Anne Petermann is the Executive Director of Global Justice Ecology Project, which she co-founded in 2003. She is also the International Coordinator of the Campaign to STOP GE Trees, which she co-founded in 2014, and a founding Board Member of the Will Miller Social Justice Lecture Series.
She has been involved in movements for forest protection and Indigenous rights since 1991, and the international and national climate justice movements since 2004. She co-founded the Eastern North American Resource Center of the Native Forest Network in 1993, and the original STOP GE Trees Campaign in 2004. She also participated in the founding of the Durban Group for Climate Justice in 2004 and Climate Justice Now! in 2007 at the Bali UN Climate Conference.
Anne has spoken and written extensively about the destructive social and ecological impacts of genetically engineered trees, including the impacts on Indigenous Peoples and forest dependent communities, and the links to cellulosic biofuels made from wood, and other socially and environmentally destructive “false solutions” to climate change.
She has also presented on these subjects at capacity-building trainings for Indigenous Peoples, and at conferences including the UN Climate Convention, the UN Biodiversity Convention, the UN Forum on Forests, and the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues.
She is the author of several reports and numerous articles detailing the dangers of genetically engineered trees. She is a contributor to Z Magazine, Counterpunch, Toward Freedom and Daily Kos.
She was adopted as an honorary member of the Saint Francis-Sokoki band of the Abenaki in 1992 for her work in support of their struggle for state recognition.
In 2000 she received the Wild Nature Award for Activist of the year.Anne Petermann
In addition to being a co-founder and consultant for GJEP, Orin Langelle is a photojournalist and the Director of Langelle Photography. He also sits on the Steering Committee of the Campaign to Stop GE Trees, which he co-founded in 2014.
Orin Langelle became involved in the movement for social justice in the 1960s in opposition to the Vietnam War. He went on to earn a B.A. in media and communications from Webster University in St. Louis, MO, and trained as a photojournalist at the International Center of Photography in Manhattan under Cornell Capa, brother to renowned war photographer Robert Capa (1977-1978).
In the late 1980s, Langelle helped lead campaigns that stopped logging in the Shawnee National Forest of Southern Illinois, Illinois’ Trail of Tears State Forest, and Saint Louis’ Forest 44.
In 1991 he relocated to Vermont and in 1992 co-founded the international Native Forest Network at their convening conference in Tasmania, Australia. He subsequently co-founded the NFN’s Eastern North American Resource Center in Burlington, VT in June 1993 and organized the group’s First North American Temperate Forest Conference in November of that year. He worked as the Eastern North American NFN Campaign Coordinator from 1993 until 2001.
In the early 90s he actively supported the Abenaki struggle for state recognition in Ndakinna, the Abenaki name for the region known as Vermont. He was adopted as an honorary member of the Saint Francis-Sokoki band of the Abenaki in 1992.
In the summer of 1993 he organized an expedition to James Bay, Quebec to document the Cree resistance to the plans of Hydro-Quebec to dam a series of rivers in Cree territory. (NFN played a key role in a Vermont campaign on the issue, including organizing an international day of action against Hydro-Quebec on their 50th anniversary in April 1994. Langelle traveled through England and Scotland that month speaking and presenting a slide show on that issue. These efforts contributed to Hydro-Quebec abandoning its plans to build new dams in Cree territory.)
Langelle convened the First North American Temperate Forest Conference in November of 1993, which included over 500 forest activists from across North America as well as indigenous representatives from six nations. The conference was organized to build bridges between these communities of activists and encourage greater collaboration. Dr. David Suzuki and Winona LaDuke were the keynote speakers.
In 1995 Langelle helped organize a coalition of groups including hundreds of activists who converged on Burlington, VT to demonstrate against the impending execution of political prisoner Mumia Abu-Jamal during the National Governor’s Association conference. The militant protests, directed at Pennsylvania Governor Thomas Ridge who signed Mumia’s death warrant, spanned five days. Ultimately the death warrant was rescinded and Abu-Jamal is still alive.
In 1994, Langelle began working in solidarity with the indigenous Zapatistas in Chiapas, Mexico who made worldwide headlines when they rose up on New Year’s Day, 1994, the first day of the implementation of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). The Zapatistas condemned NAFTA as a death sentence for the Indigenous Peoples of Mexico. He helped organize an action at a Chase Manhattan Bank shareholders meeting that year in response to a leaked memo by a Chase executive calling for the elimination of the Zapatistas. In April of 1995 Langelle organized a climbing team that hung a banner in Washington, DC in support of the Zapatistas during the meetings of the World Bank and IMF.
In June of 1996, Langelle led a delegation to Chiapas to participate in the Zapatista’s First North America Encuentro in La Realidad. Out of this delegation, Langelle facilitated the production of an award-winning film entitled “Lacandona: The Zapatistas and Rainforest of Chiapas, Mexico,” which explored the connections between the destruction of the rainforest and the government’s war on the Zapatistas: including oil, precious hardwoods, and other valuable resources in the jungle that were sought by corporations.
S. Brian Willson, who also attended the encuentro, then asked Orin to look into the destruction of the Bosawas rainforest in Nicaragua. In 1997 Langelle co-organized a delegation to Nicaragua that uncovered unprecedented illegal logging in the Bosawas Reserve. Langelle then organized a solidarity action at the Nicaraguan Embassy in Washington, DC which exposed the illegal logging, and resulted in television and newspaper coverage in Nicaragua. The illegal 150,000 acre logging concession was subsequently cancelled.
In 1998, this emphasis on Central America led Langelle to found ACERCA: Action for Community and Ecology in the Regions of Central America, which followed in the footsteps of EPOCA, with the advice of former EPOCA activists. As Coordinator of ACERCA, Langelle led numerous delegations to Nicaragua, including the first environmental justice delegation to the regions most heavily impacted by Hurricane Mitch, which uncovered that deforestation had worsened the flooding and led to the collapse of a volcano crater lake that submerged entire villages in mud, killing thousands. Greenpeace later confirmed the findings of this delegation.
In 1999, Langelle led a delegation to southeast Mexico that revealed what participants were told was a genetically engineered tree test plot. This led Langelle to write a chapter on GE trees for the book “Redesigning Life? The Worldwide Challenge to Genetic Engineering,” and subsequently to launch the first campaign against genetically engineered trees in June 2000 with a press conference in Boston during protests countering the Biotechnology Industry Organization’s annual conference. The press conference was covered on the front page of the Washington Post.
In January of 2000, Langelle was arrested at the New Hampshire Democratic Campaign headquarters of Al Gore during an action in support of the U’Wa people of Colombia whose land was under threat from Occidental Petroleum—on whose Board Gore’s father served and in which Gore held large quantities of stock. This action was covered nationally and triggered other such actions across the country. The U’wa had threatened mass suicide if drilling occurred. Occidental did not drill on the U’Wa lands.
In April of 2001 Langelle helped coordinate a convergence center in Burlington, VT that was organized to support and train activists on their way to the massive mobilization against the Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA) in Quebec City. Dozens of organizations from Vermont participated in this effort and hundreds of activists came through the convergence center. Langelle also organized with others from Buffalo, NY to Jackman, ME in an effort to keep the borders open and was successful. (Canada threatened to close the border.)
In July 2001 Langelle co-organized the first protest against GE trees at an industry conference in Oregon.
In September of 2001 Langelle co-founded a new organization, Action for Social & Ecological Justice, which took over the role previously played by Native Forest Network Eastern North America, and which was founded in response to the broadening focus of the group to include more Latin American and social justice issues.
Over the next two years, Langelle pulled together a coalition of groups to oppose the Plan Puebla Panama; helped organize mobilizations against the World Bank and the Iraq War in Washington, DC; participated in a delegation in support of the defense of the Puerto Rican island of Vieques against the U.S. Naval firing range; and continued to support the efforts of Nicaraguan groups to protect the Nicaraguan rainforest. In addition, Langelle worked with Global Exchange on an emergency delegation to the Montes Azules Biosphere Reserve in Chiapas, Mexico to document and publicize the efforts of Conservation International and the Mexican government to evict Indigenous communities from the forest.
In June of 2003, he helped mobilize the largest ever protest against GE trees at an agricultural ministerial meeting in Sacramento that was preparing for WTO meetings in Cancun, Mexico later in the year.
In September 2003, Langelle co-founded Global Justice Ecology Project and traveled to Cancun, Mexico that month to participate in and document the massive protests against the World Trade Organization. He obtained press credentials for the event that gave him inside access for the demonstrations.
In November 2003, Langelle participated in and documented the mobilization against the Free Trade Area of the Americas in Miami, which was brutally attacked by police. The following summer he participated in and documented the protests at the Democratic National Convention in Boston and the Republican National Convention in New York City, as well as anti-war marches in Washington, DC. Langelle’s photos from these events were widely published.* In 2004 Langelle assembled a photo exhibit entitled “Corporate Globalization vs. Global Justice” which traveled to cities across the U.S. and was viewed by thousands of people.
In January of 2004 Langelle co-founded the STOP GE Trees Campaign, pulling together a meeting with numerous groups from across the country to take unified action to stop the commercialization of genetically engineered trees. Langelle is currently the Co-Coordinator of the STOP GE Trees Campaign.
In 2005 Langelle and GJEP Co-director Anne Petermann formed a partnership with the indigenous Mapuche group Konapewman in Temuco, Chile, to work jointly to stop the commercial development of GE trees in Chile.
Beginning in 2005, Langelle has attended and done media work at various United Nations functions, including the Framework Conventions on Climate Change (Buenos Aires, Argentina; Montreal, Canada; Nairobi, Kenya; Bali, Indonesia and Copenhagen, Denmark) Forum on Forests (New York, NY) and the Conventions on Biological Diversity (Curitiba, Brazil and Bonn, Germany).
In 2007 Langelle attended the World Social Forum in Nairobi, Kenya and did presentations on genetically engineered trees and their relationship to agrofuels and the carbon trading market.
He toured in the spring of 2007 with activists who traveled through The Netherlands, Belgium and France to speak on the dangers of agrofuels. He spoke in a session attended by members of the European Parliament in Brussels, Belgium.
In the summer of 2007, Langelle helped organize several different workshops on agrofuels at the U.S. Social Forum in Atlanta, GA.
In 2007 Langelle helped co-found Climate Justice Now! during the UN Climate Conference in Bali, Indonesia. In 2008 he helped co-found Climate Justice Action in Copenhagen, Denmark and later that year the North American Mobilization for Climate Justice.
In 2008 and 2009, Langelle was the Media Coordinator for the Global Forest Coalition.
After the 2008 World Social Forum in Belem, Brazil, Langelle traveled to the Gran Chaco region of Paraguay where he was asked by the Ayoreo Indigenous People to “share the eye” by taking documentary photographs of one of the local settlements, “Campo Loro” (Parrot Field). In early summer the Ayoreo community received printed photographs of his efforts and put them on display.
Langelle was the only photographer invited by the Ayoreo in recent years to take photographs of their community and lands.
In the fall of 2010, Langelle, along with the Indigenous Environmental Network and Movement Generation organized a meeting of environmental justice, climate justice and community leaders and their allies at the Blue Mountain Center in the Adirondack State Park of New York. This meeting built climate justice strategies for the UN climate negotiations in Cancun, Mexico in 2010 and resulted in the formation of a North American climate justice alliance consisting of front-line, grassroots, community-based environmental justice groups and their allies.
In Cancun, Langelle coordinated a Global Justice Ecology Project media team with the Indigenous Environmental Network, Grassroots Global Justice Alliance, Climate Justice Now!, Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives (GAIA), ETC Group, Grassroots Solutions for Climate Justice North America and others, highlighting their messages in dozens of major, international media outlets.
In March 2011, Langelle, along with a writer and two videographers, visited Amador Hernandez in Chiapas, Mexico. This was the first time in many years people from outside of the Lacandon jungle were invited to enter this indigenous territory. The community is threatened with forced relocation due to a deal signed between the state of California and the state of Chiapas, to use the Lacandon jungle to provide carbon offsets for California polluters. Amador Hernandez is refusing to be relocated. Langelle and the investigative team were asked by the community to inform the world that all medical supplies and emergency help has been cut off by the Mexican government in order to force the community out of the region.
Langelle [again] was the first photographer to be invited by that community to take photographs in several years. In May 2011, an exhibit of his photos from the area was displayed in the indigenous community in the Lacandon jungle of Chiapas, Mexico. Additionally there were two shows in Amsterdam, The Netherlands with his images. It was organized by Carbon Trade Watch.
In 2014, Langelle co-founded the ¡Buen Vivir! Gallery for Contemporary Art in Buffalo, NY, where he regularly exhibited his photos documenting social and ecological struggles around the word until 2016. Langelle is now archiving and chronicling his four and a half decades of photos, some of which can be viewed on his website PhotoLangelle.org.
In 2016 Langelle won the Exhibition Award at the prestigious CEPA Gallery in Buffalo, including a solo show at CEPA to take place in early 2018.
Langelle’s Photography Statement: I attempt to capture, what noted photographer Henri Cartier-Bresson describes as “the decisive moment.” To me this decisive moment is the instant a visual image is recorded–when light, composition and the subject unite. As a concerned photographer, that image should be of a social value that documents the political essence of the subject; which then inspires the viewer to take action. My goal is to document and expose the reality of injustice–much of which is linked with the struggle for the land–using photographs to educate and change the world, not just to record it.
Langelle uses his media and communications skills to link activists with mainstream and alternative media, journalists and reporters, resulting in hundreds of articles and interviews annually that reach millions of people around the world.*
Langelle was a longtime member of the International Federation of Journalists and the National Writers Union.
* While working with Global Justice Ecology Project, Langelle’s photographs have appeared in numerous publications including L’oeil de la Photographie (Paris), Z Magazine, The Progressive, Christian Science Monitor, Earth Island Journal, Seedling, Spree Magazine and others. He has contributed to online publications such as World War 4 Report, Toward Freedom, UpsideDown World and many other media outlets.
Ruddy Turnstone is a GE trees campaigner for Global Justice Ecology Project and sits on the Campaign to Stop GE Trees Steering Committee. She works to ban genetically engineered trees from commercialization globally, nationally and locally. A half-desi from the southeastern so-called U.S., she loves tree climbing when she is not fighting mutant trees. Ruddy provides direct action climb trainings for the Earth First! Climbers Guild, Greenpeace, at Trans and Women’s Action Camps, and tree climbing to the public as recreation through Shadow Tree Climbing LLC.
Ruddy has also been an Everglades Earth First! (EEF!) organizer since 2007. Through EEF! She provides direct action trainings. Since 2010 through EEF! and the Palm Beach County Environmental Coalition she has worked to stop a 682 acre forest from turning into a biotech city in South Florida. She has also worked with native and non-native peoples to fight a proposal from FPL to build one of the largest fossil fuel power plants in the country next to the Big Cypress Seminole Reservation.Ruddy Turnstone
Tess Ipolito is the Media Coordinator for Global Justice Ecology Project and The ¡Buen Vivir! Gallery. Tess holds a Master’s Degree in Environmental Policy and Sustainability Management from the New School in NYC.
Before joining the GJEP team, Tess has been an advocate for social and environmental justice through her work and volunteering globally. She has done research on critically endangered primates and volunteered on reforestation and educational projects in Madagascar. She has done research on and educated communities about organic waste alternatives to coal use in Uganda as a means of both financial empowerment and a reduction to serious health issues caused by smoke inhalation. While in Uganda, Tess also spent time focused on finding justice for communities displaced by palm oil (and other monocrop) plantations forced into the slums of Kampala. While in NYC Tess volunteered on clean air and water community outreach projects. And over the years, she has been dedicated to protecting wildlife, resource management, and land conservation within the United States and abroad.266 Elmwoood Ave, Suite 307
Kip Doyle coordinates and develops social media/web content for Global Justice Ecology Project and the Campaign to STOP GE Trees. Previously, Doyle was content publisher with Synacor, managing editor at the Salamanca Press and a reporter with the Olean Times Herald.
Doyle has volunteered on a number of community building projects with the Cuba (NY) Friends of Architecture and he is the web administrator for the Cuba Palmer Opera House. His writing credits include TheHardTimes.com, MetalInjection.net, eHow.com, JillianMichaels.com, Livestrong.com, Artvoice.com and DailyPublic.com. Doyle is a 2005 graduate of Buffalo State College.266 Elmwoood Ave, Suite 307
Lindsey Gillies is a midwife, activist, community organizer and writer. Lindsey is a Vermont Licensed Midwife (LM) and Certified Professional Midwife (CPM) and is passionate about the intersection of reproductive and environmental justice. Her background includes a comprehensive academic and clinical training at Maternidad La Luz, a high-volume freestanding birth center on the border in El Paso, Texas. Additionally, she successfully completed an intensive academic midwifery program in Boise, Idaho. She has served communities in both Vermont and Texas as a birth doula, abortion doula, and childbirth educator.
Lindsey Gillies has been a community organizer with Rising Tide Vermont since 2012. With Rising Tide Vermont, she has organized numerous direct action trainings and events across the northeast and is currently working on the Campaign to Stop the Fracked Gas Pipeline!
Lindsey Gillies attended COP 16 in Cancun, Mexico and COP 17 in Durban, South Africa as part of the GJEP delegation. She worked as the New Voices on Climate Change Coordinator and is now the Chair of the Board of Directors.
Lindsey holds a B.A. in English and Environmental Studies from the University of Vermont. She currently lives in Burlington, Vermont.
Soren Ambrose traces his interest in the environment and social justice to 1975, when he joined Greenpeace at age 12. But he began the “mature” phase of his political work through his academic work. He earned a Masters Degree in English Literature at the University of Chicago and completed most of the requirements for a Ph.D (including three chapters of a dissertation). His dissertation was on contemporary Nigerian literature and politics, and the research for it took him to Nigeria in 1992. While in Nigeria, Ambrose met with many Nigerian authors and academics, and learned that a professor’s monthly salary was less than the price of a paperback novel. Many of those he met with consequently were more interested in discussing the country’s economic state than its literary scene. They were nearly unanimous in identifying the structural adjustment programs imposed on Nigeria by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank as the root cause of the country’s (and Africa’s) poverty.
Upon his return to Chicago, Ambrose began to devote more attention to structural adjustment and the international financial institutions. He joined the Chicago branch of the 50 Years Is Enough Campaign when it was formed in 1994, to help coordinate actions against the IMF and World Bank. He eventually became the branch’s de facto coordinator and representative to the national campaign’s Steering Committee. Ambrose moved to Washington, DC at the end of 1995 to take a position with Nicaragua Network, a leading member of the 50 Years Is Enough Network, and later a full-time position with 50 Years itself. His work in Washington was largely devoted to policy analysis, organizing, and media work, in which capacity he was quoted by BBC, the New York Times, Washington Post, and many others, and was profiled in the Financial Times in 2001. He was one of the lead organizers of the April 2000 protests against the IMF and World Bank which brought upwards of 20,000 to Washington, DC.
From 2002, Ambrose also served as a part-time staffer with New Voices on Globalization, a consortium formed by four Washington-based groups (50 Years Is Enough Network, Essential Action, Institute for Policy Studies, and Jobs with Justice) to amplify the voice of the global justice movement in mainstream media. Ambrose moved to Nairobi, Kenya in June 2005, where he helped found Daughters of Mumbi Global Resource Center, a grassroots organization working with local groups on food security and related economic issues. He is coordinator of the Center’s Solidarity Africa Network project, which performs policy analysis and brings together groups around Africa on joint advocacy projects.
Soren is now the Head of Policy, Advocacy & Research for ActionAid International, based in Nairobi, Kenya.Soren Ambrose email@example.com
Ann Lipsitt is a reading specialist and retired special educator from the Browns Trace middle school in Underhill Vermont. A long-time social justice activist she co-founded the Green Mountain Fund for Popular Struggle with her partner Will Miller. The Fund distributed hundreds of thousands of dollars in support of the movement for social justice and environmental protection in Vermont. Ann is also the founder of the Will Miller Social Justice Lecture Series.Ann Lipsitt firstname.lastname@example.org
Hallie Boas was raised on the shores of the Long Island Sound in Connecticut and is an organizer, activist, and artist of European Jewish descent. Her heart and passions are centered in reconstructive visions for building grassroots movements for social, racial and ecological justice and transforming “the American way, no way or the highway” paradigm of how people think and act. She enjoys planting seeds, practicing and teaching yoga and meditation, post apocalyptic dystopian feminist science fiction, making trinkets out of metal and other found things, and spending time at Black Mesa/Big Mountain, Arizona. Hallie worked with the Global Justice Ecology Project for over four years as the New Voices Coordinator on Climate Change and now serves on the Board of Directors. She is also part of the Progressive Communicators Network. She is currently living in San Cristobal, Mexico and working on opening a printing/graphics/and info-shop community center. She is also a collective member with Black Mesa Indigenous Support.
Dr. Aziz Choudry is a professor at McGill University in Montreal, Canada. He is also an activist, researcher and writer. As an organizer for GATT Watchdog in Aotearoa/New Zealand for many years, he has worked extensively on mobilization, education and advocacy campaigns against GATT/WTO, APEC, Multilateral Agreement on Investment (MAI), bilateral free trade and investment agreements, World Bank/IMF and Asian Development Bank and other international and domestic neoliberal programs, as well as support for Indigenous sovereignty/decolonization struggles in Aotearoa/New Zealand, North America and the broader Asia-Pacific region. His activism has included a wide range of action and research against transnational corporate power, imperialism, and the commodification of life. Aziz served on the board of convenors of the Asia-Pacific Research Network (www.aprnet.org) from 2002-2004, and was Associate Fellow of McGill University’s Centre for Developing-Area Studies from 2003-2005.
A regular commentator for ZNet (www.zmag.org) for several years, he has published widely in movement/progressive journals throughout the world. He has been active in, researched for and advised numerous activist groups, NGOs, and social movements and addressed many international NGO, movement and academic conferences and seminars. He has been a guest lecturer at universities in Aotearoa/New Zealand, Canada, and Fiji. Among other publications, Aziz is editor of Effective Strategies in Confronting Transnational Corporations (Asia-Pacific Research Network, Manila, 2003) and Appetite for Destruction (Pesticide Action Network Asia Pacific, Penang, 2006). Since 2004, he has been involved in a collaborative website project opposed to bilateral free trade and investment agreements, www.bilaterals.orgDr. Aziz Choudry email@example.com
Karen Pickett has been a grassroots activist for over 25 years, working on issues of forest and species preservation, recycling, native rights issues, alliance building between the labor and environmental movements, and activist civil rights.
She is founder and Director of the Bay Area Coalition for Headwaters and is a co-founder of the Alliance for Sustainable Jobs and the Environment. She leads workshops and classes on movement building and grassroots organizing, and is the recipient of a number of awards for her work.Karen Pickett
Clayton Thomas-Muller is a member of the Mathias Colomb Cree Nation, also known as Pukatawagan in Northern Manitoba, Canada. Based out of Ottawa, Ontario, Clayton is an organizer for the Defenders of the Land and Idle No More, as well as a co-director of the Indigenous Tar Sands (ITS) Campaign of the Polaris Institute.Clayton is involved in many initiatives to support the building of an inclusive global movement for energy and climate justice. He serves on the board of the Global Justice Ecology Project, Canadian based Raven Trust, and Navajo Nation based Black Mesa Water Coalition.Clayton has traveled extensively domestically and internationally, having led Indigenous delegations to lobby United Nations bodies, including the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, UN Earth Summit (Johannesburg, South Africa 2002 and Rio+20, Brazil 2012) and the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues. Clayton has coordinated and led delegations of First Nations, Native American, and Alaska Native elected and grassroots leadership to lobby government in Washington DC; Ottawa, Canada; and the European Union (Strasbourg and Brussels).He has been recognized by Utne Magazine as one of the top 30 under 30 activists in the United States and by Yes Magazine as a Climate Hero. For the last eleven years, he has campaigned across Canada, Alaska, and the lower 48 states organizing in hundreds of First Nations, Alaska Native, and Native American communities in support of grassroots Indigenous Peoples to defend against the encroachment of the fossil fuel industry. This has included a special focus on the sprawling infrastructure of pipelines, refineries, and extraction associated with the Canadian tar sands.
Clayton is an organizer, facilitator, public speaker, and writer on environmental and economic justice. He has been published in multiple books, newspapers, and magazines and appeared countless times on local, regional, national, and international television and radio as an expert advocate on Indigenous rights and environmental and economic justice. He has been a guest lecturer at universities, conferences, and seminars around the world.Clayton Thomas-Muller CreeClayton77@gmail.com
Will was one of our original board members and always will remain on the Global Justice Ecology Board.
Willard “Will” Miller, Emeritus Assistant Professor of Philosophy at the University of Vermont, succumbed to lung cancer on March 31 at the age of 64. Images of his hero, the legendary Che Guevara, had always surrounded Will as he worked tirelessly for revolutionary social change. Che’s famous quote, “the true revolutionary is guided by great feelings of love,” was apt for Will, whose love of humanity and the earth led him to dedicate his life to the uplifting of the oppressed. A Karl Marx quote on Will’s website reads, “Philosophers have only interpreted the world, in various ways; the point is to change it!”
Will was a revolutionary who fought for academic and political freedom, and the rights of the working class and all inhabitants of the earth who suffer from economic inequities and prejudices. Will understood the connections between politics, war, economics and ecology.
Ann Lipsitt, Will’s life partner of 25 years remembers him, “Will set a courageous example in speaking truth to power. Given his extensive knowledge of the workings and ramifications of capitalism and imperialism, he could have become pessimistic, but he showed boundless optimism. With his powerful voice, he was unwavering in the struggle against war and for social justice. He was never afraid to speak his mind, put words into action or place himself ‘on-the-line’ whether before the university trustees, on a picket line, at a barricade or in a congressional office. Will consistently adhered to his strong principles of social justice, progressive reform, and belief in the power of education to effect change. Will gave us a call to action and a vision of a more just society.”
Will dropped out of high school to join the army on his 17th birthday. He carried out electronic surveillance missions directed at forces in eastern Europe from 1958 – 1961, an experience he described as highly politicizing. He earned his GED in the Army and passed an exam exempting him from freshman year of college. At the University of Illinois, he received his B.A. in 1966, M.A. in 1968, and Ph.D. in 1969 all in the field of philosophy.
Will began his career at UVM in 1969, teaching courses in the philosophy of education, Marxism, radical ecology, and utopian societies, among other topics. Over his 35-year teaching career, Will taught thousands and spoke at numerous demonstrations and rallies. He was an active member of the John Dewey Society, the Society for the Philosophical Study of Marxism, and the Radical Philosophy Association.
Will was the sole survivor of a purge of radical philosophers at UVM in 1970. Among those purged was noted scholar and activist Michael Parenti. Parenti points out that while Will was not purged, he continued to be punished for his radical views, “Though he was a popular teacher and published author…he was denied promotion and remained an assistant professor for 35 years with a salary frozen for most of that time at below that of a first-year instructor at UVM. In a word, the treatment accorded him by some administrators and his department chair has been vindictive, petty, and shameful. Given his abilities, I can only conclude that such mistreatment has been politically motivated.”
In response to his treatment at the hands of the University, Will set up a web page, which posts the salaries of UVM’s administrators and faculty (www.uvm.edu/~wmiller/).
Author, activist, and UVM employee Ron Jacobs comments on Will’s union activity, “a few years ago, the faculty at UVM began a successful drive to unionize. Will was an essential part of that campaign, just as he had been in every union campaign at the university since his hiring. Only four or five years before, he and I were celebrating the victory in a staff union drive at UVM that heralded in the second union in the university’s history. Will’s presence, organizing ability and fervor, and his encyclopedic historical knowledge were instrumental in the success of this campaign-a campaign that provided a voice to the most exploited segment of UVM’s workforce.”
He was faculty advisor to many of the radical student organizations at UVM including the Radical Student Union, Union of Concerned Students, The Gadfly student newspaper, and SPARC (Student Political Awareness and Responsibility Collective). He was tireless in his activism and there were few progressive events that didn’t include his incisive, passionate and articulate addresses.
Ashley Smith, of the International Socialist Organization remembered one of Will’s Vietnam resistance stories, ” It was the famous march to shut down DC when tens of thousands of activists engaged in civil disobedience throughout the city [Mayday, 1971]. Will joined hundreds of Vermonters to blockade one of the bridges from Alexandria into DC. The army ordered a group of mainly black paratroopers that had just returned from Vietnam to affix bayonets to their weapons and attack the activists. The black paratroopers refused the order and joined the demonstration. In that moment, Will said he got a glimpse of what a socialist revolution would look like in the U.S.”
In Will’s own words from his web site:
“Remember elections didn’t end the Vietnam War! It was a mass movement of people–students, teachers, parents and children, civil rights activists, union members, anti-war veterans from Vietnam and other periods of recent imperial history, acts of refusal by draft resisters and rebellion by active duty soldiers and finally the continued resistance of the Vietnamese Independence movement. For more than 30 years the Vietnamese fought the imperialism of France, Japan, France again (with U.S. financing) and finally–after preventing an election that Ho Chi Minh would have won overwhelmingly–the 10 year U.S. war on Vietnam was pre-emptively started. Before it was over more than 3 million Vietnamese, Laotians and Cambodians were dead as well as nearly 60,000 Americans. Never again!!!”
His powerful articulation of U.S. imperialism and its roots won him many admirers. One of Will’s students was so moved that he donated an inheritance that was used to found the Green Mountain Fund for Popular Struggle in 1989. Over the next 13 years, the foundation contributed $750,000 to support radical social change and environmental efforts in Vermont. Many organizations received their very first grants from the Green Mountain Fund, whose principles of unity state, ” The Green Mountain Fund is committed to revolutionary transformation toward a socialist-feminist society. This society requires the elimination of all oppression… and their basis in patriarchal, capitalist and imperialist structures.”
Outside of the University, Will worked as an activist in Vermont Veterans for Peace, Burlington Area Draft and Military Counseling, Vermont Cuba Committee, Haymarket People’s Fund, Committee in Solidarity with the People of El Salvador, Network Opposed to Depleted Uranium Weapons and was on the board of Global Justice Ecology Project.
We mourn the loss of this sweet, gentle, generous, compassionate human being with a big heart and boundless faith in the goodness of people. He left us a legacy of inspiration — not to be discouraged but to keep fighting the atrocious ideologies related to war.
Will is survived by his wife, Ann Lipsitt, his sister, Barbara Knight of Sebastopol, CA, his in-laws, Lew and Edna Lipsitt of Providence, RI and many, many dear friends and comrades.
You can visit www.willmiller.org to read and write about how Will’s life and words have touched so many.
A memorial service was held April 24, 2005 in the Unitarian Universalist Church in Burlington.
Tax-deductible donations can be made to the Will Miller Social Justice Lecture Series, established in his honor. Checks should be made out to Ann Lipsitt, at 10 Machia Hill Road, Westford, VT 05494, designated for the Lecture Fund.
WILL MILLER, PRESENTE!
Compiled by Anne Petermann and Orin Langelle
Published in the Vermont Guardian
Contact Will at http://willmiller.org