Stand With All Good People

November 12 at 3:35am

Stand with all good people of all races, creeds, religions, genders, identities, backgrounds, and economic status. Stand up for what is right and true. Stand with those in prayer. Stand with those in pain. Stand with those stepped upon. Stand for good people from here and abroad, lost to senseless violence, lost to greed, lost to poison, lost to madness, and lost to abandonment and starvation. There are both friend and foe of all color and nationality. The evil of man knows no boundary of race or religion. It is a perversion of what is sacred. It seeks to destroy from both sides of the struggle. That struggle lies within us all, and we must decide what we stand for, now. Do you stand for Corporate Mafia’s pushing for a war between Protectors and Police.. or do you stand for Peace and Equality and Reason? Do you stand for Oil and Money… or do you stand for Earth and People and the Future of our people.. Humans?

#NoDAPL: More than a Hashtag

#NoDAPL — I’m sure you’ve seen the hashtag. By now, most of us know what it means, at least to some extent. It’s more than just a hashtag. It is a vitally important movement happening right now that will change the course of history, regardless of the outcome.

 
 

As an environmentalist, the Dakota Access Pipeline first caught my attention by its very definition. It is a $3.7 billion oil pipeline construction project that will span four states and deliver fracked oil from North Dakota to Illinois.

 

Destruction.

Contamination.

Carbon emissions.

 

My inner monologue instantly waved a red flag for this project. This was all I needed to know and I supported the #NoDAPL movement. Nothing drastic, just the basic acts of engaging with social media posts to try to build awareness.

 

At Up to Earth, Aaron and I get out there with other amazing volunteers to make a measurable difference in the state of our environment through regular litter cleanups. Filled trash bags show us we are doing something beneficial for the planet, our communities, our neighborhood, and it is very rewarding. We talk about recycling and reducing waste in casual conversation, and when the conversation reaches the point that we realize we may have changed the habits of those we are talking with for the better, a feeling of overwhelming satisfaction reminds us that we are making a difference. I feel that with Up to Earth, I am taking a stance and fulfilling my role in environmental action.

 

It’s a lot harder to get involved in something when you aren’t directly affected or where your actions are not sure yield visible results in an age where instant gratification is often a subconscious motivator. This is the case for me, anyway, and is probably the case for many of you reading this. Aaron, on the other hand, has a much broader and more spiritual connection with the planet and its inhabitants, so I was not surprised a few days ago when he told me he felt divinely inspired to go to North Dakota to support the #NoDAPL movement.

 

I admire his passion and wholeheartedly support him, so while the decision was swift, I realized that I was vastly under-educated on what exactly was going on and quickly took to the internet to get some answers.

 

The answers took some digging. I began to realize my ignorance on the topic wasn’t necessarily my fault. How could something so important to so many be receiving so little media coverage? The deeper I dug, the more I discovered that this is about SO much more than the environment. The environmental impact of this project would be devastating, but what is more devastating is what is happening to indigenous people ON THEIR OWN LAND. IN AMERICA.

 

In the last 48 hours since Aaron decided to embark on this journey, I have spent every free waking moment trying to gather as much information as I could find, from as many reliable sources as I could locate. I like to have faith in journalists. I would assume many enter the field because they want to spread the truth. But major network news sources, the ones I normally rely on for accurate information about the important things that are happening locally and afar, just aren’t covering the story.

 

Is this Dakota Access Pipeline media blackout happening because reporting the facts would uncover horrendous crimes perpetrated by the government and other organizations we entrust to protect us and our best interest and cause nationwide revolt and uproar? Or is it because big oil and major corporations who have a large stake and investments in this project are encouraging the media to keep quiet so that they can continue to overstuff their pockets? I’m not really in the mood to delve into the politics and big money aspects of this whole situation, but I strongly encourage you to do your own research and come to your own conclusions.

 

In the meantime, here are some of the facts:

 

The pipeline was originally to be constructed through Bismarck, ND, but the residents rejected the idea because it would almost undoubtedly poison their water supply.

 

The project was moved to go through the reservation of the Sioux Native American tribe, with apparent lack of concern for the safety of these people.

 

The land the Sioux are fighting for is sacred and sovereign land, protected by the Treaty of Fort Laramie, and Energy Transfer Partners (the company responsible for the pipeline) are blatantly disregarding this treaty by trespassing upon, seizing, destroying, and desecrating the land including bulldozing the burial sites of the Tribe’s ancestors just to continue to lay the oil pipe.

 

The pipeline is planned to be laid under the Missouri River, which the Sioux tribe fully relies on to survive. A leak or break would contaminate the water to devastating and fatal proportions.

 

Hundreds of pipeline breaks resulting in billions of dollars of damage and irreversible environmental effects indicate that its not a matter of if the pipeline breaks, but when – which would mean certain death for the Sioux tribe.

 

A break in the pipeline would not only harm the Sioux tribe, but all people and wildlife connected to the Missouri river as well as surrounding farmland.

 

The #NoDAPL indigenous water protectors at Standing Rock are fighting to protect their land and their rights, and are doing so peacefully and prayerfully, but risking arrest and brutality by armed officers and military in riot gear. Arrests and brutality are becoming more commonplace with each day this has to go on, which is completely unnecessary given the peaceful stance the water protectors are taking.

 

This movement has resulted in the largest collaboration of all Native American tribes from around the country gathering to show their unity and support.

 

Thousands of non-native water protectors are traveling from around the world to support the cause and protect the rights and land of the Sioux tribe as well as the planet on which we all reside.

 

Aaron is one of those travelers, going out there to actively try to make a difference. I don’t know what was the straw that broke the camel’s back that made him say “I need to go to North Dakota to support the water protectors.” I frankly didn’t have time to ask in the brief moments between his decision and his departure. All I knew was that I trusted his judgment, admired his passion, and respected his divine calling.

 

DING! I receive a text message that reads “I’m so close. I’ll let you know whats up real soon” Literally received right at this moment while I type this. I immediately log in to check his GPS. I can’t help but be worried about him. As is also the case for his concerned friends who replied to his initial Facebook post announcing his journey with requests of caution and self-care. But you know what, if not for Aaron going out there, I may have remained mostly in the dark about all of this.

 

IGNORANCE IS NOT BLISS. THIS IS IMPORTANT. THIS WILL AFFECT ALL OF US.

 

And this is all for oil, one of the main contributors to the devastation of our planet. We don’t need to be making it more readily available. We should be spending those billions of dollars in construction costs and inevitable cleanup on creating a framework for clean, renewable energy instead.

 

Lives are at stake, the environment is in jeopardy, human rights are being trampled, international treaties are being disregarded. This is not the world we want to live in. We need to wake up and take responsibility for making a change.

 

With Aaron on the road, I am now directly involved in the situation. And if you know him, you are too. I don’t care what it takes to make you care about #NoDAPL, I just want you to care enough to do something, anything to show your support and stand in solidarity with the Sioux tribe.

 

If you have an immediate personal investment in this such as having a loved one at the camps or if you live off the Missouri River, DO SOMETHING.

 

If you are an environmentalist and dread the disaster that this pipeline will cause, DO SOMETHING.

 

And most importantly: If you are repulsed by centuries-old patterns of the horrific treatment of Native Americans, DO SOMETHING.

 

If you do not fall into at least the third category, I suggest you do research and soul-searching for as long as it takes for you to fall into that category. This is about more than just a pipeline, this movement is necessary for the continued well-being of of the Native’s seventh generation as well as all the people this water connects.

 

There are lots of ways you can help. Do research. Look for inside sources of people living this struggle, the protectors at Standing Rock who have been holding their ground day in and day out. Find the things that make you mad, that make you disgusted, but also the things that inspire you and give you hope. Now share it. Spread your knowledge and encourage others to arm themselves with education as well. But information is powerless without action. We all need to take a stand.

 

Do a search for something like “how to help Standing Rock” or go directly to sacredstonecamp.org to find links, needed supply lists, and other ways that you can help protect the water and rights of the Sioux.

 

Lastly, never underestimate the power of your voice. Sign the petitions, call your senators, the president, everyone who has any power in the situation, and let them know that the people of earth will not stand for this. You may think that your voice is small and doesn’t matter, but when we all stand together, we will be heard. A drop of water is very small, but together, all the drops of water on the planet work together to form the oceans and waterways that allow our planet to survive.

 

Mni wiconi. Water is life.

 

Summer’s Success Stories

As the summer winds down and temperatures will soon begin to drop, I look back on the whirlwind that was this summer as I gear up for a productive fall season.

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A lot has happened with Up to Earth over the past few months. We joined forces with the local nonprofit, Awesometown, and while the change really turned us on our heads, it has been a great catalyst to help us expand our organization from a little group of litter-picker-uppers to a legitimate nonprofit with a full family of support.

Between the organizational shift and the hot and humid weather this summer, we didn’t do as many cleanup events as we did during the spring season, but we had some solid events thanks to the support of numerous volunteers that garnered the attention of many local residents and businesses.

Our Swan Slough cleanups earned us our first Clinton Herald appearance (front page!) and with the effort of just a handful of volunteers we removed countless trash bags, scrap metal, tires, and barrels from the woods.

Although we didn’t get too much trash besides misplaced artificial flowers, we spent our Memorial Day picking up litter from local cemeteries.

 

Our Eagle Point Park cleanups brought together many new and repeat volunteers who worked together to remove everything from discarded food packaging and a television to over a dozen not-quite-empty tar barrels from the trails and woods of what should be a beautiful park at which to enjoy nature in its purest form.

Over the span of several days, our volunteers filled dozens of trash bags and pulled a depressingly large number of tires and thousands of pounds of scrap metal from the woods along the Great River Trail in Albany.

In Dolan Park (former Albany town dump) we cleaned the wildlife reservation and removed buckets full of broken glass from the park and the riverbanks.

Our Joyce Island cleanup was also a major success, sponsored by Living Lands & Waters and bringing in around 30 volunteers and removing a trailer full of trash from along the bike path, in the rocks, in the woods, and along the riverbanks of the Mississippi River.

With the help of the Bicycle Station and Jensen Oil, the dedicated volunteers who helped to clean up Main Avenue and the Lyons district even worked through the rain and enjoyed lunch thanks to the generosity of Homer’s Deli afterward.

At our first official cleanup under the wings of Awesometown, volunteers braved the scorching heat to clean the streets of Fulton and enjoyed burgers and franks courtesy of the Fulton Meat Market and delicious treats by Diane while Brad Seward of the Clinton County Area Solid Waste Agency gave a presentation on recycling.

Shortly after, Up to Earth hosted its first fundraising two-day cleanup event for CCASWA thanks to a couple programs made for organizations like us to keep the roadsides on 13th Avenue clean and combat the unintentional littering that inevitably happens on the way to the recycling center.

These are just some of the larger cleanup events we have hosted this summer, but you don’t need an event to make a difference. We strive to always pick up litter when we come across it, even when just on a casual walk through the park or stopped by a train. If everyone did that, the impact would be incredibly powerful, so join our efforts to preserve the planet and be part of the solution!

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Follow our Facebook page to stay up-to-date on our upcoming cleanup events, or go out there and make a difference on your own!

Trash-Spotting: A Cheat Sheet

That moment when you visually scan the surrounding area, trash bag in hand, and realize you have no idea where to start.

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Pre-cleanup anxiety is a real thing – at least it is for me. Over the weekend we completed our 30th Daily Cleanup of the season, and I still get the occasional feeling of being overwhelmed when first stepping foot onto a new cleanup site. Whether I’m unfamiliar with the location’s layout or simply dumbfounded by the amount of trash in the area, it’s not uncommon for me to need to take a step back and a deep breath before embarking on my daily journey.

I recognize this response in other volunteers often, especially first-timers, but there’s no reason to be intimidated. As long as you exercise the same basic safety precautions that you would doing any outdoor activity, you literally cannot do it wrong. See a piece of trash; put it in the bag. Always remember that you’re out there, kicking butt, doing so much more than so many to improve the state of our community and planet.

As you get into the swing of it, you develop your own style. I feel like a machine as I toss my water bottle and some trash bags into my back pack, whip it around my shoulders, latch it in front with a carabiner, secure my fanny pack around my waist, zip my cell phone into the pouch, pull on my gloves, and march forth into the woods with a gardening trowel in my 5-gallon bucket. Don’t judge me (or the fanny pack). This is my routine – how I do my thing. It’s how I put on my game face in preparation to duke it out with the Trash Monster. Once you step out into the woods and start filling your trash bag with empty beer cans and candy wrappers, you’ll get into the groove, too.

Trash spotting is easy once you get the hang of it!

Unnatural colors like neons, bright blues, pure whites and blacks, prints and patterns, are dead giveaways for trash. If a color stands out and looks like it doesn’t belong, it probably doesn’t!

Shiny stuff is fairly uncommon in nature. Their sheen makes chip bags, cans, and plastics really easy to spot!

Rigid, unnatural shapes are also great indicators of foreign materials.

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Sometimes our eyes fail us when litter hides beneath the brush and we must rely on our other senses. Luckily, the sound of a plastic bottle or aluminum can underfoot is unmistakable! And never underestimate the power of your intuition in seeking out garbage.

Maybe you are a prodigy when it comes to sleuthing out derelict shoes and abandoned plastic cutlery, maybe there’s trash everywhere so trusting your gut is bound to lead you to something, or maybe with time you begin to pick up on the kinds of places that trash accumulates and your instincts are guided by the patterns you observe.

Floodwaters that go down are notorious for leaving litter behind. Wind and gravity drive debris into ditches. Thick brush and downed trees act as a dam for traveling trash. There are lots of little tricks that you pick up on the more time you spend outdoors. These are just a few tips for anyone out there that wants to get started but isn’t quite sure how. You don’t have to be perfect; just by being out there you’re already doing great. If you feel uncomfortable in an unfamiliar or difficult to traverse area, utilize the buddy system. Do what works best for you and remember that something is always better than nothing!

If you have any trash cleaning tips or experiences you’d like to share, please do so in the comments! And if you don’t have any tips or experiences, get some! Join Up to Earth for one of our Daily Cleanups, which you can easily keep informed about by following our Facebook Page. If our schedules don’t align, take a few minutes of your downtime to clean up trash in your workplace parking lot or while taking a stroll around your block and tell us about it! We love to hear any and all litter removal stories, and sharing your experience is half the fun!

 

 

How My Mother Taught Me to Love Mother Earth

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In honor of Mother’s Day, I figured I should pick on my mom a little bit. Mothers can be embarrassing, right? I mean, at least that’s what you think when you’re a kid.

I was a middle schooler (prime parental embarrassment age) when one day my mom and I were stopped behind a train, second in line behind another car. The outstretched arm of the driver ahead of us unashamedly tossed some trash out their window. Mom’s face morphed from disgust to rage, and she decided that she wasn’t going to let that happen on her watch. I sank deeper into my seat as she got out of the car to retrieve the litter.

After a knock, knock, knock on the car window, the offending driver rolled it down. “Excuse me, you dropped this,” Mom said as she courteously handed the trash back to its rightful owner and proudly walked back to our car.

Obviously I was mortified. I was probably a total butthead and either told her she was stupid for doing that or gave her the silent treatment the rest of the way home. But now, looking back, my mom was a rock star for taking a stand and setting an example.

Maybe that litterer was even more embarrassed by the situation than I was and my mother’s actions changed their ways. Maybe that exact incident is what laid the groundwork for my passion for keeping our planet clean. At a very minimum, my mom picked up trash that day, and in doing so, created a memory for me that would last a lifetime.

Never underestimate the power of cleaning up the environment as a bonding experience with family members, friends, or other members of the community. Working together toward a common goal and making a positive impact on the planet is a truly enriching and unifying experience. Don’t be afraid to challenge the thinking of peers that might not yet see the importance of keeping our earth free of pollution. Seize opportunities to instill good values in our children; even if they don’t yet see eye to eye, the seed is planted and the message is conveyed.

Thank you, Mom, for teaching me to nurture and care for Mother Earth with the same passion that you have always nurtured and cared for me.

It Only Takes a Moment to Make an Impact

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Somewhere between scrolling through Facebook, checking the weather forecast, browsing recipes, and soaking in the latest celebrity gossip I realized that I was pointlessly wasting my phone data and missing out on glorious vitamin D as I waited in the car while Aaron ran into 392 Caffe for some breakfast. I decided to take advantage of those few moments of boredom and pick up some litter around the perimeter of the parking lot. We always keep trash bags and gloves in the trunk for moments like this, so I grabbed some supplies and got to cleaning!

As I approached the edge of the parking lot it was clear to see that the entire fence line was completely littered with trash. Taco sauce packets, soda cans and bottles, cigarette butts, even a flip flop were filed away, handful by handful, into the bag. Within about 10 minutes I had finished cleaning up the eastern edge of the lot, nearly filling a large trash bag. I looked up to see Aaron returning with our lattes so I tossed the bag into the dumpster in the parking lot (yes, there was a dumpster mere steps away from all this trash), cleaned up with some antibacterial hand wipes, and continued my day as planned.

This small effort had no impact on my otherwise busy day, but did wonders for the cleanliness of the community. Based on my observations, litter accumulates quickly. When people see an area with a lot of trash, they almost assume it is okay to litter there or that their piece of garbage won’t make a difference. But it is not okay, and it does make a difference. Each individual piece of trash adds up, and besides just being an eyesore, it is dangerous to wildlife and can have a devastating effect on our environment. Check out this article about the harmful effects of litter to see how it can impact animals and humans alike for generations.

The most important thing you can do is to prevent it – don’t litter. Keep an ashtray cup in your car, go out of your way to pick up that Polar Pop cup or fast food bag if it gets carried away with the breeze, and always think before you throw. The planet deserves better, the community deserves better, your family deserves better.

Secondly, do something about the current problem! Bring a grocery bag with you when you walk your dog and pick up litter instead of just walking by. Keep trash bags in your car and take a moment to pick up an area if it has a problem – I like to hop out of the car and do a quick litter sweep when I get stuck by a train! Take advantage of those bored moments to do something positive for the environment. If you have an hour or two to dedicate to the cause, join Up to Earth for one of our daily cleanups! We post schedules on our Facebook community page so be sure to “Like” us to stay up-to-date on upcoming events!

What kinds of things do you do to keep your environment clean? Please share in the comments section so we can all collaborate on ideas for incorporating community beautification into our daily lives!

Gearing Up

It’s been awhile since we’ve posted here on our site, as we’ve been sharing updates mostly through word of mouth and social media at this point. As time goes on, though, we’ll be utilizing this site more often and posting about our personal experiences and ideas regarding Up To Earth, the environment, sustainability, and pretty much any other topic that tickles our fancy. So be on the look out for more blog posts here and please feel free to follow us here and on other social platforms.

As of right now, we’re gearing up for a very active spring and summer. We have some new ideas about how to implement our cleanups effectively and efficiently and get people involved, and I’ll be sharing those ideas as soon as they are ready to see the light of day!

In the mean time, I’ll share what I’ve been up to.

A few weeks ago I realized that, due to the state of Midwestern winter, it felt as if I hadn’t been outside to pick up trash in quite a long time. I spent a lot of that time taking care of other matters (or suffering from Seasonal Affective Disorder). I have a PT job, a new dog, a girlfriend, friend and family obligations, house renovations, and I’m trying to launch a screen printing business this summer on top of all that!

So, when the weather got nice again I knew I had some catching up to do. I made a promise to myself, and to the Earth, that I would start doing daily cleanups on my own. In 8 days I’ve made what I feel to be a huge dent in specific locations. The Albany Mounds is one of my all time favorite sites in this area, and I feel a very strong connection to it, so it’s been a frequent spot for me this last week, and I can say that I believe I’ve picked up damn near every beer can or bottle on the whole property that is still above ground, despite the place being heavily wooded.

Since I’ve begun these #dailycleanups, I am flooded with the familiar feelings of joy in nature countered up against the disappointment in humans who do not treat the Earth with respect. Suddenly, though, I also am getting over that duality and finding that it’s much better to focus mental energy on what I can do to help, rather than dwelling on the negatives that humans collectively bring to the table. I also feel like I am not alone in this, and that, somehow, the people in this world that are on that same page, they are drawing nearer together and gaining strength daily!  The most important things in life are always the things that help us to change, grow, and evolve, and work together, and in that way we are no different than all the life around us, provided that we embrace that and gear up for the changes that must come.