This past April, I got to hear Dr. James E. Hansen, the physicist and former scientist from NASA at the Schnitzer Theatre. He spoke about putting science before politics and avoiding climate catastrophe. He was thoughtful, humble, and very clear. Much of what he said is summarized in his book, Storms of My Grandchildren.
Someone asked him why an introverted, seventy-three-year-old had been arrested in front of the U.S. Capitol. He gave two reasons for his protest. First, “If the Keystone XL pipeline goes through for shipping tar sands crude oil from Alberta, Canada to Texas, it’s basically game-over for climate change. The level of carbon emissions from the extraction, production, and use of tar sands crude oil will seriously tip the balance and the flood gates will open for other countries and companies to do the same.” Second, “I kept having a reoccurring dream of our oldest granddaughter, now twelve, in the 2030s asking, ‘If my grandfather was so smart, how come he couldn’t convince the president, government, and American citizens to change their way of life to prevent the damage to the earth that we must try and survive with?’ So I decided to do everything I could while I am able to slow and possibly reverse the changes I’m documenting.”
For myself, as a Christian and citizen, I have had other concerns—about racism, the phasing out of nuclear weapons, the need for more jobs with livable wages, the establishment of a Palestinian state, the support of returning vets from Iraq and Afghanistan and their families, the role of corporate money buying elections and controlling media, the brokenness and gridlock of our political parties, the proliferation of weapons and violence—but these pale for me in comparison with the growing acidification of the oceans, the melting of our glaciers, the increased desertification, the more extreme weather with wind and rain, the fires, the extinction of various species, and the increase of gases in the atmosphere from fossil fuels. We are literally changing the earth. What we do to the air we do to ourselves. What we do to the water we do to ourselves. What we do to the earth we do to ourselves.
If the Keystone XL Tar Sands Pipeline is approved, it will do the following:
- Carry 830,000 barrels per day and triple tar sands production
- Increase the annual emissions by 27.6 million metric tons of CO2 (Tar sands gas emissions are 80% higher than those arising from conventional oil production)
- Undermine Canada’s international climate treaties and some US climate policies and the international efforts on climate change
- Further our dependence on fossil fuels
- Impact flora, fauna, and human health through dust, spills, and accidents
The decision on whether or not to close the Keystone XL Pipeline will be made by President Obama. So I have made a pledge with 72,000 other US citizens to resist the Keystone XL Pipeline. On Saturday, November 8, another member of St. Andrew and I joined 40 people at Concordia College to receive training in nonviolent dissent to voice our opposition to the pipeline in public to President Obama. In so doing, we joined people like Rosa Parks, Martin Luther King, Jr., Dorothy Day, Daniel Berrigan, Caesar Chavez, Kathy Kelly, John Dear, and others at various times who have said “No” for reasons of faith and conscience.
Besides the Scriptures, conversations with other pastors and Christians, and personal study, I have been influenced by The National Resources Defense Council, Union of Concerned Scientists, 350° org, Rain Forest Action Network, EcoFaith Recovery & Resistance to Coal. I also viewed Chasing Ice by James Balog and the video Tar Sands by Josh Fox.
I am open to further conversation with anyone who shares my concern.