Yesterday afternoon, Barack Obama spoke at Georgetown University on the issue of climate “action.” Some may find this to be a victory for public awareness of our current ecological crisis, but one look at the content of this proposal simply reinforces that this was merely business-as-usual for the corporate-political state, which has significant investments in tar sands expansion.
To be clear, this speech is no measure of our achievements as a movement against the Keystone XL pipeline, tar sands expansion, or extreme energy extraction as an industry. Before we proclaim this a victory for the cause now that Obama has declared carbon pollution as his agenda item of the week, please remember that hundreds of miles of earth have already been dug up to make way for toxic tar sands to run through communities in Texas and Oklahoma.
The Gulf Coast Project – on its own, independent of a northern extension – will make it significantly easier for tar sands to be refined in Texas; specifically, in those communities systematically selected to bear the consequences of industrial pollution. Remember that there are schoolchildren in Douglass, TX, who will now be playing baseball atop a segment of the nearly-completed southern leg of the KXL, carrying one of the most dangerous substances on earth. Remember that as we anxiously await an answer on the northern segment of the KXL, there are residents in the south whose land and health have already been stolen and destroyed. Remember that thousands of trees have already been cut down, millions of habitats destroyed, in service to this pipeline. Let’s remember that here in Texas and Oklahoma, the KXL is already going into the ground and will flow with tar sands unless we stop it. No speech, however eloquent or well-meaning, will change this reality.
Bill McKibben may think this administration is moving in a “sane direction” regarding climate action, but the facts beg to differ. After all, while fracking continues to poison our drinking water, destroying the lives of hundreds of communities throughout the Midwest, Obama proclaims natural gas to be a “cleaner” alternative, the next sought-after commodity during this Green(washing) Revolution. What is “sane” about that?
While communities in Appalachia are having their landbase exploded for coal extraction, their health dictated by the prevailing industry, Obama states that “clean” coal is the solution. Surely, this is an oxymoron to the many human and non-human communities whose lives have been (and continue to be) forever altered by the pollution perpetuated by Big Coal. How “sane” is the idea of “clean” coal?
Even a mere three years after the Fukushima nuclear meltdown in Japan, with radiation poised to spill its effects over countless future generations, this president believes nuclear energy to be a potential savior for our carbon-weary lives. This, despite the failed track record of nuclear power in places like Three Mile Island and Chernobyl, and the pollution felt by communities in North Carolina and Georgia, whose exposure to nuclear power plants is a consistent issue for public health and safety. How “sane” is this administration, exactly?
This summer, this movement has pledged to be fearless in its confrontation of the fossil fuel industry. This fearlessness must include an ability to see through political posturing, and recognize the strength of people power. This summer won’t depend on anything Obama has to say; in fact, if the northern leg of the KXL is rejected tomorrow, tar sands expansion will likely continue across this continent, unabated.
Our movement must stand for itself, for our victories will only be achieved through the strengthening of our communities to take action against the corporate state’s aim of expanding the infrastructure for extreme energy extraction; not through dependence on any political action plan set forth by the very power structure that permits it in the first place.
Let’s remember that this crisis demands mass participation and resistance on a scale we’ve yet to imagine. No single individual will save us. This is the summer for us to dictate back to the heads of industry *our* terms for living on this planet, and make it clear that this system won’t be allowed to perpetuate if we have anything to say about it.