I joined 12,000 people on Sunday afternoon to circle the White House. We were sending President Obama a message: Don’t sell the American Heartland to a Corporation. It’s not in the our national interest. Say ‘No’ to the Keystone XL pipeline.
“He’s got a difficult decision to make,” said one person I spoke with. “It will take a lot of moral courage for him to buck the system. The forces arrayed against him are obvious, so all we can do is pray that he will have the strength of heart and courage to take a step in the right direction and deny the permit.”
As of today, more than 900 people have been arrested at the White House as part of the Tar Sands Action demanding that President Obama reject the Keystone XL pipeline and take positive steps to shift the U.S. away from fossil fuels.
Cherri Foytlin, who took part in the Tar Sands Action demonstration in Washington, D.C., said she was directly affected by last year’s BP oil spill and came to Washington to “make a bigger voice and to protect our world.” She calls herself an “accidental activist” who got involved with environmental awareness campaigns after the BP spill, which she says continues to degrade the ecosystems of her home state, Louisiana.
It is clear to me now that smaller, regional groups that have been fighting local effects of oil spills and fighting the oil companies are joining together in the Tar Sands Action. A much larger movement is in the making. It’s a movement that is not going away.
As we head into an election season, President Obama will have to engage directly this “line in the sand.” (Listen to NPR’s story on the Tar Sands Action.)
Joe Uehlin, who served on the UN Commission on Global Warming in the 1980s and 1990s, said, “I saw how our international and national mechanisms have failed us,” Uehlin said “We need drastic action to stop putting carbon in the atmosphere.”
As part of the follow-up to the arrest of more than 60 religious leaders on Monday at the White House, we asked participants to take time to craft their “public story,” as civil rights organizer Marshall Ganz calls it. We encouraged them to ask someone in the next few days to do a 15-minute interview with them on the civil disobedience action. The interviewer should ask “Who, What, When, How, Where?” The participant should start answers with her or his senses: Taste, Smell, Hearing, Sight, Touch.
Using the interviewers notes on the answers, craft a good public story that has a plot – challenges they faced, choices they made, and outcomes they experienced – texture, dialogue, and scene. We told folks to stay away from the “issue” and stick with what they personally were wrestling with in their hearts. Write this up in a 2-3 paragraphs. Practice telling the crafted story aloud. Then go tell it to others! This story can then be submitted to the local paper, denominational newsletters, used to preach, tell others in the grocery store, and sent back to Tar Sands Action.
My friend Steve Clemens has posted a wonderful tale of his experiences over at Mennonista. Below is an excerpt:
When I first signed up to come to Washington and return to the White House, I thought to myself: wasn’t it just a year and a half ago that I told Christine that I’m getting too old to spend another night in jail? My experience protesting President Obama’s continuation of the Afghan and Iraq Wars had left me physically very sore (but spiritually content) after 28 hours in the four different DC jails we occupied after our “die in” at the White House the day before the 2010 State of the Union address.
This time it was an email from my friend, Rabbi Arthur Waskow of the Shalom Center in Philadelphia that got the juices flowing again. He sent me a letter signed by Bill McKibben, Jim Hansen, Naomi Klein, and Wendell Berry (among others) asking us to come to DC at the end of August to nonviolently pressure President Obama to declare that allowing the Trans-Canada project to build the Keystone XL pipeline linking the Alberta Tar Sands oil fields to Houston, TX refineries and Gulf Coast shipping would not be in “the national interest”. Since the proposed 1,700 mile pipeline would cross the international border, Obama can unilaterally declare it is or isn’t in our national interest without Congressional interference. Come to Washington, the letter said, and risk arrest in a two-week civil disobedience campaign. The letter especially encouraged we older folk who have made a very large carbon footprint over our lives to share some of the burden of risking arrest to change our policies. …
WASHINGTON, DC – America’s top climate scientist and a large group of religious leaders were arrested at the White House this morning with 140 other Americans to push President Obama to deny the permit for a massive new oil pipeline. To date 522 people have been arrested at the White House protesting the pipeline.
“If Obama chooses the dirty needle it will confirm that the President was just green-washing all along, like the other well-oiled coal-fired politicians, with no real intention of solving the addiction,” said NASA’s Dr. James Hansen, who was arrested at the White House this morning.
President Obama must decide whether or not to grant a “presidential permit” for a Canadian company, TransCanada, to begin construction of the Keystone XL, a 1,700 mile pipeline from the Canadian tar sands to refineries on the Gulf of Mexico.Earlier this summer, Dr. Hansen and twenty other leading scientists sent a letter to the White House urging the President to prevent the construction of the Keystone XL pipeline, writing: “If the pipeline is to be built, you as president have to declare that it is ‘in the national interest.’ As scientists, speaking for ourselves and not for any of our institutions, we can say categorically that it’s not only not in the national interest, it’s also not in the planet’s best interest.”
Best-selling evangelical author Jim Wallis, who recently served on President Obama’s Advisory Council on Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships, sent a message of support to the protesters. “American Christians are demanding a new direction in America’s energy future — one that marks our turn away from oil and fossil fuels and toward cleaner and renewable energy sources,” wrote Wallis. “Developing the tar sands in Canada and building the Keystone XL pipeline through six states in the American Midwest is the wrong direction for our country and derails progress of building a responsible energy infrastructure.”
“Climate change hurts the poor first,” said Rose Berger, a Roman Catholic and editor at Sojourners magazine who led a large delegation of religious leaders participating in the protest and was arrested this morning. “The tar sands development and the permitting the Keystone XL pipeline will worsen climate change and should be stopped.”
“We must turn up the heat in a sustained effort against the scourge of climate change, which harms not just our land and water but people here and now, our human future and all earthly creation,” said Rabbi Fred Scherlinder Dobb of Adat Shalom Reconstructionist congregation in Bethesda, MD.
The executive directors of Greenpeace and 350.org, as well as the President of CREDO Mobile, also took part in today’s sit-in. So far, the ongoing White House protest that began on Saturday, Aug 21st has led to the arrest of over 500 Americans. The protest will continue until September 3rd with large crowds expected each day.
I’m home. I’m tired. And I feel great! Today 145 people were arrested in front of the White House to bring attention to the Keystone XL pipeline, a linchpin in the battle for climate justice. My police wristband shows that I was number 49.
With more than 60 people from the religious community joining the Tar Sands Action today, we were able to push the number of arrests over the past week up to 522.
We had a very hot ride in the police van but the Park Police processed us very quickly. We were released from custody and greeted outside with water, granola bars, and hugs. What could be better?
But the point was not to get arrested. The point was to make of our lives a living witness. To make it clear that climate change has gone too far and we are no longer going to stand idly by while our sisters, brothers, and home planet are torn apart by oil companies. Here are a couple of photos from today, but see many more here.
Please keep me in your prayers as I prepare myself for tomorrow’s Tar Sands Action at the White House. It will likely end in a “very civil civil disobedience,” as Bill McKibben says – and arrest. To date, 381 people have been arrested. Monday’s “religious contingent” will likely be the largest group yet. I’m grateful to be able to live my “Christian lifestyle” out loud in this way – to take a small political risk for the gospel.
It seems to me that it is a minority that gets the true and full gospel. We just keep worshiping Jesus and arguing over the right way to do it. The amazing thing is that Jesus never once says “worship me!” He says, “follow me” (e.g., Matthew 4:19).
Christianity is a lifestyle—a way of being in the world that is simple, nonviolent, shared, and loving. However, we made it into a clever “religion,” in order to avoid the lifestyle itself. One could be warlike, greedy, racist, selfish, and vain, and still believe that Jesus is their “personal Lord and Savior.” The world has no time for such silliness anymore. The suffering on Earth is too great.
I’m risking arrest on Aug. 29 as part of a movement to stop a dirty oil pipeline from ripping through the American heartland and our national water aquifer. Friends of the Earth has interviewed folks along the pipeline route who are fighting back.
“Ernie Fellows is a 65-year-old retired rancher living in Mills, Nebraska, a remote community that sits atop the Ogallala Aquifer along the South Dakota border. Fellows has spent his entire adult life raising livestock and tending to the land he inherited from his family. His grandfather bought the ranch in 1937, and when Ernie came of age, he was charged with taking over. “I took that to mean that I need to be a good steward of the land,” Ernie reflects, recounting the years of careful work he put into improving the ranch. However, the fruits of Fellows’ labor are under threat.
TransCanada, a Canadian oil corporation, is planning to route the Keystone XL pipeline through his property. The pipeline would carry the dirtiest oil available to the U.S. from Canada’s tar sands and bring with it the threat of contaminated water supplies and damage to property and nearby livestock. Complications have also arisen with insurance companies and lenders due to the risks the pipeline poses, making it more difficult for landowners to make ends meet.”