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From college students to Nebraska ranchers, many constituents unite to oppose pipeline

Posted by Barbara Gottlieb on November 8, 2011

As I 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. 

There were a few big names, from NASA scientist James Hansen to Academy Award-winning actor Mark Ruffalo. 

I welcome them and feel indebted to them – especially to Hansen, who has been propelling our awareness of climate change for over 20 years. (!!!)

But I 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:

“We 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.

Many speakers 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.”
As if 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.”

The 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.”

Rev. 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 moment.”

What 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.

I hope you will: Stand with us.

(Read tomorrow’s blog for the connections between Sunday’s Keystone XL pipeline demonstration and the Occupy Wall Street movement.)


kattmanduu said ..

The big question is why do they need to pipe this oil to the gulf coast when there are refineries in North Dakota and other northern states that could refine this oil? Is it to ship the oil to China or some other country? Why not just refine it in Canada and use the refined products here in North America? It is all for corporate greed so a few can profit from the oil sales to few foreign nations.

January 25, 2012

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