Speaking Truth to Power at Illinois Debate

The rally was calling for an end to the operation of the Dakota Access Pipeline and for politicians to divest from fossil fuel companies. There was a real sense of purpose and community among the protesters there as we were all united under a common goal and though there were around 10 separate groups and organizations represented, we weren’t divided in any way. We all chanted in unison, which allowed for our voices to carry out our message. We carried painted signs and theater props. We stood together in the cold, making our values and demands known as one group with one voice.

My name is Renee Baker and I’m the co-president of North Park University’s environmental club, Green Team. We got involved with this rally because we are passionate about the issues that were highlighted. The main points were for Democratic gubernatorial candidates J.B. Pritzker and Chris Kennedy to divest from fossil fuels and to take a public stand against the Dakota Access Pipeline, showing support for the Standing Rock Water Protectors.

I believe that our candidates should be held accountable for their investments. In many ways, this is the best snapshot we have for the motivations behind their public actions. Foreswearing financial investment in the Dakota Access Pipeline is a basic ethical bar that I would hope all of our public officials could clear. Its construction has destroyed the topography of the land and ecosystems in its path, and if it fails, the destruction will be truly massive. In addition to crisscrossing Native land in South Dakota and endangering their only water supply, it also crosses the Mississippi River—the primary water source for over 18 million people.  

Now that we’ve made our statement at the rally, we need to provide action steps and get this carried out in other ways. It’s one thing to shout what we want, and another entirely to go do something about it ourselves within the system. The rally was a positive experience that brought people with diverse backgrounds and experiences together, but the next steps need to come from us and drive our purpose forward. We need to put our money where our mouth is by reducing our own use of fossil fuel-based energy, we need to speak up for the oppressed and exploited who are stepped on for the sake of “progress”, and most importantly we need to pray for our Earth and for our decisions regarding it.

We are called to be stewards of God’s creation. He gave us this planet and everything on it and allows us to use what it has to offer, which means that we can respect it or live irresponsibly. Climate change is a result of the latter and in turn, affects everyone on this planet. There is nothing that we do here that doesn’t have consequences and it is our responsibility to correct the damage we’ve done and make a way for reconciliation and repair. Adding pipelines that have the potential to destroy acres of untouched land is no way to mitigate greenhouse gases and supporting the companies that profit off of this destruction will do nothing to solve the problems we face. We need to wake up to the impacts that our actions have on the Earth and take intentional steps to care for and protect what God has given us.

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