The Common Good

Senate Blocks the Keystone XL Pipeline

Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Last week, 56 senators voted to include the Keystone XL Pipeline in a highway bill — four short of the required 60.

The vote proved that ordinary people still can make a difference. Months of action, hundreds of thousands of messages and phone calls, and stalwart determination made  the difference in those four votes (granted, correlation does not prove causation, but environmental activists deserve credit to this victory). And I think it shows that people are looking for a different paradigm of environmental stewardship.

 Bill McKibben, founder of 350.org and one of the loudest voices against the pipeline, writes in the Huffington Post:

“A year ago almost no one had heard of the pipeline. Even four months ago, a poll of 300 "energy insiders" still found 97 percent predicting it would get its permit. But it didn't -- TransCanada can of course re-apply, but that will be another battle, down the road. For now, people power (the largest civil disobedience action in 30 years, 800,000 messages to the Senate in a single day, bodies encircling the White House shoulder to shoulder five deep) overturned the odds.”

I also believe last week’s victory indicates that people want a different paradigm of environmental stewardship (Creation care, anyone?). One camp, fueled by the oil and assorted fossil fuel companies, says this: “The earth is ours to use for industry, growth and profit.”

But there’s another group of people — including a growing number of Christians — that is saying, “The earth is ours, but also belongs to our children, and our children’s children, just as it has belonged to generations and generations before us. And it’s ours to use to sustain life.” And as with many other issues, there’s a large group of people that simply doesn’t care.

The too-close-for-comfort Senate vote also shows us that we almost lost. A majority of senators voted in favor of the pipeline.

As a nation, we still have a long ways to go to ensuring the earth is still viable for our children. I’m reminded of St. Paul’s letter to the Church in Philippi when he writes, “Do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others” (Philippians 2:4, NASB).

When cast our votes this November, we need to consider the interests of our children (ages 0-17 who have no franchise) and the sustainability of the earth (which has no voice).

In this last round of actions on the Keystone pipeline, Sojourners constituents sent more than 5,400 messages to the Senate, and more than 10,000 messages to President Obama. To all of you who helped defeat the Keystone pipeline, thank you. And keep up the hard work.

For previous posts on the Keystone XL pipeline, click here.

James Colten is a campaigns assistant at Sojourners. Follow James on Twitter @JamesColten.

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