Last week I was interviewed by Daryn Caister of The Green Majority, which is a weekly environmental news program produced live at CIUT in Toronto and broadcast on campus and community stations across the country. During the interview we talked about my visit to Washington, DC for the most recent massive Keystone XL pipeline protest on February 17, 2013 and some larger issues around Keystone and climate change more generally.
You can hear the interview at the following link:
EG Radio February 28 2013: ‘Forward on Climate’ special with Bill McKibben, Van Jones, Naomi Klein, Michael Brune and Jacquie Thomas
This week on Earthgauge, we hear speeches and interviews from the huge ‘Forward on Climate‘ rally in Washington D.C. on February 17. We have speeches by Van Jones of Rebuild the Dream, Bill McKibben of 350.org, Michael Brune, executive director of the U.S. Sierra Club, and Jacquie Thomas of the Saik’uz First Nation in B.C., and interviews from the rally with Michael Brune and Canadian author/ activist Naomi Klein. We also have our weekly update from Kathy of Ecology Ottawa on local environmental events and campaigns in the Ottawa area.
Click the audio player above to stream the show or right click here to download.
Forward on Climate!
I was fortunate to have the opportunity to cover the huge Forward on Climate rally organized by 350.org, the Sierra Club, the Hip Hop Caucus among others. Roughly 40-50,000 people gathered on Washington’s national mall to urge President Obama to follow through on the commitments he made during his inaugural address in January to respond to the climate change crisis.
The protesters’ demands included urging Obama to reject the controversial Keystone XL pipeline, which if constructed would carry tar sands crude from northern Alberta through the U.S. to refineries in the Gulf of Mexico. Organizers of the event called it the largest climate rally anywhere in history. Among the many displays and banners was a mock pipeline that read “separate oil and state”. The Rev. Lennox Yearwood who MC’d the event compared it to Dr. Martin Luther King’s 1963 march on Washington for civil rights. Following the speeches at the Mall, the protesters began their march through the streets of Washington to the White House. It was really an incredible sight to behold: thousands of people young and old carrying banners, chanting, singing and making a lot of noise in what was the largest climate change protest in history and the largest environmental protest in Washington in decades.
Following the rally, I had some time to visit the National Museum of African American History at the Smithsonian Institute where I came upon a quotation by the abolitionist Frederick Douglass. “Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will.” So whatever you may think of the campaign to stop Keystone XL, it would appear that climate change activists around the world are beginning to wake up to the cold reality of Douglass’ words. We may well look back upon last weekend’s protest as only the beginning of a long, bitter and increasingly hostile battle.
Earthgauge Radio airs every Thursday morning at 7:00 AM on CKCU 93.1 FM in Ottawa and online around the world at www.ckcufm.com. Ottawa’s only radio program dedicated exclusively to environmental news and commentary from Ottawa, across the country and around the world. Podcasts on iTunes and right here on earthgauge.ca.
A very interesting post today by Joe Romm at ThinkProgress.org. Based on the recent comments of the new U.S. Secretary of State, John Kerry, Romm is speculating that Kerry “shows no sign whatsoever of backing down from the moral urgency that has made him a true climate champion.” Click the video link above to see Kerry’s first big foreign policy speech in which he says the following:
We as a nation must have the foresight and courage to make the investments necessary to safeguard the most sacred trust we keep for our children and grandchildren: an environment not ravaged by rising seas, deadly superstorms, devastating droughts, and the other hallmarks of a dramatically changing climate.
As Romm writes, “Does this sound like a man who is going to launch his term as Secretary of State approving the expansion of one of the dirtiest sources of fossil fuels in the world? His repetition of the word “courage” makes it sound like he is talking directly to the President.”
Remember that the U.S. State Department, under Kerry’s leadership, must give its approval to Keystone XL (because it crosses an international border) before the project can proceed.
Read my article published in the Common Sense Canadian: Could the Tide Slowly be Turning Against Dirty Oil?
I am pleased to be contributing to the excellent online news and commentary publication The Common Sense Canadian. My first article, entitled Obama’s Keystone XL Reversal: Could the Tide Slowly be Turning Against Dirty Oil?, appeared on their web site yesterday. The full article is printed below.
Obama’s Keystsone XL Reversal: Could the Tide Slowly be Turning Against Dirty Oil?
Strolling around Washington, D.C. last weekend, I came upon an impressive memorial to the famous wartime president Franklin Roosevelt. Upon the gray granite walls were inscribed many of FDR’s most memorable quotations. “Men and nature must work hand in hand,” he wrote in a 1935 message to Congress. “The throwing out of balance of the resources of nature throws out of balance also the lives of men.”
Having traveled to the U.S. capital to cover the latest protest of the Keystone XL project, I wondered what FDR might say about TransCanada’s controversial pipeline proposal. A pipeline that would transport tar sands crude from northern Alberta to the Gulf of Mexico, Keystone has been described as a 2700 km “fuse to the biggest carbon bomb on the planet” in the words of author and activist Bill McKibben. Protest organizers had hoped to encircle the White House with at least 4000 people in what McKibben called both an “O-shaped hug” and “house arrest.” Instead, at least 10,000 protesters showed up, young and old, from all over North America, ringing President Obama’s residence three-deep. Read more…
Earthgauge interviews with James Hansen, Bill McKibben and Maude Barlow from Keystone XL protest in Washington, D.C. [#nokxl]
Click the audio players below to hear my interviews from the Keystone XL protest in Washington, D.C. last weekend with NASA scientist James Hansen; author and activist Bill McKibben and the Council of Canadians’ Maude Barlow.
It was a rare pleasure to have the opportunity to speak with Dr. James Hansen, renowned NASA scientist and one of the world’s leading climatologists. He heads the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies in New York, a part of the Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland. He is also an adjunct professor in the Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences at Columbia University.
Right click here to download the interview (3:18).
If there is one individual who can be credited with building the U.S. climate change movement to the level of influence it has reached today, it is Bill McKibben. In addition to being an author and journalist, McKibben has been a tireless environmental and climate activist. He is the author of several books and is a frequent contributor to various magazines including The New York Times, The Atlantic Monthly, Harper’s, Orion Magazine, Mother Jones, The New York Review of Books, Granta, Rolling Stone, and Outside. He is also a board member and contributor to Grist Magazine.
Right click here to download the interview (1:55).
Maude Barlow is another person I’ve been trying to interview for some time. In our discussion, she is refreshingly upbeat in her assessment of the prospects of stopping both Keystone XL and the Enbridge Northern Gateway pipelines. Sure enough, mere days after the Keystone protest in D.C., President Obama announced that he would be delaying until 2013 his decision on whether or not to grant a permit to TransCanada to construct the pipeline.
Maude Barlow is the National Chairperson of the Council of Canadians and chairs the board of Washington-based Food and Water Watch. She is the recipient of 11 honorary doctorates as well as many awards, including the 2005 Right Livelihood Award, the Citation of Lifetime Achievement and the 2009 Earth Day Canada Outstanding Environmental Achievement Award. In 2008/2009, she served as Senior Advisor on Water to the 63rd President of the United Nations General Assembly and was a leader in the campaign to have water recognized as a human right by the UN. She is also the author of dozens of reports, as well as 16 books, including the international bestseller Blue Covenant: The Global Water Crisis and The Coming Battle for the Right to Water.
Right click here to download the interview (2:50).
Now that Keystone XL has been delayed, all eyes turn to the west coast – Enbridge Northern Gateway the next tar sands battleground
A big congratulations goes out to protest organizers and all those who have been campaigning against Keystone XL for many months now (if not longer). 350.org founder Bill McKibben deserves particular praise for his tireless efforts. A few days after last week’s protest in D.C. the Obama Administration decided to delay a decision on whether to approve the Keystone pipeline for at least a year. Whether the decision was related to environmental issues, concerns about the proposed route over Nebraska’s Ogallala Aquifer, the incompetence and nepotism of the State Department project evaluation, or some other (political?) consideration, the fact is that the project has been delayed giving opponents more time to organize against the pipeline. Some feel the project may never go ahead as investors are losing confidence and the whole process is simply costing TransCanada, the company that wants to build the pipeline, too much money. I’m not so sure about this. It’s still far too early to claim victory in my view. And if Obama loses next year’s election, it will put the decision in the hands of his Republican opponent. There can be little doubt about how a Mitt Romney or Rick Perry might rule on this issue.
In the meantime, Canada’s Finance Minister Jim Flaherty told Bloomberg News on Friday that “It may mean that we may have to move quickly to ensure that we can export our oil to Asia through British Columbia.” Oh, really? It sure didn’t take long for the Canadian government to throw down the gauntlet. It is safe to assume that the ground will now shift quickly and the Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline will soon become the next heated tar sands debate. Opponents such as environmentalists and Aboriginal groups in B.C. would do well to get themselves organized now and be prepared for the war that is sure to be waged by the tar sands industry and the governments of Canada and Alberta on behalf of Northern Gateway. They will not want to lose another fight to get their oil to market.
Still, for now we can celebrate a small victory over Keystone XL. The decision to delay was quite remarkable given the current dismal economic climate in the U.S. and the well-financed campaigns being waged by TransCanada and the Canadian/Albertan governments promising jobs and economic growth should Keystone be approved.
In the end, a collection of environmental and labour groups, Nebraskan residents, a few politicians and a handful of prominent spokespeople have managed to, temporarily at least, derail the $7 billion project. As Bill McKibben wrote in an email soon after the decision was announced, “It’s important to understand how unlikely this victory is. Six months ago, almost no one outside the pipeline route even knew about Keystone. One month ago, a secret poll of “energy insiders” by the National Journal found that “virtually all” expected easy approval of the pipeline by year’s end. As late as last week the CBC reported that Transcanada was moving huge quantities of pipe across the border and seizing land by eminent domain, certain that its permit would be granted. A done deal has come spectacularly undone.”
Soon after the delay was announced, Naomi Klein tweeted that when the campaign against Keystone XL began, “most Americans hadn’t heard of the tar sands, let alone Keystone. This is what 3 months of amazing campaigning can do.” Let’s hope we see the same thing in B.C. when Northern Gateway heats up in 2012.
I had a quick chat last weekend in D.C. with actor and activist Mark Ruffalo about the proposed Keystone XL pipeline and his organization Water Defense, which is trying to bridge the movements working to stop mountain top removal, hydro fracking, tar sands mining, and other destructive practices that threaten our dwindling global supply of clean water. Among other causes, Ruffalo has been a dedicated and passionate campaigner against the practice of hydraulic fracturing (fracking) for shale gas extraction in the U.S. He is also an acclaimed actor, having appeared in movies such as The Kids are Alright, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and Shutter Island.
Click on the audio player above or right click here to download the interview (4:05).
I was delighted to have the opportunity to speak with author, journalist and activist Naomi Klein when I attended the Keystone XL pipeline protest in Washington, D.C. this past weekend. Klein is the author of several books including The Shock Doctrine and No Logo. She is a contributing editor for Harper’s magazine and writes a regular column for the Nation and the Guardian newspaper. She has also written articles for Rolling Stone, the Huffington Post, the New York Times, the Washington Post and the Globe and Mail, among many other publications.
Click the audio player above to to hear my interview (3:05) or right click here to download.
Opposition to the proposed Keystone XL pipeline continues to build
I just returned from Washington DC where I was covering an action to pressure President Obama to deny the permit required for TransCanada to construct Keystone XL, a massive, 2700 km pipeline that would transport tar sands crude from northern Alberta to the Gulf of Mexico.
The event was very well-attended, exceeding the expectations of event organizers, Tar Sands Action. Organizers had hoped to encircle the White House with at least 4000 protesters but estimates placed the crowd at somewhere between 10,000-12,000.
In attendance were folks from as far away as Florida, Ohio, California and, for course, Canada. I traveled down from Ottawa on a bus packed with about 50 enthusiastic students from Paul Smiths College in the Adirondacks of upstate New York. 20 hours on a bus over a 48-hour period (including one overnight) is not usually my idea of a good time, but it was well worth the trip.
Below you will find interviews and video from the rally. Highlights included Naomi Klein’s rousing call to arms and her Canadian perspective on both Keystone XL as well as the equally outrageous, proposed Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline to the west coast of B.C. (see video below). Maude Barlow of the Council of Canadians gave me a remarkably upbeat assessment of the prospects of stopping Keystone XL in its tracks. Having the chance to speak with leading climatologist and NASA scientist, James Hansen, was also a rare opportunity. In his speech (see video below), Dr. Hansen advocated putting a price on carbon emissions by taxing fossil fuel companies and distributing 100% of the proceeds to the public through a monthly dividend. He also said that one of the most important things people can do is to support the organization Citizens Climate Lobby.
Perhaps most memorable, however, were the many conversations I had with everyday folks from all over North America, from farmers in Nebraska to college kids who helped get Obama elected in ’08 to seniors who were afraid for the future of their grandchildren. People are rightly pissed about this proposed pipeline and many have said they will do “whatever it takes” to stop it. Whatever it takes.
Increasing our dependence on unconventional, dirty oil is not the kind of legacy we should be leaving for future generations. Yes, we need oil for now – nobody denies it. But according to James Hansen, the planet’s most important climate scientist, who was arrested at the White House back in late August/early September – opening up the tar sands to heavy exploitation would mean “it’s essentially game over” for the climate. Building Keystone XL – which Bill McKibben described as “a 1,700-mile fuse to the biggest carbon bomb on the continent” – will only only ensure that our oil dependence will continue long into the future, our greenhouse gas emissions will continue to increase and long overdue investments in clean energy technologies will be further delayed.
You may also be interested to hear the comments of Bill McKibben who appeared on Democracy Now the day after the White House action. The battle continues…
Video interviews from Parliament Hill #tarsands protest September 26: George Poitras and Clayton Thomas-Muller
I attended the tar sands/Keystone XL protests in Ottawa on September 26 at which roughly 125 people were arrested. The protest was the embodiment of civil disobedience and was carried out in an extremely peaceful manner. Big thumbs up to the organizers and the hundreds who attended. Let’s hope this is the beginning of something.
During the protest, I had the opportunity to speak briefly with George Poitras, former Chief of the Mikisew Cree First Nation in northern Alberta and with Clayton Thomas-Muller who is a tar sands campaigner with the Indigenous Environmental Network, an activist for indigenous self-determination and environmental justice and a member of the Mathais Colomb Cree Nation (Pukatawagan) in Northern Manitoba. Check out the video links below.