Our Fellow - Lauren Wood

 

I grew up in Utah spending every summer wading along the muddy banks of the Colorado River.

As a 3rd generation river runner my family instilled in me a deep love of wildness and its ability to awaken the human spirit. The wildness of the river allowed me to be transparent, honest and fearless. As I entered adolescence I found myself beginning to name an honest part of myself in coming out of the closet and identifying as a queer person. In that outing, I realized that I had overnight moved from a place of privilege to a place of marginalization. That, in itself initiated a long life process of questioning the things I had previously taken as truth, including humanity's relationship to the environment.

 

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As I traveled across the beautiful landscapes of my home state...

I saw more and more oil derricks, fracking rigs and billowing smoke plumes injecting toxic air into my consciousness. I realized that industry and perceived progress was tearing the wildness of my childhood apart and leaving traumatized communities in its wake.

In late 2008 one man showed me there was hope of stopping the industrial bleeding when he bid on parcels of land up for oil and gas development in the sacred red-rock country of my youth. He won those parcels and thus saved the land from future development. In my gut I knew justice was served by an unlikely judge, Tim DeChristopher.

Tim, now a friend and mentor of mine gave me my climate change ‘A-ha' moment; when we follow our moral compass, average citizens do have the ability to create real change. As a modern-day climate folk hero and domestic political prisoner, Tim's journey of pushing a fractured movement towards finding its soul became a journey I identified with, and now embody.

Together, we started Peaceful Uprising, a community that fiercely defended his act of civil disobedience, while beginning to ask the question, “what does Climate Justice really mean?”. Through this process I have come to realize how high the stakes have become for myself and my generation.

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There is nothing exactly like the climate movement...

and so my friends and I jumped off a cliff and built our wings on the way down. In this process of falling through air, I have consistently tried to create a space for creative and experimental activism through a process of perpetual questioning. In this quest, I have learned my most meaningful lessons from seeking advice from a diverse mosaic of activists, community organizers, philosophers and, most importantly, those most affected by the environmental and social issues that the climate justice movement seeks to address.

I have traveled the country from inside the money-lined congressional offices in Washington D.C. to the flattened mountains of Appalachia; from the disappearing glaciers in Alaska to the increasingly unpredictable waterways of the Colorado Plateau. My eyes have been held opened to the realities of our changing climate and the trauma inflicted on the communities it affects most acutely. At the same time, I have learned that the power of personal stories of genuine sacrifice have the ability to ignite a movement... and that a little bit of hope goes a long way. I now hope to continue this journey and share it with many more who are looking towards this critical moment in human history with anticipation, trepidation and fearless resolve.

 

 

 See Press About Lauren Here >

 

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Draw the Line Against Tar Sands: In the Pipe, the pit or the refinery

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Hey Hero Hatchers!  This is a speech I gave Saturday (9-21-2013) at the Draw the Line on Keystone XL Pipeline National day of Action.  

So in Utah, we all know a little something about Tar Sands. While Trans Canada tries to barrel Keystone XL Pipeline through middle America, we in Utah are sitting on the brink of all out Tar Sands extraction. Open pit mining operations are breaking ground in our backyard at PR Springs on the Tavaputs Plateau. Not only is this energy a huge greenhouse gas powder keg but U.S. Oil Sand’s mining operation sits at the top of the drainage to the Green and therefore the Colorado River system and as such is a threat to increased pollution on the most overburdened waterway in America. 

As water monitoring continues on the Tavaputs Plateau, and litigation continues to hold industry back, U.S. Oil Sands JUST put 5 new faces on their board, finally finding financial backers for such bum economic deal.  It’s incredible they were able to find deep enough pockets to fill a serious void in a company on the brink of going bust. Facing unproven reserves, a water crisis about to break out across the Colorado Plateau and a growing popular movement against their project, U.S. Oil Sands and these new investors have their work cut out for them. 

People in Utah are standing up together to educate each other about these issues, and take action against Tar Sands...

not only in the pit but in the refineries across North Salt Lake as well,  as they position to accept even dirtier forms of Tar Sands.  This past Saturday, members of this community stood up because we all live here, in this airshed.  And because we know that 40 million people rely upon the Colorado River watershed.  And because communities across the west deserve better than this. 

But we cannot fight Tar Sands here without recognizing and standing with the Chipewyan people as they fight Tar Sands Extraction in Alberta. We cannot stand up against U.S. Oil Sands here without standing up with brave activists opposing Expansion of the Embridge Pipeline in Michigan. We cannot be a part of this movement resisting expansion of Tar Sands refinement in our airshed without remembering the neglected and yet empowered frontline communities resisting the Valero Tar Sands Refinery in Texas as it looks towards expansion in their own backyard. These issues are increasingly and fundamentally interconnected.  

I am a 3rd generation raft guide on the Green & Colorado River. I grew up in the shade of cottonwood trees in Desolation Canyon, the river right below this potential mine site.  I learned how to drive a car on that plateau. I learned how to ride a horse and feed a hummingbird up there, and a shell of a corporation, from Canada, wants to earn profit at the expense of our states future. We the people of Utah cannot afford to sell off our land to the lowest bidder, the price is simply too high.

These men, Carlos Slim, Frank Giustra, Cameron Todd, they don’t know me. They don’t know you. But they will.

Because we here in Salt Lake, in Moab and in many seeding communities around Utah at standing up and drawing our own line in the sand; for water, for our future, and for our children. These men who don’t know the color of the sky when it sets at PR Springs, who have never rafted the desolate canyons of Southern Utah, who have never stood on the muddy banks of the river, who have never lived through an inversion season in the Salt Lake Valley, will not define our future, we will!  This is our community and we will be here to fight for (as Wallace Stegner once said) “a society to match our scenery”.

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