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Linfield College – Cascade Climate Network

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Thousands Join in Defending North America from Toxic Tar Sands

Thousands Join in Defending North America from Toxic Tar Sands

Defend Our Coast, Victoria B.C.

On Sunday, I headed up to Victoria, B.C. with two other activists from the Cascade Climate Network. Little did I know that participating in a 5,000 person action to Defend the Coast from tar sands pipelines and oil tankers would continue to build momentum over the following days in many different capacities. I am truly inspired by my experiences of the past few days and wish to share them with you.

In the weeks leading up to the Defend Our Coast action on the BC legislature lawn, I kept checking the website. Originally the organizers set the participant goal at 2,000. Soon the numbers of people who pledged to participate exceeded 2,000 and new goals of 3,000 and 5,000 had to be made. The day before the action, more than 4,500 people had signed up to participate in the action in some way. Many people pledged to participate in civil disobedience by staking a 235 meter (770 feet) black banner, which symbolized the length of an oil tanker, into the lawn of the legislature. The Monday Defend Our Coast rally was by far the largest action against tar sands ever in Canada’s history.

No Pipeline No Tar Sands Legislature Steps
No Pipeline No Tankers Light up the Steps of the BC Legislature. Photo credit: Keri Coles

Upon arriving in Victoria, we took a bus up to the University of Victoria to meet up with others and receive training to prepare for the next day. I was fortunate to meet the director of the Backbone Campaign, Bill Moyer, and hear about the great work they do. The Backbone Campaign is a group that does creative tactics across North America. Here is a photo of their pre-action fun from Sunday night.

At the training, I was also able to listen to the heart breaking stories of many First Nations representatives who had traveled over 1,000 miles to take part in the action to defend the land that they live on, the water that they drink, and the fish that they eat. One spokesperson pulled a coin out of his pocket and said, “you can’t eat this. When our food is gone, money is useless.”

The First Nations peoples who were present at the training clearly articulated the importance of defending the land we have grown up on for many, many future generations to enjoy. There were elderly in their 90s who were there in support and were clearly participating for their offspring and the non-human animals who do not have a voice in political processes.

Amanda Maxwell, the Oregon Cascade Climate Network Co-director stated, “Having the opportunity to see people from all walks of life come together to protect our future is inspiring. The issue of fossil fuel dependency is bigger than just us; this is about safeguarding the future for generations to come.” This sentiment was definitely held by many people who showed up to be part of the action.

On the day of the action, people from all over emerged out of the woodwork to join in solidarity on the lawn of the legislature. The crowd included babies, elderly arriving by bicycle, First Nations peoples with drums, dogs and stuffed animals with signs, and this large salmon puppet provided by the Backbone Campaign (left).

Throughout the day, various speakers and performers sent their messages out into the crowds of applause on the main stage. Thousands of people were willing to risk arrest in order to stake the model tanker into the ground, but no one in the end was arrested. The messages were sent loud and clear with words, through song and dance, and by leaving painted messages on the tanker that was staked into the legislature lawn. The police even aided in the action by closing off the road for the end of the tanker to extend into the street.

Bill Moyer, Director of the Backbone Campaign, described the Defend Our Coast rally as, “a pivotal moment, a milestone in an unprecedented process of coming together to occupy our vision, our aspirations and our power to shape the future.” In just the past two days since the initial rally, it has become clear that it really was a pivotal moment that has continued to grow.

In conjunction with the October 22nd Defend Our Coast action, the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation (ACFN) filed a lawsuit that would prevent tar sands extraction at the source in northern Alberta. To find out more and stand with ACFN against shell, visit the Stop Shell Now site.

After an incredibly exciting weekend filled with standing in solidarity with activists from many nations in the thousands at the BC legislature, the public push against tar sands continues to escalate. The domino effect has begun.

Momentum Continues to Build

Today, October 24th, people went to the offices of their representatives in over 68 communities across British Columbia to rally against tar sands. Over 5,000 people of all ages turned out in total at the various locations. To read more on the story, visit the main Defend Our Coast website or follow the media streaming in on facebook at facebook.com/DefendOurCoast.

As I searched for more news on the continued actions related to Defend Our Coast, I also came across updates on the Tar Sands Blockade, which is a group of activists based out of Texas that is fighting the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline. The Tar Sands Blockade in Winnsboro, Texas celebrates its month long anniversary today. Activists have been living in the canopy of a forest that would have to be bulldozed in order for the Keystone XL Pipeline to be built for a solid month now. If you wish to make a donation in support of the direct action efforts, please click here to donate.

Cherri Blocks TransCanada Trucks
Cherri Blocks TransCanada Trucks in Louisiana

I was also incredibly inspired as I came across the story of Cherri Foytlin’s arrest in Louisiana. Cherri Foytlin, an indigenous mother, blocked the TransCanada Keystone XL pipeline construction trucks for an hour. She took action to have a direct impact on the construction of the pipeline needed to transport tar sands from Alberta, Canada to the Gulf of Mexico through many communities and important clean water aquifers.

Watch Cherri Foytlin’s tar sands blockade testimony video or follow the blog about the action at http://tarsandsblockade.org/10th-action/.

The past few days have been incredibly inspiring to me. Standing with thousands of people who care enough of about the land that we live on and the water that we drink to travel thousands of miles to convey the message that we want to give a healthy planet to future generations reaffirmed my commitment to doing everything I can to bring about a more thriving, just, and sustainable future for all.

 

See the album below if you wish to view moments that I captured in Victoria, B.C.

Defend the Coast Photo Album
CCN Members are Drawn to Washington, D.C. to Stop Keystone XL Pipeline

CCN Members are Drawn to Washington, D.C. to Stop Keystone XL Pipeline

CCN Members are Drawn to Washington, D.C. to Stop Keystone XL Pipeline

On August 20, 2011, Americans of all ages, including Bill McKibben and members of the Cascade Climate Network (Chelsea Thaw and David Kellner-Rode), kicked off the largest climate civil disobedience action in U.S. history by being arrested in front of the White House in protest of the proposed Keystone XL Pipeline. Over 2,000 people from all 50 states have signed up to risk arrest in the next two weeks as part of the Tar Sands Action.

 

James Hansen, a world-renowned climatologist, said that using the Alberta, Canada tar sands would be “essentially game over” for the climate. The tar sands are a huge threat to the climate since estimates say that they contain at least 400 GtC (equivalent to about 200 ppm CO2) according to the International Panel on Climate Change (see IPCC Fourth Assessment Report). They also require 4 barrels of water to produce 1 barrel of oil and produce 2-4 times more greenhouse gas emissions than conventional oil.

While I was at the Sierra Student Coalition’s Shindig gathering in St. Louis this past week, I went to a presentation on the tar sands and the Keystone XL Pipeline. I learned that the pipeline threatens biodiversity, clean water sources for people in the western United States, and land owned by residents on the path from Alberta, Canada to the oil refineries on the Gulf of Mexico (see map of proposed pipeline route here). I was most shocked that a similar pipeline has spilled 12 times in the past year (averaging once a month) since the tar sands are incredibly thick and difficult to transport. The Keystone XL would open up the heartland of the United States to oil spills similar to the BP spill.

 

According to the U.S. Department of State, “the proposed Keystone XL Project would consist of approximately 1,711 miles of new, 36-inch-diameter pipeline, with approximately 327 miles of pipeline in Canada and approximately 1,384 miles in the United States” (Keystone XL Project). The miles of pipeline would destroy acres of agricultural and indigenous lands.

 

On Wednesday, I will be joining a cross-country caravan that is holding events in different states on their way to D.C. to take part in the action. To follow the tar sands actions and caravan, please visit http://www.tarsandsaction.org/ and http://notarsandscaravan.org/.

 

Sign the Tar Sands Petition here: http://www.tarsandsaction.org/obama-petition/

Please contact me, Emma Newman ([email protected]), to help with spreading the word or taking other actions in solidarity of those risking arrest in Washington, D.C.

Youth Activists Prepare for Community-Building Journey

Youth Activists Prepare for Community-Building Journey

It’s called the Self Express: and the catchy name isn’t the only unusual thing about the 38-foot bus which a group of Northwest students and recent graduates are converting into a living space that will transport them across the country this summer.  By the time it’s finished, the former 1989 school bus will be ready to run entirely on used vegetable oil, and will be outfitted with a solar panel installation on the roof.  For the bulk of the summer it will serve as a temporary home for six youth activists determined to show that sustainable living in the twenty-first century is both possible and practical.

The Self Express project is a grassroots effort launched by youth organizers based at Linfield College in McMinnville, Oregon who have a vision for a better future.  Traveling across the US in an essentially carbon-neutral vehicle, they plan to create a real-life example of community-oriented living.  The group intends to connect with local nonprofits and charities in locations they visit across the United States, performing service and volunteer work that gives back to the community.  They will also travel to and participate in key events in the US climate movement happening over the next few months. 

“I’m really interested to see what’s going on in our country,” says Katie Kann, a recent graduate of Linfield College who will be setting out on the Self Express later this month.  “I’m tired of only hearing about the negative stuff in the news, stuff that makes me sad. I want to see the good things that fellow citizens are doing to help people and improve quality of life across our country.”

In this way the Self Express project connects the hands-on solutions work needed to jumpstart a transition to a clean economy with the political organizing and activism that’s essential to building the sustained movement that will get us off fossil fuels for good.  Considering the scale of the challenge we’re facing, it’s neither logical nor useful to argue about whether climate activists should be addressing problems or building solutions.  We urgently need to do both these, things, which is why youth organizers aboard the Self Express will be connecting with community solutions projects while also facilitating communication between grassroots groups fighting fossil fuel infrastructure.

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