By Jack Pieper
MN350 Pipeline Resistance Team Intern

“Take to the streets! Show them what democracy looks like! Love water! Not oil!”

We’re entering a digital era where this activist lingo is likely to be heard on social media, during a virtual protest, or in this case, in a blog by an activist. In light of this historical and devastating pandemic, activism has become more crucial than ever. I am currently an intern with MN350’s Pipeline Resistance Team and during the short amount of time I have been an intern, I’ve learned how adaptable activism can be, along with its importance to our changed society.

I’m an Environmental Studies major at Saint John’s University in Collegeville, MN. I am lucky enough to be part of an academic department that includes professors who are activists and educate their students on the importance of activism and environmental and climate awareness. I’ve participated in climate activism on campus, in the St. Cloud area, throughout Minnesota, and internationally in Madrid, Spain, during last year’s UNFCCC 25th Conference of the Parties.

Cop 25 Madrid

My experience with activism has always been in-person solidarity that empowers the oppressed and marginalized with a coalition of unsilenced voices. Along with this, by coming together as a community, for a purpose, we reaffirm our beliefs to result in impactful and systematic change.

While transitioning to a completely virtual lifestyle, I’ve struggled with activism, especially during a time when society’s crises and pressing issues are becoming exacerbated: Enbridge attempting to resume planning and construction on Line 3 without jurisdiction or governmental permission; the Navajo nation illegally targeted for an increase of 3,000 gas and oil drilling sites while becoming the highest number of COVID-19 cases per capita in the U.S.; people of color being murdered due to racism, discrimination, and police brutality; political actions reversing LGBTQ+ protection in the workplace and classroom – again, activism is more crucial now than ever. The fire inside me is burning ferociously, but I had no idea how to utilize my ambition because it seems like society had stopped listening.

On May 26, I participated in the first day of Black Lives Matter protests to achieve justice for George Floyd in Minneapolis, MN. On June 27, I participated in the LGBTQ+ pride march, also in Minneapolis. Both of these civil actions followed CDC protocols of physical distancing and mask wearing (regardless of what the media portrays). Although I did participate in in-person actions on these two occasions, I found a similar internal reward between in-person and virtual activism.

Even through a screen, I realized my voice could be heard. Now is the time to click and shout.

I’ve attended many Pipeline Resistance Team meetings, and in every meeting, members have shared the actions they’ve taken to continue various forms of activism. Whether that is writing letters to local newspapers editors, emailing or calling Gov. Walz’s office to pressure the governor to reject pro-oil legislation, donating to the Minnesota Freedom Fund, or sending supplies throughout the U.S. to regions, like the Navajo nation, people will sustain their voiceful lifestyle by coming together purposefully as a virtual community to reaffirm our sense of enacting change.

I contemplated whether I would benefit from a virtual internship. I desired more activism opportunities that were in person where I could physically witness the community coming together. But I couldn’t have been more wrong.

Virtual activism is as powerful as in person. It is a coalition of voices unwilling to stay silent, even in quarantine. Activism is perseverance and emotional commitment to making change happen; it is inspired people refusing to accept how society is and inspiring others to dismantle the systems of oppression and underrepresentation that overshadow too many impacted voices. Activism represents the power of people and demonstrates their willingness to shine a brighter light in this world.

The fire inside me has grown so strong, I use it to ignite my passions and my sense of activism. I am inspired by the Pipeline Resistance Team’s adaptable activism to raise my own voice and bring awareness.

Remember, your voice matters. You are a climate warrior. Do not let the fire inside you weaken from the oppressive forces that wish to diminish your radiating flame. Let this be the opportunity where quarantine uncovers a divine revelation you did not know existed. Let it transform you to inspire and motivate others by virtually calling them to action and pushing them to discover the burning passion within themselves. You have potential for activism greatness – let your imagination, creativity, and passion guide you as you adapt to a new age of activism.

Jack Pieper is a Wisconsin-raised, Minnesota-at-heart Pipeline Resistance Team intern for the summer of 2020. Jack is a senior, Environmental Studies major at the College of Saint Benedict | Saint John’s University in Collegeville, Minnesota. Jack is passionate for climate and social justice, artivism, and iced coffee.