Environmentalists celebrated a major victory over Big Oil on Friday night at the White House after President Obama officially announced he would not approve the Northern leg of the Keystone XL pipeline. The 1,700-mile TransCanada project triggered a seven-year battle joined by scores of environmental groups who worked to defeat it.
Obama’s announcement on November 6 came four years to the day after 350.org, Sierra Club and many other organizations held a major protest against the pipeline at the White House.
The victory marks the first time people power of a grassroots movement leveraged political power to defeat a major fossil fuel project. It is likely to embolden green groups to step up efforts to convert energy policies to renewable energy sources like wind and solar.
Had the Keystone XL pipeline been built, it would have resulted in a daily capacity of 860,000 gallons of Alberta tar sands bitumen being transported to Gulf Coast refineries.
The “Save the Internet” fight waged against telecoms for Net Neutrality was an epic David vs. Goliath battle. Grassroots Net activists with little funding and handmade signs were pitted against deep-pocket telecom Titans and legions of lobbyists skilled at smoothing Congressional corridors. Ultimately, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) debated and voted for an open and free Internet on February 26.
Although the movement for Net Neutrality had been simmering for several years, the public had to become educated on a wonky subject and mobilized quickly and effectively. The goal was regulating the Internet as a common carrier under Title II of the Telecommunications Act. Continue reading →
Wise sister and civil rights organizer George Friday, once told me that “There are two paces to organizing for change: the speed with which our systems are collapsing and the slow intentional time that is necessary for deep movement building.”
Too often, the anxieties about the world’s problems lead to a hasty rush for solutions in which the slow time is compromised for the sake of moving actions, campaigns and institutional agendas forward. In that space, the complexities of systemic oppressions are overlooked, and the very inequalities that we are fighting to abolish continue to play themselves out.
With every excuse to deal with the micro aggressions later, because the crises of environmental and social degradation must take precedence, the same folks are made expendable and sacrificed. Every time an organization broadcasts their commitment to deep social change, while instead prioritizing one-dimensional results for their wealthy funders, the task of dismantling multilayered systems of destruction is lost in translation. With every instance by which the slow time is neglected, another voice is silenced, another experience is invisibilized – and history repeats itself. Continue reading →
Let me give you a word of the philosophy of reform. The whole history of the progress of human liberty shows that all concessions yet made to her august claims, have been born of earnest struggle. The conflict has been exciting, agitating, all-absorbing, and for the time being, putting all other tumults to silence. It must do this or it does nothing. If there is no struggle there is no progress. Those who profess to favor freedom and yet depreciate agitation, are men who want crops without plowing up the ground, they want rain without thunder and lightening. They want the ocean without the awful roar of its many waters.
This struggle may be a moral one, or it may be a physical one, and it may be both moral and physical, but it must be a struggle. Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will. Find out just what any people will quietly submit to and you have found out the exact measure of injustice and wrong which will be imposed upon them, and these will continue till they are resisted with either words or blows, or with both. The limits of tyrants are prescribed by the endurance of those whom they oppress. In the light of these ideas, Negroes will be hunted at the North, and held and flogged at the South so long as they submit to those devilish outrages, and make no resistance, either moral or physical. Men may not get all they pay for in this world; but they must certainly pay for all they get. If we ever get free from the oppressions and wrongs heaped upon us, we must pay for their removal. We must do this by labor, by suffering, by sacrifice, and if needs be, by our lives and the lives of others.
Frederick Douglass, 1857
“The Significance of Emancipation in the West Indies.” Speech, Canandaigua, New York, August 3, 1857
On September 29, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission put its stamp of approval on the Cove Point LNG project, Dominion Resources’ bid to convert its liquefied natural gas import terminal on the Chesapeake Bay into an export facility. It’s the fourth approval FERC has granted to build an export facility, and the first on the Atlantic Coast. The first three are located on the Gulf Coast.
Why is Cove Point important? Some have been calling it “the next Keystone XL.” What the Keystone XL pipeline is to the Alberta tar sands, Cove Point is to the Marcellus Shale, a porous rock formation harboring as much as 500 tcf of methane gas. If constructed, the Keystone XL would be a major conduit of dirty bitumen from the tar sands, and consequently it’s become the rallying call for opposition against extraction of the tar sands. Likewise, if Cove Point is built, it would be the conduit for natural gas obtained by fracking the Marcellus Shale to be delivered to Asia. Among the export terminals approved by the Department of Energy and in line for approval by FERC, Cove Point has become the rallying cry for opposition against liquefied natural gas exports. (In July, more than a thousand people marched in Washington, DC against Cove Point and LNG exports.) LNG exports are intimately connected with the extreme method of fossil fuel extraction called hydraulic fracking, because exporting to Asian markets would make fracking more profitable and thereby incentivize more drilling.
FERC’s permitting of Cove Point is a big regulatory hurdle, the biggest among many state and local permits it had to obtain after the Department of Energy said it was okay for Dominion to export. But it’s not a surprise. When I say FERC put its stamp of approval on Cove Point LNG, what I really mean is that FERC applied its rubberstamp of approval. FERC is responsible for reviewing proposals for interstate natural gas pipelines and LNG terminals (up to this point, only import terminals). Among the all the major projects submitted to FERC, you’d be hard-pressed to find one that was turned down. FERC’s nickname—the Federal Energy Rubberstamp Commission—is well-earned.
In my opinion, however, FERC is even more than a rubberstamp—it’s the gas industry’s best friend. Understanding that the game is rigged and how the game is rigged is important if we’re going to contest the coming wave of infrastructure associated with the fracking boom. Continue reading →
People wonder if we’re afraid we might die from these drones circling over our heads, but you know what, I am not afraid of death anymore. I’ve become familiar with it. Drones in our skies or government clashes are as common as rain or sunshine. Death becomes a daily fact. So no, it’s not that I lost my fear of death, I just became familiar with it. What surprises me and my family is life itself. Every morning we wake up to find ourselves alive. You walk in the middle. Between life and death.
Kabul, Afghanistan–The fire in the Chaman e Babrak camp began in Nadiai’s home shortly after noon. She had rushed her son, who had a severe chest infection, to the hospital. She did not know that a gas bottle, used for warmth, was leaking; when the gas connected with a wood burning stove, flames engulfed the mud hut in which they lived and extended to adjacent homes, swiftly rendering nine extended families homeless and destitute in the midst of already astounding poverty. By the time seven fire trucks had arrived in response to the fire at the refugee camp, the houses were already burned to the ground.
No one was killed. When I visited the camp, three days after the disaster, that was a common refrain of relief. Nadiai’s home was on the edge of the camp, close to the entrance road. Had the fire broken out in the middle of the camp, or at night when the homes were filled with sleeping people, the disaster could have been far worse.
Even so, Zakia, age 54, said this is the worst catastrophe she has seen in her life, and already their situation was desperate. Zakia had slapped her own face over and over again to calm and focus herself as she searched for several missing children while the fire initially raged. Now, three days later, her cheeks are quite bruised, but she is relieved that the children were found.
Standing amid piles of ashes near what once was her home, a young mother smiled as she introduced her three little children, Shuba, age 3 ½, and Medinah and Monawra, twin girls, age 1 ½. They were trapped in one of the homes, but their uncle rescued them. Continue reading →
The Eternal Flame has burned continuously since Jackie Kennedy lit it in Arlington Cemetery on November 25, 1963 during her husband’s state funeral. Today, fifty years to the day after it was lit, hundreds have come to take photos of the flame flickering in a cold breeze, while others stand silently watching flowers laid at its granite base.
At his inauguration, President Kennedy spoke of a “torch” passed to a “new generation”:
Let the word go forth from this time and place, to friend and foe alike, that the torch has been passed to a new generation of Americans—born in this century, tempered by war, disciplined by a hard and bitter peace, proud of our ancient heritage—and unwilling to witness or permit the slow undoing of those human rights to which this Nation has always been committed, and to which we are committed today at home and around the world.
Let every nation know, whether it wishes us well or ill, that we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe, in order to assure the survival and the success of liberty.
Fifty years after his assassination, this torch has been neglected, and the flame has nearly gone out.
Since JFK was killed, the Civil Rights movement has achieved important successes. But the present state of freedom and human rights in the U.S. is like a wound left unattended, and every day the hemorrhaging grows worse. Our government is systematically eviscerating our freedoms and those of people around the world. There are several signs of this: the police state, the huge numbers of citizens incarcerated, illegal NSA surveillance, and drone warfare. Continue reading →
On the morning of the fourth day of the U.S. government shutdown, Members of the Congressional Progressive Caucus and hundreds of union and non-union federal workers came to the Capitol to protest. Some traveled from faraway states like South Carolina and Florida, and they represented various departments of the government, such as the U.S. Treasury, IRS, Departments of Commerce, Education and Defense, the Food and Drug Administration, and NASA. Scientists, analysts, technicians, park landscapers, drivers, and inspectors continue on an indefinite furlough.
At the rally Colleen Kelly, president of National Treasury Employees Union (NTEU), spoke about the need for federal workers to get back to work–for their families and the millions of people who depend on vital government services. Other speakers demanded Congress put aside differences and pass a balanced budget to put 850,000 people back to work.
As the week progressed, federal workers became less reluctant to picket the U.S. Capitol while Congress continued to be embroiled in the budget debate. The international press was there recording the spectacle. Continue reading →