Prayer Walk for the Menominee River

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Picture an expanse of quiet forest dusted by the first season’s snow. The sky is the purest shade of blue, there is a slight breeze warmed by the afternoon sun, and through this scene cuts the Menominee River. Its clear waters flow peacefully against the opposing shores of Wisconsin and Upper Michigan. This past weekend, a few Flood members were able to experience this beautiful landscape while attending a solidarity march against the construction of the Back Forty Mine.

This project, proposed by Aquila resources, will include the construction of an open metallic sulfide mine a mere 50 yards away from the Menominee River. Although Aquila suggests that they have developed technologies to prevent the pollution of waterways, locals contest that there isn’t sufficient evidence to prove that the mine will not pollute. Although on Friday the 8th Aquila completed the final permit application needed to start the project, but construction cannot begin until the permit is reviewed and granted. According to the site http://www.noback40.org/, the Menominee Nation remains “steadfast in its opposition to the proposed mine and its commitment to preserving the Menominee River”.

This attitude of defiance against the imposing project was evident in this past weekend’s solidarity march. The march titled, The Wetlands Prayer Bridgewalk, aimed at extending awareness of the Back Forty Mine’s negative impacts to the public eye. The route was a loop that led us across the interstate bridge from Marinette, Wisconsin to Menominee, Michigan and back. Participants included members of the Menominee Nation, locals, members of the UW Stevens Point 350 club, and a variety of individuals from across the state.

After the march, we were led on a tour of sacred Menominee sites, including burial mounds and dance rings. A primary concern with the Back Forty Mine is that these sacred sites are at risk of being negatively affected by environmental degradation or completely obliterated due to their location.Visiting these sites instilled in us an appreciation for Menominee history, and a better understanding of how Menominee culture will be impacted by the project. Ultimately, the experience was both educating and inspiring. We were able to connect with the the lands and people directly affected by the project, and socialize with members of statewide initiatives in similar opposition to the Back Forty Mine.

Internet Freedom

This past Thursday, on December 7th, our group took part in a nationwide protest and gathered in front of the Verizon store on East Kenilworth Place to protest the repeal of net neutrality laws by the FCC. The current chairman of the FCC, Ajit Pai, is aggressively trying to dismantle the laws that protect an equal and open Internet. But before the vote on the 14th, we, and many others across the United States, were determined to make our voices heard.

Net neutrality laws prohibit Internet Service Providers (ISPs) from manipulating data transfer speed on the Internet, specifically over their network. Without these laws, ISPs would have free reign over the Internet and would be able to slow the speed of websites that they do not favor. This would also allow ISPs to introduce extra payment charges for websites, making consumers pay more for what they already have. If you want to do more, please go to battleforthenet.com.

The issue of net neutrality was introduced to the group by our member Nate. Soon thereafter we learned of the nationwide protest and decided to get involved. We informed everyone over social media when the protest was happening, and set up a table in the Student Union to spread awareness about this important issue.

Finally, the day came. We stood out in the cold for about an hour, holding our signs, chanting rhymes, shivering, but having a good time. We had managed to get plenty of attention from passerbys, who sometimes stopped to learn more. Considering how we had only learned of the protest a few days before, it’s impressive how quickly we were able to mobilize and do some good.

Rep. Sensenbrenner Town Hall

This past Saturday, October 28th, a few members of the Flood ventured over to the Wauwatosa Public Library to attend a town hall meeting hosted by Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner, who represents the Fifth Congressional District of Wisconsin. We met up with friends from nearby campuses and our small group consisted of the youngest people there. The room was nearly full, and in terms of partisanship, the room appeared to be split – half the people were there to support him, and the other half were not.
For the most part, those who were called on to speak had questions for Sensenbrenner about the things he was doing wrong. A constituent came forward and expressed dismay at the fact that his office was difficult to access, on purpose. When confronted with this accusation, he explained that the office policy had been changing frequently in the past few months, for the safety of the office staff. While this explanation makes sense, I don’t understand why this issue wasn’t explained to the constituent sooner, during her constant struggle in contacting his office. When asked about his views on the environment, and the Paris Climate Agreement, he stated that it was a scam by India and China to take money from the US and give it to developing countries. This was a surprise to me because I’ve never heard this argument before, and it definitely wasn’t a strong enough argument to change my mind. One woman from the crowd stood up and asked, “Mr. Sensenbrenner, are you pro-life”? “Of course,” he replied. She continued by asking “Why did you vote against aid to Puerto Rico? Why did you destroy Obamacare? Why isn’t there a new health system?” She completely obliterated him, and it was incredible. It was such a brilliant way to set up her argument, and he could hardly defend himself because she was so successful.
It was the first town hall the Flood has attended, and we learned a lot from it. We made observations about how the set-up and organization depends on how the politician can control a room of people. We also observed that old people tend to be incredibly short-tempered. Overall, we had a great experience, and it felt good to immerse ourselves in some local public engagement.

 

March for Science

The Flood ventured to Red Arrow Park in Milwaukee for a march in support of science, and there was dire need. After proposed budgetary cuts to the Environmental Protection Agency, the Department of Education, the National Institutes of Health, and NASA’s Office of Education (1), and President Trump’s overt denial of climate change, the march served as a way to retaliate and stand strongly in support of funding for the discipline.

As a group, we recognize the importance of scientific research and science education. It was impressive to see such a large turnout, and it was encouraging to see that so many Wisconsinites value what science does for society. We marched alongside scientists themselves, educators, and even children who enjoy the benefits of science education (or whose parents dragged them along). Fortunately, a sunny day allowed for comfortable walking weather, though we can’t thank science for that (yet).

We were excited to see that marches took place around the world, and we were proud to take part in something so massive. Science should not be a partisan issue, and we hope that marches like the one we attended will encourage the current presidential administration to value science in the same way that the American people do.

1 Kopan, Tal. “Here’s what Trump’s budget proposes to cut”. CNN Politics. Last modified March 16, 2017. http://www.cnn.com/2017/03/16/politics/trump-budget-cuts/

Sabal Trail

The Flood escaped the dreary Wisconsin January by packing up camping gear in the back of a 1986 station wagon and making for Florida. After the publicity that Standing Rock received, it became easy to find similar human rights and environmental violations spanning the entire breadth of the United States. The Sabal Trail Pipeline cuts through the heart of a state forest and tunneling under the beloved Suwannee River (in which we spent some time swimming). It lays infrastructure for an unsustainable future in natural gas production and seized lands of locals in the pursuit of profit.

Our time at Sacred Water Camp provided us with a sense of what Standing Rock must have looked like in its initial stages. We were able to not only attend, but encouraged to participate in meetings on strategy and planning. At times, our presence there made a noticeable difference: signs our group had created made news headlines, a medical tent was erected by some of our members at the same time that other tents were moved, and the station wagon proved efficient in shuttling people to events. In our four days there, we laughed often, sang even more often, and did our best to promote a message of peace that the people of Florida could get behind.

This time, our trip didn’t end with the pipeline being forced to re-route, but we did win a small victory on the Saturday before we left. Around 400 people of the community (men, women, and many children) gathered together to block the entrance to the pipeline and shut down their operations for the day. It was a small victory, costing the company time and money, but the most reassuring part was that the water protectors down there were just getting started.

Standing Rock Protest

 

On December 1st, The Flood made its inaugural trip to the snow-swept plains of Standing Rock Indian Reservation in North Dakota. The Flood had witnessed the abuse and injustice that the Standing Rock protesters has suffered in their attempt to protect the waters of the Missouri River, and we wanted to lend our support. We laid down flooring, shoveled, and moved raw materials to keep the operations of the camp flowing. In our short time there, we were able to attend prayer ceremonies, participate in artful activism, and dance to the music of the Northern Cree singers deep into the night. We were rewarded on our trip with both the Army Corp of Engineers’ decision to deny the easement for the Dakota Access Pipeline (essentially halting its construction) as well as a cultural experience that will never be forgotten.