check your bills

. . . And see just how much big oil’s costing us
bill moyers interviews bill mckibben on state dept’s move, keystone XL

around the world sat sept 24th

Day to move beyond

next saturday
do join us
wherever you are
around the world
for mother

tar sands renews environment debate


in so many words, there you have it: thanks bill!
that jail time is the better part of this argument . . .

bill follows eaarth mother to jail

by George Zornick
Tuesday, August 23, 2011 / Nation of Change
Progressive Journalism For Positive Action

Originally published Monday, 22 August 2011 in The Na­tion.
Copy­right © The Na­tion – dis­trib­uted by Agence Global.


bill mckibben addressing protestors outside white house

Civil Disobedience on Tar Sands Begins Outside the White House

More than seventy activists were arrested at the north gates of the White House Saturday during a protest against the Keystone XL pipeline

The largest act of civil dis­obe­di­ence by en­vi­ron­men­tal­ists in decades began out­side the White House this morn­ing, as more than sev­enty ac­tivists were ar­rested at the north gates dur­ing a protest against the Key­stone XL pipeline, which if ap­proved by the ad­min­is­tra­tion would carry 900,000 bar­rels of oil per day from Al­berta, Canada to the Gulf of Mex­ico.

The ac­tivists, who sat down at the gates at 11 am hold­ing large ban­ners read­ing “Cli­mate change is not in our na­tional in­ter­est,” were warned three times by US Park Po­lice to move along, and were hand­cuffed and re­moved after they re­fused. More than 2,000 peo­ple have pledged to be ar­rested out­side the White House every day until Sep­tem­ber 3, in daily in­stall­ments of sev­enty-five to 100 peo­ple.

The Key­stone Pipeline would carry oil gouged from the “tar sands” of Al­berta—areas where soil is thick with bi­tu­men, which can be re­fined into syn­thetic crude oil. The process is en­vi­ron­men­tally dev­as­tat­ing. Parts of Al­berta have al­ready been rav­aged by the ex­trac­tion, and the re­fin­ing process in­volved cre­ates twice the green­house gases as pro­duc­ing a nor­mal bar­rel of crude.

Since the pipeline would cross an in­ter­na­tional bor­der, the State De­part­ment has ju­ris­dic­tion and is com­plet­ing an en­vi­ron­men­tal as­sess­ment of the pro­ject, which could be re­leased this week. The White House will have ninety days to de­cide whether to grant a per­mit for the pipeline. The grass­roots group 350. org, which in­cludes many Na­tion writ­ers, has called for a cam­paign of non­vi­o­lent di­rect ac­tion aimed at per­suad­ing the ad­min­is­tra­tion to deny the per­mit.

The Al­berta tar sands rep­re­sent the sec­ond-largest repos­i­tory of oil in the world, and cli­mate sci­en­tists are hor­ri­fied with the prospect of pump­ing that much car­bon into the at­mos­phere. En­vi­ron­men­tal­ist Bill McK­ibben, who led today’s ac­tion, noted that if all of the oil were ex­tracted overnight it would in­crease the car­bon in the earth’s at­mos­phere from 393 parts per mil­lion to 550 parts per mil­lion—a dev­as­tat­ing in­crease. NASA cli­mate sci­en­tist James Hansen re­cently wrote that since phas­ing ex­ist­ing car­bon emis­sions out is al­ready an enor­mous task, “if the tar sands are thrown into the mix, it is es­sen­tially game over.”

Be­yond the cli­mate con­cerns, there’s the issue of pipeline safety—Key­stone XL would tra­verse the en­tire coun­try, from Mon­tana to the Gulf of Mex­ico. Any­one un­con­cerned with po­ten­tial pipeline fail­ures should note the re­cent in­ci­dent un­der­neath the Yel­low­stone River, where an Exxon pipeline rup­tured and spilled over 1,000 bar­rels of crude into the river.

There are, of course, mas­sive fi­nan­cial in­ter­ests be­hind the con­struc­tion of Key­stone XL. Tar sands com­mer­cials are ubiq­ui­tous on tele­vi­sion, par­tic­u­larly dur­ing news pro­gram­ming. The in­dus­try, led by the Amer­i­can Pe­tro­leum In­sti­tute, has launched an enor­mous ad­ver­tis­ing and lob­by­ing push.

McK­ibben ral­lied the ac­tivists in Lafayette Park mo­ments be­fore the ac­tion began, and noted the enor­mous amount of money on the other side of the fight. “There is enor­mous pres­sure com­ing down on the White House from the fos­sil fuels in­dus­try. These are the rich­est peo­ple. They are the most pow­er­ful peo­ple on our planet. They usu­ally win,” McK­ibben said. “We have to find a dif­fer­ent cur­rency to work in. Our cur­rency today and for the next two weeks is our bod­ies and our cre­ativ­ity and our spirit. And that’s all we’ve got to put up against all that money, and we will find out if it’s enough.”

Since Con­gress is not in­volved in this de­ci­sion, the White House is the de­ci­sive choke­point for the Key­stone XL pro­ject—Obama doesn’t have to tan­gle with in­dus­try-friendly mem­bers of Con­gress. McK­ibben told re­porters in Lafayette Park that “it is re­ally the en­vi­ron­men­tal test for Barack Obama, re­ally in the course of his first term.”

Many of the ac­tivists wore but­tons from the Obama 2008 pres­i­den­tial cam­paign, which cli­maxed in Den­ver at the De­mo­c­ra­tic Na­tional Con­ven­tion, where Obama fa­mously marked the mo­ment “when the rise of the oceans began to slow and our planet began to heal.” McK­ibben pre­dicted that “if Barack Obama mans up and says ‘no’ to this thing, it will send a surge of elec­tric­ity through all of the peo­ple who voted for him three years ago. It’ll be the re­minder of why we were so en­am­ored with this guy in 2008.”

When the ar­rests began, the ac­tivists—in­clud­ing McK­ibben, Fire­DogLake founder Jane Hamsher, Lt. Dan Choi, and Ver­mont Law School pro­fes­sor Gus Speth—re­peated chants of “Hey hey, ho ho, Key­stone XL’s got to go” and “Ain’t no power like the power of the sun, be­cause the power of the sun don’t stop.”

They were hand­cuffed with zip ties, led one-by-one into a tent set up by the US Park Po­lice, processed and loaded into the back of a large van as tourists watched. The ar­rest­ing of­fi­cers gave the ac­tivists water over the course of the two-hour process, which took place in the swel­ter­ing late-sum­mer heat of Wash­ing­ton. Sev­eral ac­tivists noted that if Key­stone XL isn’t stopped, the hottest weather is surely yet to come.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *


George grew up in Buffalo, NY and holds a B.A. in English from the State University of New York at Buffalo. Prior to joining The Nation, George was Senior Reporter/Blogger for He worked as a researcher for Michael Moore’s SiCKO and as an Associate Producer on “The Media Project” on the Independent Film Channel. His work has been published in The Los Angeles Times, Media Matters, and The Buffalo News.

Copy­right © The Na­tion – dis­trib­uted by Agence Global.


eaarth . . .

. . . Making a life on a tough new planet

"read it ... nothing could be more important" --Barbara Kingsolver

thanks barbara
coming from you that means something
farming like you write
with verve, all you got

and you, bill
writing as you act
i bumped into you only recently at planetary
your going-on-half-century alerts now filling in

just the 101 for someone playing catch-up on climate change
well said too, kind of read i can’t put down
you take us by the hand, shake us to our boots
then steer us to a place we can get to

where to begin . . . ?
nowhere better than where you do
from the top: what is this place we’ve fashioned?
across our blink of earth history

whatever it is sure ain’t anything like it was
best rename the planet on which we now find ourselves
to not confuse it with where we grew up
that different, yes

like what i came across just yesterday about homo sapiens himself
thanks to australian science writer JULIAN CRIBB
not much left of sapiens given what we’ve done here
better to call him something else ( cribb won’t say )

to not disassociate entirely, how about homo transitus?
as in, on-our-way/definitely-not-there-yet
it wouldn’t take much to go farther
you don’t go there bill; i won’t either

but that doesn’t keep you from the facts
the sheer math as you call it
things lurking at the periphery of consciousness
when added all up now astound

you get right to it in four sections
starting with that shocking inventory
of a new world, pulling no punches
the damage is done, this climate’s already changed

or as you put it we’re like the guy
who smoked for forty years then had a stroke
he doesn’t smoke anymore
but the left side of his body doesn’t work either

so how to make the necessary transition to this new place
in the time we’ve let go by?
more shock awaits in section two, high tide
definitely not a matter of more of the same

need to dampen our intuitive sense
that the future will resemble the past
our standard issue optimism
that the future will be ever easier

eaarth is an uphill planet now
gravity pulls stronger
more friction than we’re used to
have to work harder to get where you’re going

you cite the club of rome’s landmark study of 1972
limits to growth: it circled the world back then
more important those unheeded dire warnings
have largely come to pass

so then the end to civilization as we know it?
per jerrod diamond’s nifty observations of collapse
those poor mayans, anasazis, easter islanders?
hopefully not: section three, backing off

comes down to a matter of growing up you say
getting over this race-horse fixation of ours
how about a long hard look at something sturdier
say a belgian workhorse

so let’s turn a deaf ear to massive, global, hi-growth
tune into something human, local, steady
we’ve let our energy & food systems grow “too big to fail”
just as we did our banks

the answer is the same
smaller, closer to home
you take us through our own history
and much local geography

notably your own vermont
right down to the friendly local farmer’s market
fastest growing part of our food economy
where we humans have always shopped

where we acquire gossip and good cheer along with our calories
even -imagine!- to circulating a fully local currency
all, a mighty long way from the 5,000-mile straw
thru which we suck hydrocarbons from the persian gulf

your last section outlines practical steps ahead
pointedly titled lightly, carefully, gracefully
about mastering the essentials of our survival
in food, energy, and the internet

you show us right down to the furrow
how that can work
energy too needs to go local
once we conserve how we use it

as for the internet
here’s our deus ex machina
appearing just in time
to make our next evolution bearable

and then there’s your
most widespread day of political action
in the planet’s history
as you quote cnn

not content with words
you are moving us
as this poor mother moves you
bill, i can hear her thank you for both

today’s email to get me started

thanks weezie
so good to catch up w/ you 
before you take off for blessed yankee climes

making a note of NATURAL CAPITALISM
there’s so much to learn
fyi, here’s the bunch i’m reading at the moment

w/ any knack for names & titles i might’ve even said so yesterday
as it is i have to rely on always useful printed word
and that’s exactly what i want to do in MY NEW BLOG

they’re all hot off the press, so-to-speak
except of course for carson’s 
and the later eye opener from nasa’s hansen 
here’s the rundown straight off my ipad’s bookshelf! . . .

environmentalist’s learned, poetic account of life under his nose on the long isle sound, month-by-month, and too, what’s going on at both poles

bill mc kibben, EAARTH
from the founder of worldwide consciousness raising 350.ORG, telling it like it is, starting with naming this new planet we find ourselves on, no holds barred, not w/o adding what we can do, beginning w/ simply growing up.

written w/ his young daughter in mind, what kind of planet she’s about to inherit. points to great examples of local current initiatives by counties & cities on both coasts, helps me understand from the start distinction bet long range mitigation and these adaptation (survival) choices now close at hand.

sara wheeler, MAGNETIC NORTH
gutsy journalist’s account of how people, flora, and fauna are faring in places where global warming is fully underway, goes to live w/ the inuit to experience it for herself.

rachel carson, SILENT SPRING
everyone’s sure been talking about her early 60’s wakeup call; time at last to check it out for myself. someone said about her book, “yup she got us thinking about it alright, even to banning DDT, but not long after we must’ve figured we did all we had to, time enough to go back to those comfortable ways.”

from nasa whistle-blower credited with marking the start of undeniable global warming in the early 80’s

from his award-winning documentary in ’06 his call continues with OUR CHOICE, an ipad interactive app combining that planetary concern with his internet enthusiasm. most recently HIS ARTICLE IN ROLLING STONE criticizing the “climate of denial” and concurrent white house inaction.

a whole education, weezie, and just getting started. i have to hand it to all those pedaled miles of my climate rides; sure must’ve made their earthy point! and to you here & now for nudging me on THIS BLOG OF MINE. i’m convinced we all need to get the message out, those of us even half-awake; you wouldn’t believe all the denier articles i came across just now while googling al gore’s works. what the hell . . . ! 

hoping you and friend joanne find the links above profitable too

~ jim
too hot to handle?
suppose it’s time to turn down the fire?