The Bill Show: Moyers & McKibben on the Politics of Keystone

Photo by Jay Mallin. Used with permission.
Photo by Jay Mallin. Used with permission.

My next Keystone resistance court date is on Valentine’s Day!

The “ERM 54,” as we are called, were arrested last July (photo at left) in the lobby of corporate headquarters of Environmental Resources Management, the company hired by the State Department to conduct the environmental impact statement (EIS) for the Keystone XL pipeline. In addition to providing a very flawed report, the company failed to include key conflict of interest information in its State Department application.

Below is Bill Moyers interviewing Bill McKibben on the most recent State Department report on the Keystone XL pipeline. It’s a good summary of where the Keystone fight, called “the Woolworth’s lunch counter of the climate change movement,” is now and is headed.

From Moyers and Company:

After the State Department issued a long-awaited environmental impact statement on the controversial Keystone XL pipeline last week, environmentalists and those opposed to the 1,179-mile pipeline have intensified their push for the Obama administration to reject the project.

This week, Bill Moyers talks with Bill McKibben, an activist who has dedicated his life to saving the planet from environmental collapse, about his hopes that Americans will collectively pressure Obama to stand up to big oil.

“Most people understand that we’re in a serious fix,” McKibben tells Moyers, “There’s nothing you can do as individuals that will really slow down this juggernaut … You can say the same thing about the challenges faced by people in the civil rights or the abolition movement, or the gay rights movement or the women’s movement. In each case, a movement arose; if we can build a movement, then we have a chance.”

Watch the interview.

Bill McKibben to Obama: Say No to Big Oil from on Vimeo.

What Are YOU Thankful For?

Filipino fishermen improvise a refrigerator boat off the coast of Leyte, recently devastated by Super Storm Hurricane Yolanda.


(Click on the photo to see Reuters photographer Damir Sagolj’s whole series in The Atlantic.)

Take up a collection at Thanksgiving Dinner to donate to Philippines relief through Catholic Relief Services–and while you’re at it, support Naderev Sano, a member of the Philippines Climate Change Commission, who has called for a fast “in solidarity with my countrymen who are now struggling for food back home” — including his own brother, whom Sano said “has been gathering bodies of the dead with his own two hands.”

Philippines Climate Rep Vows to Fast in Solidarity with his Brother and All Filipinos

COP18 Doha : Naderev "Yeb" Sano, the lead negotiator for the Philippines delegation at Cop18During his speech, Yeb Sano added an unscripted pledge to fast from food during COP 19, the climate conference that opened today in Warsaw, until meaningful progress had been made. He said:

“In solidarity with my countrymen who are struggling to find food back home and with my brother who has not had food for the last three days, in all due respect Mr. President, and I mean no disrespect for your kind hospitality, I will now commence a voluntary fasting for the climate. This means I will voluntarily refrain from eating food during this COP until a meaningful outcome is in sight.”–Yeb Sano

See more at:

Bill McKibben: Will Obama Block the KXL or Keep Bending?

Steve Liptay_McKibbenBill McKibben, recent winner of the Gandhi Peace Award, posted an update on the Keystone XL fight. It’s a good overview of where we are now in this massive movement to prevent the oil industry from taking down the planet. Here’s McKibben’s recent article in Grist:

… [Obama’s] administration has OKed oil drilling in the dangerous waters of the Arctic and has emerged as the biggest backer of fracking. Even though he boasts about marginal U.S. cuts in carbon emissions, his green light to fracking means that he’s probably given more of a boost to releases of methane — another dangerous greenhouse gas — than any man in history. And it’s not just the environment. At this point, given what we know about everything from drone warfare to NSA surveillance, the dream of a progressive Obama has, like so many dreams, faded away.

The president has a handy excuse, of course: a truly terrible Congress. And too often — with the noble exception of those who have been fighting for gay rights and immigration reform — he’s had little challenge from progressives. But in the case of Keystone, neither of those caveats apply: He gets to make the decision all by himself with no need to ask John Boehner for a thing, and people across the country have made a sustained din about it. Americans have sent record numbers of emails to senators and a record number of comments to the State Department officials who oversee a “review” of the pipeline’s environmental feasibility; more have gone to jail over this issue than any in decades. Yet month after month, there’s no presidential decision.

There are days, in fact, when it’s hard to muster much fire for the fight (though whenever I find my enthusiasm flagging, I think of the indigenous communities that have to live amid the Mordor that is now northern Alberta). The president, after all, has already allowed the construction of the southern half of the Keystone pipeline, letting Transcanada take land across Texas and Oklahoma for its project, and setting up the beleaguered communities of Port Arthur, Texas, for yet more fumes from refineries.

Continue reading “Bill McKibben: Will Obama Block the KXL or Keep Bending?”

No Keystone Pipeline: ‘Offer your bodies as a living sacrifice’

Tar sands mining in former arboreal forest.
Tar sands mining in former arboreal forest.

Dear Friends,

I (and about 200 others) will be risking arrest today downtown at the corporate offices of the Environmental Resources Management company at 17th and I Sts NW, in Washington, D.C.

ERM is the “independent contractor” hired by the State Department (and regularly used by TransCanada) that assessed the Keystone XL pipeline to be “climate neutral.” This is the first time their offices have been in the spotlight. The demonstration is organized by

As you know, I’ve been working against the Keystone XL since 2011. In the last 6 weeks, TransCanada has been feeling the pressure. They’ve hired an “crisis communications” company to handle all their press and promotions. They’ve pushed out all kinds of new advertising (including green TransCanada banner ads in the iPhone version of The Washington Post).

They are spending millions and millions of dollars. The only thing we can do is interpose our bodies. As Paul put it when writing to the Jesus-followers living in the belly of the beast, “Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship” (Romans 12:1).

There is a support rally beginning at 11am at Farragut Square. Then the group will walk to the building at 17th & I Sts. Some folks will proceed into the building. Others will maintain a legal presence on the sidewalk outside. If we are arrested, the likely scenario is that we will be taken to the Second District police station and post bond from there. There is a very slight possibility that we would be held over the weekend.

I’d also covet your prayers – especially that I remain calm and unafraid. You can follow some of the event on Twitter @350 or #nokxl or @sojocreation.

Peace and All Good,
Rose Berger

What President Obama’s Climate Talk Means to Faithy Millennials

obama greenpeaceDan DiLeo wrote an excellent analysis in the Millennial Journal about President Obama’s June 25 climate address. (Dan works for the Catholic Coalition on Climate Change.)

There are so many ways to unpack this very important speech that it’s hard to choose one angle in — but this is a start in listening to young people of faith forging their future.

Here’s an excerpt from DiLeo’s essay President Obama on Climate Change:

On Tuesday, June 25, 2013, President Obama unveiled the most ambitious plan to date by any U.S. President to address the increasingly urgent climate crisis. Although the speech was addressed to both the nation and the world, the address is particularly relevant for millennial Catholics. This is first due to the fact that he unveiled his plan to young people at Georgetown University and spoke directly to “your generation.” Additionally, the Catholic Church has explicitly and repeatedly advocated for public policies to address the climate crisis. Finally he mentioned two issues that have found resonance on Catholic college campuses and with millennials: the Keystone XL Pipeline and divestment from carbon-intensive industries.

The President began by recounting the scientific facts of climate change: “scientists ha[ve] known since the 1800s that greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide trap heat, and that burning fossil fuels release those gases into the air [. . .] The overwhelming judgment of science — of chemistry and physics and millions of measurements — has put all [of the uncertainty around climate science] to rest. Ninety-seven percent of scientists, including, by the way, some who originally disputed the data, have now put that to rest. They’ve acknowledged the planet is warming and human activity is contributing to it.”

Keystone XL: A Victory in Slow Motion

Catholic Worker Bob Waldrop, 60, locked to Keystone construction equipment on May 13, 2013.
Catholic Worker Bob Waldrop, 60, locked to Keystone construction equipment on May 13, 2013.

It’s been more than two years since the oil industry predicted an easy win on permitting the Keystone XL pipeline and still no new tar sands pipeline has crossed the Canadian border. Bill McKibben gives an update (Keystone: What We Know) on this quintessential David vs Goliath climate fight:

…  Gradually, the silliness of the arguments for the pipeline has begun to erode their credibility. It’s possible that somewhere in America someone believes the American Petroleum Institute statement this week that approval of KXL would lower gas prices this summer, but it’s hard to imagine quite who. By now most people know that the project’s jobs have been routinely overstated, and that the oil is destined to be shipped abroad.

7) And gradually the horror of climate change is convincing more and more people what folly it would be to hook us up to a project that guarantees decades more of fossil fuel use. Since we started, the U.S. has seen the hottest year in its history, an epic Midwest drought, the largest forest fires in southwest history, and oh yeah a hurricane that filled the New York subway system with the Atlantic ocean.

8) One more thing — since it’s entirely clear that stopping Keystone by itself won’t solve the climate crisis, the green movement has shown it can go on offense too. Charged up in part by the KXL battle, student groups around the nation have launched a full-scale campaign for divestment from fossil fuels that has spread to over 300 campuses and inspired city governments from Seattle to San Francisco to explore selling their stocks.

There’s still that one thing we don’t know, however, and that’s what Barack Obama will do. Congress isn’t going to take this decision off his hands; a shoddy State Department environmental study, which even his own EPA rejects, won’t be much help. The decision will be the president’s. If he blocks Keystone then he’s got himself a climate legacy as well as a bargaining chip — he’d be the first world leader to block a big project because of its effect on the climate. If he doesn’t — well, no beautiful speech on the dangers of climate change will convince anyone.

It was two years ago that the National Journal polled its 300 “energy insiders” and 91 percent of them predicted a quick approval for the project. Since then we’ve kept half a billion barrels of the dirtiest oil on earth in the ground. The smart money still says we’re going to lose, but it’s not quite as sure: the Canadian business press is reporting this week that no one wants to buy tarsand leases or finance new projects — prospects for the future have become “uncertain.” And it’s not just Keystone — analysts said earlier this spring that in the wake of the KXL battle it’s likely every new pipeline will face a battle. Tarsands barons like the Koch brothers still have all the money, and they’ve still got the odds in their favor. But the smart money has lost a few IQ points. —Bill McKibben

Read the whole article.

Rabbi Waskow: Breath and Climate Change


“A Hassidic teaching: ‘What is the world? The world is God, wrapped in robes of God so as to seem material. And what are we? We are God, wrapped in robes of God, and our task, our mission is to unwrap the robes – disrobe! – and dis-cover that we and all the world are God.’

Suppose we enrich that way of understanding God with a further teaching: That we hear the God Whose name is YHWH, YyyyHhhhWwwwHhhh, the Name that only can only be “pronounced” by breathing, as the still small “voice” of Breath that intertwines all life on Earth.

The Breath that we breathe in is what the trees breathe out; the Breath the trees breathe in is what we breathe out. God is our Interbreathing. YyyyHhhhWwwwHhhh. Pronounce it: Breathe.

That Breath is also the Air, the “Atmosphere” of Earth. The balance of oxygen that the trees breathe out with the carbon dioxide we breathe out is what makes up the balance of geological history.

Now, we humans have invented ways of pouring far more CO2 into the air than the trees can absorb. With 400 parts per million of CO2 in our air, scorching earth, the “interbreath” is in crisis. What we call the “climate crisis” is a crisis in the very Name of God!

Continue reading “Rabbi Waskow: Breath and Climate Change”

Winona, Minn. — 35 Raise Fracas Over Fracking

Steve under arrest in Winona 2013Friend Steve Clemens joined with 35 other yesterday in Winona, Minn., to nonviolently block 18-wheeler semis delivering silica “frac sand” to barges on the Mississippi River. (The sand is mined in Minnesota and then shipped to natural gas fracking operations in Texas and other locations.)

They were arrested on trespass charges in what may have been the largest protest to date against “fracking” (hydraulic fracturing is a nontraditional extractive process to release methane pockets in shale).

Read Steve’s whole story at his blog Mennonista, but here’s an excerpt of a letter of support that the group received from farmer-philosopher Wendell Berry:

“You have offered me the privilege of joining by letter with you and your friends in Winona in opposition to “frac sand mining,” and I am happy to accept.

I will say, first, that there is never, for any reason, a justification for doing long-term or permanent damage to the ecosphere. We did not create the world, we do not own it, and we have no right to destroy any part of it.

Second, most of our politicians and their corporate employers are measuring their work by standards of profitability and mechanical efficiency. Those standards are wrong. There is one standard that is right: the health of living creatures and the living earth.

Third, we must give our needs to eat, drink, and breathe an absolute precedence over our need for mined fuels.

I wish you well.”–Wendell Berry, personal correspondence

Read Steve’s whole account.