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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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