable energy sources, Chicago Tribune, 5/17/16
40 arrested during climate change protest, NWI Times, 5/15/16
Arrested environmental protester says it’s time for change, NWI Times, 5/16/16
Why I Chose to Get Arrested on Sunday, Huffington Post, 12/6/17