Archive for category environment

Where is the Hope in Stopping the Planet’s Destruction?

Washington DC, February 17 2013

Washington DC, February 17 2013

It’s a good thing that tens of thousands of people, many young, braved the cold Sunday and marched around the White House demanding that Barack Obama turn against the Keystone Pipeline.  The pipeline is already a disaster for Canada, and for the ultimate recipients of the oil, whether that’s the U.S. or China, because of the price to the global environment.  A concise description of the damage already done, and that could be launched was run by Revolution Newspaper last week in Resisting the Keystone XL Pipeline—and Fighting for Humanity and the Planet:

Canada’s tar sands, the second largest oil reserve in the world (behind Saudi Arabia), already produce 155,000 barrels of oil per day. The tar sands are sticky deposits of bitumen (solid or semi-solid petroleum), trapped beneath 54,000 sq. miles of Canada’s boreal forests and wetlands. Extracting oil from the tar sands produces three times more greenhouse gases (which cause global warming) than extraction of conventional oil.

It seems on Sunday, many were marching to encourage Obama, in the belief that he only needs support to keep the “backbone” to resist the relentless profit-drive of the global imperialist system to use up fossil fuel resources as quickly as they can.  But it’s one thing for people to hope, and another thing altogether for leaders to sell hope in the hope-less enterprise of getting the Democrats to do what people wish they would.

Marching in DC February 17: Humanity & the Planet Come First

Marching in DC February 17: Humanity & the Planet Come First

My friend Elizabeth Cook, an activist in New Orleans for peoples’ right to live in the face of hurricanes and manufactured oil disasters, wrote:

What many activists don’t realize, or perhaps it doesn’t matter, is that essentially when 350.org, the Sierra Club and NRDC more or less delivered endorsements for Obama for re-election, they served to undermine the very efforts they are able to encourage out of concerned individuals.

David Swanson asks, in Pseudo-Protests and Serious Climate Crisis:

Why all the pro-Obama rhetoric?  Robert Kennedy, Jr., was among the celebrities getting arrested at the White House in the days leading up, and his comment to the media was typical.  Obama won’t allow the tar sands pipeline, he said, because Obama has “a strong moral core” and doesn’t do really evil things. As a belief, that’s of course delusional.  This is the same president who sorts through a list of men, women, and children to have executed every other Tuesday, and who jokes about it.  This is the guy who’s derailed international climate protection efforts for years.  This is the guy who refused the demand to oppose the tar sands pipeline before last year’s election.

Revolution points out:

In his second inaugural address last month, Obama promised to elevate climate change to the “top tier” of his second-term priorities. Suddenly the focus of the Keystone XL protest shifted to a rally to “help the president start his second term with strong climate action” (350.org website). Say what? One promise made in an inaugural speech, and we’re supposed to rally to “help” this president who has done so much to politically demobilize people while this system grinds on carrying out intolerable crimes—not just in relation to the environment, but with the expanded war by drones, continuing mass incarceration of Black and Latino youth, record number of deportations of immigrants, etc., etc.?

I concur that we should not look “up” to those in office to save the planet.  But where to look?

Elizabeth points to direct action:

The messaging itself is extremely problematic: tar sands are already coming into this country via other pipeline routes, and by rail and soon by barge. The southern portion of the Keystone pipeline is already being built, with Obama’s stamp of approval, although there is a brave and small group of activists that have been engaging in civil disobedience on that southern leg of the pipeline connected with the Tar Sands Blockade Coalition

David says to keep independent of the Democratic Party:

What if there were a third option, namely that of simply demanding the protection of our climate?   We might lose some of those who enjoyed burning Bush in effigy and some of those who enjoy depicting themselves as friends of the Obama family.  But would we really lose that many?  If the celebrities and organizers took such an honest policy-based approach, if the organizations put in the same money and hired the same buses, etc., how much smaller would Sunday’s unimpressive rally have really been?

World Can’t Wait held a conference on Saturday in Chicago where people knitted their heads together over where to look for the answers, how to unite, and even what to learn on the subject.  We are not going to let this destruction go on without a political fight from the people.  See Reportback on Climate Crisis Conference.

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How & Why We Worked to Drive Out the Bush Regime

The World Can't Wait - Drive Out the Bush Regime

NYC, November 2005 - Photo by Fred Askew

In the summer of 2005, people were starting to come out of their 6 month long depression over the outcome of the 2004 election.  It was somewhat of a struggle to get people to stop blaming Bush voters, and grasp and grapple with the depravity of the Bush program, and the fact that two aggressive wars had been launched on the basis of lies.

Some of us already working to end the wars, torture, and in many other causes wrangled with the problem that, “fighting against each outrage and winning on important fronts — from immigrants rights to defending the right to due process, to defending abortion, evolution, against discrimination or to defend critical thinking on campus — is invaluable to making real change in a world that desperately needs it.  But we are fighting each and every one of these battles on losing ground – ground that is rapidly disappearing under our feet.”

The future is unwritten…

A better outcome for the world required a mass movement of people united in acting to drive George Bush, “Dick” Cheney, and their illegitimate regime from office, and repudiating and reversing the program which had become to be identified with them, especially after 9/11/01.  That movement needed to act independently and stop looking for a savior from the Democratic Party.  It needed a spirit, call, and direction, which World Can’t Wait supplied in the Call to Drive Out the Bush Regime.

The Call was quickly distributed hand to hand in about a million copies nationwide starting that summer, and published in several full page newspaper ads in The New York Times, many local papers, and USA Today, with 40,000 people ultimately signing it. While it aggravated some, the points outlined in it captured what was coming down from the heights of power in a belligerent way, and moved many to act:

Reading the Call to Drive Out the Bush Regime

Reading the Call to Drive Out the Bush Regime, Los Angeles 2005

YOUR GOVERNMENT, on the basis of outrageous lies, is waging a murderous and utterly illegitimate war in Iraq, with other countries in their sights.

YOUR GOVERNMENT is openly torturing people, and justifying it.

YOUR GOVERNMENT puts people in jail on the merest suspicion, refusing them lawyers, and either holding them indefinitely or deporting them in the dead of night.

YOUR GOVERNMENT is moving each day closer to a theocracy, where a narrow and hateful brand of Christian fundamentalism will rule.

YOUR GOVERNMENT suppresses the science that doesn’t fit its religious, political and economic agenda, forcing present and future generations to pay a terrible price.

YOUR GOVERNMENT is moving to deny women here, and all over the world, the right to birth control and abortion.

YOUR GOVERNMENT enforces a culture of greed, bigotry, intolerance and ignorance.

Protesting the government inaction in response to Katrina

Chicago, Fall 2005: Rescue Not Repression!

Over Labor Day weekend in 2005, as the waters of Katrina were covering New Orleans, 250 people gathered in New York City to found The World Can’t Wait – Drive Out the Bush Regime.  Sunsara Taylor and I chaired the discussions.  We took time out to march, with about 150 more joining us, around midtown, demanding, “rescue, not repression!” for New Orleans, which set a basic approach of immediate response to government action – or inaction.

Don’t Go to Work! Walk Out of School!

It was a bold call, and thousands followed it. On Thursday, November 2, 2005, on the year-anniversary of Bush’s re-election, tens of thousands marched around the U.S., inaugurating the effort to drive out Bush and Cheney, and reverse and repudiate the Bush program.  Older people heeded a message from Gore Vidal to:

“join together in a popular movement dedicated to ending pre-emptive wars and restoring the nation to its traditional tax base which repaired levees, educated the citizenry and at regular intervals repaired the wall that Thomas Jefferson wisely put in place to separate church from state.”

Youth protesting to drive out the Bush Regime
NYC November 2005 – Photo by Fred Askew

Howard Zinn issued a call to students.  High school students at more than 200 schools across the country left school and walked out, sometimes for miles, to join organized political protest in unprecedented ways.  Protests took place in more than 60  cities, and involved at least 40 college campuses, in addition to the high schools. The outpourings of people all over the country had many faces. Local office holders came out and spoke at New York, Chicago and San Francisco rallies with mothers of soldiers who died in Iraq. Prominent public intellectuals and Hollywood celebrities gave their support to this effort to actually drive out the Bush regime.

In San Francisco, Latino day laborers joined with thousands at the Civic Center as Cindy Sheehan, California State Senator Carol Midgden, and others spoke from the stage. Statements of support came from artists and figures such as Jane Fonda, Harold Pinter and Gore Vidal, who signed on to the Call to Drive Out the Bush Regime.

Drivers Wanted

Bush Step Down

NYC January 2006 - Photo by Fred Askew

In the dead of winter, as 2006 broke, and Bush gave his State of the Union address, people gathered in 68 cities to “drown out” the lies with street protests – then traveled to Washington, DC to protest in cold rain February 4, 2006, demanding Bush step down. The Bush Crimes Commission held hearings with testimony from people like former Brigadier General Janis Karpinsky and former UK ambassador Craig Murray on the crimes that the Bush regime was actively carrying out. In October of 2006 more than 200 cities across the country held mass protests of thousands. With heart and courage, thousands of us came together to make a powerful and precious political statement against a truly dangerous and repressive government. More on driving out a regime.

Next week: stopping torture as a key expression of the Bush program – spreading a culture of resistance through the Declare It Now: Wear Orange campaign and wearing orange jumpsuits.

The world still can’t wait for people in this country to take responsibility and STOP the crimes of your government.  World Can’t Wait, and its projects War Criminals Watch, Fire John Yoo, and We Are Not Your Soldiers, deserve and need your support.  Become a sustaining supporter here.

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Keystone Pipeline Protest: Crossing the Line with Beauty & Resolve

August 26, 2011 White House Protest v. Keystone Pipeline Photo: Josh Lopez

Last Friday, I joined 53 others in getting hand-cuffed by Park Police after we sat in front of the White House for a few minutes in protest of the Keystone oil pipeline proposed to run from Alberta Canada down to Texas refineries.  Before Hurricane Irene hit North Carolina a day later, it was hot and still in Washington, and sweaty sitting on the pavement in front of the White House.  I realized that most often it’s been cold or rainy when we stood or laid down there in protest against U.S. wars and torture.

I appreciated Bill McKibben’s remarks to us in Lafayette Park, before we walked over the White House.  Bill, clearly tired from speaking to so many reporters as the main spokesperson for Tar Sands Action, spoke about how, for many, this was the first time “crossing a line” to do “what the police don’t want us to do.”  Many people I was arrested with said they were nervous about being arrested, and concerned with having an arrest record, but all were determined that such a step is justified.  Bill called this sustained civil resistance “an act of beauty and resolve.”

A young person was waving an American flag while sitting in. I’ve recoiled from American flag waving since at least 1967, when a college protester explained to my high school self that American flags wave over every aggressive war the U.S. pursues.  You can call me an anti-flag waver, and I practice speaking up.  I mentioned that the U.S. military is the single largest user of petroleum on the globe.  Someone in the group answered, “but we have to keep our country safe,” and was met with groans by others, “as if” anything the U.S. military is doing now is keeping anyone safe.  Almost everyone protesting the pipeline, I would guess, is against the aggressive military occupations and bombing — now of 6 countries.

Alberta Tar Sands

Alberta Tar Sands Oil Production Site

But I wonder how much people think about the relationship between the relentless destruction of the global environment by the carbon-based U.S. dominated world economy, and the U.S. military strategy to dominate the oil-rich areas of the globe.  The empire is burning up tremendous amounts of oil to control the oil, mainly through control of refining, in order to get more oil.  All of this takes a continually rising expenditure on “defense,” as the U.S. spends about as much on its military as all other countries, combined.

This is critical to understand when the demand is put to President Obama to say “no” to the Keystone Pipeline.  The Tulsa World reported:

The Obama administration on Friday removed a major roadblock to a planned $7 billion oil pipeline from western Canada to the Texas coast, saying in a report that the project is unlikely to cause significant environmental problems during construction or operation.

Only a little over a year ago, much of the world was genuinely alarmed at the BP oil disaster in the Gulf, and for a time, Barack Obama put a moratorium on deep oil drilling in the Gulf.  Despite clear and persistent evidence that BP and other oil companies could not avoid such disaster, and that the damage is “far from over,” according to a report by the National Wildlife Federation in April, 2011, the ban has since been rescinded.

Rather than following through on promises as a candidate to limit oil exploration, this May, Obama opened up the coast of Alaska to oil drilling.  Frances Beineke, of the Natural Resources Defense Council wrote in The New York Times this month of the “nightmare” the administration is inviting:

the federal government struggled for five disastrous months to contain the much larger BP blowout in the Gulf of Mexico.  Now imagine the increased danger and difficulty of trying to cope with a similar debacle off Alaska’s northern coast, where waters are sealed by pack ice for eight months of each year, gales roil fog-shrouded seas with waves up to 20 feet high and the temperature, combined with the wind chill, feels like 10 degrees below zero by late September.

I was surprised to find out, recently, that the Alberta tar sands oil extraction is, according to Andrew Nikiforuk, author of Tar Sands: Dirty Oil and the Future of a Continent, the “world’s largest energy project, the world’s largest construction project and the world’s largest capital project.”  Nikiforuk says bitumen, the form of oil in the tar sands, requires 3 barrels of water to produce one barrel, which then has to be further refined.  Canada is already sending one million barrels per day to the United States.

This extraction and pipeline project is, according to Bill McKibben and Tar Sands Action, a “carbon bomb” that, when completed, will push global climate change beyond the point of no return. OilSandsWatch.org reports:

The oil sands have emerged as Canada’s fastest-growing source of greenhouse gas pollution. Other impacts — from drawing down the Athabasca River to the creation of toxic tailings dumps, to hundreds of square kilometers of strip-mining and drilling in the boreal forest — are growing just as rapidly.

A friend called to see how the protest went, and said she had been thinking about the suffragette protesters portrayed in film The Iron Jawed Angels.  Alice Paul and Lucy Burns, during World War 1, led thousands of women at the gates of the White House demanding womens’ right to vote.  Paul and Burns were tortured in federal custody, and then force-fed after going on hunger strike when they were kept incommunicado for misdemeanor charges, hence the tribute “iron jawed.”  My friend asked, “what if 10,000 people were arrested with you, every day?  Do you think then the government would listen?”

I know this.  If hundreds or thousands of people get to Washington D.C. this week to join the White House protests, many more people will know about the outrage of the destruction of Canada to supply dangerous, dirty oil to the U.S. war machine.

I hope you will be one of them!  Go to TarSandsAction.org.

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