Thursday, September 01, 2011


Why do I find the tar sands actions so inspiring despite the sober analysis that they will probably be ignored by Obama?

I believe that it's because I sense that a whole different kind of movement is emerging that is bringing the mature professionals out of their offices and young idealists beyond election campaigns to the work of creating an actual WE in the streets. This WE is not just of and for the USA -- the forests that are threatened belong to Canada and the climate that is being threatened belongs to everyone. And, because I live in Brazil, it offers an important message that Americanos are not just demanding that the people of developing economies save places like the Amazon rainforest.

Here are a couple of moving examples:

Gus Speth Arrested in Front of the White House
Gus Speth arrested in front of the White House on 20 August 2011

Who is Gus Speth?
The founder of the National Resources Defense Council (NGO) has a distinguished career.

He served from 1977 to 1981 as a Member and then for two years as Chairman of the Council on Environmental Quality in the Executive Office of the President. As Jimmy Carter's Council on Environmental Quality Chairman, he was a principal adviser on matters affecting the environment and had overall responsibility for developing and coordinating the President's environmental program. In 1981 and 1982 he was Professor of Law at Georgetown University Law Center, teaching environmental and constitutional law.

In 1982 he founded the World Resources Institute, a Washington, D.C.-based environmental think tank; served as its president until January 1993. He was a senior adviser to President-elect Bill Clinton's transition team, heading the group that examined the U.S.'s role in natural resources, energy and the environment.

In 1991 he chaired a U.S. task force on international development and environmental security.

From 1993 to 1999, he served as Administrator of the United Nations Development Programme; he served as Special Coordinator for Economic and Social Affairs under Secretary-General Boutros Boutros-Ghali and also served as Chair of the United Nations Development Group.

In 1999 he became the dean of the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies at Yale University, New Haven, Connecticut. He retired from Yale in 2009 to assume a professorship at Vermont Law School in Royalton, Vermont.
I'm inspired that Gus came out of the exalted offices into the street.

Here's more of a a ground-up view from Danielle Simms (re-posted from
When I first heard about the Tar Sands Action, I thought I would attend a rally or two to support the people joining the sit-in and risking arrest. I changed my mind and decided to join them after I researched the Keystone XL pipeline and saw a map of where the pipeline would be placed.

If built, the Keystone XL will reach from tar sands in Alberta, Canada to oil refineries in the Gulf of Mexico. It will run from Montana to Texas and Louisiana. The people who will live near the pipeline will be the people who can’t afford to live farther away. They will be the ones too busy working multiple jobs and caring for their families to voice their concern to elected officials. Or, they will be the people who have already been disenfranchised by the political process. A lot of times, they will be communities of color.

This protest is important to me for many reasons. I was a field organizer on the Obama Campaign for Change in Lynchburg, Virginia. We were placed in unsafe conditions, such as when homeowners purposely unleashed their dogs to get canvassers off of their property. But that didn’t matter. We were determined to elect a progressive, climate-conscious president, and we would knock on as many doors as we had to in order to win that election. We wanted change we could believe in.

This protest is also important to me because I am African American, and many times our communities pay the price by living near health-risks such as coal-fired power plants or oil pipelines.The Keystone XL pipeline isn’t just an environmental issue, but a justice and civil rights issue as well. It could destroy aquifers and introduce toxins to our food supply. Already, tar sands oil extraction requires removing ancient forests and leaves behind toxins that cause cancer and increase air pollution and lung disease.

This protest is important to me because I have Powhatan Native American ancestors. Indigenous people, who have perfected how to coexist with nature, will see their communities destroyed by this pipeline. Indigenous peoples have contributed little to climate change, yet they suffer from the brunt of its direct and immediate effects.

And this protest it is important to me because I was born in 1988, the same year James Hansen gave his testimony on climate change and brought the issue to broader awareness. I’ve seen the effects of droughts and some of the largest, most destructive hurricanes in history. I’ve lived through the hottest years on the planet, and I graduated college weeks after the BP oil spill.

Right now, we need Obama to pick a side. During his inauguration speech, Obama said, “each day brings further evidence that the ways we use energy strengthen our adversaries and threaten our planet.” We cannot afford to threaten our planet anymore. We desperately want to see the Obama we campaigned for, and spent countless days and nights organizing, phone-banking, canvassing, and celebrating for make a decision to deny the permit for the Keystone XL pipeline. Either he will support the oil industry or he will stand for environmental and civil rights justice.

I just finished reading “Climate Coverup” by James Hoggan, and the advice in the book’s last paragraph summarizes the reason I am joining the Tar Sands Action sit-in at the White House: ‎

“So please, be bold. Be courageous. Be positive. Act and demand action. This, for our sake and for the sake of all those who follow, is a fight that we can and must win. For this bears repeating: the world is worth saving.”

If you want to join in, or support, or just follow the development of a WE more real than Obama's, please check out these important links:

Tar Sands Action

We Are Power Shift

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