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September 26, 2016
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Activist initiatives multiply; wise advice from elders with experience

High school senior Marygrace offered her perspective on the Tar Sands protest. “The action itself was really empowering,” she said. “It was this new feeling that I never had before. When we went to DC the second time and made a chain of 10,000 people around the White House, it was just incredible.

“It’s really scary to be this young and have to be thinking about this. It’s so unfair that this falls on us. We didn’t cause the problems. But you have to turn this into ‘think of the amazing opportunity we’ve been given to be the beginning of change.’”

Grace Lutfy, a Pike County teen with a long activist history of her own, said it’s valuable to become involved at an early age. “It’s important to stand up for what you believe in,” said Lutfy. “There are lots of challenges that could put you down and it’s so easy to give in to those roadblocks. But I’ve met many amazing people who never gave in to anything. They’re very inspirational.”

Moving forward together

Virginia challenged the audience to consider how to motivate those who sense things aren’t working, but who are lulled into complacency by their own level of comfort. “People have to be convinced to become uncomfortable even if they aren’t,” she said. “We never really understand until the plight becomes personal,” added Sterner.

“This is revolution we’re talking about, peaceful none-the-less, but that’s what’s going to be required,” said audience member Pat Carullo. “This is our world; we’re fighting for it.”

Presenter Marcia Nehemiah stressed the importance of not vilifying opponents. “When we look to the police guard as the enemy, or the gas leaser as the enemy, that is a mistake. When we do that, we accept as legitimate what the people in power want us to do—to pull apart the community. That happens when we look upon the person next to us as our enemy without understanding that there’s another story there and to get beyond that dualistic thinking. The unity is what will make us stronger.”

Williams advocated for stepping up efforts related to natural gas extraction in the region. “There’s still a movement we have to make if we really intend to resist fracking,” she said. “It’s possible to be outraged without being furious and it is outrageous that they want to take our valley, which includes a federally founded scenic preservation river. We have to make this even more visible than it has been.”