26 December 2016

Falling into It

Arriving at the intended place can inspire unexpected journeys.

I knew last summer that I wanted to visit Mima Falls on my winter break. Tucked away in a forest of Washington state's Thurston County, the falls and their relatively easy hiking trail seemed like a nice way of unwinding from the fall semester, so I penciled them in as a reward before classes even started.

Long-exposure shot of Mima Falls.
On December 16, with the easy path and perfect weather, my mom and I reached the falls according to plan, but once there, I found myself going somewhere I hadn't anticipated. The modest falls wouldn't challenge Niagara or Multnomah, but they sit within a cozy setting, and because of their relative smallness, they aren't as heavily visited as their more famous counterparts. Together, the quiet place and the welcoming falls inspired me to experiment with long-exposure shots on my camera.

The long-exposure pictures of the falls represented my first real attempt at such photography. No strong desire to do it had previously overcome me, but Mima Falls brought out the urge. Although far from perfect, the pictures left me with a smile and a drive to take my long-exposure photography further in the future.

Like the best of destinations, Mima Falls urged me on to future adventures.

02 December 2016

Lead the Money

"Follow the money." We've all heard that before, and it has a lot of value as an idea, but after we follow the money, we must also take the next step and lead the money.

Following the money helps identify the source of the problem. In the case of the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL), following the money points to corporate influence on government as the problem. Of course, corporate influence reaches well beyond this issue, but DAPL provides a clear example of how to take the next step of leading the money.

Simmering for months, the DAPL issue and the protests around it have drawn much attention recently. Intended to carry oil from North Dakota east, the pipelines's route passes Native American land and moves under the Missouri River, threatening water supplies. Tribes in the area led the protests against DAPL, the construction of which began before all permits had received approval. Within the last month, law enforcement protecting the pipeline escalated tactics to deal with protesters. As you can see below, police officers employ tear gas and water cannons in freezing temperatures on the protesters. According to a Grist report, police blew off a woman's arm with a concussion grenade.

The fingerprints of corporate influence appear all over DAPL. Despite the escalating use of force by police officers, the Obama administration has refused to step in and protect the protesters or halt the pipeline. Together with the recent decision by Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to approve an expansion of the Kinder Morgan Pipeline through British Columbia, DAPL shows the influence corporations have (even on leaders who say they are committed to addressing environmental issues like global warming).

If we were to stop after following the money, we would not be able to address the problem. Luckily, however, DAPL has prompted renewed efforts to lead the money. This YES! Magazine article discusses how people are divesting from the banks that fund DAPL. Divestment hits back at corporate influence by retaking control of our money. Rather than bank with big, corporate banks, people move their money to and do business with credit unions and community banks.

For me, the DAPL divestment represents the continuation of a movement that began in response to the economic collapse in 2008. I joined a credit union in 2007 because it had the best rates on car loans. Following the economic collapse, which came about largely because of corporate banking malfeasance, I moved all my money into the credit union.

Individuals looking for alternative sources for credit cards can also play a part in this divestment. Many credit unions have their own credit cards. Another alternative comes from Beneficial State Bank, which is a B Corporation whose credit cards support nonprofit groups, including the Sierra Club. For more information on Beneficial State Bank's credit cards, click here.

With corporations exerting so much influence on our elected officials, leadership on social change issues must come from us, and leading with our money gives us a great power to create that change.