July was another busy month over at RAN's Facebook page!
Here's a look at the month's most popular pictures.
3. The Bronze Panther for Third Most Popular Picture goes to ...
Tell the Snack Food 20 to cut conflict palm oil, not rainforests: http://www.ran.org/snack_food_20
2. The Silver Panther for Second Most Popular Picture goes to ...
... the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., reminding us what Independence Day really means.
1. And the Gold Panther for Most Popular Picture goes to ...
... Thomas Edison! This picture definitely stirred up some controversy over his business practices, and his treatment of Nicola Tesla—but he was right about the potential of solar power.
In late June, a team of RAN staff travelled to Fort McMurray in Alberta, Canada to participate in the Tar Sands Healing Walk, which is organized and hosted by members of the local First Nations Communities. Walking amidst the tar sands destruction was a humbling and powerful experience.
This blog post is one of a series, sharing our impressions and reflections.
Our journey in Alberta began in Fort McMurray, a boomtown where the international oil industry has set up a base of operations from which to conduct tar sands extraction. The scale of the industry anchored in Fort McMurray is difficult to overstate: the town sits on one of the world’s largest oil deposits, the Athabasca tar sands. The extraction of Alberta’s tar sands constitutes the world’s biggest industrial project, and massive mining operations directly abut Fort McMurray.
We landed at the brand new Fort McMurray international airport, where workers were putting the finishing touches on the terminal’s décor, as if the place had been quickly constructed in anticipation of our arrival. Immediately, signs of the tar sands-driven boom were apparent; gift shops featured oil sands tee shirts and advertisements announced new direct international flights to Las Vegas, enabling well-paid oil workers to quickly spend their paychecks on gambling and entertainment.
More than 80% of Canada’s tar sand workers are male, and Fort McMurray was full of bulky guys. On the plane, I overheard a pair of oil workers talking about how they had gained over 100 pounds while living in company-provided housing at a tar sands refinery, a by-product of boredom and sedentary machine-operation. As if to justify the weight gain, the workers then turned their conversation to the “couple of houses” each had bought with their tar sands earnings.
Many of Fort McMurray’s workers seemed focused on buying real estate with oil profits; the town was awash in oil industry publications that combined breathless accounts of lucrative tar sands expansion, advertisements for mining companies, and tips on homeownership and real estate. According to the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers, capital investments in the Canadian tar sands have jumped more than 400% since 2006, stretching the municipality’s resources and skyrocketing population and property values in Fort McMurray. Expansion, growth, money, and oil are the watchwords of the day.
On the edge of town we visited the Oil Sands Discovery Centre, a shrine to the technological process of extracting and refining the tar sands. Sponsored by the Albertan government with heavy support from industry, the Discovery Centre was most remarkable for what it was not included in its displays. As in Fort McMurray and the tar sands industry more broadly, the Oil Sands Discovery Centre lacked any acknowledgement of the climate impacts stemming from the tar sands. It was as if the oil industry town existed in an alternative reality where climate change did not exist and endless expansion of tar sands mining was completely unopposed by the global community. This was a step beyond climate denialism; it was an outright refusal to even recognize that the concept of climate change exists.
In place of the gaping hole where climate concerns should have been, the Oil Sand Discovery Centre touted Fort McMurray’s incredibly ironic ban on single-use plastic bags, and offered an appeasing video insinuating that oil industry reclamation efforts are akin to the millennia of sacred land stewardship practiced by Indigenous First Nations groups. While we immediately smelled a rat in the oil industries claims of reclamation, it wasn’t until we joined the Athabasca Chipeywan and Mikisew Cree First Nations that the abject hideousness of industry claims came into focus.
When we left the world of Fort McMurray’s oil settlers and joined First Nation host communities at the Tars Sands Healing walk, what we heard and saw laid bare the poisonous horror that lurks beneath the sheen of Alberta’s lucrative tar sands boom and industry’s expansionist dreams.
Part Two, "Indigenous Nightmares", will be posted next week.
1. Visitors at the Oil Sands Discovery Centre in Fort McMurray.
2. Oil industry magazines predict growth for Fort McMurray and tar sands mining.
3. Fort McMurray is dwarfed by nearby tar sands mines.
4. An ironic sign at the Oil Sands Discovery Centre.
This week, the national fossil fuel divestment movement escalated, as student blockades popped up at Harvard and Washington University in St. Louis. By the end of the week, 8 students had been arrested across the two campuses, the first arrests since the fossil fuel divestment campaign launched nearly two years ago.
The skirmish at Harvard touched off Wednesday, where students organized as Divest Harvard have been pushing the university to get rid of the oil, gas, and coal holdings in its $33 billion endowment. Harvard’s president, Drew Faust, has dug in against Divest Harvard’s demands, even denying that the fossil fuel industry is blocking meaningful action to address climate change. Facing an administration that refuses to distance itself from the fossil fuel corporations driving climate crisis, Divest Harvard launched a blockade of President Faust’s office that lasted more than 24 hours. On Thursday morning, Harvard University police arrested undergraduate Brett Roche -- the first arrest in the national divestment movement. Roche’s arrest marks an increasingly hardline response from Harvard’s administrators, as the university demonstrates a willingness to use police force to defend investment in fossil fuel corporations.
Brett Roche may have been the first divestment activist arrested on campus this week, but he certainly wasn’t the last. This morning, Washington University in St. Louis joined Harvard in infamy: seven students were arrested as they attempted to deliver a letter to the university’s board of trustees. Just days before, WashU Students Against Peabody ended a historic 17-day sit-in which demanded that Greg Boyce, notorious CEO of Peabody Energy, the world’s largest private coal company, be removed from the university’s board. During negotiations, Washington University chancellor Mark Wrighton flatly refused to respond to students demands. When asked to exercise leadership, he replied “I can, but I won’t.” Faced with an administration content to cozy up to fossil fuel interests, more than 100 students staged a peaceful sat-in outside Washington University’s board meeting under the watchful eyes of police, some of whom carried shields and riot gear. When a delegation of students attempted to enter the building to deliver a letter to Washington University’s board, they were arrested. All seven were charged with trespassing on their own campus.
The implications of this week of action are both scary and heartening. Novelist Margaret Atwood spoke to the scary, criticizing the administration's response as she received an award at Harvard yesterday: “Any society where arrest is preferable to open dialogue is a scary place.” Indeed, university administrators at both Harvard and Washington University appear to be so committed to the fossil fuel industry that they'll arrest their own students for speaking out.
On the hopeful side, the student divestment movement is finding its power. After two years of power-building and by-the-book advocacy, campus climate activists are proving that they have the courage to stand up to their administrators and the fossil fuel industry. Earlier in the school year, students at Harvard, Washington University, and dozens of other campuses worked with Rainforest Action Network to disrupt campus recruitment sessions organized by Bank of America and Citi, two of the largest financiers of the U.S. coal industry. Those actions, and the arrests this week, point to a rising tide of resistance that won’t be cowed by police response. A longer, deeper struggle is opening on campuses across the country, and administrators at the more than 300 universities with active divestment campaigns need to know that their chickens are coming home to roost. It's time to divest or expect resistance.
To support the Washington University in St. Louis students arrested this morning, call Chancellor Mark Wrighton at (314) 935-5100.
Tell him universities are for students, not for coal CEOs. Washington University needs to drop Peabody Energy so the school can get back to educating students, not arresting them.
Co-authored by Sima Atri, Benjamin Franta, Sidni Frederick, Ted Hamilton, Jacob Lipton, Chloe Maxmin, Brett Roche, Kelsey Skaggs, Henney Sullivan, Tyler VanValkenburg, Jacob Lipton, Zoë Onion, Olivia Kivel, and Canyon Woodward on behalf of Divest Harvard. This op-ed originally appeared on Stacy Clark's blog on Huffington Post.
This morning we began blocking the main entrance to Massachusetts Hall, which houses the office of Harvard University President Drew Faust and other top administrators. We are here to demand an open and transparent dialogue with the Harvard Corporation—Harvard's main governing body—on fossil fuel divestment. To date, President Faust and Harvard University have rejected the case for divestment and refused to engage in public dialogue about divestment and climate change. Alongside the 72% of Harvard undergraduates and 67% of Harvard Law students, as well as the students, faculty, and alumni of Divest Harvard, we refuse to accept our university's unwillingness to hold a public meeting on this critical issue.
We are here today because we believe in a better Harvard. We are here because it is our duty to act. We are here today because it is our moral responsibility as students to ensure that Harvard does not contribute to and profit from the problem but instead aligns its institutional actions and policies with the shared interests of society.
We take this action with the conviction that Harvard can, must, and will be a leader in responding to the climate crisis. We owe it to the world's less fortunate and future generations to lead the way to a livable planet.
Human-made climate change is already severely disrupting weather patterns and causing misery to those most vulnerable to the effects of drought, flooding, and famine. Despite the universal acknowledgment by scientists and world governments that drastic action is needed to address this problem, we continue to extract and burn carbon energy sources at an accelerating rate.
Unless we act swiftly to restructure our economy and to end our consumption of fossil fuels, the planet faces catastrophic disturbances in the very near future. The latest report from the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which warns that we have less than 15 years to overhaul our energy economy, is the latest recognition that the time for bold and courageous action is upon us.
Harvard enjoys a privileged position. It is a global leader in research, thought, and policy, and its alumni, faculty, and administrators enjoy tremendous influence over our economy and political culture. Harvard has the moral authority to break the stranglehold of passivity when our governments are unable or unwilling to address climate change's impending menace. And even if Harvard were not a prominent institution, the moral imperative still exists to stop profiting from damage done to others. The fact that Harvard chooses to calculate profit from corporate activities that push damages onto others—including ourselves and our children—is intolerable, ultimately unsustainable, and must stop.
Harvard's divestment from the fossil fuel industry will accomplish two important goals. First, it will allow Harvard to retain the moral integrity of an institution purporting to care about a livable future. Today the Harvard community profits from fossil fuel investments because the true costs of oil, coal, and gas are borne by other communities. Communities close to extraction sites are being robbed of their health and communities on the frontlines of climate disasters are being robbed of their lives and cultures. Younger generations, including Harvard's own students, are being robbed of a chance at a livable future. It is unconscionable and illogical for us to continue supporting an industry that violates basic human values and the fundamental purpose of our own institution.
Second, divestment will send a strong message that our society can no longer tolerate business as usual with the fossil fuel industry. The corrupt political practices and shameful climate denial peddled by gas, oil, and coal companies have stood in the way of proactive energy policies for far too long. Harvard's wealth and influence bring with them a special responsibility to act, and this is an opportunity that we cannot afford to miss.
As the university demonstrated when it divested from tobacco and partially divested from Apartheid, Harvard's endowment can be put into alignment with shared values. We are not asking our university to inject politics into its finances: we are asking it to stop sponsoring and profiting from climate change. By investing in fossil fuel companies, Harvard itself is responsible for their behavior. President Faust's recent announcement that Harvard will sign onto the non-binding Principles for Responsible Investment and the Carbon Disclosure Project implicitly recognizes that the university cannot ignore its social responsibility when it comes to its investments and climate change.
As over one hundred Harvard faculty argued in their letter to President Faust earlier this month, it is far too late for business as usual and statements to continue that do not commit the university to action. The governing Corporation's refusal to hold an open meeting on the issue of divestment—as well as the President's recent denial that fossil fuel companies prevent political action on global warming and a Corporation member's suggestion that Harvard students thank BP for its energy practices—betray a disconcerting lack of understanding and urgency with respect to the impending risk of climate disaster.
We stand in solidarity with students and activists around the world who are raising their voices to demand that our institutions and leaders reject the carbon economy and begin aggressive action toward a greener future. We welcome members of the Harvard community and the public to our peaceful gathering in front of Massachusetts Hall. And we invite President Faust and the Harvard Corporation to join us in an open and transparent meeting to discuss the divestment of Harvard's endowment from the fossil fuel industry.
The world, and Harvard as part of it, cannot wait any longer.
We’ve had our eyes glued to the news on the Keystone XL pipeline delay all day. Here are some of the responses from different sides of the issue that we found most informative, inspiring and even entertaining. I’m not sure we can interpret the tealeaves on what today’s news means for the outcome of the pipeline. However, it’s hard not to agree with Tom Steyer: “This is rotten eggs for TransCanada and good news on Good Friday for those who oppose Keystone as not being in our nation's best interest.” In a battle between dirty oil profiteers and their cronies and those interested in a livable planet (you know, the rest of us), every day without this disastrous tar sands project is a pretty good day.
Jane Kleeb, Bold Nebraska director, the quote that’s just so right on: “Nebraska landowners will not give up their property rights with bad contract terms and unknown chemicals risking our water. This delay is yet more proof this project is not permit-able and not in our national interest.”
The State Department, the quote that tells you what actually happened today: “On April 18, 2014, the Department of State notified the eight federal agencies specified in Executive Order 13337 we will provide more time for the submission of their views on the proposed Keystone Pipeline Project. Agencies need additional time based on the uncertainty created by the on-going litigation in the Nebraska Supreme Court which could ultimately affect the pipeline route in that state. In addition, during this time we will review and appropriately consider the unprecedented number of new public comments, approximately 2.5 million, received during the public comment period that closed on March 7, 2014.”
Rachel Wolf, spokesperson for All Risk, No Reward Coalition, the quote that reflects our sentiments exactly: "Every day without Keystone XL is a day that we keep high-carbon tar sands in the ground. The latest postponement "confirms, yet again, that this project is not permit-able. This export pipeline fails the climate test, fails the jobs test, and doesn't even have a legal route."
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky, the quote that made us a chuckle. [Try not to read too much into Senator McConnell’s trite environment versus jobs positioning. We know that's a canned press strategy with no factual accuracy. But focus on how he affirms the power of our movement in the only way he can]: “Apparently radical activists carry more weight than Americans desperate to get back on the job.”
Bill McKibben, the quote that gets straight to the point: "One point is clear: without a broad and brave movement, DC would have permitted this dumb pipeline in 2011. So on we go.”
The State Department, the quote with so many words that says so little: "The permit process will conclude once factors that have a significant impact on determining the national interest of the proposed project have been evaluated and appropriately reflected in the decision documents. The Department will give the agencies sufficient time to submit their views."
Russ Girling, TransCanada Corp Chief Executive, the quote that takes facts the least seriously: "It is unfortunate that interest groups and paid activists are blocking energy security, saying no to jobs, and creating a situation that actually leads to higher GHG's (greenhouse gases) and greater public at risk.”
If you've been glued to the emerging news on the Keystone XL pipeline like the RAN team has today then you already know that a final decision on this disastrous extreme energy project has been further delayed. Today, the Obama administration extended the review period on the pipeline to ostensibly give agencies more time to provide feedback. You're going to see a lot of quarterbacking on what this potential delay does or does not mean for the eventual fate of this pipeline. Here's what we know for sure.
The Keystone XL tar sands pipeline fight is and will continue to be a defining moment for the history of the climate movement, and it's not over. We have to maintain bold, powerful pressure on President Obama and the State Department. Make no mistake, though, the pressure is working. The fact that this pipeline was not rubber-stamped as expected two years ago reflects the huge public outcry we've built collectively against Keystone XL and for sane climate solutions.
We know that people power is on our side and has already changed the historical fate of this project. As organizers, we also know that our dirty oil adversaries are hoping this delay will take the wind out of our sails, that we'll forget about Keystone XL and lose momentum. I have nearly 100,000 reasons to prove that's not going to happen.
For the last twelve months, Rainforest Action Network, CREDO and the Other 98% have spearheaded an effort to prepare tens of thousands of people across the country to deploy a massive nationwide wave of peaceful, dignified civil disobedience if Secretary Kerry recommends approval of Keystone XL to the president. As of today, more than 95,000 people have signed the Pledge of Resistance.
As Elijah Zarlin, CREDO's senior campaign manager said today: “It is deeply disappointing that Secretary Kerry and President Obama can’t yet muster the courage to stand up to the oil industry and reject Keystone XL. Still, this is yet another defeat for TransCanada, tar sands developers like the Koch Brothers, and oil-soaked politicians. No doubt, the nearly 100,000 people who have pledged to risk arrest to stop Keystone XL played a key role in pushing the administration to more accurately consider the full impact of this project - which must clearly result in rejection. No delays will diminish our commitment to stopping Keystone XL."
I am one of the almost 100,000 people who’ve signed the Pledge of Resistance, and I can guarantee that today’s news changes nothing for me. I'm not going away, RAN's not going away and neither are any of our allies. When I signed that pledge I knew it was for the long haul. Our future depends on it.
Photo by Kayana Szymczak.
- Coal Mining. For over forty years, coal companies have strip-mined Appalachia for the last remaining seams of coal while ending the power of organized labor by reducing workforces through mechanization. The regulation of strip-mining opened up loopholes that allowed coal companies to literally explode the tops off of mountains. To date over 500 mountains have been destroyed by mountaintop removal. Countless creeks, rivers and other water sources have been poisoned. And thousands of people have been exposed to the worst effects of dirty air and dirty water from mountaintop removal. In the interior west, Big Coal is further mining huge coal reserves in the Powder River Basin of Montana and Wyoming.
- Natural gas and fracking. For the past decade we've seen the proliferation of hydraulic fracturing (or fracking), which stimulates wells drilled into gas and coal-bed methane. This process has had a huge human impact and created a toxic legacy on the environmental landscape as well as local community health. Large-scale fracking operations are spreading across North America.
- Oil infrastructure. The biggest environmental fight since the forest wars of the 1990s has manifested around the Keystone XL pipeline. But Keystone XL is only the beginning as Big Oil is building a network of pipelines throughout Canada and the United States. Spills and leaks are growing concerns as Big Oil weaves this spider web of death and destruction across the continent.
- Fossil fuel exports. The coasts are also becoming hot spots of attention as dozens of oil, gas and coal proposals are on the table in the Pacific Northwest and a fight is growing over a fracked-gas export terminal on Chesapeake Bay. Industry doesn’t just want to use mined and fracked fossil fuels for domestic energy production, they also want to export dirty fuels for big profits to Europe and Asia.