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Blockades and Tree Sits: Part of The Great Turning?

In her paradigm The Great Turning, a program for active eco-healing, one of the three dimensions Joanna Macy calls for centers “actions to slow the damage to Earth and its beings.”

Lately I’ve been inspired by people who seem to be taking up her call in a big way.  Since TransCanada began construction on the southern leg of the Keystone XL Pipeline, in Texas, international solidarity has rippled and spread: from indigenous people’s defense of Wet’suwet’en land in Canada, to working-class-focused direct actions in the Lone Star State.

Blockades, tree sits, and the eviction of developers may seem brazen and rough from the outside, especially as sensationalist mainstream media only takes note when locked-down protesters get pepper-sprayed in the face by police.  So I was delighted to come across this delicately beautiful reflection by one of the Texas tree-sitters, Cat Ripley.  Don’t know if she’s Buddhist, but her account (on day 65 of the tree-sitting blockade) has that luminous quality of someone deeply immersed in the present moment, with an implacable commitment to the well-being of all.

I lived up here for twelve days and came down about a week and a half ago. I see work on the pipe has progressed. I look around and I feel the struggle of my brothers. I see a fissure in a mighty bough that has become more pronounced.

I am recognized by the police, but I am remembered by the trees.

The night before I returned, my comrade and I led another into the tree village. Taking the long way in, we bushwhacked through thickets, crossing over a creek and through a meadow, following the drone of the generators and hiding in the deep shadows cast by the floodlights. I remember well the feeling of being back, and how my perception had changed.

Knowing that our friends who just returned to the ground had some hardships, particularly the cold, we started moving between platforms early, with the sun. It helps to move about, not only for warmth but also for ones sanity. In my time here, I had grown envious of the fires below us.

In retaliation, we found a metal bucket in one of the tree platforms that we affectionately call “The Condo”, and suspended it by wire above the platform. We then scavenged for wood from various dead branches, set aside a good stock of tinder and kindling, and had ourselves a rowdy bum fire that night. It was brilliant.

You can read the rest of Cat’s story, and learn more about the Tar Sands Blockades and how to support their efforts, at  Or visit their Facebook page.  And some of y’all probly know more about what’s going on than I do, so please share helpful resources, links, and information in comments!

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Comments (1)

  • Larry Christensen

    I was disappointed to see and hear the three panelists characterize meditation as “doing nothing” and that “real” action is social action. This sort of dichotomous thinking is exactly the sort of problem at Buddhism is trying to avoid. Let us instead see meditation as social action and social action as mediation.

© 2017 Buddhist Peace Fellowship

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