30 July 2011

When Insanity and Evil Meet Head-On

This has been a sad week, for democracy, for freedom, for free speech ... and for environmental activists of all ilks, along with unassuming backyard (and front yard) growers, and single moms with tragic stories.

Let me share some stories with you to show what happens when insanity and evil meet — and egg each other on.
  1. Tim DeChristopher was sentenced the other day to two years in prison and a $10,000 fine. Tim has become a hero, especially in the United States (centre of the universe when it comes to insanity teaming up with evil ... but beware, it's contagious) where he protested an illegal auction of public lands for oil and gas drilling by bidding on land he didn't have the money to buy. Sounds more prankish to me than criminal — making his prison term outrageous, considering that the people responsible for BP's massive Gulf of Mexico oil spill and America's financial meltdown have served exactly ZERO TIME in jail. But the story of his act of civil disobedience is deeper than it sounds. Please take the time to read the official statement Tim read at his sentencing hearing. It's a chilling indictment of what Will Potter, in his new book Green Is the New Red: An Insider's Account of a Social Movement Under Siege, calls "coordinated campaigns to target and repress dissident voices" and "using fear to push a political agenda."
  2. Our friends, Dirk Becker and Nicole Shaw (I've talked about them before), own a piece of land in a rural/suburban part of Vancouver Island that was devastated by its previous owner who scraped it bare of its topsoil, sand and gravel, presumably selling off all those materials by the truckload. When Dirk bought the land, it was 4 feet lower than the neighbouring properties — a big hole. Over the years, he and Nicole have built the soil back up and turned their large backyard into a green garden oasis by inviting landscapers and local farms to drop off grass clippings, wood chips and manure to be composted. The District of Lantzville is now threatening legal action — apparently growing food in their backyard to sell at a local farmers market is an illegal commercial use of their land, even though scraping it bare and selling it off wasn't. You can read their story here. The situation keeps getting crazier and crazier and now the Lantzville Council has told Dirk and Nicole that they can't be street vendors at the town's street fair in September. How small minded and petty can you get?
  3. Then there's the woman in Oak Park, Michigan who planted veggies (oooh, scary vegetables!) in her front yard after it was torn up for sewer repair or some such thing. Oak Park charged her with misdemeanours for growing "unsuitable" and "uncommon" plants, and threatened her with three months in jail when she didn't comply by tearing up her raised beds. After a social media hullabaloo, the town decided not to proceed, but instead started harassing her about dog licenses that she had already purchased. Truly our world is going bonkers.
  4. Raquel Nelson, an Atlanta-area single mom of three children, was convicted of second-degree vehicular homicide after a hit-and-run driver struck and killed her 4-year-old son while they were jaywalking one night after getting off a bus. Not a single one of her jurors had ever taken public transit, so it was definitely not a jury of her peers. And how the hell can you be convicted of vehicular homicide when you're the one on foot? I just don't get it. Raquel was threatened with three years in prison, which would have taken her away from her other two children at a devastating time in their lives. I am happy to report that the sentencing judge separated insanity from evil and did not send her to jail. Raquel received 12 months probation and 40 hours of community service. (The man who hit her son spent six months in jail.) I cried tears of relief when I heard her news.
  5. And finally, here's one that made me feel sick to my stomach because it happened to a friend and it came from high places — in my own country. Eco-artist Franke James was invited to put on a solo art show in Europe, organized by NGO Nektarina, a Croatian non-profit dedicated to "educating, connecting and inspiring people to care about their communities and their environment." Oooooh, scary stuff! Turns out Canada's Conservative government (you know, the party that won the election with only 40% of the vote of only 60% of eligible voters) can't stand that Franke, who actually has brains and a conscience along with wit and talent, has questioned the environmental wisdom of its leader. Read the story of bullying, intimidation and coercion here.
  6. And let's not even mention the story of the young girls who had their lemonade stand shut down by police. For heaven's sake!!!
Folks, there are some seriously nutzoid people running our countries and our communities. And their stranglehold of a worldview based on unceasing economic growth with ecological suicide on the side is, it is increasingly clear, pure evil. If we don't start acting up and being highly vigilant, we'll be going down the tubes faster than even the climate change emergency will take us.

Sanity and compassion, repeat after me. Sanity and compassion, sanity and compassion, sanity and compassion.


  1. Julie,

    Thank you so much for your support! Your article connects the dots very well. We need to defend our rights to speak out against government policies we don't agree with.

    Our big challenge is to convince a majority of Canadians that Harper needs to protect the environment in order to keep the economy (and us) healthy.

    I know you will be pleased to hear that your MP, Elizabeth May (the Green Party of Canada leader) direct messaged me last night to ask how she could help. Pretty remarkable for a "politician"! I asked her to spread news of the Care2 petition. We're looking for at least 1000 signatures. http://www.thepetitionsite.com/6/free-speech-for-Canadian-artists/

    Best regards,


  2. I think compassion is part of the solution.

    But I also think that policies and social pressure can do wonders. See "The Real Poop on Social Change" http://www.frankejames.com/debate/?p=96

    If people can be convinced to pick up dog sh*t, who knows what social change is possible?

    We need to ask people to aim high to protect the planet.

  3. Thank you for your thoughts, Franke. I hope readers of this post will support your right to speak out through your art by signing the petition you mentioned.

    My comment on that petition was that this is an interesting example of repression under the "Harper government" just as Canada is touting the tar sands as "ethical oil." How sadly funny! See http://rabble.ca/blogs/bloggers/jesse/2011/07/unethical-oil for more info.

    And yes, I agree that it will take more than compassion to turn this thing around. But I'm not sure we can even get started without compassion in our hearts -- compassion for those already being impacted by the climate change emergency. We have it too good here in the West.


I would appreciate hearing your thoughts or questions on this post or anything else you've read here. What is your take on courage and compassion being an important part of the solution to the climate change emergency?