We act not because it’s easy, but because it’s right.
Thousands of people are gathering in Washington DC today to send a message to President Obama that clean air, clean water, and a stable climate are not negotiable – the Keystone XL Pipeline must not be approved.
Never let it be said that as a climate activist I’m not occasionally smitten by the desire to do a little Hollywood star-gazing. In the past, I’ve been known to scour the streets of Winnipeg for Brad Pitt when he was in filming in Old Market Square, or (going back even farther in my murky history) trying to catch a glimpse of Timothy Hutton (back when he was still a celebrity) when he was in Churchill for several weeks on location and I was working in the port town. I’ve never had any luck, and that hasn’t changed. I found out this morning that Robert Redford and Chris Cooper were seen filming near Occupy Vancouver. The Huffington Post reported:
Many passersby watching fire officials and city workers carry out safety adjustments at Occupy Vancouver on Tuesday got a in little stargazing, too, as Hollywood legend Robert Redford also made an appearance near the encampment.
I was at Occupy Vancouver while the fire officials and city workers walked through the site! I even went around the corner and noticed the film crew at work, but having walked by a film crew the day before on Granville Street without seeing anyone interesting, I didn’t bother to go any further. It turns out some things in life are consistent, my luck in just missing celebrities being one of them!
Here’s another hero of mine, Bill McKibbon from 350.org, in a video put out by Tar Sands Action after the victory against the Keystone XL pipeline last week, a cause championed by Mr. Redford as well:
*OMG – I just got on Twitter after I posted this and found out that BILL MCKIBBON was also at Occupy Vancouver last night – and so was I, for a few minutes but my husband has less time to Occupy while we’re visiting this city, so we left about 10 minutes after we got there. I CAN”T BELIEVE IT!! That would have been so amazing, to hear him speak. But like I said, my luck is consistent if not good!*
Bill McKibbon addressed the crowd gathered in Washington Square this past Saturday as part of “Occupy Washington”. Here is the text of his speech, thanks to the crew over at It’s Getting Hot in Here:
Today in the New York Times there was a story that made it completely clear why we have to be here. They uncovered the fact that the company building that tar sands pipeline was allowed to choose another company to conduct the environmental impact statement, and the company that they chose was a company was a company that did lots and lots of work for them. So, in other words, the whole thing was rigged top to bottom and that’s why the environmental impact statement said that this pipeline would cause no trouble, unlike the scientists who said if we build this pipeline it’s “game over” for the climate. We can’t let this pipeline get built.
On November 6, one year before the election, we’re going to be in DC with a huge circle of people around the White House and they’re going to be carrying signs with quotations from Barack Obama from the 2008 campaign. He said, “It’s time to end the tyranny of oil.” He said, “I will have the most transparent government in history.” We have to go to DC to find out where they have locked that guy up. We have to free Obama, because there is some sort of stunt double there now. So on November 6, I hope we can move, just for a day, Occupy Wall Street down to the White House and get them in the fight against corporate power.
The reason that it’s so great that we’re occupying Wall Street is because Wall Street has been occupying the atmosphere. That’s why we can never do anything about global warming. Exxon gets in the way. Goldman Sachs gets in the way. The whole fossil fuel industry gets in the way. The sky does not belong to Exxon. They cannot keep using it as a sewer into which to dump their carbon. If they do, we’ve got no future and nobody else on this planet has a future.
I spend a lot of time in countries around the world organizing demonstrations and rallies in solidarity. In the last three years at 350.org, we’ve had 15,000 rallies in every country except North Korea. Everywhere around the world, poor people and black people and brown people and Asian people and young people are standing up. Most of those places, don’t produce that much carbon. They need us to act with them and for them, because the problem is 20 blocks south of here. That’s where the Empire lives and we’ve got to figure out how to tame it and make it work for this planet or not work at all.
Thank you guys very much.
The video is below. The reason the crowd keeps repeating what McKibben is saying is that the police have prohibited all forms of sound amplification, so the demonstrators have taken to using what they call the “human microphone”—speakers address the crowd in short phrases which are then repeated across the crowd as many times as is necessary for all in attendance to hear what’s being said. The pipeline he refers to, right at the beginning, is the proposed Keystone XL tar sands pipeline, currently in the final review phase by the State Department.
This hour protestors are gathering on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, to show their opposition to the Alberta tar sands, and specifically the proposed Keystone XL Pipeline that could be built from Alberta across the U.S. to carry tar sands bitumen to Texas refineries.
I would dearly love to be there, but by the time this event was organized I was committed to helping with all-day events for Moving Planet day this past Saturday, and a sustainability workshop on Sunday. As I live a 5 1/2 hour drive from a direct Ottawa flight, and am a 24 hour drive away from Ottawa, I struggled with the decision about giving up my local commitment to building sustainability or traveling (and burning carbon) to make a very important national statement to our government and to other Canadians. In the end, a friend suggesting a low-carbon alternative. She couldn’t attend, either, but recruited a friend in Ottawa to go. As it turns out, a friend and fellow Citizens Climate Lobby member was in Ottawa visiting her daughter this weekend, and so we were able to negotiate extending her ticket so that she could attend today’s event, and represent both of us. It’s a creative and low-carbon solution, so thanks Kaaren for the idea, and thanks, Val for standing up for all of our children’s future on Parliament Hill today!
When you challenge Big Oil in Houston, you can bet the industry is going to punch back. So when I wrote in the Houston Chronicle earlier this month that we should say no to the Keystone XL pipeline, I wasn’t surprised when the project’s chief executive weighed in with a different view.
The corporate rejoinder, written by Alex Pourbaix, president for energy and oil pipelines for the TransCanada Corp., purported to cite “errors” in my oped. Let’s set the record straight, point by point.
First, the Keystone XL, as proposed, would run from Canada across the width of our country to Texas oil refineries and ports. It would carry diluted bitumen, a kind of crude oil, produced from the Alberta tar sands. On those points, we all agree.
I say this is a bad idea. It would put farmers, ranchers and croplands at risk across much of the Great Plains. It would feed our costly addiction to oil. And it would wed our future to the destructive production of tar sands crude. Click here to read the full article on RSN.org
Yesterday, 144 protesters were taken away in police vans from the front of the White House, bringing the total number of people arrested for peacefully expressing their opposition to the Keystone XL Pipeline to 843. Solidarity demonstrations sprang up yesterday at U.S. and Canadian embassies and consulates on six continents, including Durban, South Africa where visiting Secretary of State Hillary Clinton had to cross a picket line thrown up by climate justice campaigners. And speaking of Ms. Clinton, here’s a video via DeSmogBlog, featuring her and her “State Department Oil Services”. The animation is by Mark Fiore:
I’ve been extremely busy over the last few weeks with out-of-town guests, family celebrations (congratulations again on your50th wedding anniversary, Mom and Dad!) and saying goodbye to our daughters as they head off to another year of university (you’ll be missed, girls).Here’s a few stories/websites that caught my eye yesterday as I surfed the Net to see what I had missed. Have a great Labour Day weekend (and yes, Canadians spell it with a “u”)!
From Daily Kos.com: Tar Sands Scam: 5,000 Jobs Over 3 Years Is Worth Risk To People, Economy, Wildlife & Water? (Although I do wish Daily Kos would stop posting ads featuring Tim Hudak, the Ontario PC Leader who is campaigning to cancel our province’s progressive Green Energy Act. It’s especially jarring to see him linked to articles about the importance of clean energy. Feel free to send them a note, as I have, asking them to remove these and stop promoting Hudak’s anti-renewables agenda)
Powering a Nation.org has put out an amazing interactive film. Check it out at Coal: A Love Story: It’s more than a rock. It’s power. It’s people. It’s a relationship.
A new report says that only 1 in 8 insurers are planning for climate change, despite the fact that insurers generally acknowledge the problem of climate change and the effect it can have on their business:
“Even those insurers with no formal climate policy, no climate risk management structure and a stated belief that the company is not vulnerable to the effects of climate change still name perils that may be affected by climate change 20 percent of the time,” Ceres said in its report. Read the full article on Reuters.com
From TPM.com, Why Far-Off Canadian Tar Sands Have Become Make-or-Break Issue For Obama With Enviros:
For six days and counting now, hundreds of protesters have gathered outside the White House to demand President Obama intervene and stop the construction of an oil pipeline that will span the breadth of the United States — from Montana to the Gulf of Mexico. Over 300 of them have been arrested — and not just wild-eyed idealistic college students, but high-profile advocates including environmental leader Bill McKibben. Despite all this, the administration says this is a question for Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
What the heck is this all about?
At issue isn’t just NIMBYism or standard concerns about oil spills, but the question of whether the United States should accelerate an extraction process that some environmental experts say will lose the fight against global warming forever. Click here to read full article.
Meanwhile, here in Canada, there is an Ottawa day of action against the tar sands being organized for September 26th. The Indigenous Environmental Network, The Council of Canadians, and Greenpeace Canada, are calling for a day of sit-ins on Parliament Hill to show Canadians support a transition to a clean energy future:
There comes a time when you need to take a stand. When sending letters and signing petitions isn’t enough. When together we must say, “enough is enough — not on our watch”.
That time is now. We must act together for the health of our planet, our air, our water, our climate, and our children.
On September 26th we need you to come to Ottawa to join a historic action to oppose the tar sands. In a large peaceful protest, many will be risking arrest to tell the Harper government that we don’t support his reckless agenda; that we want to turn away from the toxic tar sands industry; and that we oppose the direction he’s taking this country.
Harriet Sugarman, a policy analyst and economist, is the Founder and Executive Director of Climate Mamawhich, according to its website, is:
…about the facts, about getting the straight scoop, about understanding Climate Change and Global Warming. We want to help you make the connections – to understand how you, your family, your friends and your community are impacting and changing our climate. Then, we want to show you what you can do to make your hectic, harried life more sustainable, for you, for your children AND for the world we live in. We will offer you simple, straight forward, and easy to understand ways to combat climate change as well as easy to implement options to reduce your carbon footprint! We want to make it simple for you, as a Mama and Papa, to understand that climate change is a part of your life. We at Climate Mama, like you, have enough day to day issues in our lives just managing the craziness of our families, our careers, our busy 21st century lives…so we aren’t surprised or disappointed if you ask why climate change should matter to you and if you question what you, as an individual can really do that will make a difference to affect this global challenge.
Harriet is also a New Jersey mom who happens to be originally from Alberta, Canada. Harriet chose to participate in this week’s Stop the Pipeline action in front of the White House in Washington, D.C. and was one of the nearly 300 people arrested so far this week in the largest civil disobedience action in the American environmental movement’s recent history.
In the video below, Harriet talks about why she felt she needed to be in Washington this week. She took a stand for a clean energy future for her, and all our children, even though risking arrest was a difficult decision to make:
My family in Alberta is not too keen on me getting arrested down here for this..It’s a very difficult road to cross. I think that my children will be proud of me some day. I don’t want them to look back in twenty years, because if we don’t do anything, all of our children are going to be looking back at us and saying, what were you doing, why were you asleep at the wheel?…I’m doing this for them.
From Tar Sands Action, an update on Day 4 of the two-week action in Washington DC against the Keystone XL pipeline project:
Montana residents and Hollywood stars will be featured at Day 4 of the Tar Sands Action at the White House. The proposed Keystone XL pipeline, which 162 Americans have been arrested protesting this week, would run through Montana and six other states.
Among those planning on being arrested today are film-star Margot Kidder, who played Lois Lane in four Superman movies, and actress Tantoo Cardinal, an iconic Cree actress who appeared in Dances with Wolves, Legends of the Fall, Smoke Signals and more. Cardinal, who was born in Ft. McMurray, Alberta, the capitol of the tar sands, was made a Member of the Order of Canada in 2009.
Cardinal will risk arrest to stop the destruction of her homeland and push President Obama to help shut down the tar sands by denying a permit for the Keystone XL.
Everyone who has participated in the Tar Sands Action thus far is out of police custody.
Here’s a video from Josh Fox, Academy Award-nominated director of Gasland, about the tar sands action:
Saturday August 20th marked the start of the largest act of civil disobedience for the climate in U.S. history. Over 2,000 people from across the U.S. and Canada are arriving in Washington, D.C. to send a message to President Obama that our children’s future is more important than oil profits. Obama will be deciding the fate of the massive new Keystone XL Pipeline that would bring Alberta tar sands oil across the U.S. to be refined in Texas. NASA scientist James Hansen has described the Canadian tar sands as a “carbon bomb” and warned that if they are fully developed it will be “game over” for the climate.
The police moved in within a few minutes of the 50 or so participants lining up at the White House fence. Several participants held two large banners that read “Climate Change is Not in Our National Interest: Stop the Keystone XL Tar Sands Pipeline” and “We Sit In Against the Keystone XL Pipeline. Obama Will You Stand Up to Big Oil?” while the rest of the group sat-in on the sidewalk in front of the fence. More than 50 people were arrested on Saturday, and they remained in jail on Sunday as 45 more people were arrested as they stood peacefully in front of the White House. Today, 50 more people are planning to stand there to remind Obama of what is at stake in his upcoming decision (it is his, and his alone to make – Congress doesn’t have a vote in the pipeline decision).
Not all of us concerned about climate change can be in Washington this August. I considered it, but prior commitments to family and friends won out; I also will admit to being nervous about being arrested in a foreign country. As well, I don’t think this will be the last time that those of us deeply concerned about our children’s future will be asked to participate in civil disobedience, so I will have other opportunities to act.
There are some things that those of us watching those courageous souls in Washington can do to support them:
350.org is asking for messages of support for the participants in the Washington action. Write a short message of support, hold it up and take a picture of it, and send it as an attachment to firstname.lastname@example.org with Tar Sands Action Solidarity from (*Wherever you live*)” in the subject. These pictures will be projected on the walls of the training spaces for everyone who is preparing to for the sitting-in to see. For more info, go to 350.org.
The coalition organizing the protest, Tarsandsaction.org, is accepting donations and new sign-ups for the sit-in throughout the next two weeks.
Email or write President Obama asking him to defuse the tar sands carbon bomb by refusing permission for the Keystone XL pipeline. E-mail address: (5000 character limit) http://www.whitehouse.gov/contact/ Mailing Address: The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20500
“With everything in my heart I said I don’t want the death of the Lubicon and Chippewayan Cree on my hands. Haven’t we killed enough people on this continent already?”
This was the question posed to a Republican Congress Person during a meeting in Washington, D.C. this week during the 2nd annual Citizens Climate Lobby meeting. Cathy Orlando, who asked it, is the leader of the Sudbury Citizens Climate Lobby Group and a Climate Project Presenter. Cathy’s day job is the Science Outreach Coordinator at Laurentian University.
Al Jazeera featured a story yesterday by filmmaker Tom Radford on Fort Chipewyan, one of the First Nations communities most severely affected by the tar sands:
I shot my first film, Death of a Delta, in Fort Chipewyan in 1972…Death of a Delta documented the fight of Fort Chipewyan to have a voice in the construction of a massive hydroelectric project on the Peace River, the W.A.C. Bennett Dam. At stake was not only the survival of the oldest community in Alberta, but the protection of a World Heritage site, the Peace Athabasca Delta, a convergence of migratory flyways and the greatest concentration of waterfowl on the continent.
In the David and Goliath struggle that ensued, David won. Water was released from the dam and water levels in the Delta returned to normal. The unique ecology of the region was saved. The town survived.
Today, that same David, the collective will of the thousand residents of Fort Chipewyan, is fighting an even more imposing Goliath. The Alberta oil sands is arguably now the world’s largest construction project. Its expansion will have an estimated $1.7 trillion impact on the Canadian economy over the coming decades. An area of boreal forest the size of Greece will be affected by industrial activity.
Once again the issue is water, but this time it is not just the flow of the river, but the chemicals thecurrent may be carrying downstream from the strip mines and bitumen upgraders. In recent years, according to the Alberta Cancer Board, Fort Chipewyan has experienced an unusually high rate of cancer. Local fishermen are finding growing numbers of deformed fish in their nets. Residents and John O’Connor, the community doctor, worry there could be a connection to the oil sands.
Here is Radford’s documentary on the David and Goliath struggle Fort Chipewyan is in the middle of, To TheLast Drop: