It all started several weeks ago at my intentional community, Columbia Ecovillage, here in Portland. Oregon. We are a 37 household cohousing community and urban permaculture farm in the northeast part of the city, and have lived together for 2 ½ years now, growing food, creating community bonds, and trying to live our values of deep democracy, sustainability, and friendship.
We share meals a few times a week, but that Friday I decided to organize an impromptu happy hour. It was one of the first sunny evenings we had had after a dreary spring and early summer. I shot out an email on our community listserv, announcing that I was making up a pitcher of margaritas and would be out at the patio around five o’clock. Typically, folks who get word arrive with glasses, wine, and snacks, and this was no exception. By the time we had all gathered, we had about 15 folks sitting around, licking the salt off their glasses and chatting.
Pam brought up the message she had received online from Bill McKibben about the planning of a massive civil disobedience action in Washington D.C. scheduled for later in the summer, including plans for two solid weeks of mass arrests at the White House. The issue was the Keystone XL Pipeline, a transcontinental, north to south underground pipeline proposed for approval by the president in November. I had received the same email, and we discussed the environmental effects of the tar sands and the pipeline: pipeline breaks that could poison the waters of millions of people,;heavy metals already causing cancers; songbird deaths; and, the biggest issue, a massive release of carbon into the atmosphere that would make any efforts to mitigate or reverse climate crisis impossible. NASA climatologist James Hansen stated that if the tar sands are unearthed and refined it is essentially “game over” in attempts to stabilize the climate.
Needless to say, despite the margaritas, the conversation grew somber as we sat with this information together. Pam then stated, “I want to go get arrested. This is so important.” I said, “I’m in!”, and another neighbor, Peg, also said she would go. We started thinking about others we might ask from the community. Pam and I had both had some experience in environmental and social justice activism. Peg had none. We got excited about the idea of traveling across the country together as a community to enact our values in another, more public way than our intentional community provided.
Over the next few days, we recruited two more neighbors. Pam calculated the carbon footprint for travel, and we decided to take a three day cross-country trip via Amtrak to Washington D.C. We found housing with the cousin of another community member, and I discovered through some of my connections in the faith community that the day we had selected- August 29th- was designated as an interfaith day of action. We are researching the arrest process and legal implications as well, and are talking about how we will coordinate and support each other through the legal process. There have been many jokes about mailing cakes (organic, gluten-free, dairy-free, etc.) to the jailhouse.
We worked to get word out about the issue, sending out a press release, being interviewed on community radio, and preparing for the journey. Other neighbors offered assistance to the effort; Heather would take care of my cat, Joe took the photo for our press release, a special send-off dinner planned, letters sent out to friends and family telling about our efforts and the issue.
Every day, as departure day approaches (August 24th), I am filled with gratitude for the synergy of energy and support offered within the ecovillage and the larger community. Indeed, as a climate activist I had been contemplating civil disobedience for the past five years, but may not have made the choice to go across the country by myself. It reinforces the whole “it takes a village…” idea to new heights of meaning in my heart. It takes a village to live together with care and intention, to dream, to share, to raise children, to sing and play, and, apparently, to go get a criminal record on behalf of the future of our planet home.