By Shirley Galbraith
With photos and videos by Allan Baker for Keweenaw Now*
HOUGHTON -- The "Tar Sands Keystone XL Pipeline" is one of many concerns characteristic of environmental devastation and toxic pollution of our planet. If President Obama approves the construction of this pipeline, we are looking at a giant step backwards in our attempts to deal responsibly with our looming climate change. This proposed pipeline by a foreign company will pump through America's heart, stretching from Alberta to the Texas coast and including the area around the huge Ogallala aquifer.
Protesters lined up in front of the White House on Nov. 6 display signs directed at President Obama, who has the authority to approve or deny the Keystone XL Pipeline without a vote of Congress.
This is not only a political issue, but a humanitarian one as well. When it leaks, and it will, as all pipelines historically have broken here and there, it will contaminate the drinking water for millions of people. There are those who support the construction of the pipeline claiming it will provide thousands of jobs. However, they exaggerate the number of jobs it will create; and they fail to acknowledge that these jobs will be temporary. The President is currently weighing the economic, political, and environmental implications.
Canadian journalist Naomi Klein addresses the crowd of about 12,000 people gathered in front of the White House on Nov. 6, 2011, to protest the Keystone XL Pipeline and Tar Sands oil. (Videos by Allan Baker for Keweenaw Now)
We drove for two days to Washington, DC, to join with approximately 12,000 people who peacefully surrounded the White House with signs in the hope of encouraging President Obama to deny a permit for the Keystone oil pipeline. The demonstration was very well organized -- and, as we all joined hands in a spirit of cooperation and commonality, it reminded us of how everything is interconnected and how we are called upon to work together for an ethical caretaking of our environment and the future of the planet.
Questioning the claims of "jobs" projected for the Keystone Pipeline, MC and protest organizer Bill McKibben introduces Roger Toussaint, international vice-president of the Transport Workers' Union, who speaks about the solidarity of the labor and environmental movements in opposing the pipeline.
Among the speakers who shared inspiring words were the following:
Bill McKibben -- who co-founded 350.org, a global movement to solve the climate crisis, and who played a prominent role in the organizing of the event -- was an eloquent master of ceremonies; John Adams, founding director of the NRDC (Natural Resources Defense Council); Reverend Jim Wallis, Christian author and social justice advocate ("This rally…feels like a revival for the clean energy future"); Roger Toussaint, international vice-president of the Transport Workers' Union; Naomi Klein, author and social activist known for her political analyses and criticism of corporate globalization; actor Mark Ruffalo and his 10 year old son; Gerald Amos of the Haisla Nation in British Columbia ("I am convinced the remnants of my culture will not survive an oil spill"); comedian Dick Gregory who made the analogy of how we must be like turtles -- hard on the outside, soft on the inside, and willing to stick our necks out; and Rev. Lennox Yearwood Jr., community activist and president of the Hip Hop Caucus.
Protesters march with a long mock pipeline around the White House, chanting "Soil not oil" and "Yes, we will -- stop the Pipeline."
There were numerous others in this assembly consisting of people from all paths of life, Midwestern union members, First Nations leaders, environmentalists from across the country, and a remarkable showing of high school and college students from all over.
A young protester holds up his CornFinger "Stop" sign.**
It was also heartening to see hundreds of young children taking an active part -- because, after all, it was for the sake of our children and grandchildren and all children that we gave up creature comforts to make this remarkable trip.
* Houghton residents Shirley Galbraith, author of this article, and her husband, Allan Baker, who took the photos and videos for Keweenaw Now, stand with the protesters in front of the White House.
** The CornFinger sign and waving fingers express solidarity with the people of Nebraska and other states whose environment, especially water, could be impacted by the TransCanada pipeline. See http://givetranscanadathecornfinger.com/
On Thursday, Nov. 10, Bill McKibben, who helped organize the Nov. 6 protest with TarSandsAction.org, reported a partial victory in the effort to call attention to the dangers of the Keystone XL Pipeline and Tar Sands oil with this statement: "Um, we won. You won.
"Not completely. The president didn’t outright reject the pipeline permit. My particular fantasy -- that he would invite the 1253 people arrested on his doorstep in August inside the gates for a victory picnic by the vegetable garden -- didn’t materialize.
"But a few minutes ago the president sent the pipeline back to the State Department for a thorough re-review, which most analysts are saying will effectively kill the project. The president explicitly noted climate change, along with the pipeline route, as one of the factors that a new review would need to assess.
"There’s no way, with an honest review, that a pipeline that helps speed the tapping of the world’s second-largest pool of carbon can pass environmental muster...."
Click here to read the rest of McKibben's statement on TarSandsAction.org.
Visit our YouTube channel, Keweenaw News, to see more video clips of speakers at the protest.