Personal Update From Faster Steve Norris

Steve Norris of Fairview, NC sent the email below to friends and supporters this morning.

NPR ohoto of SteveLee Stewart, a 28 year old faster wise beyond his years, wrote:  “To fast is absurd.” But as Gandhi said:  “Fasting is the purest form of prayer.”

Being here, eating no food for 18 days, has taken me down a fascinating and disorienting rabbit hole, where “normal” appears absurd and even suicidal, and where unrealistic may be our only way out. I recall hearing Starhawk saying something like this many years ago. “The time for reasonable is past,” she said. But I have struggled to make sense of this. The fast is a journey into unreasonable.

The other day was hot on the sidewalk in front of FERC, I was talking with a guy I dislike – he dominates conversation and is loud and bombastic. He mentioned something about money in the middle of our conversation, but I got so tired of him after 15 minutes I got up and, so as not to appear impolite, distributed fliers to passersby on the sidewalk. He continued talking to another faster, but when he decided to leave, I asked if he was serious about donating money. He hemmed and hawed, but we talked for a minute about the $1000 BXE wanted to give to Lincoln Temple, the very poor African American Church which generously has been providing us space for sleeping.  He left, and I forgot about him. But half an hour later he returned and gave me an envelope with $1000 in cash.  “Use this for whatever BXE needs.”  We’ve given it to the minister of Lincoln Temple.

On Thursday twenty year old Berenice Tomkins, a college student, went into the “open” FERC commissioners meeting, which does not allow public comment. The five polished FERC Commissioners are the corrupt decision makers in this  powerful regulatory agency which makes life and death decisions for communities and people all over the country. Most of us are not allowed entry because we have disrupted meetings in the past, but this was Berenice’s first time, so she got in. She wasn’t sure what to do and waited through the incomprehensible conversations of the Commissioners, which in a coded language talk about decisions already made behind closed doors. When they started talking about forest fire mitigation she could no longer hold her tongue. She stood up and with a twenty year old’s strong voice took over the meeting: ” What are you talking about? It’s your policies which are creating the climate crisis, and you can’t mitigate the fires without talking about the climate crisis?” She talked for a minute or so until until FERC  Security grabbed her arm and dragged her out. She was crying and proud as she came out.

As we were passing out fliers and attempting to engage FERC workers on their way into the building, a female security guard in an adjacent building next to FERC told us :  “I wish everyone had your kind of courage.”

Ted Glick managed on Wednesday to stop FERC Commission Chairperson Norman Bay on the sidewalk on his way to lunch. He told Ted he respected us, and thought the fast was okay, but did not like our monthly disruptions. He also repeated what other FERC employees said, that if we want to stop fracking FERC is the wrong target. According to Bay all the natural gas infrastructure FERC permits, even though it is needed to transport the gas, has nothing to do with fracking. The conversation was ended curtly by Commissioner Bay, but clearly he felt the heat.

My sense from this conversation and others we have had with FERC employees is that many of them understand that that climate change is real and dangerous, that many communities are being badly hurt, but that because of our legal structures, because of their narrow fssil fuel culture, and because they disbelieve in viable alternatives, their minds are wedded to the madness of more fossil fuels.

Elliot Grohman, the bent shouldered and clumsy head of the Homeland Security detail which in past protests at FERC has arrested 75 of us showed up on Wednesday. He actually seems to like and respect us. “Anything you guys need?” he asked pleasantly and in a way that sounded genuinely concerned (other security people have done this too).  “No”, I replied. And then I asked “How are you doing?” He talked for about 15 minutes about organizing security for the Pope’s visit, which for the police is on the scale of a presidential inauguration. I felt sorry for him.

Many people, FERC employees and passersby, walk past and ignore us. But many also stop and talk, ask what we are doing, give us a victory signs, say “Thanks” or “God bless you”, ask for a flier, or simply smile. Many have also stopped and asked probing and important questions, thanking us when they leave. A group of students from a nearby high school in a peace studies class came by, and wanted to learn more. We took them with us to CNN headquarters which is next door to FERC. We were trying to deliver a letter to CNN asking for the moderator of CNN sponsored Republican  Presidential debate to ask the candidates about climate change. CNN refused to talk with us or accept the letter. So on the way out, in the fancy cavernous and echoing CNN lobby we chanted “CNN: Ask about climate change,” giving these youngsters a small taste of real world activism.

So where does all of this lead? What will all the people we have touched in various ways, all of the silent people who have walked past but read our signs saying “Day 12 of 18 Day Hunger Strike, all the police, all the FERC employees, and others – what will they do with this? Is our fast an absurd prayer which they will hear and which will touch their hearts? Will it enable them to see outside of the suicidal trance many still inhabit and which most world leaders, including our own, still embrace?

On September 24 Pope Francis speaks to the US Congress. On the next day, with the help of some clergy, we are planning a ceremony/action at noon in which we will attempt to deliver to Commissioner Bay five copies of the Pope’s encyclical, Laudato Si (Care for Our Common Home) calling for a rapid transition from fossil fuels to renewables, and for social, economic and racial justice. If possible, please join us.


A photo of me at NPR is attached: As you can see I am doing very well. Shockingly, after 11 days without food, I feel almost normal. except for sometimes intense fatigue when I exert myself too much. I’ve lost about 12 pounds. Last evening I walked about 2.5 miles from FERC to Lincoln Temple, and was okay at the end.

Here’s some photos:

Here’s more details about how we are doing, from Ted Glick’s Future Hope Columns:

DONATIONS:  BXE needs to raise more money to support the fast, and for our ongoing future work. If you can, please consider a tax-exempt donation through BXE website,  or a (non-exempt) check to me at 372Sharon Rd, Fairview, NC 28730. The website is:

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