To politicians in Washington, the Keystone XL pipeline is an abstraction: just another political football to hurl back and forth across partisan lines. But along the pipeline's proposed route, Keystone XL is a clear and present danger, threatening a people's traditional way of life—not to mention the health and safety of their communities.
We come from very different places. One of us is a Hollywood actor. The other is community leader of the Oglala Sioux, a part of the Lakota nation. One of us works in the metropolis of Los Angeles. The other makes a home in Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, amid the long grasses and rolling hills of South Dakota.
Yet despite these differences, we share many things in common. Both of us are women profoundly concerned with the legacy we are leaving for future generations. We share a commitment to protecting the land, air and climate all our lives depend on, whether we live in the city or country, and we understand that we share these same life support systems. We believe that protecting the living soil and uncontaminated water in which we can grow food, safe from oil spills and other pollution, is our sacred duty. And we are united, and we are not alone, in our unrelenting opposition to the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline.
Last fall, we joined a horseback ride along the proposed pipeline route to see firsthand the land that this controversial project would defile. Over the years, Native Americans have gone on many rides, sometimes into battle, sometimes into exile. This ride was a way of bearing witness to the changes that a foreign company, TransCanada, is attempting to impose upon these ancient lands that so many depend on to maintain their livelihoods, culture and traditions.
Legend tells of a black snake that will threaten our people. Keystone XL is that serpent, a 1,700 mile pipe that would carry toxic tar sands oil across our land and over our water. The tail of the serpent would sit in the Canadian tar sands of Alberta, where indigenous peoples have fallen victim to increased cancer rates and the deadly pollution caused by the oil industry. The serpent's mouth opens on the Gulf of Mexico, spewing toxic emissions in refinery communities like Port Arthur, Texas, where mothers must watch their children grow up with debilitating asthma and other environmentally-related health problems.
In between, Keystone XL would run through some of the country's most vulnerable land, carrying dirty tar sands crude through the sensitive Sand Hills ecosystem and the Ogallala Aquifer—one of the largest sources of fresh water in the world—which provides clean water for drinking and agriculture to much of the Midwest. The tar sands crude that the pipeline would carry through our land is the thickest, dirtiest form of oil there is. In the case of a leak or spill, this thick crude would sink in water, making it nearly impossible to clean up and threatening the health and safety of this region for decades to come. Even worse, tar sands crude is significantly more carbon-heavy than other kinds of oil: By allowing huge quantities to reach the global market, the Keystone pipeline would do irrevocable damage to our climate, resulting in more of the extreme weather events that are already threatening our communities. Building this pipeline would create immediate dangers to the health and safety of our communities, and break our promise to leave future generations with a clean, livable planet.
Yesterday, the Cowboy and Indian Alliance, a group of ranchers, farmers and tribal leaders along the pipeline route, came together for a five-day encampment on the National Mall in Washington D.C. to pressure President Obama to reject Keystone XL and protect our precious lands and waters. Last Friday, the State Department delayed a decision on Keystone XL because of concerns about the route in Nebraska. We want to show the president the faces of the people all along the pipeline route whose lives will be affected by his decision. We invite the public to join us and thousands of others on Saturday, April 26 for a public procession through the nation's capital.
Cowboys and Indians are often at odds in Hollywood movies. But in this fight, they are riding against a common enemy: Big Oil. Now, it's up to President Obama to choose which side he's on. As for us, we know where we stand: together.
Daryl Hannah is an actress and director. Debra White Plume is a community leader of the Oglala Sioux. Both are environmental activists.
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EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
By Naomi Larsson
For centuries, the delicate silver dove has been a symbol of love and fidelity.
Biodiversity and Habitat Loss<p>Their near extinction is a symbol of the <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/global-biodiversity-outlook-targets-extinction-summit-new-york-pledge/a-54932895" target="_blank">biodiversity crisis</a> in the UK, largely driven by habitat destruction. Britain is now one of the countries with the most <a href="https://www.wwf.org.uk/future-of-UK-nature#:~:text=The%20UK%20is%20one%20of,than%20half%20are%20in%20decline" target="_blank">depleted nature</a> in the world according to the World Wildlife Fund. Half its plant and animal species are in decline and more than <a href="https://www.rspb.org.uk/about-the-rspb/about-us/media-centre/press-releases/let-nature-sing-wales/#:~:text=a%20natural%20tragedy.-,Over%2040%20million%20birds%20have%20vanished%20from%20UK%20skies%20in,unaware%20of%20the%20impending%20danger" target="_blank">40 million birds</a> have vanished in just half a century.</p><p>"[Turtle doves] are the canary in the [coal] mine because there are all these other species before it and after it," said Tree. "It's an umbrella for all the other species that are heading that way."</p><p>Turtle doves migrate south through Europe to sub-Saharan Africa between July and September, ending up in dry woodland and farmland areas of countries like Mali and Senegal for winter. </p><p>Droughts in West Africa and the Sahel region are believed to have contributed to the fall in turtle dove species recorded in northern Europe, with low rainfall reducing supplies of the seeds and insects the birds rely on for energy for the long journey home.</p>
Conservation and Farming<p><a href="https://www.operationturtledove.org/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Operation Turtle Dove,</a> a partnership project of charities including the Essex Wildlife trust, works with landowners and farmers to actively build turtle dove habitat.</p><p>Outten works with <a href="https://www.ebws.org.uk/birdsites/blue-house-farm-ewt-north-fambridge" target="_blank">Blue House Farm</a>, a 660-acre nature reserve in the UK county of Essex, where they have replicated weedy fallow plots. </p><p>"We work on it every year to make sure it's in the condition it needs to be with plants such as clovers and black medic," Outten said. "These plants are native to the landscape and produce the seed the birds feed on." </p><p>The birds eat a wide range of seeds from various plants that would have been abundant 50 or 100 years ago, added Guy Anderson, program manager for species recovery with The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB). </p><p>"But it's simply true that with the gradual process of <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/farming-without-pesticides-how-can-we-make-agriculture-greener/a-52216796" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">intensifying our agricultural production</a>, the availability of those seeds has dropped and dropped," said Anderson.</p><p>Part of the project includes supplementary feeding — providing sources of food in the form of seed or grain. Under the Countryside Stewardship Scheme in England, farmers can receive financial support to create a turtle dove habitat. </p><p>Though they haven't recorded an increase in doves across the sites in the four years of working on the project, Outten said they are seeing improvements in how landowners and farmers manage habitat for the birds. </p>
A Turtle Dove Haven<p>The 3,500-acre Knepp Estate in West Sussex is another project taking a different approach and one of the few places where turtle dove numbers are increasing.</p><p>Isabella Tree and her husband Charlie Burrell converted their intensively farmed land into a rewilding project almost 20 years ago. They have let the land return to nature.</p><p>Just one year after they'd finished <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/uks-most-talented-architects-are-not-human/a-35952128" target="_blank">rewilding</a> the southern part of their property, they heard turtle doves for the first time. It's now a breeding hotspot for the birds with an estimated 19 pairs. Knepp is also home to <a href="https://www.rewildingbritain.org.uk/rewilding/rewilding-projects/knepp-estate" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">2% of the UK's population</a> of nightingales. </p><p>Tree is critical of supplementary feeding schemes that, in her view, are short term. She questions the chances of turtle doves getting to feed on scattered seeds before other mammals eat them first.</p>
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Green groups applauded Sen. Jeff Merkley on Wednesday for introducing a pioneering pair of bills that aim to "protect the long-term health and well-being of the American people and their economy from the catastrophic effects of climate chaos" by preventing banks and international financial institutions from financing fossil fuels.