Activist Bios

Ben Joldersma 

Supporter Ben Joldersma was arrested along with valve turners Annette and Emily, and will stand trial with them in Minnesota.  Here is his (auto-) bio, written and posted here in the week before trial:

I’m a happily married dad of three wonder-filled kids. We live in Seattle where I work as Chief Technology Officer at Maven, a publisher coalition and technology platform. Nothing would make me happier than if our elected officials did their jobs and took the necessary steps to prevent catastrophic climate change. In the absence of that, my partner Nicky and I realized that no one was going to step in and protect our children but us and other ordinary people.

In the process of joining the work to avoid the worst possible outcomes, I came to love this world in a deeper, more powerful way. There’s something nourishing about being in community with others who also recognize the plight we are in. So while my heart is heavy with sadness for the people who have died in floods, the lost daughter of Tahlequah, the endangered orca who carried her dead body on her back in grief for 17 days, the forests that die from fire and the knowledge that the worst is still to come, I also feel stronger facing into that grief, and the beauty.

Doing this action, I’ve come to love the north country of Minnesota. Rolling hills, serene lakes, whitefish and wild rice, red leaves of the birch trees in briskly cold autumn air. The oil executives don’t see its beauty - they are tragically consumed by their thirst for profit. But the people who live here do - native and non-native alike. And they see it changing - increasingly erratic and intense weather, fires from the West and North. It’s scary to think what might happen to me, how my decision to participate in the valve-turning action may impact my time with my family, but my love for the things we will all lose is greater than my own personal fear. And that is what compels me to act.

Emily Johnston


To be honest, I’d love to be able to lead a quiet life right now—building things, reading and writing all day, taking long walks with my dog, having time for dinners and vacations with my loved ones.

But to live like that at this moment in time would be to shrug off responsibility for the very world I was busy loving; we’re in a crisis of unimaginable proportions, and the fact that we here in the US can (between terrible storms and terrible droughts) live normal daily lives, doesn’t mean that we aren’t.

I’ve said enough about why I’m doing this: it needs to be done. I feel incredibly privileged to be alive in this moment, when so much is still so beautiful, and there’s still a chance to save it. But for years (decades, for some people) we’ve tried the legal, incremental, reasonable methods, and they haven’t been anything like enough; without a radical shift in our relationship to this Earth, all that we love will disappear. My fear of that possibility is far greater than my fear of jail. My love for the beauties of this world is far greater than my love of an easy life.

If others feel the same way, there’s hope for us yet.

Annette Klapstein


My name is Annette Klapstein. I am a retired attorney and the mother of 2 grown children.  Three words embody my decision to take action: love, solidarity and responsibility. 

It is my job as an older person to step up and put my body on the line to protect my children and all children. Being retired and freed from those obligations, there is nothing more important than insuring a habitable planet for all our children. Our political system has failed to respond to the grave threat of climate change - this is my taking responsibility.

There was a call for International Days of Prayer and Action with Standing Rock Sioux Tribe this week - this is my prayer and this is my action.  My life is only marginally affected by climate change right now, but there are mothers and children around the world in frontline communities - mostly low-income communities of color - who are being drastically affected right now. This is my act of solidarity.

Like mothers everywhere, I act from a deep love for my own children that extends out to all children and young people, and all living beings on this planet.  I have signed hundreds of petitions, testified at dozens of hearings, met with most of my political representatives at every level, to very little avail. I have come to believe that our current economic and political system is a death sentence to life on earth, and that I must do everything in my power to replace these systems with cooperative, just, equitable and love-centered ways of living together. This is my act of love.

Ken Ward


I find it difficult to write, because the old words seem insufficient for the times; we’ve run out of useful adjectives. 

Watching a Presidential debate absent any mention of climate, reading about a latest model RV “with built in garage,” or listening to any statement by any economist, none of whom contemplate the idea of ecological limits to growth, is a dislocating experience for which words like “surreal,” bizarre” or “terrifying,” to quote President Obama, are inadequate.

We are methodically, with full awareness, and in the presence of acceptable alternatives, destroying the conditions which allow the wild riot of diverse life on the planet and have made civilization possible, for reasons of greed, fear and lassitude. 

I’ve always felt that it would be nearly impossible to stave off climate cataclysm, but I never imagined we could get this far and not even have a good fight about it. 

I spent the first half of my life working as professional staff for major environmental and public interest organizations, serving as Executive Director of New Jersey Public Interest Research Group (NJPIRG), Deputy Executive Director of Greenpeace USA, President of the National Environmental Law Center, and co-founder of U.S. PIRG, Environment America and the Fund for Public Interest Research. In those positions I played by the rules, using every legal device for influencing energy policy, beginning as a coordinator for the national Campaign for Safe Energy in 1980. 

Nothing we did then worked, and there is no plan of action, policy or strategy being advanced now by any political leader, climate action group or environmental organization playing by the rules that does anything but acquiesce to ruin. Our only hope is to step outside polite conversation and put our bodies and ourselves in the way. We must shut it down, starting with the most immediate threats; oil sands fuels and coal.

If we do this, we have a fight. Only if we are truly contesting the means of our own destruction - like wrestling a gun from the hands of a suicide - will we be able to use words like “hope” without cynicism or despair. 

Leonard Higgins

Leonard.JPGLeonard is retired from a 31 year career with Oregon state government focused on budget, contracts and project management for large information technology projects. He credits his awakening about social justice and climate change threats to a 2007 workshop from Joanna Macy, and her book, "Active Hope." He believes in the Unitarian Universalist principles including "The inherent worth and dignity of every person," and "Respect for the interdependent web of all existence of which we are a part."

He was a cofounder of the Corvallis chapter of in 2012, and has been an organizer and participant in many social and climate justice efforts since then. Leonard was called to direct action in 2013 to support Native American Nations in blocking transport through Oregon of tar sands extraction equipment. Along with other climate justice work, he continues to participate in direct actions including the May 2016 two day railway blockade of crude oil unit trains in Anacortes, Washington during global Break Free protests.
"Because of the climate change emergency, because governments and corporations have for decades increased fossil fuel extraction and carbon emissions when instead we must dramatically reduce carbon emissions; I am committed to the moral necessity of participating in nonviolent direct action to protect life." - Leonard Higgins

Michael Foster

20160622_185234-2.jpg"I grew up in Texas just across the road from Gulf Coast oil refineries. After George W. warned, “America is addicted to oil”, I bought a GEO METRO converted to all-electric, no tailpipe. I’ve eaten vegetarian/vegan since 1992. I took stay-cations with my kids. We insulated, switched the whole house onto electric and shut off the gas line. I have tried to do everything I could to limit our pollution, speak for climate justice, prevent the growth of oil burning, and inspire kids and leaders to make a difference, big enough and fast enough to stop global warming. It’s not enough. Still, I know we can do it.

In the last 4 years I volunteered to teach climate science, the impacts, and the solutions to over 10,000 people. I organized with a dozen amazing groups, including Our Children’s Trust in their landmark climate victory for children’s air and water in Washington state. I helped on Keystone XL and getting SHELL out of the Arctic. Yet all the good we have done today at slowing the expansion of oil and gas, does not begin to protect my children from the excess CO2 already warming the sky.

I love the quote from Chief Arvol Looking Horse, "Did you think the Creator would create unnecessary people in a time of such terrible danger? Know that you yourself are essential to this world. Understand both the blessing and the burden of that. You yourself are desperately needed to save the soul of this world. Did you think you were put here for something less? In a Sacred Hoop of Life, there is no beginning and no ending."

I am here to generate action that wakes people up to the reality of what we are doing to life as we know it. All of our climate victories are meaningless if we don’t stop extracting oil, coal and gas now. 10% less each year, plus 1 trillion new trees globally, puts our kids on a path to a stable climate near the end of the century. Let’s DO this."

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