Delta Variant outbreak forces a difficult decision

Sometimes it’s very hard to figure out the right thing to do, and we in the Tar Sands Team are in such a position now. As we try to do all we can to support the brave water protectors resisting Enbridge Line 3, we are confronted with a COVID Delta variant surge that is truly frightening.

On Wednesday, July 28, we sent out an e-blast, asking for people interested in going up to a Line 3 resistance camp in Northern Minnesota, and 30 people answered the call! On Friday, July 30, a New York Times headline proclaimed “C.D.C. Internal Report Calls Delta Variant as Contagious as Chickenpox” and revealed that vaccinated people are contracting the virus and probably spreading it too. Today, the New York Times’ Coronavirus map of the U.S. reports that in Dane County “Cases have increased recently and are very high.” On August 4, 94 new cases were reported, a +347% increase over the past 14 days. As of August 3, the CDC reports that there are 57 Wisconsin counties, including many of the counties that we would be coming from, in the high category, 15 in the medium, and none in Very High or Low.

Because of the latency period, very many people, even the fully vaccinated, are likely walking around Dane County unaware that they are about to come down with COVID. (Remember that 2 weeks ago on July 22, almost 100,000 people packed the streets of Milwaukee to celebrate their championship victory. The huge increase in cases locally may be just the beginning of a spike from that event.)

We are very conscious of the danger that visitors from Dane County could present to the people at the resistance camps. Recent CDC (Center for Disease Control and Prevention) studies have shown that Indigenous people “are among the racial and ethnic minority groups at higher risk for severe COVID-19 outcomes.” The tribes have already lost so many elders to COVID, and now the Delta variant is causing severe illness and even death among healthy young people with no underlying conditions! Here is a New York Times article about this trend.

Everyone who wants to support the fight against Line 3 has to decide for themselves what risks they will take, and also what risk they will expose others to. The joint Tar Sands Team of 350 Madison and the Wisconsin chapter of the Sierra Club has made the very hard decision to not sponsor vans or caravans up north during this very dangerous time, when hidden cases of the Delta variant could decimate our movement. This is not a sprint – it’s a marathon, and we must safeguard the leaders and the followers in our movement.

If any of the 30 people who indicated interest want to organize car caravans up north, we can put those people in touch with each other. (Email us at if you want to do this.) We have made the very difficult decision to put our energies instead into local actions that pressure the banks to stop the loans to Enbridge and the Biden Administration to withdraw the water permits. If you’d like to get involved with our local efforts, contact the

Winona LaDuke and 6 other women were arrested on July 19 for protecting the Great Lakes.

You may have grown up hearing inspiring tales of bravery in righteous causes and wondered if you would have risen to the occasion had you been alive then. 

Well, you are alive now, and the greatest cause of all — slowing, stopping, and reversing climate chaos — needs you. And luckily for you, the place where you can make a huge difference — Northern Minnesota — is just a comfy, free bus or van ride away!

Knowing how crucial it is during this summer of climate disasters to keep the pressure on President Biden to #StopLine3, the 350 Madison Tar Sands Team reached out to the national Sierra Club and was offered a substantial grant to hire a bus or vans to get our supporters up to the camps. We are needed right away, so it’s all hands on deck. We hope to find scores of people from Wisconsin (and northern Illinois) who will spend a few days with our Indigenous partners who have been fighting “the black snake” for years.

You don’t have to get arrested to be an important part of the fight, though we applaud all who choose to do that. To create the actions and headlines that focus President Biden’s attention on stopping Line 3, it takes a huge crew of support people who do the following:

  • cook
  • serve meals
  • wash dishes
  • provide child care
  • clean up the camp
  • stand in witness, with banners and signs, as others are arrested in peaceful acts of civil disobedience
  • post and livestream actions on social media
  • blog and write letters to the editor after a camp experience

If you can do any of these things, click here to indicate your interest

This form will only be open through August 3, after which we’ll decide which dates to go north, and we’ll reserve whatever kind of vehicles we need. If people want to stay longer than a few days, vans will give us the flexibility we need to get everyone home again.

It’s a big decision to travel north, whether you choose to risk arrest or not. (If you do, there will be plenty of trainings, online and on the ground, to help you prepare.) You don’t have to be fully decided to fill out the form, just interested. As you mull it over, please consider these things:

  • Tar sands oil is the dirtiest fuel on earth, and Line 3 is the new tar sands pipeline closest to completion in the U.S.
  • The tar sands industry is teetering on the edge of collapse, as this article shows: “Oilsands assets worth $13.4 Billion may be up for grabs with Big Oil on Divestment Spree.”
  • We have a president who understands the danger of climate change, and who shut down the KXL pipeline due to public outcry against it.
  • You can ride for free up to and back from a resistance camp where you’ll help make history!

If you want to come, fill out the interest form even if you aren’t sure it will work. We’ll call you and answer your questions. 

“Being in the presence of our Indigenous hosts — truly feeling their wisdom and reverence for all of life — was a life-changing experience. It was a great honor to be in community with them, and I can’t wait to return.”

— Dianne Brakarsh (choreographer; member of the 350 Madison Art Collective & Climate Justice Team), after attending the Treaty People Gathering in June

Give yourself the chance to have a life-changing experience. Time is short, and the disasters keep piling up. Help us stop the tar sands from flowing through the Midwest. And if you can, please make a donation so that 350 Madison can meet the challenges before us!