by Lynne Westmoreland

As humane educators we are constantly learning, observing, bearing witness, and then passing on what we know to others. Our purpose is not simply to learn about the suffering in the world; it is not only to acknowledge the exploitation and commodification of people, animals, and the planet; it is not enough just to bear witness.

Instead, we are constantly charged with the responsibility of doing something constructive with that knowledge. We do not have the time or the privilege of standing by. It is our chosen life’s work to help find solutions.

There are many ways of doing that. We can educate and advocate; we can write letters to our legislators and sign petitions; we can go to our state and national capitols to protest, to lobby, to enlighten.

Sometimes – often times – these actions are simply not enough, and we have to take further steps to make sure we are protecting the defenseless, those without a voice, and those who are depending on us not to remain passive or impotent.

Sometimes – often times – the other tools we have at our disposal are not the easiest tools to wield.

Many of us here in the Finger Lakes region of New York have been working for environmental, human, and animal justice for years on the issue of fracking. We have made a great deal of progress with continuous, unabated effort on the part of thousands of people. So while our governor has banned fracking in our state, there are still many issues regarding the infrastructure to carry and store oil and liquid gas throughout the state.

One of the many threats to our area is the proposal by a company to store liquid propane gas in salt mines under Seneca Lake. These salt mines already have a history of collapse, and another collapse would be catastrophic for the lake. All of the already-mentioned strategies were employed to halt such a completely foolhardy plan, to no avail. Something else had to be tried. So the organized group We Are Seneca Lake decided that civil disobedience was one more strategy to use in our determination to save the lake, and the drinking water for 100,000 people, from toxic poisoning.

We Are Seneca Lake protestors holding a sign and blocking a truck
Lynne (far right) stands with other We Are Seneca Lake organizers.

In good conscience I could not continue to stand by, limiting myself to educating about this cause. So I decided to join those who are engaging in civil disobedience in order to stand for what we believe is right and just for the earth and its inhabitants.

For close to a year, our group has blocked the entrances to the facility, so that trucks and other vehicles cannot enter or leave. As a result of obstructing commerce, 339 of us have been arrested. I joined that number a few weeks ago.

It was scary, but it was also very empowering. Being arrested was certainly not on my bucket list, but the reason for the arrest is what motivates me every day. Making sure that I’m doing what I can for justice, for the earth’s integrity and wholeness, for the people who will be affected if their drinking water is contaminated, and for the agricultural, wine, and tourist sectors that would be deeply hurt by an “accident” allows me the freedom that comes with following my heart and my convictions.

My arrest was my small way of saying ENOUGH.

I feel myself to be among so many who are saying we must find new, better, innovative, kind, just, intelligent, sustainable ways of living on and with this beautiful earth, with each other, and with all of the other beings with whom we have the blessing and responsibility to be in relationship.