Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Alarm Bells

           Daylight saving time-- and the one hour we lose because of it-- signals the coming of the Spring thaw. Its a good time to assess the state of the natural environment immediately around us. But we shouldn't be afraid to monitor the environment on a global scale as well.
          Multinational oil companies are moving another, more important clock ahead with increasingly risky drilling schemes. According to an emerging consensus of climate scientists, we're getting dangerously close to the point at which the hope of ever stabilizing rising temperatures is lost-- the global community needs to reach peak greenhouse gas emissions in the next 5-10 years to avoid that scenario.           
         Specific timelines to enact energy reform, along with increasingly dire warnings by climate scientists, have not spurred government policymakers to action.  
         Consequently, the environmental/activist community is revising tactics around mounting evidence that the U.S. State Department and President Barack Obama will support the completion of the Keystone XL pipeline.
        This major investment involves transporting 'tar sand' oil from Alberta, Canada to refineries in Texas, on the Gulf of Mexico. The 1,700-mile pipeline would would cross major U.S. waterways, including one of the nation's largest ground water source, the Ogallala Aquafier.
         TransCanada, Keystone XL's operator, has been cited a dozen times in just a year for oil spills from its U.S.-based Keystone I pipeline. The even larger issue with the Keystone XL pipeline is the type of crude oil that will be extracted and its effects on the surrounding environment. 'Tar sands oil' presents particular challenges to the surrounding, as well as the global, environment-- its extraction from the ground releases greater volumes of carbon-based, greenhouse gases. The prospect of a major, international pipeline transporting the especially corrosive and toxic 'tar sands oil' is devastating to environmentalists. 
         Climate scientists agree overwhelmingly that the amount of carbon released by excavating 'tar sands' in Alberta, Canada could be enough to push the planet past the 'tipping point' for an already struggling eco-system. The announcement that the Sierra Club would suspend its 120-year ban on civil disobedience actions demonstrates the extent of the crisis.
         Backing the XL pipeline would prove that Obama and the U.S. government are not at all prepared to take global emissions seriously-- not surprising considering a 200-year track record of supporting corporate profit over public good.
         But the public, in this case, is mounting an offensive return. Major actions against the Keystone XL pipeline have recently taken place on the doorstep of the White House and around the country. Two recent protests in Washington D.C., were attended by tens of thousands of climate change activists hoping to dissuade any political support for XL pipeline.
         Let's not forget the corporate media's inability, or unwillingness, to respond to the topic of climate change, even when there is a growing mass movement calling attention to it.
         Considering its possible effects on both the climate and the movement to decrease carbon emissions, mass protests against the Keystone XL pipeline should be on the front page of every newspaper in the country-- daily.
         Perhaps we're witnessing a general aversion to face, head-on, an issue with such dire implications. But the crisis is not going to solve itself, especially with world leaders continuing to turn the clock forward.  

       The track above features Van Jones, former for Green Jobs adviser under President Barack Obama and current president of the non-profit 'Rebuild the Dream', speaking at the 'Forward on Climate' rally on February 13, 2013. An estimated 40,000 protesters converged on the National Mall in Washington D.C. to protest ongoing political consideration of the Keystone XL pipeline.