My son was only four at the time and now he's just over
five. We don't talk about it in front of the children but he knows. Just
last week they went on a class trip to a fire department and they must
have crossed over the Kalamazoo River. The first thing he says to me is "Mommy we went on a class trip today and I saw the oil spill."… It's
always going to have an impact for him because when we talk about going
on a nice river walk, he says, "Mommy are we going to walk in the oil?"
That’s how a five-year-old child thinks of his river, as oil.
Becoming a Pipeline Activist
Susan is a busy working mom of two young children, but when the
Enbridge oil spill happened right in her community, she could not stand
by. Any moment she can after work, after the kids go to bed, she
is researching, attending meetings, preparing speeches, getting
interviewed by the media and encouraging others in her community to
There are a lot of people who have had settlement
agreements with the oil companies, so they can't speak. It's pretty much
a gag order that once you settle, you can't say anything. A lot of
people with their health are tied up in lawsuits, so of course they
can't speak because of their current litigation. So I have no lawsuits,
I'm not going to sue anyone. But I care about the environment. I care
about the people. And you just need someone to be able to communicate
for everyone, but not be accusatory and not be threatening.
There are events in our lives that change everything. There are
moments when we know we must step up because we are the right person in
the right time. Certainly Susan would wish that there had never been an
oil spill that filled her local stream and river with thick tar sands
oil. But she made a choice in how she responded – a courageous choice.
She continues to collaborate with people in her community and the
National Wildlife Federation in the hopes of bringing good from this
terrible event, whether that means standing up against the Keystone XL
pipeline, or helping other communities maintain their pipelines
better. This month she attended a conference about pipeline safety, one
of the only attendees who was not from government or the pipeline
industry. As Susan says:
I'm doing this now because my children were harmed. My
children were hurt, and we've been dismissed… And because of that I'm
not going to go away, and I'm not going to stop.