Faith leaders arrested, activists storm Valero Corp as Keystone XL protests heat up in Washington, DC

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Matt Kirkland protests in front of Valero Corporation

by John Zangas and Anne Meador

A week of protests against the Keystone XL Pipeline in Washington, DC continued Thursday with civil disobedience at the White House and visits to pipeline profiteers.

Fifteen participants in the Interfaith Moral Action on Climate (IMAC) were arrested for blocking the sidewalk in front of the White House. Religious leaders called the Keystone XL Pipeline “a grave threat to humanity” and described their moral obligation to stand up against it.

Unitarian minister Terry Ellen said, “The Keystone, as you know, is the fuse to the accelerant that will jettison our planet beyond the point of no repair… We are all moving toward a radically new future. We are all part of a serious challenge against the entrenched power and concentrated wealth of our land.” [VIDEO: Interview with Terry Ellen]

Lacy_arrest

As police arrested interfaith leaders in front of the White House, a separate protest kicked off from the Canadian Embassy just a few blocks down Pennsylvania Avenue. They marched toward a TD Bank branch in Chinatown, chanting, “Jobs at the Keystone? No, let’s get it. There are no jobs on a dead planet!”

Protestors then stormed the lobby of energy company Valero Corporation, a major investor in the Keystone XL Pipeline. Valero stands to receive and refine more oil from the pipeline than any other company.

Police and security officers scuffled with protestors, and five were arrested after they refused to leave. [VIDEO]

Around the U.S., solidarity with Forward on Climate

There were several rallies and actions in solidarity with Forward on Climate in Washington, DC today. Here are scenes from some of them:

SAN FRANCISCO

Photo by @sophiehh14
Photo by @sophiehh14

SAN RAPHAEL, CA

Photo by @anirvan
Photo by @anirvan

SEATTLE

Seattle_Pragmactivist99
Photo by @Pragmactvisti

LOS ANGELES

Photo by @renegadecop
Photo by @renegadecop

DENVER

Photo by @CO_BeyondCoal
Photo by @CO_BeyondCoal

SANTA FE

SantaFe_JenniferEsperanza

CHICAGO

Chicago_daneyvilla
Photo by @daneyvilla

 

The coming wave of immigration: Climate change refugees

Rising sea levels will flood Bangladesh–and its impoverished population. It’s already happening, creating a new class of climate change refugees:

Masud, 19, lives in Korail, Dhaka’s largest slum. Its roughly 70,000 residents dwell in the shadow of the affluent Gulshan neighbourhood, with its mansions, restaurants and western-style shopping centres.

Masud, her husband Mohammed, and their year-old daughter Karima share a one-room shanty that can be crossed in two strides. It is made of corrugated steel sheets held up by wooden poles. A bed takes up a large portion of the room and a battered TV sits in one corner. In another corner are Masud’s dishes. The kitchen, a cramped space with a couple of shelves, is in the back, about a metre from a toilet shared by two dozen other families.

It is not just the smell. Every monsoon, when the slum is overrun with rainwater, cholera and malaria outbreaks are common. Masud has to cook while standing in puddles of muck; nearby, excrement gets stuck in the overflowing drains. She says she almost gags.

“I don’t want to live like this … who wants to?” says Masud, a pretty woman with big eyes and a sad smile. But after her husband’s family farm and home in Barisal, in southern Bangladesh, were inhaled by a powerful cyclone in 2008, they had no choice.

She is a climate change refugee.

Climate change is expected to trigger a migration like no other.

Experts expect about 250 million people worldwide to move by 2050. Of those, 20 million to 30 million climate change refugees are expected to be in Bangladesh, likely the largest number from one place.

As extreme weather, floods and drought force them to flee their homes, most will head to the capital.
Dhaka is the fastest-growing megacity in the world; its population is about 17 million, up from 12 million in 2005 and six million in 1990. By 2025, the UN says the city will be home to more than 20 million people.

Fast-growing urban areas like Dhaka will bear the brunt of climate change-related disasters, particularly because so many of them are located in coastal zones. Dhaka, on the banks of the Buriganga River in the low-lying Ganges Delta, is prone to flooding during monsoons.
As much as 40 per cent of Dhaka’s population — almost seven million — lives in tiny hovels in slums, beside railway tracks, along riverbanks and even on swampy lowlands in the shadow of glittering hotels.

The International Organization for Migration says about 70 per cent of these slum dwellers have come to Dhaka because of climate-change adversity.

Keystone XL Pipeline: The fuse to a carbon bomb

Trans Canada Keystone Oil Pipeline
Photo by Shannon Ramos

What’s so important about the Keystone XL Pipeline? Why is it being called the fuse to a carbon bomb?

The key to Keystone XL is that it could transport almost exactly the amount of carbon needed to put us beyond the point of no return–when man-made climate change becomes irreversible.

The Keystone XL Pipeline is the conduit for the tar sands oil produced in the northwest regions of Canada. Fully harvested, the tar sands–besides having 12% higher carbon dioxide emissions than other sources of petroleum–would produce about one trillion metric tons of emissions.

Putting one trillion metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions into the atmosphere would produce a 2-degree Celsius increase in average global temperatures.

This just so happens to be the tipping point:

Two degrees [Celsius] is the maximum acceptable figure adopted by the European Union as a manageable level of warming, based on IPCC findings, beyond which it becomes unlikely that serious negative effects can be avoided.

The decision to develop tar sands and construct the Keystone XL Pipeline is a conscious decision to put ourselves beyond the tipping point. The oil from Canadian tar sands is a carbon bomb, and the Keystone XL Pipeline is the fuse. If the construction of the Keystone XL Pipeline goes forward, we’ve knowingly lit the fuse.

 

Jill Stein at Forward on Climate Rally: Keystone XL is part of Obama’s “all-of-the-above” strategy

Jill Stein at the Forward on Climate Rally (Photo by @FracSandBoom)
Jill Stein at the Forward on Climate Rally (Photo by @FracSandBoom)

At the Forward on Climate Rally, Keith Wrightson interviews Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein.

She’s certain that Pres. Obama will allow the Keystone XL to go forward. “It’s writing on the wall,” she said. “It’s part of his all-of-the-above strategy.”

She urges people concerned about climate to exercise civil disobedience not only “in the streets,” but in the voting booth as well, quoting Frederick Douglass: “Power concedes nothing without a demand.”

Stein and her running mate Cheri Honkala committed civil disobedience at Hofstra University in October, when they tried to enter the site of the second presidential debate. They were handcuffed for eight hours.

Later in October Stein was again arrested while attempting to resupply protesters in Texas camping out in trees to oppose the Keystone XL pipeline.

Post-election, Stein still seems determined. “It’s important that we lay down the agenda–let’s have political change instead of climate change.”

The Green Party has a “Green Deal,” which she says will address the “climate emergency and economic emergency [for] people, peace and climate.”

The plan includes rolling back military spending to year 2000 levels and halting the Wall Street bailouts, instead “baling out communities and homeowners.”

Forward on Climate: Activists to draw line in the sand on climate issues

People have been pouring into Washington, DC for what is expected to be the largest ever rally in the U.S. drawing attention to the issue of climate change.

The weather is blustery out there for activists–highs in the mid-30’s with winds gusting up to 40 mph.

The last mass protest around climate change was four years ago, just after Barack Obama was sworn in the first time. 12,000 people, mostly college students, came to Washington, DC for a three-day action:

Organizers called a grassroots lobbying drive on Monday “the biggest lobbying day on climate and energy” in the country’s history as they enlisted some 4,000 students to visit nearly every congressional office. And later that day, in what activists dubbed “the largest mass civil disobedience on climate” in the U.S., some 2,500 people blockaded the gates of the Capitol Power Plant, which burns coal to provide heat to the senators’ and representatives’ offices, a symbol of the nation’s reliance on fossil fuels.

At least 20,000 participants are expected today.

This time a high priority will be to persuade Pres. Obama to block Keystone XL, the export pipeline which has been called “the fuse to North America’s biggest carbon bomb.”

Cool Revolution will be making updates throughout the day here and on Twitter (@cool_revolution). DC Media Group will be providing full coverage of the event–go to dcmediagroup.info for all livestream feeds, twitter streams and photos, as well as the Facebook page.

UPDATE 3:30pm: As the march heads from the White House back to the Monument, organizers put crowd count at 50,000.

UPDATE 5:00pm: Huffington Post estimates the crowd at 40,000.