Keystone XL: A Choice Between Big Oil or a Sustainable Planet
Last week Time Magazine declared that Keystone XL had become the Stonewall and the Selma of the climate movement—and today we got a reminder of just how tough those fights were, and how tough this one will be.
On a Friday afternoon, with Secretary of State John Kerry half a world away and D.C. focused on the budget fight, the State Department released a new environmental impact statement for the pipeline. Like the last such report, it found that approving a 800,000 barrel-a-day fuse to one of the planet’s biggest carbon bombs was “unlikely to have a substantial impact” on the tar sands or the climate.
That, in a word, is nonsense—some of our most important climate scientists in the U.S. have written the State Department to explain exactly how dangerous Keystone is. Just yesterday Europe’s top climate diplomat pointed out that it would send a truly terrible signal to the rest of the world.
President Obama will be making a decision in a few short months. I won’t lie: today’s report makes the odds look even tougher—and the power of the fossil fuel lobby hasn’t waned one bit.
But I’m reminded that the last time the State Department issued an environmental impact statement about the pipeline, we were just beginning this fight. That day in 2011, 50 people were arrested at the White House during the very first wave of protests against the pipeline.
This time around we’re tens of thousands of people stronger, and once again, I think we are just beginning to fight.
In these next months we need to send a signal to the White House that we’re not standing down. There are two things I think we should begin working on immediately.
First—since it’s clear that the polite but firm warnings of our top climate scientists aren’t being heard—anytime that the President or Secretary of State Kerry appears in public, it’s crucial that we let them know that we won’t accept this pipeline or the damage it will do to our climate. We need a team of rapid responders coast-to-coast who can turn around with 24 hours notice and raise a ruckus at these events when we find out about them.
If you can be on call to respond quickly when they visit near you, let us know by adding your name here: act.350.org/signup/kxl-rapid-response/.
I should also say that with our global network, both President Obama and Secretary Kerry can expect to hear from folks when they head abroad as well.
Second, we need to raise the heat this spring and summer. Significantly. To get a jump on the season, 350.org and our allies will be hosting a massive day of action and training at venues across the country in May. It will be the first muster for the grassroots army we hope will fan out across the nation this summer, and a unified statement of our intention to fight this pipeline.
If you’re keen to get involved, click here to add your name as well and we’ll get in touch about how to make it happen: act.350.org/signup/may-day-of-action/.
Even as we stick it to the pipeline, we’re going on offense as well, with a student-led divestment campaign that grows by the day (and increasingly moves off campus to city governments and faith communities too), and a Global Power Shift gathering this June in Turkey to gather young leaders across the globe.
I don’t know how this will all go down—only that it won’t go down easily. After watching Arctic sea ice practically disappear last summer, and superstorm Sandy hit New York, I can also tell you that this is a key moment for our planet, and your role in it will be remembered for a long, long time—as will the President’s.
Here’s how Time put it yesterday:
“There are many climate problems a President can’t solve, but Keystone XL isn’t one of them. It’s a choice between Big Oil and a more sustainable planet.” As with those historic moments at Stonewall or Selma, “The right answer isn’t always somewhere in the middle.”
Thanks for all you’ve done, and thanks for all you’ll do.
P.S. We're also going to be hosting strategy sessions across the country on March 10 to cover these things and more. If you'd like to host a gathering to plan on all these things together, click to sign up here: act.350.org/event/2013-strategy-sessions/create/.
Visit EcoWatch’s KEYSTONE XL page for more related news on this topic.
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By D. André Green II
One of nature's epic events is underway: Monarch butterflies' fall migration. Departing from all across the United States and Canada, the butterflies travel up to 2,500 miles to cluster at the same locations in Mexico or along the Pacific Coast where their great-grandparents spent the previous winter.
Millions of People Care About Monarchs<p>I will never forget the sights and sounds the first time I visited monarchs' overwintering sites in Mexico. Our guide pointed in the distance to what looked like hanging branches covered with dead leaves. But then I saw the leaves flash orange every so often, revealing what were actually thousands of tightly packed butterflies. The monarchs made their most striking sounds in the Sun, when they burst from the trees in massive fluttering plumes or landed on the ground in the tussle of mating.</p><p>Decades of educational outreach by teachers, researchers and hobbyists has cultivated a generation of monarch admirers who want to help preserve this phenomenon. This global network has helped restore not only monarchs' summer breeding habitat by planting milkweed, but also general pollinator habitat by planting nectaring flowers across North America.</p><p>Scientists have calculated that restoring the monarch population to a stable level of about 120 million butterflies will require <a href="https://doi.org/10.1111/icad.12198" target="_blank">planting 1.6 billion new milkweed stems</a>. And they need them fast. This is too large a target to achieve through grassroots efforts alone. A <a href="https://www.fws.gov/savethemonarch/CCAA.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">new plan</a>, announced in the spring of 2020, is designed to help fill the gap.</p>
Pros and Cons of Regulation<p>The top-down strategy for saving monarchs gained energy in 2014, when the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service <a href="https://www.fws.gov/southeast/pdf/petition/monarch.pdf" target="_blank">proposed</a> listing them as threatened under the Endangered Species Act. A decision is expected in December 2020.</p><p>Listing a species as endangered or threatened <a href="https://www.fws.gov/endangered/esa-library/pdf/listing.pdf" target="_blank">triggers restrictions</a> on "taking" (hunting, collecting or killing), transporting or selling it, and on activities that negatively affect its habitat. Listing monarchs would impose restrictions on landowners in areas where monarchs are found, over vast swaths of land in the U.S.</p><p>In my opinion, this is not a reason to avoid a listing. However, a "threatened" listing might inadvertently threaten one of the best conservation tools that we have: public education.</p><p>It would severely restrict common practices, such as rearing monarchs in classrooms and back yards, as well as scientific research. Anyone who wants to take monarchs and milkweed for these purposes would have to apply for special permits. But these efforts have had a multigenerational educational impact, and they should be protected. Few public campaigns have been more successful at raising awareness of conservation issues.</p>
<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="91165203d4ec0efc30e4632a00fdf57d"><iframe lazy-loadable="true" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/KilPRvjbMrA?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span>
The Rescue Attempt<p>To preempt the need for this kind of regulation, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service approved a <a href="https://www.fws.gov/savethemonarch/pdfs/Monarch%20CCAA-CCA%20Public%20Comment%20Documents/Monarch-Nationwide_CCAA-CCA_Draft.pdf" target="_blank">Nationwide Candidate Conservation Agreement for Monarch Butterflies</a>. Under this plan, "rights-of-way" landowners – energy and transportation companies and private owners – commit to restoring and creating millions of acres of pollinator habitat that have been decimated by land development and herbicide use in the past half-century.</p><p>The agreement was spearheaded by the <a href="http://rightofway.erc.uic.edu/" target="_blank">Rights-of-Way Habitat Working Group</a>, a collaboration between the University of Illinois Chicago's <a href="https://erc.uic.edu/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Energy Resources Center</a>, the Fish and Wildlife Service and over 40 organizations from the energy and transportation sectors. These sectors control "rights-of-way" corridors such as lands near power lines, oil pipelines, railroad tracks and interstates, all valuable to monarch habitat restoration.</p><p>Under the plan, partners voluntarily agree to commit a percentage of their land to host protected monarch habitat. In exchange, general operations on their land that might directly harm monarchs or destroy milkweed will not be subject to the enhanced regulation of the Endangered Species Act – protection that would last for 25 years if monarchs are listed as threatened. The agreement is expected to create up to 2.3 million acres of new protected habitat, which ideally would avoid the need for a "threatened" listing.</p>
A Model for Collaboration<p>This agreement could be one of the few specific interventions that is big enough to allow researchers to quantify its impact on the size of the monarch population. Even if the agreement produces only 20% of its 2.3 million acre goal, this would still yield nearly half a million acres of new protected habitat. This would provide a powerful test of the role of declining breeding and nectaring habitat compared to other challenges to monarchs, such as climate change or pollution.</p><p>Scientists hope that data from this agreement will be made publicly available, like projects in the <a href="https://www.fws.gov/savethemonarch/MCD.html" target="_blank">Monarch Conservation Database</a>, which has tracked smaller on-the-ground conservation efforts since 2014. With this information we can continue to develop powerful new models with better accuracy for determining how different habitat factors, such as the number of milkweed stems or nectaring flowers on a landscape scale, affect the monarch population.</p><p>North America's monarch butterfly migration is one of the most awe-inspiring feats in the natural world. If this rescue plan succeeds, it could become a model for bridging different interests to achieve a common conservation goal.</p>
The annual Ig Nobel prizes were awarded Thursday by the science humor magazine Annals of Improbable Research for scientific experiments that seem somewhat absurd, but are also thought-provoking. This was the 30th year the awards have been presented, but the first time they were not presented at Harvard University. Instead, they were delivered in a 75-minute pre-recorded ceremony.