• VIDEOS: MICHAEL FOSTER guest sermon at UU Church, Goleta CA
(Recorded February 12, 2017)
While many churches have thus far served as local venues for climate activist groups to host events featuring the VALVE TURNERS in Washington, Oregon, and California, Live Oak Unitarian Universalist Congregation in Goleta CA stepped forward to be the first church to welcome a Valve Turner into the pulpit at a Sunday morning service. The entire 7-minute Valve Turner Video was played during the service, prior to the sermon; this set a crucial context for the speaker.
• 57-minute Joint Sermon with Rev. Michael Dowd|
Click on timecodes to go directly to that segment of the video:
00:02 Title, guest speakers, 12 February (2 min)
00:16 Welcome by Drew Carter & bio of Rev. Dowd (2 min)
02:20 "Hieroglyphic Stairway" poem by Drew Dellinger (3 min)
05:00 Message for All Ages - Michael Dowd (3.5 min)
08:27 VIDEO:"Shut It Down Today" & intro by Michael Dowd (8 min)
16:47 Reading: Quote by Terry Tempest Williams (1 min)
17:49 SERMON pt 1 - Michael DOWD (6 min)
24:00 SERMON pt 2 - Michael FOSTER (15 min)
39:40 SERMON pt 3 - Michael DOWD (10 min)
49:52 Michael Foster - Closing words (2 min)
52:18 Michael Dowd - Closing words & Benediction (1 min)
53:20 Musical Postlude - "We Hold These Truths" - music & lyrics by church members Carrie Topliffe & John Douglas (4 min)
• February 13, 2017 - "Without Consent: Tar Sands Valve Turners visit UC Berkeley", by Steve Masover, Daily Kos
• February 13, 2017 - "Climate Disobedience in the Time of Trump", by Wen Stephenson, The Nation
Editor's note: The journalist begins with five paragraphs of background, and then a long Q&A with two of the Valve Turners, presented by this tagline: "Ken Ward and Emily Johnston are willing to spend decades in prison for shutting down tar-sands oil pipelines. They want you to understand why."
"VIDEO: 'Valve turners' discuss value of civil disobedience", reporting by Joshua Emerson Smith, San Diego Tribune online.|
February 14, 2017.
TEXT EXCERPTS: "SanDiego350, the local affiliate of the national grassroots group 350.org, hosted four of the Valve Turners on Monday night in a free event to facilitate a conversation about the value of such protests. Annette Klapstein, Emily Johnston, Leonard Higgins and Michael Foster spoke to a crowd of local activists."
Editor's note: The VIDEO includes interviews of the 2 women who shut down tar-sands pipelines in Minnesota: Annette Klapstein and Emily Johnston, plus documentary footage of the action, and comments by a SanDiego350 leader.
NEWS: "'Valve Turners' Get Warm Welcome", reporting by Bennett Hall, Corvallis Gazette-Times, 27 February 2017.|
"The crowd stood and applauded when the six took the podium, cheered loudly at several points during the presentation and gave the speakers a standing ovation at the end of the two-hour event."
"I think now is the time when direct action and civil disobedience is particularly needed," Leonard Higgins said. "We do need to change the concept of what's politically possible." ... "If you're an older white person, this is your job," Annette Klapstein said. "It's up to us to take these risks."
Editor's note: This is a superb article for accessing quotations by each of the Valve Turners. Kathleen Dean Moore served as moderator. The event attracted an audience of 150 at the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship in Corvallis.
Two videos of the Corvallis event were livestreamed onto Facebook: Video 11 minutes and Video 10 minutes. Key quotes:
Annette: "If you're and older person, this is your job" • Michael: "I still can't believe it; this hand shut off the Keystone 1 pipeline!" • Emily: "We really have no choice; we have to stop it and we can stop it, because those pipelines come through our communities."
• March 6, 2017 - AUDIO: "Meet the Standing Rock Pipeline Protesting 'Valve Turners' Facing Criminal Charges", on The Leonard Lopate Show, WNYC. Valve Turner Ken Ward and documentarian Steve Liptay are interviewed on radio for 17 minutes.
• March 10, 2017 - "As Their Trials Begin, Climate Protecting 'Valve Turners' Say 'Shut It Down' Is 'Necessity'", by Jeremy Brecher, Common Dreams (website). Lengthy background article (and supportive advocacy) focuses on the Necessity Defense and the history of how its practice has brought about pivotal changes in America (and is continuing to do so for re-stabilizing climate). Highly recommended for educational purposes in classrooms, churches, and activism meetings.
EXCERPTS: The Valve Turners are asking to present what is called a necessity defense. Though not widely known, this defense is well established in Anglo-American common law; as early as 1550, an English merchant who dumped passengers' cargo overboard was acquitted on the grounds that his action was necessary to prevent their ship from capsizing. While judges very often resist such necessity claims, since the 1970s hundreds of people who have committed civil disobedience in service of the public good have been acquitted on the grounds that their actions were taken to prevent a greater harm.
To make a necessity defense, the accused must prove that they believed their act was necessary to avoid or minimize a harm; that the harm was greater than the harm resulting from the violation of the law; and that there were no reasonable legal alternatives. As the state of Washington Supreme Court put it, the necessity doctrine provides that an act is justified "if it by necessity is taken in a reasonable belief that the harm or evil to be prevented by the act is greater than the harm caused by violating the criminal statute."
So first of all, the Valve Turners will have to prove to the court that the harm of climate change is greater than that of shutting a pipeline. They will seek to call expert witnesses who will have no difficulty laying out the catastrophic current and future effects of fossil fuel emissions. They can point out that in a recent federal court case the U.S. government acknowledged that climate change poses "a monumental threat to Americans' health and welfare" by "driving long-lasting changes in our climate," leading to an array of "severe negative effects, which will worsen over time." As Ken Ward has put it, "In this context and with these terrible imperatives, my actions of walking across a field and cutting a fence chain are inconsequential and excusable compared to the ghastly effect of continuing to burn tar sands oil."
Many of the Valve Turners have had direct experience with the effectiveness of such actions. In 2013 Ken Ward blocked coal shipments to the Brayton Point power plant in Massachusetts. Shortly thereafter the new owners of the plant announced its closing. Annette Klapstein participated in a in the Shell No! civil disobedience campaign against arctic drilling, including blockading the Port of Seattle for a day, which contributed to Shell Oil's decision to cease operations in the Arctic.
In a case brought by Our Children's Trust on behalf of 21 young people against the federal government, Judge Aiken ruled that if "governmental action is affirmatively and substantially damaging the climate system in a way that will cause human deaths, shorten human lifespans, result in widespread damage to property, threaten human food sources, and dramatically alter the planet's ecosystem," then those affected have a claim for protection of their life and liberty under the fifth amendment. "To hold otherwise would be to say that the Constitution affords no protection against a government's knowing decision to poison the air its citizens breathe or the water its citizens drink." Judge Aiken also ruled that if the government was knowingly destroying the earth's climate, it was in violation of the public trust doctrine, which requires governments to act as trustees for essential natural resources. She quoted a judicial opinion that that the right of future generations to a "balanced and healthful ecology" is so basic that it "need not even be written in the Constitution" for it is "assumed to exist from the inception of humankind."..."We don't all have to do the same thing," [Emily Johnston] emphasizes, "nor should we." But "we all have to do something." Because otherwise, "we're passively consenting to the devastation of most life on earth."
VIDEO: Guest sermon by Ken Ward at Northshore UCC|
Woodinville WA, delivered 19 March 2017
"Love in a Time of Cataclysm" is the sermon title.
Sermon text is available online.
Excerpt: "By our action we hope to serve as a pivot point on which the course of history turns, but those odds seem long. Given the choice, however, none of us would act differently. This is our expression of love for all living things, for our children, for all peoples, for our enemies, and for life."
• March 23, 2017 - "Activists employ 'necessity' strategy in pipeline trials", by Alex Sakariassen, Missoula Independent.
EXCERPTS: ... The months since Higgins, Ward and their cohorts broke into remote pipeline valve stations with bolt cutters have been packed with shifting trial dates, court hearings and, in Ward's case, a hung jury. Higgins is currently scheduled for a pretrial hearing in Fort Benton in May, with a tentative trial date of July 18. According to 350 Montana chair Jeff Smith, whose nonprofit hosted an event with Higgins late last year, Higgins plans to return to Missoula May 13 and 14 for speaking appearances that will double as a pitch for support in his legal battle. He's facing charges of misdemeanor criminal trespass and felony criminal mischief for breaking into a Spectra Express Pipeline station several miles south of Big Sandy and manually closing the shut-off valve.
There's no debating the facts of what Higgins did. All the valve turners' actions were livestreamed on social media, and Higgins has talked openly about the months of planning and preparation that went into the shutdown. Higgins doesn't plan to refute any of this in court. Instead, he plans to enter a so-called necessity defense, arguing that given the responsibility to protect innocent people from the ravages of climate change, he had no choice but to take illegal action.
The strategy is not without precedent. Six Greenpeace activists used it in 2008 after they shut down a coal-fired power plant in Kent, England, by scaling its 200-meter smokestack. All six were cleared by a jury, prompting international news outlets to speculate that the tactic would catch fire in the environmental community. In 2014, Ward and another climate activist employed a necessity defense to fight criminal charges over their use of a lobster boat to block delivery of a 40,000-ton coal shipment to a power station in Somerset, Mass. That case never made it to trial. Bristol County District Attorney Sam Sutter dropped the charges and took the opportunity to proclaim climate change "one of the gravest crises our planet has ever faced."
"When activists take these actions, they mean it," says Jay O'Hara, Ward's partner in the coal blockade and a founding member of the nonprofit Civil Disobedience Center, which is now supporting the valve turners with legal and financial assistance. "So how do you say, 'I meant it?' [The necessity defense] is less about publicity and more about embodying the convictions of, 'This is the right thing to do. I'm not going to evade responsibility.'"
"Montana is as good a place as any to have that conversation [on climate change]," he says, "and this is exactly where these conversations should be happening. It shouldn't be a liberal elitist conversation. It's a conversation we need to have in the heart of America with average, everyday citizens."
FILM TRAILER: "The Reluctant Activist (on Ken Ward)|
April 3, 2017 - Although the trailer has been released, filming will continue through Ken Ward's retrial in Skagit County WA in late May, with anticipated late summer opening of this documentary.
Click the link above to watch the 02:31 trailer and to read the film's synopsis, which centers on a short bio of Ward.
"Skagit County Jury Refuses to Convict Six of Those Arrested During 'Break Free' Climate Protests", by Sara Bernard, Seattle Weekly.|
April 17, 2017 -"Last May, thousands of people flocked to Anacortes to stage a massive, three-day climate protest at the site of the two largest oil refineries in Washington state. Hundreds pledged to commit civil disobedience there, and sure enough, 52 were arrested in the wee hours of the final morning for refusing to leave the oil-train tracks they'd occupied for 36 hours.
Most of the 52 were ultimately charged with second-degree criminal trespass, a misdemeanor that carries a light penalty: A $250 fine and an eight-hour community service requirement. This spring, as their Skagit County trials began (there will be seven in total), jury after jury served each set of defendants their small convictions, regardless of any climate-crisis or legal arguments they or their lawyers made. But on Friday, during the fifth trial, two jurors refused to do so despite what Joldersma [far left in photo] describes as an unsympathetic judge and aggressive prosecutor. "The presumption of guilt was palpable" in the courtroom, he says. From his point of view, "The judge clearly thought we were guilty. To me, it seemed like she felt like she was going through the motions."
The facts of the case were never in question; all defendants claimed they were sitting on those train tracks at that time. They just said they did so because the climate crisis demands it. And two of the jurors, including Skagit County resident Karen Swan, believed them. "I want to thank you from the bottom of my heart for your stand and your risk, I'm honored to have been a juror in your case," Swan said, in a statement to the defendants. "I can very much relate to you in regards to the emotional pain I feel about our world and the destruction of people and the environment."
VIDEO: Higgins & Foster - From Climate Despair to Direct Action|
April 17, 2017 - Two Valve Turners, along with the documentarian facing charges for filming the action in North Dakota (Steve Liptay), spoke at a college-wide seminar for the Earth Week theme of Climate Direct Action. The event took place at Highline College (Des Moines, Washington on the south side of Seattle).
This reworked video is just the 9-minute segment of responses given by Leonard Higgins and Michael Foster on the issue of acknowledging one's despair, working through the process, and then initiating action.
The full 37-minute video recorded by the college can be accessed here.
• May 7, 2017 - "Spinning the Wheel: Corvallis 'valve turner' gambles climate protests will pay off", by Bennett Hall, Corvallis Gazette Times.
Editor's note - This lengthy news article is perhaps the most in-depth article presenting not only Leonard Higgins' background and perspective but also the details of the shut-down pipeline actions of all five of the 'valve turners', including safety considerations (and oppositional arguments).
EXCERPTS: Leonard Higgins is a foot soldier in the fight against global warming.
In late 2012 he helped launch 350 Corvallis, the local chapter of an international organization that pressures governments to take action on climate change. The following year he was one of about 40,000 people who took part in the Forward on Climate rally in Washington, D.C., and that fall he helped lead a demonstration against the Keystone XL oil pipeline at the Corvallis office of the Environmental Protection Agency.
He signed petitions, attended legislative hearings, toted protest signs and reduced his personal carbon footprint. He shackled himself to an 18-wheeler at the Port of Umatilla to halt a drilling equipment "megaload" destined for the Canadian oilfields, fought against the Jordan Cove liquefied natural gas terminal in Coos Bay and blockaded railroad tracks in Anacortes, Washington, to prevent oil shipments from reaching refineries there.
None of it worked...."Despite what Obama was saying, we weren't taking the aggressive action that was needed, and we weren't taking a leadership role in the world," he said. "It was obvious that something more needed to be done."
EXCERPTS cont: After closing the valves, the activists locked the wheels in the off position and placed flowers or leaves as a token of respect for the environment, then waited for the authorities while supporters outside the enclosure live-streamed their actions on social media and independent filmmakers videotaped the events. None of them tried to leave the scene. "We didn't want to do that and just run away, like fugitives," Higgins said. "We wanted to demonstrate what we believe is the responsibility of all good citizens, what patriotism looks like now."
• May 11, 2017 - "Havre judge denies valve-turner Leonard Higgins' 'necessity defense'", by Alex Sakariassen, Missoula Independent.
FULL TEXT: Leonard Higgins is preparing to go to prison. The wind dishevels his white hair as he talks about swinging by Deer Lodge between speaking engagements in Missoula and Bozeman this month, just to scope things out. He's already spoken with his partner back home in Corvallis, Ore., about how they'll stay in touch if he's incarcerated, about how often she'll be able to visit.
"I think the odds are against me," says Higgins, 65, "so I'm preparing for being convicted and serving whatever sentence the judge decrees." Even so, this soft-spoken activist, who until last year balked at the thought of public speaking, isn't exactly giving up. Higgins committed to the possibility of jail time well before he broke into a Spectra Express Pipeline station south of Big Sandy last October and shut down the flow of oil. His actions aren't disputed in the case now headed to trial in Fort Benton on July 18, and he says he isn't shirking responsibility for his civil disobedience. "There couldn't be anything further from the truth. I'm asking people and the court to step up alongside me to take responsibility for what's happening."
That's not how Judge Daniel Boucher viewed the situation in Chouteau County last month. On April 12, Boucher issued an order denying Higgins' request to present a necessity defense an argument that Higgins' actions were necessitated by the immediate danger that climate change poses to his family, his friends, and every other human on earth. Boucher asserted that in attempting to enter such a defense, Higgins "cringes from the individual responsibility that historically accompanies protest and social change." And Boucher didn't stop there. "It is clear from his memorandum that Higgins expects to attract publicity through his trial," Boucher wrote, "and in turn, to place U.S. energy policy on trial."
Higgins has already attracted a significant amount of publicity. He and several fellow valve-turners have spoken at universities and Unitarian fellowships along the West Coast, and are beginning an East Coast tour in early June. Higgins Skyped into a house party in Montreal in April, recently attended a direct action workshop in Bozeman, and has upcoming appearances in Whitefish and Missoula (the latter hosted by 350 Montana on May 13). "I'm hoping to impart a sense of emergency, a sense of personal responsibility to respond," Higgins says.
Higgins and his legal team are also busy crafting an appeal to the Montana Supreme Court, in the hopes that the justices will disagree with Boucher's assessment and allow his necessity defense to proceed. Without it, Higgins says, he's unsure how much latitude he'll have to explain the motivations for his actions. "It's an act of desperation," he says. "I don't think that there's a direct cause and effect that my taking this action will carry the day, but it contributes, just as in other acts of civil resistance in other movements in the past."
VIDEO: Withdrawing Consent - Annette Klapstein and Emily Johnston on shutting down tar sands pipelines|
(posted) May 11, 2017 - Dec 2016 Emily Johnston and Annette Klapstein joined with the three other 'valve turners' in speaking to an enthusiastic audience in Seattle two months after the group had shut down all five pipelines carrying Canadian tar sands in the USA. The two women worked together in shutting down two tar sands pipelines in a remote location in northern Minnesota. Here they speak about the underlying imperative.
Note: This short video contains excerpts from an hour-long video filmed by Ed Mays at the Seattle event, and then posted on his youtube channel here: https://youtu.be/00twEWG1T2w
• May 12, 2017 - "In Landmark Climate Activist Trials, Judges Deny Defendants' Requests To Let Juries Hear Evidence About Climate Change", MenaFN.com, via Investorideas.com Newswire.
EXCERPT: In the landmark case of Ken Ward, one of several climate activist facing severe felony charges for shutting the emergency valves on pipelines carrying oil sands, Judge Michael E. Rickert of Skagit County Superior Court in Washington state yesterday for a second time denied the request for a "necessity defense." Note: 13 paragraphs follow.
VIDEO: Leonard Higgins - What Can I Do About Climate Change?|
(posted) May 14, 2017 - Dec 2016 Leonard Higgins joined with the four other 'valve turners' in speaking to an enthusiastic audience in Seattle just two months after the group simultaneously shut down all five pipelines carrying Canadian tar sands in the USA.
Higgins shut down the tar sands pipeline in a remote location in Montana. Here he talks about why; given the severe climate crisis, he felt "called" to do so. He explains that climate activists who undertake direct action are fulfilling a public necessity and thereby defending the right of future generations to a livable planet.
Note: This short video contains excerpts from an hour-long video filmed by Ed Mays at the Seattle event, and then posted on his youtube channel here: https://youtu.be/00twEWG1T2w
SHUT IT DOWN TODAY
Climate Disobedience Center