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Super Typhoon Haiyan and the Climate Change Link

The scale of death and destruction is hard to wrap your head around. Several days after Super Typhoon Haiyan slammed the Philippines, we still do not have a full picture of the scale of death and destruction that lay in its wake.

Estimates put the number of dead in the city of Tacloban alone at 10,000, and scores of survivors in that city are now in desperate need of food, clean water and shelter.

Trying to make sense of the disaster, many are quick to point to the man-made causes for the increase of violent weather events, like the scene that played out on Piers Morgan recently wherein Mark Hertsgaard berated Morgan for allowing a "climate denier" to speak on live television. CNN’s Morgan held his ground, insisting it is only fair to allow both sides of the debate to be aired.

Public Citizen: Dents, Holes in Keystone XL Southern Half Weeks Before Planned Startup

Cross-Posted from DeSmogBlog

The southern half of Transcanada's Keystone XL tar sands pipeline is supposed to begin pumping up to 700,000 barrels of diluted bitumen per day through the Cushing, OK to Port Arthur, TX route within weeks. But is it ready to operate safely?

Public Citizen has released a chilling report revealing that the 485-mile KXL southern line is plagued by dents, faulty welding, exterior damage that was patched up poorly and misshapen bends, among other troubling anomalies.

In conducting its investigative report, "Construction Problems Raise Questions About the Integrity of the Pipeline," Public Citizen worked on the ground to examine 250 miles of the 485 mile pipeline's route. The group and its citizen sources uncovered over 125 anomalies in that half of the line alone. These findings moved Public Citizen to conclude the southern half of the pipeline shouldn't begin service until the anomalies are taken care of, and ponders if the issues can ever be resolved sufficiently.

The Truth About Climate Change

Originally posted at AcronymTV

In what will come as a surprise to almost no one, 2012 was another record year for the volume of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, according to the World Meteorological Organization (WMO).

MSNBC "Leans Forward" Into Running "Native Ads" Promoting Fracking

Cross-Posted from DeSmogBlog

Three years into its "Lean Forward" re-branding campaign, MSNBC has given new meaning to the catchphrase, leaning forward into running branded content promoting hydraulic fracturing ("fracking)

Coal Baron and Major Ken Cuccinelli Campaign Donor Sues Blogger for Defamation, Invasion of Privacy

Robert Murray, owner of the Ohio-based coal giant, Murray Energy Corporationfiled a defamation lawsuit against a prominent liberal blogger and The Huffington Post

Revealed: Never Before Seen Photos of Tesoro Fracked Oil Spill in North Dakota, Pipeline Restarted Today

Cross-Posted from DeSmogBlog

A month after over 865,200 gallons of oil spilled from Tesoro Logistics' 6-inch pipeline near Tioga, North Dakota, the cause of the leak is still largely unknown to anyone but Tesoro. The pipeline resumed operations today.

Earthwise - American David Swanson, journalist, author, blogger, peace activist discusses threats to Pagan Island

Click the 'play' button to start the show.

Programme:Earthwise
Episode title: American David Swanson, journalist, author, blogger, peace activist discusses threats to Pagan Island, Northern Marianas from the US military
Description:Vieques Island, part of Puerto Rico, has been ravished and poisoned by incessant US military bombing and other practices, including using Depleted Uranium. Will the same happen to Pagan Island?
Duration:0 hour(s) 26 minute(s)
Release date: October 16 2013
Download: mp3 version

Pagan Island is known for its beauty and rich biological diversity. As David has said, "let's take this opportunity to build a bridge between peace activism and environmental activism." By the way, the Northern Marianas have observer status in the Pacific Islands Forum, in which New Zealand plays a leading role.

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Talk Nation Radio: 72 Cities Demand Clean Air Act Be Enforced to Protect Climate

https://soundcloud.com/davidcnswanson/talk-nation-radio-72-cities

Rose Braz is the Climate Campaign Director for the Center for Biological Diversity's Climate Law Institute.  The Clean Air Cities campaign has thus far organized 72 cities, large and small, across the United States, to pass resolutions demanding that the EPA make full use of the Clean Air Act to cut the greenhouse gas pollution that is drastically changing the earth's climate. See http://CleanAirCities.org

Total run time: 29:00

Host: David Swanson.
Producer: David Swanson.
Music by Duke Ellington.

Download or get embed code from Archive or LetsTryDemocracy.

Pacifica stations can also download from AudioPort.

Syndicated by Pacifica Network.

Please encourage your local radio stations to carry this program every week!

Past Talk Nation Radio shows are all available free and complete at
http://davidswanson.org/talknationradio

US Court: Transcanada's Keystone XL Profits More Important than Environment

Cross-Posted from DeSmogBlog

In a major ruling that's flown under the radar, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit - based in Denver, Colorado - decided not to grant the Sierra Club and Clean Energy Future Oklahoma a temporary injunction on the construction of the southern half of Transcanada's Keystone XL tar sands export pipeline

The Court's decision hinged on an "injury" balancing test: Would Transcanada be hurt more financially from receiving an injunction? Had it lost, it would be stuck with one until Sierra Club, et al receive a U.S. District Court decision on the legality of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers' decision to grant Transcanada a Nationwide Permit 12 (NWP 12) for construction of what's now called the Gulf Coast Pipeline in February 2012. 

Or would ecosystems suffer even greater and potentially incalculable damage from the 485-mile, 700,000 barrels per day pipeline crossing 2,227 streams?

In a 2-1 decision, the Court sided with Transcanada, and by extension, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The Court ruled, "the threatened environmental injuries were outweighed by the financial harm that the injunction would cause Transcanada."

Commenting on the case brought by Sierra Club, et al, Judge Jerome A. Holmes and Judge Paul J. Kelly, Jr. - appointees of President George W. Bush and President George H.W. Bush, respectively - shot down the arguments sharply.

U.S. Appeals Court for the 10th Circuit Judge Jerome A. Holmes; Photo Credit: The White House

Holmes and Kelly ruled that Sierra Club, et al failed to show how the pipeline will have a significant environmental impact despite the fact it's been deemed a "fuse to the biggest carbon bomb on the planet" by retired NASA climate scientist James Hansen. 

Construction of Keystone XL's southern half - subject of significant grassroots activism by the Tar Sands Blockade and others - is now nearly complete. Tar sands dilbit is slated to begin to flow through it in early 2014. 

NWP 12: "New Normal" for Tar Sands Pipeline Approval

After protestors succeeded initially in delaying Keystone XL, Big Oil has chosen a "new normal" stealth approval method: the non-transparent NWP 12. 

This avoids the more strenuous National Environmental Protection Act permitting process overseen by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), which requires public hearings and public comments for major federal pipeline projects. NEPA compels the EPA to take comments into account in response throughout the Environmental Impact Statement phase, allowing robust public participation in the process.

Sierra Club Staff Attorney Doug Hayes explained in an interview with DeSmogBlog that NWP 12 is for utility projects with up to a half an acre of stream or wetland impacts, and has never been used for tar sands pipelines before Keystone XL's southern half.

The southern half of the pipeline was approved via Executive Order by President Barack Obama in March 2012, directly after Obama gave a speech in front of a Cushing, OK pipeyard.

President Barack Obama speaks in Cushing, OK in March 2013; Photo Credit: White House

"The Corps is abusing the nationwide permit program. Nationwide permits were intended to permit categories of projects with truly minimal impacts, not tar sands oil pipelines crossing several states," said Hayes. 

Utilizing tricky legal loopholes, Transcanada used NWP 12 to push through Keystone XL's southern half in February 2012, calling each half acre segment of Keystone XL's southern half a "single and complete project." The Army Corps of Engineers agreed despite the fact that Transcanada refers to the pipeline at-large as the "Gulf Coast Pipeline project."

"What the Corps is doing is artificially dividing up these massive pipelines, treating them as thousands of individual projects to avoid environmental review," Hayes explained. "In this case, there were 2,227 crossings of federal waterways, so the Corps has treated the Gulf Coast Pipeline as 2,227 'single and complete projects,' each of which qualifies under NWP 12."

Sierra Club Staff Attorney Doug Hayes; Photo Credit: Sierra Club

Why, I asked Hayes? 

"The Corps artificially treats these massive pipelines as thousands of individual projects so as to qualify under NWP 12 and avoid NEPA compliance."

NWP 12 has also been utilized by Enbridge for the Flanagan South Pipeline, a 600-mile, 600,000 barrels per day pipeline set to shuttle tar sands crude from Flanagan, IL to Cushing, OK, crossing over 2,000 streams. That pipeline is scheduled to begin operations in mid-2014, demonstrating how NWP 12 is the "new normal" way to fast-track domestic tar sands pipelines. 

Dissent: Laws Violated, Economic Harm Transcanada's Fault

Perhaps the biggest irony of the Appeals Court decision is that Judges Holmes and Kelly barely grappled with the central issue of the legal challenge to begin with: using NWP 12 rather than going through the NEPA process. 

"The majority opinion avoided addressing the legal questions that are central to this lawsuit - whether the Corps violated the law in permitting this pipeline - and instead it was based on how much money a delay in construction would cost TransCanada," said Hayes. 

Though Judges Holmes and Kelly stayed mum about these issues, dissenting U.S. District Court for the District of Colorado Judge William Martínez - an Obama appointee - did not, pulling no punches in doing so. 

U.S. District Court for the District of Colorado Judge William Martínez; Photo Credit: Judgepedia

"Given the totality of the circumstances...I believe the...Gulf Coast Pipeline required a comprehensive NEPA analysis," Martínez wrote.

"There are also no specific findings in support of the Corps' conclusion that the Gulf Coast Pipeline, as a whole, would have minimal cumulative impact. The failure to consider the cumulative effects of all of the water crossings involved in the Gulf Coast Pipeline violates the terms of NWP 12, and, therefore, the approval of the use of NWP 12 for construction of the Gulf Coast Pipeline violated the law." 

Though Judges Holmes and Kelly grappled with the issue of water crossings - belittling the amount of water Keystone XL's southern half would cross over - Martínez said it's about much more than just water. 

There is "real and signifcant harm caused by the actual construction of the pipeline, including the clearing of trees and vegetation, removing topsoil, filling wetlands, building access roads, and clearing an eighty-five foot construction right-of-way for the length of the pipeline," he stated.

Hayes agreed with this assessment, pointing to examples of things the Judges simply ignored in their assessment. 

"[T]he court's balancing test ignored the host of environmental impacts associated with this pipeline, including the risks of tar sands oil spills," said Hayes.

"Remember that the 2010 tar sands pipeline spill in Michigan is still being cleaned up, and so far has cost over a billion dollars. It's a bit of a Catch-22 to say that this is all just about a few acres of wetlands loss, when the whole point of this lawsuit is that the Corps avoided analyzing any of the pipeline's environmental impacts as required by NEPA."

Lastly, Martínez put the onus on Transcanada for its economic decision-making.

"Transcanada chose to incur its economic harm by entering into contracts for services before the Gulf Coast Pipeline was approved, even in light of the controversial nature of the Pipeline," said Martínez (emphasis his).

U.S. District Court Decision Forthcoming, Activism Persists 

Sierra Club, et al now await a summary judgment from the U.S. District Court for the District of Colorado on whether Keystone XL failed the dictates of NEPA. It's a key decision, Hayes says, because "a ruling in our favor could prevent the Corps from doing this in the future."

While they await this lower court judgment, activists continue efforts to fend off these pipeline projects. 

"This decision yet again demonstrates why direct action is necessary. The permitting process for Keystone XL's southern leg was illegal, yet regulators, inspectors, Obama, and the courts are failing to do what is necessary to protect the people and ecosystems threatened by this toxic pipeline," said Ron Seifert, a Tar Sands Blockade spokesman

"If all the branches of government are so helplessly captured by industry that they will do nothing to stave off climate change, then the people must rise up and take the defense of the environment into their own hands."

Photo Credit: tankist276 | ShutterStock

Over 865K Gallons of Fracked Oil Spill in ND, Public In Dark For Days Due to Government Shutdown

Cross-Posted from DeSmogBlog

 Photo Credit: U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration | Wikimedia Commons

Martin O'Malley and the Poisoning of the Children of Baltimore

Baltimore's poorer neighborhoods have been dealing with Martin O'Malley for years and years, as I can recall from when I worked in ACORN's national office and heard all about the trouble this man was from our Maryland chapter.  O'Malley, once mayor of Baltimore and now governor of Maryland, may run for president of the United States on a what's-left-of-the-left-wing-of-the-Democratic-Party kind of platform.  His current and former constituents will have the usual warnings about who the newly packaged candidate has really been.  Perhaps they'll be heard, although that's not usually how these things work.

One of many angles worth observing about O'Malley is his position toward the natural environment. He's been pushing for fracking and for a coal liquid natural gas terminal on the Chesapeake Bay at Cove Point (Obama just approved it!). My friend and Baltimorean Diane Wittner says she thinks O'Malley is after campaign money "at the expense of a livable bioregion." 

One of O'Malley's destructive proposals is of particular interest because of the resistance to it organized by young people.  O'Malley wants to stick a giant incinerator into a poor neighborhood in Baltimore.  This monstrosity, called the Energy Answers Incinerator, would be the largest trash-burning incinerator in the nation, consuming 4,000 tons of trash a day including plastic, rubber, vinyl, metal, and household waste.  In violation of state law this worse-than-a-major-coal-plant pollution machine would be situated less than a mile from Benjamin Franklin High School and Curtis Bay Elementary School. The incinerator would flood the air with mercury, nitric oxide, lead, dioxins, and particulate matter, producing cancer, heart disease, diabetes, asthma, respiratory problems, and -- if all the stars align -- just possibly a single uncomfortable question in a presidential "debate." 

The neighborhood to be victimized, Curtis Bay, already has the highest toxic air pollution in Maryland and among the worst in the nation. Here's a map I've just made because I think people who visit Baltimore's tourist area would appreciate knowing how close this less favored area is:

Now check out this great website where I've learned about this outrage:

Stop the Incinerator:

"For the health of our community and our children we are calling on Governor Martin O’Malley to stop the proposed trash burning incinerator from being built in Curtis Bay. If built the Energy Answers Incinerator would be the largest of its kind in the nation, producing more pollutants per hour of energy produced than the largest coal plants in Maryland. Worse still, the project is set to be built less than a mile from Benjamin Franklin High School and Curtis Bay Elementary School, in violation of Maryland state regulations. It is this kind of recklessness that has led Baltimore to be ranked number one in air pollution related deaths per capita.

"Energy Answers was required to begin construction in August. While the Maryland Department of Environment investigates if they failed to do so, we are calling on Governor O’Malley to intervene and protect our children’s health and the health of our community.

"Please contact Governor O’Malley if you want to stop the nations’ largest incinerator from being built less than a mile from schools.  Let him know that our community is not a dumping ground.  Let him know that the Energy Answers incinerator needs to be STOPPED."

Governor’s office phone # 410.974.3901 / 1.800.811.8336
Governor O’Malley’s contact page: http://www.governor.maryland.gov/mail/


Watch this terrific video:

A PETITION

To:
The Governor of MD
Gov. Martin O'Malley, Maryland
Anthony Brown, Lt. Governor
Don't trash our community. Go green. Stop the incinerator!

Building the nations' largest trash burning incinerator less than a mile from our schools, recreation center, businesses, and homes is wrong.

Sincerely,
[Your name]

SIGN HERE

And visit the FaceBook page.

Give the Sierra Club Credit for Taking on the U.S. Marine Corps

In this moment in which the public will and a bit of nerve in Congress have made refusing to let a president launch a bunch of missiles into a foreign country a reality and therefore mainstream and respectable (rather than vaguely treasonous as it might have been widely understood a decade ago or depicted by the corporate media a couple of weeks ago), there are signs of possible wider outbreaks of sanity.

Syria's crisis was brought on in part by climate induced drought and water shortage.  The solution of sending in missiles (blocked for now) or of sending in guns (underway as we speak) misses that source of the problem and in fact exacerbates it.  The U.S. military is our greatest consumer of petroleum, which it consumes in the course of fighting wars and occupying countries to control petroleum.  Add in the depleted uranium, napalm, cluster bombs, white phosphorous, and other weapons use and testing, and one would think that environmentalists, sooner or later, would at least notice the existence of the U.S. military as a problem to be dealt with.  Consider that the roughly $1 trillion spent by the United States and roughly $1 trillion spent by the rest of the world on militarism every year could coat the planet with sustainable green energy sources beyond the wildest imaginings of those sources' proponents, and you'd think war addiction would be the first thing environmentalists would want to cure.

Typically, you'd be disappointed.  Every once in a while, there are signs of possible progress.  Some environmental groups have spoken up against the naval base construction on Jeju Island.  And the Sierra Club is now speaking up boldly and straightforwardly against the U.S. Marine Corps' plan to identify and destroy a new Vieques (the Puerto Rican island destroyed by U.S. bomb testing over decades).  The Marines have found a rich and beautiful island, falsely called it desolate and uninhabitable (despite the fact that many species live there, including homo sapiens), and proposed to render it just that. The Sierra Club is among those calling the Marines on the lie and the outrageous proposal:

 

Pagan Island, one of a string of volcanic islands that make up the Commonwealth of the Northern Marianas (CNMI), is an ancient home to the Chamorro people and the habitat of unique animals and plants, many of them endemic, rare and endangered. Those natural and cultural resources are being put at risk by a plan by the U.S. Marines to use the island as a live-fire training ground. In scoping documents related to the environmental impact statement required for that plan to go forward, the Marines have characterized Pagan Island as being "desolate and uninhabitable." Photographs included below show how untrue this is.

Pagan-Island

Under a contract with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Sierra Club member Mike Hadfield of the University of Hawaii and his research team spent two weeks on Pagan Island, traversing it and cataloging biological resources found there. ...

Pagan-Island

Pagan Island has been inhabited by Chamorro people for more than 2,000 years, as attested by remains of ancient villages. It continues to be the home of a small population of Chamorros, and many more want to return to their ancestral homelands. Recent articles from Marianas newspapers, which can be found on the Save Pagan Island website, tell of the connection many people feel with Pagan and other northern islands and their desire to return to them. ...
 
A transfer of our major resources from war making to environment saving is the clearest path to survival and prosperity, so every time a bridge is built between peace and environmental activism is a moment worth celebrating.

Frackademia: The People & Money Behind the EDF Methane Emissions Study

Cross-Posted from DeSmogBlog

The long-awaited Environmental Defense Fund (EDF)-sponsored hydraulic fracturing ("fracking") fugitive methane emissions study is finally out. Unfortunately, it's another case of "frackademia" or industry-funded 'science' dressed up to look like objective academic analysis.

'Video: James Marriott presents Platform's new book: The Oil Road'

Tuesday, Sept. 10, Charlottesville, VA: In a unique journey from the oil fields of the Caspian to the refineries and financial centres of Northern Europe, Platform tracks the concealed routes along which the lifeblood of our economy is pumped. The stupendous wealth of Azerbaijani crude has long inspired dreams of a world remade. From the revolutionary Futurism of Baku in the 1920s to the unblinking Capitalism of modern London, the drive to control oil reserves -- and hence people and events -- has shattered environments and shaped societies. Sponsored by Charlottesville Center for Peace and Justice, Charlottesville Sierra Club, WarIsACrime.org, and Charlottesville Amnesty International.

In Raleigh NC on 9/28 March for Our Planet

Join my awesome neice and nephew in Raleigh for this incredible event! --DS
 

March for Our Planet

 

September 28, 2013, 3:30 pm in Raleigh, NC

Handing out Flyers

Sharing flyers about the March for Our Planet

Sign up to MARCH!

On September 28, 2013, young people around the world will lead marches, rallies, and demonstrations to call attention to climate change and to ask our leaders to make protecting our planet a top priority.  Events will be planned and led by youth but all are welcome and encouraged to attend.

In North Carolina, youth will lead a march and rally in downtown Raleigh with inspiring calls to action from youth leaders and climate advocates.  Marchers will meet at Halifax Mall at 3:30 pm for a welcome and activities.  The march will begin at 4:00 pm, circling the Capitol and the General Assembly building before returning to Halifax Mall for a program to include speakers, music, and more.  More details about march location and logistics to come. 

Click here for ways to get involved!

Raging Grannies From Moral Monday Cropped and Resized

The Triangle Raging Grannies will perform at the post-march rally

The March for Our Planet is endorsed by

350.org Boone
350.org Triangle
350.org Winston Salem
Climate Convergence NC
iMatter Youth/Kids vs. Global Warming
League of Conservation Voters
NC Interfaith Power and Light
NC Students for Climate Action
Our Children’s Trust
Southern Energy Management

Obama’s Keystone XL Trade-Off: Executive Order Expediting Everything Else

Cross-Posted from Mint Press News

Large segments of the environmental movement declared a win on Jan. 18, 2012, the dawn of an election year in which partisan fervor reigned supreme.

On that day President Barack Obama kicked the can down the road for permitting TransCanada’s Keystone XL pipeline’s northern half until after the then-forthcoming November 2012 presidential election.

"Frackademia" By Law: Section 999 of the Energy Policy Act of 2005 Exposed

Cross-Posted from DeSmogBlog

With the school year starting for many this week, it's another year of academia for professors across the United States - and another year of "frackademia" for an increasingly large swath of "frackademics" under federal law. 

"Frackademia" is best defined as flawed but seemingly legitimate science and economic studies on the controversial oil and gas horizontal drilling process known as hydraulic fracturing ("fracking"), but done with industry funding and/or industry-tied academics ("frackademics"). 

Russia vs. U.S. Gas “Cold War” Underlying Edward Snowden Asylum Standoff

Cross-Posted from Mint Press News

450

Nearly two months ago, former National Security Agency (NSA) contractor-turned-whistleblower Edward Snowden handed smoking-gun documents on the international surveillance apparatus to The Guardian andThe Washington Post in what’s become one of the most captivating stories in recent memory.

Build Our Energy

Talk Nation Radio: The EPA Lies for Frackers and Tar Sands Producers

https://soundcloud.com/davidcnswanson/talk-nation-radio-the-epa-lies

Steve Horn discusses lies, fracking lies, tar-sands lies, and the EPA.  Horn is a Madison, WI-based Research Fellow for DeSmogBlog. Steve previously was a reporter and researcher at the Center for Media and Democracy. His writing has appeared on The Guardian, The Nation, AlterNet, PR Watch, Truth-Out, FireDogLake, Common Dreams, CounterPunch, Wisconsin Watch, EcoWatch, PolicyMic, WhoWhatWhy.com, Z Magazine, Climate Connections, Business Insider, The Real News Network, Uganda's Daily Monitor, Modern Ghana, the London Evening Post, and elsewhere.

Total run time: 29:00

Host: David Swanson.
Producer: David Swanson.
Music by Duke Ellington.

Download or get embed code from Archive or  AudioPort or LetsTryDemocracy.

Syndicated by Pacifica Network.

Please encourage your local radio stations to carry this program every week!

Past Talk Nation Radio shows are all available free and complete at
http://davidswanson.org/talknationradio

Fukushima: Uncontainable

 

Fukushima: Uncontainable

 

by Stephen Lendman

 

Japan's apocalypse continues. Emergency conditions persist. No end in sight looms. Fukushima's radioactive discharges can't be stopped. They continue. They're uncontainable. 

 

At issue is by far the worst environmental disaster in history. It's multiples worse than Chernobyl. It's an unprecedented catastrophe. It's reason enough to abolish nuclear power. 

 

What's It Like to "Go to Jail for Justice?" One Person's Story

By Linda W. Swanson

At age 69, I recently found spending thirteen hours in a Washington, DC, jail one of the most invigorating experiences I've ever had, and it seems to have already helped to make the world a better place!

The US State Department had hired a company with ties to tar sands profiteers to evaluate the safety of a tar sands pipeline, with predictable results. In the week since my husband and I and fifty-two other people of all ages and backgrounds were arrested for protesting the company involved, the State Department has decided to initiate an inquiry to determine if there was a conflict of interest. Certainly we were not alone in shining a light on this particular corruption, but I'm convinced we made a difference and played a part in that turnaround.

I'm reminded of Pete Seeger's parable of the teaspoons when I think about the contributions each of us makes every time we take a stand against injustice. We may or may not see the balance of justice tip immediately upon the heels of our action, but without each of us doing our part, getting off our couch, and engaging, the weight will not shift in the direction of justice nearly as quickly as it could.

We've now been arrested twice, and I'd like to share our story in hopes that you might decide one day to join us, not only in bending the world toward justice (one teaspoonful of sand at a time!), but also in experiencing a solidarity with others that is unlike any other experience we've had.

Two years ago my husband, Neil, and I decided to join Bill McKibben and 350.org's Tar Sands Action. Every day for two weeks up to 100 people sat in front of the White House demanding that the president reject the permit for the Keystone XL pipeline that was proposed to run from Canada to the Gulf of Mexico. Over the two weeks, 1250 people were arrested. We could have participated without being arrested. Many made that choice. But we chose to be numbered among those who were arrested in hopes of adding to the impact of the action. That was a positive, empowering experience that inspired us to participate in the more recent action organized by 350.org and others on Friday, July 26, 2013.

Earlier this summer, when 350.org asked if individuals were willing to risk arrest for (sadly) the same cause, Neil and I immediately signed on. This time there were more unknowns. There would be a single, secret event. There would be no "arrangements" with the police beforehand, since surprise was a key element.

Our action, a part of 350.org's "Summer Heat," had been joined to another action called Walk for our Grandchildren that was also demanding rejection of the Keystone XL pipeline. Over the course of the week prior to Friday, July 26, several dozen stalwart folks, ranging from children to folks even older than we, walked all or part of the 100 miles from Camp David to Washington, camping each night along the way. They arrived in time to join us for the mandatory training in nonviolent direct action from 6-10 pm on Thursday evening at St. Stephen's church in DC, and many of them also agreed to be arrested the next day.

As we stood in the dinner line before our training and mentioned that our previous training was only hours after the 2011 earthquake, a man beside us said he had been in training that same day and had been arrested along with us in 2011.  We didn't remember each other, but we had found something in common and began forming a new community. By the time we'd eaten and chatted we had several more new acquaintances among the two hundred or so people present.

As the training began we were offered the opportunity to choose the level of risk of arrest we wanted to take the next day. The people choosing to be in Group A would be at greatest risk, because they were going further into the target building. Group B would remain in the building's lobby and were also subject to arrest. Group C would rally outside the building without risking arrest. As people learned more about the three groups, there was some switching, but soon most of us were comfortable with the level of risk we had chosen.

The next part of our training was an actual run-through of the action so we would have the feel of what we would be doing the next day. We were shown a diagram of the target building and told what areas of the church building would represent areas of the target building. We then had two complete run-throughs of our action.

The last hour of our training was a presentation by our attorney from the National Lawyers' Guild about the legal issues facing us. We were given a large amount of information about the law, police practices, supports that would be in place, and the levels of risk. We each filled out a form with our contact information and names of people who could be called in an emergency. We were told repeatedly that while there had been much planning, there was no guarantee that everything would go according to the plans. Neil and I concluded that sufficient supports were in place for us to be comfortable going ahead with being arrested. We joined Group B.

It was close to 10:30 pm when we left the training. We got to bed well after midnight and were up very early. We were to meet at 11:30 Friday morning in DC, and we wanted to allow plenty of time for any traffic problems, parking challenges, and Metro delays.

As we all gathered on Friday morning, a few things did not proceed as we'd been told in our training. We had expected that the A, B, and C groups would be given identifying colored armbands so we would know how to arrange ourselves on the way to the building. There were no armbands, nor was there any mention of them on Friday. When we finally lined up to march from our staging area to the building (a distance of about two blocks), we called out to each other to assemble in the proper order. We also found that a motorcycle officer was stopping traffic so we could safely cross streets, and that made some of us wonder if the police had been informed and were expecting us.

The speed at which we walked along the sidewalk was much faster than I had anticipated. Neil was breaking into a near run to keep up, and he kept motioning for those of us behind him to close ranks. I caught up to him at the door of the building, and he tried to keep the door open for people behind us to enter. He later told me that a policeman had pushed him off of the door and closed it. We still don't know if all those in the B group managed to enter the building.

Extreme Whether

PLAY REVIEW

Extreme Whether


by: Karen Malpede
Featuring George Bartenieff, Zach Grenier, Kathleen Purcell, Di Zhu, and Alex Tavis

Reading: September 10, 2013
The Cherry Lane Theatre
38 Commerce St., New York, NY

Script available at: http://theaterthreecollaborative.org

Review by: David Swanson

Published in the July / August 2013 Humanist

Extreme WhetherWhen my dad, Neil Swanson, goes to rallies against the tar sands pipeline, people rush up to him and thank him for everything he’s doing. They don’t actually have any idea what a great guy my dad is. It’s just that his Scandinavian face looks a lot like James Hansen’s.

So, I already had a weird sort of family relationship to Hansen, whom I’ve never met, before I read Extreme Whether, a new play by the brilliant Karen Malpede that tells a personal story of Hansen in which everything is also political.

Hansen, of course, is the director of the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies and an outspoken advocate for putting a halt to global warming. Hansen warned Congress in the 1980s, revealed government deception in the 2000s, and has been speaking the truth, even more bluntly, if possible—and getting arrested for it—in recent years.

“Several times in Earth’s long history,” Hansen says, “rapid global warming of several degrees occurred. … In each case more than half of plant and animal species went extinct. New species came into being over tens and hundreds of thousands of years. But these are time scales and generations that we cannot imagine. If we drive our fellow species to extinction we will leave a far more desolate planet for our descendants than the world that we inherited from our elders. … And if you melt all the ice, sea levels will go up two hundred and fifty feet … producing a different planet.”

Hansen does not describe global warming as a mysterious ineluctable force, but as a policy choice made by certain powerful criminals (his word). This does not endear him to many in power, and the attacks on him are relentless, with New York Times business columnist Joe Nocera repeatedly denouncing him for hurting his own cause by being an activist, getting arrested, opposing the tar sands pipeline, and making “apocalyptic pronouncements”—never mind if they’re accurate.

Truth is not always stranger than fiction. Hansen’s story involves some pretty strange truths, but Malpede’s play adds emotional drama and strangeness aplenty. Hansen writes and speaks about his grandchildren and the fate we’re condemning all of our grandchildren to. Malpede imagines the life of a family in which Grandpa has figured out that the world is being destroyed but the world’s communications system works for the destroyers.

James HansenThe fictional family includes a climate scientist, his lover (also a climate scientist), his teenage daughter, his twin sister and her husband (denouncers of climate science), an uncle, a frog, and a piece of land. The uncle is dying, like the earth. The scientist’s wife has died from an illness diagnosed and acted upon too late. His lover has received a death threat. He has received death threats. The frog has grown six legs. The land has been polluted. The sister and her husband declare the earth in perfect health, while the scientist struggles with his situation.

Like a descendant of Cassandra, the Hansen character has spoken and has not been heard. Would better language have helped? Better charts? Was there a different way to say “the world is being destroyed” so as to make it understood before the world was destroyed? He has given up and ceased speaking publicly, but is mulling over the possibility of trying again, while his sister tries to silence him—or perhaps to entrap and belittle him. At the same time, the frog, a male, has been “feminized” by poisons in the environment, a process described as happening to young male humans as well.

And then eight years flash by, global warming gets hotter, the evidence begins to become apparent to non-scientists. But the denouncers of reality double down on their hostility toward recognizing that the earth has a problem. The struggle to speak truth to power continues through Act II, by the end of which we all have a strange family relationship with James Hansen, and each other, and all of our grandchildren. The trillions of future people whose future lives are being ruined by our coal and oil consumption are a statistic until we understand one of those trillions as a grandchild and a friend and a lover and a cousin and an aunt. Then the multiplication of that intensity of suffering by a trillion becomes almost impossible to comprehend, except perhaps with the aid of Malpede’s art.

 


David Swanson’s books include War Is A Lie and When the World Outlawed War, as well as Tube World, a children’s book that addresses global warming.

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