People all over the world are organizing for a better world and against corporations, government repression, environmental destruction and injustice. Here’s a small sampling of upcoming actions, ongoing campaigns, and calls to action. Organize your own and let us know about it for next issue or lend a hand to one of these.
Tar sand resistance
As oil deposits around the world become more scarce, companies have turned their eye toward reserves that have, in the past, been considered too difficult, too dirty, or too expensive to extract. The tar sand mines in Alberta account for half of Canada’s oil production and have been described as the single most destructive industrial project on the face of the planet. Tar sand mining requires tearing up large areas of land, using huge amount of water, and generating lots of toxic waste. It also takes a huge amount of energy to extract and refine the oil, meaning that each barrel of tar sand oil carries a carbon footprint 10 to 45 percent greater than traditionally extracted oil. Because of expanding tar sand oil production, Canada has become the single largest supplier of oil to the US.
Northern Rockies Rising Tide in Missoula, Montana is resisting transport over Highway 12 of hundreds of mega-loads of mining equipment built by Exxon Mobil, Conoco/Phillips, and Harvest Energy Corp for use in Alberta tar sand mining. The loads are 30 feet tall, 27 feet wide, and over 200 feet long — like a three story house almost the length of a football field. Highway 12 is two-lanes and winds along a river that has been designated as Wild and Scenic up and over the Rocky Mountains. These highway shipments are visible aspects of an oil industry mostly hidden from view.
While local officials have opposed the shipments, they lack jurisdiction to stop them. It will take a grassroots movement of native communities, environmental groups and residents to resist big oil’s privatization of public roads and continued destruction of Northern Alberta and the earth’s climate. Rising Tide has been on the ground floor conducting trainings, organizing the first International Tar Sands Resistance Summit, and being a vocal opponent of the shipments. Over 270 shipments will leave the Port of Lewiston, Idaho between now and the end of next year. To plug into the resistance, check out email@example.com.
US border policies are designed to kill. The increase in border wall construction, surveillance, checkpoints and internal deportations — tied up with the inequality of global capitalism and free trade — have driven people crossing the US/Mexico border to travel dangerous routes. The vast, rugged, and confusing desert border of Arizona has taken an unknown number of lives. The official death toll was 250 last year, but anyone who has spent any time in this desert knows it is, in reality, immeasurable. It is hard to find people, alive or otherwise, and easy to get lost. These desolate routes are the preferred routes for guides leading migrants across the border, where one can walk 4 days before reaching the first paved road and find shelter from surveillance in canyons and dense shrubbery.
For most migrants, the Arizona desert is neither the beginning nor the end of their journey. People are forced to leave home by poverty crafted and maintained by the global north. For Central Americans, the journey through Mexico can be more dangerous than through Arizona. As a warm welcome, or welcome back, to the USA, many face work-place exploitation, the complications of an undocumented life, racism, and the constant fear or separation from loved ones. Many people profit from this migration and the restrictions against it.
No More Deaths takes direct action against the lethal border conditions and the politics behind them by locating and exploring trails used by migrants and then placing food, water and supplies on the trails. Over the last seven years, these actions have saved countless lives. No More Deaths also hosts volunteers in the border city of Nogales, Sonora, provides medical treatment to migrants, and document abuses experienced at the hands of the Border Patrol.
Out of town volunteers can join these efforts each summer and local residents volunteer year-round. The more time one can stay, the better you can discern the intricacies of the desert, the border, and the group. Government policies dehumanize, demoralize, and generally attempt to weaken those who are already vulnerable. Often they succeed. The people, however, are resilient and strong. Supporting that strength in others, and nursing our own for another time when we might need it ourselves, is a direct act of opposition. Contact www.nomoredeaths.org to get involved. (Note: There is related work responding to the increasing collaboration of local law enforcement with federal immigration enforcement agencies in Tucson and Phoenix by groups like CopWatch and MigraPatrol. Check them out, too.)
Move against Mountain top removal
The campaign against mountaintop removal (MTR) mining in Appalachia continues throughout the coalfields. MTR is a form of strip mining where rock over a coal seam is blasted away and dumped into stream valleys to expose coal. MTR magnifies the environmental damage of coal — global warming, mercury pollution, etc. — by destroying hardwood forests and habitat and poisoning local watercourses. Local campaigns are going on in Kentucky, Tennessee, Virginia, West Virginia, and beyond.
In West Virginia, a five-day march to Blair Mountain will take place this summer. The 1921 Battle of Blair Mountain was the largest armed labor uprising in American history, and the battlefield is currently being threatened by mountaintop removal — Massey Energy and two other coal companies hold permits to blast on this historic site. In 1921, after a generation of violent suppression and exploitation of the people in the southern coalfields of West Virginia, 15,000 coal miners rebelled in an attempt to overthrow the coal barons and marched on Blair Mountain. To join the march on Blair Mountain, see friendsofblairmountain.org.
For details about other upcoming actions including Mountain Justice Spring Break or Summer actions, check out mountainjustice.org, ilovemountains.org, or appalachiarising.org.
Legal support is also ongoing. Coal companies are pursuing a federal lawsuit against five protesters who participated in a January 2010 tree-sit on Coal River Mountain in West Virginia. The tree-sit lasted nine days and prevented Massey Energy from blasting within 2,000 feet of the Brushy Fork Impoundment — a 9.8 billion gallon dam of toxic sludge that would engulf entire communities if it were to fail. Marfork Coal Company is using the lawsuit as an attempt to intimidate activists, target journalists, and gather personal information of political opponents. A trial is scheduled for June 14 in Beckley, WV. Info: marfork5.wordpress.com.
Activists with the Sludge Safety Project are working to pass the Alternative Coal Slurry Disposal Act, which would ban slurry injections in West Virginia. Slurry is the byproduct of washing coal and contains heavy metals and other toxic chemicals. Slurry injection has poisoned the water of entire communities like Prenter and Rawl in West Virginia. Info: www.sludgesafety.org.