Surveiling Dakota Land Defenders Has Biblical Resonance

Two recent articles (see below) document what land defenders fighting the Keystone XL and Dakota Access pipelines have been reporting anecdotally: they are being aggressively surveiled and treated like enemy combatants, not Americans. As Sojourners publisher Joe Roos said during the Reagan era, “The real goal of most domestic surveillance is political control. The suppression of domestic political dissent and the containment of social change movements lie more at the heart of our government’s intentions.” And Bill Wylie-Kellermann reminds us that “In truth, [surveillance] is an ancient tactic of the powers, one with which Jesus contended and coped.”

Wylie-Kellermann continues, “An eye for surveillance material in the New Testament is a little like paranoia; it begins to stare back at you from every page. In a recent re-reading of the four gospels, I counted easily more than 40 instances where Jesus or his followers are being watched, watched for, or sought. Add to that some 25 or more references to plottings against him and his friends, and you begin to get the creeps. At the point in John where Jesus himself is accused of being “paranoid” (7:20), we can take sympathy. He has good reason to be. In general, the gospel of John (so often revered as the least political) appears to have the most abundant material on surveillance. There we are granted a dramatic view most privy to the counsel of the authorities, and there the actions of Jesus in response are most versatile and conscious. Of the synoptics Luke is the most explicit about the plots: “So they watched him, and sent spies, who pretended to be sincere, that they might take hold of what he said, so as to deliver him up to the authority and jurisdiction of the governor” (Luke 20:20). These agents do deliver. At the trial those political charges are brought, with a host of witnesses to back them up.”

There is nothing new under the sun and our authentic witness for the integrity of creation continues to provoke responses in the Powers That Be. So, beloved, be “wise as serpents, and gentle as doves.”–RMB

Paramilitary security tracked and targeted DAPL opponents as “jihadists,” docs show by Antonia Juhasz for Grist

“As people nationwide rallied last year to support the Standing Rock Sioux’s attempts to block the Dakota Access Pipeline, a private security firm with experience fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan launched an intrusive military-style surveillance and counterintelligence campaign against the activists and their allies, according to internal company documents.

Its surveillance targets included everyone from Native American demonstrators to the actress Shailene Woodley, along with organizations including Black Lives Matter, 350.org, Veterans for Peace, the Catholic Worker Movement, and Food and Water Watch. The records label the protestors “jihadists” and seek to justify escalating action against them.

The activities of the company spanned, but were not limited to, the four states through which the pipeline passes: South Dakota, North Dakota, Iowa, and Illinois. The documents also show that its surveillance efforts continued after the breakup of the Standing Rock camps this winter, including at ongoing pipeline protests in southeastern Pennsylvania, Iowa, and South Dakota.

The internal documents from the firm, called TigerSwan, take the form of situation reports, or “sitreps,” prepared between September and April for its employer, Texas-based pipeline developer Energy Transfer Partners. The records detail a range of tactics that experts from the American Civil Liberties Union, National Lawyers Guild, and Electronic Frontier Foundation say would likely be illegal if conducted by law enforcement. …” Read more here.

Leaked Documents Reveal Counterterrorism Tactics used at Standing Rock to ‘Defeat Pipeline Insurgencies’ by Alleen Brown, Will Parrish, Alice Speri at The Intercept

“… The situation reports also suggest that TigerSwan attempted a counterinformation campaign by creating and distributing content critical of the protests on social media.

The Intercept is publishing a first set of TigerSwan’s situation reports from September 2016, which describe the company’s initial operations. We are also publishing two additional situation reports dated October 16 and November 5, along with PowerPoint presentations shared with law enforcement that correspond to the same dates. The names of private individuals whose actions are not already in the public record, or whose authorization we did not obtain, have been redacted to protect their privacy. The Intercept will publish the remaining situation reports in the coming weeks.

In addition, The Intercept is publishing a selection of communications, obtained by public records requests, detailing coordination between a wide range of local, state, and federal agencies, which confirm that the FBI participated in core Dakota Access-related law enforcement operations starting soon after protests began last summer. Finally, we are publishing two additional documents, also in the public record, that detail TigerSwan’s role spearheading Energy Transfer Partner’s multipronged security operation. …” Read more here.

No Keystone Pipeline: ‘Offer your bodies as a living sacrifice’

Tar sands mining in former arboreal forest.
Tar sands mining in former arboreal forest.

Dear Friends,

I (and about 200 others) will be risking arrest today downtown at the corporate offices of the Environmental Resources Management company at 17th and I Sts NW, in Washington, D.C.

ERM is the “independent contractor” hired by the State Department (and regularly used by TransCanada) that assessed the Keystone XL pipeline to be “climate neutral.” This is the first time their offices have been in the spotlight. The demonstration is organized by 350.org.

As you know, I’ve been working against the Keystone XL since 2011. In the last 6 weeks, TransCanada has been feeling the pressure. They’ve hired an “crisis communications” company to handle all their press and promotions. They’ve pushed out all kinds of new advertising (including green TransCanada banner ads in the iPhone version of The Washington Post).

They are spending millions and millions of dollars. The only thing we can do is interpose our bodies. As Paul put it when writing to the Jesus-followers living in the belly of the beast, “Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship” (Romans 12:1).

There is a support rally beginning at 11am at Farragut Square. Then the group will walk to the building at 17th & I Sts. Some folks will proceed into the building. Others will maintain a legal presence on the sidewalk outside. If we are arrested, the likely scenario is that we will be taken to the Second District police station and post bond from there. There is a very slight possibility that we would be held over the weekend.

I’d also covet your prayers – especially that I remain calm and unafraid. You can follow some of the event on Twitter @350 or #nokxl or @sojocreation.

Peace and All Good,
Rose Berger

Tar Sands Blockade and John 15

As President Obama winds down two American war fronts in Iraq and Afghanistan, what will he do about the war at home? Watch this 50-minute video to better understand the nonviolent war being waged by Americans in Texas and Oklahoma against a foreign company which has hired a private army to protect its corporate interests.

From a Christian perspective, the moral war against the Keystone XL pipeline and bitumen tar mining has already been won, as our evangelicals brethren would say, in “the Lordship of Jesus Christ.” The Tar Sands Blockade and the nonviolent war being waged to defend God’s land and people is what the real “new evangelism” looks like: chaining oneself to corporate bulldozers, living in tree sits for months on end to protect the forest, living in a concrete pipe to shut down the construction zone, walking through burn zones to protect property lines, being dragged away by “off-duty police” hired as private security.

Isn’t this what Jesus talked about when he said, “There is no greater love than this: that a person would lay down his life for the sake of his friends” (John 15:13)? I think it is.

Here’s more about the film and filmmaker:

Continue reading “Tar Sands Blockade and John 15”

Video: ‘Developing Tar Sands Means Losing Control of the Climate’

“If we fully develop the tar sands, we will certainly lose control of the climate. We will get to a point where we can not walk back from the cliff,” says climate scientist Dr. John Abraham. The Keystone XL pipeline is the lynch pin to developing the tar sands in Alberta.

As many of you know, I’ve been paying attention to the Keystone pipeline development since 2011 when it was under review by the State Department. I joined a group of religious leaders to deliver thousands of petitions to Dr. Kerri-Ann Jones, Assistant Secretary of State for Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs, asking her to to stop the pipeline. I said to her, “If this decision about the pipeline was made purely based on the climate science, we wouldn’t be here having this discussion.” She didn’t disagree. The exploitation of tar sands will significantly worsen the climate.

Now, new scientific data shows that developing the tar sands (and the pipeline to carry it) is worse than previously known. The video above shows climate scientists countering the notion that the climate impacts of the Keystone XL pipeline are small compared to total U.S. global greenhouse gas emissions. Nathan Lemphers, a Senior Policy Analyst with the Pembina Institute, details how the Keystone XL is a critical ingredient to significant expansion of tar sands. He dispels the myth being promoted by the tar sands oil industry that tar sands development is inevitable with our without Keystone XL. That’s not true. All other routes are similarly being blocked.

Lorne Stockman, Research Director for Oil Change International, announced new research that shows that the emissions from tar sands oil are worse than originally believed. This is because the climate emissions from a byproduct of tar sands, petroleum coke which is made in the refinery process and is used in coal-fired power plants, have not been previously considered. “If Keystone is approved,” says Dr. Danny Harvey, professor at the University of Toronto, “we’re locking in several more decades of fossil fuels and higher levels of carbon dioxide and global warming.”

“Climate change is the story related to Keystone. The drought and heat wave in Texas cost Texans $5.2 billion. Hurricane Sandy cost us $70 billion,” says Dr. John Abraham, climate scientist at the University of St. Thomas. “Some people say it’s too expensive to develop clean energy. I say it’s too expensive not to.”

After the largest climate protests in U.S. history were held in Washington, D.C., in 2011, the fight against the Keystone XL went back to the regions along the pipeline route.

Hundreds have been arrested in their attempts to block the bulldozers. There are farmers engaged in numerous local law suits against TransCanada’s pressure on local governments to use “imminent domain” to force them to give up their property to the corporation. There are First Nations and American Indian communities in treaty battles to keep TransCanada’s massive machinery off their lands.

There are Buddhist nuns walking the pipeline route in prayers for the earth and her people. A 92-year-old Lakota grandmother stood in front and blocked the giant rigs hauling pipe. Twenty-somethings are launching “tree sits” in the construction path. A Baptist church in Nacogdoches, Texas, near the pipeline route, has launched a new young adult and youth ministry specifically for and with Keystone XL activists.

On Feb. 17, the movement will come back to Washington, D.C.

You come too. We need you. Now is the time for all good Americans to come to the aid of their country. And for all good Christians to come to the aid of our world’s most vulnerable.

Rose Marie Berger: The Thing From the Oil Company Board Room

"Skin of Evil" Star Trek: The Next Generation

The Global North and West is addicted to fossilized fuel. Myself included. And we are trying to push our addictions onto the Global South.

Everywhere we look the fossil fuel pushers are in our face, luring us into our next fix.

Not a week after the elections, the American Petroleum Institute launched ads in Alaska, Louisiana, New Mexico, Colorado, Virginia, Arkansas, and North Carolina targeting U.S. senators who are raising the issue of climate change; specifically, the ones calling into question oil company subsidies.

The oil and gas companies try seduction (“fighting for jobs”). They try fear (“we are too big to fail”). They accuse us of being unfair to them (“Discriminatory treatment of the oil and gas industry is a bad idea”). They try bullying and slandering.

Even when our court system recently convicted one of them killing (BP convicted of “manslaughter” for the 11 murdered on Gulf Oil spill rigs), they are not stopped.

We can’t unhook ourselves by ourselves. We have to fight the pushers by banding together and taking action through public policy, business, and civil society action.

The board of directors of these six corporations–ExxonMobil, ConocoPhillips, Chevron, Peabody, Arch, and BP–will do anything to make money. They are terrorizing our planet. Just ask the folks in Rockaway, NY, the Jersey Shore, and the Caribbean.

Are they “good men”? Upstanding men? Do they love their families? Of course. Do they go to church? Probably. Are they nice to animals? Most likely. Are they perpetrating a great evil of transnational proportions? Yes, they are.

They are like “The Thing From Another World” rising up from under the ice to kill the scientists by altering the temperature in the research station. The Thing requires human blood to survive and reproduce. Ugh.

What do we do about them? How do we help them do what is right and protect ourselves and our earth at the same time?

First, pray for the salvation of their souls. Second, direct our communal action at the corporations’ bottom lines.

Here are three steps:

1. Divest. Start with churches, universities, and towns. For managed portfolios, commit to zero direct investment in fossil fuels. For those who operate through the use of exchange-traded funds, direct your fund managers to bias against fossil fuels. (Here is the targeted list of carbon reserve companies to give your fund manager to set up an bias against investment.) Unity University in Maine is the first academic institution to divest. Vancity Credit Union has also divested.

2. Demand strong carbon “fee-and-dividend” laws on corporate carbon emitters at the local, state, and federal level. Push for an end to oil company subsidies. This fight will be part of the “fiscal cliff” deliberations.

3. Take personal responsibility. Right now there are 11 people in jail in Nacogdoches, Texas, arrested for resisting TransCanada’s takeover of land for the climate-killing Keystone XL pipeline. Some of them are being charged with felonies for their nonviolent direct action to stop the mining company that will exponentially increase global warming if allowed to complete its project. What can you do?

The World Bank has just released a blockbuster new report called Turn Down the Heat: Why A 4 Degree Centigrade Warmer World Must Be Avoided. The World Economic Forum, the European Union, and other world bodies will be discussing its content over the next few weeks and months. Read it. Ask your representatives and leaders if they have read it. Stir up some conversation.

“Hope” is part if the DNA of Christians. So is courage. So be bold, my friends, be courageous. Take hope in Christ. Be heartened in the struggle. Remember that because God so loves this world, God gave God’s begotten child. And we are of that lineage and race.–Rose Marie Berger

Video: Bill Moyers on Victory in Stopping Keystone XL Pipeline

Thanks Bill Moyers and Bill Maher!

[Note: Bill Maher describes the Keystone XL pipeline as bringing “natural gas” from Canada to the United States. This is wrong. It was intended to bring a non-traditional heavy crude extracted from the tar sands in Alberta — a process that releases 3 times more greenhouse gases into the environment than even traditional crude oil.]

Stephen Colbert Interviews Bill McKibben on “Delayed Until Denied” Keystone XL Pipeline

“They are getting the oil out of the oil sands. On the upside, doesn’t that leave us nice clean sand when we are done, which Alberta will need when it is water front property in 50 years?”–Stephen Colbert

When the White House Calls to Say ‘Okay, You Win’

It didn’t take long – after news broke this afternoon that President Obama had indefinitely kyboshed the climate-killer Keystone XL pipeline – for my phone to ring.

“Hi Rose, I’m calling from White House on behalf of President Obama. We wanted to makes sure you’d seen the President’s executive order postponing the permitting of the pipeline until another environmental impact report can be done, especially focusing on sensitive environmental issues in Nebraska. And we want to thank you for your good work on this issue. We’re just reaching out to let you know that the President hears you and we hope you’ll continue to help us focus on the really critical issues that are facing us right now.”

This afternoon President Obama made an official announcement on the Keystone XL Pipeline that so many of you have been working on these last several months: “Because this permit decision could affect the health and safety of the American people as well as the environment, and because a number of concerns have been raised through a public process, we should take the time to ensure that all questions are properly addressed and all the potential impacts are properly understood. … The final decision should be guided by an open, transparent process that is informed by the best available science and the voices of the American people.”

Wow! What started as an issue among First Nations folks on both sides of the U.S.-Canadian border, expanded to the American Midwest where churches, farmers, and environmentalists were warning of corporate shenanigans that could poison the Ogallala aquifer (“America’s well”), and has become an international issue with more than 650,000 people signing petitions to stop the Keystone XL pipeline, has now shifted a United States president and his administration away from their earlier stated intentions.

Developing the Canadian tar sands to extract unconventional petroleum has been a disastrous proposal from the very beginning. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency points out that Canadian tar sands carbon emissions are “82 percent greater than the average crude refined in the U.S., on a well-to-tank basis.” This pipeline is a climate killer. It is morally right for President Obama to delay this decision until he can deny the permit.

We must remain vigilant to make sure powerful corporate interests don’t merely drive the decision-making process underground. We can also thank the President, the State Department, and especially the Environmental Protection Agency for truly acting on our national interest by giving more deliberate scrutiny to this particular pipeline, tar sands development, and push them continue shifting our nation toward renewable fuels and energy and the “clean jobs” needed to take us forward.
This is a great win. Who are the winners? Poor people who are most critically affected by climate change. Midwest farmers who must protect their land and our water supply. Indigenous communities who lives are threatened by tar sands development.

Who are the biggest “winners”? People of faith. Our earth is a prayer that we offer back in praise of our Creator. Let us dance and celebrate and praise God for God’s guiding presence – and keep a watchful eye those who would lead us down the road that leads to destruction (Matthew 7:13).

Thank you everyone who is working so hard to stop this pipeline. Take a moment to do a little dance! Because those who don’t dance have run out of steam when the revolution arrives!

[See God’s Politics blog for more on this topic.]

Jeffrey Sachs to Wall Street: A Case of Criminal Stupidity?

"Golden Calf" returns to Wall Street, October 2011.

Economist Jeffrey Sachs explains the Occupy Wall Street protesters and the anti-Keystone XL pipeline movement to the Wall Street Journal editorial board and hedge-fund managers. Sachs is also Special Adviser to United Nations Secretary-General on the Millennium Development Goals.

I love to see the prophetic imagination played out in the headlines of our times!

“Is it not the rich who are exploiting you? Are they not the ones who are dragging you into court? Are they not the ones who are slandering the noble name of him to whom you belong?”–James 2:6

“For wicked men live among My people. They watch like fowlers lying in wait. They set a trap; they catch men. Like a cage full of birds, so their houses are full of deceit. Therefore they have grown powerful and rich.”–Jeremiah 5:26-27

Sachs writes in Message to Wall Street:

“The [Occupy Wall Street] protesters are not envious of wealth, but sick of corporate lies, cheating, and unethical behavior. They are sick of corporate lobbying that led to the reckless deregulation of financial markets; they are sick of Wall Street and the Wall Street Journal asking for trillions of dollars of near-zero-interest loans and bailout money for the banks, but then fighting against unemployment insurance and health coverage for those drowning in the wake of the financial crisis; they are sick of absurdly low tax rates for hedge-fund managers; they are sick of Rupert Murdoch and his henchman David Koch trying to peddle the Canada-to-Gulf Keystone oil pipeline as an honest and environmentally sound business deal, when in fact it would unleash one of the world’s dirtiest and most destructive energy sources, Canada’s oil sands, so that Koch can profit while the world suffers. And they are sick of learning how many Republican politicians – the most recent news is about Herman Cain – are doing the bidding of the Koch brothers.

Here, then, Wall Street and Big Oil, is what it comes down to. The protesters are no longer giving you a free ride, in which you can set the regulations, set your mega-pay, hide your money in tax havens, enjoy sweet tax rates at the hands of ever-willing politicians, and await your bailouts as needed. The days of lawlessness and greed are coming to an end. Just as the Gilded Age turned into the Progressive Era, just as the Roaring Twenties and its excesses turned into the New Deal, be sure that the era of mega-greed is going to turn into an era of renewed accountability, lawfulness, modest compensation, honest taxation, and government by the people rather than by the banks. …”

Read Sachs’ whole commentary.