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Where is Our Energy? Witness for Earth, Our Communities, and Our Future

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General Assembly 2013 Event 2064

Program Description

Do you know where your energy comes from when you turn on a light switch in your own home? Our climate is changing because of how we harness and use energy, and we are causing harm to our planet, our communities, our neighbors, and our future. We need to stop the harmful effects of practices like mountaintop removal, hydraulic fracturing, mining, and drilling. They are hurting all of our communities, and most especially, communities of color, low-income neighborhoods, and rural towns. We can find new ways forward together. But in order to change how we get our energy, we must first use the energy within all of us to make a change. 

Join Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA) President Rev. Peter Morales; Wendell Berry: author, spiritual environmental justice activist, economic critic, and farmer; Tim DeChristopher, and interfaith and community leaders in a witness for our Earth, our communities, and our future. 

Hear testimonies, join in song, prayer, and a reverse water communion. Learn practical ways for how you can make a difference in your life and in your community. Come and wear your Standing on the Side of Love gear. Let’s find a sustainable way forward together. 

We are partnering with Kentucky Interfaith Power and Light, this years’ service project and Sunday collection recipient, and other local and regional organizations. 

For the beauty of the Earth and its people—we are building a new way! 

We will leave the Plenary Hall together, taking escalators and elevators down to the 3rd Street Lobby, and proceed to the Belvedere plaza for our witness event where we will gather at the river with community partners. The Belvedere is located on the riverfront between 4th and 6th Streets, in downtown Louisville. 

Some seating at the event will be available for those who need seating.

Transcript

[MUSIC—KRI & HETTIE, "SILVER LINING"]

[APPLAUSE]

[MUSIC—KRI & HETTIE]

[APPLAUSE]

[MUSIC PLAYING]

[MUSIC—KRI & HETTIE, "DOWN TO THE RIVER TO PRAY"]

DAWN COOLEY: Welcome, everyone, to the Energy for Change Interfaith Action for Clean Energy and for Healthy Communities. It's so good to see so many of you here. My name is Dawn Cooley. And I'm the minister of First Unitarian Church just up the street. And I am so excited and thankful to see so many of you. Excellent. Thank you Kri N Hettie for that inspired and inspiring gift of music. Your message of empowerment is exactly what we need today as we rally for change.

We do come down to the river today knowing that it is time for us to build a new way. Time to strengthen our demand for clean energy. Energy that doesn't harm our communities through it's mining, through its transportation, through it's burning, or through its waste. It is time to demand a just transition for communities affected by the extraction industry.

We are here at the banks of the Ohio River where the barges regularly transport coal from where it has been mined to where it will be burned. We are here in the shadow of the Gallagher Coal Burning Power Plant, one of the dirtiest plants in the country. We stand at this historical moment with one of the largest gatherings of folks in Kentucky. People from communities around to the state and Unitarian Universalists from around the country. People who are concerned about the faith of our planet and its people, knowing that how we get and use our energy is not just a Kentucky issue. It is a national, international, and indeed, it is a global issue.

We would not be here today without the help of many local and regional organizations who have partnered and participated in this endeavor, including more than 30 faith communities and a dozen environmental organizations. This is what partnering is all about.

While we regrettably cannot acknowledge and name every single one of them, we do have to particularly express our appreciation for the contributions of Kentucky Interfaith Power and Light. Kentuckians for the Commonwealth. The Kentucky Council of Churches. The Fellowship of Reconciliation. 350 Louisville. The Sierra Club. And Cultivating Connections. I now invite the Reverend Peter Morales, President of the Unitarian Universalist Association, to come forward and remind us of why it is so important that we do this urgent work together.

PETER MORALES: Thank you, Dawn. What a bunch of troublemakers. You're beautiful. This General Assembly, we're talking and focusing so much about covenant. And covenant being a committed relationship, but that covenant, as we know, has to go beyond our congregations, has to go beyond Unitarian Universalism, has to go beyond even those who are alive today. We have to be in a committed relationship with those not born. And of those who are here today, of those who are not, who are among the most marginalized people because they are the first victims of economic and environmental degradation.

As Wendell Berry so eloquently just reminded us, this is a matter of choice for us. We talk about standing on the side of love, but we can choose another way. We can change our personal habits. We can change our culture. We can change our political system. We can change our economy. We need not live in a way that degrades the planet and that puts people at odds with one another. And we will do this together. With faith partners, with people in all kinds of organizations who share our commitment to creating a new way of life for all of humanity and for all of the earth. Now—that's you. Stuff's blowing around up here.

DAWN COOLEY: Thank you, Peter. Thank you so much. Joining with us today, we have a diverse group of secular and faith leaders gathered for this pivotal moment, including representatives from Judaism, Buddhism, Islam, the Native American community, Presbyterian Church USA, United Church of Christ, and the Hindu community. That's right. It's awesome. I invite our leaders and Reverend Morales to lead us in the Standing on the Side of Love, We Are One litany, written by the Reverend Fred Small, who is behind me. As we are reading the litany, I invite all of us who are gathered here together to respond to each speaker section with, we are one. Let us practice it one time.

ALL: We are one.

DAWN COOLEY: Excellent.

PETER MORALES: We are one. One people. One community. One Earth. One spirit.

AUDIENCE: We are one.

SPEAKER 1: Oak Hill families flooded out of their homes by mountaintop removal. The baby with asthma who lives in the shadow of a coal-fired power plant. The minor with black lung.

ALL: We are one.

SPEAKER 1: The family whose drinking water is poisoned by fracking. The sick mother in Cancer Alley. The grandfather dead of heat stroke in another record heat wave.

ALL: We are one.

SPEAKER 2: The Katrina victims of Louisiana. The Sandy victim in New Jersey. And the refugees displaced by the flood waters in Bangladesh. We are one.

ALL: We are one.

SPEAKER 2: The hunter whose family goes hungry because game has disappeared. The worker who can't get the job because his service was cut. And the retiree who can't pay the heating bill. We are one.

AUDIENCE: We are one.

SPEAKER 3: The young woman who fears bringing a child into the world. The adult who fears growing up. The childhood fears growing up.

ALL: We are one.

SPEAKER 4: The coal companies, the oil companies, and the energy conglomerates want to keep us apart. They don't want us to talk to each other. They don't want us to take care about one another.

ALL: But we are one.

SPEAKER 5: Today we close the circle. Today we break the silence. Today we find our voice. We are one. Today we listen to one another. Today we speak out for justice. Today we stand on the side of love.

ALL: We are one.

SPEAKER 6: will heal our wounded communities. We will heal our wounded earth. We will heal our wounded souls.

ALL: We are one.

SPEAKER 7: We will dwell in beauty. We will abide in love. We will see the sacred in all.

ALL: We are one.

DAWN COOLEY: Thank you all so much. What a gift it is to be doing this important work together in community. My fellow emcee, the Reverend Melvin Hoover, co-minister of the Unitarian Universalist congregation of Charleston, West Virginia and I are here to amplify the message that we are one. Connected by the air that we breathe. Connected by the blood that runs through our veins. Connected by the water that our bodies are all made of.

MELVIN HOOVER: Waters. Like the water of the Ohio River behind me, which starts in Pittsburgh and winds its way through Appalachia, forming the border of West Virginia and Ohio down through Kentucky until it meets with the Mississippi River near Cairo, Illinois. The Ohio River is home to over ten million people.

DAWN COOLEY:The fossil fuel industry has had its impact along the Ohio River, all along the river it consumes and it pollutes. The water, the air, the land, the animals, the plants, and the people, all aspects of the interdependent web are being poisoned. Pittsburgh sits on the Marcellus shale, a natural gas rich rock formation that is being hydraulically fracked, polluting the water and harming the land.

MELVIN HOOVER: As the Ohio winds its way through the mountains, the nature of the fossil fuel industry changes from natural gas extraction to coal mining and mountaintop removal. Boo is right. Mountaintop removal devastates our mountains. It pollutes the air, our water, and land for miles around, harming communities and the people who live there. Coal mining continues to be a health concern for miners. And we have seen an increase in numbers of miners contracting black lung.

DAWN COOLEY: The river is then used to transport coal to places like Cincinnati, Louisville, and Owensboro. It is not uncommon to see coal barges traveling down this river, loaded up with coal for one of the many, many coal fired power plants along its banks. The burnt coal emits harmful chemicals into the air causing health problems for people who live nearby. The coal ash waste is put into ponds or piles, causing even more health problems.

MELVIN HOOVER: The poor and people of color are hit first and hardest. But we all have a right, all of us have a right, to clean water, to clean air, to healthy communities in which to raise our children. Because we are one. We are connected to the communities destroyed by fracking, by mountaintop removal, by burning coal, even if we live in a different part of the country. Indeed, no matter where we live, much of our power is fueled or funded by the extraction industry.

DAWN COOLEY: Let us take a few minutes to listen to some of the stories of people whose lives have been impacted by the harmful fossil fuel industry. After each person has shared their story, Kri N Hettie will lead us in a refrain of building the new way. We'll sing that phrase through two times to help us to remember that it is our responsibility to build a new way that is not harmful to the interdependent web and to our neighbors. A way that does not destroy the ability of those who work in the industry to support their families. A way that does not devastate an entire culture or poison an entire generation.

So we'll say it twice together, just like this.

[MUSIC—KRI & HETTIE, "WE ARE BUILDING A NEW WAY"]

SPEAKER 8: When I say—mmm-mmm. When I say healthy, you say community. OK, I'll do it, I'll do. But I have to stand back. I know, but it's so loud. When I say healthy, you say, community. Healthy.

AUDIENCE: Community.

SPEAKER 8: Healthy.

AUDIENCE: Community.

SPEAKER 8: When I say healthy, you say, community. Healthy.

AUDIENCE: Community.

SPEAKER 8: So I am here representing so many people I work with in Appalachia and Alaska, all over. I live in Knoxville, Tennessee. The home of the Tennessee Valley Authority. But now remember, there's beautiful and there is a negative in everything. And that's why I'm here. I'm here representing people that I work, that are my friends, and that are my family, that are in Pittsburgh, that are dealing with fracking, that is messing up their water.

That then moves to West Virginia, where a friend of mine, Courtney, where all she wants us to be able to stay in her home place. All she wants us to be on the land that her family has been on for years. But instead, as of right now, the company is stealing the land underneath her. Because of fracking going underneath, it's destroying the very foundations of the land in which she lives.

And then it that only gets worse as we move on down to Kentucky. I have friends, a week ago, that got a notice that said, your water now has oil in it. So for the third time each year, because the county executor is the same person that owns the oil company, they can't get justice. Moving on to Tennessee, where I live, right where I work, they're trying to frack. And we have to stand and organize against that. So what I need us to do as Unitarian Universalists is to stop having thousands of study groups. It's to stop just reading. It's to stop actually just being individual activists. Join KFTC, join Coal River Mountain Watch, join all the organizations that have been around forever in this fight. Thank you.

[MUSIC—KRI & HETTIE, "WE ARE BUILDING A NEW WAY"]

DAWN COOLEY: We have a lot of room up here, folks. So if you're standing in the back, and you're having a hard time hearing, please feel free to come forward. We can fill in here in the front a little ways.

DAVID MILLER: My name is David Miller. And my family has been in the mountains of West Virginia so long that we actually don't know when we got there. There's legends and stories and folk tales. All we know is we've been there forever and time out of mind. In those mountains, generations of my family have been born and lived and worked and died and been buried. And those mountains that have been my home and the home of my family, there's a lot of them that aren't there anymore. They've been decapitated. They've been ripped open and violated to get at the coal inside that powers America's electric gluttony.

I said the generations of my family were buried in those mountains. I say were because some of my family's cemeteries are gone. They also have been blown away and destroyed. If I want to see the memorial of my ancestors, where do I go? Sometimes I can find a fence that tells me that the road to my family's graveyards are not our property anymore, and that I'm a trespasser for trying to go see them.

How can my family history be destroyed and nobody seem to care? Now, all of that mountain goes somewhere. Much of the rubble is bulldozed into nearby valleys and creek beds and destroyed. Some of it is shoveled into old, abandoned mine shafts where it leaks into the aquifers and into the small wells that many rural families have relied on for generations. Marie shows me pictures of the red liquid that pours from her faucet these days, and how it stains the sink and the toilets and the bath tubs brown.

She says that when she first saw this filth come out of her faucet, she thought of the verses from revelation. And the rivers turned to blood with the wrath of the Lord. I don't know about the Lord, but I know I've got some wrath. And that's not a metaphor, because the bones of my ancestors are mixed with the pollutants in that water. It is blood coming out of those faucets.

How can my history be simply foulness polluting the water? My grandfather, my papa, told me when I was very, very small—I thought he was just being cranky at the time, now I know better. David he said, let me tell you something. You never, never, never believe one word the boss ever tells you. The company is never your friend. It has never been the miner's friend. You listen. He was right. When did we forget that?

He used to tell me stories of the many races and ethnic groups that were in the camps. How immigrants were there from all over Europe. Ireland, Italy, African Americans, poor whites. I heard the saying growing up, under the ground we're all black. But above ground, those groups were often in separate isolated smaller camps, and they rarely spoke to each other. And my papa told me that he was convinced it was the company that was spreading the stories and rumors that kept everyone afraid of each other. And that's what they're still doing. That's what they're still doing. They still pit us against each other.

Mountaintop removal means that companies can make a whole lot more profit with a lot less labor. And the layoffs are devastating. But the companies have convinced these communities that the layoffs are the fault of the environmentalists blocking the mining permits. And so once again, all over again, they got us fighting each other while they rob us blind. And I am sick of it. This is my home. Don't call me a tree hugger, because my family planted those trees. And the rest of them, God planted.

There's a very popular bumper sticker where I live. If you hate coal, then live in the dark. Now there's a truth and a lie here. The truth is, actually, that every time you do flip a light switch or charge your smartphone or make a espresso out of the fancy, fancy machine, you are profiting from the labor of coal miners and coal communities. So you do, I feel, have a moral obligation to be deeply, deeply grateful to everything those coal families have done for you. Because the coal people in my family, they're not ashamed of what they do. They're proud of what they do. It is a service for their country. I do nothing against the miners. I do it because of the miners in my family.

Now, that also means that every time you flip on a light switch, you are directly connected to mountaintop removal. This isn't just us. You're involved. Each and every one of you. So what are you going to do about it? Now, because you see the company is literally—I say the company singular, that's my Appalachian roots showing. It's all one big thing. The company's literally banking on you not paying attention.

So I say though that the lie of the sticker is that—this lie that without the coal companies, we'd all stuck in the dark. Because there are alternative ways. There are alternative ways that don't pit us against each other. That draw us together, that don't pit us against the earth. And today, here and now, that is the light that we will turn on.

[APPLAUSE]

[MUSIC—KRI & HETTIE, "WE ARE BUILDING A NEW WAY"]

KATHY LITTLE: Hi, everyone, I'm Kathy Little. I'm a mom, a grandmother, and a volunteer Cane Run Community organizer with the Sierra Club. Louisville Residents for Power Plant Justice encompasses both the Mill Creek and Cane Run communities in Southwest Jefferson County. Our land and our water has been and continues to be poisoned by burning coal. I wanted to briefly talk about impact at communities in Western Kentucky. The strip mines in Utica and Owensboro to name a few.

The stories are eerily similar. Everything is compromised. The explosions. The dust. And then the second round of dusts dodging the coal tracks down a path of destruction of the air, water, the health of the people in these communities. Much of this coal finds its way up the river to the power plants. One here, two here in Jefferson County to be mixed with the coal. That is mined through mountaintop removal. Both the Cane Run and Mill Creek power plants have high hazard ash dams on their campuses. They are 40 years, according to LG&E, and it is undetermined whether or not an engineer was involved during construction.

They are approximately 36 foot deep and hold fly ash and bottom match. They are close to schools. They are close to day cares and local communities. If they breach, our babies die. In the meantime, both spew toxic sludge into the Ohio River. Clean air is a basic right, except when you live within 100 yards of one of the oldest and filthiest power plants in the United States. At Cane Run, we smell sulfur most days. And it literally makes you sick. Fly ash from sludge plant malfunctions and ash blowing of a huge dry ash landfill, crosses LG&E's property line, and finds its way into our communities.

We see it floating in the air. It's in the inside and outside of our homes. It's the consistency of talcum powder, and it tastes of sulfur. We clean with ammonia based products to get it off of our furniture. What we were worried about most, though, is the heavy metal particulates that find their way into our children's lungs. What is this doing to their bodies? In the long term? In the short term? Will they die young?

Many in our communities suffer from asthma, immune system disorders, rare cancers, among other things. Our local air pollution control districts cites and fines the power plants, but nothing changes. Our communities are not protected from this environmental injustice. We are human witnesses to the devastation that burning coal brings to nearby communities.

I've been fighting this fight for over five years. Though Cane Run recently announced that they will be transitioning to natural gas in 2016, and I know that just moves the problem elsewhere. That just moves the stress and the misery to someone else's children and grandchildren. They will be poisoned, and it is not fair. Thank you so much.

[MUSIC—KRI & HETTIE, "WE ARE BUILDING A NEW WAY"]

EBONY COCHRAN: Good evening. I'm Ebony Cochran, and I'm a member of this community here in Louisville. I'm also a member of React, a group of residents who live near or at the fence line of a cluster of chemical plants commonly referred to as Rubber Town. There are numerous neighborhoods in West and Southwest Louisville that are adjacent to rubber town. I live in one of those. The Chickasaw neighborhood is one with tons of green space, a tree lined parkway that connects to other parkways, beautiful homes and residents who, like most, care about where they live. There is only one thing that keeps my neighborhood from being top notch. It has nothing to do with crime. It has nothing to do with litter. It has nothing to do with lack of sidewalks. It has everything to do with Rubber Town.

A place that should be one of exploration for my son is one of restriction based on how bad the air is on any given day. A place where my son should be able to fish is one tainted with dioxin, commonly referred to as one of the most hazardous substances on Earth. The recent hydrochloric acid spill and the numerous hydraulic fluid spills that occurred recently both speak volumes as to how communities surrounding Rubber Town have no clue as to what will happen from day to day.

The chemical facilities that make up Rubber Town bombard our communities with toxic chemicals associated with many diseases and a lower quality of life. These chemical facilities are some of the top fossil fuel users, many being responsible for some of the worst fossil fuel atrocities. We are being poisoned by chemical companies that demand cheap and dirty energy that in turn is making a huge impact on climate change.

So we cannot look at these issues as we all face as separate. We cannot pit the environmentalist against the environmental justice folks. We cannot pit the workers against the residents. We must come together as one, if we are going to protect the land, the animals, and the people. And the people. We must begin to connect the dots so that our movements can gain more momentum in changing public policy and personal habits. Let's make a commitment here today that we will do better at connecting the dots by going beyond our comfort zones and reaching out to others who are fighting for what is right.

[MUSIC—KRI & HETTIE, "WE ARE BUILDING A NEW WAY"]

DAWN COOLEY: Something is answering us. Please welcome our next speaker, author, visionary, poet, farmer, spiritual leader to the environmental justice movement, and beloved by both Kentucky and across the country, Mr. Wendell Berry.

[APPLAUSE]

WENDELL BERRY: I'm going to read a poem called "Questionnaire." One, how much poison are you willing to eat for the success of the free market and global trade? Please name your preferred poisons. Two, for the sake of goodness, how much evil are you willing to do? Fill in the following blanks with the names of your favorite evils and acts of hatred.

Three, what sacrifices are you prepared to make for culture and civilization? Please list the monuments, shrines, and works of art you would most willingly destroy. Four, in the name of patriotism, and the flag, how much of our beloved land are you willing to desecrate? List in the following spaces the mountains, rivers, towns, farms, you could most readily to do without. Five, state briefly the ideas, ideals, or hopes, the energy sources, the kinds of security, for which you would kill a child. Name, please, the children whom you would be willing to kill.

[MUSIC—KRI & HETTIE, "WE ARE BUILDING A NEW WAY"]

MARK STEINER: Hello. It is so awesome to see you all here today. I'm Mark Steiner with Kentucky Interfaith Power and Light, where we work hard to mobilize a response to climate change and to bring clean energy to our communities. And I want to thank Wendell for that beautiful and heartbreaking poem. And I want to acknowledge that the truth is, we don't have to eat poison. We don't have to contribute to evil. We don't have to sacrifice our creativity. And we don't have to desecrate the land, oil, and waters. And we most certainly do not have to kill our children.

The details may be a little different, but the story remains the same. It matters little where we live. New England. The Pacific Northwest. The South. The Midwest. In the country, the suburbs, or city. Dirty energy is polluting the air, the land, the water all around us. Dirty energy is making us and making our children sick. Ebony's story is our story. Cathy's story is our story. David's story is our story. Alondria's stories are our stories.

We are connected by one air, by one water, by being members of one earth community. We are connected in the spirit, in our quest for healthy communities, in our quest for a healthy future for our children. The hope for healthy communities, the hope for clean energy, the hope for our children lies within each of us. We are the hope. We are the possibility for a clean energy future. We are the possibility for healthy communities for healthy children. For the dream of clean energy future to be more than a possibility, we must be willing to change. We must be willing to sacrifice. We must be willing to act. We must have energy for change.

This is each of ours to carry. Each of us. And that is OK, because we are each of us, powerful. And because together, we are even more powerful. The dream is a possibility if we have energy for change. So I ask, do you have energy for change? Yes. We want clean energy. And we want it now. What do we want?

AUDIENCE: Clean energy!

MARK STEINER: When do we want it?

AUDIENCE: Now!

MARK STEINER: What do we want?

AUDIENCE: Clean energy!

MARK STEINER: When do we want it?

AUDIENCE: Now!

MARK STEINER: Thank you.

[MUSIC—KRI & HETTIE, "WE ARE BUILDING A NEW WAY"]

DAWN COOLEY: We are one. Connected by the air that we breathe. Connected by the blood that runs through our veins. Connected by the waters our bodies are made up of. And we are no longer willing to eat, drink, or breathe poison. We are no longer willing to sacrifice our children, our future to remember these, and honor these stories. To remember our connections with one another, we have biodegradable vials of water from the Ohio River that has been lovingly filtered and purified and sterilized by members of the Unitarian Universalist congregation of Owensboro.

Our volunteers will distribute these vials now. So volunteers, come on up. Take these vials home to your places of worship, to your communities and neighborhoods. If you have an annual water communion in your congregation, share this water, and share these stories with your congregation. Let this rally be like a dropping a stone in the water with ripples that continue reaching out wider and wider.

We also have postcards for you that give you action items that you can take to call upon the EPA to create a brighter future for Kentucky, for the region, and for the country. These cards tell you how to look up where your energy comes from, to see what connection you have, because you have one, with coal and with mountaintop removal or with fracking, and you may not even know it. Let's take this energy for change home. And let's say sing together. We are building a new way. All the way.

[MUSIC—KRI & HETTIE, "WE ARE BUILDING A NEW WAY"]

MELVIN HOOVER: All right, kRi & Hettie, thank you for leading us in song. And thank you all of you for being here, and participating in this important moment in time. And if you did not get a post card or a water sample, they will be available after the rally. For now, I want to invite you to hold the water in your hands, if you have it, or imagine it's in your hands or your hands are cupped, and you're holding the water. Now, this water in our hands is the same water that runs through our bodies. It runs in our oceans and seas. It carves valleys and rivers over time. This same water runs in the Ohio River. Along the coal fired plants, it runs through the mountain streams that were once crisp and cold and now are poisoned through the removal of the mountain tops.

This water is our groundwater. It nourishes our farms, our families, and our very bodies. Let us, therefore, make a prayer with this water. A prayer that we gathered here honor the interdependent web of all existence. And that we cease polluting this water through harmful fossil fuel extraction processes. A prayer that those in power hear our cries for justice, our cries for clean water and clean air. A prayer that we invest in what? New ways. I want to hear you say it. New ways. Say it again. New ways.

Instead of polluting the earth, let's harness the power of geothermal energy. Instead of polluting our air, let us harness the power of the wind. Instead of polluting our waters, why don't we harness the power of hydro energy? And instead of harming creation through the extraction and burning of fossil fuels, why don't we harness the sun?

Let these waters you hold in your hands be a symbol to the world that people of faith and concerned citizens are dedicated to a more just and sustainable future. So we call on those in power to build new ways for ourselves and for our children and grandchildren. If you believe that it should be so, say it with me, amen.

DAWN COOLEY: Amen. Thank you, Mel, so much. And thank you to all of you who have come out here. I wanted to let you know that we have over 2,000 people assembled here this evening. Awesome. We're making history together. I want to thank Kri N Hettie for their music tonight. If you're part of GA, you can catch them at 10:15 for part of the evening entertainment. I want to thank all of you for coming. And I want to thank our interfaith speakers for being here and for sharing their time with us today.

But before you leave, I'd like to introduce one more speaker. Our last speaker's radical nonviolent protest as bitter 70 at a 2008 auction of oil and gas leases, from his ongoing commitment to organizing, including the formation of his organization, Peaceful Uprising, to his call to UU Ministry, Tim DeChristopher's leadership has been inspiring a new generation of spiritual activists. Tim.

TIM DECHRISTOPHER: Thank you. When I was growing up in West Virginia, I learned firsthand that exploitation of the environment goes hand in hand with exploitation of people in local communities. And that instilled in me a deep sense of fighting that injustice and a deep passion for ending that oppression of both our land and our communities. But that experience of growing up in West Virginia also taught me the power of something like the coal industry. It instilled in me a sense of fear of an industry that big, that strong, that connected that worked so hard to keep people oppressed, and to convince people that they had no other options. And I lived in that fear for quite a while, even as I had this burning desire to rise against that injustice. I held back because of that fear.

But once I broke through that, and I finally took action in 2008, and I took action without hesitation at that point, and I overcame that fear, and I finally had my actions in line with my sentiment, that fear disappeared. And I felt more free after that point than I'd ever felt before. Even when I served 21 months in prison for that act of civil disobedience, I felt more free every day in prison than I had when I resided in that fear under the oppression of the coal industry.

[APPLAUSE]

TIM DECHRISTOPHER: An even when I was isolated within that prison, I felt more connected to a community than I had in those days of fear beforehand, because I was connected to this community of faith that held onto me throughout that whole experience. And people all around the country in other UU congregations, and in other communities around the country reached out and held on to me during that experience. Because this is not just a movement that is fighting against injustice. This is not just a movement that is trying to take down one industry.

This is a movement that is holding on to people. And holding on and uplifting our communities and building a truly healthy and just world. And that boils down even down to our relationships, where we hold on to people that are taking a stand. And let this be a message. Let this rally here today, and our presence here today in Louisville, be a message, that when people stand against injustice, they will not stand alone. There will be a community and a movement to stand with them and to hold on to them.

And let's make it clear that this action, this event, and this commitment does not end here today on this plaza. That it will continue when we leave because we have a great opportunity at this moment right now. We have a new EPA administration coming in. And we need to make our voices heard louder than the fossil fuel industry is heard.

We know that the fossil fuel industry is desperate right now. All we have to do is look at their actions. The mountaintop removal itself is a desperate act. Hydraulic fracking is a desperate act. These are the desperate acts of a dying industry. And we know that in their desperation, they'll do whatever they have to do to hold on to their power. So we know that they're trying everything they can to make their voices heard in Washington. And we need to make our voices heard even louder. We need to be calling the new EPA administrator as often as we possibly can. We need to be writing handwritten letters to the EPA administrator, and we need to be showing up in those offices as often as we possibly can.

We need to make our voices heard to every political official that takes money from the fossil fuel industry. Let them know that this people-powered movement is going to be more powerful than the fossil fuel industry. Make that voice heard in Washington and around the country. And let's also not just focus on the government. Let's think about all the other institutions that we're a part of, and how we can isolate those institutions from the fossil fuel industry, how we can break that grip that the fossil fuel industry has, not only on our government but on our society as a whole.

Let's reach out to all the institutions there we're a part of, including the UUA and demand that they divest from fossil fuels. So that we never have to add a sixth question to Wendell's poem. We never have to ask ourselves, what climate catastrophes would we be willing to accept for a higher interest rate? We don't ever want to have to ask ourselves that. That's why we're going to take a stand and live by our principles.

And make this just the beginning. Just the beginning of our commitment to live by our principles, to stand up to the most powerful industry in the history of the world, and to keep our commitment to the people of Appalachia. Let this be the beginning of our commitment, not just to overthrow the power of the fossil fuel industry, but to replacing it with strong and healthy communities and strong and healthy economies that do not this destroy our rivers, our air, and our communities. Let's keep that commitment. Instead of investing our money in corporations that exploit, let's invest our energies, our passions, our voices, our minds, and our lives in that struggle for a healthy and just world. Let's keep that commitment. Thank you.

DAWN COOLEY: Pick up one of these cards. Take it home. Follow the actions. Look up where your energy comes from. We are all connected. Take it home. Thank you for being here. kRi & Hettie take us home.

[MUSIC—KRI & HETTIE, "GUEST HOUSE"]

[APPLAUSE]

For more information contact environment@uua.org.

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Last updated on Tuesday, January 28, 2014.

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