SD anti-pipeline movement now in 13 countriesMITCHELL, S.D. — On Wednesday, several hundred people from 13 nations began a “Fast for the Earth.”
By: Emma Dejong , The Dickinson Press
MITCHELL, S.D. — On Wednesday, several hundred people from 13 nations began a “Fast for the Earth.”
The fast is largely in response to TransCanada’s Keystone Pipeline, which transports crude oil from the tar sands in Canada to the United States. Those fasting are opposed to any further extension of the pipeline, including the proposed XL extension.
The existing pipeline runs through eastern South Dakota, and the extension would go through western South Dakota. Proponents of the extension say it would lessen America’s dependence on Middle Eastern oil and create jobs during the construction process.
“For me, it’s a major issue,” said Carl Kline of Brookings, one of the fast’s organizers. “The XL, I don’t want to see it happen. But it’s part of a larger situation as well.”
That larger situation is the health of the whole Earth, Kline said, adding that he wants to see America lose its dependency on fossil fuels.
It’s impossible to know exactly how many have registered for the fast, Kline said, because so many have registered as a group. Most participants will fast from food Aug. 1-7, but some will fast from other things as well, often for health reasons.
Kline said Fast for the Earth is one group of people across the globe with a big dream: to create “harmony” on the Earth. This fast is just part of the process, he said.
“Throw one pebble in the lake,” Kline said. “It makes a little ripple. Then that ripple makes another little ripple. And I think that’s the way the fast is.”
How it started
Kline and Phyllis Cole-Dai, both of Brookings, are co-organizers of the fast. Kline is a “semi-retired” minister of the United Church of Christ. He is married with two children and five grandchildren, and he does some teaching at Mount Marty College. Cole-Dai is self-employed and stays busy writing, composing and doing activist work.
Both Kline and Cole-Dai attended the 20th annual American Indian Histories and Cultures Conference at South Dakota State University on March 28. The speakers said that if the XL pipeline is constructed, many sacred Native American sites could be destroyed.
That’s when they became passionate about opposing the pipeline.
“I thought, what is sacred when it comes to energy development?” Kline said. “I want to appeal to people’s hearts. I don’t think they’re listening in their heads.”
Kline and Cole-Dai decided to organize a fast.
“I appreciate fasting as a form of social protest — a non-violent protest that can draw attention to things of importance,” Cole-Dai said.
The Internet was helpful in getting people involved, Cole-Dai said. She said the 13 nations were reached largely with the help of Facebook and the movement’s website, fastfortheearth.com. Kline also has some international friends from traveling, including participants from Germany and India.
Kline said for him, fasting has three effects: something within a person, something within relationships with others, and something within a relationship with a deity.
“People are going to understand it in their own way,” he said. “All traditions have fasting in them. So it’s a spiritual discipline that every tradition respects.”
Many beliefs, traditions
Among those fasting are Hindus, Muslims, Christians, Jews and Buddhists, Kline said. He said that each faith has a different history and purposes related to fasting.
“I think many of us will be incorporating prayer and meditation with refraining from food,” Kline said. “You focus more on the important things. You don’t focus so much on food.”
For Kline, respect and love for creation is a motivation to fast.
“I went to summer camp in the Black Hills — church camp,” he said. “Probably learned more there in terms of spiritual things than I learned in a year in Sunday school. I’ve always felt a connection with creation.”
Cole-Dai is a Buddhist, and she said this fast will conceptualize what needs to happen to the Earth.
“In order to make a statement about the sacredness of the Earth, when you fast, you suffer a bit, but at the same time you’re cleansing your body,” she said. “[The Earth] is going through a great deal of suffering. Somehow we have to turn that suffering to cleansing.”
Kline said that in no way is the fast competitive, “even with yourself,” and there is no intention that anyone should become ill.
“The idea is not to hurt your body,” Kline said. “The idea is maybe to cleanse it, maybe to strengthen it.”
He said the longest fast he has done was for nine days. Fasting, he said, has helped him learn “what enough is.”
“If we can control our palette, than we in fact have greater control over other desires, too,” he said.
Kline said the fast is a way to take a stand without asking someone else to do something.
“I have written so many letters to people in Congress, and it’s like there’s a deaf ear,” he said. “Particularly on this issue.”
Kline said the group has not conducted a large publicity effort, instead hoping the fast will impact people the participants interact with in their daily lives.
“As Carl and I often talk, we’re not into measuring success by numbers,” Cole-Dai said. “We don’t know what the impact of this will be in real terms.”
Kline said he is just ready to see mindsets changed. He said the United States is a country “that wants ends” and “doesn’t even want to think about the means.” He hopes awareness will make people want change.
“I’m always a little cautious about talking about the bad stuff, because people can get depressed and not see the good possibilities,” he said. “And that’s what the fast is all about.”
The good possibilities
The idea is that all participants will fast right away, but then it will be a “perpetual fast,” Kline said.
“Our goal is to have one group or one person fasting indefinitely to the future,” he said.
Cole-Dai said people don’t have to fast to participate in the Fast for the Earth movement. There are several events throughout the week in Brookings that are free of charge.
For less dependency on fossil fuels, Kline said he hopes to see more of what has already been started.
“You know, I like driving up to Lake Benton or Watertown and seeing all those windmills out there,” he said. “I want that to happen more quickly.”
Ultimately, he said, morality is what will make a difference.
“I think until we really wake up to the continued exploitation of fossil fuels — to whether it’s right or wrong — I don’t think it’s going to change,” Kline said.