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]
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]
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
For the first time in its 120-year history, the environmental group Sierra Club engaged in a civil disobedience action.
Allison Chin, President of the Sierra Club Board of Directors, and Executive Director Michael Brune lined up in front of the White House to be arrested for obstruction along with 46 others activists. Many of them were also leaders of fellow environmental advocacy organizations, such as Rainforest Action Network, Earthworks, Friends of the Earth, Natural Resources Defense Council, Greenpeace and 350.org.
“We have joined the ranks of visionaries of the past and present to engage in civil disobedience, knowing that the issue at hand is so critical, it compels the strongest defensible action,” said Brune.
And he believes that it has been successful. “We’re on the cusp of a clean energy revolution in the U.S.,” he said. “We have a movement of people who are fighting for clean energy, and they’re winning.”
More from interview with Michael Brune:
On global warming denial:
I think what’s behind it is fear. We have built an economy that is based on fossil fuels, and people don’t know what the world can look like when we move off of those fuels. People who deny climate change obviously haven’t looked at the science, they haven’t had a candid, honest, thoughtful conversation with someone who has studied this issue, and they fear for what a transition will mean for their lives.
So what we say to them is that the clean energy solutions that we’ve been talking are being put into place right now. Iowa gets almost 25% of its power just from wind. South Dakota the same. California will soon get 30% of its power from solar and wind.
We’re just getting started. We’ve quintupled the amount of solar energy that’s being produced in the us in just the last four years. Wind energy has doubled in the last four years. We know in our generation we’re going to build an economy based on power that’s clean and renewable, and it will put more people to work. It will increase our quality of life at the same time.
Is global warming at the point of no return?
No, I don’t think so. I think that we are on the cusp of a clean energy revolution in the United States. We’re seeing a resurgence of grassroots activism that’s stopped a 175 coal plants from being built, that is exposing the dangers of fracking, that has slowed mountain-top removal in Appalachia, that’s secured the retirement of 137 existing coal-fired power plants. So we have a movement of people who are fighting for clean energy, they’re winning, and we’re building momentum.
On President Obama’s State of the Union address:
I thought that they [his remarks] were largely pretty good. To have a president speak forcefully and candidly about the science behind climate change and connecting the extreme weather events that we saw with the opportunity for action is a powerful thing. And what we really need to see of course is for the President to follow up his Inauguration speech and the State of the Union last night with strong action to stop arctic drilling, to stop the Keystone XL Pipeline, to stop mountain-top removal,
and to invest in solar and wind with all of his might and ambition instead.