The Gulf is a Long Way from Alberta

So why am I going to DC to fight tar sands?

Earlier this year, an amazing list of 20 environmental and social justice leaders issued an invitation to help fight for our climate. I read it.  I thought about it.  I shared it on FB. And then I pretty much forgot about it, returning my attention to GRN's efforts to protect and restore the Gulf. 

But a phrase from the invite stayed with me "...the Keystone Pipeline would also be a fifteen hundred mile fuse to the biggest carbon bomb on the continent."  At issue is the Keystone XL Pipeline, proposed to bring tar sands from Alberta Canada all the way to the Gulf Coast, terminating in Texas, and fueling refineries in Manchester and Port Arthur Texas, two communities that have already borne a public health burden for our oil addiction.

Last week, the issue came back front and center.  One of the Gulf's most passionate and committed community and environmental activists, Cherri Foytlin let me know that she was going to be heading a Gulf delegation to DC, and wanted GRN to take part.  Cherri was recently arrested in front of the BP command center in downtown New Orleans, an act of non-violent civil disobedience.

So I said yes. Ship_Channel1a-tejas2


While GRN as an organization does not take part in civil disobedience, we said yes to helping share the stories of the Gulf.

We said yes to connecting the Gulf to the tar sands, by saying no to the pipeline.

There is no place that is harder hit by the impacts of climate change in the lower 48 than the Gulf coast.  With our low elevation coastal system, already experiencing subsidence at an alarming rate, even modest sea level rise predictions can swamp large parts of our productive and culturally unique coastal ecosystem.

With the 6th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina looming next week, I hope we all remember what stronger storms do to the Gulf coast.  Research shows that Katrina, Rita, Gustav, Ike were close to 20% stronger than they would have been absent human-caused global warming.  Earlier this year, some of the largest floods on record inundated the Mississippi River watershed, the result of weather patterns disrupted by global warming.

I said yes to doing what I can to support efforts to avert the worst-case scenarios for global warming impacts. I said yes to connecting last summer's BP drilling disaster to Alberta's tar sands and Keystone's pipeline.  I said yes to reminding the nation and our politicians that BP's deepwater horizon catastrophe is linked to Enbridge's pipeline rupture into the Kalamazoo River, is connected to TVA's coal ash waste pit failures throughout the deep south, is connected to the battle to save Blaire Mountain from mountaintop removal coal mining, is intertwined with Exxon's despoiling of the Yellowstone River, is reliant on poisoning communities in the Gulf south forced to exist next to flaring, polluting, exploding refineries, is inextricably linked to our failed energy policies which reward the further use and commitment to fuel sources that are killing us and our planet.

People have gotten arrested, scientists, activists, journalists, people concerned about the future. More intend to be arrested throughout the next two weeks, culminating in a rally on September 3rd.  On Wednesday, August 24 a delegation of 23 representatives from the Gulf, sick former BP clean up workers, community organizers, environmentalists and just plain folks will show up at the White House to remind the President that we're all connected.

What do we want?  One simple decision.  It doesn't require the House of Representatives to go along.  We don't need Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell to give up his singular focus on making President Obama a one-term president and agree to an actual compromise for our planet.  We simply need the President and Secretary of State Hilary Clinton to say yes to a cleaner, healthier future, and say no to lighting this carbon bomb.

You can help.  Go to to lend your voice.  Come meet us in DC.  Donate to the Gulf Delegation's trip right here: (note Gulf Tar Sands in the 'Additional details' box).

Aaron Viles is GRN's Deputy Director.  Follow him on Twitter here.

Photo of Manchester, TX courtesy of T.E.J.A.S.