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Climate Youth Lead #XLDISSENT Civil Resistance to Ensure Our Civil Existence

11:46 am in Uncategorized by Tom Weis

 

Cross-posted with The Huffington Post

More than a thousand climate youth leaders and allies converged on Washington, DC this weekend for the largest student-led civil resistance action at the White House in a generation. They came to register their dissent against extreme fossil fuel exploitation and to demand that President Obama reject the northern leg of TransCanada’s Keystone XL tar sands pipeline.

The scene outside the White House on Sunday was remarkable. After marching through the streets, the students rallied at Lafayette Square, chanting: “Obama, come out! We’ve got some shit to talk about!” and “The people are rising! No more compromising!” A short while later, in a sudden burst of energy, a sea of bodies surged toward the White House to occupy the fence, while others fell to the ground, victims of a mock tar sands oil spill. All did it knowing they would be arrested.

Student leaders from nearly 50 universities and colleges from across the country signed the #XLDISSENT call to action, which calls “into question” President Obama’s “willingness to govern in an environmentally responsible manner.” Their statement goes on to say:

President Obama has indeed made several responsible choices, such as increasing the mileage standards for cars. But he has also made some disastrous ones. He opened vast swaths of Western lands for coal mining, repeatedly endorsed an ‘all-of-the-above’ energy approach, and even supported the Southern leg of the Keystone pipeline.

I suspect many students who participated in this action share my sense of betrayal over President Obama’s 2012 fast-track approval of Keystone XL’s southern leg (which has 70% of the capacity to transport tar sands as Keystone XL’s northern leg). By calling out the president on this gross injustice, they are reminding everyone that with Obama’s ownership of Keystone South comes responsibility for any tar sands spills that occur in Texas and Oklahoma, and for toxic emissions breathed by families living in fenceline communities near tar sands refineries in Houston and Port Arthur.

Time is slipping away for President Obama to salvage his tattered environmental legacy. He can start by denouncing Keystone North, jettisoning his “all-of-the-above” energy policy, and producing a new climate action plan that has a real chance of averting climate chaos.

In solidarity, I share this video of an emergency direct action several of us organized at the White House on Martin Luther King, Jr.’s 85th birthday in January. Inspired by what Dr. King called “the fierce urgency of now,” it was a last-ditch effort to try to prevent Keystone South from starting up.

Action by action, we are building what Dr. King called “the beloved community.” Future generations will honor these young climate justice leaders who sacrificed their freedom to demand an end to these immoral assaults on our collective future. Call it civil resistance to ensure our civil existence.

Going to Jail on MLK’s B-Day to Stop Keystone XL South: “The Fierce Urgency of Now”

10:35 am in Uncategorized by Tom Weis

Cross-posted with EcoWatch

You wouldn’t know it from the lack of focus and attention by the environmental establishment, but the 485-mile southern leg of TransCanada’s Keystone XL tar sands pipeline has been built, is being filled and is scheduled to start up on Jan. 22. Front line reports from landowners in Texas and Oklahoma say that TransCanada has patrol planes flying up and down the line, with foot patrols searching for leaks. In a few short days, this 485-mile fuse to one of the biggest carbon bombs on the planet will be lit.

Desperate to stop this, several prominent Texas landowners urgently requested a face-to-face meeting with President Obama in early December, only to be spurned by the White House. In response, I spearheaded an emergency direct action on Jan. 15, the 85th birthday of Martin Luther King, Jr., outside the White House to demand that the President order the shut down of Keystone XL south.

SLIDESHOW ►

It was there that a brave young man of faith, Jason Miller of the Franciscan Action Network, joined me to bear witness to this grave injustice being perpetrated against our children and future generations. Supported by our brothers and sisters from Interfaith Moral Action on Climate, we took direct action that ended in our arrest. One of those brothers, Rev. Lennox Yearwood, inspired me to describe it as civil resistance to ensure our civil existence. It was in the spirit of Dr. King, and what he called “the fierce urgency of now,” that I went to jail to stop Keystone XL South.

What’s happening right now in Texas and Oklahoma is deeply immoral. If President Obama does not exercise his executive authority to stop the southern leg of Keystone XL from starting up on Jan. 22, he will have committed one of the most destructive acts any president has ever committed against our children and their future by knowingly exacerbating the climate crisis. No amount of greenwashing by the president, or his political enablers, will remove the stain of Keystone XL south from his legacy. It will be forever remembered as Obama’s Keystone XL pipeline.

If Movement Fails to Draw the Line Against Keystone XL in TX & OK, We All Flunk the Climate Test

11:30 am in Uncategorized by Tom Weis

Cross-posted with EcoWatch

I had a chance to read FAIL: How the Keystone XL Tar Sands Pipeline Flunks the Climate Test, a recent report issued by the Sierra Club and Oil Change International and endorsed by a dozen other environmental organizations. The 17-page report makes a rock solid case that “constructing Keystone XL will lead to tar sands industry expansion, and tar sands industry expansion will significantly exacerbate climate pollution.”

The report documents how the Keystone XL would be a pipeline through the U.S. by delivering toxic tar sands to Gulf Coast refineries, thereby opening the floodgates for Canada’s dirty energy to be exported overseas.

What the report fails to mention, however, is the central fact that it is the 485-mile southern leg of Keystone XL already being constructed in Texas and Oklahoma — not the pipeline’s proposed northern leg — that will give TransCanada strategic access to these U.S. coastal ports.

TransCanada’s Keystone XL tar sands pipeline being constructed on Michael Bishop’s property in Texas.

Here’s the inconvenient truth about the Keystone XL: TransCanada does not need the pipeline’s northern leg to begin pumping hundreds of thousands of barrels of toxic tar sands daily through America’s breadbasket for export overseas. This map shows how they will accomplish this by simply connecting Keystone XL’s southern leg to Keystone I (the orange line on the map) built by TransCanada in 2010.

Sierra Club Executive Director Michael Brune is right to describe the Keystone XL as “a test of the president’s commitment” to combating climate change. But the test isn’t being given in 2014 over whether Obama approves or rejects a permit for the pipeline’s northern leg. The test is being administered right now in Texas and Oklahoma, where the Keystone XL’s 485-mile southern leg is already 90 percent constructed and scheduled to go online by late this year or early next.

Here are some key findings of the FAIL report:

• The Keystone XL pipeline is absolutely critical to the expansion of tar sands development in landlocked Alberta, because it would provide the industry with a major low-cost connection to export markets and world oil prices.

• Experts predict that the approval of the pipeline could lead to a 36 percent increase in tar sands exploitation.

• A pipeline that would contribute 181 million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e) each year for 50 years risks blowing our ability to mitigate dangerous levels of climate change, in and of itself.

• The Keystone XL pipeline is a linchpin to tar sands development, and increased tar sands development would be disastrous for the climate.

To borrow a phrase from the report, the question that climate protection demands we ask is this: if “from a climate perspective it is indefensible for the U.S. government to approve [a presidential permit for] this project, in light of the future implications it would have for accelerating the growth of one of the most polluting fuels on the planet,” is it not magnitudes more indefensible for the president to have approved the actual construction of this same project in Texas and Oklahoma? Why does the report fail to address this key point?

The dire findings of the FAIL report — that “Keystone XL is key to unlocking massive expansion of one of the world’s most carbon-intensive sources of oil, an environmental Armageddon” — cry out for its authors to demand that President Obama stop the construction of Keystone’s southern leg, before it is too late. But for the fearless resistance of local landowners, and the heroic efforts of the Tar Sands Blockade and Great Plains Tar Sands Resistance, toxic tar sands might already be surging through the Keystone pipeline to Gulf Coast port refineries. In the words of one of those landowners, Michael Bishop: “You should not be swatting at flies where there is a lion outside your door.”

The FAIL report seals the deal on why President Obama must immediately reverse course and pull the plug on the construction of this 485-mile climate disaster. But this requires an environmental movement unified behind this demand.

Yes, we must also block the permit for Keystone’s northern leg, which would allow even more toxic tar sands to flow across America, but no one is going to buy that as a victory if TransCanada succeeds in getting their southern leg linchpin in place. If the climate movement fails to draw a line in the sand against Keystone XL in Texas and Oklahoma — and this tar sands nightmare is allowed to go online — we will all have flunked the climate test.

Boulder’s 100-Year Flood & Weather Weirding

3:13 pm in Uncategorized by Tom Weis

Cross-posted with The Huffington Post

I have lived in Boulder for nearly 30 years and have never seen anything — weatherwise — like what I’ve witnessed these past two years.

An army vehicle among Colorado flooding.

Colorado is experiencing catastrphic flooding.

Last summer, standing in the front yard of my friends’ home in east Boulder, I watched pine trees near the iconic Flatirons burst into flames like matchsticks. We were in the midst of a severe drought, which had sparked a spate of deadly wildfires. Slurry bombers managed to extinguish that particular wildfire, but not before the National Center for Atmospheric Research — nestled on a bluff below the advancing flames — was evacuated. Consider the irony of the world’s leading climate research facility being evacuated due to climate-induced wildfires. You couldn’t make this stuff up if you tried.

Last night, standing in the front yard of that same east Boulder home, I watched something else I never thought I would see here: a river of water flowing down a suburban street strong enough to carry away a child. Only an hour before, I had traversed this street effortlessly with just the gutters overflowing. Now water was lapping at the front yard and running swift like a river.

Earlier in the day, I stuck out on foot to see Boulder’s 100-year flood with my own eyes. It was a humbling sight. Here’s a dramatic video I captured of raging Boulder Creek.

After spending more time near the creek than one should, I headed to higher ground, only to discover that even on The Hill, one of Boulder’s higher neighborhoods, water was raging like a river down streets and into homes. Driveways had morphed into streams and steps into waterfalls. It was here that I stumbled upon a desperate effort at the intersection of University & 7th to reinforce a sand wall holding back the torrent of water and picked up a shovel. Here’s a video I took of the scene.

As a bunch of us worked to reinforce the wall with makeshift sandbags on our side of the street — ever cognizant of the possibility of cars upstream being washed down into our path — we watched the sand wall on the other side of the street completely wash away. When I left, our stopgap levee was still holding.

This is just what I saw. Elsewhere, precious lives have been tragically lost, and others have been dramatically saved. The National Guard is evacuating the nearby town of Lyons, which has become an island surrounded by floodwaters. And I fear worse news is yet to come from the vulnerable canyon communities upstream from Boulder.

Here’s what I think about what I’ve seen over the past two years in my home town: we have altered the climate so dramatically with polluting emissions that all bets are off as far as knowing what the weather will do from here on in. The age of weather weirding has arrived. If the weather-related disasters in Boulder, across America, and around the world are telling us anything, it’s that humanity is in for a rough ride. Brace yourself.

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President Obama’s Climate Action Plan: Not Even Close

1:15 pm in Uncategorized by Tom Weis

Cross-posted with EcoWatch

President Obama during his climate speech at Georgetown University on June 23.

In June, after more than four years as president, President Obama finally proposed a climate action plan for America. True to form, the president gave an eloquent speech, with strong words for those still in denial about the severity of the crisis we face: “We don’t have time for a meeting of the Flat Earth Society.”

Unfortunately for all of us, the blueprint he presented is more PR than plan, and has zero chance of stabilizing the climate. To the contrary, it promises even more climate chaos by promoting frackingmountaintop removal coal miningoffshore and Arctic oil drilling and tar sands exploitation. It also threatens future generations with the specter of more radioactive nuclear power.

The president opened his speech with a poetic tribute to the Apollo program, a generational mission championed by President John F. Kennedy more than half a century ago. But no comparison can be made between Kennedy’s bold vision and Obama’s timid plan. At the moment in history when the moral urgency of the global climate crisis demands a U.S.-led green energy “moon shot,” President Obama offers us a cloud shot. Are we really supposed to take seriously the anemic goal of cutting carbon emissions 17 percent by 2020 when experts like Earth Policy Institute’s Lester Brown have shown that nothing short of 80 percent carbon cuts by 2020 may be enough to save civilization?

Instead of calling out Obama on his hollow words, big national environmental groups—many with deep ties to the Democratic Party establishment and the Obama White House—fell over themselves congratulating the president on his speech. This, despite the fact that neither of America’s two corporate political parties has any intention of giving up their oil-soaked campaign contributions to take on the fossil fuel lobby.

Jon Queally, writing for Common Dreams, posed the right question: “With a showering of praise from ‘big green’ groups like Natural Resources Defense Council, Sierra Club and Environment America—the last of which decided to launch an expensive ‘thank you’ TV ad for the president—is it possible that the environmental movement is easing off the pressure at exactly the moment they should be holding Obama’s feet more firmly to the fire?” This is exactly what many of these same groups did when the president postponed until after the election a decision on Keystone XL’s northern leg permit, only to see him turn around and fast-track the pipeline’s southern leg. Instead of learning from history, they repeat it.

With the aforementioned as context, let’s look at some of what the President actually said in his speech and how his words fail to translate into the action needed to help stabilize the climate in the short time humanity has left to act.

President Obama: “We should strengthen our position as the top natural gas producer because, in the medium term at least, it not only can provide safe, cheap power, but it can also help reduce our carbon emissions. We’re going to partner with our private sector to apply private sector technological know-how in countries that transition to natural gas.”

Real World Translation: The President calls natural gas “clean,” despite knowing it’s a major greenhouse gas emitter. He calls natural gas “safe,” when the known dangers of fracking are causing communities across America to rise up against the poisoning of their local water supplies. The President’s plan would not only ramp up this dangerous technology domestically, but also export it overseas.

President Obama: “So the plan I’m announcing today will help us double again our energy from wind and sun.”

Real World Translation: This sounds impressive until you realize the percentage of America’s electricity currently generated by wind and solar power is in the single digits. The president’s plan ensures that the vast majority of our energy will continue to be generated from burning dirty fossil fuels.

President Obama: “So today, I’m setting a new goal: Your federal government will consume 20 percent of its electricity from renewable sources within the next seven years.”

Real World Translation: This is an example of the president’s “cloud shot” mentality. It would be like Kennedy announcing a goal of flying one-fifth of the way to the moon. Two Swiss explorers just flew day and night across America in a 100 percent solar powered airplane. If they can accomplish that in the air, America can do it on the ground.

President Obama: “Allowing the Keystone pipeline to be built requires a finding that doing so would be in our nation’s interest. And our national interest will be served only if this project does not significantly exacerbate the problem of carbon pollution. The net effects of the pipeline’s impact on our climate will be absolutely critical to determining whether this project is allowed to go forward.”

Real World Translation: Thanks to the president, the Keystone XL pipeline is already charging forward, with zero regard for carbon emissions or America’s interests. In fact, the pipeline is now 90 percent complete in Texas and Oklahoma. If Obama does not intervene to prevent the last stages of its construction, Keystone will open the floodgates to climate killing tar sands by transporting toxic tar sands from Canada to Texas refineries by the end of this year. TransCanada will accomplish this—with or without the pipeline’s northern leg—by connecting the southern leg of Keystone XL to the already built Keystone I.

President Obama: “We’re building the first nuclear power plants in more than three decades—in Georgia and South Carolina.”

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The Keystone XL Shuffle

3:58 pm in Uncategorized by Tom Weis

Cross-posted with EcoWatch

President Barack Obama supports the construction of the Keystone XL's southern leg in Texas and Oklahoma.

For the past year, most blog posts, action alerts and appeals to “Stop Keystone XL,” “Reject Keystone XL,” “Fight Keystone XL” and “Resist Keystone XL” have focused on blocking the pipeline’s northern leg, while ignoring President Obama’s support for the 485-mile southern segment. During this time, TransCanada has been busy building that southern leg, which is now 75 percent constructed.

This should alarm every climate activist. As Mark Karlin, editor of BuzzFlash at Truthout, warned in a recent editorial, when the Obama administration endorsed Keystone XL’s southern leg, “the spigot was opened to transport the climate-killing tar sands oil to refineries and ports in Texas.”

His editorial goes on to say: “What most U.S. citizens don’t know—including most progressives—is that when the southern pipeline segment starts flowing with tar sands oil in a short while, the fuse will have already ignited the (carbon) bomb.” Given that we just passed 400 parts per million of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, it is time for every big national environmental group to demand that President Obama extinguish this 485-mile carbon bomb fuse, before it’s too late.

As someone who pedaled the entire route in 2011 in support of farmers, ranchers and tribal communities fighting this toxic tar sands pipeline, I am as committed as anyone to blocking TransCanada’s northern leg permit, but how can anyone seriously talk about stopping Keystone XL without mentioning the need to stop the actual construction now dangerously close to completion in Texas and Oklahoma?

The key to blocking Keystone XL’s northern leg is ensuring that Keystone XL’s southern leg never gets completed. If you agree, join me, and more than 5,000 others, in signing the “Tell President Obama to Stop Construction of the Southern Leg of Keystone XL” petition. We will be delivering the petition to the White House soon, in dramatic fashion.

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