Earlier this year, Highlander Education Team members Elandria Williams and Susan Williams facilitated an Extreme Extraction Summit in upstate New York. The summit brought together 70 activists from groups across the country (including Alaska!) who are organizing to fight coal, oil, fracking, uranium extraction, tar sands, industrial biomass, and their devastating effects on communities and environments. During the snowy weekend at the beautiful Ashokan retreat center, Highlander staff led the groups through exchanges that shared their experiences, developed strategies, sang songs and worked to join themselves together into a broader, stronger movement to overturn the deeply-rooted, complex system of business and government that profits off of energy while destroying the lives and health of local communities.
Participants in the Summit established general principles for their work together, including an acknowledgment of the strength of their diversity, a promise that no people should have to suffer in order to provide energy for others, and, at the core of Highlander’s approach, the understanding that those most affected by the issue of energy extraction are the most qualified to solve it. They also left with specific, concrete plans for moving the work forward, collaborating, and creating the infrastructure which will combine the strengths of different groups without bogging them down with bureaucracy or replicating already existing efforts. As Mathew Louis-Rosenberg, one of the Summit’s organizers, put it, “There was an incredibly powerful feeling in the room during this summit that we were on the cusp of something very big, but whether that proves to be true depends on the work we put in now and [the] ways in which we do our work differently back home with our renewed commitment to solidarity.” A follow-up summit is being planned for later in the year.