We live in a world of dynamic potentials. Nowhere is that seen more clearly than in the field of energy production. There are constantly incredible new developments made in our understanding of the planet we live on, and how to create sustainable solutions to meet our energy needs. On the flip side, governments are continuing to approve massive energy projects based on technologies and the exploitation of resources the vast majority of scientists say are not only extremely dangerous, but also unnecessary.
Take Canada and the United States – two of the most technologically advanced countries in the world. While Business Insider is reporting that wind and solar power projects are creating jobs 12 times as fast as the rest of the U.S economy – President Trump demands that the Keystone XL and Dakota Access pipelines be completed. At a time when the official position of the Canadian government is that, “The science is clear that human activities are driving unprecedented changes in the Earth’s climate, which pose significant risks to human health, security, and economic growth,” they approved the Kinder Morgan and Line 3 tar sands pipelines while also cheerleading for Trump's Keystone XL announcement.
These projects would mean a significant commitment to continued development of the Alberta Tar Sands and make it impossible for either country to meet their United Nations CO2 emissions commitments.
We Stand with Standing Rock
Not only are these pipeline projects dangerous and unnecessary, they also being built without the consent of the many indigenous nations whose traditional territories they cross. In North Dakota, police have made over 700 arrests since the Standing Rock Sioux and their allies set up a camp to stop the construction of the Dakota Access pipeline. More than 15,000 people were present when the camp was at its largest, and they were able to force the Obama administration to halt construction and order an environmental review of the project. They are now attempting to bypass this completely as the US Army Corps of Engineers has just issued the final “easement” allowing drilling to start immediately.
Trump's financial disclosures show he owned shares of Energy Transfer Partners, the company building the Dakota Access pipeline. His staff say he has sold that investment, but that has not yet been confirmed by any further financial disclosures.
Despite Trump, water protectors are committed to ensuring the pipeline is not built. “We have been saying something very simple from the beginning- Water is Life. We must stand for life. We cannot let the basic essence of who we are be destroyed. We must stand, so we are asking the world to stand with us,” said LaDonna Bravebull Allard, Director of Sacred Stone Camp.
US military veterans, who previously showed up in their thousands to stop the pipeline construction, are planning to return to Standing Rock as well.
Forcing the Issue
These pipelines make so little sense, that even a new Fortune Magazine article is titled, “Investors Should Steer Clear of the Keystone Pipeline”
It reports that:
“The oil industry is in trouble, beset by bankruptcies of junior companies, write-downs by major producers, and cancelled or drastically delayed projects across the board. The last thing it needs is the proposed Keystone XL pipeline, which President Trump this week moved to reignite after only five days in office.”
“Public opposition to the project is so vast as to guarantee interminable litigation and the sort of costly headline civil disobedience that has worked so effectively against completion of the similarly financially rickety Dakota Access Pipeline. Climate policies enacted by international governing bodies pose risks to development of fossil-fuel resources everywhere. Divestment campaigns are gaining momentum...”
Meanwhile Justin Trudeau has been having a rough time justifying his government's recent pipeline approvals at “town hall” meetings across the country. He even decided against having a public meeting in British Columbia – due in obvious part to huge discontent with is approval of the Kinder Morgan pipeline.
In Vancouver, the Climate Convergence coalition has organized large and energetic demonstrations for Trudeau's last two visits to Vancouver, and has committed to at least one demonstration every month until the pipeline projects are scrapped. There is also work being done to organize a national day of action.
Many indigenous nations are also asserting their opposition in the courts and through community organizing. One example is the Coldwater band in BC's interior. They received a joint federal-provincial letter acknowledging the risk to their primary water source from the Kinder Morgan pipeline just one day before Trudeau approved the project.
As Coldwater Chief Lee Spahan said, “This is about our drinking water; it is our Standing Rock. It'll be up to my membership how they decide … but we're going to do whatever it takes to protect our drinking water.”
Another Way Forward - Cuba
While it is obvious that organized public opposition is having a significant effect in delaying or deterring many projects, it's true that many others are still built and the planet is nearing a dangerous level of global warming. It is also true that the entire situation is a waste of resources. Oil pipelines are a waste of resources which could be put towards developing sustainable projects, they are a waste of tax dollars which subsidize their construction, and overall it's a huge waste of valuable human energy organizing against them as well.
Imagine living in a country where the government’s resources were not wasted in trying to force through oil pipelines, but instead towards protecting the environment. Socialist Cuba has been leading the world in sustainability for decades. A World Wildlife Fund study concluded it is the only sustainable country in the world - with both a high UN Human Development Index and a small ecological footprint.
Organic agriculture dominates Cuba. A recent article by Miguel Altieri, a Professor of Agroecology at University of California, Berkeley noted that, “Today Cuba has 383,000 urban farms, covering 50,000 hectares of otherwise unused land and producing more than 1.5 million tons of vegetables. The most productive urban farms yield up to 20 kg of food per square meter, the highest rate in the world, using no synthetic chemicals. Urban farms supply 50 to 70 percent or more of all the fresh vegetables consumed in cities such as Havana and Villa Clara."
Because of a reforestation program which started in 1998, forests make up 30.6 percent of the island nation’s land area. Also, the government is currently building 59 new solar energy parks, with 33 scheduled to be completed this year. Their goal is for one quarter of all energy produced in Cuba to be solar by 2030. This is especially important given that it is a small island of 11.5 million people which faces many difficulties in accessing new technologies because of the ongoing US blockade.
Sustainable development and environmental protection are actually part of the Cuba constitution – this is because the government prioritizes human development, not corporate profits.
System Change Not Climate Change
In the back and forth of elections and administrations, hard won victories are always unstable. The Keystone XL pipeline was shelved by Obama after widespread protest, only to be given new life by Trump. Not the environment's best friend either, Obama famously declared that under his administration, “We've added enough new oil and gas pipeline to encircle the earth.” In Canada, many thought they were electing a Prime Minister who took the climate change crisis seriously after years of watching the Harper Conservative government completely disregard it. Now we are back to fighting against the many pipelines and other dangerous projects approved by the Trudeau government.
Ultimately to win we can't just organize from project to project. We need a more overall perspective that questions the system we live under. A system that places corporate profits above human needs. Capitalism has failed all but a small percentage of the super wealthy and their government friends. We can look to Cuba's example for a way towards a real and sustainable future on a global scale.
“System Change Not Climate Change!”
“No Consent No Pipelines!”
“From Standing Rock to BC, Make the Land Pipeline Free!”
Follow Thomas on Twitter:@Thomasdavies59
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