Keystone Pipeline – We Shall Overcome

              Yesterday I joined hundreds of people all over the United States at 270 sites across the nation to come together to let President Obama know that building the Keystone Pipeline is not acceptable. I honestly thought I wasn’t going to make it given that my area was getting a torrent of snow, but I stubbornly trudged through two miles of deep snow to the local train station to get into New York City. This is a cause I believe in and I’ll be damned if a little bit of snow keeps me from it.
              I am glad I donned my Antarctic parka (which in hindsight might have been a bit of an overkill, but I was toasty the entire time) and made my trek into the City. I have been feeling overall pessimistic about the Keystone Pipeline, as evident in my last two posts. There’s something about being in a group of like-minded people that share your passion that electrifies the spirit and gives you hope.
              At the end of the vigil we sang the classic, “We Shall Overcome,” which given Pete Seeger’s recent passing made me really take in the song more than I ever have in the past. I felt Pete’s presence there with us as I know if he were alive he would have been there or at a KXL protest nearest him. The song is a quiet, enduring, steadfast song of peace meant to be sung in unity. It is the epitome of everything Pete stood for.
              It is also the epitome of everything we are fighting for when we fight for the rejection of the Keystone Pipeline. We shall overcome the Keystone Pipeline someday. Someday we will look back and say we did not put that pipeline in the ground and bring that dirty oil down from Canada. We can look back on that accomplishment in pride. And if they reject the pipeline and they want to bring it by rail, we will still be there to block their way and we will overcome that as well. Deep in our hearts we know this. We will walk hand in hand in peace until we drive those forces of dirty energy set to destroy our environment away from our borders. We are not afraid. Deep in our heart, we do believe, we shall overcome some day.

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On Activism & Pete Seeger

The environmental and human rights movement has lost their tuning fork on Monday, the great Pete Seeger. I was fortunate enough to be one of the many to see and hear Pete sing live at President Obama’s inauguration in 2009. A year before that I got to listen to him give a private concert with his grandson in the Catskills. But Pete really didn’t give concerts – he led sing-a-longs. Anywhere Pete was singing – whether it was a gathering of 50 people or millions, he always got everyone together to join him and sing. He had the immense power to bring people together.

There is much that can be learned from the example of Pete Seeger. He is a man that has always fought for the less fortunate, always stood for what is right, never wavered from his path, and always stayed true to himself. There is one thing though about Pete Seeger that has always stood out and has always inspired me: his activism. I remember an interview he once gave on Democracy Now! and I whenever I get discouraged about making a difference, I always remember it:

I imagine the future is going to be a million little things saving the world. I imagine a big seesaw. And at one end of the seesaw is on the ground with a basket half full of big rocks in it. The other end of the seesaw is up in the air, it’s got a basket one-quarter full of sand. And some of us have got teaspoons and we’re trying to fill it with sand. A lot of people are laughing at us & saying “oh people like you have been trying do that for thousands of years, it’s leaking out as fast as you’re putting it in.”  But we’re saying “we’re getting more people with teaspoons all the time and we think one of these years you’ll see that whole seesaw go in the other direction.” And the other people will say “gee how did it happen so suddenly?” Us & all of our little teaspoons.

This analogy of the seesaw is something that stuck with me. Sometimes, whatever task us activists take on, feels monumental. It feels like there’s no way we can make a difference. But it is important to remember that we are. Pete often said “the future is going to be a million little things saving the world.” I frequently have heard him say this in other interviews. It is a message that needs to get out there to every activist that is trying to save the world. It makes a difference to every tree we plant, to ever bird we release, to ever piece of plastic we recycle. These are all the teaspoons of sand we are putting in the basket that will eventually tip the seesaw in our favor.

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