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The 4 E’s vs. ENOUGH: clear thinking ahead of COP26

I recently attended a selection of talks from the “Impact” conference, put on by Reuter’s Events; drawing together notables and ‘leaders’ from government, oil & gas, and tech; with the intention of showing how ready the corporate state is to ‘take care of’ ‘our’ ‘greenhouse gas problem.’

“Taking Care” of “our” “GHG Problem”

Forgive me for the liberal (as in “generous”/”a lot”, not as in “relating to the Republican naming of “Progressive” Democrats) use of ‘scarequotes’ but I mean to call into question the basic framing of every element of their basic pitch to the public.

Firstly, when they say ‘take care of,’ they mean in the Scarface sense of the phrase not the home health aide sense. They mean to continue down the path of global dominion, the Biblical interpretation where Man has the God-Given Right to Rule Over Creation. This means, engineering solutions.

When I say ‘our’ GHG problem, I mean to say that, while they speak as though they are converts, accepting the true costs that climate change and ecological collapse are likely to bring to bear on global humanity, they operate from the protected pod of the privileged. Generally, the folks speaking at this Reuter’s Impact Conference have not *already* experienced the collapse of global ‘civilization’ as those of us who live in the wage economy of the United States of America, for example, now unable to afford food+housing+energy+transportation while working and scrambling in a way that would have been unthinkable a few decades ago. The people speaking have not had their home and every possession burned, flooded, or condemned via imminent domain to be suspended in a cloud of toxic gases and violent sound pollution a la hydraulic fracktionation.

And finally, when I say ‘greenhouse gas problem,’ I mean to call into quesiton the idea that the problem is really just one of atmospheric concentrations of C02 and CH4, and not one of industrial civilization and the mine-manufacture-trash pathway which defines nearly all economically-recognizable activity.

The Four E’s Forward

A fellow from Emerson Industrial Design gives this excellent summation of the proper response to our current moment, according to today’s Captains of Industry: The Four ‘E’s’ of the path forward.

1) Exchange energy sources — more gas less coal, more solar and wind, less fossil fuels in the mix which continues to propel our cities and agricultural systems as before.

2) Emissions management — track leaks, increase sensors, reduce flaring, limit refrigerants, capture carbon and turn it into a new product or pump it underground.

3) Electrification over combustion — teach the grid to handle electrons as well as molecules, consider district-scale heat pumps, hydrogen as a path to continued power without emissions, electrification as a way to exchange energy sources

4) Efficiency — use of automation, reduction of waste, increasing efficiency of industrial production processes, winterization/summerification (sealing up!) of structures, etc.

This is basically the prescription of everyone from the Congresspeople behind the Green New Deal and Sunrise behind them to sustainability departments of the world’s top mining companies, with the shades of difference between them in terms of degree and speed of Attacking These Challenges.

The Road Less Traveled

I mean to put this conventional wisdom against an approach which I would say is less-conventional and more wise: the sacred pathway of “Enough.”

For thousands of years in fact, sages have pointed to this path of renouncing need, of the Way to experience peace without the continual hustle to Do and Get, to Have and Hold, to Conquer and Accomplish. This message is rising now in circles of folks speaking collective intelligence and the evolution of humankind, as well as with some of the Buddhists and Christians and Muslims and Jews and people from any ancient tradition. And, as always with this message, the message is being reworked into its opposite, from a message of peaceful salvation through love and the renunciation of need into another product, another achievement milestone. The Weitiko mind virus holds on tight.

That said, a fresh popularization of the aesthetic of ENOUGH could make the next epoch much happier when compared to the baseline scenario of continuing Business As Usual. Recently a chap by the name of Philippe Bihouix made this case, in The Age of Low Tech, reviewed by Mark Garavan on Feasta.org.

“Like it or not, there only remains the very rational option to apply the brakes: reduce, as quickly and as drastically as possible, the average consumption of resources per person … The choice is not between growth and degrowth, but between imposed degrowth – because the resource issue will catch up with us in due course – or elective degrowth.” (50)

He suggests seven ways to do this. In summary, he argues that the objective is to choose low tech options – simple, accessible ways of doing things. However, his first suggestion is nothing to do with technology as such but rather with how modern humans understand their needs. 

‘The first question should not be “how to fill this or that need (or desire …) in a more ecological way?”, but “could one live as well, under certain conditions, without this need?” (51)

His simple but striking axiom is that ‘there is no product or service more ecologically sound, resource efficient or recyclable than the one that we do not use.’ (50). There are echoes here of Anne Ryan’s concept of ‘enough’. The objective here is to radically reduce demand (what he terms the ecology of demand) rather than supply (the ecology of demand or the chimera of ‘green growth’). <https://www.feasta.org/2021/08/12/the-age-of-low-tech-by-philippe-bihouix-review-by-mark-garavan/>

ENOUGH sneaks in the backstage door to the Reuter’s Impact Conference

“I know what it is like to live in an environment breaking down because of plastic pollution,” reports Nirere Sadrach of End Plastic Pollution Uganda.

Plastic production is expected to double in the next 20 years as oil companies seek ways to use up petroleum. Only 9% recycled, while the quantity made continues to rise. “This is beyond individual responsibility. Too much is being produced,” he tells the global virtual audience. And, critically, “So much of what is made is NOT NEEDED.”

And so, the message of ENOUGH, the alternative road, the one less taken, winds its way into the back door of the bosses world conference, ahead of the COP26 negotiations. Sadrach exorts, “We are tired of empty promises, ‘we shall, we shall…” He asks leadership to open the way forward for solutions that involve saying ‘no’ rather than the fantasy claims that we can manage our way through a continuation of business as usual. Hear this, COP26.

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“We All Drink Downstream” day

Welcome to remembering “We All Drink Downstream”

* community access Forward Radio production of our conversation here * Check it out!

Speakers on Metro Sewer and development bias in Louisville, safer chemical future, petrochem buildout lies, water toxics and health – Teena Halbig from KY United Nations and Floyd Fork Environmental Association, Sheron Lear from Floyd’s Fork and OVER 60 years experience in the health care system, Al Huang from Coming Clean and the National Resource Defense Council, Attica Scott District 41 State Rep, Dennis Dolan citizen impacted by bad sewer design, Louisville youth consciousness rap group Mighty Shades of Ebony and Lionheart, Alice Melendez, Deanna Rushing and Alex Akers of Extinction Rebellion Kentucky, Justin Mog from Forward Radio. Thanks guys for helping put this together!

Rep. Scott on Drinking Downstream
Fight Climate Change or Die Frying
Mighty Shades of Ebony and Lionheart recording for the community radio hour
You can see yourself in the water

We can see ourselves in the water. We all drink downstream.

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Toxic Tour Part 1

** A special note about Louisville’s Most Recent Petrochemical Disaster–

The Anderson Finishing warehouse 3100 Del Park caught fire last week due to lightning strike <https://www.wlky.com/article/louisville-firefighters-battle-large-flames-at-structure-fire-in-russell-neighborhood/37410603#>

The lightning strike is an “act of God” but it’s all “Man” that concentrates a warehouse of these toxic chemicals in the Russell neighborhood in Louisville, as in Rubbertown ten miles downstream, as in cities across the USA and the world, chemical manufacturing and storage is concentrated in low-income neighborhoods, in the neighborhoods of people of color. Will you find yourself with your back to thousands of gallons of burning paint thinner one day, or is that not your problem? It may be everyone’s problem eventually, as eventually we all breathe and drink downwind and downstream, but some feel the heat to a totally different degree.

Firefighters battle petrochem-caused toxic blaze in low-income neighborhood

But on to the toxic tour of Rubbertown, out between the west of west end and Our Ohio River. Let’s start with

Carbide Industries 4400 Bells Ln, descendant of Union Carbide, adopted child of Dow

This is what “normalization of deviance” looks like.

The most recent major industrial disaster (though assuredly there have been other ‘little disasters’ there) at the Louisville Carbide Industries site, followed the pattern which the Chemical Safety Board calls ‘normalization of deviance,’ in which abnormal events become acceptable in everyday operations. Why would they ‘normalize deviance’ in their dangerous industrial work? Because it’s cheaper than upgrading the plant and doesn’t slow down production and profit. Human lives (especially poor people’s lives) are not that expensive in dollar-terms and that is what drives decision-making. As the Chemical Safety Board headline reads, “Company Ignored Years of Smaller, Similar Incidents in Electric Arc Furnace” <https://www.csb.gov/csb-releases-draft-final-report-on-carbide-industries-explosion-that-killed-two-in-louisville-kentucky-in-2011-company-ignored-years-of-smaller-similar-incidents-in-electric-arc-furnace-/>

And so, “a large explosion at Carbide Industries that killed two workers and injured two others here on March 21, 2011, resulted from a failure by the company to investigate similar but smaller explosive incidents over many years while deferring crucial maintenance of the large electric arc furnace that blew up…The deaths and injuries likely resulted when water leaked into the electric arc furnace causing an over-pressure event, ejecting furnace contents heated to approximately 3800 degrees Fahrenheit. Along with molten calcium carbide, the furnace spewed powdered debris and hot gases, which blew through the double-pane reinforced glass window of the furnace control room that was located just 12 feet from open vents atop the furnace. The two workers inside died within 24 hours from severe burn injuries.

CSB Chairperson Rafael Moure-Eraso said, “This accident is literally a case study into the tragic, predictable consequences of running equipment to failure even when repeated safety incidents over many years warn of impending failure. When control room windows blew out during previous furnace incidents, the company merely reinforced them, rather than taking the safe course and moving the control room farther from the furnace and investigating why the smaller furnace overpressure events were happening in the first place. It is what we call a ‘normalization of deviance,’ in which abnormal events become acceptable in everyday operations.”

——.

As I mentioned, Carbide Industries is the descendant company of Union Carbide (perhaps more like the ‘past life’ of a vampire, who has to feign death and reemergence to fool the surrounding mortals). And no wonder “Carbide Industries” wants to forget that past life as Union Carbide, seeing as they should still be responsible for the unreclaimed disaster site at Bhopal, India, the monster of industrial disasters, which killed 16,000 and maimed or chronically poisoned 40,000 more, leading to homicide charges against the company CEO. Of course the government of the United States of America protected their own and refused extradition of Warren Andersen, who never faced trial and died in Florida in 2014.

Chemical companies can handle a lot of bad press, slips off like teflon, but Bhopal and the related homicide charges were a lot to handle even for a company with a century and change in the business. And so, they needed to change shells, get a face lift, a new face altogether. And Dow took them on for stock.

Dow Chemical was certainly no more interested in taking responsibility for the poisonous calamities it sponsors, but the tactics of the Yes Men in 2004 made it seem that they had for a moment. For a while, 300 million people thought Dow had agreed to take responsibility for Bhopal when they took over the company, and then hundreds of news outlets had to explain that was a hoax and that they…. did not. <https://theyesmen.org/project/dowbbc/behindthecurtain >.

Following the same playbook, for the same reasons, Dow merged with DuPont and then spun off Chemours. According to the Independent Commodity Intelligence Services

“DuPont used a series of mergers, spinoffs and divestments to shield itself from claims accusing it of polluting North Carolina with chemicals used to make Teflon, according to a lawsuit filed by the state.

The deals include DuPont’s merger with Dow, which was not named in the suit.

The allegations are among several that the state made against DuPont, which produced the Teflon chemicals at the Fayetteville Works complex in North Carolina. The complex is now part of Chemours, which is also being sued.

The Teflon chemicals made at the Fayetteville Works site were per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS). One of these PFAS is perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), also known as C8. DuPont later developed a substitute, perfluoro-2-propoxypropanoic acid, or GenX, which also contaminated the state.

North Carolina alleged that DuPont knew all along that its PFAS were toxic, it emitted large amounts of the chemicals, and it could be on the hook for billions in liabilities.

By 2013, DuPont started putting together a plan that would re-arrange its corporate structure to avoid paying for those liabilities, the lawsuit alleged.”

Chemours gives us the most spot on example of how “We All Drink Downstream.” But why is it that in North Carolina people raised holy hell about PFAS in the water, and Louisville, downstream drinking PFAS ourselves and home to another Chemours plant, all we hear is crickets until a high school journalism student at …. DuPont Manual … wrote this? <https://thegreenreport.org/forever-chemicals-in-louisville-drinking-water-is-it-time-for-action/>

———————————–

To provide drinking water out of the Ohio, Louisville Water needs to take its filtration up another notch, we know more now about the impacts of toxic chemicals on our biology than ever before. It’s not the age of the 1950s romance with plastic and petrochem, we’ve seen the dark side, the Dark Waters, if you will.

And we all need to take a hard look at the principles enshrined in the Louisville Charter, in our very own city, and say, if we agree with these principles and this vision of babies born without toxic exposure… what are we willing to do about it? <https://comingcleaninc.org/louisville-charter/the-charter>

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Welcome/current projects

  1. The battle to stop the fracking/petrochemical refinery poisoning of the Ohio River…

* As fossil fuel producers/refiners face potential for decreasing demand for auto and power plant fuel, they look for opportunities to shift into diesel for mining, jet fuel, chemicals and plastics. Plastics is a major growth market. Recent overproduction of natural gas which drove prices to historic lows also set the frackers looking for ways to make value-added products like polyethylene.

** Best business model? Get the government to pay for it. Hence, Trump demanded that the Department of Energy do a report on the benefits (only) of a major Appalachian Storage Hub, to create a second refinery hub modeled on… Cancer Alley on the Gulf Coast. Though the major storage hub project looks a little less likely, investors continue to push to develop more ‘ethane cracker’ plants which create the base material for plastic goods, storage for hydrogen produced by burning natural gas, more chemical plants, and massive government investment in carrying carbon dioxide in pipelines.

Always Government Money To Run Big Machines

*** Where to get involved? People Over Petro is our regional convener/coalition space; the website resources are a little old but still true, the email list is active and doing work, including with Break Free From Plastic next month. Hundreds of people have attended webinars and discussions with the A-Z Impacts of Plastics team (webinars on summer break, restarting after our September retreat) and also joined this Halt the Harm network where water-defenders can talk amongst ourselves. The Ohio River Valley Institute continues to publish research showing why a “petrochemical renaissance” in these parts doesn’t benefit us. Apart from the poison in the water* (*spectacular reporting on PFAS and related chem by the Intercept).

2. The Race to Save the World is a film (see trailer) by Joe Gantz that we screened a few weeks ago. You can still get access and donate to us at the same time, by clicking here. And you can see our panel discussion with folks from the film here. How does one best run the race? What do you think? Currently we send some of our funds, time, spirit to Minnesota to support the water protectors making a stand the headwaters of the Mississippi River, indigenous folks defending treaty rights and precious relations against Enbridge Tar Sands Pipe-Line3.

3. If you would like to meet up with us in person or virtually, you can find us monthly at our “Roots Finding Circle” where we consider how to decolonize our lifeways, habits and thought patterns. Its on around the waxing quarter moon, for a thing that’s young and growing. This month, it falls on Friday the 13th! And we will be talking about the line of thinking that says, “Revolution or Bust” (email xrebelky at protonmail.com for some readings and a zoom link). One of the core values of the Roots Finding Circle is that we recognize and seek out examples of the 4 Denials, which we have gathered from these folks who gesture towards decolonial futures.

4. Local resilience and friendship in the face of ecological calamity and isolation is what we are most about, has turned out. We are connected to herbalists and farmers, know midwives and healers, soil and water geeks, biking and transportation revolutionaries… This work starts with a conversation. Write back to xrebelky at protonmail.com with a little piece of your story and a phone number and we’ll call you and find a way to meet up, to share something useful. We also use this group as a place where we can be honest, in the new-ancient tradition of Deep Adaptation. Deep Adaptation has 4 R’s; What do you want to Restore? What do you want to Relinquish? What do you want to make Resilient? And where/with whom do you need Reconciliation?

Death comes to us all, turns out.

5. National Extinction Rebellion is finishing a hard-won reorganization and relaunch including this new structure, explained on this video. Figuring out how to do horizontal/non-hierarchical volunteer-run globally-impactful organizing is always a work in progress, and having spent a lot of time in the process before bowing out for a time, I know this is a really carefully thought out model. The team is seeking input. If you are willing to read the doc and offer comments, everyone would appreciate more eyes on the product at this time. If this interests you, please let me know xrebelky at protonmail.com!

Water-bearer for yard creatures; Its the Age of Aquarius!
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Fossil fuel giants, squeezed; cut corners and shaft workers, taxpayers

In the News:

Shell’s Falcon Pipeline is under investigation for serious public safety threats <https://www.fractracker.org/2021/03/shells-falcon-pipeline-under-investigation-for-serious-public-safety-threats/> as whistleblower pipeline inspectors say they were “run off” after flagging problems with the line <https://www.eenews.net/articles/whistleblowers-say-bad-seeds-undermine-pipeline-safety/ >.

Workers installing pipe for Enbridge Line 3, photo at MPRnews.org “Does Minnesota Really Need Another Pipeline?”

Old News:

This kind of cost cutting and related threats to public safety is all but guaranteed. In our political/economic system, money accumulation is set up as the legitimate motivation for action in the material world. You can run pipeline trucks on a public state forest road but you can not stand and block pipeline construction trucks on a state forest road. You can monetize a forest as a tourist destination, or as board feet of lumber, and cutting it or making trails is perceived as value creation by economic metrics, majority public opinion, government agents; but leaving a forest alone is perceived as waste. Corporations have legal backing for incessant accumulation of funds whatever the costs, as the board’s duty to the shareholders is to maximize profit.

This fundamental feature of the current social contract crashes against revenue squeeze on fossil fuel companies from both the supply and demand side. Government policies socialize industry losses by bailing companies out and build infrastructure that locks in their tech while captured regulatory agencies allow for “self-regulating” industrial sectors. Managing corporate costs trumps public welfare as the primary determinant of decisions. Just check out the DuPont story captured here <https://theintercept.com/2015/08/11/dupont-chemistry-deception/ >and in Dark Waters <https://www.focusfeatures.com/dark-waters > if you’re looking for a good example of an ongoing health crisis completely unaddressed by corporate/governmental “oversight,” documented all the way back into the 50s when corporations were so unworried about being checked that they had workers smoke cigarettes laced with toxic PFOA-c8 as an in-house medical experiment.

The Squeeze (supply side):

As the low-hanging fruit of the fossil fuel world has been picked, costs to extract increase: gone the Texas gusher as fossil fuel companies are forced to push extraction operations deeper into the ocean, into shale pockets blown open by hydraulic fracturing operations, farther into the arctic <https://www.newstatesman.com/world/north-america/2020/04/end-oil-era >. The cost of doing business has increased and capital costs insure that only the big dogs continue to get financing and play. The natural gas boom claims to hold peak oil at bay, but data suggests that it is a bubble not a boom <https://shalebubble.org/ >, and so new money is becoming harder to come by <https://www.desmog.com/2021/04/22/struggling-fracking-investors-are-searching-for-the-exit/ >.

Energy Return On Investment as the easy pickins get guzzled

The Squeeze (demand side):

Meanwhile, as investors recognize that shifting attitudes among people, governments and corporate sustainability offices will reduce demand for fossil fuels, capital flees from oil and gas proper <https://www.greentechmedia.com/articles/read/1t-of-potential-losses-in-the-pipeline-for-oil-and-gas-financiers > (though they remain invested in ‘downstream’ operations like cracking ethane to make plastics). Cost of renewables drops and, though they still need diesel for the mining equipment, this squeezes the fossil fuel giants from the demand side. Refineries shift into diesel for mining machines, jet fuel for heavily subsidized commercial airlines and the Pentagon, and plastics and petrochemicals from cheap natural gas. Where they can, as Shell has with Falcon, they vertically integrate and keep more of the supply chain in-house. And, they cut corners to push down costs.

How to Cut Corners:

DeSmog blog reporting after a major gas wellhead blowout shows how such catastrophic failure is assumed to be an acceptable risk with increasing likelihood. <https://www.desmog.com/2020/01/23/oil-gas-well-casing-failure-fracking-xto-ohio-blowout/> Respected geologists suggest that increasing rates of well failures is bound to increase as fracking companies desperate to appear potentially profitable drill longer laterals which creates higher pressure. Risk management companies suggest that while this should lead to increasing costs/well in production, costs per well are dropping as drillers work to squeeze better margins out of their shale country.

The DeSmog heading reads simply, “Cost Savings on Well Materials Lead to Well Failures”; the segment features frank statements from the Journal of Petroleum Technology about incentives to cut corners and proof that failure, while catastrophic for the local environment, is not catastrophic for the corporation.

Another clear example is in the storage of mine tailings. Mine waste is stored behind massive dams, built of the waste rock from which the valuable mineral has been extracted. Just as with fossil fuels, other types of mining operations have exploited the sweet spots with very high concentrations of x valuable mineral already. Today, much more waste rock must be gone through to get a given quantity of the product, raising the cost of managing mine tailings <https://www.earthworks.org/campaigns/preventing-mine-waste-disasters/ >. After several massive tailings dam failures, culminating with the Vale SA disaster in Brumadinho, Brazil which killed 250 people, covered many kilometers of homes and poisoned the local river with sludge; mining companies were pressured again to adopt safe tailings storage guidelines. Still, mining companies resist expensive higher standards of care, Their financial incentive is rather to spend less per mine site on the regular, with a dark lottery for which company at which moment will face a catastrophic failure and the related costs and image repair work.

From earthworks.org/safetyfirst

Shaft the Worker and Enrich the CEO:

Downward pressure on costs to eke out better return on investment can’t save all the failing, uncompetitive fossil projects out there, as we know well in Appalachian coal and gas country. When all else fails, Capital and Management’s proven strategy: shaft the workers, take the money and run.

Here in Kentucky, we all watched as the Harlan County Blackjewel miners blocked the coal train until they were made whole after their paychecks bounced and banks jerked the money back out of their accounts. The details which came out in the bankruptcy reveal that the fired CEO pulled millions from the business to his personal and family holdings in the months leading up to the final crashing end. Wall Street financiers with preferred stock and a seat on the board will get theirs, incompetent top management will get theirs, but the worker will have to fight for every dollar. <https://news.littlesis.org/2019/08/15/wall-street-former-ceo-seek-to-get-paid-while-blackjewel-miners-wait-for-back-wages/>.

And stick the taxpayer with the bill:

When the music stops in the game of bad asset musical chairs, as it did with Blackjewel’s twice sold underperforming mines and many others, stick the taxpayer with the cleanup and healthcare bills. Inadequate bonding is a perennial concern as coal declines and bankruptcies increase, leaving hundreds of unreclaimed sites under the care of state departments of surface mining and environmental protection. <https://theallianceforappalachia.org/coal-declines-bankruptcies-increase/ >. The same is true for ‘orphan’, uncapped gas wells generated by the fracking boom. <https://www.desmog.com/2019/10/18/public-paying-cleanup-fracking-boom-oil-gas-bonds/>

“Bankruptcy as Bailout: Coal Company Insolvency and the Erosion of Federal Law” in the Stanford Law Review describes the industry playbook in careful detail <https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=3136711 > “Using financial information reported in filings to the Securities and Exchange Commission and in the companies’ reorganization agreements, we show that between 2012 and 2017, four of the largest coal companies in the United States succeeded in shedding almost $5.2 billion of environmental and retiree liabilities. Most of these liabilities were backed by federal mandates. Coal companies disposed of these regulatory obligations by placing them in underfunded subsidiaries that they later spun off. When the underfunded successor companies liquidated, the coal companies managed to get rid of their regulatory obligations without defaulting on the pecuniary debts they owed to their creditors.”

And so, the Falcon cost-cutting safety lapses fit the pattern of the industry as a whole: Get All You Can While the Getting Is Good, Public Interest Be Damned.

Just one more leak on just one of many pipelines, SkyX blog <https://skyx.com/blog/oil-pipeline-leak-detection/&gt;
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False solutions, pumping the brakes, and why we aren’t: an introduction

Strategies like proforestation and regenerative agriculture heal and support the earth’s capacity to heal. https://www.ehn.org/forest-carbon-sequestration-2649749746.html

But powerful moneyed interests work every angle to protect their advantage at the expense of Life on Earth. Angles like claiming that cutting down forests and grinding them up and burning them produces green energy. https://www.dogwoodalliance.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/03/The-Great-American-Stand-Report.pdf

Angles we can see as transparently self-interested and disastrous for the masses of humanity and other life forms: “if the fossil fuel industry can build out a hydrogen based economy with blue and grey hydrogen and then it turns out green hydrogen is not economically viable to scale up for global use, that greatly benefits the fossil fuel industry.” https://www.nationofchange.org/2020/12/12/major-fossil-fuel-pr-group-is-behind-europe-pro-hydrogen-push/

People who have been working to raise the alarm on this kind of behavior are smeared as loonies. The practices they have observed, researched and described are presented as paranoid fantasies, https://www.geoengineeringwatch.org/ until those paranoid fantasies are presented as the last best solutions to the crisis moment, designed by Harvard’s best and brightest and funded by The Gates Foundation, ready to test and introduce to the world as the great tech salvation. https://www.forbes.com/sites/arielcohen/2021/01/11/bill-gates-backed-climate-solution-gains-traction-but-concerns-linger/

The sacred cows of solar and wind power, Green New Deals and young activists brimming with misplaced hope are not immune to this dis-ease. Generous tech saviors are compelled to put down the apparently hysterical, over-zealous, jealous, spoil-sport critics.

https://thegrayzone.com/2020/09/07/green-billionaires-planet-of-the-humans/

Thoughtful analysts consider thousands of years of human history with solar energy and fossilized fuels, and suggest that the techno saviors will not save, and that the proper reaction for someone about to crash into a concrete barrier is to take the foot off the accelerator and perhaps buy enough time to make a useful turn, or to slow down enough to reduce impact. Gentle analysts consider the pleasure of slowing down, pleasure inherent in slowing down and the soul-healing effect of making room for the world to heal herself with more forests and less Consumption (marked by a bloody cough which can prove fatal). https://www.resilience.org/stories/2021-01-27/will-technology-solve-climate-change/

While others recall the ways we have been held hostage by neoliberal fanatics disguised as natural elites claiming that our only interests will be met and served by the holy markets, job-creators, entrepreneurs who can find a way to turn every human need into a profit. https://thebaffler.com/salvos/hollowed-out-ray

Fugitive academics recall ancient Nigerian legends of tricking anthro-cidal godesses and place the power of the world back in… the world itself, rather than in halls of power where one must line up to make demands. Find possibility in the cracks made by hopelessness, and in realizing the power of the world in the cells of the chaotic, communicative, wounded and wounding world. https://bayoakomolafe.net/project/coming-down-to-earth-sanctuary-as-spiritual-companionship-in-a-time-of-hopelessness-and-climate-chaos/

And demand that we step out of denial and into deeper truth-telling. https://decolonialfutures.net/4denials/

And once the truth is ringing in our hearts, we find ways to act. One way is to step behind the indigenous women leading the fight against Line 3, the Enbridge horrorcore tar sands project. Learn how to join this fight and others by emailing xrebelky@protonmail.com with interest. Enbridge is rushing to lay this pipeline and grab the new easement while legal fights are in limbo and there is no injunction stopping construction. Watch the documentary Necessity: Oil, Water and Climate Resistance https://www.necessitythemovie.com/.

Here at home: Support https://www.kyheartwood.org/ protecting our precious home forests, some of the most fabulous forests in the world! Learn how to heal with plants, protect plants. Make yard habitat and slow down water so it can quench thirsty life. Demand alternatives to private motorized vehicle transportation! Say NO to the LG&E pipeline expansion to feed Jim Beam. Say NO to more fossil fuel infrastructure. Listen to indigenous leadership.

Let’s meet each other. Email xrebelky at protonmail com please for more direct relationship.

Everything Speaks

Most of the time when I write to the “world internet audience” or to “the people who have given me/xrebelky their email addresses,” I’m doing a sort of survey of the literature, painting a picture in news and analysis of the state of affairs, perhaps crafting them into a rough narrative. But today I want to share something more like storytelling. This is a story about the pull and play of magical powers in the more-than-human world where every room and shady yard and street and spider and bird on a wire has an expression and the coalescing intelligence speaks in synchronisity.

For me, it started when I was 17, working summers at Life Adventure Camp. I came to know a man for whom strange and useful coincidences were the norm, and gave myself the camp name Vibe to cultivate that ability in myself. [*can’t find on the internet pontiac vibe print advertisements from that time, which I cut out, wild faces, purely strange marketing] Well, like all threads into the past, it can be traced back further, to my younger self reading and marking up The Mists of Avalon as I yearned for that sense of magic which I could feel had been pressed underground, or twisted** into the control of Empire (in my day a commercial empire rather than that of the Roman Christians encountering the Celts). But still, that summer, shouting my name in the dark waterfall at the back of Hole In The Wall Cave, seems like a starting point. One day, I would be like Wolf, who, as he strode the path to go handle the copperhead in the Three Oaks kitchen tarp, encountered the snake-eating black snake, Zoe, he had rescued from captivity and released on the property. Heavens, he hadn’t seen her in months. She would help him comfort the girls and she could set up camp there herself and save him future trouble. As he returned later that night, a spider zipped down a line from the sky and bit him on the arm. Strange. As spiders had rarely bitten him, and as he had been no particular threat to this one, he decided he must have been delivered a medicine that he needed. Yes, he was my example of the world I had always hoped, solitary reading fantasy books, was real.

Then after high school, I went backpacking in Central America, in the days when the Lonely Planet still guided thousands along dusty bus trails and high tropical mountain roads to springs and bars or coffeehouses filled with adventurous souls from many lands. I grew up a bit and found a way to return to the power center around Guatemala City and Lake Atitlan in 2007. That year I found Waleska la Negra holding court in the late night talking circles in the hostel courtyard, the scent of flowering trees and marijuana heavy on the air. Supposedly Che stayed here when he would come to the City, and the heavy old wooden doors and brick courtyard made that feel true, though my friend, who runs a competing spot near the airport, says this is a false rumor cleverly spread for marketing pull. Times had changed since that Revolution, and the streets were chilling barren empty trash rattling in the breeze after dark. Waleska was herself on the cusp of many changes including finding that her old friend CatchAFire had been murdered for being a witch. I followed her as long as I was able, bringing her clean water, braving the night street to buy a roll of toilet paper wrapped in turn in a paper which was used for rolling, buying a bit of her art, tagging along and listening. Her CatchAFire had himself an apprentice who I encountered by Chance-Fortune, Nyame of Colombia named for being born the color of a sweet potato, not for the West African Sky God. With intention, I have become a person for whom the world speaks in synchronisity, like those I admired. This is a spirit which hits harder when I am traveling, as my movement choices respond more fluidly to input than when I have a stable routine, but it is accessible now day-to-day.

Fungal intelligence under vinyl flooring

As indigenous people rooted out of every place on this great Earth know, all the world lives and speaks in myriad ways. Only the Great Colonial Flattening Whiteness , who would have us believe that the World is dead matter to be used and the Spirit is a cleansing flame free from any body, believes that the more-than-human world is deaf and mute and insensate. In my early years, I was only learning what ancient peoples never unlearned. More recently though, I’ve had to put my attention a bit more on learning to steer my ship in this wild sea of form, sense and intelligence.

I had become like a leaf on the surface of a stream, and not like the leaf on a wind that I could provide myself, with my breath, as my Soka Gakkai Buddhist friends had taught me. I was always ready to adapt and take what came, but unwilling to choose, to know my own desires. Now, I am preparing to captain a pirate ship into this cultural storm, and I’m inviting you all to join the crew or get your own damn ship. This is going to be fun!

I love etymology and recently came upon a free course called Desire Mapping, to identify and name one’s Core Desired Feelings. How do you want to FEEL most of the time? Plan from there. And then on 8/8 Sirius Gate I undertook a project to write my future, what my new web friend Anna Bellissima calls a hypersigil. The reaction-sign was startling and immediate. When I got up, having written about a future home where I still carried water for the small creatures of my home’s ‘zone 1’ and tinkered and crafted, wrote and studied inside, I went to the kitchen to find this sigil printed unbeknownst to me on my forearm. Apparently before I sat down to write I had bumped into a brush covered in silvery anti-seize grease in my partner’s tool-chaos room. I outlined it. It is the form of the brown-snake tattoo I’ve been trying to imagine and place for half a year. I stepped outside and immediately saw a tiny brown-snake, having noted and wondered at their absence just days before.

Tattoo sigil surprise imprint

The next day, I noted a desire in so many words to connect with others over my analysis work. And for several small reasons piling together was driven to return to the guitar, and specifically to a David Rovics song from his great album “The Commons”. I had found three small fraudulent Amazon charges. I would need to cancel my card and prove my innocence. I would need to talk to Security-customer-service. I scrawled a note “Black Flag Flying before Amazon call,” steeling myself for what those calls might be like, I guess. What happened instead is that the woman on the line quickly agreed after we investigated together old emails and phone-linked possibilities for accounts, that there was no way I had made those charges. She sent an email to use for my bank, settled. Then we talked for another HOUR AND A HALF about our shared analysis of the current moment in our shared world. This really happened. I worried she might find herself in trouble for wasting company time on a recorded line but she assured me that time limit pressure was for people on ‘orders’ and that she was fine. She got a five star review and we both gathered new data. She was kindred. Wow. Pirate’s find gateways where none existed.

I thought I might keep my Desired Core Feeling words to myself, but this is not a birthday cake spell, cheapened by careless repetition-without-feeling; telling you my wish won’t block its accretion into the world.

Fierce – Full – Fluid – Adept – Insightful – Belonging

And when I looked back at the list, they are all present on a good pirate ship. Late that night I went to a secret place by the little river and I sang Black Flag Flying for my friends, who are returning to the Anishinaabe territory in Northern Minnesota to help them protect their ancestral lands and waters from the state-sponsored destroyer-encroachment of Canadian Tar Sands corporation, Enbridge. And I sang for the neighbors who don’t know that they sail the galactic sky on the side of the Death Star Empire. Our first action as XR-Kentucky was to preform the Declaration of the Rebellion at the Frankfort ComicCon in January of 2019. It is a beautiful start in my heart.

Declaration of the Rebellion; Frankfort, KY

I met these Minnesota-bound friends in March. I will tell you about one moment of that visit only, in which we had a surprise, and I played a part. 5AM or thereabouts. The coldest morning in the week or ten days since we had arrived. On our way to do perhaps do a thing to be in the way. We are parked and gathering. We look up. A strange string of lights slowly crawls across the sky, maybe 20 or 30 light specks with faint tracing line between them. Were we sent to this location to encounter ET? Were ‘They’ curious about us, or marking our endeavors with favor? Or government-sponsored displeasure? No… were they near or far? All filled with wonder and uncertainty. My voice rang out, ‘looks like Santa got some more reindeer!’. Turned out that we all witnessed the first string of low-orbit satellites launched by Elon Musk, so, we were graced with a rather less-graceful presence, but still… how did that moment happen? It wasn’t planned on our end; it was the World speaking to us. Though we might rather it spoke through the musk of a flying reindeer instead of a billionaire space-cowboy, all the Material is sacred and all the Intelligences… we’re all working with the Material we have.


**twisted reference: in the world of working with the material we have and not what we wish we have. I remember hearing back in the daze of raising toddlers word came out that Marion Zimmerman Bradley was the dark side in real life. I just looked it up now. I probably wouldn’t have referenced her work if I had read it first. It’s much worse than I thought. Her portrait of the darkness feels so right because she was it, bringing it to life against children who couldn’t push back. Here and now, I’ll choose true context instead of erasure. https://deirdre.net/2014/06/10/marion-zimmer-bradley-its-worse-than-i-knew/

Post script: after starting this piece with excitement this morning, I got an email from wordpress, one of the first followers of our xrebelky blog! Guess what, she is Technocrone, “old hippie, serial entrepreneur, quilter, grandma, hedgewitch, rabble-rouser, medievalist, seamstress, peacenik, gadfly, cook, reader, writer, thinker, gardener, feminist.” Maybe I’m on the right track here, keep following my gut and my heart as well as my head. The world is speaking back approval before I voice my next way forward.

Transcript – The Race to Save the World panel

Transcript of local premier of The Race To Save The World in Louisville

Panelists: Alice Melendez, Joe Gantz, Bill Moyer, Miriam Kashia, Justin Mog, Michael Foster, Alex Akers, Deanna Rushing

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Alice Melendez: Miriam, Justin, Bill and Joe as well, what, tell us who you are and how did you get to your “cross the threshold moment” and what do you sort of define as your cross the threshold moment?

Joe Gantz: Bill, you want to go first, since you’re, um, in danger of losing your signal?

Bill Moyer: I’m Bill and, you know I’m parked on the side of the road in the action truck that had 99% biodiesel in it, but it’s been sitting for a bunch of time and that’s not good so it’s, ah, anyway. I grew up on Indian reservations until I was 12 and so I think that was part of what impacted me. That impacted me pretty deeply and I still think that indigenous leadership in all things we work on is really important. OK, we can come back to that.

I had done activism for a long time, you know, like high school and college, after college, and then I spent some time down at Big Mountain doing Solidarity work against that relocation, link here I did anti-nuclear stuff, I did anti-interventionist stuff in the 80’s and I studied social ecology stuff (looks aloft dreamily and grins) with Murray Bookchin, link here like in ’88, up in Vermont; his super-social ecology, and then I moved to Vashon Island link here Washington in late ’89 and I kinda took a break, honestly, from activism. I did other stuff; I grew a garden and learned how to build a cabin and then I got into the arts, and I was playing drums and doing percussion and studying that and having a good time doing that stuff…and then 9/11 happened and the Bush administration…and I had, what felt like, I was always angry at somebody else and complaining about what other people were doing or not doing. I use the metaphor of being a musician on stage and playing music and, if you go up on stage you have to go up on stage with a sense of authority, not like authority-you have it mastered, but a true sense of listening. It can’t be a process of doubt. You can’t be obsessed with your self-doubt, and I think that sometimes, people are afraid to get involved because they think that maybe they don’t know enough, let the experts do it. But then we all get that sense of frustration, the experts aren’t really doing it for us.

The thing in music is, you just have to listen to the impulses you have, you have to trust that the practice you’ve done and all the preparation is gonna manifest in the moment once you listen and you follow that thread of your inspiration and what your gut is telling you to do. Rather than worry about what the audience is thinking or you think “Oh, I’m gonna do this clever thing”, you just have to come from the heart and the gut and you’ve gotta do your best. First you gotta prep. So, for me, it was a natural transition to go from an improvising musician to (buffered out) to my artist friends and we started an action called Backbone Campaign link here and it’s inherently about paradigm shift and paradigm shift is partly/greatly about the climate crisis because the climate crisis is a crisis of paradigms and it’s how we treat the planet, how we treat the world and our lives and everything is for sale and nothing of actual importance should be for sale. And, so I delved into that and have been full-time on that for 18 years and I honestly feel very privileged to do that and I’ve always done that with the support of my creative community and my actual community, my family, and lots of other folks who I collaborate with. So it’s always a collaboration. That’s a lot, check!

Alice Melendez: That’s a great intro and talks to advice for people who are coming up on their own thresholds, so cool.

Joe Gantz: Let’s go with Miriam next so, just follow through with the people who are in the film if you don’t mind.

Alice: Fair enough.

Miriam Kashia: I’ll go next, age before beauty, right Joe? (Joe laughs) OK, well my name is Miriam Kashia, I live just outside of Iowa City, Iowa, born and raised in Iowa. I grew up with good Protestant ethics from my Methodist minister father and my grandfathers and my uncles and my brother, whole mess of em.

I learned to love Nature at a very early age. Camping trips and just playing outdoors all the time. I retired as a psychotherapist, in private practice in 2005 and went to Namibia in Africa with the Peace Corps for 2 years and 3 months. That was a life-changing experience as the Peace Corps says “it’s the hardest job you’ll ever love” and it was. (Justin laughs) And I realized, living on the edge of the Kalahari desert, what kind of environmental challenges people in the world have even back then, before I heard much about climate change.

But I’ve been a member of the Sierra Club for 50 years or something and I was following the changes in the environment and what they were talking about, and I was getting more and more concerned.

In 2013, I went on a junket to Nebraska with some friends to help protest this thing called the KXL pipeline and we went to this place in Nebraska where they had build this ‘energy barn’ link here with solar power and wind and, it was an educational site more than just a barn on the path of that pipeline. And what I learned there and how I got energized there was maybe my ‘step outside the box moment’, and I came home and started looking for ways to get more involved, and not long after that I joined a group called “A Hundred Grannies for a Livable Future” link here which is a local group of activists, elder, wonderful women, whose motto is Educate, Advocate and Agitate and I’m the key agitator, just so you know.

Then I ran across this thing called “The Great March for Climate Action” {climatemarch.org} and within a minute of hearing about this project, which was gonna walk across the country to raise awareness about the impending climate crisis, I decided to do it. I was 70 years old at the time, 71 when the march started, and I thought, well, I can probably do that. So I did. And it, it…radicalized me. What I saw, what I learned, walking through sacrifice zones and walking past humongous fossil fuel plants and so forth. It was eye-opening and world-shattering for me and I haven’t ever stopped since. So I walked every step from California to Washington, D.C. over 8 months, about 7 million steps and I’ve been going ever since. In addition to the 100 Grannies, I belong to the local Citizen’s Climate Lobby, link here a national activist’s group and several others. I’ve been arrested 4 times, 3 of them in Iowa fighting the DAPL pipeline link here I went up to Standing Rock 3 times and got involved there, so I’ve done a lot and learned a lot and care a lot. So, I guess that’s enough of an introduction.

Alice Melendez: That’s a great introduction, thank you. And then it will come to Justin, we wanted add some local flavor to our panel and we’re trying to build community in Louisville and help people in Louisville to sort of move beyond, you know, a lot of us have sat in a lot of public hearings and watched super duper smart commentary from 98% of everyone there opposing XYZ thing and then do the other thing because they were always gonna do the other thing, and similarly, we had a climate strike/march link here and then the Metro Council agreed to 100% renewable energy (100% Renewable Energy Alliance Louisville) and the mayor declared a climate emergency and they’ve basically done meh, not much, since making some declarations, and so we wanted to sort of bring attention to what’s going on in Louisville and talk a little bit as Kentuckians, too, so Justin tell us how you, what you see as your ‘cross the threshold story’?

Justin Mog: Yeah, so honored and grateful to be a part of this and let me say, just quickly, who I am. I’m the Sustainability Coordinator here for the University of Louisville, that’s what brought me to Louisville in 2009, but right before that Miriam I was a Peace Corp volunteer with my wife down in Paraguay. We served for 3 years and that’s why I’m still addicted to drinking (something) all the time.

That was a very wonderful experience, the culmination of going through graduate school to study what sustainability really means and it was a life-changing experience in many ways, but my crossing the threshold moment actually came very early in my life. It was 1989 when I left our front door with my Dad, brother and a friend on our bicycles and, like Miriam, we crossed the country under our own power. Now we didn’t do it to raise awareness, except within ourselves of what this country is and who lives here and how vast it is and what is our own capacity to get across it under our own power. So, I come back home at 15 and all of my friends are taking driver’s ed and getting driver’s licenses and I’m thinking to myself, clearly in crossing the country, I crossed a threshold that I’m never going to do what everybody else does. I’m just not gonna get a driver’s license and I never have. I’ve lived in many places around the world and always figured a way to live without a car and that started my process of closing some doors. To open up new ways of thinking, problem solving, new ways to see the world, right.

When you choose to live without an automobile, it puts your life in a certain box. There are things you just can’t do. Which is ok with me, in fact, I love it cause there’s a lot of things you can do and you find how life-affirming those things are and so I started saying no to a lot of things. I still don’t carry a cell phone, which some people, that’s even more radical than not having a driver’s license. I just need to put some parameters around my life and take some control, so I don’t need to be plugged in 24/7 and reachable 24/7. I have telephones, I have internet when I need it, people can reach me if they want to but I say no to certain technologies, which I think goes back to, I think a long line of resistance, philosophical resistance.

I’m a Quaker, and we practice radical love in our daily lives. So Quakers have been known for being engaged in activism, but also living activism. So that’s why you see things like Quaker schools. Quakers were some of the first ethical businesses in the US. Quakers were some of the first abolitionists. We say no to things that we know are wrong. I say no to fossil fuels, I say no to a private automobile, I say no to the clothes dryer in my home. Why would I want to blow up people’s back yards in Appalachia to spin a turbine to make some electrons to come over a line to spin my clothes when I could take a second to walk outside and hang them on the line and let the sun do that for me, right?

So, some people say, you’re not achieving what you could possibly do if you just went with the flow and got your driver’s license, think of all the places you could! That’s not at all the way I want to define my life. And so, for me, crossing that threshold was just the first step in trying to live in radical love and every day, I get to seek ways to cause no harm.

Alice Melendez: I really like the way it connects to something Miriam says in the film. You say, Miriam, that you’re sort of inspiring people in their home to say what they can do in their house, in their community, in their state and in their world, because we really do need the action to take place in all these spheres and all these scales. Joe, I do want to hear from you, just tell us how did you decide to make this movie?

Joe Gantz: Well, I’ve been making documentary film and television for over 30 years and I made mostly television for a number of years and there was some film thrown in there and then at some point I did documentary television, before there was such a thing as reality television. I did this series, “Taxicab Confessions”, many people think that kind of inspired reality television, but in my early years, they left me alone to do documentary television, and as time went on more and more people were doing reality television. They wanted me to do that, and I think it’s the opposite of documentary and I didn’t want to do it, so at some point, I decided to quit doing television and only do social action documentaries.

I also was committed at that point to raise the money myself to do the films, so I sort of had 2 huge jobs, one is to raise the money and the other is to make the films and I made a series of 3 films: “American Winter” first about the economic downturn of families that were falling out of middle class into poverty. Then, one on stem cell research and regenerative medicine called “Ending Disease”, which I made sort of simultaneously to this film on people fighting climate change.

I spent 6 years making this film. I think it was the most difficult film I have made, I’m not sure exactly why. I think that it took me a while to find the right people. My type of film making I call Life in Progress where, once I find the subject, I just sort of fade into the background and let their life progress organically and then create the story in the editing. But it takes quite a bit of trust for the person to be just completely open and natural in front of the camera and so I followed a number of people for years before I kind of found out exactly what the story was, what the type of activist was that I wanted to follow and I spent the first couple years on this feeling like I was going to follow anyone who had a passion for fighting climate change, and that could be anyone from a scientist to a journalist to a professor to a activist and as time went on, I decided, no: a scientist could be coming up with some alternative energy solution so they think they are gonna make a fortune so I don’t know if they are really 100% committed to this cause. And then, you have journalists and professors and such and I was following some really inspiring folks but I felt like they were kind of making a living fighting climate change. So I said, wait a second, let’s not follow those folks. I want the people who are in the trenches, committed to do whatever it takes, even if it kind of doesn’t make sense with their careers, or their family or whoever, that it’s against all odds but whatever they are doing with whatever they can. And then I still had to find the right people with the right passion and commitment and mainly the right people in the sense that they are open to the process of living their life pretty openly and honestly in front of us. Very openly and honestly in front of us. So it took a while and I finally found the five groups that I followed over the period of 3 or 4 years to make this film and then it took us about a year to edit it. I edit with my son, David and my other son, Nathan did the music. So, as you know, Corine’s in the other room, she does all the tech and the social media and the website, so we don’t have to leave the family to make this film luckily.

Alice Melendez: A family affair. You know, family ends up being a really huge theme in the film and also you were talking about finding collaborators and what it took to find them, and that’s something that I was really interested in, because I feel like the film really zeroes in on each individual person and maybe one close family relation for each person, but doesn’t give a picture of the groups within which they are working. Like the climate march, you had a more broad representation of several people who were on it because you were travelling with them and that would happen. With the valve turners, you see Michael’s story and sort of don’t get the picture of how did that collaboration come to exist and how did they decide that they were going to be able to hit those 4 points simultaneously. I hope that Michael makes it on, he was travelling and was joining in by phone and I’ll ask him that question, and related, like Bill with the kayactivists, how did that…I’m interested in these collaborations because I feel like the victories that we will have will involve this kind of team-finding and I’d like to see more of that and learn more about it.

Joe Gantz: Let me address that a little because I have to say that the main reason I made this film on people fighting climate change, because I’ve been following climate change and getting overwhelmed by how little is being done compared to what needs to be done. With that being said, I felt that the climate change films out there, in general, try to tell you information about how bad things are and how much worse they’re gonna get. All that information is true, but to most people, and certainly to me, that information is so overwhelming that I almost can’t watch it. So I make a certain type of documentary that follows these people, in general and you’re drawn into the person’s life, and the person’s relationship and then you start to get involved and inspired by the issue.

I think that is sort of an interesting way to get into a subject because, especially in this country, everything’s controversial. People look at a film and right away, they are thinking, “Am I against that or am I for that?” “Are people on my side or on the other side?” but if it’s subject oriented and you’re drawn to this person and you’re sort of in their lives and then after being with them for a while and then you’re drawn into the issue. Then people who maybe have some resistance to this subject because they’re not sure that it’s their point of view, they can watch it and begin to care about these people and then begin to care about the issue and then they almost don’t know that they were brought into it. That’s happened with all three of these films which have controversial aspects to them.

Alice Melendez: Yeah, that’s really interesting and part of a strategic conversation which I definitely want to have. So, part of the strategic conversation is about what collaborations are we working in? So, Miriam, I’d be interest to hear more about the 100 Grannies and then Bill, I’m interested in the back story of the teamwork behind that kayak brigade and then I think there are more strategy questions around engaging people who aren’t engaged that Joe was just hinting at that we will come back to.

Miriam Kashia: So did you want to hear from me?

Alice Melendez; Yes!

Miriam Kashia: I want to say first, I don’t think I’ve ever told you this Bill, but I’m a kayaker and I’ve done a lot of kayaking and canoeing and I got to Seattle the day after the kayaktivist event and I was so disappointed.

Bill Moyer: Oh my God! That sucks!

Miriam Kashia: I was there in time to get involved with the Shell No Rally and I saw the big Polar Pioneer monster out there in the bay and so every time I see those kayactivists I think Oh Shoot I wish I had been there! To your question, Alice, which was collaboration. You know, since I walked across the country, I like to say I bought me a ticket to talk and I’ve given maybe 50 talks to groups and organizations and churches over the last year since I got back, it’s sort of old history now that I walked across the country, but one of the things I always say to groups, well several things I always say to groups.

One is: Be yourself. Find your own niche, find what your passion is and do that and don’t try to be somebody else. Everybody else is taken. But I also tell them, don’t try to do it alone. We all need to find the people that we can work with. If you find a group and it doesn’t work, find a different one. One for you. So that’s been my modus operandi. I belong to several groups and I belong to some I’m not active with because I only have so much bandwidth. But the Grannies, the Grannies were formed about a year before I went on my climate march, so that would have been about 2012 or 2013 and it was found and it was founded by a local woman who was an Episcopalian priest. She wanted to do something about climate and she wanted to engage women and she wanted to engage elders so she called a bunch of women she knew together to her home and they had dinner one night together and they talked about it. And by the time that dinner ended, 100 Grannies for a Livable Future was born and ever since then we’ve called that the First Supper. We operate by teams or committees. We have a plastic bag committee, we have an activism committee, that’s kind of my baylywick. We have a diet committee, encouraging people to use a plant-based diet, we have a whole slew of committees so people can find where they want to plug in and whats most important to them and what trips their trigger.

Alice: So Michael, hello, and just talk to us about how you got to taking your big threshold crossing step and the crew you’re working with.

Bill Moyer: Maybe while Michael is, Michael why don’t you just interrupt me when you’re ready to go just to keep the flow here. Just building on what Miriam was saying, you know, when we started the Backbone Campaign, it wasn’t called that, it was just some friends who got together for a pot lucks once a month and we were concerned about the direction the country was going at the time and we were doing festivals and stuff with giant puppets. We had time, we had a variety of skills in our community and we were just trying to figure out what we could do. So that was the genesis of my activist organization so I think there’s a lot of brilliance in that. Just getting together with the people you love, I think that was really affirmed during Covid and keep discussing what can we do what can we do next?

Everybody has something they can do, some people can fly drones, some people are puppet makers, someone else is a sculptor, whatever, everybody has something they can bring. Not everybody wants to write postcards, not everybody wants to get arrested. Figuring out how people can enter from the place they are and grow into that, that’s how we can lean into the next phase of engagement of whatever we do.

I will say that the anti-fossil fuel fight in the Pacific Northwest feels like it was somewhat unique. I mentioned the Tribes before, but I will reiterate that right now: whether it was coal ports and the Lummi Nation leading the way there link here, or oil exports and the Quinault leading link here, or the Quileute link here, the March Point and Swinomish leadership link here, the LNG terminals and the Puyallup leadership link here, or now the Snake River dams and Nez Perce leadership link here and here, over and over again, you can find a direction if you pay attention to where the indigenous people are putting their energy. In the Pacific Northwest non-indigenous folks like me, I think we found our niche supporting and sometimes doing our own unique version in the ways that we could and there were a number of fights that led up to SHELL NO! In 2012, they had a similar oil rig in Seattle in 2012, but we hadn’t been practiced, we hadn’t been together, meeting each other and learning skills to build our resistance as much by 2012.

The Backbone Campaign hosted a series of about 10 years in a row of action camps. Those were always collaborative with other organizations, but convening people is very powerful. Convening people to share skills and information and strategy and then to execute some action you do at the end of a week of doing that work leverages that unique capacity to prepare and to plan and to then execute with a significant group of people. So, we did a series of those and we learned early on that being on the water and using kayaks was powerful, so in 2015, when the Polar Pioneer came to town, people were fighting it with, like the Port of Seattle meetings and I called some of the organizers up and I said, “You know, since 2009, when we helped shut down an industrial gravel mine, using kayaks, we’ve been practicing using kayaks. What can we do on the water? One of the principles in Art of War link here is to have a variety of skills, a variety of tactical tools so that your opponent doesn’t necessarily know how to respond. If we always do the same thing, it’s easy to train our opponent to know how to shut us down. So, they said, yeah, that would make sense for you to do something on the water. So we started training people and announced that, and it’s very complicated, but we knew that we weren’t just going to put people in kayaks and put them in front of a giant oil rig and refuse to move, so we had to first take it very seriously, water is dangerous, especially where we live, the cold water. We knew we weren’t just going to get a bunch of people to get in kayaks and get in the water and block an oil rig when they got a phone call. So there was a training for safety, and a training for learning how to use visuals on the water, but also, the first action we did, the one that Miriam was talking about, if we are talking about the May 16th action in 2015. That action was a family friendly action on the water and the pictures look like we were all blockading an oil rig, but we weren’t. We had to get a picture of people looking like they were blockading in order to convince them that they could actually do it. So later on, and some of the footage in the film is from when the bait really did untie, but at that point, there was some grandstanding bya national organization that kept us from mobilizing our local people who had trained and it was deeply disappointing, but honestly, what moved Obama was the thing we did on the 15th that looked like we were resisting. So I don’t really think that’s an adequate overview of the story but there were lots of groups involved, not everybody was in the water, not everybody felt like they could be on the water, there was a lot of tension about privilege and who could be on the water and who couldn’t be on the water, which, we tried to mitigate those things, but you can’t ever mitigate everything and sometimes, you just have to trust that you are doing your best, check your gut, check your heart and I’m really glad we did stuff on the water. We also made sure that indigenous leadership was present and in the front. Check.

Alice: I really appreciate the overview and yeah, it totally makes sense. I think making it family friendly is so important because we really do want to make it more accessible to more people. I really appreciate that that turned out to be more useful.

Bill: Before you escalate, you need to practice, because when you are in an escalated situation, you really need to have your center and you can’t have your center if you’re on your learning curve in an escalated situation. If we had to be on the water at night, we had a luminary procession so we could learn to do logistics on the water at night. You just have to practice so that you can keep your center and stay grounded when things get weird like they did in Portland and that was not family friendly on the water in Portland.

Alice: Yes, I got that. The fact that you were doing action camps for 10 years before it, makes a lot of sense and I think that Line 3 is generating another, coming out of Standing Rock link here it’s generating more action camps and action relations and collaborations so…good to hear! It makes sense that the Pacific Northwest is a different situation than the rest of the country. So Michael! Let’s hear at least an introduction into how you got where you got and how you picked what you picked to do. Or even better, how did the world choose you to be in that spot, is another way of framing it in my own head.

Michael Foster: Ok, I first heard about climate change in freshman high school debate. I was handed a copy of the report that Dr. James Black delivered to the executive directors in 1978 link here that said that humanity had about 5-10 years to learn to wean itself off of fossil fuels or it would face dangerus consequences. I was 13 or 14 at the time and I thought it was insane, that it was impossible that humans could alter the climate. That we were small like ants and that God would never allow it, unless it was God’s plan, in which case “let her rip!’

So that was no introduction at all until 10 years later I watched Dr. Hansen testify to Congress in 1988 link here and say exactly what I knew the Exxon scientists knew 10 years earlier. That it was an emergency and that we’d wasted all the time we had. Since then, I’ve been a green consumer, doing my part, signing petitions, showing up for parades and protests and hearings and most of it has been motivated by giving up. By realizing that there is nobody who can handle this. My nemesis, climate governor Jay Enslee is the living proof of that because I was involved with the children’s lawsuit here link here that has been compared to Brown vs Board of Education link here. It was the first time that the courts directed the government to fix climate on behalf of living citizens so that they may grow to adulthood safely. And the governor wiggled out of it and he undermined that ruling. So, that kinda made me want to turn off the pipeline.

We submitted legislation based on the science needed for climate recovery. Unless you heard me talking, you probably never heard of what we have to do and how quickly to get climate recovery in place by 2100. I was really thrilled when Dr. Hansen came to my trial and testified, or was ready to testify on my behalf and I got to drink a beer with him in the hotel bar and talk about his research and talk about where we are at and specifically, the year I was in trial.

I’m still stunned by the fact that there is no politician who can say out loud in public, what must actually be done, the required minimum, in order for life to make it through this century relatively intact or I can’t even say that anymore, it’s too late for that…make it through this century with a chance of things getting better someday, in future centuries. That’s where we are at right now. 95% of the endemic species on the planet face extinction this century. We know that.

So, no politician can say, “We need to cut emissions 25% this year and every year and we need to plant 1 new tree for every 3 trees alive”; they can’t say that and still be politicians. Business leaders can’t say that and still be business leaders.

This is all bringing me back to the pipeline, this is all bringing me back to the idea that your group is Extinction Rebellion and if it’s going to be a rebellion, it has to stop things. It has to actually, physically stop things. So one of the drivers at the pipeline action was to actually, physically stop something and to show that a handful of people could stop 15% of the US daily consumption with 5 people and bolt cutters link here and here. And yet, turns out, even that was a symbolic action because we all waited to get arrested and went around telling people what we did thinking other people would copy us and there were only a handful that did.

So, if a protest is gonna be successful, there has to be sacrifice; person has to be willing to sacrifice. There has to be disruption; there has to be an interruption of business, whatever that is, and it has to be persistent. We can’t go home at the end of the day or the end of the week, because then, business will continue. So I’m hoping this all leads up to some kind of general strike where people say “I’m not going back to work until my work stops making this stuff that stuff they make”. And if we ever manage to get to something like that, then we can begin to protect our children link here and (see embedded article on strike).

Until then, I think we are making a lot of noise and keeping ourselves busy and feel better while we waste the last few months and years when we might make life on Earth possible. We could make a future history.

Alice: I really feel you and I feel so deeply alienated from most people around me because I’m like that too. I know in the movie you say, I don’t want to be the guy in Times Square with the sign that says “The End Is Near” but it seems to be my destiny, I resonate with that so much. I’ve been looking a lot at Deep Adaptation stuff link here and here. They are talking about doing what’s right come what may and people are analyzing Jessica Reznicek link here and the property damage was like 1/6th of 1% of the budget of that pipeline and so it was still symbolic…

Miriam: I’d like to speak about Jess because I know her personally. Because everybody may not know what you’re talking about. A young woman, who is now 39 and another woman who is in her late 20’s now, Jess Reznicek and Ruby Montoya, in Iowa, trying to stop the construction of the DAPL pipeline, that started in North Dakota and went to Illinois and then went into the Gulf and exported, all that crap that’s killing our planet, and Jess and Ruby damaged some pipes and some machinery and they never were caught, but they decided to make a public statement and they stood in front of the Iowa Utilities Board that actually issued the permit for that pipeline across Iowa-3 people-on that board..and they confessed. They called a reporter and they said we did this and here’s why we did it and they were subsequently arrested and about a week ago, maybe a week and a half now, Jessica Resnicek was sentenced to 8 years in prison, which makes what happened to you, Michael, look like a walk in the park, makes your (sentence) look like a walk in the park, which I know it wasn’t.

Michael: Mine was pretty much a walk in the park. I did 6 short months and I’m ending my probation in another 6 months, so it’s been like 5 years of this but I have been free most of that time. What we did was also small potatoes; they delayed a pipeline for 3 or 6 weeks and we shut off some pipelines for a few hours so it was a huge big deal what they did, it was amazing what they did. And it was non-violent.

Miriam: And the worst part of it, the judge has labeled her a domestic terrorist, which is one of the reasons this beautiful young woman with a heart of gold got such a high penalty. I was part of an action along the Mississippi River when we were trying to stop the pipeline from going under the mighty Mississippi. Imagine a pipe breaking under the Mississippi and the ramifications of that.

Alice: And we are at it again, up in Minnesota

Miriam: And we are at it again up in Minnesota. Anyway, Jess was co-leading that action, about a hundred of us went up and surrounded this humongous drill that was drilling under the river and some of us got arrested. I got arrested along with 4 other Grannies that were there that day, the oldest one was 83 and she crawled under the fence, bless her heart and we prepared for trial…I think this is a really relevant story to what we are talking about here, we prepared for trial, we pled not guilty link here the Grannies did, most everybody else who got arrested, I think 30 people, pled guilty, paid their fines and went home, but we pled not guilty, got ourselves a lawyer who happened to be on the Iowa city council and we were in the car on our way down to our pre-trial hearing when our attorney called us and said “turn around and go home, they dropped the charges”. I, to this day believe, they dropped the charges on our trespass charge because they did not want to see the headlines “5 Grannies On Trial For Protecting The Mississippi River.” They did not want that to happen so they got rid of us. We wanted to go to trial and have our say.

Joe: So what about the woman who got 8 years, have you spoken with her since she got sentenced?

Miriam: No, I haven’t any way to contact her but she put out a beautiful interview with a Des Moine Register link here journalist which everybody should see. Everybody should see it.

Alice: There’s a really good piece in Grist, too that outlines the whole story. link The Dorothy Day quote is in that Grist piece. People were saying, well you delayed it a couple of months and I think that brings us to this question about what is a symbolic action compared to a real action. They burned up a couple of doziers and a Cat and a big excavator and it was still just a rounding error that insurance would cover to the pipeline company. So, it’s a really tricky question, how do you become real rather than just symbolic and if anybody’s got anything to say about that, opening the floor, and also inviting the people watching online to pass up your questions.

Michael: I do think, to re-state, delaying the operation of a pipeline that’s moving a million barrels of oil a day, delaying that by weeks, is real. If we could do that on major pipelines, like the one that was just hit by ransomware, link here you wouldn’t have to hit too many pipelines too often to make it real. The ripple effect would be immediate and tremendous. The Reverend Fred Smalls said that the US economy is as entangled in fossil fuels as it was in slavery in the 1850’s. Having said that, I think it’s easy to imagine, that it will be just as difficult to disentangle this economy now from fuel as it was to disentangle from slavery in the 19th century.

So if there’s any terrorism or weaponry or killing involved, you can imagine what sides people are gonna want to choose. But that’s not what we are talking about. We are talking about non-violence. We are talking about property destruction, we are not talking about weapons and people, we are talking about going into a war zone unarmed and being vulnerable. We are the oppressors stopping ourselves from killing ourselves and we can’t do that with weapons.

Alice: I think you’re really right about the depth of entanglement. I really appreciate that quote. And Justin, you and I have been talking some previous to today about the depth of entanglement and non-violent strategy b.ut Michael, I really appreciate the position you’re coming from and, Justin, I’d really be interested to hear some of your reflections on that “depth of entanglement” and the difficulty of dis-entanglement.

Justin: Oh, yeah, absolutely and since we just came through Juneteenth, I was imagining there might be some community somewhere that has to wait 2 years to learn that we’ve moved beyond fossil fuels. I totally agree with what Michael is saying and that’s why the struggle is so vital right now and so vital years ago and the sooner we get started in this process of disentangling from fossil fuels, the more likely we are to save more species as well as our own. So it’s vital that we get started in every way possible as early as possible and, yes, there are direct actions like stopping pipelines. There’s also dis-investing from these companies. Everyone has a retirement account of some kind that is invested in fossil fuels, every university that has a foundation, it doesn’t have to be that way, we can choose to invest in what we believe in. Another big theme for me is how the media itself is entangled with corporate interests in fossil fuel industry. Even our beloved NPR, it’s ridiculous to hear the underwriters for NPR sometimes, and you think could this possibly be an unbiased source. That’s why I helped start a community radio station here in Louisville in 2017 called Forward Radio link here and Alice and Alex were just on my program Sustainability Now and this touches back to an earlier theme we talked about how do we get beyond our bubbles and how do we reach people outside of the choir? Not that the choir doesn’t need singing to as well but I really believe in the importance of broadcast media and social media has really wrapped us up in some entanglements of our own bubbles of communication so providing megaphones for community sources in a broadcast media is one example of how we can take back control of something like the media… so that the actual truth and things of importance to our community; I mean, who gives a crap what the DOW is doing? We hear it, how many times a day…what the DOW is doing…are you kidding me? This affects no one! Yet, how much carbon is in the atmosphere is something that affects everyone on the planet, do you get updates ever on that? Broadcast media, these are ways we need to take control. We need to grab the reins of power. It can be shutting off a pipeline but it can also be creating broadcast media that is controlled by the community.

Alice: That makes sense to me. I see Bill has something to say and then I’m gonna pass it to Alex and Deanna to bring up some questions from the audience.

Bill: It’s very provocative…a collection of things that have just been said so…the difference between what we do and what the mob at the Capitol did on Jan 6th is that we threaten no one’s safety. We threaten no one’s well-being. The sacrifice, the danger is accepted on our own self, I think that’s a really important pillar of non-violence and it’s super important because that’s how we draw people in as well. So I think that we have to shift culture as well. We do not want to under-estimate the power of Covid as a teacher that the status quo is not inevitable and we have to do everything in our power to hold on to that thread, that lesson, and we are not our of this pandemic, obviously, but some forces want us to think we are.

I also think we don’t need everybody to be the exact same kind of activist. Diane Wilson link here and here from Texas whose done all these hunger strikes, she said recently to me that, everybody needs to spend 2 weeks in jail. That may be the case but for the other time in their life, I don’t think they all need to be activists. I think the importance of what Joe does as a story-teller is both external, it tells the world that this is happening and it also reflects to us what we look like and how we are doing and who we are and how we are connected to each other so it’s first time conversations like this to feel that we are all connected to something bigger.

I think that starting a radio station or a coop or anything that takes the leaks of wealth and time and equity that weave a community into the (unintelligible) system and returns it to the community is worthwhile and important work. Community organizing, culture work around anti-oppression…we don’t all have to be campaigners and I don’t think we should be and I don’t think we should force everybody into that box. If we see others as change-agents the key is knowing that whatever we are doing is full time change agent and we should be locking arms with each other as part of a common narrative.

I really believe that policy follows culture and the right wing knows that and they shift culture first and then the policy follows after that. I think we need to do the same thing, that we do sometimes do the same thing. I keep coming back to the same thing…you gotta cost the system I don’t think you gotta burn to be real. I don’t think the symbolic acts are unreal. I think you have to draw people to the cause and engage them to do their work. The kayactivism was symbolic but it was also real. I do think you need to be able to cost them money, you need to interrupt commerce, you need to be able to stop business as usual and then, simultaneously, as you stop business as usual, you have to be building the alternative because nobody wants to follow people off of the abyss when they don’t have a vision for the future. Check.

Joe: I want to add one thing to that. So my goal with this film was to energize people to get involved and I tried to find folks who I could follow as the subjects in this film who had that passion and commitment that’s c ontagious and I think I succeeded in this wonderful group of subjects that I chose to put in the film. But I agree with Bill that everyone doesn’t have to contribute in the same way. Some people are not willing to get arrested but they are willing to go to a demonstration and maybe block an entrance in some but not get arrested. Other people aren’t really good at leaving their house and so they write a blog because there are people who are not much at going outside. But I do feel that there comes a time when we have to show the power of numbers, like the first day, week, after Trump was elected the Women’s March came and just millions of people went into the streets all over the world, I think that we have to do that. Miriam and I went to New York with the Big Climate March, it was more of a parage, there were 400,000 people there, I thought Wow this is so energizing, why don’t they do this every month in a different city. And I mentioned that to a few people that I had a connection to who had organizations and I don’t think there’s been another one like that and I think it’s such a waste.

I think that politicians will listen to numbers and a lot of activists feel like we don’t need the politicians but eventually, we need to get governments behind this to put huge resources and regulations in place and that happens when huge numbers of people get into the streets and so I was very lucky in that a number of top climate leaders in top organizations endorsed this film and lo and behold, I had their emails suddenly so I was on the road to the mall and I said why don’t you guys do a huge march in another city every month and it will grow and it will make a statement. You know it could be in San Francisco, Houston the next month, Boston and maybe one month won’t be huge but who cares. The person who was in that march who had never gone on a march before and will suddenly get energized and feel like Wow, I’m a part of something big and I want to do this again. And I couldn’t get any traction, so, anyway, my goal with this film is to get people in the streets and get people to make a statement. It doesn’t all have to be the same statement, people don’t have to get arrested, but to get people to take a stand for a livable future.

Transcribed by Deanna 7/18/2021

Meet-up July 8: How we run “The Race to Save the World”

The friends behind XR-KY bring you this documentary, and a chance to meet-up in Louisville or on Zoom (or both) and talk about your take– how you think we best run The Race to Save the World. Interested in the in-person gathering, email xrebelky (at) protonmail dot com.

*Post updated with post-event resources, registration now closed.

Watch the Trailer Here

YouTube of discussion panel

Forward Radio/Sustainability Now! conversation on the film

The Race to Save The World follows passionate activists whose single-minded focus is the creation of a sustainable world for future generations. These climate warriors, ages 15 to 72, are in the trenches fighting for a livable future, regardless of the personal cost. Emmy award-winning filmmaker Joe Gantz brings an urgent and intimate portrait of the protests, arrests, courtroom drama, and family turmoil these activists endure as they push for change. The Race to Save The World invites viewers to quit waiting on the sidelines and start making their voices heard.

Click the link to watch the trailer, register and see for yourself. Then on July 8th at 7pm we will meet virtually with the Professor and Marianne, sorry, The DIRECTOR and Marianne, who walked across the country with the Climate Walk with elderly knees and much heart, passing through the 2014 Climate March in NYC where all present (including me and my kids and their dad!) felt the call, “I believe that we will win.”

Other central stories in the film and represented by folks on the panel include the Valve Turners, the Kayaktivists of Seattle who challenged the passage of Shell’s arctic drilling rig, the youth who sued the government for their right to a healthy climate, and the crew who blocked an oil train in the Delta yard in Everett, Washington.

Bringing a local perspective to the strategic conversation on how to run The Race, is Louisville’s own Justin Mog. Dr. Justin Mog has served since 2009 as the University of Louisville’s Assistant to the Provost for Sustainability Initiatives. He earned his B.S. in Environmental Studies & Geology from Oberlin College (OH) and his M.S. and Ph.D. in Land Resources from the University of Wisconsin-Madison Institute for Environmental Studies. Justin was a Fulbright scholar to the Philippines in 2001, where he did his dissertation research on developing and applying a framework for evaluating sustainable rural development programs. Before coming to Louisville, Justin served three years in Peace Corps – Paraguay where he and his wife worked with farm families and NGOs to promote sustainable rural prosperity. After 25 years working in community radio around the world, in 2017, Justin helped launch Louisville’s progressive, grassroots Forward Radio WFMP 106.5fm, where he can be heard hosting the weekly program Sustainability Now! He seeks an Earth restored and lives his life accordingly, as a car-free, TV-free, vegetarian, beekeeping, gardening, urban foraging Quaker with a fully solar-powered home.

Come chat with Justin, with Alice and Alex of XR-KY, with Director Joe Ganz and with folks from the film. What do you do to confront the intersecting crisis of our age? What do you imagine?

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One more plug to join us watching The Race to Save the World:

Courageous people who have been willing to put their bodies on the line for issues they cared about have moved our country forward in so many ways, over so many years. As The Race to Save the World shows us, that passion and commitment is alive and well, with diverse people – from teens to grandmas – engaging in the time honored tradition of protest and civil disobedience to combat the climate crisis. I hope everyone will watch this film and be inspired to join these everyday heroes in the struggle of our lifetime.

Annie Leonard, Executive Director, Greenpeace US

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Extinction Rebellion Kentucky: We act with peace and ferocious love in our hearts for these lands, for life.

Check us out all over: YouTube/xrebelky, FaceBook/xrebelky, and our own new baby xrebelky.wordpress blog. All three are quite open to contributions! Send me your song recs, essays, and share news on on the Face. And hey, if we don’t see you in a week or two in Louisville, maybe we’ll meet July 31 at the Kentucky Heartwood Music Festival!

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