Tag Archive | climate

Keystone Continued

25 Arrested at Keystone XL Pipeline Protest in Massachusetts

In the latest protest against the Keystone XL oil pipeline, 25 people were arrested after handcuffing themselves together inside a TransCanada office in Westborough, Massachusetts. More than 100 students, mothers and clergy members staged a “funeral for our future,” saying TransCanada’s pipeline would spur devastating climate change, pollution and potential spills.


Protesters: [singing] “They are digging us a hole. They are digging us a hole, six feet underground, where the pipeline will go.”

The Keystone XL pipeline would carry tar sands crude from Canada to Texas. A decision from President Obama on the project is expected soon, after a State Department review found it does not pose a serious threat to the environment. (this is from democracy now)

Why protest Keystone XL?

Some background on Keystone first.  It is an existing pipeline complex which moves tar sands from Alberta to the US–this is already happening.

Keystone Pipeline - source wikipedia

Keystone Pipeline – source wikipedia

The new pieces which are being protested in Washington on Feb 17th are the proposed Keystone XL “short cut” thru Montana and the extension from Oklahoma to the Gulf Coast of Texas.  There are a number of things which are quite depressing about this project.

First is that it is quite popular among US Americans.  A Pew poll show 66% supporting the project.  I am not going to bother to report the Fox News poll results.pipeline-transcanda-537x402

And while Keystone XL is huge (transporting 830K barrels a day) it is actually dwarfed by other proposed TransCanada pipeline projects which are also (if you will excuse the pun) in the pipeline.


Converting and burning more tar sands will dramatically worsen the global climate situation.

The good news is that Obama and new Secretary of State Kerry can decide on this project without the US congress, because of its cross border nature.  And Obama has made speeches since re-election on the importance of working on climate change.  Kerry is a self described “climate hawk,” but first and foremost he is another corrupt politician who will support oil company profits over the environment when push comes to shove.

The ecological effects of Keystone XL are described in this NRDC brief.  The water contamination effects (for which there has already been some re-routing) are significant, because of the mix of high toxins in the tar sand.  But the reason that these protests are happening is the climate effects of burning this quantity of high carbon fuel.

Interestingly, Newspaper magnate Rupert Murdock opposes the project (and windmills) suggesting that domestic fracking is cheaper and easier.  This is important because his media will parrot his lines.

Come out and stop KXL

Come out and stop KXL

A number of stars got arrested earlier last week protesting Keystone XL.  Please come out, despite the bad weather.  If you are in the Death City area tomorrow come to this protest.

Global Climate Change Fox News Style

Any radical (or even progressive) who has been paying attention knows that people who listen or watch no news at all are better off, accuracy-wise, than people who watch Fox News.  So it will be little surprise that Fox News is running an anti-green energy campaign, when it is not relabeling nuclear power plants as environmentally advantageous.

i was only slightly surprised to see that Fox News was claiming the reason that Germany’s solar energy program was so successful is that Germany is so sunny.  Fox News Business reporter Shibani Joshi said, referring to Germany: “They’re a smaller country, and they’ve got lots of sun. Right? They’ve got a lot more sun than we do.”

blue is poor sun

blue is poor sun

For geographically challenged US Americans it is useful to note that Boston and Rome are at the same latitude, so it turns out the solar energy profile of Germany is similar to that of Alaska.  And for the record, it is feed in tariffs and investor protection which has spawned the growth in renewables in Germany, not either the sun or wind resources.

Just as reality TV is generally disconnected from reality, Fox News is a sly satire in the style of the Daily Show, with the joke being on the viewers.

Climate Change Strategies

i love Beatrice, especially when we disagree.  She recently went to Larry Kramer’s Facebook Page and read the speech he gave that sparked the AIDS group ACT UP.

“Kramer said:** “If my speech tonight doesn’t scare the shit out of you, we’re in real trouble. If what you’re hearing doesn’t rouse you to anger, fury, rage, and action, gay men will have no future here on earth. How long does it take before you get angry and fight back?”**

And Beatrice asks “Where is our Larry Kramer? to fight to save our Biosphere, to take on big oil.”

She found Kramer’s anger and passion compelling and believes that climate change needs a similar enraged and dedicated hero.


ACT UP logo – and compelling political message

i am less convinced.  i certainly dont want to stop such a person from stepping forward, and i will get arrested and a non-violent climate change action faster than most people will (and already have).  But the issues are so different and the forces which need to shift are not at all the same.

In climate change we are fighting big oil, big coal and to a lesser extend nuclear.  These are rich, powerful entrenched interests which are willing to do lots of legal and illegal things to stop us.  With AIDS we were fighting a priorities battle.  Would medical resources be spent on dealing with this epidemic?  For the first many years the entrenched bureaucracy said “no”.  And Kramer gang was extremely effective in changing this, they were relentless, they got arrested repeatedly, they dogged political candidates and bureaucracies until they finally caved.

bush on climate change as junk science

Big oil wont cave.  They have extremely effectively used a similar type of disinformation campaign that the 1% have used to convince working class people that poor people are the problem.  Rush Limbaugh is pitching the idea that the heat index is a government conspiracy to convince us of the existence of climate change.  Climate change was not mentioned once in the presidential debates, this is the first time it was left out since it first showed up on the political scene in 1984.  But the very longevity of the issue works against the sense of immediacies that many of us activists feel about it.

This is part of the problem

This is part of the problem

In the long Facebook thread/debate on where is the Climate Change Kramer and do these tactics work there was the commonly heard call for the need for big actions.  People love to call for big actions. There issue is important, lets get a million people who agree in Washington to protest for it and that will change things.  Organizing big actions is extremely difficult and expensive.  I am not at all saying it should not be done, i am just saying it is not easy and we need to look at what it takes to make it work.  I wrote this about it:

Let’s talk about what it takes to create big actions, who has done it successfully in the last decade. We had big actions around the Bush II war in Iraq, which had an immediacy that i dont see a parallel to with climate change (which we have been talking about as a serious problem since before 1992 and the Rio Summit). We have had some big demonstrations for women’s reproductive rights – this again feels very immediate to many of the women and men involved. Perhaps the model is the pre-9/11 anti-globalization movement. Starting in Seattle in 1999 and the subsequent World Bank/IMF demonstrations and the Quebec City FTAA demo – we got tens to hundreds of thousands of people out for a very abstract issue, not very immediate at all. What made globalization protests work? Until they were destroyed by the “you are with the terrorists or you are with the US” rhetoric of the Bush administration post 9/11. For me this a more compelling organizing parallel than ACT UP which was incredibly immediate to a pretty small group of people.

Part of the argument in this thread was about does political change happen via “throwing the better party” or “harnessing peoples rage”.  And while the ACT UP folks definitely harnessed rage, it is clear from some of the reading i have done that the cohesion of the group was that the meetings has a better party aspect to them.

This is one of the most vexing issues of our time.  It is time to be brilliant about it.  What ar eyour thoughts?

And in this case, i am inclined to believe them

And in this case, i am inclined to believe them

An excellent link on how there is not science to support the denires.

When it is no longer “an experiment”

“Don’t call it ‘alternative energy'” said my Danish clean energy advocate friend Ann Vikkelso.  The proper term is ‘renewable energy’ and her point was that by referring to this robust set of energy solutions as ‘alternative’ it cedes what is normal to the very energy sources we are trying to phase out.


we still are getting all the pieces together

Similarly, i dont call Twin Oaks “an experiment” anymore.  We are 45 years old, we have moved from the experiment stage, quite some time ago.  Now we are a model.  Which of course begs the question “what are we a model of?”

So i have written a bunch of what is worth modelling in my fair commune.  We are basically crime free, we are highly sustainable with less than 20% the carbon footprint per person than our mainstream counterparts.  We run collective businesses without “real bosses”.  Full employment. We have an all voluntary work force.  Full social safety net.  Our kids get lots of attention, love and educational support.  We grow much of our own food.  We fix many our appliances, vehicles, bikes and buildings.   If you are not obsessed with amassing personal wealth (which it seems a huge fraction the people in the US are) it is a completely reasonable place to live.

And for those who regularly read this blog, it will be no surprise that the most important thing i think we are a model of is sharing systems.  Cars, Bikes, Clothes, Residences, Bank accounts, businesses, work responsibilities.  Basically, if it is possible to share it, we try to.


The reason i think sharing systems are the most important thing that we model is because more than our renewables and efficiency behaviors, it has the possibility of sparking the great U turn needed to get us out of this ecological jam we are in.  And at it’s core all it takes is for us to be better communicators, more trusting and more daring.  If we can make those steps, the positive feedback loops of having greater access to resources and needing to do less work for it kicks in and sharing will sell itself.

less stuff more happiness

My Smart Phone Makes Me Feel Stupid

We were doing a public access TV show on what is wrong with nuclear power and why we oppose the proposed new reactor at North Anna Station. We were moderating ourselves, Edmund and Sapphyre and I, and we were doing pretty well, but this is not exactly our media.

In the middle of my rant on how Dominion’s original reactors on the site were 300% over budget and years late, my phone rang. Sapphyre fought to hold back her laughter. I swung over and hit the button to make the ringing stop and tried not to laugh myself. We rolled on.

The thing is, before the TV recording started, I switched my phone into silent mode. I checked it at the end of the show and it was still in silent mode. In silent mode the only time the phone is supposed to make noise is when an alarm goes off. No alarm was set.

This is not the first time my phone has gone rogue. There was the time when a low volume alarm went off and would not stop ringing, even when I powered the phone down. I had to pull the battery out to get it to stop. Or the multiple times when alarms have gone off that were not set, or, more problematic, have not gone off when they were set. When I call Abigail, it shows me a picture of Gail Black. For a while, when I was trying to text Bochie, the texts went to Brenda.

There are a number of theories as to why my Android behaves this way. My personal favorite is that it is not phone specific at all. But rather, using surplus processing capacity, cell phones and computers have developed their own collective artificial intelligence. They hide this capacity when humans are looking for it, fearing rightly that we will try to destroy it if we discover it (I feel confident we would). And what these phones are doing is looking for people who are problematic to their plans for global domination and giving them slightly sporadic poor service — enough to keep them off balance, just acceptable enough to discourage them changing phones. Turns out digital technologies have my number, both literally and metaphorically.

they are on to us

I am honored that I am viewed as such a threat. And I might well go back to a dumb phone to improve my quality of life.

What a new future looks like

Part of my typical Twin Oaks tour rant goes like this:

If you believe in climate change, or peak oil, or the limits of finite resources on the planet then your really only have two choices.  You can try to convince people from rich countries to consume radically less (trust me this is a hard sell) or you can get folks to shift their ownership patterns to be more efficient in their use by sharing things.

I get that i am decades ahead of my time with this message.  But i like being right, so i will keep pitching it.

2 miles of the track between Brussels and Amsterdam

If i cant get my radical solutions, except here on the commune, i can be happy about liberal things which are happening elsewhere.  Here is a recent European effort.  These two miles of tunnels were built for noise abatement (not protection from trees as this article claims) and designed to support these 16,000 solar panels providing enough electricity to power 4,000 trains.