Archive for the 'Extraction' Category

The Climate Movement Needs to Stop ‘Winning’

Cross posted from Huffington Post — Guest post by Maya Lemon from Nacogdoches, Texas

As a child my favorite chore was hand-pumping water from the thirty-foot well on our family homestead. The pump was shiny black and the water ice-cold. Then my father was diagnosed with leukemia, a cancer linked to chemicals used in oil and gas production. It’s been nine years since I drank that water.

I am from an impacted community in East Texas, home to oil and gas industry, on the southern route of the Keystone XL (KXL) tar sands pipeline. My involvement in the climate movement is motivated by the reality my community faces.

Nacogdoches, Texas lies along the southern path of KXL and cannot escape tar sands. From Cushing, Oklahoma down to Beaumont, Texas pipe is buried in the ground and scheduled to go online by the end of the year. We are waiting for the shoe to drop, for tar sands oil to flow through the pipe, for the bend of welded metal to respond to the heat and corrosion of bitumen. We are waiting for an event over which we have little control, despite its potentially disastrous impact on our lives.

Within this experience lies the insight I have to offer the climate movement. My experience is limited by the fact I am a young, white woman from an unconditionally supportive family. Incomplete as it is, however, my perspective is the best thing I can offer. And so, I ask that the climate movement stops talking about “winning.”

maya meme

My community will not “win” on climate and this idea delegitimizes the extraction industry impacts we already face. I have lived alongside the reality of petroleum extraction my whole life. A pipeline runs down our driveway. I have been woken in the middle of the night by fracking fumes that burned my eyes and nose and made me feel sick. The construction of KXL south near my home has ignited new concerns about the health and safety of my family and community. In communities like mine impacts run deep and come from all sides.

I will never “win” on climate. Tanks containing benzene on my family’s property display plastic signs warning against cancer and requiring the use of a respirator. There are three active gas well sites within a two-minute walk from my front door. Scanning the land I am from it is impossible to imagine a scenario where I have not been exposed to the same chemicals that may have caused or contributed to my father’s cancer.

Last fall the direct action campaign Tar Sands Blockade (TSB) brought national attention to my community. Folks in TSB put their lives and livelihoods on the line to stop construction and raise awareness. I am glad they came to stand with my community but this also marked a loss. National climate groups celebrated Obama’s decision to delay the northern segment of KXL, intentionally overlooking that this supposed “win” was paired with an endorsement to fast track the southern arm of KXL, connecting a preexisting tar sands pipeline that ended in Oklahoma to refining communities and shipping ports in Texas. There was no delay for us–pipe was being put in the ground. In search of a “win,” the people of KXL south were written off as a loss.

Like cancer taking over the body, the oil and gas industry is too entangled in the organs of my community for a simple “win-lose” dichotomy. The industry employs us, pays for community festivals, and improves our roads. They also contaminate our water, deny us access to our land, and take away our sense of agency. Extraction industries have impacted our land, bodies, and minds in ways that can’t be erased or won.

Checking a thesaurus suggests further complications of a “winning” framework. Synonyms to “win” include “come in first” and “conquer.” In communities with an intersecting history of oppression “winning” doesn’t seem to be the most appropriate message. Utilizing ideas of “coming in first” and “conquering” among individuals living a legacy of racism, classism, and colonialism seems intrinsically problematic. Environmental Justice leaders ask instead that we “lift up” impacted communities. Will our movement be one that “conquers” or “lifts up?” Continue reading ‘The Climate Movement Needs to Stop ‘Winning’’

Climate Crisis: Radical Action or a New Battlefront in the War on Nature?

Climate change is happening, but geoengineering schemes are not the solutions we need

by Rachel Smolker and Almuth Ernsting
(cross-posted from Common Dreams)

Will declaring a ‘climate emergency’ help to finally prompt radical action to address climate change?  A growing number of campaigners as well as scientists think so and hope that a major wakeup call about unfolding climate disasters will spur governments and people into action.

The planet needs a break from humanity's assault, not a new 'war' on nature in the form of geoengineering schemes.

The planet needs a break from humanity’s assault, not a new ‘war’ on nature in the form of geoengineering schemes.

Whether a lack of scary-enough facts about climate change has been holding back real action is questionable.  After all, it requires a fair amount of psychological denial to not be alarmed by the escalating heat waves, droughts, floods and destructive mega storms. Continue reading ‘Climate Crisis: Radical Action or a New Battlefront in the War on Nature?’

At Greenpeace Action Camp, a vision of the movement we want

Hi All,

Here’s a crosspost of a blog by Dave Pomerantz at Greenpeace on last week’s Action Camp. I hope to see increasing discussion of a more collective movement!

John

Title: At Greenpeace Action Camp, a vision of the movement we want

Activists and trainers from Greenpeace's Coastal Canyons Action Camp

For a long time, corporations and governments have used the tried and true tactic of divide and conquer: they’ve tried to convince us that the immigrant rights struggle is different from the worker rights struggle, which is different from the climate justice struggle, to name just a few of the efforts to make the world a more sustainable place.

Of course, those divisions are false and self-serving: all of those struggles are linked by both cause and effect. The corporations, institutions and systems that caused environmental destruction by prioritizing the wealth of the few over the health of the many are the exact same ones that have trampled the rights of workers, immigrants, and the poor. And environmental crises like climate change promise to hit immigrant and poor communities the hardest.

Last week, Greenpeace hosted an Action Camp in Southern California for 160 activists where we focused intently on pushing back against those false divisions.

Continue reading ‘At Greenpeace Action Camp, a vision of the movement we want’

Divest M&M’s: How to De-Fund Big Coal on March 28

3rr36oWith campus, congregation, and city divestment campaigns taking off across the country, there’s never been so much momentum to de-fund the fossil fuel companies destroying the planet.  As Bill McKibben has so convincingly argued, we need to cut off fossil fuel giants’ money if we’re going to keep from passing disastrous climate tipping points.  

It’s with this inspiring backdrop that activists in Montana are calling for a day of action targeting the finances of one of Big Coal’s most destructive projects.  If you’re running a campus divestment campaign, and can spare a little of that energy to stop one of the planet’s worst carbon bombs – or if you’re not yet part of the divestment movement, and want a way to get involved – you can help.

Sign up to participate in the March 28th day of action

Here’s the background: In 2011, billionaire Forrest Mars Jr. of Mars Inc. (think M&M’s) bought a stake in the Tongue River Railroad (TRR) project in Montana.  Like the Keystone XL pipeline, the TRR threatens to open up huge reserves of buried carbon to development.  Instead of oil though, it would transport coal from Montana’s Tongue River Valley, a largely undeveloped region in the Powder River Basin.

There’s currently no mining in Montana’s Tongue River Valley.  The TRR would change that, by making huge areas accessible to the coal industry.  Most coal from the area would be exported, fueling a new generation of coal-fired power plants overseas.  Trains passing through towns in Montana, Idaho, Oregon, and Washington would expose communities to toxic coal dust and diesel fumes.

Protect communities from dirty coal by registering a local action

How did Forrest Mars get involved?  He owns a ranch in the Tongue River Valley that originally would have been bisected by the TRR.  For years Mars opposed the railroad, until he bought a share in it and used his influence to re-route it around his land.  Now Forrest Mars is one of three investors in the TRR, along with Arch Coal and Berkshire Hathaway.  He’s using a fortune largely built by selling kids candy to finance a project that will destroy those kids’ future.

That’s where we come in.  On March 28th, in communities across the country, volunteer activists will visit stores that sell Mars products, to re-label candy packages with removable stickers that let shoppers know what their purchase may be paying for.  Here’s what it looks like:

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You can help by holding a stickering action in your community.  By targeting the Mars brand, and convincing Mars Inc that it’s bad business to be associated with coal, we can pressure Forrest Mars to drop his investment in the Tongue River Railroad.  It’s the first step toward getting the money out of coal in the Powder River Basin.

Ready to take action?  Read more about how to hold a successful stickering action, or sign up to hold an action in your community right now!

Today: Social Media Action Against Mars’ Coal Investment

Today, organizers with the Coal Export Action in Montana are calling for a day of social media action that will help bring one of our newest campaigns – to get Forrest Mars Jr to withdraw his investment in the Tongue River Railroad coal project – to a new level.

This new effort to pressure one of the major investors in Montana coal exports is already getting off the ground.  Just yesterday, a group of activists in Missoula held a die-in in a supermarket pet food aisle where Mars products are sold (yes, Mars Inc owns several pet food brands).

No matter what state or country you live in, you can help take this campaign farther by copying one (or more) of the the below sample tweets, status updates, or memes and pasting them on Twitter, Facebook, or other social media.  The links direct people to where they can send an online message to Forrest Mars via Mars Inc.  The social media buzz we hope to generate today will help build a community of activists we can call on again to take action.

No doubt: the most important moments in our movement occur when people take direct action to challenge fossil fuel industries, as they’ve been doing lately from Montana to Texas and beyond.  But every once in a while, we need to harness online media to amplify the power of direct action.

Organizers in Montana are gearing up to start putting pressure on Mars in a big way in the months ahead, and to do that we need to build up our base of online support.  Help us do that by posting one of the below updates or memes on social media, and signing the petition if you haven’t already done so!

Tweets:

  • Coal for the holidays? No thanks! http://bit.ly/noMarsTRR Sign the petition to tell @MarsGlobal: #NoCoalExports! #EarthtoMars
  • Hey @MarsGlobal: Stick to exporting candy, not dirty coal! http://bit.ly/noMarsTRR Sign and RT! #EarthtoMars #NoCoalExports

Facebook updates:

  • Earth to Mars: candy and coal don’t mix! Sign this petition to support Montana agriculture, not coal trains and climate change! http://bit.ly/noMarsTRR
  • The Mars family legacy is financing coal exports.  Tell Forrest Mars Jr the world wants Mars to export candy, not coal http://bit.ly/noMarsTRR

Continue reading ‘Today: Social Media Action Against Mars’ Coal Investment’

Montanans Support Action Against Coal, During Week of Climate Solidarity

Cross-posted from the Coal Export Action

On Wednesday, over 30 people gathered in Helena, Montana’s Constitution Park to support the venerable US tradition of civil disobedience.  Immediately before an omnibus court hearing for the 23 people arrested during last August’s peaceful protests against coal exports at the Montana Capitol, the group gathered with signs reading “Support the Coal Export Action 23,” and “No More Coal Exports.”

The rally in support of the Coal Export Action also coincided with an international week of climate solidarity, initiated by organizers of the Tar Sands Blockade in East Texas.  It’s a good time to be organizing; as the Tar Sands Blockade puts it, “The aftershock of Sandy is still being felt on the East Coast, it’s the hottest year on record, and families most affected by climate change are increasingly bearing the brunt of dirty extraction.”

Residents of Helena, Missoula, Bozeman, and other Montana communities met at Constitution Park at noon, one hour before the court hearing.  Speakers at the rally included Lowell Chandler of the Blue Skies Campaign, Linda Kenoyer of the Livingston-based Montana Women For, and Corey Bressler a college junior who was one of the youngest people arrested at the Coal Export Action.

“I came to Helena, to my own statehouse and got arrested because it looks to me like there is no more time for writing reasoned letters to the editor or having meetings with the politicians,” said Linda Kenoyer, describing why she participated in last summer’s civil disobedience.  “The time has come to put my body on the line, to risk my safety and clean record if that’s what it takes to get someone’s attention.”

At the court hearing itself, sixteen of the peaceful protesters appeared in person or called in to request a jury trial.  If granted, the trial will be a chance to argue a necessity defense: the idea that acts of civil disobedience are legally justified when used as a last resort to stop catastrophic climate chaos.

If we argue a necessity defense successfully, it will set a great precedent for civil disobedience.  At the very least, this court case is an opportunity to highlight issues surrounding coal exports in a way no one in Montana has tried before.  We’re lucky to have a great legal team working with us for minimal pay, but they do need some compensation and there are other legal costs.  If you have the means, please help us take coal exports to court by donating to the Coal Export Action Legal Defense Fund.

Coal Export Action Ignites Movement in Montana

The last few days in Montana must have made Big Coal very, very nervous.

First, around 100 people gathered outside the Montana Capitol on August 13th to protest state decision makers’ support for coal export projects, which would see Montana become an international coal colony so Big Coal can profit while coal trains and mines expose our communities to poisons.  We then stormed into the Capitol building itself, dropping off letters for State Land Board members Governor Brian Schweitzer and Secretary of State Linda McCulloch.

Then, over the course of a week, 23 activists (myself included) were arrested at the State Capitol protesting coal exports, in one of the largest acts of nonviolent civil disobedience Montana has seen in recent years.  As far as anyone I’ve talked to has been able to tell, it’s the biggest climate-related civil disobedience the state has seen, period.

Partly because of increased attention generated by last week’s protests, journalists uncovered the news that Arch Coal last month submitted its application to build the Otter Creek Coal Mine – one of the largest mines in North America.  Apparently hoping to avoid public scrutiny, Arch submitted its application in July without even a press release.  Last week the application, along with our protest, made front page news in the Great Falls Tribune, not what Arch wanted.

These are just the highlights from an amazing week.  During the Coal Export Action in Helena, people concerned about coal exports marched to the office of the state Department of Environmental Quality, staged a die-in outside US Bank (one of Arch Coal’s funders), picketed outside the Montana Coal Council office, and held a series of teach-ins on coal-related issues in the middle of the Capitol rotunda.

Governor Schweitzer was apparently so scared of us that he posted highway patrol officers outside his office doors, to block the entrance.  But he needn’t have worried; the Coal Export Action was entirely peaceful, with both police and protesters behaving peacefully and respectfully toward those around them.

If media attention is at least part of the measure of a successful action, the Coal Export Action was very successful.  The protests received coverage in every major Montana newspaper, as well as local TV and radio outlets.  We even scored national coverage in USA Today.  But while media coverage of the coal exports issue is important, the real measure of our success will be the degree to which it helps build a winning movement against coal exports. Continue reading ‘Coal Export Action Ignites Movement in Montana’

Climate SOS: It’s Our Time to Act!

This is a guest post by Monica Christoffels, cross-posted from Coalexportaction.org

Our Climate Summer of Solidarity (ClimateSOS) is off to a great start!

Yesterday the Coal Export Action team watched as our friends from Frack ActionStop the Frack Attack andRAMPS (Radical Action for Mountain People’s Survival) took action against fracking and mountaintop removal, respectively. We were inspired to see that about 50 people were able to shut down one of the largest mining sites on the East Coast (as covered here in the Huffington Post!); and that as many as 5,000 stormed the streets of NYC and DC, the latter rally stopping at the offices of America’s Natural Gas Alliance and the American Petroleum Institute, to send a strong message of opposition to the industry.

We were also overjoyed to see our allies at the Tar Sands Blockade in Texas begin training for their massive nonviolent direct action against the Keystone XL Pipeline, which will take place later this summer. The Blockadelive-tweeted its training, and even sent out a message of support to West Virginia, DC and NYC.

(Photo credit: Tar Sands Blockade on Facebook)

The movement literally grew before our eyes; we couldn’t be more proud to be a part of it. Now it’s our turn to take action.

This Tuesday, July 31, Coal Export Action will kick off a social media blast day to amp up the volume on our actions to stop coal mining in Otter Creek next month.

We hope a surge in tweets and Facebook posts will alert people to the action, increase support (both in donations and new participants) and, most importantly, send a strong message to Arch Coal and the Montana State Lands Board that we’re ready to act on behalf of Otter Creek, the state of Montana and our global community.

Make sure you follow us on Twitter and like us on Facebook – we’ll be blasting our tweets and posts from those accounts on Tuesday. We’ll hope you join us online as we continue on the road to Coal Export Action this August!

Connecting the Dots: Dirty Money and Politics in Montana

Cross-posted from the Coal Export Action

On Saturday, as part of the international Connect the Dots day of action organized by 350.org, activists in Missoula, MT highlighted the connection between dirty money, government, and climate change.  At the Missoula Farmers Market, organizers from the Blue Skies Campaign, Occupy Missoula, and other local groups enacted a creative street theater routine to draw attention to the Montana Land Board’s support for Arch Coal at the expense of ordinary people and the climate.

In 2010, the Montana Land Board voted 3-2 to lease coal tracts in the Otter Creek area to Arch Coal.  Developing Otter Creek for coal mining would set off one of the largest carbon bombs in the world, facilitating construction of the Tongue River Railroad, and the opening of vast additional tracts of land to mining.  With a quarter of US coal reserves sitting under Montana soil, this is truly one of the most important fights on the planet.

Help diffuse this carbon bomb: join the Coal Export Action this summer!

Fortunately, Land Board members – all of whom are statewide elected officials – still can stop mining at Otter Creek.  It will take massive public pressure to make them do so, though.  The ones who can really diffuse this bomb are the Montana people.

Thus the inspiration for Saturday’s street theater, which showed what it will take to keep Montana’s largest coal reserves underground.  During a tug-of-war match between the people of Montana and pro-coal members of the Land Board, climate activists discovered pro-coal politicians couldn’t be budged as long as they remain tied to the coal industry by dirty money. Continue reading ‘Connecting the Dots: Dirty Money and Politics in Montana’

Stop the Coal Trains, Bring Climate Justice to Eugene

This post was submitted to It’s Getting Hot in Here by Emma Newman, of the Climate Justice League at University of Oregon.

As coal plants in the United States continue to close, local organizations around the country appear to have struck a blow to the industry. But in reality, as coal consumption decreases in our country, global demand continues to rise. A result of this shift in demand can be found in recent proposals to ship Powder River Basin coal from Montana and Wyoming through several Northwest ports. One of these proposals would bring coal right through the city of Eugene, to the Port of Coos Bay.

Eugene has been given a unique opportunity to combat coal by rallying against this proposal. Not only are coal mining and combustion dirty; its transportation presents significant health hazards as well. The coal passing right through downtown Eugene, slowing traffic for up to eight minutes would be transported in open bed coal trains.

More than 100 tons of coal dust per train will blow off between Montana and Coos Bay. The dust contains heavy metals such as lead and mercury and causes lung diseases, as well as pollution from the diesel that fuels the trains. Regionally, the health impacts of coal follow the transportation and watershed routes.

This is a major issue we face as a community, region, and nation and it represents a textbook environmental justice problem. Environmental justice (EJ) is a social movement that includes mainly people of marginalized communities and focuses on the environment directly around people in society who carry many environmental burdens in their everyday lives, including living and working conditions. EJ strives to bring communities autonomy through their fight for civil and human rights. The coal trains will be passing directly through the Whiteaker neighborhood, a historically working class part of the city.

Emma Newman, a Co-Director of the Cascade Climate Network, went on an environmental justice tour in West Eugene last week and saw the neighborhoods that would be hardest hit. “One neighborhood,” Emma said, “was literally surrounded by a train yard on one side and train tracks on the other. They are already suffering from a toxic plume in their well water and the last thing that they need is coal dust drifting over their park and onto their vegetable gardens.” Continue reading ‘Stop the Coal Trains, Bring Climate Justice to Eugene’


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