News & Updates

Today we were to be together in Grand Rapids. We spent significant time in February planning everything we would do today - from the venue to the menu. Tonight, at 8 pm, we were to be singing and lighting candles in thanksgiving and in sorrow for our earth and this strange and confusing time we inhabit.

If you can, please still light a candle and sing tonight. Or take to the streets with your neighbors, if that is what is called for. Protest is it's own kind of candle and song, lighting the way for others to follow. And these times call for more celebration of joy and sorrow alike in every form, not less.

We now expect the trial to be held August 25-28. To be honest, though, there was skepticism expressed from the judge if it will be able to happen in person or over video conference. And so we wonder - will it be possible to be together? Or is it wiser and more urgent that we move with this current, to be together in our application to the work that we are called to do wherever we are present?

Once again, I ask you to keep us in prayer as we discern and work with the reality that is present to us. Your questions are also welcome as we consider how to connect and communicate with you, our supporters, in this time. Message our facebook page (@FourNecessity) or email us at

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The news these past weeks has been that oil prices are negative as demand worldwide plummets from humans everywhere staying at home and closing up industries that usually consume fuel. Transfer stations, usually able to ship out deliveries of oil to refineries and end users, instead are stuck with full tanks of once-valuable and now useless goo that needs to be stored. So tankers float and stand idly by, backing up outside major ports of call. And still the pumps flow at the source, because turning off oil pumping, apparently, diminishes the future capacity to draw oil out. Oil companies will pay people to take their oil away for now, to guarantee their ability to get every last drop out of the earth in the long run. And so crude oil will be stored not only in approved tanks, but also tankers, barges, and pipelines.

A shot of ETP's Line 3 on Anishenaabeg land

It is important to see the pipelines that will be storing oil as demand dries up. How long will the oil stay in such containers never intended for long-term, static storage?

The photo above shows Line 3, operating at half capacity in the best of times because it is known to be obsolete, running through Fond du Lac territory northwest of Duluth, Minnesota. The "replacement" project, which creates an entirely new route and additional oil capacity, has been at the center of significant controversy as the project was approved despite overwhelming public opposition. This image calls to mind the analogy given to us by Anishinaabeg guides: that, like a splinter, the earth is rejecting this damaging piece of infrastructure and forcing it up out of the ground.

Carly Ann, a member of the Four Necessity Support team, organizes with Extinction Rebellion Chicago, 2019

Once again, the coronavirus is reinforcing the climate movement, pointing out our total ignorance of our relationship to the earth prior to this shutdown. But now, Wall Street investors align with climate activists they long ignored or opposed as naive. Diversified energy, rather than an oil psuedo-monopoly, makes good financial sense. Investing in energy diversity, through The Green New Deal, could put people back to work, and even create a small burst of demand for this oil in manufacturing, shipping, and installing the infrastructure we will need to make a just transition to clean energy. Solar and wind energy assets do not poison anything when power isn't needed - the sun still shines, the wind still blows, and the world goes on. And then, we could leave the oil in the soil for the unseen emergency scenarios, like the coronavirus, that may yet require a boost of fossil-fueled power to accomplish.

Maria and leaders of an anti-DAPL protest in Iowa, 2016

We believe that this is a moment where we can build a new world in the shell of the old, to paraphrase Peter Maurin, one of the co-founders of the Catholic Worker Movement. We believe that this is what our protesting was preparing us for - to reimagine and advocate for a world that is more just, that is sustainable. Will you join us? Ask your elected officials, your bosses, your neighbors, to prioritize walking lightly on this earth in their plans to re-open. The oil companies are betting that we won't, that life will go back to normal, ignoring the signals from the environment and the investors. They have always relied on federal subsidies, and they have always planned on increasing profits as oil runs out. If we want another reality, we need to work for it.

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Wildfire smoke from Canada and California obscures the view from Grinnell Glacier in Glacier National Park during August 2018. The parks project that global warming will melt all the glaciers in the park in the next 5 years.

While we are at home, things are happening out in the world. Some of the most hopeful are the reduction of pollution and return of wildlife to places once dominated by human use. It is humbling that a tiny being, a virus, can overcome all the barriers to reducing our consumption and rebalancing our relationship with the natural environment that seemed insurmountable only a month ago. It recalls to mind the spirit of the Valve Turner's action, that we can accomplish nothing alone, but only through cooperation with the mystery of the spiritual world that surrounds us.

And so we are not despairing, but waiting watchfully at the other, more destructive developments that are proceeding while we are staying home. In Chicago, over and against years of community organizing, a developer demolished a coal power plant stack in the midst of a latinx neighborhood on Saturday, April 11th, during both Holy Week and Passover. For the safety of their community, many organizers in this neighborhood chose to cancel meetings and close offices in advance of the official stay at home order while concurrently acknowledging their expectation that the developer would take advantage of the shut down in some way. They were right. Without any of the common-sense and promised safety measures, the smokestack fell, and a huge cloud of toxic dust washed over the community.

On a federal level, much the same is happening. We have seen clean the EPA stop enforcing environmental laws due to Covid-19, remove recently-won rules to lower vehicle emissions, as well as restrictions on mercury and coal power emissions.

Have a little more time on your hands these days? At the bottom of this Frontline segment is a link to the movie, The War on the EPA, following the story of how Andrew Wheeler, a lawyer and energy industry lobbyist who opposed EPA regulations, who is now the director of the EPA.

We are feeling, as a group, a mix of motives towards continued organizing and activism and working to create new communal systems that will support the people most harmed by this shut down of our economy, creating alternative economies that can extend this reduction in consumption and environmental impact. We hope you, wherever you are, will join us in imagining a new world, a more beautiful and sustainable world, and taking the small actions available to you to make it more real.

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