[Note from Admin: This text is taken from a recap of all the Beyond Fossil Fuels Grounding for Action meetings. Solveig introduced it “as a way of looking back at where we’ve been and discerning our way forward.” Thanks for sharing the good news of what you all are up to, Solveig! The next Beyond Fossil Fuels Ground for Action is Tuesday, December 3 at 6pm Leaven Commons.]

Solveig Nilsen-Goodin

Tonight is our 4th Grounding for Action meeting. For some of you it’s your first or second or third. So tonight I’m going to take a few minutes to look back and take stock of where we’ve been, where we’ve come, and why again we are doing this work!

For those of you who were at the first Grounding for action meeting in July, you may remember the story of Denise Levertov. Denise was a prolific poet who was deeply involved in the anti-war and anti-nuclear movements. Over the years of her involvement, she noticed something significant. Lots of people came and went from the movement, but there were others who were just in it for the long haul, year after year, decade after decade. Of course movements need everyone, those who come and go, and those who stay, but these Grounding for Action meetings were created because we intend to be the people who stay…

Way back last spring, several of us from EcoFaith Recovery’s Beyond Fossil Fuels Exploratory Team wanted to find out who else in the Christian faith community wanted to strap on a life jacket and take action specifically to put pressure on fossil fuel companies to keep fossil fuels in the ground and resist the fossil fuel exports through the Columbia Gorge and Pacific Northwest. Lo and behold, on May 8 the room was packed with people ready to grab an oar and take action.

Recognizing both the long haul nature of this work, as well as the many, many different organizations working in different areas of the larger climate change/environmental movements, the exploratory team saw a need to come together as people of faith and others of good will, to get grounded and stay grounded for this work, while participating in the actions other groups were organizing.

So the four sources of grounding that called out to us were those we have been digging into every month: Christian Spirituality, Relationship-based organizing, Kingian Nonviolence and 12-step recovery.

Then on July 13 we kicked off our inaugural Grounding for Action meeting with some great singing (a movement that doesn’t sing is no movement at all!), with some 1-1 conversations, with an introduction to Kingian nonviolence, which is not non-violence, being simply the absence of violence; but nonviolence, being a positive, powerful way of life…

Then in September we gathered again. We began reflecting on the actions we had been involved in the previous month, and we began a closing ritual that included signing up for upcoming actions.

But Matt Guynn, that night (October 2013), helped us connect with some of that power again. He revealed how our conceptions of power contribute to the depleting of our power. He showed us that many of us think of the fossil fuel industry’s power as solid and stable, like a triangle or a pyramid sitting on a flat, stable base. But he then showed us that in fact, power is much more dynamic and unstable. The power of the fossil fuel industry, for example, is actually much more like an upside down triangle or pyramid, teetering on a tiny point. But it retains its power because it is held up by pillars, pillars like the banks, like the government, like higher education, like institutional religion.

And so to compromise the power of the fossil fuel industry, we don’t have to think about trying to move a pyramid. We can instead start chipping away at the pillars holding it up. We can instead see ourselves as, in the words of Martin Luther King, the “battering rams of justice,” one by one knocking the pillars of support down so the fossil fuel industry loses its monolithic power and the people can more powerfully shape the future of our precious planet and guide our raft safely through the rapids ahead.

For more information about Beyond Fossil Fuels go here.


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“Beyond Fossil Fuels: Grounding for Action, the first 4 months” By EcoFaith leader Solveig Nilsen-Goodin