On the sidelines covering the protest march at the climate talks in Copenhagen (credit: Andrew Revkin)
Andrew Revkin, has given this blog wonderful coverage (see here and here and here) at his NY Times Dot Earth blog but, when he recently took a pro-Keystone pipeline stand, he definitely crossed my line.
No! It's not a moral line, or a scientific line, or even a specifically tar-sand line. It's something way more practical.
First, I really encourage you to read Andrew's post and follow some of the links in order to get a feel for the quantitative cost-benefit policy wonk analysis that is evidently rationalizing Obama's political movement toward approving the pipeline.
Then, please consider Revkin's response to a comment (#89) from an anti-pipeline protester who was arrested in DC:
I have no problem with people exercising their right to peaceful protest. But if that's your concern, then why aren't you protesting against the same kinds of impacts in Nigeria, Ecuador, and a host of other spots where our conventional oil thirst harms communities and environments? If anything, blocking this pipeline merely increases the odds of problems elsewhere (as I mentioned).
Well, I live in western Amazonia where there are many horror stories of oil extraction "trade-offs" but nothing looks like these scenes from North America:
Northern Alberta Forests and Ox-Bow Lakes
Northern Alberta land after Tar Sands extraction.
There are now huge issues of energy and infrastructure development facing Amazonia. For example, there are moves toward an energy strategy based on mega-dams across the Amazon Basin; Eastern Peru and Western Acre are full of rigs prospecting for oil; and the Brazilian Congress seems poised toward seriously weakening the laws against deforestation.
The most common argument put forth by the pro-development forces is that the environmentalists and sustainability advocates are "international NGOs trying to prevent South America's right to develop in less-damaging ways than the North Americans are doing it." Nothing gives credence to their argument more than the tar-sands decision. So, Andy, please understand that this is not just about the US muddling-through its political trade-offs or getting Obama re-elected. It's an example for the rest of the world.
Look again at the two photos above. Are we going to have a life-style based on the services (clean water, clean air, carbon storage) provided by the living carbon called a "forest" or do we base our lives on the dead carbon called a "mine"? Is our future going to be based on life or death? What example does North America want to present to the world?
I thank the Creator and the Queen of the Forest for Bill McKibben, James Hansen and all the campanheiros who are bravely putting this question before the North American public, President Obama and the court of world opinion.