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.




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.




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 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.


It Only Takes a Moment to Make an Impact


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!

Joyce Island Cleanup 1.0

A few shots from our first official Up To Earth cleanup
A few shots from our first official Up To Earth cleanup

The first official Up To Earth Volunteer cleanup event at Joyce Island was on July 5th, 2015. Everything went smoothly and we got a lot accomplished as well as some new insights about how we can make a bigger impact looking into the future.

Here’s the stats..

Volunteers: 9 people (including us)

Total Volunteer Hours: 47 hrs.

Area Covered: Approximately 28 Acres (One Million Square Feet!)

We picked up:

* 1 Tent

* 1 Matress

* 1 Lawn Chair

* 1 Pesticide Container

* 3 Very Large Pieces of Styrofoam

Plus 16 Large Trash Bags sorted into:

* 100 lbs. of Landfill Waste

* 2 30 Gallon tubs of Recyclable Plastic

* 1 30 Gallon tub of Dirty or Nonrecyclable Plastic

* 1 30 Gallon tub of Polystyrene and Foam (Non-recyclable)

* 1 Partial tub of Scrap Metal

* 1 Partial tub of Refundable Cans and Bottles

* 1 Partial tub of Hazardous Materials (Aerosol Cans, Chemical Containers, etc)

* 1 Partial tub of Broken Glass

Best of:

* 1 Whole Turtle Shell

* 9 Lighters

* 1 Baseball

* 1 Golfball

* 1 Antique Pabst Can

* 1 Partial Hannah Montana Jump Rope

Things that were very common:

* Plastic and Glass Bottles

* Aluminum Cans

* Plastic Bags

* Polystyrene/Styrofoam

-Polar Ice cups

-Bait containers

-Broken Styrofoam pieces

* Broken Glass

* Snack food wrappers (Chips, Candy, etc.)

* Fast food packaging (Cups, Wrappers, Bags)

* Cigarette Butts

* Clothing (Shoes, Socks, Shirts, Pants, Coats)

* Fishing goods (Poles, Lures, Line, Bobbers, Bait Containers)

We got a lot accomplished with only 9 people total throughout the day. Our next event is Saturday, July 11th and we’ve decided to just focus on Joyce Island for the next cleanup or two. Please let me know if you can attend for an hour or more, and RSVP to the Facebook event if you care to.

Big thanks to everyone who showed up to help or helped by donating items or money for supplies! We couldn’t do it without you.

Volunteers :

Myself and Kimberly

Adam Ouderkirk

Sherri Stiles

Jason Jones

JoEllen Hill

Matt Nivens

Jeremy Delgado

Andrea Nicole


Steve Hill

Brian J. Strunk

Adam Fritz

Linda Welch


Living Lands & Waters

Hy-Vee, Clinton,  IA

Howard’s Tap, Albany, IL

Special thanks:

Dan Breidenstein at Living Lands & Waters

Officer Ben Huizenga for lending a hand and supporting our cause.

The kid who pulled out 2 bags of garbage for us on his own time.

Other people who stopped to thank us or showed interest in becoming involved.