Detroit Draws the Line this Saturday — Let’s coordinate rides!

This Saturday, September 21st, we’ll be joining with allies in Detroit to draw a line against tar sands and dirty energy. Across the country, 200 cities are participating in this national day of action called “Draw the Line.”

draw the lineDetails –> Detroit Draws the Line:
Folks will gather at 1pm at Kemeny Parkat 2260 S. Fort Street to connect with each other, hear from some local artists. The group will then march a few blocks to the Marathon refinery to deliver our demands — drawing a line (by lining up) on the public sidewalk in front of the oil refinery. Individuals will be invited to share their stories and vision for a future that works for all of us.If you’re able to make it, let’s coordinate! Saturday is also the Tour DeTroit and parking could be difficult so carpooling is optimal. If you’re interested in carpooling, you can enter your information here OR let me know – email works well and you can call/text 734-707-1350.

The event starts at 1pm so we would like to leave Ann Arbor by 11:45am in case we need to find parking.

Saturday morning Farmers Market activism:
If you’re interested in participating in some local activism on Saturday morning:

Rainforest Action Network at Ann Arbor Farmers Market

Saturday, September 21st, 7am-12pm

315 Detroit St, Ann Arbor, MI 48104

Come to the Ann Arbor Farmers Market on Saturday morning, where Rainforest Action Network (RAN) and Forest Heroes are raising awareness about the problem with palm oil and collecting photo petitions. Rainforest Action Network staff will then be joining Ann Arbor 350 for the big Draw the Line Action in Detroit!

Last week Rainforest Action Network launched an ambitious new campaign called The Last Stand of the Orangutan which aims to remove “Conflict Palm Oil” from America’s snack foods by convincing major food companies to implement responsible palm oil policies that do not contribute to rainforest destruction, climate change, species extinction, and human rights abuses. RAN is traveling across the US with our The Power Is In Your Palm Tour, visiting the hometowns of many of the “Snack Food 20” companies to spread the word about our exciting new campaign. The Snack Food 20, as we’re calling them, use conflict palm oil in their snack food products and control some of America’s most well known household brands including Pepsi, Heinz, Hershey’s, Kraft and  Smuckers.


Learn more and RSVP for the event at

Other Draw the Line events:
You can also find other “Draw the Line” events by searching here:

The Ecology Center brings James Hansen to Ann Arbor

James Hansen photo from The Guardian

When the former head of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies warns that our current climate change policy isn’t protecting our planet, it’s probably a good idea to listen. In fact, it’s imperative. James Hansen is considered one of the world’s top climate scientists and has spent his lifetime not only observing, but teaching students how the Earth’s environment works at Columbia University’s Earth Institute.

For these reasons and more, the Ecology Center is excited to bring James Hansen to Ann Arbor as the keynote speaker for our fundraiser this October (click here for tickets). Hansen is helping shape an intelligent response to climate change with scientific understanding. Earlier this year, he received the Ridenhour Courage Prize for his continued advocacy despite a backlash from the government and scientific communities.

At the start of his career, Hansen published research connecting human activity with changes in the climate. In 1988, he testified to Congress that these altered conditions will be dangerous for life on Earth, and did the same in 2001 as a scientist on the Bush administration’s Environmental Task Force. These early warnings have become our present problems. The Earth is experiencing greater and more frequent storms, floods, and droughts. And we’re approaching the point where our impact may be irreversible.

That’s why James Hansen has taken to the street to fight for a healthy world, especially against the threat of our continued reliance on carbon-producing energy sources. Over the last few years, he’s partnered with Bill McKibben of to pressure the government to stop subsidizing fossil fuel companies, reject the Keystone XL Pipeline, and make carbon-producing industries pay for their cost to society. Ensuring a healthy world requires public education and organization. We hope you’ll join us in learning from James Hansen’s experiences this fall.

NOTE: Limited free/discounted tickets are available. If you’re interested in volunteering for 5 hours in exchange for a ticket (4-7pm and 9-11pm — i.e., not during the dinner and speech), contact Jenn Ketz.

350 Climate Action Training – And Summer Heat

This past weekend, the Ecology Center and Ann Arbor 350 hosted a leadership training with Justin Haaheim, a climate action training facilitator and coach. All weekend, 25 Southeast Michigan activists worked together to learn about leadership, story-telling, and building effective and inclusive organizations to advance the climate movement.

Justin Haaheim

We thank Justin for sharing his experience, and his insight, and of course everybody who participated. We are beginning to grow deep roots and connections across Southeast Michigan, and now it’s time for this movement to blossom.

Moving forward, we agreed to work together to get people to the closest Summer Heat event – the July 14 Rally for the Great Lakes to protest the use of the dirtiest tar-sand oil, and the pipelines that pump it past our communities and threaten our rivers and lakes.

If you want to participate, please sign up at this link. We are looking for those who can give rides to others, as well as those who need transportation.

Power to the People: Petcoke Resistance in Detroit

People Against Petcoke Protest – Monday, June 24, 2013

When the news of the petroleum coke piles dumped along the Detroit River broke last month, I’m sad to say that my immediate reaction was not surprise. The petcoke piles are just another notch on the continuum of pollution and environmental injustice in Southwest Detroit.  Ever since my mom chose to move back to the city of Detroit two years ago, I’ve become used to the mysterious soot that seems to coat every outdoor surface and to the pungent smells that radiate down the block of my family’s home in Southwest Detroit.

As a brief reminder, the piles of petroleum coke (“petcoke”) have been deposited along the Detroit River, just east of the Ambassador Bridge to Canada, since the fall of 2012. Petcoke is a byproduct of burning crude tar sands, and it is estimated that every barrel of crude imported from Alberta results in an output of 60-130 pounds of petcoke. The petcoke being deposited along the Detroit River is only the beginning. The Marathon Oil Refinery in the 48217 zip code that produces this substance recently went through a $2 billion expansion in order to be able to process more of the tar sands, and thereby produce more of the petcoke.

It pains me to know that my family is suffering the side-effects of such environmental injustice while I live, work, and go to school in Ann Arbor, enjoying the privilege of clean air that is so often taken for granted.  So when I learned that the Detroit Coalition Against Tar Sands (DCATS)-a division of the Michigan Coalition Against Tar Sands (MI CATS)– had been formed and was working on action around the petcoke piles, I was thrilled that people were taking action to combat the injustices my home community have been facing.  On Sunday, June 23, DCATS organized a march, rally, and action called “People Against Petcoke.”  At 3pm, we all met in Clark Park–a hub for community events in Southwest Detroit–where we heard several amazing speakers, from DCATS organizer Jarret Schlaff to the inspiring Charity Hicks.  From Clark Park, we marched the 1.8 miles to the site of the largest of the petcoke piles at the intersection of Rosa Parks and Jefferson Avenue.  Once there, we heard from more speakers, were fed exorbitant amounts of pie and pizza, and got direct action training, in which we practiced making consensus decisions and dealing with police, workers, and our fellow activists.  After the training, we walked down to the riverfront to join in a candlelit vigil at dusk with fellow activists across the river in Windsor, Canada.  It was windy and the candles flickered in and out, but the sense of solidarity emanated from one side of the river to the other nonetheless.

A group of people kept a presence at the site of the action overnight, and at around 8:30 the next morning (July 24), they began a blockade to stop a truck carrying petcoke into the site.  I arrived around 9:15 and linked arms with the brave people who had stood in front of the truck to stop it.  There was a large cardboard padlock tied with string across the drive into the dumping site, behind which stood several police officers and border patrol, the numbers of which increased throughout the day.  In front of the padlock stood about 25-30 activists, about 7 of whom had arms linked directly in front of the truck, and the rest of whom stood in successive rows behind those who were willing to risk arrest for the action.  We held a press conference in which we read a “People’s Eviction Notice,” which ordered Marathon, the Koch Brothers, and Matty Maroun (the property owner) to shut down the docks and the discontinue the illegal dumping of petcoke.  We had incredible press coverage, and our police liaison did a spectacular job of communicating to the police that this blockade wasn’t about just “making a point.” It was about turning the trucks around and not letting anyone dump petcoke in this space anymore.  Therefore, when the police asked us several times to pack up and go, our response was that we wouldn’t leave until the petcoke was moved.

The morning continued on, and the amount of trucks waiting to enter the facility/dumping ground increased.  Several of them turned around, but when the action came to a head, there were 5 trucks piled up waiting to get in.  One of them–the one we stood directly in front of–held petcoke.  We held signs with the Marathon logo that read “Murder” and signs that informed that Koch brothers that Detroit is NOT their dump.  Once in awhile the wind would pick up and we would all be coated in a layer of petcoke. When I returned home I discovered the cap of my water bottle was filled with the substance and the sign I was carrying had a thin layer the black, oily grime on it.  The police were incredibly cooperative, and kept underlining that they didn’t wish to make any arrests that day.  However, as the hours came and went, they began to give us warnings that if we didn’t move, they would be bringing a paddy wagon to arrest us all.

The 7 people standing directly in front of the truck were prepared to be arrested; they had come to a consensus that they were willing to do so, and we had written the phone number of the legal aid on all of their arms and were beginning to prepare for the process of getting them out of jail.  Just before the paddy wagon had appeared, however, a worker from the facility we were blockading the entrance to appeared to negotiate with us.  He explained that it was really important to get the trucks that weren’t carrying petcoke into the facility, and that if we backed up the blockade, he would make the truck carrying petcoke turn around and wouldn’t let any other petcoke trucks return for the day.  When we asked how we could trust him on this promise, he pulled out his wallet and handed it to one of the protesters.  We confirmed that his I.D. and other important information were in the wallet.  The decision was made to back up the blockade to allow the petcoke truck to turn around and let the other trucks through.  As we backed up, the police line backed up, and several people were in tears as the petcoke truck turned around.  It was truly one of the most beautiful and cooperative outcomes I’ve seen at a direct action.  DCATS–the organization responsible for coordinating the action–has vowed to continue its resistance until the petcoke piles are gone.

The illegal dumping of petcoke in the city of Detroit is just a small piece of the destruction created in every step in the process of fossil fuel production and consumption.  I stand with DCATS, MI CATS, the Great Plains Tar Sands Resistance, and everyone else across the country and the world standing up against the fossil fuel industry.  All power to the people!


Time to take a stand!

Tim DeChristopher felt so strongly about a Bureau of Land Management oil and gas lease auction on 116 acres of land that he bid $1.8 million that he didn’t have and went to jail for nearly 2 years. You can watch Moyers & Company interview DeChristopher to understand a bit more about his commitment to environmental justice and his organization, Peaceful Uprising. You might have heard of DeChristopher last year, when a documentary film about the protest and his legal battle, called Bidder 70, was released.

DeChristopher believes civil disobedience is critical to environmental justice. And he might be right. The federal government indicted him despite the auction being voided, as Secretary of State Salazar put it, “because of their proximity to landscapes of national significance.”

When this all began, DeChristopher was focused on this one tract of land. Now as he reflects on the hold of big money interests over the climate movement, he says “it’s time to rush the field. It’s time to stop the game.”

This summer, is launching a project called “Summer Heat” — the idea is a summer of mass actions across the United States, allowing people to stand — “peacefully but firmly” — for what they believe.

Take a moment to read this appeal from Bill McKibben, Winona LaDuke and others. Then, let us know what you think: What’s your idea for a Summer Heat action?

Hour of Darkness Sheds Light on Climate Change, and Ann Arbor’s CAP

Eiffel Tower before (top) and during (bottom) Earth Hour


One Small Hour for Man…

Last Saturday night at 8:30, downtown Ann Arbor went dark. Streetlights along one block of Main Street plus the lights at many homes and businesses shut off. However, this was all part of the plan. Earth Hour, as it’s called, was a global showing of solidarity in support of tougher action on climate change and reducing energy consumption. It began in Sydney, Australia in 2007 and has snowballed into a global movement across hundreds of cities.

P.S. If you like the Eiffel Tower pictures, you can check out more light/dark shots at National Geographic.

Although one hour might not make a huge dent in global energy use, it’s more about symbolism. Essentially, it makes us painfully aware that our lives depend on constant use of fossil-based energy, that there is still no international agreement on global warming, and as a co-benefit reminds people in big cities what the stars look like. It also demonstrates that people from government, businesses, churches, and households can all work together simultaneously to enact positive change. This one small hour is a starting point for collaboration on bigger projects.

Mayor John Hieftje said, “Earth Hour is another way to highlight Ann Arbor’s commitment to reduce our reliance on fossil fuels and raise awareness on how citizens and government play a part in addressing climate change.”

As an awareness tool, I’d say Earth Hour was a success in that it reminded this writer to report on something very important to our local climate efforts. (Something he should have reported on 3 months ago.) Something everyone in Ann Arbor needs to know about…

Continue reading Hour of Darkness Sheds Light on Climate Change, and Ann Arbor’s CAP

Xplaining the Keystone XL pipeline battle

Job creator?  One stop shop to push us over the climate edge?   With all Americans in mind?  Single fossil fuel interest?

Many differing perspectives surround the Keystone XL Pipeline project, but one thing is clear: it is taking on more significance than the pipeline itself.  We are at a crossroads in our energy infrastructure and the “to build or not to build” question of Keystone is at the heart of it. Keystone is the physical and symbolic battleground for constructing our energy future.

But what exactly does this project entail?  Why does President Obama need to approve the project?  Below you will find the basics of the project, so that whether you will join, the Sierra Club, and the Hip Hop Caucus at the #ForwardOnClimate rally at DC on February 17th or are taking part in discussions at your work, home or elsewhere, you know the key points for Keystone. Continue reading Xplaining the Keystone XL pipeline battle

Cost breakdown for #ForwardonClimate

Updated Friday, January 25, 2013
The biggest environmental rally EVER is happening in D.C. on President’s Day weekend. You definitely want to be there. Even though this kind of thing is physically exhausting, it’s inspiring and way-past-due. Travel and transportation are definitely big carbon guzzlers, but this is Important. So we decided to do some math to help you figure out what’s your best option for getting to the biggest, most important single event of the year. Here goes:
  • Drive yourself: About $120 in gas and 895 pounds carbon (see picture below and multiple by 2 for round trip)

    This is assuming you drive a Ford Fiesta by yourself. Cost of boredom not included!

  • NOT A FEASIBLE OPTION:  Ride with us in a 15-passenger van: $45 per person, 115 pounds carbon per person
  • Ride with us in a big old charter motorcoach: $100 per person, can’t find a calculator for such a large vehicle

What do you think? Get on the bus.

#ForwardonClimate – Let’s go to D.C. on Feb 17th!


‘Chasing Ice’ Will Give You Chills

Now Playing at the Michigan Theater


Live organ music set the mood for a classic theater experience. Images deserving of art gallery walls come alive and dance before my eyes. And a story of a charming, passionate photographer, James Balog, devoted to his craft and making a better future for his daughters, captivates the audience.

I just left a very full house for the critically acclaimed documentary, Chasing Ice, at the Michigan Theater. I’m no movie critic, but honestly, it’s been a while since a film actually physically moved me. This one is special, folks. It presents compelling evidence of the magnitude and urgency of climate change with cinematography so captivating climate cynics won’t be able to look away. It may prove to be this decade’s Inconvenient Truth.

By the end of the film, I’d be surprised if anyone in the audience didn’t envy, or at least admire, the efforts of James Balog and his Extreme Ice Survey team. This is simply something I hope every American, nay every human being on the planet can see. Chasing Ice is playing now until Thursday, January 17th, at the Michigan Theater at these times.