69,000 Americans Pledge to Risk Arrest if Keystone XL Pipeline Is Approved
More than 69,000 Americans are pledging to risk arrest to halt the construction of the 1,700-mile Keystone XL pipeline. In a stand of solidarity with those living along the pipeline’s path, residents from across the U.S. are vowing to take part in historic acts of civil disobedience aimed directly at shutting down Keystone XL.
The actions are expected to come in many forms, including mass sit-ins at strategic locations along the route and other large-scale actions in major U.S. cities. The protests are expected to be unleashed when—and if—the State Department gives a nod of approval for the pipeline’s construction.
If the State Department recommends approval of the TransCanda pipeline, President Obama will have two weeks before a decision will be made.
During that time, those living along the pipeline route—and their supporters throughout the country—are going to let President Obama know they’re not going to grin and bear it. It’s not the first time anti-Keystone advocates have taken their demonstrations to the next level. In February, roughly 50 demonstrators were arrested outside the White House during a sit-in against Keystone.
Standing up Against the Giant
“Most events will be outside Washington DC, because this decision will affect all of us, where we live,” a post by Credo Action regarding the pledge states. “So we want to see the beautiful sight of actions across the nation—including a wide variety of symbolic targets like State Department offices, TransCanada corporate lobbies, Obama Organizing for Action meetings, banks that are financing tar sands oil development, areas ravaged by Superstorm Sandy and along the pipeline route.”
In March, the State Department released a report indicating approval of the Keystone pipeline would not contribute to global climate change, using the rationale that the extraction of Alberta tar sands—the source of carbon emissions—will continue with or without America’s involvement with Keystone XL.
In June, President Obama delivered a nationwide climate change address, stating that the pipeline could be approved only if it did not result in a net increase in carbon emissions. This wasn’t taken as a good sign for anti-Keystone advocates—but for those fighting for their land, the fight isn’t over until it’s over.
“I am a firm believer in President Obama and his words to the people that we need to stand up and we need to show how a democracy works, and when you don’t agree about something and feel strongly about something, you need to stand up and speak out,” Abbi Harrington-Kleinschmidt, a Nebraska farmer whose land sits along the proposed Keystone route, told Mint Press News. “I feel it’s what President Obama is asking us to do.”
The united front against the Keystone pipeline is layered in emotion. The concerns among activists are vast, ranging from issues of climate change to problems that could arise from pipeline spills. There’s also the issue of whether a foreign corporation should have eminent domain authority to take Americans’ land.
For those living in the midst of the battle, the pledge to keep Keystone out of America is rooted in all these concerns, but protection of their own land takes the struggle to a personal level.
Standing in Solidarity with American farmers
Harrington-Kleinschmidt’s farmland in Nebraska’s York County dates back five generations. After her father passed away, more than 2,000 acres of farmland was passed down to her and her three sisters, who now manage the farm.
Like other Nebraska farmers, Harrington-Kleinschmidt learned about Keystone XL when TransCanada submitted its first pipeline route proposal. During that time, the map didn’t impact her area—but it did impact her brother-in-law’s land, located roughly 20 miles north of her property.
“He was wrestling with TransCanada for two or three years,” she told Mint Press News. “I was aware that he was having these issues, but I felt like, well, it doesn’t affect me, so I didn’t learn any more about it at the time.”
That all changed when TransCanada changed its proposal, settling on a route that went directly through her farmland. Unlike other farmers in Nebraska, Harrington-Kleinschmidt has refused to sign any agreements with TransCanada. Instead, she’s relied on the legal counsel of the Nebraska Easement Action Team, which provides free assistance to farmers battling TransCanada and their lengthy, complicated easement proposals.
From her work with the team, Harrington-Klein learned a thing or two about the easements presented by TransCanada and discovered it wasn’t in the best interest of her or her family to sign.
“It’s a very dangerous thing,” she told Mint Press News. “It’s a perpetual easement. TransCanada would own that easement forever. They offer a one-time payment to the landowner to put that dirty thing in the ground, and it’s not like they’re going to pay you every year.”
Harrington-Klein’s land hosts corn and soybean crops, which she rotates every year to keep the soil healthy. In her eyes, it’s the most valuable farmland in the nation, if not the world, as it’s flat, sits in the midst of an area known for its fertile soil, and is near the Ogallala Aquifer, which the Sierra Club considers one of the world’s largest supplies of groundwater.
She’s concerned about the impact Alberta tar sand extraction has on global climate change, and she doesn’t like the idea of more than 800,000 barrels of thick tar sand oil running under her property every single day—not only because of what it represents, but because of the threat it poses to her land.
For Harrington-Klein and her neighbors, it’s a not a matter of if a spill will occur, but when. Aside from contaminating farmland and fertile soil, there’s concern over contamination of the Ogallala, which provides water to eight states for drinking, irrigation and livestock watering purposes, according to the U.S. Geological Survey, as noted in the Journal Star.
“It just goes right to my core, probably because of the legacy that ties to my family for five generations,” she said, “and knowing that my ancestors who worked so hard—and my sisters and I, who have shed a lot of blood, sweat and tears on that farm too. What’s so upsetting is that a foreign corporation can threaten to come and take your land from you with such a dangerous pipeline.”
Will America Pull Through with Pledge?
The organizations that have paired with Credo Action to initiate the pledge are now attempting to draw the faint of heart into the nationwide campaign of peaceful civil disobedience.
“You shouldn’t make this pledge lighty,” the Credo post states. “We certainly don’t ask lightly. We ask in the belief that there are tens of thousands of people out there who feel as strongly about this as we do; who believe that these circumstances call for extraordinary action, and want to be part of that action in their community.”
Credo is joined by Bold Nebraska, the Rainforest Action Network and 350.org, among other environmental advocacy organizations. To prepare residents throughout the country for what’s expected to be a two-week campaign, Credo is partnering with Rainforest Action Network and The Other 98% to host local activist training sessions, where those taking part in the pledge will learn how to lead and organize local civil disobedience actions.
As of July 12, more than 750 people throughout the U.S. had signed up to lead local actions and take part in trainings, according to a press release issued by Credo. The trainings aren’t geared toward longtime environmental activists. Rather, the people who have taken interest in the pipeline debate are those who have sympathized with their friends, family members and fellow Americans who live along the route.
Harrington-Klein has a second cousin who lives in New York City. While far from the pipeline, the stories of Nebraska’s fight remain heightened in her cousin’s heart. More than 1,300 miles from York County, a sign opposing the Keystone pipeline sits in her yard.
“After all, we are the conservatives, standing up for a safe and secure future for our families. It is those we protest, those who profit from radically altering the chemical composition of our atmosphere—and the prospects for survival of humanity—they are the radicals,” the Credo pledge states.
Visit EcoWatch’s KEYSTONE XL page for more related news on this topic.
SHARE YOUR THOUGHTS BELOW: What action will you take to show your opposition to the Keystone XL pipeline?
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EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
By Mark Hertsgaard
What follows are not candidate endorsements. Rather, this nonpartisan guide aims to inform voters' choices, help journalists decide what races to follow, and explore what the 2020 elections could portend for climate action in the United States in 2021 and beyond.
Will the White House Turn Green?<p>Whether the White House changes hands is the most important climate question of the 2020 elections. President Donald Trump rejects climate science, is withdrawing the United States from the Paris Agreement, and has accelerated fossil fuel development. His climate policy seems to be, as he tweeted in January when rejecting a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers proposal to protect New York City from storm surges, "Get your mops and buckets ready."</p><p>Joe Biden, who started the 2020 campaign with a climate position so weak that activists gave it an "F," called Trump a "climate arsonist" during California's recent wildfires. Biden backs a $2 trillion plan to create millions of jobs while slashing emissions—a Green New Deal in all but name. Equally striking, his running mate, California Senator Kamala Harris, has endorsed phasing out fossil fuel production—a politically explosive scientific imperative.</p><p>The race will be decided in a handful of battleground states, five of which already face grave climate dangers: Florida (hurricanes and sea-level rise), North Carolina (ditto), Texas (storms and drought), Michigan (floods), and Arizona (heat waves and drought). <a href="https://climatecommunication.yale.edu/visualizations-data/ycom-us/" target="_blank">Public concern is rising</a> in these states, but will that concern translate into votes?</p>
Will Democrats Flip the Senate, and by Enough to Pass a Green New Deal?<p>With Democrats all but certain to maintain their majority in the U.S. House of Representatives, the Senate will determine whether a potential Biden administration can actually deliver climate progress. Democrats need to pick up three seats to flip the Senate if Biden wins, four if he doesn't. But since aggressive climate policy is shunned by some Democrats, notably Joe Manchin of coal-dependent West Virginia, Democrats probably need to gain five or six Senate seats to pass a Green New Deal.</p><p>Environmentalists, including the League of Conservation Voters, are targeting six Republicans who polls suggest are vulnerable.</p><ul><li>Steve Daines of Montana, who denies climate science</li><li>Martha McSally of Arizona</li><li>Thom Tillis of North Carolina</li><li>Susan Collins of Maine</li><li>Joni Ernst of Iowa (bankrolled by Charles Koch)</li><li>John James of Michigan (also a Koch beneficiary)</li></ul><p>Republican Senators are even at risk in conservative Kansas and Alaska. In both states, the Democratic candidates are physicians—not a bad credential amid a pandemic—who support climate action. In Kansas, Barbara Bollier faces an incumbent funded by Charles Koch. In Alaska, Al Gross urges a transition away from oil, though his openness to limited drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Preserve dims his appeal to green groups. He faces incumbent Republican Dan Sullivan, who receives an 8 percent lifetime voting record from the League of Conservation Voters.</p>
Will Local and State Races Advance Climate Progress?<h4>THE CLIMATE HAWKS</h4><p>Under Democratic and Republican leadership alike, Washington has long been a graveyard for strong climate action. But governors can boost or block renewable energy; the Vermont and New Hampshire races are worth watching. Attorneys general can sue fossil fuel companies for lying about climate change; climate hawks are running for the top law enforcement seats in Montana and North Carolina. State legislatures can accelerate or delay climate progress, as the new Democratic majorities in Virginia have shown. Here, races to watch include Pennsylvania, North Carolina, and Colorado.</p><h4>THE CLIMATE POLICY MAKERS</h4><p>Perhaps the most powerful, and most overlooked, climate policy makers are public utility commissions. They control whether pipelines and other energy infrastructure gets built; they regulate whether electric utilities expand solar and energy efficiency or stick with the carbon-heavy status quo. Regulatory capture and outright corruption are not uncommon.</p><p>A prime example is Arizona, where a former two-term commissioner known as the godfather of solar in the state is seeking a comeback. Bill Mundell argues that since Arizona law permits utilities to contribute to commissioners' electoral campaigns, the companies can buy their own regulators. Which may explain why super-sunny Arizona has so little installed solar capacity.</p><p>In South Dakota, Remi Bald Eagle, a Native American U.S. Army veteran, seeks a seat on the South Dakota Public Utilities Commission, which rules on the Standing Rock oil pipeline. And in what <em>HuffPost</em> called "the most important environmental race in the country," Democrat Chrysta Castaneda, who favors phasing out oil production, is running for the Texas Railroad Commission, which despite its name decides what oil, gas, and electric companies in America's leading petro-state can build.</p>
Will the Influencers Usher in a Green New Era?<h4>THE UNCOUNTED</h4><p>The story that goes largely under-reported in every U.S. election is how few Americans vote. In 2016, some 90 million, <a href="https://www.pewresearch.org/politics/2018/08/09/an-examination-of-the-2016-electorate-based-on-validated-voters/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">roughly four out of every 10 eligible voters</a>, did not cast a ballot. Attorney Nathaniel Stinnett claims that 10 million of these nonvoters nevertheless identify as environmentalists: They support green policies, even donate to activist groups; they just don't vote. Stinnett's <a href="https://www.environmentalvoter.org/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Environmental Voter Project</a> works to awaken this sleeping giant.</p><h4>THE SUNRISE MOVEMENT</h4><p>Meanwhile, the young climate activists of the <a href="http://www.sunrisemovement.org/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Sunrise Movement</a> are already winning elections with an unabashedly Green New Deal message. More than any other group, Sunrise pushed the Green New Deal into the national political conversation, helping Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Senator Ed Markey draft the eponymous congressional resolution. In 2020, Sunrise has helped Green New Deal champions defeat centrists in Democratic primaries, with Markey dealing Representative Joe Kennedy Jr. the first defeat a Kennedy has ever suffered in a Massachusetts election. But can Sunrise also be successful against Republicans in the general elections this fall?</p><h4>THE STARPOWER</h4><p>And an intriguing wild card: celebrity firepower, grassroots activism, and big-bucks marketing have converged behind a campaign to get Latina mothers to vote climate in 2020. Latinos have long been the U.S. demographic most concerned about climate change. Now, <a href="https://votelikeamadre.com/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Vote Like A Madre</a> aims to get 5 million Latina mothers in Florida, Texas, and Arizona to the polls. Jennifer Lopez, Salma Hayak, and Lin-Manuel Miranda are urging mothers to make a "pinky promise" to vote for their kids' climate future in November. Turning out even a quarter of those 5 million voters, though no easy task, could swing the results in three states Trump must win to remain president, which brings us back to the first category, "Will the White House Turn Green?"</p>
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By Tony Carnie
South Africa is home to around 1,300 of the world's roughly 7,100 remaining cheetahs. It's also the only country in the world with significant cheetah population growth, thanks largely to a nongovernmental conservation project that depends on careful and intensive human management of small, fenced-in cheetah populations. Because most of the reserves are privately funded and properly fenced, the animals benefit from higher levels of security than in the increasingly thinly funded state reserves.
Vincent van der Merwe at a cheetah translocation. Endangered Wildlife Trust
Under Pressure<p>Cheetah populations elsewhere in Southern Africa have not prospered over the past 50 years. In Zimbabwe, cheetah numbers have crashed from 1,500 in 1975, to just 170 today. Botswana's cheetah population has held steady at around 1,500 over the same period, but illegal capture for captive breeding and conflicts with farmers and the growing human population are increasing. In Namibia, there were an estimated 3,000 cheetah in in 1975; roughly 1,400 remain today.</p><p>In contrast, South Africa's cheetah numbers have grown from about 500 in 1975 to nearly 1,300 today. Van der Merwe, who is also a Ph.D. student at the University of Cape Town's Institute for Communities and Wildlife in Africa (iCWild), says he's confident that South Africa will soon overtake Namibia and Botswana, largely because the majority of South African cheetahs are protected and managed behind fences, whereas most of the animals in the neighboring countries remain more vulnerable on mainly unfenced lands.</p><p>Wildlife researchers Florian Weise and colleagues have reported that private stock owners in Namibia still trap cheetahs mainly for translocation, but there are few public or private reserves large enough to contain them. Weise says that conservation efforts need to focus on improving tolerance toward cheetahs in commercial livestock and game farming areas to reduce indiscriminate trapping.</p><p>Van der Merwe says fences can be both a blessing and a curse. While these barriers prevent cheetahs and other wild animals from migrating naturally to breed and feed, they also protect cheetahs from the growing tide of threats from humanity and agriculture.</p><p>To simulate natural dispersion patterns that guard against inbreeding, the trust helps landowners swap their animals with other cheetah reserves elsewhere in the country. The South African metapopulation project has been so successful in boosting numbers that the trust is having to look beyond national boundaries to secure new translocation areas in Malawi, Zambia and Mozambique.</p><p>Cheetah translocations have been going on in South Africa since the mid-1960s, when the first unsuccessful attempts were made to move scores of these animals from Namibia. These relocations were mostly unsuccessful.</p>
Charli de Vos uses a VHF antenna to locate cheetahs in Phinda Game Reserve. Tony Carnie for Mongabay
Swinging for the Fences<p>But other wildlife conservation leaders have a different perspective on cheetah conservation strategy.</p><p>Gus Mills, a senior carnivore researcher retired in 2006 from SANParks, the agency that manages South Africa's national parks, after a career of more than 30 years in Kalahari and Kruger national parks. He says the focus should be on quality of living spaces rather than the quantity of cheetahs.</p><p>Mills, who was the founder of the Endangered Wildlife Trust's Carnivore Conservation Group in 1995, and who also spent six years after retirement studying cheetahs in the Kalahari, says it's more important to properly protect and, where possible, expand the size of existing protected areas.</p><p>He also advocates a triage approach to cheetah conservation, in which scarce funds and resources are focused on protecting cheetahs in formally protected areas, rather than diluting scarce resources in an attempt to try and save every single remaining cheetah population.</p><p>"People have an obsession with numbers. But I believe that it is more important to protect large landscape and habitats properly," Mills said.</p><p>He suggests that cheetahs enclosed within small reserves live in artificial conditions: "It's almost like glorified farming."</p><p>"In the long run we have to focus on consolidating formally protected areas," he added. "Africa's human population will double by 2050, so cheetah populations in unfenced areas will become unsustainable if they are eating people's livestock."</p>
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