My name is Kieran Williams, and I’m an organizer for fossil fuel divestment and reinvestment at Kalamazoo College. I’ve been a part of this fight for a while now, but by no means do I consider myself a seasoned organizer or activist. I’ve been involved with divestment and reinvestment on my campus for only about a year now, and I got involved with tar sands resistance just a few months ago. I have been in constant struggle balancing all of the campaigns we are fighting and trying to determine where exactly my body, my voice, my talents, and especially my passions are most useful.
My work as an organizer has extended beyond working toward divestment and reinvestment, largely in the form of organizing for tar sands resistance. This is not surprising considering that there are so many ways to be involved with environmental and social justice work, even on a campus of 1500 students like mine. But there is more at play here. It might seem that tar sands resistance and divestment/reinvestment are two different struggles toward a similar vision, but in many ways, they are one and the same. These are two strategic ways to fight the fossil fuel industry; by resisting the expansion and operation of dangerous tar sands infrastructure, and by influencing the financial resources that have the power to either perpetuate the fossil fuel economy or fuel the clean energy revolution.
I am just one of many youth in the Midwest who have worked extensively on both divestment/reinvestment and tar sands resistance. We do this because both of these fights are integral parts of the economic, political, and cultural revolution that is vital to the survival of our communities. In the same way that we must fight fossil fuel infrastructure by divesting from it, we must also resist it with our voices and our bodies. In the same way that we must build community and stand in solidarity with other campus organizations, we must also build community and stand in solidarity with community members who have been impacted or who are threatened by toxic tar sands spills. In the same way that we must build student power on our campuses, we must also build power across campuses, within our communities, and across regions.
In June, 5000 of us from across the Midwest joined together in the twin cities to stand up to tar sands. In July, hundreds of us gathered in Battle Creek, Michigan to remember the 5 year anniversary of the largest inland oil spill in U.S. history, when the Enbridge Line 6B ruptured and spilled almost one million gallons of tar sands oil into the Kalamazoo River, devastating the surrounding communities. That day we gathered to celebrate resilience, to heal, and to build the grassroots power necessary to resist tar sands and prevent this kind of devastation from ever happening again. In a few days, youth and our allies from across the Midwest will be marching to Secretary Kerry’s front door to demand the reversal of Enbridge’s illegal expansion scheme for the Alberta Clipper, a pipeline that transports Canadian tar sands across Minnesota’s border.
We will not let Enbridge continue to threaten our communities. Together, we will dismantle the powerful and persistent fossil fuel economy. Together, we will build an economy that doesn’t rely on the exploitation of the planet and its people for their resources. Together, we will create a world with clean water, clean air, and a stable climate for all. But we must have the courage to dream, and we must have the courage to fight. WE WILL NOT REST until Enbridge is held accountable for their illegal actions. This is why I’ll be risking arrest in DC next Tuesday for #MidwestUnrest. Will you fight back with us?