Some things about leaves

Walked to vote on a raw Novemberish day in Providence. When the weather is seasonable, I feel better, even though I know it has no long-term meaning. The leaves are starting to come down in earnest finally and pile up a little.

leaves 1

To pay attention to some things, we have to neglect other things. Let them just pile up on the sidewalk, break down as best they can, let the dogs shit in them, let their own tenants of fungus and bacteria emerge, unsanitary, let them spread a layer of humus slowly over the sidewalk, let people walk and wheel in the street, let dropped seeds take root. How quiet it will be. Sour smell of the smashed locust pods rotting, sparrows having to make different decisions.

leaves 2

Streets paved with gold, in the short term: let them learn again to maintain themselves, let the seedlings teach the concrete to crack. Think about who is with you now.  When you step off the street itself to let an ambulance through, you are taking a walk in the forest.

 

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Fighting Fossil Fuels in RI this Monday and Tuesday

On Monday, November 27th, the Energy Facility Siting Board is holding a hearing about the fossil-fuel-burning, water-hungry power plant that Invenergy wants to build in the forests of Northern RI. If you don’t think they should build it, please come and say so on a sign. The hearing is at 10am on 11/27, in Hearing Room A, Public Utilities Commission, 89 Jefferson Boulevard, Warwick, RI. 

On Tuesday, November 28th is the second Coastal Resources Management Council hearing for the fracked-gas liquefaction plant that National Grid wants to build in a neighborhood inhabited by working-class people of color. Members of the community can speak at this hearing, so come and speak out against this facility. This hearing is at 5pm on 11/28, in the Department of Administration Cafeteria, One Capitol Hill, Providence, RI.

Let’s refuse these projects, which will hurt us and everyone.

 

Out of the Woods On Climate/Borders/Survival/Care/Struggle

This conversation with Out of the Woods, a collective investigating capitalism and climate change, gets at the heart of a lot of what I’ve been trying to do with the Climate Anxiety Counseling booth, the alternate histories, and the Interdependence Day gatherings (now on hold, but these writings may help us reinvent them).

“To say ‘yes’ to what we want,” they say, “and what is already created in cramped spaces – necessitates saying ‘no’ to the world that dominates save for those cracks or openings.”

I knew about Out of the Woods, but hadn’t spent a lot of time with their ideas and questions. I’m going to do so now.

Actual History: Refusal 8

I’m working to learn more from the stories of people who have refused and rejected attempts to exploit and tyrannize them, and I thought you might like to do that, too.

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Women in the provinces of Calabar and Owerri fought the Women’s War, Ogu Umunwanyi or Ekong Eban, in the fall and winter of 1929.  British colonizers had appointed “warrant chiefs” in place of the chiefs that the Igbo people elected, and when these British-appointed chiefs and the colonizers who appointed them threatened to tax the women who sold food to the growing cities, and sacriligeously invaded their privacy with the excuse of calculating this tax, Andoni, Ibibio, Igbo, Ogoni, Bonny and Opobo women began to plan and discuss resistance.

Beginning in November of 1929, the women blockaded roads, knocked down telegraph poles and severed wires. They attacked the Essene “Native Court” and released people imprisoned there, burned down other Native Court buildings and attacked European-owned stores and banks. They chanted threatening songs and organized ceremonial mockery (“sitting on him”) of the warrant chiefs, wearing palm leaves as a symbol of the summons to action and a mark of protection. Between 15,000 and 25,o00 women resisted in this way, destroying property and attacking pride and status but killing  no one.

Colonial authorities, on the other hand, killed many of the women in fear and retaliation. They did ultimately abandon the plans for a tax, curb the power of the warrant chiefs, and acknowledge the necessity for women’s involvement in governing, but as we know, they did not leave.

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As always, I’ve attempted to source this well, but if anyone has any corrections I will take them.

In learning this story I was particularly struck by the destruction of relevant property (businesses owned by colonizers, buildings that represented and inflicted the unjust law), the release of prisoners, the severing of one form of communication and the use of another, and the work done by mockery and shame.

If you want to honor the women of the Women’s War, you could start by learning about the Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People and their fight against Shell Oil, and get a North American you know who’s thinking about “volunteering in Africa” to do the same. (I’m looking for additional things you could do, but wanted to post this.)

 

 

Actual History: Refusal 7

I’m working to learn more from the stories of people who have refused and rejected attempts to exploit and tyrannize them, and I thought you might like to do that, too.

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The people of Asubpeeschoseewagong / Grassy Narrows, in Ontario, Canada, successfully halted clear-cutting of their forests for ten years. Judy DaSilva, who participated in the blockade, wrote about it in May 2016:

“By 2002, our people were frustrated with the “dead end” complaint processes over the destruction of our forest by the Ministry of Natural Resources (MNR) and Abitibi [Consolidated, the logging company, later Abitibi Bowater]. We had no protectors except ourselves.

So on that cold winter day, one of our community members said, ‘We need to do something.’ We set up a campfire on the side of the logging road about three kilometers from the reserve. By night, everyone had left except this one man. We went back to the comfort of our warm homes while he stayed. That night, even though he was scared, he stopped a logging truck from entering the forest. The next morning students showed up in full force, bringing the energy up at the blockade.

When our whole community had heard about this man’s actions, many community members, and supportive Christian Peacemaker Teams (CPT) began to help…”

Here is the logging company’s letter committing to withdrawal from the forest in 2008. But in 2012, ten years after its beginning, the blockade was still necessary and people were still maintaining it. They maintained it in the face of a Supreme Court decision against them in 2014. Several of the sources I found referred to it as “the longest-running blockade in Canadian history.” (Some more background, assembled by “solidarity activists working with Grassy Narrows organizers”, is here.)

The forestry management plan for the region threatens it again with logging, and the people, land and water of Asubpeeschoseewagong / Grassy Narrows continue to suffer from mercury poisoning caused by the logging and paper industries. They are attempting to fight it using the courts as well, and seeking action from Prime Minister Trudeau and Premier Wynn; especially if you are Canadian, you can write to them and seek it too.

PLEASE NOTE: If anyone knows anything that contradicts the information here, please tell me and I will correct it! At the risk of sounding sanctimonious (“too late, Kate,” I hear you saying), that’s how we build knowledge together.

Actual History: Refusal 6

Last night, the New York Taxi Workers Alliance called for a work stoppage–no JFK Airport dropoffs or pickups between 6 and 7pm–in solidarity with people being detained via the president’s “Muslim Ban”. Here is their full statement.

This is how we need to act, and how we can act, together.

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If you have money to share, you can share it with the New York Taxi Workers Alliance, or with the National Lawyers Guild, who provide legal observation and monitoring to protect protestors’ rights.

If you live in Rhode Island and have time to spare, come to the State House today.

Here’s a list of protests in other places in the US.

Alternate History: Refusal 5

The next day, truckers spoke over the radios, recalculating their routes, passing the word along. Air traffic controllers refused to let planes land. No one who drove a truck or flew a plane or ran container shipping in the Gulf would bring any concrete or rebar or wire or cable or steel or cement or construction equipment or surveillance electronics to anywhere at all in California, Arizona, New Mexico or Texas.

Companies in these states that made or used or sold these materials and tools made haste to sell their products, at a discount, to people and companies building anywhere else–other states, overseas. Ann Arbor and Vladivostok both took big deliveries of cranes, for some reason, and a lot of materials went to Haiti and Georgia.

People who worked large-scale construction in those states knew that the government would probably bring in prison labor anyway, but just in case, they went to visit relatives in other states if they could, or picked up work far from home. The unions passed the word along.

On the border, men with guns and men in suits stood with no power to move or build anything more than a handful of dirt.

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Rhode Islanders can see if Dorcas International needs volunteer help. Anyone can call their city’s or town’s mayor and ask what they are going to do to protect and accommodate their immigrant and refugee neighbors.

This refusal is for everyone who was murdered trying to make the crossing, and for my students, who are still alive.

 

Alternate History: Refusal 3

The next day, everyone who worked at the Alyeska Pipeline Operations Control Center in Anchorage locked the doors, typed in the codes that would stop the flow of oil at every pump station within four minutes, and sat on their hands.

That’s not entirely accurate. Someone had brought a Sudoku book with only half the puzzles done. They played the game of who could ignore the most phone calls, emails, texts. They’d laid in a stock of food and bottled water, but someone also found it necessary to microwave a box of stale Peeps left over from last Easter. Someone had brought a carving he was working on. They sat and waited for–who would come? There was a betting pool: riot police? Hostage negotiators? Tanks? Most of them had left a letter, just in case.

About half of them had rifles, because they hunted on the weekends, and one person had brought her compound bow because she thought it would be funny, no matter how many times someone else told her that none of this was funny. “Sure it is,” she said.

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Share what you can spare with the water protectors fighting the Sabal Trail Pipeline, the Dakota Access Pipeline, and the Trans Pecos Pipeline.

This refusal is dedicated to all of them, past, present and future.

Alternate Histories: Refusal 2

The next day, everyone who could walk, walked in the street, and everyone who could roll, rolled in the street. At first, they would do it until someone yelled at them, and then when that person was gone they’d get back in the street. In later days, when there were more of them, they just kept walking and rolling.

When drivers or police asked them where the fuck they were going, at first they said, “Work,” or “The store,” or “My girl’s house,” or “School.” Later, sometimes, they said, “Boston,” or “The ocean,” or “The future.”

They got where they were going whenever they happened to get there. So they made other refusals possible: their supervisors had a choice as to whether to mark them late, cops had a choice of whether to harass and threaten and hit them, drivers had a choice whether to honk or keep quiet. People on either side of a desk or checkout counter–social worker and client, checkout clerk and customer–got where they were going at the same time, just later. The number of cars abandoned by the side of the road increased, incrementally.

Sometimes there were just a few people, strung like beads in ones and twos along a road in a small town. Sometimes hundreds, thousands of people were walking and rolling, all the mobile people in a city.

Over at the feedlots, the stockmen opened the gates and turned off the electricity and the cows stumbled out to walk among the humans and eat the bitter grass by the side of the road.

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In honor of this refusal, please write to the North Dakota Legislative Assembly, especially the transportation committee, and tell them that House Bill 1203–which would allow drivers to hit protesters with their cars with impunity–is disgusting and inhumane. If you, too, get on a roll, there are similar bills proposed in Michigan, Minnesota, Iowa and Washington State.

This refusal is in memory of Mark Baumer.