Moral compasses

This has been a hell of a week in Tacoma. I feel weary. I hope my words help.


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The fracked gas plant is getting built day by day. The political atmosphere is getting more and more caustic. Lots of ‘op-eds’ are being written trying to convince others to subscribe to points of views on either side of the aisle. Some of these op-eds are veiled threats. It can be a lot to take in, and I know that I’m finding myself with a level of anxiety that usually only comes when I’m feeling physically threatened.

People are tired, but also fired up. We have to be careful with fire. It can do more harm than good if you aren’t walking in a good way. Here are some thoughts that are helping me stay grounded. I hope that this helps my friends and colleagues whose hearts and minds are being taxed.

Re: accomplishments claimed 
I recommend that we think about these revelations and conversations in terms of the moral compass. People are asking us to rethink what a lie is. When one’s moral compass is askew, a ‘little white lie’ is not harmful. When one’s moral compass is askew, you are willing to blame the circumstances of a flawed system which you took advantage of to gain ground that others would have slipped and fallen on. Rather than choosing to take the path that was steep and high, one with a tainted moral compass will choose the path of least resistance. Listen closely when someone says “the system is flawed….so, what’s the harm?” I’ll point to this a little later.

Re: Interim regulations to pause fossil fuel development at the port
I went to the city council meeting the other night but didn’t stay for the whole ‘show’. It didn’t take long for me to get my fill of the insidiousness of collusion between agency and industry. A couple of days later, an op-ed comes out with what felt like veiled threats against people who care about what is going on as well as the city. “What harm?” industry asks. “But the economy!” industry claims. All while rich people get richer, and the rest of the community live financially tenuous lives praying we don’t have to go bankrupt from a medical event and won’t starve to death like the Orcas. I guess we should all get used to being called extremists. My moral compass tells me that standing up for the land, the water, the eagles, the orcas and my human neighbors is the most competent thing I can do as a human being (an admittedly flawed human being). If that makes me an extremist, then so be it.

Here’s the thing. The harm is real. Benzene emissions do not get measured in real time. Not on this port. A recent study commissioned by the Lancet Medical Journal suggests that there is no ‘safe’ threshold for exposure to benzene emissions. Now, someone who’s moral compass is skewed to let industry off the hook might point to the fact that cars emit benzene. And they would be right. What they probably won’t discuss with someone who is worried about toxic exposure is the AMOUNT of exposure we endure – to the level of onslaught!

We aren’t the only ones who are being subjected to the onslaught of pollution! Salmon aren’t making it to their spawning grounds. If the salmon do arrive at their spawning grounds, they might not be able to spawn! Orcas are starving to death because we are accelerating the extinction of salmon, among other reasons.

Ask for a pause in the development of industries that could harm human and more-than-human health, and you become an enemy. War mentality is evoked, strategies are implemented which are meant to destroy. There is a difference between an enemy and an adversary. Adversaries, when engaged properly, bring about change that is good for all. Enemies fight to destructive ends. I’m working to create a better future for all of us. I’m not an enemy, I may be an adversary.

As an adversary, I’m not offended by the op-eds and onslaught of advertising. For one thing, it means people are engaging. Their fast and furious efforts make me work harder to be clear in my arguments, to speak with integrity, to keep my moral compass aligned. It drives me to the water, to hear and engage with those more-than-human relatives. It drives me to prayer.

I also don’t mind because it means that industry is spending money. They keep saying the same things. The same tired, old things. They keep hoping to change the narrative but refuse to change their behaviors. All they have is money. And a tired old tag line. Let’s not forget the vitriol. Vitriol which is as toxic as the product they extract, refine and distribute. So, I guess if you think about it, that’s not a shock. If you live in a world of toxicity, guess what you become. In a way, they are boosting the economy with every ad they buy and every op-ed they fund.

It’s true: Industry has money. But that’s about all they have. Their moral compass allows them to continue to use the rules that they helped write to emit toxins which cause harm. Their moral compass allows them to buy influence by hiring people whose careers involve working closely with government to write those rules and regulations so that they appear to be ‘legal’. The rules and regulations which were meant to keep us safe, and to preserve the land for which so many have died so that future generations might have decent and long lives, have been replaced by rules and regulations which make it easier for industry to put profits at the front of every decision to be made.

On this blog, I often refer to the teachings of Kich-sabe – also known as Sasquatch. The teachings of Kich-sabe guide us to be honest. To live honest lives. To live in a way that creates honest dialogue so that problems and conflicts can be resolved in a good way. Today, we live in an atmosphere where people are working diligently to keep us from having honest conversations. The fast and fury of industry’s op-eds and marketing are sincere attempts to cause conversations to be fractured, full of anger and vitriol and divisive. They do not want us to have honest conversations with each other. They prefer vitriol. They want you to be their enemy.


My recommendation is to be their adversary. A worthy opponent. A warrior who walks in a good way, with a strong moral compass, and with an ear for the teachings of Kich-sabe. Your words and actions have the power to create or destroy, so keep care of your fire. Don’t let it burn you or others unnecessarily. Our opponents choose destruction. They choose to light the fire that destroys. Every thing they do results in destruction of what is most sacred and precious. Keep your compass aligned towards creation and honesty.





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