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Hanging On By Their Faith

By Annie Gonzalez Milliken

protestors dangling

Protestors dangle from the St. John's bridge. Photo by Kristyna Wentz-Graff, OregonLive

UU young adult activist suspends their body to slow arctic oil drilling

"This is a personal issue for me because of my faith; I'm actually a Unitarian Universalist seminarian," begins Elizabeth Mount explaining why they're willing to dangle from a bridge for an uncertain length of time above the Willamette River in Portland, Oregon.  Elizabeth is part of a group of Greenpeace activists using their bodies to stop an ice-breaking ship called the Fennica from leaving for the Arctic to assist with Shell Oil's drilling operations there.

"I want Shell to know that human lives are more important than profits," this UU young adult states in their video on the issue.  The activists hope to send a strong message with this action that continuing fossil fuel extraction in the face of climate change is morally unacceptable.

It definitely takes courage, conviction and logistical and spiritual preparation to engage in this type of coordinated direct action. Elizabeth certainly seems prepared. They are known in UU young adult circles for a commitment to a wide variety of justice issues from fighting climate change to supporting the Black Lives Matter movement. They have twelve years of organizing experience and have recently worked with UU Young Adults for Climate Justice. This Meadville Lombard student also recently served on the Right Relationship team at the Unitarian Universalist Association General Assembly, so if you were at GA 2015 you might recognize them from that role.

In explaining their commitment to this cause, Elizabeth notes that our faith says that every person is worthy, every soul is sacred, and so the lives that are affected by rising sea levels and other symptoms of climate change are worth fighting for. Not all of us are prepared or able to rappel from a bridge and block ships, but each of us can do something to Commit2Respond as we face this global catastrophe together. Unitarian Universalism calls each of us to do what we can, for the sake of human lives and life itself.


Update: Thanks to the work of these protestors the Fennica had to turn around on the morning of Thursday July 30th and return to dock.  However once law enforcement began arresting the support people who were on the bridge and the coast guard began removing the "kayaktivists" from the water later on Thursday, the rappelling activists were forced to come down.  The Fennica did continue on its journey around 6 pm on Thursday evening, but the delay and, more importantly, the international attention these activists created made the action worthwhile.

Hear more about Elizabeth's experience on this interview conducted by Aly Tharp of UU Young Adults for Climate Justice after Elizabeth returned to dry land from their aerial perch.