Taking Action Against Climate Change
Bomb is Only Human Nature

Some time tomorrow morning, Saturday, August 20, environmental writer Bill McKibben, along with a group of regular U.S. citizens, will head to the White House to begin a two-week action of civil disobedience.  The protest is designed to help persuade President Barack Obama to say no to the proposed Keystone XL pipeline that would deliver oil from the Alberta tar sands in Canada down through the heartland of the United States and to the big refineries on the Gulf Coast of Texas. Each day a new group of citizens will sit on the lawn and peacefully wait to be arrested by police. I’m taking a bus down to DC on the 24th, and will participate on the 25 of August.

There are a number of reasons why exploiting the tar sands is a worse than bad idea, but it boils down to the fact that if we burn that oil up, we concede any chance of trying to keep climate change from running off the charts. I’m going because, after several years of attending lectures on global warming by noted speakers such as James Hansen, Al Gore, and Bill, I’ve been waiting for a way to start taking a united stand against the current state of affairs regarding our energy consumption habits.

It’s all well and good to leave one of these talks and go home and change the lightbulbs, but after years of inaction by our political leaders, it’s time to form a movement.

As we approach the 10th anniversary of 9/11, I look back on an essay I posted on my website at the time, bicyclewire.com. I wrote about how quickly the technology of flight had evolved from the joy and wonder of Lindbergh’s journey across the Atlantic to the horror and terror of “the black silhouette of jetliner streaking toward the unbroken glass and steel.” I concluded:

Have we become fundamentally less innocent in that short time? More evil? Or is technology just giving greater expression to the atrocities humans are capable of?

One of the scariest things about last Tuesday’s attack is the way it continues to reverberate through every aspect of our lives, reminding us just how complex the infrastructure of modern life is, and how we must continue to feed the never sated, never satisfied engines of commerce to keep it all standing.

While it is hard to get back to bicycles in a time of jets and skyscrapers and death and destruction, it seems to be about the only thing I can contribute right now, to get back to the daily tasks of life, back to a more human scale.

Human scale. I’m  intimidated standing near a Cadillac Escalade. Have you seen the trucks built especially for mining the tar sands? That video is from 2006. Apparently newer, bigger, improved trucks are now on the job. Other big trucks are used to haul massive equipment to the mining sites, the latest in industrial mining engineering. All of it designed with the purpose of  extracting the oil as quickly as possible, to be pumped through an eXra-Large pipeline and burned up across the globe, spewing untold tons of CO2 into the atmosphere and forever altering the climate system of Planet Earth.

So is sitting on a restricted lawn and getting arrested going to do any good?

People with certain agendas have done an excellent PR job of marginalizing the participants in this kind of protest as unrealistic idealists, utopians, or, worse, some sort of hippy throwbacks. I’m not under any illusion that we’re going to wipe out the seven deadly sins and recreate the Garden of Eden by protesting against the pipeline—there will always be crooked financiers, unscrupulous business people, journalists with agendas. And the Garden of Eden had two occupants; our current little plot spinning in space is about to hit 7 billion at any moment. It will always be hard for humans to break bad habits and addictions and start good habits and practices. Unfortunately, our technology has allowed the repercussions of our bad instincts to amplify to such an extent that we are in danger of losing the whole ball of wax.

The pro pipeline interests have the big flamethrowers in this battle, including money, lobbyists, and politicians.  And there will always be publicists willing to put the happy spin on hell itself. These interests also like to press hot buttons like homeland security and job creation. The odds are high that the fireballs ignited when the jetliners flew into the Twin Towers were created by fuel from the Middle East. One argument for the tar sands oil is it comes from a “friendly source” instead of regimes that support terrorism. However it would seem apparent that climate change is more dangerous to the well-being of civilization than any terrorist organization, with the Alberta tar sands being the ultimate “carbon bomb.” And the oil industry logic that promotes the jobs that would ensue in building the Keystone pipeline is tantamount to arguing the burning of Rome will create jobs for firefighters—actually, arsonists would be a better analogy, but except in certain underground economies, I don’t think that calling is found on any official list of occupations.

What do we the people have? We have the certainty that this is the Right Thing to Do. So off I go on a bus to Washington DC in late August of the year 2011 to dress up in my suit and tie and go sit somewhere near the White House and get arrested along with several thousand others. It feels good to be a small part of that whole. I hope it is the start of a true awakening from our denial and moving on to a way of living on earth that is less rapacious and consumptive, more human in nature.

 

 

6 Responses to Taking Action Against Climate Change
Bomb is Only Human Nature
  1. klem
    August 19, 2011 | 5:34 pm

    “The odds are high that the fireballs ignited when the jetliners flew into the Twin Towers were created by fuel from the Middle East.”

    Exactly right. That’s why the pipeline from alberta is a good idea. There is no such thing as perfectly ethical oil. Not possible. You have to break a few eggs to make an omelet and you have to damage the earth and people in some way to find oil. But Alberta oil is a lot more ethical that the filthy blood soaked oil coming from the Middle East and Africa. It amazes me how it does not seem to bother people that they are burning blood oil when they drive to church or Mosque to worship and prey for peace, they heat their schools and universities with blood oil, they heat their non-profit environmental and social organizations with blood oil, and the gazillions of dollars we pay for blood oil is used to oppress women and murder people all over the world. Including the oil used to fly into the Twin Towers. In my view, not one drop of blood oil should arrive at our shores. Its not perfect but I’ll take Alberta oil any day.

    So go ahead and lobby Obama, protest all you want. What this just might do is awaken the public to the dirty oil coming from Alberta, but that it is much cleaner than the filthy blood soak oil coming from elsewhere. This protest just might backfire on you.

    Cheers

    • admin
      August 19, 2011 | 7:18 pm

      There is no clean coal. There is no clean oil. If you want to talk about degrees of ethics, that’s fine, but really beside the point, which is that we are destroying our planet. In any case, the “blood oil” you speak of “from the Middle East and Africa” is brought to you courtesy of the finest and most successful corporations in the U.S. of A. (some of whom pay less taxes than you or I. Corporations are people, only with better benefits!) Homeland security is a red herring that is being exploited in many ways. And by the way, if you think once the pipeline is hooked up, those corporations and all the people addicted to oil will suddenly shut down your “blood oil” fields, you must have been born yesterday. See you at the security check. I’ll be wearing my protest socks. (I chose that particular example, by the way, for its bitter irony in several directions.)

  2. klem
    August 22, 2011 | 1:40 pm

    “if you think once the pipeline is hooked up, those corporations and all the people addicted to oil will suddenly shut down your “blood oil” fields, you must have been born yesterday”

    Yes I think you are correct about that. I guess I must have been born yesterday.

    Cheers

  3. Ben Royce
    August 24, 2011 | 1:02 am

    Damn straight Mark!

    Bless you.

  4. George
    September 6, 2011 | 6:58 pm

    Once we put down the pretense that there is some magic pixie dust we can sprinkle to eliminate oil within the next 50 years, we are faced with another ethical conundrum – your stance essentially says it is better to continue to buy oil from dictators and despots who subjugate women and stone gays to death than it is to purchase the evil black stuff from our stable next door neighbor.

    And liberals proclaim themselves the “reality based” community? What a joke – instead you want to pretend reality is not what it is and, instead, if you just wish hard enough (and click your heels three times), we can get rid of all those evil carbon causing fuels and the world will be a wonderful place again.

    What a joke.

    • admin
      September 27, 2011 | 2:00 pm

      “…your stance essentially says it is better to continue to buy oil from dictators and despots who subjugate women and stone gays to death than it is to purchase the evil black stuff from our stable next door neighbor.”

      No, what I said was the big oil companies are not going to stop using the oil purchased from the “bad places” just because we now are exploiting the tar sands of Canada.(most if not all of these countries are run by despots because of U.S. meddling at some point, mainly so we could control the oil. It’s called the chickens coming home to roost.) It’s not about “ethical conundrums”, it’s about trying to keep the planet habitable for future generations.

      “…you want to pretend reality is not what it is and, instead, if you just wish hard enough (and click your heels three times), we can get rid of all those evil carbon causing fuels…”

      No, I’m not advocating pretending reality is not what it is, I’m advocating working together to change “reality”. That’s not done with wishes, but with commitment and ingenuity and love.

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