Keystone XL belongs in a museum

posted by Jason Disterhoft

Three weeks ago, the climate movement forced the rejection of Keystone XL, with President Obama turning down the pipeline after seven years of activist pressure.1 The very idea of the project was shocking: 800,000 barrels a day of toxic tar sands bitumen flowing all the way from Alberta to the Gulf Coast, a killer for the climate and our communities’ water and health.


But let’s think forward: A few decades from now, when we’ve stopped global warming, we’ll look back on Keystone XL and marvel at how such a destructive project was ever a real possibility. We’ll look at the idea of digging up the dirtiest of fossil fuels to burn and destroy our atmosphere as a relic of a bygone era, something that exemplifies a time when we pushed ourselves to the brink of runaway climate change. We’ll capture such massively misguided endeavors in a museum, alongside coal-fired power plants and corporate money in politics.

Well, you don’t have to wait. RAN has built a new Museum of Climate Change—and we’re asking you for ideas to place in the Climate Relics exhibit. The Keystone XL pipeline proposal is a Climate Relic. What else should be? We need your help: Submit your relic today!

Imagine it’s the year 2050. We’ve successfully stabilized the climate. The Climate Relics exhibit in the Museum of Climate Change collects objects and ideas that our society once relied on, but now, in 2050, are barely a memory: Single-serving packaging. Fossil fuel subsidies. Gasoline-powered vehicles.

Taken together, these relics create a tangible timeline for our ultimately successful fight against climate change: Bank of America started cutting financing for coal mining in 2015. Frequent flyer air miles cards became a thing of the past in 2020. The fossil fuel industry stopped horribly exploiting workers in 2040.

Tell us: What Climate Relic do you have in mind, and when did it become obsolete?

Submitting a relic is simple. You just let us know: What’s the relic called, and when did we abandon it? What led us to stop using it? If you have a picture, upload that too! The Climate Relics exhibit is crowdsourced and curated by you. We need your help to build it out!

Today, we stand at a climate crossroads. This year, we saw global warming pass one degree Celsius. We are already alarmingly close to the 1.5 degree limit necessary to avoid the worst impacts of climate change. Yet we also saw real victories like winning the Keystone rejection, and successfully pressuring bank after big bank to dump coal mining. It’s up to us to make sure 2016, and beyond, takes us along the path to sustainability and not the one toward climate catastrophe.

The Climate Relics exhibit is a roadmap to a just and climate-stable future. It’s a source of inspiration and insight. Add your relic today.

The Climate Relics exhibit is part of Change the Course, a project that crowdsources a vision of a just and climate-stable 2050 and brainstorms strategies to get there. This year, we’ve been listening to the best ideas for how we win on climate. We’d love for you to be part of Change the Course. Add your vision!


1. “BREAKING: Keystone XL is history”, Rainforest Action Network, Nov. 6, 2015