From college students to Nebraska ranchers, many constituents unite to oppose pipeline
November 8, 2011
wrote yesterday, Sunday’s rally to oppose the Keystone XL pipeline was a powerful
experience. Part of the impact came
from the array of speakers.
were a few big names, from NASA scientist James Hansen to Academy Award-winning
actor Mark Ruffalo.
welcome them and feel indebted to them – especially to Hansen, who has been
propelling our awareness of climate change for over 20 years. (!!!)
was most moved by the lesser-known folk who work in their own communities,
often far from the limelight. Their brief
but cogent remarks highlight the growing unity of many constituencies that
oppose the pipeline. Here’s a sampling:
will stand firm on the sandy soil of Nebraska,” declared a Nebraska rancher who opposes the pipeline. The Ogallala Aquifer underlies almost the
entire state of Nebraska, as well as parts of seven other states from South
Dakota to western Texas. It supplies drinking
water to over 80 percent of the people living within its boundary and is a
major source of water for irrigation.
The aquifer is
vast but shallow, making it vulnerable to contamination in case of a pipeline
leak or rupture.
Evangelical activist Jim
Wallace, founder of Sojourners, called Sunday’s event “a revival for a
clean energy economy.” Sojourners, a
Christian magazine, seeks to build a movement of
spirituality and social change.
A different spiritual
voice was raised by Tom Four Bears, a representative
of the Oglala Nation in South Dakota. He reminded that we are all born from Mother Earth and cannot survive if
we poison Her waters.
referred to the threat the Keystone XL pipeline would pose to the future of
life on the planet. Larry Schweiger, president
of the National Wildlife Federation,
spoke of his newborn grandson, who “cannot speak for himself, so I’m here
speaking for him.”
A youth organizer reminded us – and
President Obama - that young people provided the energy and the shoe leather
that helped propel Obama into the White House in 2008. The crowd looked at least 50% young people,
by my estimate.
Many young people carried
signs quoting Obama’s earlier statements about the importance of reversing
climate change. One read, “Unchecked,
climate change will pose unacceptable risks to our security, our economies, and
our planet.” - Barack Obama.
Canadian author and progressive social critic Naomi Klein rejected the
“outdated paradigm” suggesting that environmental concerns pit activists
against labor unions, saying, “We are so over that.”
to support her words, Roger Toussaint, president of Local 100 (NYC) of the Transit Workers Union, declared that
“we stand with you against the pipeline” which “closes the door on bringing
climate change under control.” As for
the jobs argument, Toussaint added, “We want jobs, but not jobs as the
grave-diggers of the planet.”
importance of action at the state level was underscored by Heather Mizeur, a
member of the Maryland state legislature. She led the effort that resulted in a
three-year moratorium on fracking in her state, which is also my state. I celebrate that, and I resonate to her
personal statement: “I, like you,
desperately love this planet.”
Lennox Yearwood, president of the Hip
Hop Caucus and an environmental
justice leader, called the anti-Keystone effort “a movement.” Noting that we were gathering exactly one
year before the presidential election, he referenced the courage, determination
and advances of the civil rights movement by calling this “our lunch counter
he means is that it’s up to us. We’re
the ones who have to stand up for clean energy, clean air, clean water, and this
planet that we love.
hope you will: Stand with us.
tomorrow’s blog for the connections between Sunday’s Keystone XL pipeline
demonstration and the Occupy Wall Street movement.)