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5,000+ Take to the Streets for Historic 'Tar Sands Resistance March'

Climate

With the marching crowd stretching "as far as the eye can see" in downtown St. Paul, Minnesota on Saturday, thousands of people from across the Midwest came together to protest the construction of new pipelines and other infrastructure projects which they say will deliver only harmful climate impacts for the planet and irreparable destruction to the region, not the jobs and energy security promised by big oil companies and their political backers.

Under the social media tag of #StopTarSands, Saturday's Tar Sands Resistance March was sponsored by dozens of groups, including national and local environmental organizations, Indigenous communities, and various social justice groups who all agree it will take a unified front to fight back against the pipeline companies and fossil fuel interests pushing for expanded development of tar sands, shale oil and gas deposits and other forms of extreme energy in the region.

In a statement, the coalition behind the march explained that the climate justice movement in the U.S. and Canada has far more targets to fight than just the Keystone XL pipeline:

"It’s not just Keystone XL. Big Oil is trying to build and expand an enormous network of tar sands pipelines—some even bigger than Keystone XL—from Canada into the Great Lakes region. These tar sands pipelines, including the Alberta Clipper, along with crude oil trains and tankers, pose a growing risk to the Great Lakes, our rivers, our communities and our climate."

"The movement promoting clean energy prosperity in place of polluting fossil fuels is growing and being heard in every corner of the country," said Terry Houle, co-chair of the Sierra Club’s Northstar Chapter, which helped organize the event. The march "picks up where last year’s Peoples’ Climate March in New York left off—people from all walks of life are calling on the Administration to keep dirty fuels in the ground for the sake of clean air, clean water, and a stable climate," Houle said.

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According to NRDC's Anthony Swift, "Increasing the amount of toxic tar sands crude flowing into this region is not in keeping with a much needed transition to clean energy. Rejecting tar sands means fighting for clean water, clean energy, and a safer climate. There is simply no place for dirty oil in America's future."

Billed as the biggest anti–tar sands march and rally the Midwest has ever seen, Aaron Mair, board president of Sierra Club, trumpeted the coalition's diversity and unwavering commitment as essential to its ultimate success against the pending Sandpiper pipeline and similar projects. "With climate disruption, we face the greatest environmental challenge of all time," Mair wrote in a blog post ahead of the march. "To meet it, we’ll need to change almost everything about how our country works. And to do that, we’re going to need everyone. It’s a big job, but it’s not impossible. We’re already gaining steam. We’re building a strong, authentic movement to confront climate disruption and to galvanize humanity’s response—and in so doing we can shift the world."

And Tom Goldtooth, head of the Indigenous Environmental Network, said this week, "The frontline communities are strengthening the resistance. They're concerned, and we are linking up the pipeline resisters in Canada, northern Minnesota, out east and more."

To help explain why the Mideast region has become such an important battleground for the climate fight both in the U.S. and Canada, the organizers behind the Tar Sands Resistance March offered these reasons:

According to the Minneapolis Star-Tribune:

The rally takes place one day after Minnesota regulators endorsed the $2.6 billion Sandpiper pipeline that would carry North Dakota crude oil from the Bakken to Superior, Wis., where pipeline owner Enbridge Energy operates an oil terminal tied to other pipelines supplying refineries in the East and Midwest.

Enbridge, a Calgary-based energy company that operates the world’s longest petroleum pipeline network, owns six pipelines that cross Minnesota, where its operations date back to the 1950s.

Despite the drop in oil prices, Enbridge has said it is moving ahead with $44 billion in investments, including two other crude oil pipeline projects in Minnesota. Those projects—a line expansion and a line replacement—carry Canadian oil across Minnesota to Superior, including the heavy crude extracted from Alberta’s tar sands.

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A volcano erupts on New Zealand's Whakaari/White Island on Dec. 9, 2019. Michael Schade / Twitter

A powerful volcano on Monday rocked an uninhabited island frequented by tourists about 30 miles off New Zealand's coast. Authorities have confirmed that five people died. They expect that number to rise as some are missing and police officials issued a statement that flights around the islands revealed "no signs of life had been seen at any point,", as The Guardian reported.

"Based on the information we have, we do not believe there are any survivors on the island," the police said in their official statement. "Police is working urgently to confirm the exact number of those who have died, further to the five confirmed deceased already."

The eruption happened on New Zealand's Whakaari/White Island, an islet jutting out of the Bay of Plenty, off the country's North Island. The island is privately owned and is typically visited for day-trips by thousands of tourists every year, according to The New York Times.

Michael Schade / Twitter

At the time of the eruption on Monday, about 50 passengers from the Ovation of Seas were on the island, including more than 30 who were part of a Royal Caribbean cruise trip, according to CNN. Twenty-three people, including the five dead, were evacuated from the island.

The eruption occurred at 2:11 pm local time on Monday, as footage from a crater camera owned and operated by GeoNet, New Zealand's geological hazards agency, shows. The camera also shows dozens of people walking near the rim as white smoke billows just before the eruption, according to Reuters.

Police were unable to reach the island because searing white ash posed imminent danger to rescue workers, said John Tims, New Zealand's deputy police commissioner, as he stood next to Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern in a press conference, as The New York Times reported. Tims said rescue workers would assess the safety of approaching the island on Tuesday morning. "We know the urgency to go back to the island," he told reporters.

"The physical environment is unsafe for us to return to the island," Tims added, as CNN reported. "It's important that we consider the health and safety of rescuers, so we're taking advice from experts going forward."

Authorities have had no communication with anyone on the island. They are frantically working to identify how many people remain and who they are, according to CNN.

Geologists said the eruption is not unexpected and some questioned why the island is open to tourism.

"The volcano has been restless for a few weeks, resulting in the raising of the alert level, so that this eruption is not really a surprise," said Bill McGuire, emeritus professor of geophysical and climate hazards at University College London, as The Guardian reported.

"White Island has been a disaster waiting to happen for many years," said Raymond Cas, emeritus professor at Monash University's school of earth, atmosphere and environment, as The Guardian reported. "Having visited it twice, I have always felt that it was too dangerous to allow the daily tour groups that visit the uninhabited island volcano by boat and helicopter."

The prime minister arrived Monday night in Whakatane, the town closest to the eruption, where day boats visiting the island are docked. Whakatane has a large Maori population.

Ardern met with local council leaders on Monday. She is scheduled to meet with search and rescue teams and will speak to the media at 7 a.m. local time (1 p.m. EST), after drones survey the island, as CNN reported.

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