Daily Progress, Jacksonville, TX

September 16, 2013

Man plans to traverse continent on foot to protest pipeline

Amy Brocato Pearson
Jacksonville Daily Progress

JACKSONVILLE — Seth Harris looked refreshed Friday morning. Refreshed, but in a little pain from an angry case of shin splints he developed over the days he's walked from Houston to Jacksonville, some 175 miles.

Those miles are just a drop in the bucket of what Harris, 27, calls his "personal pilgrimage," a walk from Houston to Hardisty, Alberta, Canada, with some 2,000 miles to go, in protest of the Keystone XL pipeline.

Passing through Jacksonville, Harris stopped to recharge Thursday and Friday nights and planned to make his way up US Hwy 69 to Tyler on Saturday or Sunday.

His plan was to "start where it ends." At the pipeline, that is. The controversial pipeline, which stretches from Hardisty, Alberta, Canada, to the Houston-Port Arthur area will transport oil sands bitumen across the continent. Harris will complete his journey at the origin of the pipeline, which also crosses Cherokee County at two points in the eastern portion of the county.

"It's a spiritual journey for me," said the Pasadena, Calif., native. "My hope is to reach as many people as I can and I hope what I'm doing can raise awareness."

Harris objects to the use of fossil fuels as an energy source.

"Personally I feel I would like to live in a society that is trying not to live off of fossil fuels," he explained. "There's too many dire implications for us now and for future generations."

The walk is an act of personal accountability, he said.

"If I believe in something so strongly I have to see what I can do to support that," he said. "I have enjoyed the comforts of easy fuel, but I think about how I can now act in a way that goes along with my beliefs."

Harris, who wears New Balance running shoes and carries a back-up pair of kicks with him, acknowledges that his walk isn't likely to influence President Barack Obama or other leaders.

"But it's a signal to them showing that we're taking this seriously," he said. "It matters to us and to future generations."

Harris hopes his peaceful protest will give a "glimmer of hope" to innovators or inventors who have an idea for alternative fuel and energy sources.

His walk began Sept. 3 and he hopes to complete it in about 105 days.

"The specter of winter is looming large," he said with a laugh.

The whole walk amounts to an extremely meaningful life experience for him, Harris said.

The message he hopes people will take away is to "Be curious, be kind and take care of each other."

"If you see someone who is in need of anything of any kind, just ask," he said.

"There's joy and meaning in connecting with people and to give ourselves into taking care of each other."