A Student’s Take on Why It's Imperative to Risk Arrest Protesting Keystone XL Pipeline
By Penn Johnson
On Sunday, March 2, at 22-years-old, I will take part in a nonviolent for civil disobedience campaign along with nearly 500 other college students in our nation's capital and very will likely be arrested. Why would I and others risk arrest without our degrees yet in hand? Aren't we worried about jobs and employment? The short answers to those questions are to stop the Keystone XL pipeline and no.
The long answers take a bit more time to explain.
In a Rolling Stone article that has been viewed by millions and referenced in thousands of news articles, Bill McKibben, founder of 350.org, highlighted three numbers: 2 degrees Celsius, 565 gigatons, and 2,795 gigatons. The sustainability tipping point temperature increase, the amount of carbon dioxide (CO2) we can emit without passing that point and the current estimates of fossil fuel company reserves, respectively.
This article helped launch the Do The Math tour, which today calls for colleges and universities to divest their endowment fund holdings from the fossil fuel industry whose emissions have been largely responsible for climate change. The best example of a successful divestment campaign was during Apartheid when 155 colleges and universities pulled their endowment holdings from companies doing business with and operating in South Africa, hoping to cause enough financial and political pressure to collapse the industry—and it worked.
An article in The Guardian, mentioned a study by Oxford University that said the Fossil Free Divestment movement is the fastest growing divestment movement in history. Today more than 400 colleges, universities, municipalities, cities, religious institutions and states are signed on to 350.org's Fossil Free Divestment campaign.
The fight to stop the Keystone XL is pivotal to the divestment campaign. This pipeline would shoot about 800,000 barrels of tar sands crude oil per day from Alberta's Tar Sands extraction site in Alberta, Canada to Port Arthur, Texas. It would produce as much carbon dioxide as seven coal-fired power plants, provide only 35 permanent jobs and be shipped overseas to China to sell on the global market. Crossing through the heart of America's cropland, its construction would decimate sacred territories of Native Americans. Van Jones, founder of Rebuild The Dream, a 21st century think tank hoping to fix the U.S. economy, says if President Obama thinks this pipeline will be as great as they say, he should be willing to name it The Obama Tar Sands Pipeline.
In 2008, Barack Obama was elected president of the U.S. Breaking racial barriers and social stigmas, he was the first African American to be elected into the White House. In his 2008 inauguration speech, he said: "We will respond to the threat of climate change, knowing that the failure to do so would betray our children and future generations." Newly involved environmental activists cheered into their television screens and toasted his words with glasses of beer.
Despite what he said, President Obama has already fast-tracked approval of the southern leg of Keystone XL (which is currently operational) and is close to approving the northern leg. At Georgetown University in June of 2013, President Obama gave another speech at which he said: "Allowing the Keystone pipeline to be built requires a finding that doing so would be in our nation's interest ... and our national interest will be served only if this project does not significantly exacerbate the problem of carbon pollution."
James Hansen, formerly of NASA, has called the production of this pipeline "game over for the climate." However, the recent State Department Final Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement states the pipeline will not significantly increase emissions. Interestingly, James Hansen left NASA last year in order to speak more openly about his concerns regarding climate change.
Young self-proclaimed environmentalists such as myself are risking arrest to stop this pipeline in an action named XL Dissent. But we're not alone. Business, economics, geoscience, philosophy, english and history majors all stand with us. This isn't just environmental students. This is students from all over the country standing up and saying "No Keystone XL Pipeline," because we want a livable future. We want clean water and clean air. We're doing this for future generations because we want them to live a life like the one we've enjoyed. We want them to live in an economically, socially and environmentally sustainable world.
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Jean-Marc Neveu and Olivier Civil never expected to find themselves battling against disposable mask pollution.
When they founded their recycling start-up Plaxtil in 2017, it was textile waste they set their sights on. The project developed a process that turned fabrics into a new recyclable material they describe as "ecological plastic."
Mounting Piles of Waste<p>It is not only the streets of Chatellerault where pandemic pollution is piling-up, but also the world's beaches and oceans. Once there, they can take up to 450 years to degrade and disappear.</p><p>Esther Röling, co-organizer of the annual Adventure Clean Up Challenge held on Hong Kong Island, has seen this waste firsthand. In October the sports challenge pitted teams against one another in a competition to remove trash from 13 hard-to-reach coastal areas around the city.</p><p>They find tons of both disposable and reusable masks, said Röling. "You wonder how it ended up there. Was it just thrown on the ground? Or was it in a garbage bag that broke open?"</p><p>Almost 10,000 kilometers away in Antibes on the sunny French Riviera, it's a similar picture. For the past few months, divers and clean-up volunteers working with an ocean clean-up non-profit called Operation Mer Propre have been collecting an increasing number of masks found on land and in the sea.</p><p>"Since the beginning of the lockdown when we started to count, we've reached 800, 900, [and now in total] 1000 masks," said co-founder Joko Peltier. </p><p>According to <a href="https://unctad.org/news/growing-plastic-pollution-wake-covid-19-how-trade-policy-can-help" target="_blank">UN estimates</a>, up to 75% of all coronavirus-related plastic could end up as waste in oceans and landfills.</p>
The Limits of Recycling<p>Yet not all are convinced the recycling of this waste is possible on a global scale. </p><p>"What those citizen groups are doing is really beneficial but once they collect it, it should just go to a landfill or an incinerator. They shouldn't necessarily expect it to get recycled," said Jonathan Krones, an industrial ecologist and visiting assistant professor of environmental studies at Boston College.</p><p>That's because mask recycling programs like Plaxtil are few and far between and most don't have the benefit of a readily adaptable production process. </p><p>Even in countries with solid recycling infrastructure, he says, the system is designed to separate out specific types of waste like bottles or cardboard.</p><p>"I imagine that it would be technically feasible to develop a separation process to filter out masks, but there simply aren't enough of them to make that economical," he said.</p><p>Collection is a big hurdle, he adds. Since each mask only weighs a fraction of a gram and they're scattered on roads or mixed with other trash, it is difficult and costly. </p><p>"You need a lot of raw material of the right quality to make investing in the recycling technology and the recycling system worthwhile," he said.<span></span><br></p>
Hemp, Sugar Cane and Sustainable Alternatives<p>Some projects are instead addressing the material used to make masks.</p><p>French company Geochanvre have created a mask made primarily from hemp, while in Australia, researchers at the Queensland University of Technology are experimenting with a disposable product made from agricultural waste. </p><p>Biodegradable options are exciting alternatives to reduce the fossil fuels needed for the creation of plastic-based masks, said Krones, but they don't absolve the wearer from the responsibility of what happens afterwards. </p><p>Bio-based masks often need their own composing solutions, he explains, because in landfill they can produce high amounts of the greenhouse gas methane when anaerobic bacteria feeds on the organic material. Methane is known to be significantly more potent than carbon dioxide.</p><p>"I think as long as we have in our mind that we want to have disposability, we're going to have to wrestle with a variety of different sorts of environmental tradeoffs," he said, adding that reusable, fabric masks are the best option available to most people.</p><p>Precimask is developing a clear face covering with an optional visor made from hard plastic, designed to be long-lasting.<br></p><p>Air enters either side of the cheeks through a technology normally found in pool filters and car exhaust systems, said company spokeswoman Juliette Chambet.</p><p>"We wanted to make ceramic-based filters that would be washable and cleanable, which would allow them to be reused as many times as desired without having to buy a new consumable or produce waste," she said. </p><p>Ultimately, encouraging mask wearers to think about the entire lifecycle of a mask is key, explains Neveu. </p><p>"We want people who put on the masks to realize that they are also responsible for the waste, he said. "It's not inevitable that this [pandemic] will become an environmental catastrophe.</p><p><em>Reposted with permission from </em><em><a href="https://www.dw.com/en/covid-19-recycling-pollution-trash-pandemic/a-55707817" target="_blank">Deutsche Welle</a>.</em><a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/r/entryeditor/2649032193#/" target="_self"></a></p>
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