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Utah Canyon Country Action Camp Shuts Down Tar Sands Mine


ParadiseThe action camp call was simple, a camp to come and learn the skills in nonviolent direct action (NVDA) to shut down the first tar sands mine in the United States. The camp did as it set out to do. The action stopped all work on the mine site . It was so successful that US Oil Sands, the company pushing to develop the mining site, reported a 13% loss of their stock price on the day of the action. People laid their bodies in front of the machinery to prevent them from carving out the Earth. The action itself was the culmination of trainings performed at the action camp that went above and beyond blockade trainings.

The buildup started at the Utah Canyon Country Action Camp. The nearest town to the camp (pop 863) was famous for its melons, Green River’s esteem for these melons is so high that the town holds an annual event to celebrate them. The camp was stationed at a desert cut open by the Green River. The terrain of sand, heat, and rock formations is so breathtaking that every local mentioned it to us.

The organizers’ call to action was under the banner of climate justice, a space where environmentalism and social justice meet. The action may have peaked that Monday July 29th, but it began its building wave towards the blockades at the first day of camp. Each morning we gathered, the rising sun yet to crest the plateau, in a circle where the camp would acknowledge the schedule of trainings and work being put forth to stop the mines, and also acknowledged the bringing together so many whose lives had traveled so many directions to be there. Each day opened with a different speaker, whose views on the meaning of the world around us were strange and foreign to me. One morning a speaker asked us to look at the rocks all around us, the plateaus and look at them as bearers of memories who see us right now, and see us for why we had come there. Our brief week somehow being marked in history of the rocks rising around us.

We had spent a week together; sharing food, and swimming in the green river whose waters kept everyone alive, and safe, from Utah’s constant one hundred degree heat. The people who gathered along the Green River that week arrived at different points in their own lives. They shared that space, and the camp’s organizers acknowledged the need for the people gathered to understand their difference, and to be able to view the multiple walks of life present. All these lives ran divergent directions, were speckled by specific experiences, but in this week intersected in the Utah Desert. [cont’d.]

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