oil companies

The Roots of the Tar Sands Movement

Some of us helped organize a massive display of civil disobedience outside the White House earlier this fall, protesting a proposed pipeline from the tar sands of northern Alberta to the Gulf of Mexico. It was a good two weeks of action—1,252 Americans ended up in jail, the largest and most sustained protest of its kind in decades. But the truth? We were Johnny-come-latelies to this movement. The real work had begun years before, and has been carried out by indigenous communities on both sides of the U.S.-Canadian border.

I knew just enough about the Alberta tar sands to know that the first person I should call when we started thinking about joining the protest was Tom Goldtooth, head of the Indigenous Environmental Network (IEN) and one of the most venerable and venerated environmental leaders in the country. I knew, vaguely, that he’d told me about this work before—even shown me pictures of the vast tribal lands and boreal forest wrecked by the early stages of mining for oil north of the border. But I’d never really followed up—there are lots of horrors in this world, who can pay attention to them all, excuse excuse blah blah excuse.

It was only when NASA scientist James Hansen explained what damage burning this vast pool of oil would do to the climate that it rose to the top of my priority list. (A lot of damage—“essentially game over for the climate” was how he put it.) And I’m glad it did, in part because it brought me more closely in touch with some of the greatest organizers on this continent.

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More than 1,000 Arrested Protesting Keystone XL Pipeline

As of yesterday, more than 1,009 Americans have been arrested to bring national attention to the controversial Keystone XL pipeline. This is what church looks like. Liturgy means "the work of the people" in service of the common good.

If President Obama permits the Keystone pipeline, thousands more will sit on his doorstep and in front of bulldozers. This movement doesn't have money to match the influence of oil companies, lobbyists, or politicians with conflicts of interest, but we do have our bodies and we are putting them on the line.

Here are what people of faith -- Jews, Christians, Buddhists, Quakers, Unitarians, and more -- are saying about why they have been or will be arrested to stop the Keystone XL pipeline:

595 Arrested at the White House

We had a very hot ride in the police van, but the Park Police processed us very quickly. We were released from custody and greeted outside with water, granola bars, and hugs. What could be better?

But the point was not to get arrested. The point was to make of our lives a living witness. To make it clear that climate change has gone too far and we are no longer going to stand idly by while our sisters, brothers, and home planet are torn apart by oil companies. Here are a handful of photos from the event yesterday:

The Moral Default

The debate we have just witnessed has shown Washington, D.C. not just to be broken, but corrupt. The American people are disgusted watching politicians play political chicken with the nation's economy and future. In such a bitter and unprincipled atmosphere, whoever has the political clout to enforce their self-interest and retain their privileges wins the battles. But there are two casualties in such political warfare: the common good and the most vulnerable.

So how will vulnerable people fair under this deal? "The Circle of Protection," a diverse nonpartisan movement of Christian leaders, has been deeply engaged in the budget debate to uphold the principle that low-income people should be protected. But it is hard to evaluate a deal that averts a crisis when the crisis wasn't necessary in the first place. Over the past few weeks, our economy has indeed been held hostage as politicians negotiated the price of the release. Ultimately, I think most of us wish that no hostages had been taken in the first place, and this was no way to run a government or make important budget decisions.