The following was submitted by River Edge resident Wendy Rosenoff
River Edge residents Gail & Charles Brunner, the author of this article and her teenage daughters, joined concerned citizens from 26 states as part of the 40,000+ who descended on a glacial Washington, DC to send a message to President Barack Obama on Presidents Day Weekend at the Forward on Climate rally.
It was the largest climate rally in history centered around a mock pipeline with bold lettering of “Separation of Oil and State”. Charles Brunner was a bus captain for the day trip to Washington, DC and along with Pascack Sustainability participants found a narrative of great impact among bus riders who took turns standing up to give personal impressions of why they were opposed to the Keystone XL Pipeline on the ride down.
An energetic MC in Reverend Lennox Yearwood kept the wind-chilled crowd of babies, college kids and adults of all ages, moving to music to stay warm. Though it was said that getting 10,000 together in February would be difficult, this crowd burst at the seams with a unified call to the President.
The Sierra Club and www.350.org started the movement leading to over 100 organizations participating in the Forward on Climate rally. The head of 350.org, Bill McKibben, welcomed all those who took the time to be at the Washington Monument and said, “It is all of you. You are the antibodies kicking in as the planet tries to fight its fever.”
If homemade flags, banners, and signs weren’t enough, President Obama’s former green jobs specialist, Van Jones, made a powerful plea, calling on the 44th President of the United States to make his legacy by stopping the pipeline, phasing out fossil fuels and setting aggressive standards on power plants. Approving this pipeline would be like, “jabbing a dirty needle from Canada into this country.”
Senator Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island said, “It has been said, one ought not to be obstinate unless one ought to be obstinate and then one ought to be unshakeable.” It was and is time to obstinate and unshakeable about this pipeline.
1,700 miles of pipeline is meant to carry crude oil and diluted bitumen to the Gulf Coast from the tar sands of Alberta, Canada. From there, it will largely be an export item, lest we think Keystone means oil from friendly neighbor Canada will curtail our dependence on less hospitable oil countries. Short pipelines leak, never mind 1,700 miles of a pipeline with offshoots.
Two years ago, Michigan tar sands oil spewed into 40 miles of the Kalamazoo River. It has been the most expensive onshore cleanup and remediation efforts continue. Generations of farmers have been bought out, often against their will, along the route and at the final destination. Land grabbing from depressed minority vicinities has been rampant and indigenous populations have simply been ignored.
The Piscataway Chiefs from the Potomac area welcomed the Canadian Chiefs from British Columbia and Alberta to the event. Visualizing the indigenous population representatives spoke volumes to the fact that history is repeating itself by mistreating them again, this time by contaminating their water and infringing on their minimal land rights. Canadian indigenous activist, Crystal Lameman, described moose having puss bubbles under their skin, fish with cancerous tumors and babies being airlifted to hospitals from Northeastern Alberta after drinking contaminated water.
Inspirational speakers gave way to an actual march to the White House. Peacefully passing the canine riot unit and mounted police, many chants filled the air, “Hey Obama, we don’t want no climate drama!” and “Hey Hey, Ho Ho, Keystone Pipeline has got to go!” The mounted police gamely joined the fist pumps, surprisingly allowed for photo opportunities and were left standing on the sidelines without any crowd control requirements.
When oil proud Texans come to Washington to protest, something doesn’t pass the smell test. We all want jobs, as this pipeline has promised. But why would we willingly create toxic work environments with damaging chemicals as a new jobs scenario? We have enough environmental remediation to handle in this country. Our economy can be stimulated with measurable returns by investing in biofuels, sun, wind and algae. Let’s fire up the clean energy economy!
May the voices of passionate citizens be heard over the dollars and cents of lobbyists and corporate profit-seekers from the dirty fuel sector. Clean air, clean water and clean energy jobs should be our future. Time will tell who will have the most influence - the oil executive golf partners or the masses who chose to tee off on the National Mall on a cold day in Washington, DC?