Bike the line

By Chalk

We, a team of 2-5 people, have recently completed a 750-plus-mile journey on bicycle following the route of a crude oil pipeline, the aging Enbridge Line 5, which originates in Superior, Wisconsin, snakes east through the Upper and Lower Peninsulas of Michigan, and ends at a massive refinery in Sarnia, Canada. For 57 days we spent almost every day on the road visiting every single house along the pipeline route to engage community in conversation about the issues surrounding Line 5 and why it is a ticking time bomb in the Straits of Mackinac.

We’ve pushed ourselves to various physical and mental limits. From being on the road outside everyday, our skin is much tanner; our bodies are tired and need some sort of deeper rest. Our brains have practically been reprogrammed so that we’re walking, talking Line 5 debating machines. We’ve had so many conversations about this Enbridge pipeline that we both better understand what the pipeline means to a diversity of different folks, AND why despite all that diversity, it still needs to be shut down.

We’re not clueless to the reality that in a world being dangerously altered by climate change, we’re still addicted to fossil fuel, even as we’re aware of the addiction. But we can’t let addictions destroy ourselves, not with the planet at stake. We’ve seen Enbridge destroy the Kalamazoo River because for 17 hours in 2010, three Enbridge shift operators decided that when the emergency alarm was buzzing, it was better to err on the side of pumping more crude than risk a multinational energy giant losing a few hours of profit.

Our collective addictions are fueling our way of life, and with that comes its consequences.

And it’s not just fossil fuels. Recently, a leak again soiled the Kalamazoo river with 570,000 gallons of sewage. Thanks to the Fukushima meltdown, the North American Pacific coast will be dealing with cancerous radiation for years to come… so what about the nuclear plant nearest you?

As we biked through the Upper Peninsula and Northern Wisconsin, we saw a lot of logging and gravel pit activity. There seems to be a long-term goal there of logging to sell cheap wood, then when the wood is gone, gravel pit mining to build more roads, then when the gravel is gone, blasting the rock underneath to mine for iron ores. And what’s left is nothing. Literally, a hole that fills up with ground water, making it un-potable and toxic, which future generations have to deal with, maybe indefinitely.

Our industrial way of life has and continues to be one which prioritizes short-term profits over long-term sustainability. We’re basically passing the bill for our short-lived extravagances onto our children, and their children, and their children…

Friends, we’re not experts on protecting the water, land and other gifts we’ve been given on this Earth, but we stress that protecting is a proactive effort, and a struggle. It doesn’t suffice merely to WANT clean water, clean air, clean land. It doesn’t suffice to “Like” forward-thinking comments on Facebook, or to vote the right person into office.

As one of the riders often told themself, not just during this journey but in life overall, “if I’m comfortable, then I may not be doing enough”. We urge you all to find creative ways to proactively engage in protecting the water and land and air, to STRUGGLE for it.