Reflections on COP22 from Earth Guardians Africa.

Reflections on COP22 from Earth Guardians Africa.

Written by:

Mensa Tsedze, Earth Guardians Africa Crew Director

Udeh Chiagozie, Plant for the Planet

This past November, the UN Conference of Parties popularly referred to as COP22, ended in Marrakesh with Countries from all over the world coming to an agreement named the Marrakesh Action Proclamation. COP22, which was beautifully hosted by the government and people of Morocco, most importantly set a deadline of 2018 for the completion of a rule book that will guide the implementation of the Paris Agreement from COP21. The Paris Agreement set the tone for discussion in Marrakesh since all Parties had signed before or during COP21 and about 115 countries have ratified it so far. It helped shape the discussion to focus more on steps for implementation of the climate agreement.

 

An important aspect of every COP since the COP19 in Copenhagen has been the Green Climate Fund (GCF). Established in 2009,   the fund is expected to see $100 billion contributed by participating parties, especially those from the Global North, untill 2020 towards mitigating the effects of climate change. Implementation of this has been a major problem because since the start, not more than $12 billion has been contributed to the fund and COP22 was the first of any COP to see the GCF accessed by member states. Liberia was granted $2.2 million approved and $2.9 million was approved for Nepal. The UNFCCC (United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change) is expected to approve up to 20 more requests soon in order to bring the combined sum accessed from the GCF to $2.5 billion. However, if we must achieve the targeted climate action plan, the target of the GCF must increase and more countries will need to be able to access it faster.  In the end, there was something to celebrate when some parties agreed that with the current realities, the billions of the GCF must be transformed into trillions in order to achieve the global target on climate change solutions.

The Election of Donald Trump

The election of Donald Trump as the new President of the US which came on the second day of COP22 had a major impact on the discussion. As soon as the election results became obvious, it triggered palpable fear in most member states owing to Mr. Trump commitments in the build-up to the election, which at best, represented climate denial. This put serious doubts on the position of US on the Paris Agreement. However, the fear was doused when the US Secretary of State, John Kerry, arrived at the COP venue to deliver a press conference. He assured the global community that the US will not pull out of the Paris Agreement and that Mr. Trump will find it extremely difficult to do so if he ever wishes for such. That did not stop many member states from directing comments to the US during the plenary sessions. Fiji Island made a very emotional appeal to the US during the closing plenary to come to their rescue as it did during the Second World War. The Head of Fiji delegation specifically called on Donald Trump to support efforts in fighting climate change and help his country to secure land space in the US to relocate their population at risk of displacement due to climate change. Going by recent happenings, it does appear that Donald Trump will not be as much of a threat to climate change as he previously appeared.

Africa at COP22      

     Mensa and Udeh at the Blue Zone at COP22

It was a great outing for African countries at the COP22 especially with Liberia being the first African country and one of the very first two member states in the world to access the GCF. However, much of the attention for Africa was understandably drawn by the host Morocco which hosted many side events to boost their growing reputation as an anchor nation for Africa. Morocco’s gigantic solar plant projects, Nor 1 and Nor 2 in Rabat, were a must-visit best practices center for most delegations at the COP.

Uganda earned a great amount of praise for their Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC) and the meticulous plan of the country towards achieving it. In fact, the country was seen as an example of best practice country in terms of NDC and other African nations were urged to emulate Uganda.

One of the issues that came up was the perceived lack of support from developed countries for nations in Africa towards mitigating climate change. While developed countries admitted this fact, they also pointed at a lack of bankable projects from most African member states urging them to work more on the sustainability plans of their projects before seeking funding.

China took the lead on South Asian Cooperation on climate change to another level by offering $3.21 billion to developing nations progress which it announced last year in Paris during COP21. This was announced during the side event at the China Pavilion organized by China, Morocco and the UN. More countries from the Global South are seeking to benefit from the support China is offering as the nation had already declined contributing to the GCF preferring to put its funds towards supporting cooperation among developing countries. The Africa Pavilion hosted many events mostly focused on renewable energy, agriculture and adaptation. The continent will see a lot of infrastructural development in the next few years that will support climate smart development. 
On a light note, the African Pavilion was the best place to be at the COP22 as it had a specialized WiFi and always offered proper “food” to its guests!

Earth Guardians at Cop 22

This COP22 as before, has seen the participation of young people, many networked under the banner of YOUNGO or individually. Several activities were organized by youth organizations at different side events in both the Blue Zone and the Green Zone. The organization "Plant for the planet" during this COP distributed chocolates called "change chocolate" to the different delegates of the countries participating in the negotiations. Earth Guardians, although not officially delegated to this COP, had several of its members participate either in another official delegation, as negotiators or as observers. However, Earth Guardians came to different events, musical, press conferences, and participated in many other ways. Earth Guardians globally will continue to monitor whats happening with the Paris and Marrakesh agreements and are excited to see them implemented as soon as possible! 

Plastic Pollution Awareness Day is headed your way!

Plastic Pollution Awareness Day is headed your way!

Written by: Hannah Testa founder of Hannah4Change

People always ask me how I ended up getting February 15, 2017 declared as Plastic Pollution Awareness Day in the state of Georgia.  After all, I am just a 14 year old girl.  The short answer is passion and hard work, but I know that's overly simplistic. So here is my story.

Long ago, when I was 4, I realized that the actions we take today have an impact on our world.  One day, after leaving a store, I said, “No one cares about our planet except for us”.  My mom asked why I said that, and I replied that it was because no one brought their own reusable bags except for us.  So from a young age I learned that protecting the Earth started with us.  Around the age of 10, my parents started exposing me to issues that were affecting the animals I love, and so I started to really raise my voice to help the Earth and its animals.  I raised money and awareness for various animal causes (it was difficult to focus on just one cause) by speaking at protests and rallies, collecting thousands of petitions to send to politicians, leading fundraisers, and producing educational videos to spread awareness of animal issues.

Around this time, I realized that one of the biggest problems facing wildlife is one that we can control - plastic pollution.  For me, it is difficult to see a problem and not do anything about it.  Even though I am young, through education I felt I could get others to reduce their plastic consumption because I always believed that Knowledge is Power”.  If we all were truly aware of what is really going on, wouldn’t we all want to improve the situation?

After learning all I could about plastic pollution, and partnering with several environmental organizations, I ended up networking with a local senator.  My mom always says, “you don’t ask, you don’t get” so I used that philosophy to simply request an awareness day to educate the public about the dangers of plastic pollution.  Together, we wrote a resolution that will proclaim February 15, 2017 as Plastic Pollution Awareness Day in Georgia.  And now I am publicizing this event to as many residents and businesses as possible, with the goal that at least on this day, we will all commit to avoiding single use, disposable plastic products such as plastic bottles, straws, and bags.

Click on the above flyer to check out the event description on Hannah's website. Also, Earth Guardians will be partnering and incorporating this day of awareness into our Protect Our Future campaign and will be calling all EGs to take action around Plastic Pollution in their communities! So if you are involved in Protect Our Future and care about how plastic is effecting our environments consider organizing an event or action on Feb 15th 2017! (If you want to learn more about Protect our Future, email Aidan aidan@earthguardians.org)

Click on the above flyer to check out the event description on Hannah's website. Also, Earth Guardians will be partnering and incorporating this day of awareness into our Protect Our Future campaign and will be calling all EGs to take action around Plastic Pollution in their communities! So if you are involved in Protect Our Future and care about how plastic is effecting our environments consider organizing an event or action on Feb 15th 2017! (If you want to learn more about Protect our Future, email Aidan aidan@earthguardians.org)

There is no doubt that you too can do what I have done.  Fuel your passion to help animals and the environment by getting educated on the issues…remember, “Knowledge is Power”.  Discuss the issues and share what you have learned.  Network.  Leverage the internet and social media.  If we children join together and use the power of our collective voices, we can force change.  I hope you will join me to influence changes that help our wonderful planet.  Together, let’s change the world!

The Things That Power Us

At a very young age, I found my self fascinated by both science and nature. My love for both formed around the same time and by the time I was six I had developed an inventor's mentality, the  “what can I fix today” mindset. I wanted so badly to put an end to global warming, pollution, and anything harmful to the earth. I had plenty of great ideas, but no one listens to children.  So, eventually I stopped talking about my ideas. I remember reading about the conversion of energy, which is a principle of physics. I wanted to understand it fully as an attempt to put an end to the energy crisis. One day, back in ‘09 when I was nine; I was leaning over my mother's shoulder, while she read an article about a harmful dairy by-product, more specifically a by-product of greek yogurt called acid whey. Greek yogurt was a major fad back then, so it had created a ton of this whey and no one really knew what to do with it. I had an “whey” cool idea. Convert it into energy!


For a while, the idea was locked away in the back of mind. It wasn’t until I turned 16 that I thought of it again and as it turned out acid whey was still a problem. That's when I got a bright idea- to make acid whey myself and see what I could come up with. I had remembered from my first grade science textbook how a battery worked. With that I only had ten dollars so I did some thinking before going to Home Depot, I bought zinc and copper.  Then I went to the grocery store I brought milk, live curds and candy.

Project Blue Print (click the picture to go to the Kickstarter!)

Project Blue Print (click the picture to go to the Kickstarter!)


After all that,  I turned my kitchen into a science lab! You can imagine the mess and my mother's feelings towards me. Hint: both weren’t good. It also wasn’t good that I “borrowed” her sponge and cut it up. Sadly I had to clean up my mess, before I did anything else; even save the future. I assembled my battery after letting my sponge bits soak in the whey. I got my digital multimeter and measured it to see if I had just changed the future. I did. I sat there staring at the battery emotionless, I didn’t think it would actually work.  I imagined the future, and debated whether or not to tell my mother, because I had destroyed her sponge and kitchen. But, I did. I told my entire family and sadly no one really got it, they just asked if it was dangerous… I realized, maybe I was the only one who cared about acid whey. I mean, I emailed everyone I could think of, but no one responded. A few months passed and now I was in school.

Above pictures: (left) Sim testing how much energy a regular battery produces, (middle) Sim testing how much battery the acid battery produces and finds it create more than a regular battery! (right) Sim talking about her battery.


It wasn’t until the middle of the night, that I realized I could turn any non-sulfuric acid into energy. So I built it again, recorded everything, and I told my most awesome, sock-tastic math/science teacher Spencer, about my creation. He was excited too and he helped me out with my kickstarter page.

Click on the final project digital design to go to the Kickstarter page!

Click on the final project digital design to go to the Kickstarter page!

I learned a lot from trying to create something. You can’t do it on your own. It's important to have  people encourage and support you. I needed my mom's kitchen and sponge.... But I also needed my teacher’s support and enthusiasm. Sometimes you just need to take a step back to look at everything, whether it's a mess in the kitchen/lab or the applications of an invention.


With all that said I think this project could be the future. The possibilities are endless and the things that could be created from it astounded me. Jobs, gadgets, toys, the list goes on and on. I can’t help, but be a little afraid. One day we will have to break away from the overly aggressive fossil fuel industry. Why not today? Why shouldn’t we truly stand on our own two feet and take the steps towards the progressive future, we truly deserved?  It’s been quite obvious that we cannot rely on those in power to protect us. As should we should create the power ourselves!

Written by:

Sim Mateen

Sim.jpg

The Kings Of Democracy

By Iris Fen Gillingham

Iris is an incredible activist from the Catskill Mountains of NY. She not only is the crew leader of EG SUNY Sullivan, NY but also an active member of our RYSE youth council.

As a little girl when people said democracy, I thought it meant we don't have a king, or one person in charge of everything. The common people have more of a say in decisions, and we vote every four years to elect the leader that we want. I thought it was all fair and equal. Then I grew up. 

I would like to define democracy as a system that allows people to influence the government by electing candidates whose actions are beneficial to the people. I would like to define democracy as a system that promotes the well being of the population and distributes justice and equality. In the perfect world and ideal society, democracy would demonstrate a governance with the best interests of all and guidance from the populace, along with the coexistence of the earth, humanity, animals, plants, and civilization. 

I don't think we are a democracy by the definition of the word. Webster's Dictionary defines it as “a form of government exercised either directly by the people or through their elected representatives; rule by majority; the practice of legal, political, or social equality.” Yes, we vote for our representatives. But “Rule by majority” should mean that the mass vote actually elects the leaders we want, right? In the election of 2000, Bush won because of missing votes in Florida. It just so happened that his brother was Governor of Florida. If the American public were told the truth about the real life consequences of fracking and not the lies that the media has fed to us, what would the majority opinion be. If people saw the real facts and heard the stories of those affected by industry's greed, what would everyone think? Not all our political leaders are the ones to blame directly, but they are being paid off by the corporations to not say anything. We have seen this multiple times either directly or indirectly. We have witnessed it indirectly by an askew campaign finance system that allows the rich and powerful to fund political campaigns and make extreme donations. We have seen it directly in the multitude of elected officials who end up leaving office or getting arrested for taking bribes and peddling influence. (Such as Speaker Of The New York State Assembly, Sheldon Silver, and Majority Leader Of The New York State Senate, Dean Skelos.) So is that American democracy? I’d say democracy is a word that is being warped. Do most people really know what the exact definition is besides that they get to vote for a few politicians? 

Social equality does not exist in America today. Flint is still without water and the Navajo Nation has been without water for years. The rich keep exploiting the poor, the minimum wage is still not enough to live on, and women are still paid unequally by some companies. In reality racism still exists. Heck, one of the presidential candidates is openly racist and sexist (and unfortunately now the next president of the US). The two main options are a woman who has been on the campaign trail for years and made decisions that negatively impacted communities, and a man who boasts about harassing women and kicking people of different ethnicities other than himself out of the country. These are the choices we have for commander in chief. I know many people who are disgusted with both candidates and say they will have to vote for the lesser of two evils. I don't think a true democracy means voting for one so that the other doesn't win. The election of 2016 has at most been interesting, scary, and ultimately has shown how bought out and false our democracy has become. 

Shouldn't democracy mean that every person has a chance, an honest trial? And the criminals that rob, lie, and kill, are put away, not the teenagers just trying to get by. The true criminals. The ones that rob us with a diamond studded pen and paper. The ones that lie right to our faces about their opinions and how they will help our families. The nicely dressed ones that kill us with cheap food franchises, drugs, toxic chemicals in our clothes, energy extraction operations in our neighborhoods, radioactive waste sites near our schools, fracking fluid in our water, and power plants by our children's playgrounds, to name just a few. The same ones that send soldiers in riot gear to take care of peaceful protesters that are bringing awareness to these killings.

Today the American democracy is loaded with nepotism. It wouldn't take very long to go through politicians names and find that they have relatives, friends, and colleagues also working in government. There is something to the old saying “it's not what you know, but who you know” This plays out very prominently in American politics. Today when I look at any politician or listen to what they are saying, I wonder if they are telling the truth. Is that what they believe? Are they going to actually do that? Many times the answer is no. 

Today's democracy system is ruled by a few with money and influence, not by the people. If the people had an influence it's because we went out in the street and rallied, protested, and challenged our leaders to listen to us! Political leaders will do what benefits them the most. In today's democracy it is vital that the people rise up and take action so that the heads of our country finally do what is best for us. Sometimes we win and other times we lose. Sometimes our efforts don’t make a difference in the passing of a pipeline, but sometimes it does. Then it reminds the leaders that they may be the head but we are the neck, shoulders, and body of this country. We must never give up. This imperfect democracy needs the people, otherwise it would be nothing. Yet sadly, sometimes the very representatives of the people are the ones killing us. The ones force feeding us lies, chemicals, violence, and division.

Some Earth Guardians at the March for a Clean Energy Revolution before the Democratic National Committee in Philadelphia this past summer.

The American democracy system has many faults. We as the people must stand together and show our political leaders what kind of a world we want to live in. We can ask for changes in the system. Nothing is perfect; democracy certainly isn't. It is also an issue of social change. Our countries leaders are following in the footsteps of leaders before them and unless we create considerable social and political change, people are going to live and act in a warped democracy. The way it's structured is true to the definition of the word, but not the way it plays out which is a democracy ruled by the rich and influential. So are we really a true democracy? Do we call ourselves a democracy, but are actually ruled by invisible kings that influence elections and have their own agenda? Do we live under the monarchy of democracy? In a way, we are all subjects of the kings of democracy but it does not have to be this way. We can create the change we want to see. United we can all stand and make our voices heard by the kings of democracy, instilling what a true representative democracy is. Not a system where we are ruled, but one where the kings of democracy don't exist.

Humanity's Plastic Addiction: Saving Our Ocean

Plastic is having a devastating effect on our oceans, our wildlife and ultimately on us as a human species.

The introduction of plastic in the 20th century has led us to become increasingly reliant on its use and now a large percentage of almost everything we buy contains plastic. However, while we are happy to use it we are less adept at recycling it and the sad fact is that less than 10% of the plastic we produce gets recycled. Of the rest 50% makes its way into landfill and the remainder is unaccounted for, more often than not getting washed out to sea, where it inflicts a substantial toll. 

While the top five countries which contribute the most to plastic ending up in the oceans are China, Indonesia, the Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam, we all need to play a part in reducing our own contribution if we are to bring about change.

 

What Practical Steps Can Be Taken?

Carrier Bag Tax: One recent government initiative in the UK has been to bring in a 5p charge on all carrier bags. The good news is that since this came into effect in October 2015 the seven main supermarket chains have seen an 85% decrease in the use of plastic bags. This means far fewer plastic bags will end up in landfill or in the oceans.

 

Fundraising and Volunteering: If you want to take part in the clean-up operation and conservation efforts taking place at the coastline closest to you The Marine Conservation Society encourages people to get involved in several ways. You can help by beach cleaning; sea search for experienced divers; or by fundraising so the society can maintain their conservation work.

 

Conservation as a Career: Some people might feel called to pursue conservation work as a career. One of the best ways to find out if it is right career path for you is to undertake a marine volunteering  program where you can collaborate directly with experienced conversations to discover what the work entails.

 

Being Aware of What We Buy: When we head to the supermarket it’s important to be aware of the packaging our produce comes packed in and to minimize it where possible. Opt for loose fruit and vegetables and then take them home in a biodegradable paper bag, instead of wrapped in three types of plastic. Alternatively shop at farmers’ markets where the food travels a shorter distance from source to plate, and within minimal packaging.

Recycling: It can sometimes be a hassle to recycle everything we throw away but it can make all the difference to what ends up in landfill. Sort items weekly prior to your rubbish collection and for larger items try to pass them on to someone who needs them using the ‘freecycling’ sites.

Earth Guardians Bhutan has done several clean ups where they separated recycling and made sure it went to the right facility to be properly recycled.

 

The Huge Problem of Plastic in the Ocean

The majority of plastic which ends up in the sea, over 80%, comes from land-based sources. One of the major contributors to this ocean pollution is our obsession with drinking bottled water. Over 200 billion bottles of water are consumed each year and over 176 billion empty bottles ultimately end up in landfill or the ocean. Even more seriously the situation worsens year on year with studies showing plastic marine debris is increasing dramatically.

One of the most serious problems with plastic is that it takes thousands of years to degrade. The plastic in the ocean often forms huge floating ‘islands’ where currents meet. One of the largest and most infamous is the Pacific Trash Gyre in the Pacific Ocean which has a larger surface area than Texas.

The action of the sea also breaks down the plastic into smaller pieces and this makes it particularly deadly for wildlife and ultimately for us. As the plastic deteriorates it absorbs other toxins and then enters the food chain, eaten by fish. This seafood can become contaminated with cadmium, mercury and lead and then places humans at risk when eaten. A proven carcinogen, Diethylhexyl phthalate (DEHP) is found in increasing levels in seafood, as is Bisphenol A (BPA) which research has shown interferes with human hormone function.

Plastic is also entering the ocean through the problem of microbeads. These are tiny plastic beads present in many shower gels and toothpastes, and millions of them get washed down the drain and ultimately into the sea every day. These tiny beads can be ingested even by plankton and then move on up through the food chain. There is great pressure on governments to take a stand and ban these deadly plastic additions to our oceans before the situation worsens. The UK government has stated that it will ban all microbeads in cosmetics by the end of 2017 and in the interim some retailers are taking action themselves as seen by Waitrose’s recent announcement they will no longer stock any products containing microbeads.

It’s vital that every person plays their part by refusing to purchase products which contain microbeads and in addition stops adding to the mountain of empty plastic water bottles by drinking tap or filtered water and always taking your own refillable flask or bottle with you. We have been led to believe that plastic is disposable, but that is very far from the truth. Every item we throw away either ends up taking up valuable space in landfill or adding to the plastic pollution of the sea.

Earth Guardians every where are dedicated to using reusable items to decrease our impact on the world!

 

Other Risks to the Environment

Plastic in our seas is a major risk to the environment but it cannot be considered in isolation. Whilst we are tackling the problem of reducing our plastic waste we must consider other factors which contribute. All factors together cause a devastating effect. These are some other major factors to consider.

 

Water Pollution

Our water is a precious resource and yet we don’t treat it with the respect it deserves. The use of plastic mulch to cover the soil on farmland allows farmers to better control soil moisture and nutrients. However, it also encourages faster runoff and this can allow pesticides to be transported towards rivers and the sea where it enters the food chain.

 

Climate Change

Few people are now unaware that industrialisation and the rise in CO2 have led to drastic climate change. The increase in greenhouse gases has led to a rise in the surface temperature of the planet; increasingly unpredictable weather patterns; and the melting of the ice caps, most notably at Antarctica’s Larsen B ice shelf.

The burning of fossil fuels is the biggest contributor to CO2 emissions, and this has come from heavy industry and the massive increase in transport which has happened around the world. More people than ever own cars and take flights on a regular basis; and this doesn’t even touch on the billions of tons of produce transported around the world daily.

 

Deforestation

Deforestation is another factor in climate change. As forests are destroyed, there are fewer trees to absorb CO2 and thus levels rise still further in the atmosphere. Deforestation is occurring for several reasons: to make room for agriculture and urban areas; to satisfy our ever growing need for palm oil; and to make commercial items such as paper, furniture and building materials for homes.

With our planet at risk it is important that every individual does what they can to use natural resources wisely; to minimize their consumption; and to recycle at every possible opportunity. It’s also vital we all raise our awareness so we can put pressure on retailers and governments to make the changes which matter most.

Post written by : Joe Thomas

Earth Guardians Bhutan CNR's Cleaning Campaign along Metsina Stream

The environmental health of the stream is of paramount importance to innumerable aquatic lives in it and beyond. For the assurance of a clean and safe home, about sixty five members of Earth Guardians Bhutan CNR did a thorough clean up of the heavily polluted stream. It is also known that the downstream community uses the same stream to feed their paddy fields even though the water is quite toxic and waste-ridden.

The zeal and enthusiasm of youth led environmental enthusiasts ensured the health of the stream and the vicinity of Metsina town. The stream was heavily polluted with wastes of all kinds being next to the automobile workshop and the shops. It has become the dump yard of Metsina town because the town doesn't have a single proper place to dump their wastes. We collected over 180 sacks of wastes from the stream within four hours of our dedicated hardwork. Drenched and exhausted in the dirty stream, sixty five of us cleaned about 300 meters ofthe waste-ridden stream starting from the top of Metsina till the end of the town.

We are happy to get the necessary help from the newly elected tshogpa(one of the political parties in Bhutan), Mr.Kuenzang Dorji. In his conversation with some of the office bearers of EGBCNR he expressed his interest and commitment to collaborating with us in any social activities in and around Metsina. We would like to thank him for the refreshments for our much deserved social and environmental youth campaigners.

The cleaning campaign is funded by the College of Natural resources in fulfillment of its mandate as a concern institution for the social and environmental well being. We would like to thank the college management and look forward to similar support in near future. We also extend our heartfelt gratitude to the Environmental Officer of Punakha Dzongkhag who helped us to get the Municipal Waste collecting vehicle. Mr.Tshewang Lhendup, who an alumi of CNR and Assistant Research Officer with RSPN, also sponsored us with two cartons of mineral water. We would like to thank all our dedicated EGBCNR members for your unwavering support in all the activities and we look forward to the upcoming club activities!

Standing Rock: Breaking Open to Feeling

By Grace Slocum

This is my story of how I came to be at Standing Rock and what I witnessed while being there.
Standing in the darkening summer/autumn transition night, I hear the song come through the microphone. He is holding his phone up to the mic, and this song is leaking through …

It starts out soft and slowly we, standing in a circle, catch on and start to sing together, join together in a chorus of voices which are straight harmonic expressions of our souls. Our hands are touching, and we are turned inward together. I feel it with my whole body. I have to go. I need to go to Standing Rock this weekend. All the stories fall away, and I am standing naked in truth. This is what is most important. Something bigger than my own mind extends through me like a hand and propels me forward.


I feel on fire. I feel determined. I feel it in my heart. A heart pull, tugging me to this land that I have never been to before. This land that is a sacrifice zone, so `business as usual` can continue. Tugging me to these people that historically my own ancestors have slowly pushed out of their homes. It is my responsibility to the people of the past, to the people of the present, and to the people of the future that I show up and support this encounter in any humble way that I can.

I arrive back in Boulder and something is missing. Some part of my limbs still remains with the people and the land I have just come from. I feel a bit dismembered. I remember. What it is like to be living in a community of shared power, of sacred chaos, of prayer, of deep purpose, of water. Images flow through me, and my body rumbles as it begins the process of integrating back into modern life.

The image of the grass flowing in the wind like water.

The smell of the sage as hundreds of people pass through its smoke.

The bright colors of feathers. The weathered smiles. The sad eyes. The touching of the ground with tobacco.


I see an image of a mother with her child. I remember Shea and how we played, and he took me down to the water and taught me about wandering, freedom, and saying sorry. I remember the bee and how it came to me and wanted me to know about the pain of separation. We cannot do this anymore! It screamed! Living apart is like hell. Recognize us! See us! We are sentient! Like you! No bad, right, good, wrong, better, worse. The moment you think you are better than us, we will sting you, hard. Because that is not the way. It is pain for all of us if you continue to live like this… and shirk your destiny as caretakers of the Earth.

Water Protectors.

We are not protesters, we are protectors.

I watch as he raises his hand up in prayer, addressing the spirits. Calling out, his voice strong and singing. Hello beautiful, brave world! I am here! I praise you. Oh, beautiful water, thank you. I give thanks, and I am humbled by you.

I fall back from the others and find myself amongst the grasses. I tread near a tree that overlooks the plains. I bend softly down and place my hand near it. Hello cousin, hello friend. May I feel your rough and tumbled skin? I sink my hand into its flesh and feel the grandmother hiding inside the bark. She gives me a warm smile. A smile that makes my body writhe with deep feeling. And suddenly the grief pours through. I am sorry, I hear myself whispering. I am sorry what we have done to you. I am sorry that we have forgotten. That we cut you without asking. That we cut you down sometimes and do not even use all of your limbs, leaving you sitting there, bleeding out. The blood is not easily visible, yet I know it is there. I know you are bleeding and crying out, but we cannot hear. My heart hears. My heart hears you, and I bow my head in deep sadness. I bow my head in shame and humility for the division amongst us. For the ignorance, the blinders over our eyes and ears. I plead for forgiveness. May we make this right again. May we restore balance between our relations. May the crying out of the grief-stricken ones awaken the cold hearts of many, and may we rise, to meet ourselves in the tides, the skies, and the trees.

I am struck to the core by my experience at Standing Rock. It continues to swirl in my bones. The front lines will teach you what is real, I hear echoing around inside. They will give you a chance to touch what is really happening in our world. It is a place where anyone is welcome who feels the heart pull to relate differently with the world around us. It is a coming together, a unity fed by the uniqueness of each person`s particular gifts, skin color, and voice. Unity that is informed by the past, grounded in the present, and looks with hopeful and focused eyes to the future.  There is no centralized form of power at Standing Rock. It is the emerging of and returning to a community that is planted by power with one another instead of over.

I feel that this kind of power is stronger than any corporation or any sum of money. This kind of power is the kind of power that will carry us into a sustainable, just, and livable world.

Before heading into Sacred Stone Camp, a member of the Standing Rock Sioux tribe said to me: `In a way, Western culture has taught you to shut down and shut off your feeling. Now, we need you to turn that back on.`

A verbal invocation to feeling. To communities of urgency. To fierce recognition of our times and what they are asking of us. To setting a strong boundary. With love, with tenderness, with compassion. No, we shall not allow this anymore. No, you shall not pass.

We are building a new way.

Visit www.sacredstonecamp.org to stay up to date on whats happening and find ways to support!

Grace Slocum is currently a Naropa student, eco-poet, healer-activist and sound artist. She is an edgewalker and is dedicated to decolonization. You can follow her on her blog: visionsfromgrace.blogpost.com or soundcloud: soundcloud.com/elizabethmoon8.

 

A Day in Court

Our day in court was more than we could have ever expected! It was actually mind blowing and during the hearing all of us plaintiffs kept looking back and forth at each other in disbelief and excitement by the questions and comments Judge Aiken posed to the Federal Government and the Fossil Fuel attorney's. 

It was evident that Judge Aiken understands the imminent danger of our planet and the future of all species living on it because of climate change. 

The Federal government tried to argue that they don't need the courts to intervene because the EPA is doing their job - but Judge Ann Aiken called them out, by pointing out that we wouldn't be in this crisis if the EPA was doing their job. Our future hangs in the balance and this court will play a big role in deciding the kind of world we will be left with. 

Judge Aiken will release her decision to move our case forward to trial or not within the next 60 days. We are confident she will decide on behalf of our future, her children and all the children that will inherit the planet.

So everyone is aware we are suing the Federal Government to implement a climate recovery plan that would get our carbon emissions back down to a safe zone of 350 ppm and mass reforestation in the U.S.

Xiuhtezcatl speaking at the press conference after the hearing. Photo credit - Robin Loznak