Interview of Tom Kerns & Kathleen Dean Moore ― Resistance Radio

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Hi, I’m Derrick Jensen and this is Resistance Radio on the Progressive Radio Network. My guests today are Kathleen Dean Moore and Tom Kerns. Kathleen Dean Moore, Ph.D., is a philosopher and writer, best known for award-winning books about our cultural and spiritual relation to wet, wild places — Riverwalking, Holdfast, Pine Island Paradox, and Wild Comfort. Until recently Distinguished Professor of Environmental Ethics at Oregon State University, Moore’s love for the reeling world led her to leave the university for a new life of climate writing and activism.  Her most recent book, Great Tide Rising: Toward Clarity and Moral Courage in a Time of Planetary Change, follows Moral Ground: Ethical Action for a Planet in Peril, testimony from the world’s moral leaders about our obligations to the future.  Her newest book, Piano Tide, is “a savagely funny” novel about a small town’s struggle to defend its fresh water. 

Tom Kerns is Director of Environment and Human Rights Advisory and professor emeritus of Philosophy at North Seattle College. He has taught online courses in Bioethics, Ways of Knowing, and Environment and Human Rights, and actually from both of your bios, I’m smelling some future interviews here. Dr. Kerns is author of Environmentally Induced Illnesses: Ethics, Risk Assessment and Human Rights. He has lectured at the World Health Organization headquarters in Geneva on human rights issues in HIV vaccine research, and he has served as commissioner on the New Zealand People’s Inquiry into Aerial Pesticide Sprays Over Auckland. Tom also serves as a Board member of Beyond Toxics, and of Concerned Citizens for Clean Air. He is a member of the Drafting Group for the Declaration on Human Rights and Climate Change.

So first off, thank you both very much for your work, and second, thank you for being on the program.

KM: It’s a pleasure, Derrick.

TK: Yes, thank you very much.

DJ: So I guess my first question is in three parts. The first part is what’s going on with fracking these days, the second part is what is fracking, and third, why are we talking about this issue in this moment?

KM: Well let me take the first two, okay? Tom, and then we’ll invite you to the third?

TK: Okay.

KM: Okay, so everybody knows that the usual way of getting oil out of the ground is to find a pool of it and put a drill down into it and pump it out. But those kinds of of easy access pools of oil are gone now. We have burnt them up. And so we’re having to turn to new, more extreme forms of extraction. In fact, there is a method now that’s used by the oil and gas industries to get out the fossil fuels that are locked in solid rock. What happens is the workers push down a pipe, and into that pipe they pour water from all these places, like rivers or lakes or reservoirs, and they mix it with sand and herbicides and poisons and trade secret chemicals. Nobody really knows, although they know it includes hydrofluoric acid. They drill down maybe a mile and then they turn the drills horizontal and they might go out horizontally underground maybe a mile. And then, under extraordinary pressure, they push that water mixture down into the rock and blast it open. That releases the oil and the gas, which they collect. They collect the gas or the oil and sell it. They sell the gas sometimes, or sometimes they just flare it off. And so that’s what fracking is. It’s an extreme extraction method for oil and gas. It’s fairly new, but it is taking off like gangbusters. The United States now has 510,000 fracking wells, and they are producing more than half of our crude and 2/3 of the United States’ natural gas. Every year, 13,000 new wells.

By now, ten million Americans live within a mile of a fracking site, and the oil and gas production is increasing faster now than it has in any time in United States history. Imagine that. Now, when we need to be closing down the gas wells, they are increasing at this extraordinary rate. So what can we say about it? That fracking has made the United States a net exporter of fossil fuels. It has made 41 US citizens billionaires. And as a consequence, fracking has become a major producer of the money that powers political campaigns: a third of a billion dollars to Congress for the 113th Session. And it’s creating a very lively market in legislators and industry regulators. What more should I say? There’s been a glorious surge in profits for the shareholders, and that includes, I have to confess, my retirement portfolio. And now fracking, as the industry says, is the engine of the U.S. energy revolution, and I think that is true.

TK: What was the third question, Derrick? Why are we talking about it now?

DJ: Yes.

TK: Well, we have been talking about it for ten years or so. But with 13,000 new wells every year, that’s a lot more people who are impacted, so we’re developing sort of a critical mass of impacted people and impacted pets and livestock and ecosystems and so on. The science is growing. In the early days there was a handful of peer-reviewed studies. The science takes a long time. So in the beginning there were just a few peer-reviewed studies that people could rely on to see if there were health impacts or impacts on water or animals, etc. But now there are lots of studies, and many added each year. So that’s probably part of it: a growing awareness of climate change and how fossil fuels impact climate change, and particularly fracking, because it releases so much methane, which is a much more powerful greenhouse gas than CO2. It releases so much of it into the atmosphere, some of that release being intentional. It’s intended to be released. Some of that intentional stuff is burned, flared. But some is not. It’s just let loose and out into the atmosphere, to reduce pressure on pipes and so on. And a lot of it is unintentional fugitive, it’s called.

So you put all that together and the conversation around fracking and climate change has taken off. And we think it ought to have a human rights underpinning, so that’s why we’re doing this.

DJ: So before we go on, can you talk a little bit more, either one of you or both of you, about some of the specific harms caused by fracking, either to the natural world or to humans? And we’ve all at this point seen those videos of rivers that can be lit on fire. Can you talk a little bit about whatever the harms are?

KM: Sure. My sources uncover 900 peer-reviewed studies that are showing up things like toxic surface water and contaminated groundwater. These chemicals as they go down and then come back up again are leaking into the aquifers and into people’s wells. We’re finding bulldozed landscapes, 100 foot wide swathes across the countryside, through people’s crops, through people’s yards. We’re finding displaced families, people who open the door to find a representative of the oil industry saying “We would like to buy the rights to put a pipeline across your land, and if you don’t do that then we’ll just take it,” like with eminent domain. We’ve got lost farms as a result. We’ve got earthquakes. In Oklahoma, the last two years have had a millennium’s worth of earthquakes that would normally occur in 1000 years. We’ve got respiratory illness. The list goes on. Rashes.

Water scarcity is a huge problem in some of the world’s most arid regions. They take so much water to go into these wells. They’re now finding that newborns in the areas near the fracking wells have low birth rates and other health problems. We’re finding radioactive releases. So we’re finding direct effects on human right to life, liberty, and security of person. And I think, Tom, that you’ll agree that there’s a huge outpouring now of outrage about the violation of procedural rights too. The people who live near these fracking wells are not able to get information that they would use to protect their health and rights. They are denied hearings. The information is squelched. There’s a story about two six-year-olds who had a gag order where they weren’t allowed to talk about what was happening in their back yard. So we’re finding that there’s this collusion, and I used the word advisedly, between the government and the corporations to make sure that the information people would use to make rational decisions is not available to them.

TK: Boy. And that’s just the top of it, the tip of the iceberg, too, because the procedural rights piece, the outrage that people feel; there’s just story after story. One of the presenters from Alaska is going to be telling us about her ancestral home that her great-great-great-grandparents’ homestead is, that now has a fracking wellpad a couple hundred yards away from it. And they want to buy her land. Her neighbors have given permission to drill on their land, so that affects her land. She tells stories of people who have worked all their lives in hopes of finally having a nice place. She lives right on the edge of Prince William Sound and looks out and sees well pads out there. And so when that happens, one of the first things that happens is the property values drop precipitously. Nobody wants to buy a house near a fracking well pad. So that’s another very personal – so someone whose kids, for example, have gotten sick because their water, their well water’s been poisoned now and so they have to move; they find out they can’t sell their home, at least not at a price that allows them to buy another one somewhere else. There are just blockages everywhere. One of the big impacts that really strikes me is the use of water in fracking. Each well, and each fracking – the way that Kathy described that is there’s a vertical well that goes down for a mile or so, and then a horizontal that goes out from that. There can be multiple horizontals out from any, on any radius out from that central vertical borehole. And each one of those can be fracked multiple times. And each time it’s fracked it requires several million gallons of water.

KM: Three point six million.

TK: On average, and sometimes it’s up to eight and ten million. And all that water, then, is literally destroyed. It can’t be cleaned up, it can’t be refiltered. It can’t be used anymore so it has to be disposed of in an injection well. And in an age when parts of the world are so water poor, including parts of this country are so water poor, and here we are destroying – we have a finite, limited supply of water on this planet and we’re destroying it and taking it out of circulation. You almost can’t go through all the things that are wrong with fracking.

DJ: A good friend of mine who does work – her work is on aquifers – has pointed out to me that if you toxify a river, at least the river has a flow and there are things that can happen. But if you toxify an aquifer, although aquifers can flow as well – if you toxify an aquifer it is, essentially, gone forever.

TK: Pretty much the case, yes. It would take decades, I don’t know, centuries to replenish.

KM: Yeah. We’ve got two issues about water, don’t we? One is from all the chemicals they intentionally put into it when they push that water down into the well, and then you have the flowback that somehow has to be stored, that water that comes back up, that includes radioactive materials now, and heavy metals and hydrocarbons. It’s very difficult to know what to do with that, and one of the things that they do with it is push it back down the well, store it back down in the pits, and that of course brings it in contact with the aquifers in many cases. And many times they are storing it on the surface, too, which creates possibilities of surface water contamination.

DJ: So earlier, Tom mentioned testimony. He used the word “testimony.” He used the word “testimony” or “testify,” and that brings up a question. What is this testimony going to be in, and more currently, what is something that you’ve both talked about, the Permanent Peoples’ Tribunal, and why is the Permanent Peoples’ Tribunal interested in fracking, climate change and human rights?

TK: Boy, a lot of questions there. The Permanent Peoples’ Tribunal is a descendent of the Bertrand Russell Jean-Paul Sartre Vietnam War Crimes Tribunal that happened in the late 60’s. It was also an international tribunal, put together by a couple of philosophers. And then the same Russell-Sartre tribunal, a few years later, heard another case on another topic in South America. I don’t remember what it was related to. And then in the late 70’s it was decided that the world needed a permanent people’s tribunal, so a collection of authors and Nobel laureates and experts in law founded, in Bologna, Italy, the Permanent Peoples’ Tribunal. Its headquarters are now in Rome. But it’s been around since 1979, I think, and has heard – it’s a human rights court, so that means the standard against which they judge any cases brought to them is human rights law. So in that time, they’ve heard forty-some human rights cases that have been brought to them. You petition them to hear your case. Most of those have been civil political human rights issues such as from Bosnia or Rwanda. But in the last few years they’ve heard a few environmentally related human rights cases. They several years ago heard a case on Bhopal. Their most recent one is about the Myanmar-Rohingya situation. And the reason they’re interested is they had actually been interested before we petitioned them four years ago, four and a half years ago now, to hear a case on fracking and climate change.

What was the rest of that question? Why are they interested?

DJ: Yes.

TK: Because they can see the implications of this.

DJ: So where will this tribunal on fracking be held? And who is sponsoring/organizing it?

TK: It’s going to be held nowhere. It’s all 100% online. It’s being co-sponsored by the Spring Creek Project at Oregon State and the Masters Degree In Environmental Arts and Humanities, both of which Kathy was instrumental in founding, and by the steering group for the tribunal, this tribunal session that has been working on it for four years.

KM: So it’s taking place nowhere and everywhere, as things happen these days. The tribunal is based in Rome. We have people who are going to be witnesses from Alaska, Australia. Help me here Tom. Ohio.

TK: South Africa and Scotland. Vermont. Oregon. We’ve got the situation not far from you, Derrick. The Jordan Cove LNG export facility that’s trying to happen there. Those folks are going to be testifying also.

KM: So people will be able to go online and they will be able to follow the proceedings from the moment that the first gavel is struck in Rome all the way to the final testimony on Friday afternoon, starting Monday morning. And Tom, where can they access this?

TK: On the Spring Creek Facebook page or the website for this, which is There’s a button there that says “stream live.”

DJ: And just so we’re clear, are you meaning Monday the 14th of May, 2018?

KM: That is correct. And it’s video, right Tom?

TK: Yes.

KM: In all its visual and auditory glory.

TK: Yes, and recorded and saved and transcribed as well. And all the documents submitted to – there are a lot of them – submitted to the court are also going to be available, and all the video recordings and transcriptions of all the 200 and some witnesses who have already testified will also be available for everyone to see, from now until eternity.

KM: And that’s a really critical point, that these are going to be made available. I think of this as being a hearing in a very important sense, since silence is so much a quality of the fracking industry. Silencing, confusion, deliberate obfuscation of the facts. Gag orders, nondisclosure agreements. There’s so much secrecy around this that a tribunal that gives people a chance to speak and be heard at a hearing is really a very very important beginning point for a truly rational rights-based discussion of what is going on around the world. So this I think is important, that one place now, in one particular time, there will be available all these documents and all this testimony about what’s going on.

TK: Yeah. Those 200 people who have already testified, testified at preliminary tribunals, usually one day events. We’ve had four of those. Three of them were last year and one was earlier this year. And two in Ohio, in Youngstown and Athens and one in Charlottesville, Virginia and one in Australia. And they’ve all collected those 200 and some pieces of testimony, people standing up, coming from far away because they feel so strongly about it. Standing up and telling their story and having it video recorded and then transcribed and then summarized in a report and then all of that submitted to the tribunal.

And we weren’t sure if people would actually want to tell their story again, because they’ve told it, all these folks have told it so many times. And it just gets heard and then ignored. So we thought they wouldn’t want to tell their story again. But they saw that it was an international tribunal whose findings will be delivered to at least a couple of U.N. agencies. The U.N. High Commission on Human Rights and the U.N. Environment Program. They thought; this can give them a voice, and we also assured them that their voice would be stored here and available for this court, and for future – this is a civil society court. It doesn’t have the force of binding law. But we expect, most people in this game expect that at some point courts are going to catch on that they need, government courts are going to have to hear cases, and this can provide all the arguments presented here, all the evidence and the findings can provide precedent. We’ve got some law profs on our steering group and they tell us that this can serve as soft law, which judges can use to help them interpret standing laws in light of new issues. So we’re hoping this will serve future government courts also.

KM: We’re using the Universal Declaration of Human Rights that was adopted by the United Nations in 1948. This is an extraordinary document where all of the countries of the world got together and agreed there are things that human beings do to one another that are not tolerable in a civil society. And there are obligations that are incurred by governments and by non-state actors, which is to say corporations, that are morally and legally obligatory. A kind of respect for the rights and dignity of people. So to have people take those documents that are marvelous moral guidances, these kind of moral compasses, and apply those principles to the facts of fracking, will be, I think, historic. And I think it will be a very powerful statement that, as Tom says, will reverberate through the courts and through people’s narratives about what fracking is and does. It’s not a normal thing to do these sorts of things to other people. It’s not consistent with these norms of human behavior that are so widely established.

TK: Maybe this is a point to add on – you mentioned this earlier, Derrick; about injury and harm to ecosystems; river drainages and so on. So while this is a human rights court, we decided that rights of nature arguments and evidence should be heard as well. So we have now scheduled to present five of the very best earth jurisprudence attorneys in the world. And we’ve designated two hours on Tuesday morning and two more hours on Wednesday afternoon for them to present their evidence and their cases. Lisa Mead is the head of Earth Law Alliance in Scotland; Michelle Maloney is director of, the convener I guess it’s called, of the Earth Laws Alliance in Australia; and Linda Sheehan used to be the director of the Earth Law Center down in the Bay area. She’s now with the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation though.

And then the CELDF attorney Mari Margil is going to be presenting, and Cormac Cullinan, who’s an attorney in South Africa, Cape Town I think, will also be arguing that. So if anyone is interested in learning what rights of nature arguments entail, what their grounding is and what their legal status is, you couldn’t find a better place to learn about that than from these two two-hour sessions, because we told these five attorneys that the judges; there are going to be eight PPT judges hearing this case; can be expected to be competent in human rights law, but they aren’t competent in rights of nature law, and that you attorneys are going to have to school them in rights of nature standards, and then on top of that provide evidence and arguments about that. So this will be a fantastic place to get from the experts a quick strong introduction to rights of nature issues.

KM: That’s a good point, and we should say that the schedule for the hearings is available online as well. And so if people are interested in any part of it in particular, such as these arguments about nature’s rights, they can zero right in on them and get exactly what they’re looking for. And Tom, tell us once more where would they find this schedule?

TK: And my daughter tells me you have to say things seven times before people remember them. She told me that seven times.

KM: As we’re talking about the effects on nature of fracking, I think we should really emphasize that fracking is a major contributor to climate change, and Thomas already pointed that methane gases are, what, 83 times more potent in the next 20 years as greenhouse gases that hold in the energy of the sun and heat the earth. And those 20 years, when the methane is going to be most present, are the years when we’re going to have to get this problem solved. Or not.

The sound of fracking is the sound of an economy that’s rushing towards a precipice. And by expanding the availability of fossil fuels and by expanding the presence of methane, they are pushing climate change in ways it has never been pushed before.

TK: And, if you want to learn more about that, the Spring Creek Project put together a bedrock lecture series on human rights and climate change. And many of the speakers, we brainstormed about which 20 or 30 speakers we would most really like to have, and then picked out I think 19 or 20 to invite, including Kathy, who delivered the first one, and those bedrock lectures, they’re all mercifully short, 20 minutes or less, and they’re all available on the Spring Creek Project Facebook page and on

Some of the speakers on there are fantastic. One of them, for example, is; you know the Our Children’s Trust case against the federal government on climate change. The lead attorney for that, Julia Olson, delivered one of these lectures. And Josh Fox and Mary Wood at the University of Oregon, and several other folks whose names you’ll recognize. So that’s all sitting up there available as a lead-in to the tribunal.

KM: If anyone thinks that this is a waste of time, that the fossil fuel industry is powerful beyond any limitations, we ought to call attention to the fact that France, Germany and Ireland have already banned fracking or put moratoria on them. That it is now illegal in New York State because of its health risks. That in Australia it’s going ahead in some ways, but in some ways it’s stalled because of water scarcity issues there. So it is in no way a given that fracking should be a part of the mix of our oil industry. It is possible to make progress against even this incredible power of the fossil fuel industry with these unbelievable billions of dollars.

TK: One other piece to add to that is we tell people about this tribunal, that it’s a civil society institution, not a government court, and they sometimes feel a little disappointed, because they think of government courts as being able to require things of people in corporations. But the kind of large-scale social change that has to happen in the next years if we’re going to face and deal with the climate issue, is not going to happen in courts as much as it’s going to happen in the moral imagination of whole peoples. Major social change, from women’s suffrage to the civil rights movement to the Vietnam War, major social change does not happen until whole communities, the perspective, the moral imagination of whole communities can be reoriented to see that something is just plain wrong. And until that happens, there won’t be big change.

KM: Right. None of those changes that you mentioned, Tom, were caused by a sudden moral awakening in the federal government. They were caused by people, as you say, joining hands and marching in the street and saying “This is wrong.” So much of the struggle has to do with changing the narrative and hearing different stories. So far, the story about fracking has been “Hurrah! Look how cheap we’re going to make gas! Look how much gas and oil we’re going to get! Look! We can have this time when we can make a bridge towards renewables!” Well, the fact is that the world already has way more gas and oil than we can burn if we’re going to avoid these terrible, catastrophic impacts of global climate change. And finding more gas and oil, making it cheaper and cheaper and more ubiquitous is only going to make the situation worse. We are way past the point where we can swap out bad fossil fuels for less bad fossil fuels.

So the story needs to be told that this is a deeply destructive technology that is violating human rights. It is taking down the life-supporting systems that support us. My involvement with the fracking began when I read a statement by 500 scientists led by a team from Stanford who said that if all nations don’t act soon, by the time today’s children are middle aged, the life-supporting systems of the earth will be irretrievably damaged. And I said to myself “Okay! Let’s get on it, then!” Let’s make sure that all nations do take immediate action. Let’s go first after the worst offenders. And I think fracking is identified as the worst dangerous fossil fuel technology we’ve come up with yet.

DJ: So I want to go back to something you said earlier. You mentioned in passing the judges. So can you tell me quickly – here’s how I’m picturing it. Let me know if I have this incorrect. The testimony has been assembled and pre-recorded. And then you’re going to play that and judges will listen. Am I correct so far?

TK: Partly. Some of the testimony has already been – it’s all been submitted in written form and in Power Points, that kind of thing. But only some of it is pre-recorded. A lot of it will be live, and the judges will be there attending and able to ask questions of the presenters.

DJ: Okay, great. So the judges interact with the presenters and then what do the judges – what is being asked of the judges at the end of the tribunal? What are you actually asking them to do? And who is “you”? Who is asking? The tribunal – here, I’m really confused. Okay, who is asking the judges to do what?

TK: That’s good. Originally, four years ago when we presented this idea to the PPT secretariat, we wanted to indict corporations, oil and gas corporations. We picked out a handful of them and we were going to indict them for human rights abuses. And the PPT folks considered that and gave us sort of a provisional okay on it, but then we, including a lot of law profs, rethought that and decided it would be better to indict state governments, because governments are the entities that have human rights obligations. Corporations don’t, or at least it’s still being decided in courts whether corporations have them. So while it would have been extremely emotionally satisfying to hate corporations publicly like that, we decided to indict states.

And then, about a year ago, the person who was our lead attorney at the time, who teaches international law, international human rights law, and has argued before our Supreme Court and so on, said that indicting like that would not be the most useful approach to this for use in future courts, and that it would be much more useful for future courts if we asked the judges for an advisory opinion on some questions. So he helped us formulate four questions that we wanted an advisory opinion on.

I can tell you very quickly what they are. One is does fracking breach any substantive and procedural human rights that are protected by law? The second question is does fracking warrant the issuance of measures for relief, like enjoining future activity, remediation, providing damages for harm, etc.? And then the third question is the same thing around climate change, and the fourth question is the same question around rights of nature. So we’re asking the court to make a statement about whether these things violate human rights and those of nature, and then secondly a statement about whether that justifies some sort of remediation by the courts.

KM: One of the things about those questions that most excites me is this notion that; Tom, I think I’m right on this, that they’re talking about the human rights obligations of both state and the non-state actors. And that the non-state actors would be the corporations. So one of the open questions in this tribunal would be can we hold corporations responsible for human rights violations or can we not? And what about when states and corporations are working together in lockstep? What happens then? And if there are remediations or damages for the harm, are they to be paid by those people who are making extraordinary wealth from this, or by the companies themselves, or are those to be paid by the government?

The point that I would make is that fracking is so new and it came upon us with such a rush that the law is only now catching up to what needs to be decided. Some of these questions are huge and basic, and they will shape the determination of damages and injunctions for years to come.

TK: Yes. Much of the oral testimony at this tribunal will be about those things. It will be people presenting stuff. But there’s a session that the PPT judges requested. They call it a conceptual session. They want it just attorneys, so we’ve got about a dozen attorneys, fourteen attorneys involved in this. So we set aside Thursday afternoon for three hours with just judges and attorneys to ask questions of each other and have a conversation about how all this stuff fits together. I think that session is going to be fascinating, because the judges are going to be asking for arguments around those four questions. What should they rule, and why, and on what basis? So that’s going to be a really legally and philosophically and morally interesting three hour session, I think.

KM: And will we have access to it?

TK: The whole thing is public.

KM: Great!

TK: Monday morning till Friday noon. It’s all completely public.

KM: There is a lot of movement in the United States these days about reparations, particularly around climate change. Who’s responsible for climate change, who acted knowingly and intentionally to damage the prospects of people and plants and animals through burning fossil fuels, and then who should pay the costs of adapting to it, and also the costs of remediation. So these are not idle questions. These are questions that are being debated in the courts right now.

TK: I remember going to one of Mary Wood’s lectures at the University of Oregon ten years ago when she was presenting the idea of a public trust doctrine and how it should be used in courts for addressing climate change. And my jaw just dropped, listening to that. Why aren’t we doing that? And now, here we are, some years later, and Our Children’s Trust is doing exactly that.

I heard her give a presentation at the PIELC, the law conference this last February, and it was about just what you said, Kathy, about reparations and who’s responsible. And she has a plan for how to do that, how to address that. My jaw dropped again, thinking duh! Yes, why aren’t we doing that yet? We may well, at some point.

DJ: So this is a fairly trivial question, compared to the profound things that both of you are saying, but for those of us who are the sort of dinosaurs who prefer to read transcripts rather than to watch videos, will there at some point be transcripts available of, for example, that discussion with the attorneys?

TK: Yes. All this is happening on Zoom. Zoom donated their software to us for a year. Zoom automatically does a transcript so that means it’s going to be of a certain quality. Who knows? But we expect it to be very readable, and we’re asking; there are a couple of law students in South Africa who want to help correct it as it’s going on, so that will develop. And then, in the long run, but probably not before the tribunal is over, though, we hope to have an official court reporter transcript that will also be presentable. A legal, recognized certified court reporter transcript that can be available to future attorneys and judges, and to the U.N. and so on.

DJ: I just know for myself. I mean, yeah, I enjoy watching some videos of good talks, but for myself, I always get so much more out when I can read it, and sit on it, and reread a sentence, go back to it.

TK: So that’s one reason we’re doing that, is just for that reason. Another reason is because there are so many time zones involved and people all over the world who are going to be serving as witnesses and attorneys and judges. They can’t all be online all the time that the proceedings are in session. So before their next session, they’ll want to skim what happened in the last couple of hours when they couldn’t watch. So these transcriptions will be available right away.

DJ: So we have about five minutes left, and one question that has kept coming to me is let’s say there is someone who watches this tribunal, and they live in Oklahoma and their well water used to be the best tasting well water in the world, and now they can’t drink it because it tastes awful and is quite possibly toxic. And they themselves have a story to tell. Is there a possibility of future, will there be a possibility of people somehow being able to tell their stories again in the future?

TK: Oh, yes. One of the goals of this tribunal is to model – the PPT has never done a fully online tribunal session, ever. And we of course haven’t either, so this is all new. But one of its purposes, since it’s less expensive and it can pull in people, witnesses, attorneys, judges from anywhere; is to model how you do this, so that in the future communities could put together a similar tribunal on their own.

KM: And I would add, too, a couple more things. I have issued a call to writers, those eco-activist writers who say “How can I turn my written word towards this work of helping save the world from the corporate plunder?” And I’m saying to people “Seek out the stories. Go down to the fracking fields. Interview the people.” Tell those stories in every form you can! We need our poets, we need our town criers, we need our journalists. We need our essayists, everybody out there telling these stories.

Remember Pope Francis was talking about all the silence, and all the silencing around climate change, and he said “Think about all the silent voices screaming up to heaven.” And I think about that in relation to fracking, too. Your child is getting up every morning bleeding from the nose and coming up with a rash and can’t go to school and is in tears because they’re losing the farm, and you’re not allowed to talk about it because you have maybe signed some sort of non-disclosure agreement. We have learned in so many different areas of public life that if you can silence your critics, then you can get away with pretty much anything. And so to be an instrument that works against the silencing I think is a really important part of all hands on deck. Telling the stories.

TK: When you’re advertising this session, Derrick, what Kathy just said there ought to be the quote you use.

DJ: So the next-to-the-last question is: if people are moved to action by the human rights impacts of fracking, and by this tribunal, but they don’t necessarily have the stories to tell themselves, what actions can they take in addition to what Kathy just said? What if someone is not primarily a writer? What if someone has other gifts? How can they use them in the service of this discussion, this transformation?

KM: There’s a lot of anger out there, and there’s also a lot of indifference. People often ask me “What can one person do?” And my answer always begins “Stop being one person.” There are a lot of people who would have us believe this myth that by being more careful consumers, we can turn away from climate change. If we get the right car, if we get the right vegetables. If we turn away from buying beef, if we get the right kind of light bulb, we, by this transformation in our life as consumers, can save the world. That’s not going to work. The best thing one person can do to act against these forces of destruction and plunder is to join up with other people and stop being one person. I say that at a City Council meeting one person is a crank, and two people are kind of interesting, but three protesters, now that’s something. That’s a movement. And now we’ve seen whole halls filled with people protesting injustices and the legislators running out the back door in fear of the power of the people. When we come together, that’s when we get things done.

TK: And one way to come together would be to watch this tribunal or at least poke your nose in once in awhile to watch it, and comment about it to friends on Facebook and start a conversation that way, because it’s hard for anyone to say what – all the ideas of what someone else could do, because we don’t know what those someone else’s skills are, or interests are, or background is. So what people want to do is bring their gifts and their skills together with other people, with other skills and work on it that way.

KM: Right. And the first step in that kind of effort is often to go online and find out what’s happening. What’s happening up at Jordan Cove? Who are the groups that are organizing in resistance? What’s happening up at the Keystone Pipeline? Who’s organizing? How can I help them? How can I get on their listserve and learn about actions?

DJ: So the last question here is, again, how can people who have been listening to this entire interview, how can they listen and/or read about the tribunal?

TK: (laughing) They can go to and to the Spring Creek Project Facebook page about the tribunal. And there they will also see a list of six or seven or eight things that people can do to respond to the questions you just asked about what we can do.

DJ: Well I would like to thank you both for your work and for being on the program, and I would like to thank listeners for listening. My guests today have been Kathleen Dean Moore and Tom Kerns. This is Derrick Jensen for Resistance Radio on the Progressive Radio Network.

Filed in Interviews by Derrick Jensen
No Responses — Written on May 13th — Filed in Interviews by Derrick Jensen

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