Rose Berger: What I Did On My Summer Vacation

As we celebrate the final defeat of the Keystone XL pipeline, I’ll repost some of the spiritual power that led to this day.
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[Originally published Oct. 9. 2013]

Keystone protest @ Environmental Resources Management headquarters, D.C.
Photo by Jay Mullin. Used with permission.

I had fun this summer with a great group of folks who came to be known as the ERM 54 (explanation below). After getting arrested, three court appearances, peeing in a cup, negotiating the D.C. community court system, and promising not to get arrested again before Valentine’s Day, I’m ready for the autumn to begin. But that’s not to say that the summer wasn’t fun!

Here’s an excerpt from my most recent column in Sojourners:

OFFICER MARIO normally worked for Homeland Security. On this Friday night he’d been seconded to the Washington, D.C. Metro police, who had their hands full. Not only did they have the usual “drunk and disorderlies,” but now 54 people who looked like card-carrying members of the AARP were filling up their holding cells. Officer Mario, of retirement age himself, was feeling fortunate. He’d been assigned to the women’s side.

“Ladies, ladies, ladies!” Mario said, sauntering in with a mischievous smile. “This must be my lucky night.”

The evening before, we’d all been at St. Stephen and the Incarnation Episcopal Church running role plays on how to “flash mob” the corporate headquarters of Environmental Resources Management (ERM), the firm hired by the U.S. State Department to provide an environmental impact statement on the Keystone XL pipeline. To the disbelief and concern of climate scientists, ERM claimed that TransCanada’s Keystone pipeline would not significantly contribute to climate change. ERM was suspected of “misleading disclosures” regarding conflict of interest and material gain from the pipeline’s completion.

Our white-haired mob of mostly grandparents converged on ERM headquarters at noon to shine a light on such shady dealings. While six silver foxes blocked the elevators by chaining their arms together inside a PVC pipe, I watched two D.C. police lift Steve, age 70, and toss him into the crowd behind me. I knew this nonviolent civil disobedience wasn’t going as planned.

For the next hour the police threatened us with felony charges, and we chanted complicated ditties on Big Oil, Mother Earth, and the merits of transparency in a democracy. Then they slipped plastic cuffs over our wrists and charged us with “unlawful entry.” …

Read the whole essay here (Sojourners, November 2013, “Unlawful Entry”).

Keystone XL: Everyday Without the KXL Is A Victory for Justice

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Update from Bill McKibben on latest Keystone announcement from President Obama:

Today’s Keystone XL news from DC is both important and murky. In brief, the Obama administration announced yet another delay in their decision about the pipeline, meaning it may be past the midterm elections before a final call is made.

Three things strike me:

  1. In pipeline terms it’s a win. Every day we delay a decision is a day when 830,000 barrels of oil stays safely in the ground. Together we’ve kept them at bay for three years now, and will continue to until perhaps the beginning of next year it seems.
  2. In climate terms, it’s a disappointment. Since the State Department can’t delay floods and droughts and El Ninos, we actually need President Obama providing climate leadership. If he’d just follow the science and reject the stupid pipeline he’d finally send a much-needed signal to the rest of the planet that he’s getting serious.
  3. In movement terms, it’s a sweet reminder that when we stand up we win. Three years ago this pipeline was a done deal, and thanks to you it’s come steadily undone. We can’t match Exxon or the Koch Bros with money; we can and have matched them with passion, spirit, creativity, and sacrifice.

So the Keystone fight goes on — we hope many of you will be in DC next weekend for Reject and Protect, joining the Cowboy Indian Alliance to say “hell no” to the pipeline.The Alliance members coming to DC next week are some of the strongest leaders in this fight.

If you can’t be there yourself, can you show your support for the Cowboy Indian Alliance by telling Pres. Obama and Sec. Kerry to use this delay to meet with them? act.350.org/sign/cowboy-indian-alliance/

The decision to delay was made — supposedly — account for the impact of a possible new pipeline route in Nebraska. As it happens, next week Nebraskans and members of US Tribes and Canadian First Nations will be in Washington — it seems to me that it would be prudent for the President and Sec. Kerry to make plans to meet with the Cowboy Indian Alliance at their encampment and get their story of what this pipeline would mean on the ground.

The climate fight can’t be delayed. We need to keep building the movement, and we need to keep putting heat on leaders like President Obama till we win not delay but action. Today’s DC decision just reinforces the message that if we stand together we will make a decisive difference — and there is an important opportunity on the horizon to do that in the biggest way yet, to be announced soon.

The last thing to say is thank you. You are the strength in this movement, and together we will make even more amazing things possible.

Forward,

Bill McKibben for 350.org

Sources: “Keystone Decision to be Delayed” USA Today, April 18 2014

 

Two Videos to Catch Up on Keystone XL Resistance Movement

archimedes-300x224Since 2011, I’ve placed my “Archimedes lever” in the battle against the Keystone XL pipeline. From there I hope to be part of a living Christian witness to tip the world toward renewable energy and away from climate disaster.

On Sunday, more than 350 students were arrested in front of the White House as part of #XLDissent public demonstration. There is a lot of energy in this campaign!

I’ve written, prayed, spoken publicly, organized, led Bible studies, met with State Department officials, talked with White House officials, trained activists, led public worship, signed numerous petitions, gotten arrested, spent time in jail and in the court room, given urine samples, read lots of books and articles, met new friends, and spent more time than expected reading transnational banking and energy industry reports. This is one face of Christian witness in the 21st century.

Thanks goodness, not everyone does everything. So sometimes it’s helpful to have a catch up on issues you care about but can’t stay in the weeds on.

So here are two videos on the anti-Keystone XL movement that will catch you up on where we are. The first is an 8-minute news clip that gives an overview of the pipeline itself and where big business is with the issue. The second is a recap of the history of the Keystone XL resistance movement.

Also see the cool movement timeline created by the folks at 350.org.

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?”

Video: The Fashion Wars on the Floor of TransCanada Trade Show

The comedic interrupters Yes Men showed up at TransCanada’s “trade show” dressed in nearly identical blue shirts and khakis to answer questions about the Keystone XL pipeline and its cousin, the Energy East pipeline. Watch the video to see how you too can interrupt immoral corporate shenanigans.

Context: TransCanada is a mining company that wants to make money off one of the last massive tar sand deposits in the world. Climate scientists agree that expanding tar sands mining will force a massive amount of carbon pollution into the earth’s atmosphere and tip our planet over it’s energy budget. It is our moral duty to stop this from happening.

God established a liveable zone for human thriving. As strange as it seems, immoral leadership – both in politics and business – is wreaking havoc on the basic stuff of life – air, water, soil, and the most vulnerable in our communities — the unborn, the elderly, and those who are sick or weak.

Stopping TransCanada from expanding tar sands mining by stopping the pipelines through which tar sands sludge will be shipped is just one front on which we are called to wage peace, environmental stewardship, and the right to life.

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’s 10 Plagues of Climate Change

Rabbi Waskow arrested. (Photo Credit: John Zanga, #NoKXL Actions, D.C.)
Rabbi Waskow arrested. (Photo Credit: John Zanga, #NoKXL Actions, D.C.)

It gladdened my heart to be with Christians, Muslims, Jews, and other people of good will outside the White House on Thursday for the Interfaith Moral Action on Climate’s public witness marking Passover and Holy Week.

Rabbi Shneyer blew the shofar to announce the danger President Obama is putting the planet in by not denying the Keystone XL pipeline. And we prayed together to claim our human right of eminent domain over corporate interests that endanger the earth.

Rabbi Arthur Waskow of The Shalom Center, one of the great Jewish leaders of the justice movement in America, at age 80, was one of the 15 who were arrested and taken to jail in Anacostia.

Here’s an excerpt from Rabbi Waskow’s Huffington Post article describing the event:

“In a circle of 70 people in the midst of Pennsylvania Avenue, we had just completed a religious service. Rabbi David Shneyer had blown the shofar of warning and liberation. We had heard the Muslim call to prayer from the Quran, an invocation of the Four Winds in the spiritual tradition of the First Nations, and a Christian prayer.

Continue reading “Rabbi Waskow’s 10 Plagues of Climate Change”

Keystone XL Would Divide Jobs, Conquer Low-Income and Native American Communities

notarsandsThe only argument FOR the Keystone XL pipeline that held any moral weight was that pipeline construction would produce “jobs, jobs, jobs.” The need for jobs is a desperate one. And any construction project will produce sporadic work. But no self-respecting hard-hatter would work on a project that’s going to overheat the world.

Read an excerpt from yesterday’s Sojourners blog post on the Keystone XL and jobs:

When it comes to the Keystone XL pipeline, the oil and gas industry want you to believe that you have to choose between jobs and prairie grass. This tactic is called the “divide and conquer” or “divide and rule” strategy. It’s as old as the empires of ancient Greece and Rome. It still works because human nature hasn’t changed that much.

Two years ago I sat down across the table from Dr. Kerri-Ann Jones, the highest ranking State Department official (short of the Secretary of State) to weigh in on the Keystone XL pipeline permit process. A group of religious leaders were delivering thousands of petitions to Dr. Jones asking her to to stop the pipeline.

I said to her, “If this decision about the pipeline was made purely based on the climate science, we wouldn’t be here having this discussion.” She’s a scientist. She knows the score. She didn’t disagree. “But,” she said, “everywhere we go across the country we hear about the need for jobs – especially in the middle of the country.”

Divide and conquer.

Continue reading “Keystone XL Would Divide Jobs, Conquer Low-Income and Native American Communities”

State Dept’s Latest Wrong-Headed Analysis of Keystone XL Pipeline

Today, the State Department issued its next draft  of the supplemental environmental impact statement (SEIS) assessing the northern route of TransCanada’s Keystone XL pipeline. Officially, the State Department does not make any recommendations on whether the pipeline should be approved or denied. But the summation language is all to the positive — making it clear that the State Department still doesn’t understand global warming and its disastrous consequences.

I’m sure the scientists, p0licy analysts, and environmentalists among us will soon sort out and explain the hundreds of pages released by the State Department today. But until then, here’s the part I found most significant: “The life-cycle carbon footprint, for transportation fuels produced in U.S. refineries, would increase if the project were approved.”

(From Appendix W, Life Cycle GHG Emissions Compared, March 2013, p 65-66)

Please note that this information is buried way way way deep in the documents. The general summary by the State Department is favorable toward industry and the pipeline, though there are some conclusions drawn that I think are not supportable.

For example, the State Department assessment is that if the Keystone XL is not approved, there is very little chance that this will stop or significantly slow TransCanada’s mining project. The State Department is basing this assessment on information from the industry, particularly the American Petroleum Institute.

However, it is not taking into account the civil resistance along the pipeline routes in both the US and Canada that is effectively blocking or slowing construction. It also doesn’t reflect what two of Canada’s largest banks, TD Economics and CIBC, have recently said that without added capacity, “Canada’s oil industry is facing a serious challenge to its long-term growth” and that “Canada needs pipe — and lots of it — to avoid the opportunity cost of stranding over a million barrels a day of potential crude oil growth.”

There is also a climate change section included in this assessment that would be laughable if it weren’t so painful.  Section 4.14, Climate Change Impacts on the Proposed Project, profiles the effect of climate change on TransCanada’s bottom dollar. For example, the report looks at how increased heavy rain and flooding in areas along the pipeline route may increase TransCanada’s maintenance costs due to erosion, pipe damage, etc.

Additionally, the third-party assessor hired by TransCanada to provide an environmental and cultural impact report on the pipeline route relies on an acoustical engineer for greenhouse gas analysis.

In a Jan. 15 letter to President Obama, 18 top U.S. climate scientists urged him to reject the Keystone XL pipeline:

Eighteen months ago some of us wrote you about the proposed Keystone XL tar sands pipeline, explaining why in our opinion its construction ran counter to both national and planetary interests. Nothing that has happened since has changed that evaluation; indeed, the year of review that you asked for on the project made it clear exactly how pressing the climate issue really is.

We hope, as scientists, that you will demonstrate the seriousness of your climate convictions by refusing to permit Keystone XL; to do otherwise would be to undermine your legacy.

The Obama Administrations has promised action on climate change but if  it is approved, the administration would be actively supporting and encouraging the growth of an industry that has demonstrably serious effects on climate. Once this draft SEIS has been published by the EPA, the public will have 45 days to comment on the document. (Direct comments to: keystonecomments at state.gov.)

No To Keystone XL: Playing Chicken With Climate Change, We All Lose

Michael Klare’s written another good summary of where we are with the Keystone XL pipeline and why it’s so important to stop it.

If you can’t join the thousands for Forward on Climate on the National Mall on Sunday, 17 February, please pray that President Obama, new Secretary of State John Kerry, Canadian foreign minister John Baird, and TransCanada CEO Russ Girling will find a way out of this predicament. It’s gone way past access to oil or American jobs.

Starting today, every decision we make has to move us toward a low-carbon future. Moving ahead with the Keystone XL takes us 180 degrees in the wrong direction. And pray for all those who are putting their bodies on the line to stop construction along the Keystone XL route–facing injury,jail, fines, and loss of homes and land–for our sake.

You can send a note to President Obama asking him not to approve the Keystone XL here.

Michael T. Klare writes:

Presidential decisions often turn out to be far less significant than imagined, but every now and then what a president decides actually determines how the world turns. Such is the case with the Keystone XL pipeline, which, if built, is slated to bring some of the “dirtiest,” carbon-rich oil on the planet from Alberta, Canada, to refineries on the U.S. Gulf Coast. In the near future, President Obama is expected to give its construction a definitive thumbs up or thumbs down, and the decision he makes could prove far more important than anyone imagines. It could determine the fate of the Canadian tar-sands industry and, with it, the future well-being of the planet. If that sounds overly dramatic, let me explain. …

Continue reading “No To Keystone XL: Playing Chicken With Climate Change, We All Lose”