By Kerry Lemon, NacSTOP (Nacogdoches County Stop Tarsands Oil Permanently)
I went to Washington D.C. for the Forward on Climate rally with seven other women from Texas. Most of us were from the small college town of Nacogdoches in East Texas. Many of us have been working to stop TransCanada from constructing the Keystone XL Pipeline through our communities for several years. Two of the women are fighting against having this pipeline on their land. One of my friends commented that the rally was a “life affirming” experience. Indeed, it was exciting and empowering to be in the presence of so many people who all were claiming for our world a vision of energy production that is renewable, sustainable, and non-destructive.
The powerful presence of indigenous people from Canada and the United States was the most moving part of the day for me. They spoke with a dignified and clear voice about the importance of putting the life of our planet above the pursuit of money. These neighbors are watching their beloved land be destroyed and their families be sickened by the greedy, thoughtless acquisition of tar sands oil from under the boreal forests. These communities along with rural, working class, and economically disenfranchised communities in America (and around the world) have in common that they are bearing the burden of much of this corporate greed. It felt like remembering a dream. I had an awakened awareness of the “rightness” of coming together with others to move forward on these issues.
In my community, it isn’t always easy and comfortable to speak out against big oil. There are many who believe that economics and personal needs are priorities above all else. I understand the desperation that is bred from scraping by day after day while trying to provide for a family. Certainly, the indigenous people of Canada understand this also. They are an economically disadvantaged people. Still, they know that the land is the source of their true wealth. Hearing them speak, listening to their drums, seeing their strong faces, and experiencing the generosity of their spirits strengthened my resolve that working to stop this pipeline is of greater significance than any other possible considerations.
These people have seen the destruction of their communities. No amount of money is worth watching your homelands be destroyed, your family and neighbors health be threatened, and your community be sold out from under you for a small penance of the astronomical profits of large corporations. I am unwilling to sit by and watch this kind of injustice happen in my community or any other community.
An estimated 40,000 diverse people from all parts of the United States and Canada came together yesterday. It was a jubilant experience, a great example of living in a free, democratic country. In spite of the bitter cold wind, there was chanting, music, dancing, laughter, and celebration. We unique individuals with all our varied opinions and perspectives spoke as one voice.
At the end of the day, the indigenous leaders gathered us together and reminded us to look into our hearts. There was a moment of silence. This was a brave, bold act in such a large crowd. Yet, it worked. We all stopped and listened to the quiet of our own hearts beating. It was then that I understood and knew beyond any doubt; this was the right place to be, the right time to be here. Our voices will be heard because no one can argue with the vision of a better world. Change is coming. But, have faith, we have been awakened. Running alongside the sad and scary pipeline beast is a big, ancient friendly dragon bringing changes from the heart of the People.