A few weeks ago, I wrote a post on the recent State of the Oceans report. I had planned to write another, after doing some research and combing the news, with tips and links on who to contact…all dependent on government reaction. I began to wait for statements and proclamation of action….from our President…heck, from anybody’s president.
Except there has been no response. Like someone just broke into the White House living room and pulled the pin on a grenade, while those in charge continued to eat cheetos and stare, glassy eyed, at a re-run of “Everybody Love Raymond”, it’s pretty obvious that government isn’t listening.
Deafness and inertia from our leaders is not exactly new, which is the short explanation for this picture:
That’s 350.org leader, Bill McKibben getting arrested in front of the White House on Sunday, Aug. 21.
McKibben is part of a several week long, non-violent, sit-in demonstration in protest of the proposed Keystone XL Tar Sands Pipeline.
Ok wait, wait, don’t run out of the room. Yes, I am about to tell you of something else that’s really terrible. Although I am still treading the waters of despair of my recent “We Are So Effed” realization, I’m not going to lay that on you today. I’m telling you because 1. It’s really important that you know because the Tar Sands Pipeline is being ushered in under your nose, and it will spell death for the planet and 2. Because there are some ways you can take action and I want to tell you about the teeny tiny action I am taking.
First of all, what are the Tar Sands? The long explanation can be found through a quick google search. Here it is in short: Oil found mixed in the soil of Alberta’s boreal forest will be extracted by Transcanada through a process that creates twice as much pollution as regular oil extraction, leaves the largest pools of toxic waste on Earth (visible from space), and will be piped down through the U.S. to refineries in Oklahoma, Illinois and the Gulf, with possibilities for major spills along the whole way. It will also destroy the Athabascan forest, one of the largest carbon sinks left on Earth…all that carbon that the forest is holding will go directly into our atmosphere. NASA scientist James Hansen says if the pipeline goes through, it is basically “game over” for the Climate Change fight.
Athabasca River and forest.
Tar Sands extraction.
Given how INSANE this all sounds, you would think that something so ludicrous wouldn’t stand a chance of happening. Except there is a very good chance it will happen. You know the story…Blah blah blah it will create 20,000 jobs blah blah it will get us off foreign oil blah blah.
Yes, we need jobs. Yes, we need to get off foreign oil. But not by increasing our dependence on it by extracting it from our own soil in a process that spells disaster. And those jobs? What about Obama’s vision of a green economy? Someone pointed out that if that same stretch of land the pipeline will go over was converted into collecting alternative energy….like wind or solar….that it would certainly go a long way to energy independence, be renewable and produce far more than the tar sands. That’s an oversimplification, but my point is this….”WHAT ABOUT JOBS?!” is one of those inarguable points that if stood up to makes one sound like a heartless babykiller. “Well gee, how CAN I say no to jobs? Times are tough.”.
Times are tough, and the pipeline will only insure that times will get tougher. Short term gain and profit for oil companies is an inflatable raft with a hole in it, thrown overboard the capsizing of our nation. The only solution to our dependence on Fossil Fuels is to get off them. Alternatives exist and the only thing stopping their implementation are corporations. The Transcanada pipeline is not a charitable project done by corporate execs who really care about unemployed Americans. They’re just trying to make a buck and they’re capitalizing on our fear.
What you can do:
1. Have a conversation with a loved one, friend, family member etc. Folks need to know what is going on.
2. Get involved with Tar Sands Action, the group Bill McKibben is working with. Read their invitation to the two weeks of demonstration happening NOW at the White House. Sign the petition to President Obama, asking him to stop approval of the Pipeline. And if you can make the time….join them at the White House.
If getting arrested seems scary, here’s Bill McKibben after release yesterday:
Besides, Mark Ruffalo will be there. I wouldn’t mind being locked in a jail cell with this fella. (Just kidding, Jeff! a-hem…)
I wish that I could go to the protests. To be honest, I am struggling with a feeling of shame that I’m not going. I have good reasons…my daughter is young and I don’t want to jeopardize my contact with her. I don’t have the money for it either, but it seems that part could be figured out. Whatever my excuse, the bottom line is, I’m not going to the demonstration and while the letter writing option feels practically ineffective, it is what I have chosen to do.
In fact, I am writing President Obama every day. I realize he will probably never get my emails, that some assistant will check off the box to delete them, or they will go directly into a spam folder. But on the off chance that my voice will make a difference, that my voice may make the difference between “just a few” to “many”…I am going to write. I will post my letters, so that you can read them (or steal them if you want! Just copy and paste!) in the page “Letters to President Obama”.
And as for the State of the Oceans? One thing is clear…waiting for response from our leaders may mean waiting forever. While the Tar Sands is seemingly a separate issue, the carbon it will put in the air will tip our oceans over into death. The seas can’t absorb anymore carbon, that much we know. Sometimes paying attention to all these issues feels like running around and putting out fires, just to have another one spring up at your feet. I am keeping my focus on the broader picture…that of the absolute necessity of creating a sustainable future…and also picking my battles. In the next two weeks, I stand in solidarity with the demonstrators in Washington.
NY Times Editorial from August 22, 2011.
Article by Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders
A climate scientist puts his butt on the line.