[Still trying to find a way to make a living doing this work full time. Feels more urgent than ever. So please read on to see what's on our agenda.]
by Margaret Swedish
March was crazy busy, all in a good way. I was part of the Peace & International Issues Committee of the Interfaith Conference of Greater Milwaukee that plans the Tuesdays in March lecture series each year. That would make four lectures (sometimes five) focused on a theme we develop each fall. Facing a political year, we chose to look at four crucial issues facing the State of Wisconsin: the influence of corporate political money in our state government; the use of Wisconsin, via pipelines and oil tanker trains, as a cog in the transport network for crude oil (I offered that presentation); the proposed iron ore mine in Northern Wisconsin and the treaty rights of the Ojibwe tribes; and then the passage of some of the most restrictive voter suppression laws in the nation.
These sessions are always packed and result in significant conversation and dialogue. My talk on the dangers of crude oil transhipment and the scale of the plans for our state had people gasping. Alarm was certainly helped along by BP’s recent spill of more than 1,600 gallons of oil into Lake Michigan from their giant refinery in Whiting IN.
The other real highlight of the month was traveling to Amityville on Long Island to help lead a day-long program entitled, “Petroleum, Poetry, and Peace.” I wondered at times what bonded those three “P”s but figured it out by the end of the day. Petroleum is now one of the biggest threats to peace globally, and poetry will be essential to the getting through the hard times awaiting us as we endure severe climate change impacts and the collapse of the global economy as we run headlong into the Earth’s limits.
Anyway, it was a rich and wonderful day at the Dominican Village, sponsored by Homecoming Farm, a project of the Sisters of St. Dominic of Amityville. I was especially pleased to share the program with The Peace Poets, three of whom came up from the Bronx to perform (or “spit”) their poetry with us. These are the kinds of connections that are essential if we are really going to do this “Great Turning” so many talk about these days.
I returned from NY and plunged right into Milwaukee’s annual Sustainability Summit. I offered a breakout session on the Alberta experience, the Athabasca River watershed, the tar sands industrial site, the impacts on Cree communities downriver, and on the pipelines and train transport of crude through the Upper Midwest. Don Ferber of the Sierra Club offered more info on Enbridge pipelines and ways we can take action to fight plans for a vast expansion of that network.
Those are just some of the highlights. Coming up in April is a day-long program at my local sangha on Deep Ecology and Mindfulness (April 5), followed on April 10 by a presentation on tar sands and crude oil transport at the Siena Center in Racine (“Alberta Tar Sands: A Visit to the Heart of the Industry”), followed on April 13 by a program on the ecological impacts of fossil fuel industries at the Schlitz Audubon Nature Center, and a day-long program at The Well Spirituality Center in La Grange IL on April 26. That program is entitled, “Getting Down to Earth.”
In between all that are important meetings, ongoing research, writing for this blog and other essays, a book I’ve begun out of my Athabasca River Pilgrimage journal, and more.
And that’s just April!
It’s been a very full time – even though the bank account is rather bare. We need funds right now not only to continue doing what we’re doing, but it is becoming increasingly obvious that much more could be done with more resources. So please help if you can.
If you’re around the area, please also sign up for any or all of these coming events. They are each unique in their focus which gives us an opportunity to explore more widely the crises we are facing (ecological, social, spiritual, psychological) and how we begin to create the necessary new ways of life that can lead us down the path of healing and a new relationship with the rest of the planet of which we are only one, humble, integral part.
I hope to get down to Chicago in April for a meeting of groups who care about the dangers of crude oil to Lake Michigan. It’s being convened by Tar Sands Free Midwest (you can find them on Facebook). With so many groups emerging in the past couple of years around these threats, this is a process full of potential. What it needs is more resources directed towards it. Most of us throw hours of volunteer time into this work, which is full of heart but which also limits what we can do.
This project, indeed the Center for New Creation, our fiscal sponsor, which has a great name and mission for this work, is positioned to play a much greater role in Upper Midwest collaboration. But we really need help from donors and funders to make that happen.
So if you are able to help with a donation right now, there could not be a better time!
April. Spring. Renewal of life. Now we are in need of a far more profound RENEWAL. Like those spring bulbs or the sap in the trees, the work to partner with the Earth in renewing and regenerating life is burgeoning up from below. People ask me what hope is. Well, there you have it.