Drawing a Line in the (Tar) Sand | Sojourners

Drawing a Line in the (Tar) Sand

The usual standard for writing magazine articles is to aim for the (relatively) timeless. In this case, you won't get another copy of Sojourners for two months, and, really, an article should stay fresh that whole time. Think plastic flowers, not fresh-picked daisies.

I'm violating that rule in spades with this column -- if you didn't read it when the magazine arrived, then skip on to something else, because it will be wilted. But if you're a timely reader: We need you.

From August 20 to Labor Day weekend, some of us are mounting what may turn into the largest-scale use of civil disobedience yet around global warming. We’ll be doing daily demonstrations that risk arrest at the White House in an effort to block the ugliest project you’ve probably never heard of, the so-called Keystone XL pipeline, which will run -- if President Obama grants the necessary permits -- from the tar sands of Alberta down to the Texas coast.

The original call for the action went out in late June, from a group of individuals that included Wendell Berry, Naomi Klein, Tom Goldtooth of the Indigenous Environmental Network, scientist Jim Hansen, and others. They stressed that the action will be entirely peaceful; in fact, if you want to come you’ve got to be "dignified in dress and demeanor." That's because we want very much to show who the radicals are in this story.

And make no mistake -- that pipeline is a radical act. It helps unlock the planet's second-largest pool of carbon, outmatched only by the oil wells of Saudi Arabia. There’s enough carbon up there that if you could burn it all off you’d raise the atmosphere’s carbon concentration from its current 390 parts per million to nearly 600. Even burning a much smaller amount of these tar sands would mean that it’s "essentially game over" for the climate, according to Hansen.

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