Last fall, Bill McKibben, Phil Radford and I issued a letter calling on people of conscience to take direct action to amplify the demands of the climate movement. Of course, we were far from the only people making that call — the outcry for solutions to the climate catastrophe looming over us has been loud and clear for years. But what I’m witnessing in DC right now is on a different level altogether: The outcry has become an uproar.
In mid-June, when 350.org and RAN started organizing what would become the Tar Sands Action at the White House, I thought it would be an important act of protest. But this has become something much more. It is the largest act of civil disobedience on the environment this generation has ever seen and a pivotal moment for the U.S. on climate change.
Today I spoke to a woman named Julie, a landowner from Nebraska who is the last person in her county to refuse to sign over her land for the pipeline. She’s never been to a protest, much less been arrested. But she told me that she just had to come because the stakes are so high. Likewise Eleanor, a landowner from Texas, who said defiantly: “I am much more worried about the Keystone Pipeline and the damage it could do to our climate than I am about my children being left with a deficit.”
By some estimates, as many as two-thirds of the folks who have been arrested since the sit-ins began two weeks ago have never participated in anything like this — and yet they gave up their own time and spent their own money to voice their opposition to Keystone XL and tar sands oil. This is what a movement looks like.
The movement to stop the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline has become symbolic of our struggle to avert climate catastrophe, and it’s breaking through and gaining momentum. Here’s how we know that the tide is turning:
- This week has seen the biggest days yet of the “Tar Sands Action” civil disobedience in DC. So far, over 800 people have been arrested in DC (including actress and nature lover Darryl Hannah, who was arrested on Tuesday along with RAN board members Randy Hayes and Jodie Evans). Over 130 were sitting in today.
- Keystone XL is getting a ton of media coverage: It has been a top item on Google News for the past several days, and the issue has been featured in front page articles by The New York Times and The Huffington Post. It has also received great coverage from CNN, ABC, Al Jazeera, Reuters, and more.
- Along with our partners, we’ve collected hundreds of thousands of signatures on a petition that we’ll be delivering to the White House on September 3rd. If you haven’t signed and shared it, please do so today.
- In the last few weeks, the tar sands protests have united the leaders of groups as diverse as Greenpeace and the Environmental Defense Fund. A few days ago, the leaders of the top environmental groups in the country all joined together in a letter to the President in which we told him that “there is not an inch of daylight between our policy position on the Keystone XL pipeline, and those of the protesters being arrested daily outside the White House.” I have never seen this kind of unity in the climate movement.
I think we can get loud enough to stop the Keystone pipeline and build the momentum necessary to make a difference on climate — but we need each and every one of you. If you can’t make it to the White House tomorrow or Saturday, the last day of this first Tar Sands Action, you can still be part of the uproar by signing the petition to President Obama now. You can also be sure that we will be back here again if Obama doesn’t deny the Keystone Pipeline permit, and you can join us then. We’ll keep you posted.
Stopping the Keystone XL pipeline is an essential part of transitioning this country off fossil fuels. American citizens are voting for green energy with their dollars in increasing numbers. This month, California-based Sungevity sold 2MW of solar systems. To put that in perspective, ten years ago the entire State of California had just 10MW installed. Total. The clean energy revolution is underway — now we need our government to do its part.
With these protests, the Keystone XL pipeline has become the current symbol, the line-in-the-sand for the climate movement. If we stand on that line together, and succeed, I believe it will have ripple effects across our entire struggle.