transport | urbanism | adventures | pontification
As a guest at the Oceti Sakowin Camp in mid-November, I joined thousands of other #NoDAPL water protectors in praying and preparing the camp for a North Dakotan winter. On arrival, we attended an orientation reviewing the seven Lakota values (Prayer, Respect, Compassion, Honesty, Generosity, Humility, Wisdom) guiding life at the camp and how to be of use (“We support this fight in whatever way its leaders decide is most useful. We come prepared to work and not expect anything in return. Every person who comes to camp must try to bring more resource than they use”).
Being there was a powerful experience, and this video captures some of the spirit of the resistance to the pipeline and the environmental injustice of its rerouting south of Bismarck:
Other thoughts that help describe the spirit and historic nature of the camps:
As resistance to the Dakota Access Pipeline in Standing Rock, N.D., concludes its seventh month, two narratives have emerged:
- We have never seen anything like this before.
- This has been happening for hundreds of years.
Both are true. The scope of the resistance at Standing Rock exceeds just about every protest in Native American history. But that history itself, of indigenous people fighting to protect not just their land, but the land, is centuries old.
— Leah Donnella, NPR
Our struggles have been kept both out of sight and out of mind — easily forgotten by those who aren’t directly impacted.
It should be clear to everyone that we are not simply here in those rare moments when others bear witness.
To reiterate (what should be obvious): We are not simply here when you see us.
We have always been here, fighting for our lives, surviving colonization, and that reality is rarely acknowledged…
Yes, everyone should be talking about climate change, but you should also be talking about the fact that Native communities deserve to survive, because our lives are worth defending in their own right — not simply because “this affects us all.”
So when you talk about Standing Rock, please begin by acknowledging that this pipeline was redirected from an area where it was most likely to impact white people. And please remind people that our people are struggling to survive the violence of colonization on many fronts, and that people shouldn’t simply engage with or retweet such stories when they see a concrete connection to their own issues — or a jumping off point to discuss their own issues.
–Kelly Hayes, Transformative Spaces
I felt safe at camp; I didn’t want to leave. The power of the place is immediately apparent. Time operates differently, without reliable cell phone coverage or internet, the day and night unfold at their own pace. We wandered around, supporting how we could, meeting protectors, connecting with friends and family, watching, learning, and just being present…
What I need to stress, again, is the role of the protectors. They are there to stop the pipeline, but to do it in prayer and without weapons. They are there to fight for the recognition of the rights and presence of the Standing Rock Sioux, and to fight for the water and land. But this is not just a fight for the environment, and I want you to remember that. This is another battle in the ongoing resistance to settler colonialism.
–Adrienne Keene, Native Appropriations
The “water protectors” called their main camp Oceti Sakowin, or Seven Council Fires, after the tribes of the Great Sioux Nation. There they erected tents and tepees, parked campers and horse trailers, and planted the flags of about 300 tribes, which flap in the wind on the long dirt track called Crazy Horse Avenue.
The Seven Council Fires camp and the adjacent Sacred Stone and Red Warrior camps have become communities of Native American solidarity likely not seen in more than a century. Lakota and Dakota people say these tribes have not joined to face a common enemy since the 1876 defeat of Gen. George Custer. — Sandy Tolan, LA Times
On our way to Standing Rock, we saw a recently completed segment of the pipeline and were surprised by how wide it was.
Arriving in camp, it was amazing to see people from all over North America. We saw plenty of license plates from Florida, California, and the Pacific Northwest. At the sacred fire in the evening, we listened to the leader of a youth delegation from Saskatchewan. And we joined in a wide range of other discussions, from maximizing the efficiency of wood-burning stoves to the sacredness of the ground on which we stood.
Understanding the lessons from past oil development is a common theme here. “They always tell us to trust them; that they have all this smart, intelligent technology,” said Tom Goldtooth, director of the Indigenous Environmental Network. “But we’ve learned from other people, from other pipeline communities, that it’s not if a pipeline is going to spill or leak, it’s when.”
For Goldtooth and others, a larger agenda is playing out along the river.
“The goal is to build sustainable communities,” said Goldtooth. –Sandy Tolan, LA Times
Most of the manual labor we contributed was helping to expand the composting system for Grandma’s Hoopa Kitchen. When the Rev. Noah Evans was there (with a delegation of 500 clergy who burned the Doctrine of Discovery) a couple weeks before my trip, he was given the job of serving tea to everyone who walked into this kitchen. The kitchens of Oceti Sakowin are worthy of a story all their own:
Right after we left the camp, the US Army Corps of Engineers paused drilling, calling for “additional analysis and discussion,” but not a full EIS. And the weather finally turned wintry, with the year’s first snow falling and the Morton County Sheriff warning that those at the camp would likely face hypothermia. A few days later, with temperatures in the mid 20s (Fahrenheit), law enforcement used water cannons on people standing where I stood a week before, reportedly injuring hundreds.
To take action,
After trying Jason Wright‘s Brand New Subway game, I sent one of my creations to Aarian Marshall at Wired. She included it in “Transit Pros Rebuild the NYC Subway—in an Online Game,” which I guess implicates me as a “transit pro.”
My redesign gets an A+, and keeps costs fairly low. But Chris Pangilinan’s achieves slightly higher ridership, and has less odorous elevators…
Last weekend, hundreds in Boston marched yet again to say the names of more victims of police shootings. We chanted “Black Lives Matter” and “No Justice, No Peace” circling around Boston Common. Standing on Washington Street, we sang “We Shall Overcome.” As we were crossing Mass Ave., a woman started to drive her car through the group until one of the police officers biking alongside us pulled up to block her path. We encouraged people standing along Boylston Street to join us — “Out of the Sidewalk, Into the Streets!” — and some did.
Streets are the dominant public spaces of American cities, and they have been the venue of public assembly from the founding of the country. But streets, roads, and highways have also been both the venue of too many race-driven executions, and the lasting embodiment of much more insidious racist policies and planning. That history makes them all the more fitting stage on which the people peaceably should assemble and petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
Further reflections on the recent killings of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile by police officers, systemic violence against black lives, and the duty to fight for freedom on and in our streets —
The City Where I Live and Where Alton Sterling Died, by Christopher J. Tyson (New York Times)
Too many view the lives of people in north Baton Rouge as the cumulative result of poor choices, weak values and dependency. This is more than just lazy thinking. It’s an intolerable lie predicated on the erasure of all of our city’s and nation’s history. Like many urban communities, north Baton Rouge is the result of specific policy choices, social patterns and the toll that all of it eventually takes on neighborhoods, families and individuals. It’s a very American story of how black people have systematically been denied the opportunity to live in safe and stable neighborhoods. No amount of “individual responsibility” or “bootstrapping” will ever change that.
In the past few years, many of us have worked to bring attention to the challenges facing north Baton Rouge. A lack of access to reliable public transportation, quality health care, youth mentors and nutritious food are among the many crises that define day-to-day life in this half of this city…
There is a dedicated, multiracial coalition of civic and justice-minded folks working hard toward a more equitable and humane future. But the suffering grows every day, and there simply aren’t enough of us doing this work.
This is the context within which a man is led to sell CDs at midnight to feed his family. This is the context for the anger, frustration and exhaustion erupting not just from the corner of North Foster and Fairfields, but from all over the city.
‘He knew the kids and they loved him’: Minn. shooting victim was an adored school cafeteria manager, by Emma Brown (Washington Post)
Before he was fatally shot Wednesday by a police officer in Minnesota, before his name became a hashtag, Philando Castile was known as a warm and gentle presence at J.J. Hill Montessori Magnet School, where he managed the cafeteria…
Parents have been grappling with how to explain Castile’s death to their children. Angie Checco de Souza said she told her children that he was killed because “police were worried that they were in danger because he had brown skin.”
She said her oldest, age 10, told her that he thought such a thing didn’t happen anymore. Her eight-year-old told her it must be a bad dream. And her 6-year-old said it couldn’t happen because “that’s our guy.”
“He said, ‘Mom, can you tell the police that they were wrong?’” Checco de Souza said, quoting her son.
Posted by Nick Allen (Facebook)
Having a cute kid in the car did not save Philando. He was murdered on streets where I harbored no fear. He was the victim of the security that my family was assured, and he was killed by someone who promised to protect and serve my neighbors…
To be white in America means not having to wonder whether your police-observed trespasses might have ended your life. To be white is to have a man murdered three blocks from your house and not worry greatly for your kin. To be white is to feel shame and anger after police killings, but never fear.
White supremacy has caused a crisis in the police mission, by Michael P. Jeffries (Boston Globe)
After Philando Castile’s girlfriend, Diamond Reynolds, filmed her partner’s gruesome death from the passenger seat, her 4-year-old daughter told her mother not to cry, and to stay strong. Reynolds heard her daughter pray as Castile bled to death in front of them both…
The children who follow us — our neighbors, students, nieces, nephews, sons, and daughters — are our only solace and sanctuary. They cannot stop others from destroying our bodies, but they represent the future, and another place to go. The only way to get there is to reimagine policing and unmake white supremacy and the outcomes it prescribes for all Americans.
A new report by the Center for Policing Equity shows that from 2010 to 2015, the use of force rate for police against black residents is 3.6 times higher than the rate for white residents. As Michael Eric Dyson explains, blacks are killed by police “because we were selling cigarettes, or compact discs, or breathing too much for your comfort, or speaking too abrasively for your taste. Or running, or standing still, or talking back, or being silent, or doing as you say, or not doing as you say fast enough”…
There are many reasons for apathy and a widespread refusal to recognize the current policing crisis as a national emergency. Historians would point out that the criminal justice system and police were never intended to protect black people or their property. Ta-Nehisi Coates’s landmark essay on reparations makes this case plainly, and the current divide in public opinion demonstrates that some Americans believe that the system is working just fine.
But another reason for the inertia is one of the great lies of white supremacy: the belief that most people are safe, because murder, harassment, exploitation, and rape will always be the burden of racial “others.” To be clear, there is no question that white Americans benefit materially from discrimination and the continued exploitation of nonwhites. One tragedy like Castile or Sterling is justification to condemn the system, yet America has proved that it does not consider black suffering reason enough to change its course. But what happens when everyone and anyone who demands human rights and dignity becomes subject to surveillance and extermination? What white supremacy does, eventually, is normalize and spread the abuse, trauma, and destruction initially prescribed for targeted groups…
Many police officers, like Dallas Police Chief David Brown, still understand themselves to be public servants, charged with protecting the citizenry and democracy at all costs. Hours before the shooters began firing into the crowd, Brown’s officers were smiling and taking pictures with the protestors. Months ago, police chiefs from around the country denounced mass incarceration. This is not a question of good will or good intention, or whether individual officers and officials have a moral conscience. This is about whether police and the criminal justice system as we currently imagine, fund, train, and equip them can serve the public good. Black Americans have known the answer to this question for some time.
JACL Statement on the Killing of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile (Rafu Shimpo)
It is impossible to understand these deaths outside the context of a society that rests upon deep foundations of anti-black racism; a society where structural racism works to economically, emotionally, and physically devastate people and communities of color.
We must do better than to simply express outrage, as these expressions by themselves leave communities of color with the impression that racism and excessive force have no end. These communities will not tolerate it, nor should we. We cannot simply reiterate our emotions each time these incidents occur.
JACL remains committed to the struggle for racial equity and will continue to work alongside our partners in the pursuit of institutional change because our own historic experience obligates us to do no less.
Not in Our Name, by David Levinson (Transportist)
Traffic rules and regulations are the pretext for enforcing the crime of Driving While Black. The use of traffic stops putatively for traffic safety, but in fact for revenue or harassment of minorities is wrong…
Everyone involved in the transportation professions should say “Not in our name”.
Everyone who advocates for traffic safety should say “Not in our name”.
Everyone who plans roads, sidewalks, and neighborhoods should say “Not in our name”.
We in the transport community need to advocate for measures that truly improve traffic safety, and advocate against slippery measures that are used as pretext in racism or drug war enforcement or municipal fundraising.
The Most Important Moment For Civil Rights This Century Is Upon Us, by Margaret Burnham (WBUR)
Students of racial violence in the United States identify three discrete periods of such terror after slavery: the era of the noose from 1890 to 1930; the Jim Crow/Civil Rights years; and the current experience of mass incarceration. Police brutality — now more visible than ever, more disruptive of the post-racial fiction than any other data point, and, after last week, a more powerful tutorial on the costs of gun glorification than a congressional sit-in — is the constant across all these decades…
Coming together to democratize our country, in the old-fashioned way of Stonewall, is a cross-generational, cross-class, cross-gender identity movement that is at once aggressive, insistent, democratic and destiny-driven. To be sure, there are tactical differences, generational distinctions, racial frameworks and a range of comfort zones, but the unifying theme is that law enforcement cannot damage communities of color and withdraw without eliciting sustained attention. The street actions are as much about demonstrating what a Great America looks like as they are about the demand for one.
Sermon for July 10, 2016, by the Rev. Dr. Maggie Arnold (Grace Episcopal Church, Medford)
Sometimes it seems as though we never get off that long load to Jericho, doesn’t it? And it’s not just one horrific situation, one poor victim. The road is strewn with bodies, at this point. There are American citizens, killed in our streets, a man shot in front of his four-year old child, a man shot as he lay on the ground, 5 men killed as they worked in good faith to keep those streets safe for the people’s right to protest. Since we met together last Sunday, 332 people have been killed in Iraq, by suicide bombers. We are shocked, grieved, frightened, angry.
It is understandable, this fearful keeping to the other side of the road. Even when part of us feels pity, or wants to help, we are overwhelmed by reasons not to reach out -— I’m afraid, I’m in a hurry, I have other responsibilities, I don’t have the right resources, I just don’t know how it would go. We aren’t given any more information about the victim in this story. Perhaps he is poor. Perhaps he is of a different religion or race or ethnicity from the Priest and the Levite. Or perhaps he is a hated tax-collector, or other official tainted by connection to the government, a target of resentment and hatred…
All the story tells us is that they all shared the same road. A dangerous road. We all know what it’s like to feel unsafe, vulnerable. I don’t think that this story is telling us that those feelings are illegitimate. Histories of violence cause real fractures in the human family, from Cain and Abel down to our own time. Those sinful legacies are not escaped in the moment of a sympathetic feeling, in a wish that problems could just go away.
There are numerous ways to connect between Metro North and SEPTA service heading south to Philadelphia. New Jersey Transit and Amtrak are logical ones; riding 125 miles down the Delaware River is probably the most scenic. For a recent weekend visit to Swarthmore, I took the Old Mine Road through the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area, camped in Worthington State Park, and spent the second day riding old canal towpaths in Pennsylvania and New Jersey down to Yardley on SEPTA’s West Trenton Line.
The route – Overall, scenic and very low traffic. I was a bit worried about some of the roads between Stroudsburg and Easton, PA, but they were quiet and the cars that did pass me were courteous. The unpaved canal towpaths made for slower going than I expected, especially after some rain made them a bit muddy in parts. Wildlife sightings included six deer, a family of groundhogs, four cardinals, five great blue herons, two black bears, and hordes of geese intent on blocking the canal towpaths.
The bike and gear – A heavy folding bike was easy enough to take on the bus from Boston to New York, the Metro North/New Jersey Transit train from New York to Port Jervis, the SEPTA train from Yardley to Swarthmore (and back to Philadelphia), and the Amtrak train from Philadelphia back to Boston. I brought cooking equipment and food in one small pannier, and extra clothes and supplies in another. On top of the rear rack I had a duffel bag with my sleeping bag, sleeping pad, and tent. I also had a handlebar bag for my camera, phone, directions, and snacks. At the campground, I made sure to hang all of my food in a pannier when I went to bed; a bear poked around camp in the morning, so it was a good thing I did.
Pictures from a hike out of the Dry River Campground in Crawford Notch State Park, via the Bemis Brook Trail, Arethusa Falls Trail, Arethusa-Ripley Trail, and Dry River Trail
Last summer’s commute was done mostly by Metrolink commuter rail to Los Angeles Union Station. This summer, my primary commute was by folding bike to Tsinghua University’s School of Architecture:
China is the world’s largest consumer of coal, using more annually than the US, the EU, and Japan combined. Coal-fired plants are the primary source of electricity, and coal is also used extensively for household heating and cooking.
Shanxi Province is one of the leading coal producing regions, and the railways and highways between Shanxi and the east coast of China are full of hoppers and trucks. Even as renewable energy production has ramped up in recent years, there is a long way to go to catch up with coal generating capacity.
Video of a night bike ride with a few friends.
Beijing is a beautiful city at night. Instead of casting a brown tinge on everything like it does during the day, the air pollution diffuses the bright city lights below. Traffic is slightly less overwhelming, and the range of spaces for bikes, from narrow hutongs to bike lanes on the widest highways, is fun to explore.