Why I was arrested for trespassing

Miriam Kashia, an Iowa City member of 100 Grannies for a Livable Future, addresses a protest Wednesday on the banks of the Des Moines River in downtown Des Moines in opposition to an underground oil pipeline being constructed in Iowa. (Rod Boshart/The Gazette)
Miriam Kashia, an Iowa City member of 100 Grannies for a Livable Future, addresses a protest Wednesday on the banks of the Des Moines River in downtown Des Moines in opposition to an underground oil pipeline being constructed in Iowa. (Rod Boshart/The Gazette)

When I was a child in Northwest Iowa in the 1950s, snow blanketed the ground from before Christmas often until the end of March. It fell every week or two, piling up in big drifts deep enough to build snowmen and snow forts and go sledding on the hills at the golf course. There has not been enough snow for the past few years to get out on my x-c skis — at all. This saddens and alarms me. Greatly. I can see with my own eyes that the seasons as we have known them are being disrupted.

It is not rocket science to inform oneself about the global climate crisis. Tremendous amounts of peer-reviewed research have been conducted by scientists across the world with expertise, years of experience, and hard work.

Although I am not one of them, I am smart enough to pay attention and avail myself of the data, conclusions, and scientific consensus that our planet is in deep trouble. The more I learn, the more alarming it becomes.

My love for nature, my deep sorrow about fossil fuel “sacrifice zones” that are destroying communities, and my compassion for those who are already suffering greatly from climate disruption have motivated me to do whatever I can to reverse this catastrophic trajectory.

This is not something that will only be of concern to our great-grandchildren; our addiction to fossil fuels that is causing our Earth to warm precipitously is already poisoning our air and water, destroying our planet’s ecosystems, eradicating 200 species per day, creating wars and refugees and killing families — now.

Nothing can live without access to potable water. And I’m not talking about privatized water from plastic bottles. There have been thousands of major oil spills on farmland, creeks, wetlands and rivers, and in our oceans. Pipelines leak all the time. Indisputable. The Dakota Access pipeline (still under strong opposition) across Iowa, the Missouri and Mississippi rivers and hundreds of other waterways and aquifers can spill 8 million gallons of crude oil per hour. Unimaginable.

This is a risk we must not take. With his memorandum to the Army Corps of Engineers to reinstate the Keystone XL and Dakota Access pipelines, this new president has come one frightening step closer to crossing the tipping points climate science has been warning us about.

Although there are remaining legal and regulatory hurdles before this edict becomes reality, in my view, this is a crime against nature and humanity.

I was arrested, along with about 30 other water protectors, in my peaceful attempt to prevent such a disaster on the Mississippi River. Boring under our farmland and our rivers in order to pump oil for private profit when the nations of the world agree that we must focus now on transitioning to sustainable energy is unthinkable and unconscionable.

I cannot be complicit by ignoring this reality. So I broke a law. I walked onto property that had been taken from a farmwoman against her will by eminent domain for a pipeline owned by an out-of-state corporation because I was attempting to halt a dire threat to the Mississippi that would also contribute to the destruction of life on Earth. How could I not? From a moral standpoint, on October 1, 2016, at the Mississippi Stand in Lee County, the law protected the evildoers and arrested those who would stand in harms way for the greater good.

Lest we forget, read this from the Iowa Constitution:

“All political power is inherent in the people. Government is instituted for the protection, security, and benefit of the people, and they have the right, at all times, to alter or reform the same, whenever the public good may require it.”

The legal system as it exists does not yet recognize what is known as the “climate necessity defense.” The basic idea behind the defense is that my “illegal” trespassing was warranted to avoid a greater harm, because the impacts of climate change are so serious that breaking the law as it now exists is necessary to avert them.

By admitting my conduct and asking a judge or jury to find me not-guilty by reason of necessity, I and other activists, draw attention to the immorality and injustice of Dakota Access LLC, builders of the pipeline, their parent company, Energy Transfer Partners in Texas, the Iowa Utilities Board that issued the permit, and the failure of the law to protect our water and the planet.

My defense is that I was acting in my interest, the public interest and the welfare of future generations. It was my moral imperative. It was “necessary!” If I am found guilty, I could spend 30 days in jail and will be fined. If I am found not-guilty, it will be a landmark decision, setting a precedent that can do much to change the course of history.

It is time for courageous, informed judges to step up and allow the “climate necessity” legal precedent. To disallow this testimony is to negate science, prolong genocidal profiteering and deny the rights of nature and future generations.


• Miriam Kashia is a retired psychotherapist and member of 100 Grannies for a Livable Future.



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