I call myself Viridi, and I am writing this while 80-feet from the ground.
Despite the few telecommunications that we can transmit and receive on solar energy, our tree blockade feels like a separate, distant place. I am writing this because I want you to hear our voices, and to feel inspired by our unfolding stories in this struggle against tar sands exploitation. Ultimately, I would love to see you join us somewhere on one of our many battlegrounds against the corporate giant, TransCanada.
This past Wednesday, September 26, many of us had a gut-wrenchingly visceral day. Around noon, another TransCanada helicopter buzzed over our platforms. As I heard its distant, incoming hum I shouted to the other trees and covered myself. My heart fluttered as I hid. The tallest leaves of the white oak I inhabit quivered and shook as it circled directly overhead. The air was tense until the sound of the machine faded. TransCanada has been eyeing us this way for weeks, but this was my first time being so close.
Within an hour we could hear the sounds of heavy machinery on the ground. They were slicing and crushing trees and undergrowth past a temporary timber bridge they had built 1,000-feet away. The machines continued to move closer, until they came into sight. The loud squeal of the bullhorn at our timber scaffolding wall 100-feet north of me cued us all to put on bandanas to protect our identity from lawsuits, as surveyors on foot approached. I peered behind the tarp that draped my platform to listen. The workers were pacing around, joking and harassing our comrades at the timber scaffold. They are our first line of defense.
The engines had stopped, and in that break of silence, a powerful voice came from 50-feet up, “This is a peaceful protest! If any of these structures are tampered with, people will be seriously injured or killed, and the world will know!” No response. “Turn your bulldozers and earthmovers around and leave this place!” Immediately, an engine fired again. The surveyors turned around to leave our frontline as the enormous feller buncher, a tree-killing machine, made its way closer.
Seconds slowly passed as decades of living growth was destroyed within only seconds. My heart began to race as falling trees and brush came within my sight, a haze of vaporized life stood still in the air ahead. I switched from my main climb line and climbed 20-feet higher for a better view. I watched the yellow-painted metal of the buncher as it tore through my reality and home. It reached a colossal white oak—easily 70-years-old and perhaps a sibling of the one I clutched—and swiftly sheared it at its waist. The oak’s great being fell, crushing the living floor below. An instinctual rush filled my gut and I screamed as loud as I ever have before. I immediately slumped in tears, dangling above my platform in despair of what this toxic pipeline would continue to do to our dying planet.
Meanwhile, the machine was approaching fast, carving a straight path toward our defense. It was only feet away now, ripping the earth and trees directly in front of the timber scaffolding without regard for our safety.
Oh my God.
My comrades stood firmly resilient on the scaffolding, despite the serious danger. I thought of the day before, when the same machine operator nearly crushed our friend with a fallen tree. I was scared for their lives. I wished for this insanity and devastation to stop. But the machine continued, against all logic and safety. It passed along the width of our timber scaffolding, not a tree’s height away, and dropped the dead to the north.
Our blockade defenders stood strong and recorded the wreckage as the machine cleared the rest of the pipeline easement to the North. It took only two hours for the entire swath of land before us to lay dead in TransCanada’s wake. Finally, the machine disappeared out of sight, the engine killed, and only the buzzing of chainsaws remained for the last few minutes of the workday.
I took me a while to gather myself, to come down from the tree and witness what had happened that day. A few others and I climbed over the corpses of our fallen friends. I picked some thrashed, edible life that lay limp in a discarded pile. There were now wandering creatures, anoles, aves, insects, and others, who, displaced by the devastation, were seeking new homes. I was emotionally drained, alienated from myself and snarled paths that I had walked before. The only hope I could grasp at that moment was that our defense would hold longer here, long enough to inspire others to link arms and fight against this disingenuous and malevolent corporate industry.
I am here writing from this place because I can’t go on seeing these homes and places destroyed for profit, but also because I can’t live and sleep knowing that it’s happening without resistance. I am writing because I think you care about these stories, and because I want you to. I not only want you to listen, but to send us your love, good intentions, and everything within your power and privilege. I want you to feel the swelling joy and deep despair of defending living lands and homes from annihilation and private profiteering. This means I also want to meet you here for our upcoming Direct Action Training Camp October 12th-14th. I want you to join our collective struggle against tar sands exploitation. Our movement needs you in order for these spaces of resistance to grow as we fight for a more habitable world and more just communities.
Courage, as our struggle continues,