Monday, July 22, 2013

Videos, photos: "Oil and Water Don't Mix" rally draws hundreds concerned about Great Lakes

By Michele Bourdieu

Hundreds of climate activists and supporters of the climate movement gather in Bridge View Park near the Mackinac Bridge (visible on the right, in the distance) for the July 14, 2013 "Oil and Water Don't Mix" rally to share concerns about Enbridge's 60-year-old pipelines for tar sands oil under the Straits of Mackinac. (Photos by Keweenaw Now and Allan Baker)

ST. IGNACE --Concern about potential oil spills from Enbridge's pipelines under the Straits of Mackinac drew a crowd of about 400 to the "Oil and Water Don't Mix" rally at Bridge View Park near the Upper Peninsula end of the Mackinac Bridge on July 14, 2013.

The weather was hot and sunny, but a pleasant breeze floated over the crowd of about 400 -- many of whom had come to hear the keynote speaker, Bill McKibben, climate activist and founder of 350.org -- an international movement to raise awareness about climate change and the need for energy alternatives to fossil fuels.

Bill McKibben, climate activist and founder of 350.org, addresses the crowd at the July 14, 2013, rally in Bridge View Park near St. Ignace, Mich.

"Think of all the sun that's going to waste," McKibben said, commenting on the weather. "[Today] we're having a 'solar spill' all around us and we need that energy so that we can get rid of this other kind of energy -- and fast."

Organized by TC 350, the Traverse City, Mich., chapter of 350.org, the rally also featured speakers Beth Wallace, co-author of the National Wildlife Federation report, "Sunken Hazard: Aging oil pipelines beneath the Straits of Mackinac an ever-present threat to the Great Lakes," which inspired the rally; Cecil Pavlat of the Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians; Jess Spolstra of the Kalamazoo River Watershed Council, who described Enbridge's oil spill in the Kalamazoo River and its impacts; and Jarret Schlaff of the Detroit Coalition Against Tar Sands (DCATS).

Representatives from the Little Traverse Bay Bands of Odawa and Don't Frack Michigan are among many who brought signs and banners to the rally.

Representatives from various environmental and conservation organizations were on hand with information booths; and activist musical entertainment included Seth Bernard and May Erlewine, Lake Effect, Raging Grannies and songwriter Dan Reynolds.

Cecil Pavlat of the Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians opened the rally expressing the Ojibwa view that it is everyone's responsibility to care for Mother Earth and her life blood -- water -- for the health of seven generations. Here is a video excerpt from his speech and song:

Cecil Pavlat of the Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians addresses the audience at the "Oil and Water Don't Mix" rally and sings a song of meditation to help the crowd focus on the need to take responsibility for saving land and water -- before it is too late. (Videos by Allan Baker for Keweenaw Now unless otherwise indicated)

Several generations are represented in the rally audience. Activist speakers said the need to slow climate change by supporting alternatives to fossil fuels is especially urgent for the benefit of younger and future generations. 

Next M.C. Bill Latka of TC 350 (Traverse City, Mich.) announces the organizations supporting the rally and welcomes participants:

Rally M. C. Bill Latka of TC 350, the group that organized the rally, announces other rally supporters, including Michigan Land Use Institute, National Wildlife Federation, FLOW for Water, Food and Water Watch, Michigan Environmental Council, Michigan Coalition Against Tar Sands (MICATS), Detroit Coalition Against Tar Sands (DCATS), Ann Arbor 350, and Northern Michigan Environmental Action Council (NEMEAC).

Latka said Bill McKibben drove from Vermont with his wife, Sue, to speak at this rally at the invitation of TC 350.

In this video clip, McKibben tells the audience this rally is his first stop on his "Summer Heat" wave of action tour across the country:

At the July 14, 2013, "Oil and Water Don't Mix" rally near the Straits of Mackinac, Bill McKibben, climate activist and founder of 350.org, speaks about the Tar Sands and the present extent of global warming -- temperature increases, floods, storms and climate imbalance. Click here for the rest of this speech, in which McKibben speaks about solar energy, the worldwide climate movement, the efforts to ban fracking for natural gas -- and more.

After the rally, McKibben sent a note to 350.org supporters, describing the blue waters of Lake Huron and Lake Michigan at the Straits and the large crowd that turned out for "Oil and Water Don't Mix."

McKibben writes, "And I got to explain how these local battles fit into the global one: even if that oil doesn’t spill in the Great Lakes, it will eventually spill into the atmosphere in the form of carbon, changing the climate: in fact, the water level on the Great Lakes is already falling fast because they don’t ice over for much of the winter any more, allowing increased evaporation."

McKibben also mentions the speech of Beth Wallace, co-author with Jeff Alexander of the 2012 National Wildlife Federation report "Sunken Hazard: Aging oil pipelines beneath the Straits of Mackinac an ever-present threat to the Great Lakes" -- a report that inspired the rally.* Here Wallace speaks about Enbridge's record of oil spills and the company's plans for expansion, including the pipelines under the Straits of Mackinac:

Beth Wallace, of the National Wildlife Federation Great Lakes Regional Center in Ann Arbor, co-author of a report on Enbridge's  60-year-old pipelines under the Straits of Mackinac, addresses the crowd at the July 14, 2013, "Oil and Water Don't Mix" rally. Click here for the rest of her speech.*

Elaborating on Wallace's comments on the Enbridge oil spill in the Kalamazoo River, Jeff Spoelstra of the Kalamazoo River Watershed Council described the oil spill in the Kalamazoo River attributed to Enbridge. Spolstra also encouraged audience members to participate in the climate movement in various ways in their local communities.

Here is an excerpt from Spoelstra's talk at the rally:

Jeff Spoelstra of the Kalamazoo River Watershed Council tells the "Oil and Water Don't Mix" rally audience about the impacts of Enbridge's Kalamazoo River spill of tar sands oil and the enormous task of cleaning it up.

Activist Jarret Schlaff of the Detroit Coalition Against Tar Sands (DCATS) then explained his group's action to block trucks dumping toxic Petcoke, a by-product of tar sands refining, near the Detroit River:

Detroit activist Jarret Schlaff explains why his group chose direct action -- a four-day protest -- to call attention to toxic Petcoke being dumped into the Detroit River in a neighborhood whose zip code (48217) is the third most polluted zip code in the U.S.

DCATS and MICATS (Michigan Coalition Against Tar Sands) were among several groups educating the public with information and one-on-one conversations at booths set up at the rally.

A poster at the MICATS/DCATS booth at the rally explains the Petcoke process. Click on photo for larger version. See also the MICATS Web site for more information.**

MICATS organizer Jake McGraw, speaking with visitors to their booth, said, "We're trying to support local communities in organizing resistance to expansion of tar sands in the state of Michigan"

McGraw said the group is using a variety of tactics to raise awareness -- some within the system and some involving non-violent direct action, such as the Detroit group's protest described by Schlaff. These can sometimes include civil disobedience, McGraw added, such as blocking the road to prevent trucks from dumping Petcoke into the river.

"The police let us know we were in violation of the law, but they didn't make any arrests," he explained.

Jake McGraw, organizer for MICATS (Michigan Coalition Against Tar Sands) explains their work to members of the audience at the July 14 "Oil and Water Don't Mix" rally near the Mackinac Bridge. With him, at left, is MICATS/DCATS organizer Mariah Urueta. At right (in blue tee-shirt) is Georgia Donovan of Rockford, Mich., a member of the Izaak Walton League. She said her township, near Grand Rapids, was one of the first to pass a moratorium against fracking.

Many signs at the rally reflected the concern about fracking (hydraulic fracturing for natural gas, which threatens water supplies) in Lower Michigan.

Georgia Donovan (pictured above) of Rockford, Mich., near Grand Rapids, said her township was one of the first to pass a moratorium against fracking.

"My township is very pro-active about watershed issues," Donovan said. "Whether fracking spills or not, it uses unprecedented amounts of fresh water and it does not return it to the water system."

Donovan noted FLOW (Flow for Water, based in Traverse City) helped her township with the moratorium. The group helps townships with legal services needed for writing ordinances, she said.***

At the rally, handing out information about FLOW for Water, a non-profit policy and education organization working to ensure the waters of the Great Lakes are protected now and for future generations, are Liz Kirkwood, left, FLOW for Water executive director, and Eliza Somsel, FLOW grassroots outreach intern.***

Joining other groups against fracking in the booth area at the rally was Tia Lebherz, organizer for Food and Water Watch - Michigan.

"I think that fracking threatens the air we breathe, the water we drink, the communities we love and the climate on which we all depend," Lebherz said. "Natural gas and fracking is a bridge to nowhere. We stand in solidarity with all groups that are fighting extreme energy extraction."

During the rally, Tia Lebherz, second from left, organizer for Food and Water Watch - Michigan, joins Don't Frack Michigan representatives Joanne Beemon, left; and Anne Zukowski, right, with her husband, John Teesdale, at their booth. ****
 
Mari Hesselink of Cheboygan, Mich., collects signatures for a ballot initiative organized by Let'sBanFracking.org. *****

Some participants at the rally came from as far away as Wisconsin, including a group from Green Bay -- and also Milwaukee outdoor writer Eric Hansen, who said it's important to pay attention to the math in assessing the potential for another oil spill from Enbridge.

"The estimated velocity of the BP Gulf of Mexico spill was 57,000 barrels per day," Hansen told Keweenaw Now. "When Enbridge launched pipeline 67 (the Alberta Clipper, that runs from Canada to Superior, Wis., where it splits, with one branch running under the Mackinac Straits), they wanted to go to 440,000 barrels per day and eventually 800,000 -- and in the Kalamazoo spill they didn't shut off for 17 hours."

If you do the math, Hansen noted, three fourths of 400,000 barrels a day is 300,000, which is five times the velocity of the BP Gulf of Mexico spill. The tar sands people want to triple production because they are desperate to get a route to salt water. The gallons per day they want makes this issue "bigger than Keystone," Hansen said. ******

During the rally, Bill McKibben took time to speak informally to a group of young people about climate change and their future.

Bill McKibben offers advice to high school students on what they can do about climate change when they go to college. He is joined by scientist Peter Sinclair, who reports on his recent trip to Greenland. Click here to see a video clip of Sinclair's report to the youth at the rally.

Besides listening to speakers and learning about organizations working to protect the Great Lakes watershed, rally participants were energized and entertained by musicians and singers, including Seth Bernard and May Erlewine, Lake Effect, songwriter Dan Reynolds and the Raging Grannies.

Seth Bernard and May Erlewine express their support for Michigan and the lakes with a lively tune.

Lake Effect entertains with an audience participation song for kids of all ages.

Dan Reynolds of Bois Blanc Island, inspired by Beth Wallace's report from National Wildlife Federation: "Sunken Hazard – Aging Oil Pipelines Beneath the Straits of Mackinac an Ever-Present Threat to the Great Lakes," sings his own song about these pipelines near his home.

The Raging Grannies sing a song about the Great Lakes to the tune of "Alouette." Click here for an anti-fracking song by the Grannies.

Seth Bernard joins two musician/vocalists from the Lake Effect group in a closing hymn. (Video clip by Keweenaw Now)

More photos:

David Zaiss, former mail carrier for Interlochen Arts Academy, wearing a tee-shirt in honor of Interlochen's founder, Joe Maddy, said, "I'm here because of Joe Maddy's dreams of clean water and natural resources."

Representatives of supportive groups display their signs at the rally.

These signs publicize the Web site (HELPPA.org) of John Bolenbaugh, whistleblower for the 2010 Enbridge tar sands oil spill in the Kalamazoo River near Marshall, Mich.

Shirley Galbraith of Houghton, Mich., listens to speakers during the rally. Thanks, Shirley, for sharing your umbrella protection from the "sun spill"! See Shirley's Keweenaw Now article on the February "Forward on Climate" rally in Washington, D.C., with more photos by her husband, Allan Baker. Click here for Allan's videos of that event. 

Notes:

* Click here for the 2012 National Wildlife Federation report "Sunken Hazard: Aging oil pipelines beneath the Straits of Mackinac an ever-present threat to the Great Lakes," by Beth Wallace and Jeff Alexander.

** Click here to learn more about MICATS and their work.

*** Visit the Flow for Water Web site.

**** Learn more at DontFrackMichigan.org and Food and Water Watch - Michigan.

*****  Visit letsbanfracking.org to learn about this ballot initiative.

****** See Eric Hansen's July 4, 2013, opinion article on the Milwaukee-Wisconsin Journal Sentinel (JSOnline), "Wisconsin waters threatened by tar sands crude oil expansion."

6 comments:

Cris C said...

Love the article, very well written. I attended the rally and also have a site http://www.exposingmarathonpetroleum.com/ na dplan on posting video I have of Jarret (DCATS). Would you mind if I used for video because my didn't record non stpop and credit and link you to the post I write? If not that's alright I can find another way. Thanks and great article. It's been passed to my G+, and the FB for exposing Marathon

Keweenaw Now said...

Thanks, Cris, for reading our article. Jarret was truly inspiring! By all means, you can use our video (It's under creative commons with attribution) and would appreciate your crediting Allan Baker for Keweenaw Now. Would love to have you link to our article. Thanks for sharing it! Will check out your site.

Cris C said...

Thank you so much! As soon as it goes life I will be sure to have it linked and credited and sent right to you. Thanks again!

Keweenaw Now said...

Thank you, Cris!

Cris C said...

Thanks so much!
http://www.exposingmarathonpetroleum.com/2013/07/the-whole-truth-and-nothing-but-truth_26.html

Keweenaw Now said...

Thanks so much, Cris, for linking to our article -- and thanks for your good work!