Taking Obama’s Grassroots Fundraising Lesson to Heart to Demand He Reject Keystone XL

This Tuesday, we are planning an action for President Obama’s fundraising stop in St. Louis. I sent this letter to my family and friends to ask for their support. Now I am asking a larger group to contribute, so we can call on President Obama to lead by rejecting Keystone XL.

Dear family and friends,

Like so many of us, in 2008, I fell in love with President Obama’s vision for the future. After working on his campaign and covering my walls in Obama swag, when the President was elected on my 18th birthday, I sobbed like a baby. But three years later, it is not a stretch to say that President Obama has not delivered on his promises. Of course, not all of this is his fault – he came into a difficult Presidency, Congress has gone crazy, America is increasingly polarized. But now when I hear him speak, I don’t feel inspired by his rhetoric – I feel sad for what could have been.

yesyoucan1 When I listened to Candidate Obama, I was most excited when he spoke about taking action on climate change. For the first time in 8 years, here was a candidate that not only accepted climate change was happening, but understood how awful it would be. And, if you understand that, if you understand the ramifications that climate change will have on our world, how can you not act now? But he didn’t, and crazy Congress didn’t let him.

In the coming months, President Obama faces his biggest decision yet around climate. The proposed Keystone XL pipeline would funnel tar sands oil from Alberta, Canada all the way down to refineries in Texas. Not only does this pipeline cause huge safety problems from potential spills (it goes over the Ogallala aquifer and LOTS of farmland), but these tar sands are so dirty that the nation’s top climate scientist has said it will be “game over” for climate if the tar sands are developed fully. Game over. Meaning that, if this pipeline is built, all the work done by amazing people all across the world could be for naught.

Continue reading ‘Taking Obama’s Grassroots Fundraising Lesson to Heart to Demand He Reject Keystone XL’

From Midwest Rising to the Tar Sands Action, Civil Disobedience as Tactic for Change

299829_249447385078042_110187279004054_800891_2991324_n Last Saturday, while listening to the “Why Direct Action?” panel at the Midwest Rising Convergence, I whispered to my close friend Todd sitting next to me, “I think I’m going to risk arrest on Monday.” He responded, “Why shouldn’t you?”

While making my mental pro-con list, I realized that Todd was right. My con list was short: I might have a record, which as a college student with the unknown in front of me seems reason for concern. However, the pro list was much longer. I would be fighting the corporate powers of Bank of America, Peabody Energy and so many others found in St. Louis in ways that my years of rallies, protests, phonecalling and voting had never done.

My privilege was the most notable item on my pro list. I knew that because of my socioeconomic status and my community of friends and fellow activists I would be bailed out of jail quickly. Using my privilege as a white female with enough money seemed like one of the biggest services I could provide where others in the movement can’t due to the unequal realities of our legal system. As activist Lisa Fithian said, “It should be our rich white kids risking arrest.”

287313_10150406254657598_724207597_10626687_418132_o When 15 of us, the Midwest Rising 15, sat down in the downtown St. Louis intersection, Peabody Energy on one side, Bank of America on the other, we linked arms and chanted. Looking around the circle at the strong, determined faces surrounding me, I knew I had made the right decision. We spent 10 hours in jail, charged with street demonstration and failure to obey police orders. The last one released, I exited to fifty people cheering and waiting for me.

The love I felt reminded me of how lucky I am to be part of a group of people fighting for a more just world, and some unexpected pros worked themselves onto my list. First, my arrest had inspired others. It had invigorated not just me, but those waiting outside. For all of us who work so close to burnout, seeing new tactics used is inspiring and makes us feel alive again. Second, getting a brief look into the legal system reaffirmed my commitment to fighting systems of oppression. The convergence had already linked economic and climate justice movements, but hearing stories of people held overnight with no food or water reminded me that movements working together are even stronger. I was both depressed and inspired when I reminded myself that in the United States we are innocent until proven guilty.

We must all continue to think strategically to fight for justice for people and the planet. As sixty sit in jail, sixty more risk arrest today and hundreds others gear up for action regarding the Keystone pipeline, as Tim Dechristopher spends two years in prison, I am humbled to be a part of a growing movement realizing and exercising the power of civil disobedience as a tactic for change.

If you are willing and able, I ask you to contribute to the bail funds for the Midwest Rising 15 here.

Students and Community Shut Down National Coal Council Meeting in St. Louis

Written by Claire Christensen, leader with Washington University’s Green Action

Toss a handful of college students and a few community members into a National Coal Council Coal Policy Committee gathering and what do you get? A canceled meeting and an early lunch.

The National Coal Council would be reviewing a final draft of a study on deployment of carbon capture and storage technologies and would present their findings to the Secretary of the Department of Energy Steven Chu.

So what’s so bad about carbon capture and storage technologies? In itself, absolutely nothing. In fact, I strongly encourage it. However, when it’s used as an excuse for America to CONTINUE using coal it is simply unacceptable. The label “Clean Coal” is false advertising and purposefully misleading.

According to a study by Dr. Paul Epstein, Director of Harvard Medical School Center for Health and the Global Environment called, “Full Cost Accounting for the Life Cycle of Coal,” published in 2011 in the Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences,

Each stage in the life cycle of coal-extraction, transport, processing, and combustion-generates a waste stream and carries multiple hazards for health and the environment. These costs are external to the coal industry and thus are often considered as “externalities.” We estimate that the life cycle effects of coal and the waste stream generated are costing the U.S. public a third to over one-half of a trillion dollars annually.

Industries need to stop funding false solutions and tackle the real problem: the use of a dirty, inefficient resource that harms the climate through emissions, our country through its extraction, and our people through its presence. As conscious citizens, we have to draw attention to the use of coal propaganda and its detrimental affects to our country and our future.

On Tuesday at about 11:10 a.m., only ten minutes into the Coal Policy Committee’s meeting, students from Washington University’s Green Action group and activists from Climate Action St. Louis unfurled a banner declaring “Coal is Never Clean” and sang “Clean coal is a dirty lie.” As a member of Green Action, I took pictures to document the members of the St. Louis community standing up for what they believe in.

The National Coal Council meeting stalled as the police escorted us out of the building. The committee then canceled their meeting early, had lunch, and disbanded. Continue reading ‘Students and Community Shut Down National Coal Council Meeting in St. Louis’

Van Jones Helps Miami University Students Push Beyond Coal

Written by Tyler Elliott, Miami University Beyond Coal organizer

Miami University has a dirty secret. Tucked away in the furthest corner of Western Campus is a dirty coal plant, burning 125 tons of the black stuff every single day. Students are starting to take notice, and they’re not happy. Miami University students have launched a Beyond Coal campaign and are preparing to fight against the school’s reliance on dirty, dangerous, and outdated coal power. The student activists are already shaking things up, even to the extent that one Mr. Van Jones gave them a shout out during his visiting address to the campus Thursday night.
MU leaders meet with Van Jones
Encouraging the students to fight on, Mr. Jones acknowledged “It’s hard when your university is burning coal on campus. It’s hard when your own university is going in the wrong direction… but you’re the only generation that has a shot at solving these problems.” Following his speech, Jones met individually with the members of Miami University’s rapidly growing Beyond Coal movement, posing for a photo.

Before leaving Miami University, Van Jones collaborated with 2nd year student Tyler Elliott and Sierra Student Coalition organizer Todd Zimmer to co-author a challenge to the University’s dirty coal dependence: Continue reading ‘Van Jones Helps Miami University Students Push Beyond Coal’

WashU Students Reject Coal CEO’s Take on Energy at International Symposium

St. Louis has long been corporate ground zero for dirty energy. Over the past two years, these corporations have become increasingly close with Washington University: Arch Coal, Peabody Energy, and the dirty energy utility Ameren UE helped found the Consortium for C!#@n Coal Utilization, the CEOs of Arch Coal and Peabody were appointed to WashU’s Board of Trustees, and WashU’s chancellor was the vice chair of a National Research Council report on America’s energy future that advocated for the continued use of coal.

DSCF5640This weekend, Arch, Peabody and Ameren are sponsoring the Symposium on the Global Energy Future, an international event bringing scientists from around the world to St. Louis. While the Symposium has a laudable goal of creating a cooperative vision for our global energy future, the Symposium has been corrupted by corporate greed and a desire for political expediency. The Symposium espouses a belief that true change to our energy system is impossible, and gives coal a prominent place in the world’s energy future.

Yesterday, the CEO of Peabody Energy, Greg Boyce, gave a keynote speech on “The Future of Fossil Fuels.” Before the speech, WashU student Matt Blum summed up students’ frustrations: “Greg Boyce places his company’s coal-dependent profits above our health and the future of our planet. We will take a stand as he speaks at this supposedly-scientific conference. My generation knows coal is over.”photo-5

So students took a stand, literally. During Boyce’s speech, about thirty people stood at intervals, revealed yellow Beyond Coal shirts and held signs debunking Boyce’s lies. CEO Boyce did not acknowledge the students, but the 300 international attendees sure did, murmuring and taking pictures of the protesting students. Through discussion questions, students then pressed Boyce on climate change and human impact of coal. They triumphantly exited the talk and directed symposium attendees to view the Beehive Design Collective’s “True Cost of Coal” banner, which was displayed outside the building. Meanwhile, students at the Southeast Student Renewable Energy Conference in Georgia made a video in solidarity with students at WashU. Continue reading ‘WashU Students Reject Coal CEO’s Take on Energy at International Symposium’

IL Youth Ask Senator Durbin to Stand with People, not Polluters

Written by Amy Allen, student leader at University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Students at Farmer's Market Students at the University of Illinois demanded an end to fossil fuel dependence at the Urbana Farmers’ Market on Saturday. They marched through the farmers’ market dressed as BP executives and oil-tainted fish and chanted about the importance of cleaning up the spill and transitioning to renewable energy.

The action came four days after the three-month anniversary of the start of the oil disaster in the Gulf of Mexico and just two days after the Senate dropped the push for comprehensive climate change legislation. In light of this, the students also gathered over fifty signatures for a letter to Illinois Senator Dick Durbin demanding a comprehensive climate bill that imposes a cap on carbon emissions and asking him to stand with people not polluters. Senator Durbin, who has taken $9,000 this year from dirty energy corporations, has the opportunity to be a clean energy champion and make sure that climate change legislation is passed.

One woman from New Orleans approached the protesters to thank them for drawing attention to the issue, and numerous people chimed in chanting, “Oil, oil, on the shore, we don’t want you anymore!” and “Zero, one, two, three, get the oil off of me!” Check it out here.

People or Polluters: Senator McCaskill, Whose Side Are You On?

Written by Will Fischer, a Climate Action St. Louis organizer

Washington, D.C.: When asked this week about climate change legislation, Missouri Senator Claire McCaskill responded, “I think it’s still a work in progress. You know, it took 50 years on health care.

Crowd outside McCaskill's office

St. Louis, MO: At 12:15 yesterday, July 20th, concerned citizens from across Missouri gathered at Senator Claire McCaskill’s office to mark the three-month anniversary of the BP oil disaster and to remind Senator McCaskill that we cannot afford to wait 50 years to transition to a clean energy future. Speaking directly to her, Will Fischer of Climate Action St. Louis demanded that she, “in the wake of continued inaction, cross the line and stand with PEOPLE, not polluters. To move towards a clean energy future, we demand that you reject campaign contributions from dirty energy corporations, work to switch federal subsidies from polluting fossil fuels to renewable technologies, and support an end to offshore drilling.”

Activists dressed as oil and coal executives presented a large check signed by BP, Peabody, and other dirty energy companies to highlight the influence of dirty energy money in politics. In recognition of the ongoing devastation in the gulf, demonstrators performed an oil “spill-in,” blocking traffic for 10 minutes, and then asked the Senator to choose a side.

Oil and Coal Execs deliver McCaskill's annual check Continue reading ‘People or Polluters: Senator McCaskill, Whose Side Are You On?’

Senator Lindsey Graham, Do You Really Want to Support Offshore Drilling for SC?

Charleston, SCYesterday, July 20th, on the three-month anniversary of the oil disaster in the Gulf, two Carolinians hung banners at the Daughters of Confederacy building in Charleston’s old city to express concern over Senator Lindsey Graham’s continued support of offshore drilling for South Carolina. “Drilling off the coast of South Carolina directly threatens the low country lifestyle central to South Carolina heritage and culture. A single oil spill could destroy our precious coastal environments, not to mention the shrimping, fishing, tourism and real estate industries,” said Todd Zimmer, one of the demonstrators.

Tourism is South Carolina’s biggest industry, bringing in $18.4 billion last year;  should a spill occur like those in the Gulf, in Alaska or in China, this industry would  certainly take a major hit. Meanwhile, Senator Graham has taken over $50,000 from dirty energy corporations in the past year alone. The two asked Senator Graham to stand with people not polluters by giving back his dirty energy campaign contributions and supporting a shift in fossil fuel handouts to clean energy investments.

In 2005, Senator Graham recognized the dangers of offshore drilling. He said that he agreed “offshore drilling would be a detriment to our economy along the coast” and that offshore drilling was “the easy way out” and did not address “the fundamental problem with fossil fuels.” But in 2008, Senator Graham flipflopped to support offshore drilling, describing the South Carolina coast as a “cash cow.”

The two Carolinians, affiliated with Rising Tide North America and the Energy Action Coalition, handed out fliers and urged citizens and tourists to call Senator Graham’s office. Many did so on the spot, telling the office “we liked the Senator better when he protected our state’s low country by opposing offshore drilling.”


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