Saturday, August 20, 2011
Seventy people were arrested in front of the White House this morning in what marks the beginning of the largest act of civil disobedience in the history of the climate crisis. Peaceful demonstrators, including scholar and author Bill McKibben, were arrested for protesting against the proposed Keystone XL tar sands oil pipeline. Over 2,000 activists have pledged to be arrested everyday in front of the White House through September 3rd.
The activists are urging President Obama to reject approval of the pipeline which would potentially deliver 900,000 barrels of crude oil per day from the tar sands of Alberta, Canada to Texan Gulf Coast refineries. In place of the oil pipeline, activists are calling for more investment in clean energy programs.
Though the Alberta tar sands are the second largest cache of oil in the world, extracting oil there has devastating environmental impacts and is therefore disastrous for people. The processes required to cook and refine the tar sands’ bitumen into a synthetic form of crude oil creates twice the greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs) as does processing a barrel of crude using conventional methods.
Watch this short film by Josh Fox to learn more about the Alberta Tar Sands:
More photos from today’s demonstration in Washington, DC:
The fossil fuel industry, with nearly unlimited finances, is putting enormous pressure on the Obama administration to approve the pipeline. In addition, lobby groups such as the American Petroleum Institute, have initiated large scale advertising campaigns highlighting supposed benefits of the pipeline while minimizing and ignoring many of the dire consequences (including the real potential for ruptured pipelines and oil spills).
While reducing our dependence on foreign oil is important – we really need to be focusing on reducing our consumption in general and of fossil fuels in particular. Tar sands oil is not a sustainable alternative to oil from overseas. Such a pipeline may boost economic activity for a short while and increase profits for a handful of oil mega-corporations, however the long-term consequences for the life support systems of the planet and human economies will be immense.
McKibben was quoted in The Nation as offering these words to activists just before the demonstration began:
“There is enormous pressure coming down on the White House from the fossil fuels industry. These are the richest people. They are the most powerful people on our planet. They usually win,” McKibben said. “We have to find a different currency to work in. Our currency today and for the next two weeks is our bodies and our creativity and our spirit. And that’s all we’ve got to put up against all that money, and we will find out if it’s enough.”
In the words of Frederick Douglas: “Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will.” To learn more or to get involved in the fight against big oil, click here.
Here are a few more images from the demonstration:
Austen, Ian. August 8, 2011. “Oil Sands to Raise Emissions, Canadian Report Says.” The New York Times. Online: http://green.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/08/08/oil-sands-to-boost-emissions-canadian-report-says/?scp=2&sq=tar%20sands&st=cse
Lenz, Garth. August 20, 2011. “Canadian Tar Sands And The True Cost Of Oil.” The Huffington Post. Online: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/08/20/canadian-tar-sands-and-oil-costs_n_929361.html#s332120&title=Syncrude_Upgrader_and
Marshall, Christa. July 25, 2011. “Debate Intensifies Over Climate Change Aspects of Canada’s Oil Sands Pipeline.” The New York Times. Online: http://www.nytimes.com/cwire/2011/07/25/25climatewire-debate-intensifies-over-climate-change-aspec-46622.html?scp=4&sq=tar%20sands&st=cse
Hansen, Dr. James. June 3, 2011. “Silence is Deadly.” Columbia University. Online: http://www.columbia.edu/~jeh1/mailings/2011/20110603_SilenceIsDeadly.pdf
Rampell, Catherine. June 16, 2009. “The Economic Impact of Climate Change.” Economix: Explaining the Science of Everyday Life. Online: http://economix.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/06/16/the-economic-impact-of-climate-change/
Schor, Elana. June 7, 2011. “EPA Seeks Expanded Review of Proposed Oil Sands Pipeline.” The New York Times. Online: http://www.nytimes.com/gwire/2011/06/07/07greenwire-epa-seeks-expanded-review-of-proposed-oil-sand-60126.html?scp=8&sq=xl%20pipeline&st=cse
Zornick, George. August 20, 2011. “Civil Disobedience on Tar Sands Begins Outside the White House.” The Nation. Online: http://www.thenation.com/blog/162883/civil-disobedience-tar-sands-begins-outside-white-house