Five walkers have completed 380 miles of their three-month pilgrimage along the proposed route of the controversial Keystone XL pipeline. They have crossed from Monchy, Saskatchewan into the United States as part of the Compassionate Earth Walk and will continue their trek toward Steele City, Nebraska. In the flat unbroken prairies of Canada and the U.S. it is, as Dr. Seuss used to say, “opener out there, in the wide, open air.”
The walk began at the Fourth Annual Tar Sands Healing Walk led by Canadian First Nations members to protest mining in ancestral lands, expansion of tar sands mining, and TransCanada’s proposed system of pipelines, including the Keystone XL, which would cross into the United States. More than 500 people walked through the Ft. McMurray tar sands pits.
“Seeing the tar sands during the Healing Walk and being in a spiritual place with all those people wishing for healing, set a profound foundation for the Compassionate Earth Walk,” said Lina Blount, a recent Bryn Mawr graduate.
The CEW is not a protest but a spiritual walk, organizers says. It’s focused on prayer to restore right relationship between humans and the earth, discernment and wisdom to make wise decisions in this time of climate change, and listening to those who live near the mining pits and along the proposed pipeline. Walkers have met with ranchers, farmers, pipeline workers, retired people, environmentalists, and religious leaders, all along the journey.
“There are two sides to the walking,” said Rev. Shodo Spring, CEW founder, grandmother, and Buddhist nun. “For many days now we have simply walked through the landscape, allowing the earth to support and heal us. Now I can feel the other side of the walk, that we are giving to the earth with every step, every thought, every action and interaction."
After meeting in Ft. McMurray, Alberta, the walkers then drove to Hardisty, Alberta, where the proposed construction of the Keystone XL would begin. The walkers have a daily practice of walking 20 miles in two shifts each day. Three of the original walkers have left for work, school, or family obligations. Three new walkers joined in early July.
When Compassionate Earth Walkers crossed the border into the U.S. on route 191 near Malta, Montana, a group of 10 new walkers joined them, bringing a school bus — powered by recycled vegetable oil and solar panels — to serve as the support vehicle for the rest of the pilgrimage.
Across the U.S. this summer, tens of thousands of Americans are demonstrating their displeasure with the proposed Keystone XL pipeline. President Obama has said that he’ll only authorize the pipeline if it is not “going to significantly contribute to carbon in our atmosphere." Since March, President Obama and his representatives have been met by #NoKXL protests at 30 different events around the world.
Rose Marie Berger is a senior associate editor at Sojourners. To join or support the Compassionate Earth Walk, visit www.CompassionateEarthWalk.org.