There have been so many times we thought the Keystone XL pipeline was stopped, only to see it revived. Yesterday President Biden canceled it’s permit, and I hope that is finally the end of the pipeline. Brings to a close the decade long struggle by thousands of people from many communities who worked in many different ways to stop it. Literally thousands of people.
My intent is to document the long and winding path of my own involvement. To share stories of this work that might be useful in similar circumstances in the future. For ongoing work to stop the Dakota Access and other pipelines now.
President Joe Biden has revoked a key permit for the Keystone XL pipeline, effectively killing the controversial project and jump-starting what he’s promised will be a seismic shift in U.S. climate policy after four years of inaction under Donald Trump.
“A cry for survival comes from the planet itself,” Biden said during his inauguration speech. “A cry that can’t be any more desperate or any more clear now.”
Revoking the permit for Keystone XL is part of a broader day-one executive order “to address the climate crisis, create good union jobs, and advance environmental justice,” according to the administration. Those efforts include potentially strengthening fuel economy and emissions standards; directing the Interior Department “to protect our nation’s treasures” by reviewing and possibly reversing Trump’s rollbacks of protected national monuments, including Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante; and temporarily banning all oil and gas leasing activities in Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.Biden Cancels Keystone XL Pipeline Permit. The 1,200-mile oil pipeline is one of several Trump environmental policies that President Joe Biden is expected to reverse by Chris D’Angelo, Huffpost, 1/20/2021
Nationwide resistance to TransCanada’s Keystone XL Pipeline began when the Rainforest Action Network (RAN), CREDO, and The Other 98% developed the Keystone Pledge of Resistance, March 6, 2013. This movement to stop the pipeline began by creating a website where opponents of the pipeline could sign the Pledge. Over 97,000 people signed.
“I pledge, if necessary, to join others in my community, and engage in acts of dignified, peaceful civil disobedience that could result in my arrest in order to send the message to President Obama and his administration that they must reject the Keystone XL pipeline.”
The Keystone Pledge of Resistance used the threat of nationwide civil disobedience direct actions in an attempt to persuade President Obama to deny the Keystone pipeline permit.
Planning and training are required for a successful direct action. I was fortunate to be trained by Todd Zimmer and Gabe from the Rainforest Action Network (RAN) in Des Moines the summer of 2013, as part of the national Keystone Pledge of Resistance. RAN went to 25 cities in the U.S. that summer to train local leaders to (1) plan the direct action in their city and (2) teach them how to train others in their area. That resulted in about 400 Action Leaders being trained, who in turn trained nearly 4,000 local activists. If the action was triggered, nonviolent direct actions would unfold in at least 25 cities in the country simultaneously.
I worked with other Action Leaders in Indianapolis, where I lived at the time. The training involved learning how to design a nonviolent direct action, and how to train local people about nonviolent civil disobedience, roles (media, police liaison, etc), and legal matters. We held five training sessions attended by about sixty people.
Many local events were held to raise public awareness about the environmental dangers posed by tar sands and the pipelines that transport that.
Anyone who wanted to participate in the Keystone Resistance was required to sign a statement saying they would abide by the following nonviolence guidelines:
Non-Violence Guidelines and Principles
1. With the recognition that history is on our side in the fight against the fossil fuel industry, that we are a part of the proud and successful tradition of nonviolent civil disobedience, and that our actions also reflect on tens of thousands of others standing together across the country, we will conduct our behavior in only the most peaceful and dignified manner.
2. We are each firmly committed to the safety of all participants and the surrounding community, and will not bring with us any weapons, drugs or alcohol, or participate in any acts of vandalism or destruction of property.
3. We will work to protect everyone around us from insult or attack, including those who may oppose or disagree with us.
4. We will remember that irresponsible actions could endanger others, or lead to the arrest of people who do not want to go to jail, and will not use threatening language or threatening motions toward anyone.
5. We will act and communicate in a manner of openness, friendliness and respect toward everyone we encounter, including police officers and members of the community at large.
6. As members of this action, we will follow the directions of the designated organizers.
7. If an individual has a serious disagreement with the organizers of the action, the individual will withdraw from the action.
8. If an individual does not respect these guidelines and principles, that individual can not participate in an action as part of the Pledge of Resistance to the Keystone XL pipeline
The training involved a Saturday of being taught how to organize direct actions, and how to train others. The next day, we, as students, became the teachers. We practiced providing the same training we would be doing when we returned home. The participants training guide can be found here: https://1drv.ms/w/s!Avb9bFhezZpPhPZwoFHONmVV69trwA
Training involved acquiring a thorough knowledge of the issues. This is important for when you will engage the public and the media about what you are trying to accomplish. The principles of nonviolence are discussed. Participants engage in role playing exercises that are used to learn how to remain nonviolent in the face of abuse, and techniques to de-escalate such situations.
One project my friends Derek Glass, Andrew Burger and I did to raise awareness about Keystone was to create this video.
Following is a letter published in the Indianapolis Star, May 7, 2014. Senator Donnelly said he supported the Keystone pipeline because of the jobs that would be created. TransCanada said the pipeline would create less than fifty permanent jobs. After this letter to the editor was published, he stopped talking about jobs.
Joe Donnelly’s Keystone pipeline vote disregards dirty results
I am disappointed that Sen. Joe Donnelly has joined Senate Republicans to try to force a vote on the Keystone XL pipeline. This is an executive branch decision and not that of Congress. The senator’s press release says he supports Keystone because of the jobs, when even TransCanada admits the pipeline will produce fewer than 100 permanent jobs. He also repeats the “all-in” approach to the future of energy, disregarding the tons of pollution and resulting health damage that will occur from continuing to burn fossil fuels.
Read or Share this story: http://indy.st/1kYJOZT
This video was taken at a gathering of water protectors who had been working together in Indianapolis for about a year, in solidarity with those at Standing Rock. We were gathered on the grounds of the Indiana state capitol this cold day in March, 2017.
My friend Brandi Herron speaks about the many things we are grateful for.
Then I tell the story of how I became concerned about our environment at a young age, and the story of the Keystone Pledge of Resistance.
Keystone, President Obama and I
I’m not sure it was a good idea now, but at the time I wondered if a hand written letter might have a better chance of being noticed by those in the administration who answered such letters.
One of Trump’s first moves as President was to reverse the Obama/Biden Administration’s decision to reject Keystone XL. In response, we launched the Promise to Protect in 2017 and together we’ve successfully stopped Keystone XL from being built. While campaigning, Joe Biden promised to rescind the KXL permits to stop this pipeline once and for all. But right now, TC Energy is doing everything they can to move construction forward.
We must keep up the fight to hold Biden to his word, and be ready to mobilize. As with Dakota Access, we know fossil fuel companies like TC Energy will stop at nothing to try and finish their black snake. This video shows our movement’s commitment to protecting our communities, our water and our climate. We need your support now more than ever.
Free, prior and informed consent is required for construction of Keystone XL pipeline
Meditation on Keystone by my friend Jim Poyser.
In truth, all we have is this moment here to pause and reflect.
Our current approach to living on this planet is unsustainable.
We have more similarities than differences.
We can do anything if we put our minds and shoulders to it.
Pick a cause and pour yourself into it, whether it’s Keystone or retiring coal plants or getting kids out into nature.
Pick a cause and kiss it, give it your love, your whole being.
Who knows, these could be the best years of our lives.
In a Newsweek article last year, Michael Foster wrote about “why I turned off the Keystone pipeline and face 21 years in jail.”
My friend and fellow Keystone Pledge of Resistance Action Leader, Jim Poyser, mentioned that Michael was a friend of his, and would probably appreciate letters while he is serving his prison sentence (3 years with 2 deferred).
FROM: Michael Foster
Thank you for reaching out to me. Any friend of Jim Poyser is partly nuts and OK by me! We all share a common pursuit, working with youth and the outdoors. You can pick up bits of my story in the NYT Magazine and in Seattle Met magazine last summer, so I won’t bore you.
One thing you wrote, “I fear we have damaged Mother Earth beyond repair,” touches on why I devoted myself to this emergency at this moment. Reading James Hansen’s research on “Avoiding Danger Climate Change: Required Reductions in Carbon Emissions to Protect Yong People, Future Generations and Nature” I realized this is the last moment when returning a stable planet to our children might yet be physically possible, and nobody seems interested in how quickly we must drop pollution. After this time, the efforts we make to restore health, bold and drastic, even revolutionary, will only matter for a little while, like hospice care for parents before they go, so important yet a return to life is not an option anymore.
What we do now, today, either slams the door shut against our own kids and most life forms on Earth, or turns off the gas in this chamber we share, and leaves the door open a crack, just enough that this place might start to cool down in another 30 years or more. But today we decide whether future Earth has life. Tomorrow, not so much.
11 % cuts in pollution each year PLUS 1 trillion new trees EQUALS an outside chance our kids get to raise kids.
Nobody speaks of this is media or leadership or policy. If we delay until 2015 to begin, a mere 7 years:
25% cuts in pollution each year PLUS more than1.5 trillion trees just to do the same thing. Get back to 350 ppm CO2 in the air near 2100.
Massive global cuts don’t happen if we think and live as “consumers”, but OK then. As you discovered living car-free, life without opens doors you can’t purchase on a Tesla. As opposed to annoying, inconvenient, incremental change, dramatic about-face changes turn around everything so quickly, shedding dull routines and thinking promises mere adventure in life, and our pace quickens.
Is it possible for humans to leave a healthy planet for youth? Only today, not tomorrow.
That does it for me! If I am lucky enough to live in this moment when life goes forward or not at all because of my/our waste, then I can only remain human if I refuse to destroy everything I love. I am accountable.
Your letter got me all worked up, ready to preach, something I’ve enjoyed doing as a guest in pulpits since shutting down Keystone 1. Maybe when I get released, we can cook up some tasty plans for youth seeking justice.
Thank you for writing. I’m doing great, more relaxed, smaller footprint, well-fed (vegan diet), and for the moment, on the right side of history.
Discussions about fossil fuel pipelines must include the epidemic of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women (MMIW). I didn’t know much about this until I was walking along the route of the Dakota Access pipeline, September, 2018.
Men in the ‘man camps’ of construction workers took and/or murder Indigenous women. The route of pipelines commonly come near native communities, which relates to environmental racism. The route of the Dakota Access pipeline was changed when the people of Bismarck, North Dakota, objected to the original route of the pipeline just north of the city, fearing oil leaks would contaminate their water. So the pipeline route was moved, bringing it just upstream to the water supply for the Standing Rock Sioux tribe.
During the First Nation-Farmer Climate Unity March, I learned one of my new friends had lost a member of his family.
The Billings Gazette published an amazing collection of photos from the Line the Rim event May 5, 2019, where hundreds gathered along the edge of the Billings Rimrocks to honor missing and murdered indigenous people.
This photo was taken when we had a discussion with Senator Grassley’s staff in November, 2018, about two bills in the US Congress related to missing and murdered indigenous women.
The following diagram shows relationships among the issues that are discussed above.
- How white settler colonization is built on capitalism.
- The capitalist economic system was dependent on fossil fuel energy.
- Burning fossil fuels have driven global environmental chaos.
- The pandemic has broken economic and political systems.
- The epidemic of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women (MMIW) is related to the pipeline ‘man camps’.
- Spirituality is key to a way forward.
- Indigenous culture and practices, a regenerative economy can use Mutual Aid to build thriving communities.