Sunday, October 2, 2016

#159 Turtle Island

Dear all,
I wrote Turtle Island early in the month and sent it to the newspaper, as a way of trying to call attention to the events at Standing Rock--which were still virtually invisible then.  Though they didn't print it and it's now a little dated, the story is still true.
I'm feeling blessed by the breadth and depth of relationships in my life.  I would never have imagined as a small child that I would get to be close to so many people, from so many backgrounds, with so many accompanying joys and challenges.
And, as we continue to be assaulted by bad news and dire predictions, I keep reminding myself that I can always do my share, and that despair is an insult to the future.

Turtle Island

This is a story about an old stone turtle in our neighborhood park, a pre-dawn walk with a one year old, and the Standing Rock Sioux nation’s struggle to stop a pipeline that threatens their river and sacred sites in the Dakotas.

I’ve known the turtle for a long time.  My boys, who used to play at the little wall and slide surrounding it, now have children of their own.  While the rest of the playground was torn down years ago to make way for a bigger, fancier one across the street, the turtle has stayed.  The Standing Rock nation is new to me, though I have been following stories of indigenous leadership in protecting the environment, mostly in the Pacific Northwest, for several years.  I’ve cheered their efforts from afar, as a well-wishing onlooker needing all the hope I can get in this scary world.

But after spending five days kayaking from the Six Nations reserve in southern Ontario to Lake Erie in July, in a joint effort to honor the treaties and protect the earth, that well-wishing onlooker role no longer fits.  It’s personal now.  With the tension growing around the pipeline standoff, the drum-beat of urgency grows: People are being brutalized by pipeline security guards.  Rights are being flagrantly abused on all sides and no one is listening.  If you care, you’ve got to do something.  Get yourself out to North Dakota.  Drop everything you’re doing to organize everyone you know to stand against this injustice.

I’d like to.  My heart is pounding along with that drum.  But I don’t see how I can drop everything I’m doing, and something keeps me from seeking out videos of oppression and details of injustice, sharing with all my friends, and urging them to watch and share as well.  I just don’t see how more free-floating outrage, laced with despair, numbness and guilt, will help.

So when I get a note from a new friend on the Six Nations reserve that they will be holding a sunrise prayer service Labor Day morning to support the people of Standing Rock, and inviting me to join from a distance, I know I want to be there.  These are people I know and love.  This would be a way to connect.  But I had offered to take our two young grandchildren Sunday night, to give my son and daughter-in-law a break and help her heal from a nasty concussion.  Even with the help of my husband, I have no idea what will be required of me at dawn.

But the one-year old is awake at 5:30, ready for a new day.  So we get up, gather clothes for the cool of the morning, collect the stroller, and head down to the park to greet the day.  As I wonder where to settle, I remember the turtle.  With me sitting on the ground and him content in the stroller, it’s a perfect spot. We stroke the rough places and the smooth places on the turtle’s back and head, and I talk to him about why we are here.  I talk about Turtle Island, the name local indigenous groups gave to this land, about how we love the earth and the water and the air, how we need to protect it, about the people of Standing Rock and our friends at the Six Nations reserve, how we’re all in this together.  We play with the spiky little balls from a sweet gum tree. And the sun comes up.  And in the sweetness of this time together, my eyes fill with tears.

This was the missing piece.  One of the great gifts of July’s kayaking trip had been a story that an elder shared from her grandmother:  You have to cry till your tears run sweet.  With those tears, I can remember not just what is urgent, but what I love.

The next evening I hear from one of our other new friends.  She is heading out to the Dakotas to serve as a medic in the pipeline struggle and looking for support.  This I can do, and I’m glad for the opportunity to do it.   I’m thankful to these precious friends and wise ancestors, to a bright-eyed grandchild, and to that old stone turtle, invisible to me in the park all those years, for helping me find a way to do my part.


I may have to leave this seat.
There is much I can tolerate
on the trolley

but hyper-confident male argument
about which hot shot coaches and athletes
should have done what
to win the big game
loud in my ear from right behind
is an assault almost unbearable.

As I consider my options
the conversation shifts.
Do you have a date for the weekend?
Suddenly, these are high school boys
shy and awkward
reaching out as best they can.

They leave before me
now visible--
one tall and fair
the other compact and dark-skinned
and I give thanks 
for the chance I had to witness
these two friends.

Imagine:  A new economy is possible!
Feeding school children from small farms

A 2009 law in Brazil stipulates that school authorities must spend at least 30 percent of their school meal budget on produce from smallholder farmers.  With about 45 million children receiving free school lunches each day, Brazil’s 5 million small farmers are among the prime beneficiaries of the hundreds of millions of dollars the government spends on school meals.

Access to a guaranteed market through the feeding program allows many of these small farmers to stay on their land rather than migrating to the big cities in search of work. With the process of formalizing land claims expensive and time consuming, farmers without formal land title deeds also benefit, using the income from the program to gain such deeds.

Some things that have made me hopeful recently:

The hope and energy gathered around the Standing Rock Sioux tribe’s resistance to the Dakota Access Pipeline.

Dual announcements in July that Berlin’s parliament voted to divest from oil, coal and gas companies, and the city of Stuttgart, in southwestern Germany, pulled its funds out of fossil fuels in response to the mounting threat of climate change.

The action by Philippines environment secretary Gina Lopez over the summer to close eight mines for various violations of land, water quality, and air emissions standards, with the shutdowns indefinite pending restoration work and changes in practices that bring them back into compliance with environmental statutes.

The Moral Day of Action on September 12, where religious leaders in 30 state capitols stood with people impacted by unjust policies to declare that some issues are not liberal or conservative, but right versus wrong.

Toward a Right Relationship with Finance. 
Check out this new book that I co-authored on Debt, Interest, Growth and Security.

The growth economy is failing to provide equitable well-being for humanity and a life-sustaining future for Earth.  However our institutional endowments and individual retirement are dependent on that same growth economy.  This book:
    • offers background on our current economic system--how it is based on unearned income on the one hand and debt on the other, with a built-in momentum toward economy inequality and ecological overshoot;
    • frames the conversation within the context of our deepest values and beliefs;
    • suggests plausible and historically grounded alternatives to the current system, particularly with regard to financing retirement; and
    • invites everyone to imagine new forms of durable economic and social security, and to help create the relationships and institutions that will make them a reality.
With many people now counting as never before on the performance of Wall Street for retirement security, how can this system be challenged with integrity and effectiveness?  Can we break with our dependence on financial speculation and build up new structures of security in a transformed, life-centered economy?

To order the book, or read it on line, go to and scroll down.

More resources

Resource from my friend Daniel Hunter, Building a Movement to End the New Jim Crow; An Organizing Guide.

Recent posts on other web/blog sites:

In, Pamela Haines locates her family's homey DIY celebrations on a class spectrum of different connections to upward mobility.


Muscle Building for Peace and Justice; a Non-Violent Workout Routine for the 21st Century--an integration of much of my experience and thinking over the years: (or just google the title), a website that I've contributed to often (check the archives), a home for all the parenting writing I've done over the past 20 years.  NOTE THE NEW URL. START: a way to study and work together with others to create a better world.

For earlier columns, go to  I'm currently posting at

Pamela Haines

To be truly radical is to make hope possible rather than despair convincing.

Pamela Haines

To be truly radical is to make hope possible rather than despair convincing.

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