By Ricardo Correa
The last weekend of July 2012 was an unforgettable one for many Texan activists. The Tar Sands Blockade (TSB) held an intensive training on non-violent direct actions (NVDA) near Sulphur Springs, Texas. This training brought together seasoned and young activists of all ages and many walks of life. They shared knowledge, experience, hope, and determination. The curriculum was designed to enable the organizing of like-minded individuals into cohesive and agile affinity groups capable of launching effective actions in defense of the home planet. The entire experience provided comprehensive and practical preparation for the struggle on which fate of half of the species of this planet depends, including that of our own.
Under upwards of 100 degree weather, all of us labored and prepared for the realities of our serious and sustained struggle: that of people of conscience vs. the machinery of destruction of suicidal capitalism, corporatism, and consumerism. This includes the threat to the planet posed by the Keystone XL pipeline being constructed by Trans-Canada, which will enable the relentless mining of the Alberta’s tar sands. By all measures, that will bring the ensured poisoning of aquifers, ecosystems, and communities across the US, and deliver a devastating blow to life all over the globe. Against a backdrop provided by east Texas in the worst drought in 50 years, and possibly the hottest summer on record, attendees and organizers alike saw their knowledge and determination enhanced by all and each one of the participants.
While some of the workshops on Saturday were held in a large hall, the great majority of the weekend was spent outdoors. Approximately 70 people answered the call to participate in the TSB’s convergence. Providing for that many people in the woods of Texas–from food and basic facilities to ensuring the availability of the precious water and shelter that is indispensable in the relentless heat–is not an easy feat. The Tar Sands Blockade executed these tasks successfully. This, along with the depth of knowledge and commitment displayed by the organizers, earned the TSB the trust and confidence of all the participants.
I found in each of the participants a reason to be inspired. However, it was a difficult weekend. The difficulties included the threats of dehydration and heat exhaustion. Perhaps more difficult was seeing one’s friends, new and old, participating in the non-violent direct actions enacted. A realistically portrayed police response was part of that exercise. Although it was controlled and fake, seeing the injustice and injury to which we expose ourselves in defense of the land is shaking. If the brutal police response to peaceful protesters in New York, Chicago, Davis, Anaheim, Appalachia, and other places across the U.S. is any indication, the possibility of criminal injury by the police to ourselves and our dear companions is undeniable. This is frightening. However, I, like every person with whom I shared the last weekend of July of 2012, choose to overcome that fear instead of being scared into inaction or willful denial. We choose to change the world, not to change the channel. We choose to be awake and aware. We choose to be inspired. All of us choose to stand, to shout, to be heard, and to resist. This weekend we chose to prepare, and TransCanada will know our name. We are the Tar Sands Blockade.