I crossed the border of Mexico. Several days ago, now.

After traveling across the United States. In a long silence.

I needed to digest. Digest what I was seeing.

The poverty. Along the winding roads. Off the beaten track.

In the deepest countryside. A lot of poverty.

Abandoned homes, decaying trailers in the middle of vacant lots, shabby motels where entire families live with a microwaves and a mini-fridge as the only tools to survive.

For many, trailers in the middle of nowhere and highways motels have become their livelihood. Certainly, land far from urban centers is affordable, I am told, but with the high cost of electricity, water, telephone, health, education, there are many who can not make ends meet.

MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN !      Still a long way to go!

Fortunately, there are some who do not fall in the trap and try to make a difference.

Like Rachel and Cisco, who welcomed me for several days in their nice house, in the middle of the forest in the mountains of Vermont, near Hinesburg.

A peaceful, restful stay, while Hurricane Florence is raging in the Carolinas.

I met Rachel Smolker at Global Forest Coalition General Assembly ant at the 2nd World Conference on Community Conservation in parallel to meetings of the UN Convention on Biological Diversity CBD), last July in Montreal.

Rachel has built her activist trajectory on her expertise as a biologist with a strong field practice where she gained first hand knowledge of the complex balance between the needs of people and the ecological systems they depend upon.

An organizer with Energy Justice Network and very active within coalitions like Climate Justice Now, among others, Rachel is presently codirector of Biofuelwatch  and while I was visiting she was very busy organizing the launch of Biofuelwatch's last research called "Dead End Road – The False Promise of Cellulosic Biofuels" and preparing webinar to present the highlights of what can be considered a false solution to climate change. 

Changing the world is definitely the work of a lifetime.

The battle is of every moment and unfolds on all levels.

For Rachel, it is not only investigating and denouncing the impacts of bioenergy and biochar on land use, forests, biodiversity, food, people and the climate, but it is also a matter of acting daily on her immediate environment: protecting the Geprags Park by creating a citizen movement to block the construction of the Vermont Gas Systems (VGS) pipeline, for example - a subsidiary of Gaz Métro whose contested project is defended tooth and nail by the CEO of this Quebec company -; or trying to dissuade a real estate developer who wants to clear cut the forest to build a residential "development" near her home, a stone's throw from her house.

It is the sum of such direct actions, rooted in everyday life, that can create a broad movement capable of countering social and climatic injustice and transforming the established order. 

This is where Henry's and his group's project in Marshfield, VT, can make a difference.

Rachel offers me to go meet them.

Time to put the carrots back where the roots are and get the stick out

« 160 acres of land, that's what we have here, in front of us », says Henry, Rachel's friend. 

« The challenge now is what we are going to do with it ! » 

« A number of us have been working for a long time trying to start a Land Center for Grass Roots that are mostly doing Direct Action, which is our background. But we've started to feel that the direct action short cut, while acknowledging its utility, also lacks of appropriateness for really building a mass movement. And that's what this project is all about: creating a space and gathering the tools to foster system change. »

« We're trying to cajole the labour movement and other grass root folks that have more of those skills. If you're trying to get people interested in their housing, their jobs, their garbage service, we're talking about a particular organizing model. But if you're trying to bring people to think about landing the grandma, incite to revolution, and bring them to look at the long term, and realize that the prospects are dark and the needs are in danger, therefore we ought to be engaging full scale in the revolutionnary overhaul of the economy and the politics. This calls for different kind of skills. »

« In the near term we're thinking in turning this dairy barn into a place where 200 people can meet and train. So the explicit explanation of this place, in the spirit of the Highlander folk school in Tennessee, you know, is to try to offer an open place for people involved in mass movement organizing to come and spend time with each other, and revisit whatever tactic and strategy we've forgot about, and rethink what and how to do the work. »

« For example, we've been doing lots of artistic direct action, protest art stuff, working with youth, climate actions, which in fact are again long overdue. We need to resume with more climate action here in Vermont! The whole scene of the last 2 years is that nothing has moved in the legislature and it's time to put the carrots back where the roots are and get the stick out. Because we have these crappy climate goals in the state of Vermont: 90% of renewable by 2050, like if nobody cares. And we're not pointing anywhere near that. It's bullshit trajectory. So we need to get up there and spank these people -they don't understand the crisis conceptually- and bring that process home. »

«People are always looking for a space. They're looking for a library. A room where they can have a meeting in, and a garden we can work on, arts projects, and maybe reserve the cabin for a date next week, and get some sort of social justice ferment going on here... » 

Non Violent Direct Action? A Mass Movement?

Is my meeting in Marshfield a premonition? It's possible. Because if there is one thing in common between the extractivist megaprojects I will have visited on US territory, it is that extra-ordinary citizens are opposing them and that it is by nonviolent direct actions that they succed in making their voices heard.

These people are not moved by ideology, despite what their detractors say, but act in order to maintain and improve their livelihoods, it's as simple as that.

They look into protecting their ecology, in all the density and span of the word.

A Coal Power Plant, Cayuga Lake, Lansing, NY

New York State is considered by some to be one of the forerunners of the fight against climate change when deciding to exit the coal era and ban the exploitation of natural schale gas by hydraulic fracturing.

Located on the shore of Lake Cayuga near Lansing, NY, the Cayuga power plant has been temporarily suspended, until recently when the project was revived to convert one of its two kettles from coal to natural gas.

A very bad idea, say region's residents say, echoed by several environmental groups including Mothers Out Front, Food & Water Watch, and the Sierra Club, who recently launched the "No Fracked Gas Cayuga" campaign.

With natural gas, we continue to amplify the model of fossil fuels, harmful for the environment. For opponents, it doesn't make sense to stimulate fracturing activities in neighboring states, keep wasting thousands of gallons of water, and foster more clearcutting to pave the way for new pipelines. This is a false solution. 

Mariner East 2 Pipeline, Huntingdon, PA

One beautiful morning of 2016, Ellen and Elise Gerhart woke up to the sound of chainsaws. Oil and gas company Sunoco was on the move to get their second pipeline through the forest behind their homes. The company pretends to have all the right since Gerhart's land now falls in the public domain, a gas pipeline is a public utility...

There's no way the Gerhart family will swallow this whitout fighting, on every front. Worthy of the best examples of civil disobedience, mother and daughter decide to set up a camp in the trees on the exact course of the future pipeline. It's their land, after all. At Camp White, as they called it, the blockage will last several weeks until justice gets involved. But where there is big money, the law is often on the side of the powerful.

The action of camping in the trees has inspired more than one, as we can see when following the current battle in the Appalachians against the Mountain Valley pipeline.

In Huntingdon, despite the arrests, the lawsuit against Ellen Gerhart, the ongoing harassment of Sunoco, the resistance goes on. Click here to support the cause.

Bailey Coal Mine, Graysville PA... and lots of natural gas !!!

When going to Graysville, Pennsylvania, I knew I would find coal mines and gauge Trump's intentions to reactivate this ultra-polluting industry. But I was far from suspecting that by traveling the roads between Washington PA, Graysville PA and Waynesburg PA, I would meet dozens and dozens of unconventional natural gas wells (hydraulic fracturing)! The Fractracker Alliance interactive map shows the large concentration of wells in the Southwest Pennsylvania area, and in Graysville much of it is owned by CNX Gas Company.

All in all, the energy transition strategy in Pennsylvania seems to rely heavily on the switch from coal to natural gas, through intensive exploitation of the Marcellus Basin under the Appalachians. This is something to worry about.

Fortunately, the coalition of activists Pennsylvanians Against Fracking as well as Appalachians Against Pipelines are trying to counterbalance.

The Biomass Rush: Westervelt Renewable Energy, Aliceville, Alabama

The UK has recently decided to restrict subsidies for new biomass power stations, a step in the right direction according to environmental groups.

Considered by some to be a solution to climate change by enabling energy transition and gradual phasing out of coal, for several environmental organizations like the Dogwood Alliance, wood biomass can not be considered a renewable energy. Instead, it has become the new coal, fueling exports mainly to Europe, an expansion that needs to be slowed down.

In the southeastern United States, entire forests of mature trees are cut to meet the demand for wood pellets. Although the industry continues to claim to use only forest residues, it can't refrain from forest clearcutting to get supplied and generate even more profits.

This is dramatic, especially when you consider that each mature tree can capture nearly 50 pounds of carbon per year.

As the Global Forest Coalition argues, forests are our best tool for dealing with climate change. We must defend them! Logging and biomass production, livestock for meat production, palm oil and soybean farming are the main drivers of deforestation. We must definitely rethink our ways of producing and consuming if we want to reverse the trend and respond to the climate emergency.

Recently, more than 120 groups around the world have declared that large scale forest biomass energy a dangerous ‘delusion’.

Bayou Bridge Pipeline, Atchafalaya Basin, Louisiana

A huge battle is currently unfolding against the Bayou Bridge pipeline in the heart of the Atchafalaya Basin, Louisiana.

Under the theme Water is Life, a camp and several non-violent direct actions are conducted daily to delay the construction of the pipeline.

To financially support their struggle, follow the link.

Liquified Natural Gas, ports of Sabine Pass, LA and Port Arthur, Texas

My last stretch in the United States follows the Gulf of Mexico, until reaching the city of Laredo, Texas, and crossing the border. But not before finding on my way several huge complexes of liquefied natural gas (LNG), in Sabine Pass for instance. 

Being built so close to protected wetlands, an area hosting many species of birds and an attraction for fishermen, I am wondering how the project was granted a permit.

It however does throw light on the many pipeline projects that are currently tearing US territory: it's a response to the need of bringing the surplus of gas production to LNG ports and ensure exports abroad. But at what price for the environment?


Hundreds of miles have gradually accumulated in my body. Thousands.

Fatigue slowly finds its way.

I never thought that the expedition would be a pleasure, but the road wears.

No doubt I underestimated the impact of too fast a pace.

At sunset, I have little strength to look back, sort and process the photos captured along the road and make visible the invisible.

And every day calls for a new beginning.

In Mexico, I will definitely try to adopt a more reasonable pace.

Never again such a long silence.