Tomorrow we complete the first phase of our project here in south central Wisconsin. I guess the best name for it, is Ready, Set, Smart. Our goal was to reach every easement owner, adjacent property owner and others in the spill zone of Enbridge’s Mainline Corridor in Jefferson and Dane County. It was very important to me, to try to meet and speak with as many of them as I possibly could personally so I went out on each canvas. I didn’t get to meet everyone, but I did get to meet a lot of the 300 some residents we canvased.
I learned that their relationships with Enbridge go back decades, and even generations. Often times, their fate sealed by decisions their ancestors made many years ago, decades ago, even several generations ago. Not all of the people had negative impressions of Enbridge, but those people seemed more influenced by monetary issues, depending mostly on how they perceived financial renumeration versus any attachment to the land emotionally. By far most people didn’t care about the financial renumeration, they preferred that the pipelines were not there. If they could snap their fingers, the corridor would be gone and surprisingly, to many, money was not an issue. Most didn’t want it, at any price, let alone any expansion of it. History and heritage, the land and the environment, their quiet rural lifestyle and control over their own land meant more.
Those with nondisclosure agreements clearly wanted to be able to have their voice back, even if they had to use gestures to get that message across. None of them thought eminent domain by a foreign company for profit, was an American-like concept. None of them were happy with the condition that Enbridge left their land in after it had occupied it, even those that were soft on Enbridge.
I don’t have the budget that a multi billion dollar business like Enbridge has, but I have something they don’t. Heart. I have an honest to goodness human heart. Enbridge may have pumps.Pumps that throb as they push tar sands oil through rigid steel tubes, but money can’t buy a real human heart, especially one that really cares about people’s lives and our planet. I’m thinking that blood is thicker than oil these days, even the dilbit. Money can buy a lot of things including loyalty, but it can’t buy a heart, or a conscience either.
One easement owner asked me “What’s in this for you?” I couldn’t answer her at the time as she rushed off to call Enbridge on me, for giving her a free safety kit. I’m not totally certain, but I believe that she has never received a gift without strings attached, and maybe it scared her, humble as it was. Enbridge must have thought that was an emergency too, as they apparently dispatched one of their white Silverado trucks with Minnesota plates to track me down pronto after I left that farm. I would say it took them 15 minutes to locate me on a dead end road with 3 homes on it. I can answer her now. What is in this for me? A clear conscience. Knowing that I did all I could do to save her kids, from a future destroyed by fossil fuels. Knowing I tried to save their family farm from a possible spill and potential loss of their way of life. Peace. Knowing I didn’t have to defend myself to her, to justify what I was doing at her door. Compassion, knowing that she fears for her economic present, so much that she has sold her future to a foreign corporation, that she actually feels will take care of her in the event of a spill. Just like they took care of those in Kalamazoo. Just like BP cleaned up the Gulf. Just like Exxon Mobile took care of Mayflower Arkansas. I can honestly say that the one rant I encountered, as I crossed two counties, brought out the best in me. I had no desire, no compulsion to defend myself from her rant. I did not need to. That’s a rather Zen place for me to have reached. I guess I am saying, that’s an unusual state for me, especially when some one is spitting mad at me. I’m hoping I have reached a milestone.
The several dozen other stories, each one unique, were humbling. How so many people fought this fight for decades, alone and unassisted, made me sad. It made me feel guilty that I had not been well informed enough to have helped. That won’t happen again. Despite not having a budget, I was able to give them something that Enbridge did not. A safety kit. Oh, it isn’t much and no, it probably won’t save any lives in the event of a spill, but who knows? It may make things easier on them in the event of a spill. They will be ready, they will be set, and they will be smarter than they were before they got this Ready, Safe, Smart Pack. More important, my heart is in those kits. My offer of support is in those kits. Maybe that isn’t as good as money, but there are times in life that all the money in the world isn’t worth having one person say, “I’m there for you. I will stand with you. I WILL stand with you. I will STAND with you.”
It’s time for Phase II. We are moving on to our forum on July 14th at 6:30 at the city hall in Lake Mills. This forum promises to be very interesting, and is in no way a rerun of last year’s event. This is Pipeline 102. If you don’t know much about the Enbridge Mainline Corridor, you will still be able to keep up, but, it’s going to go beyond the material covered in last year’s forum, and even in recent forums and programs elsewhere. I didn’t speak at the last forum. This time, I plan to share a few words from the perspective of a rural organizer. I’m hoping I won’t bore any one. I promise the material is all new.
We expect local officials at this forum and we have something for them too. This year we have some displays including a mock up of a 3 foot long 42 inch pipeline which is something to behold.
Our speakers are especially engaging and dynamic. There will be a lot of facts, presented with visual media. It will likely be colorful and interactive.
Mostly, though, there is a lot of heart in this year’s forum and a lot of promise.
A promise that no one needs to stand alone again.