Personal Freedom and Moral Obligation

it’s 3:23 in the morning
and I’m awake
because my great great grandchildren
won’t let me sleep
my great great grandchildren
ask me in dreams
what did you do while the planet was plundered?
what did you do when the earth was unraveling?
— Drew Dellinger from Hieroglyphic Stairway
Leonard Higgins, Climate Activist

Leonard Higgins, Climate Activist

I first met Leonard Higgins in 2006 through my work as a computer consultant. We fast became friends and I introduced him to The Work That Reconnects as taught by Joanna Macy. The work awakened him to the issues of social justice and climate change, as he found a place to digest the grief he felt for the world and over the years became a climate change activist. Last month during a walk in a local park, he shared with me his plans to take part in an action of civil disobedience that could likely result in a lengthy prison sentence.

Because of the climate change emergency, because governments and corporations have for decades increased fossil fuel extraction and carbon emissions when instead we must dramatically reduce carbon emissions; I am committed to the moral necessity of participating in nonviolent direct action to protect life.
— Leonard Higgins

On Tuesday, Oct. 11, he was one of five activists arrested for attempting to shut down all tar sands oil coming into the United States from Canada by manually turning off pipelines in Minnesota, Montana, North Dakota and Washington state. Five other supporters and videographers were also arrested. The group, which calls itself Climate Direct Action, posted videos of their coordinated actions, notified the energy companies of their intention and then waited to be arrested. The activists issued a statement on saying the action was in support of the call for International Days of Prayer and Action for Standing Rock. The climate direct action was not reported in mainstream media but covered by Democracy Now.

Do we have a moral obligation to help future generations? And at what cost? Leonard Higgins is one of the few people I know personally who is willing to give up his own personal freedom for a greater cause with no guarantee that his action will make a difference. But for those that see this as an act of courage, they might look within their own hearts and find their own calling to make a difference.

We’re in a state of emergency to protect our loved ones and our families, our communities. We need to step up as citizens and take action where our leaders are not. That’s what I’m prepared to do when I close the valve.
— Leonard Higgins

What will you tell your great grandchildren when they ask you, "What did you do when the planet was plundered, the earth unraveling?"

As I write this, all activists have been released on bail. To help defray the costs of this action and upcoming legal expenses you can donate here.

October 13th: After shutting down five major crude oil pipelines that carry Canadian tar sands into the United States, activists hold firm to their conviction that shutting these pipelines down is necessary and that their actions to do so Tuesday, as ordinary citizens, are morally justified given the state of the climate crisis and lack of appropriate action by governments. Pipelines were shut down simultaneously in Minnesota, North Dakota, Montana and Washington state.
After being released from Clearwater County Jail in Minnesota for shutting down Enbridge Line 4 and 67 with Annette Klapstein, Emily Johnston of Seattle, WA said, “I need now this country to understand viscerally why we’ve done this. If we all understand this, and the risks to our lives now, there’s still a chance that we can turn from this catastrophic path, and leave a decent world behind. If we all go about our daily lives though, there is so such chance.
We cannot leave these fights to those with the least resources, who face the greatest risk; whats happening in places like Standing rock is amazing and inspiring, but we all must fight this fight, everywhere we can — only then can the world change as quickly as we need it to.”
Annette Klapstein said, “I am very happy to be out of jail, and amazed at all the support and love that's been flowing in for us--this is the strength and beauty of our movement, and it makes us far more powerful than the fossil fuel industry will ever be. Given the enormity and the immediacy of the crisis, we know that we had to do this, and we know that by acting in a way that begins to be commensurate with the risks we all face, we can give people hope to stay below 1.5C, and pressure politicians to begin to act appropriately."
Two activists, two support team members, and one independent documentary film maker were in jail a second night in Cavalier, ND and Fort Benton, MT. All were released on bail Thursday. In total 10 individuals were arrested: 5 valve-turners, 2 people acting in support roles, and 3 independent documentary film crew members.
Charges range from criminal trespass, sabotage, burglary, criminal mischief.
Ken Ward, of Corbett, OR, who turned the valve on Kinder-Morgan’s TransMountain pipeline said ”Watching as the same, high amounts are being imposed for bail in our varied locations - $75,000 for valve turners, $50,000 for supporters and $25,000 or less for independent media - it's clear that we are being met with a coordinated, severe, governmental response. The simple, naive part of me wonders how can this be? I am charged with sabotage, among other things, for trying to stop one of the very worst sources of carbon emissions, which are sabotaging the conditions that make civilization possible and on which the security of the nation depends. Why is the government using laws designed to squelch effective action in the face of climate cataclysm? Who, really, are the saboteurs here?"
The activists arrested are: Ken Ward, Emily Johnston, Annette Klapstein, Michael Foster and Leonard Higgins. The support people arrested are: Sam Jessup and Reed Ingalls. The independent documentary film makers arrested are: Deia Schlosberg, Lindsey Grayzel and Carl Davis.

UPDATE - 10/14/16: Deia Schlosberg charged with 3 felonies for filming protest with a maximum punishment of 45 years in prison. See passionate plea by producer Josh Fox to stop this insanity