You are viewing the NationofChange archives. For the latest news and actions, visit the new
Get Email Updates | Log In | Register

Madeline Ostrander
Yes! Magazine / Op-Ed
Published: Saturday 27 August 2011
“Hurricane Irene becomes a powerful symbol for activists fighting the Keystone XL pipeline.”

Despite Hurricane, Protesters Resolute

Article image

This is the first in a series of dispatches from protests led by climate-change activists against the Keystone XL pipeline this week in Washington, D.C. Check back for more updates in coming days.

When a hurricane swamps a climate-change protest, it’s “Irene-ic,” quipped activist and author Bill McKibben this morning.

“There are a ton of people going up and down the East Coast who’ve never dealt with a hurricane before, for whom it’s an entirely new thing. That’s the way climate change is,” he said this morning as a crowd gathered for a rainy rally in front of the White House.

Hurricanes are an iconic symbol of climate change—they become fiercer, more frequent, and more devastating the more carbon we pump into the atmosphere. Already, Category-5 hurricanes (the most severe kind) are happening three to four times more often in the North Atlantic than a decade ago. In 2005, Hurricane Katrina was a wake-up call for many people about why we need action on climate change.

The protests are iconic in another way. The climate-change protesters have assembled here every day for the last week in what McKibben calls “the largest collective act of civil disobedience in the history of the climate movement.” The activists are pressuring Obama to stop construction of the Keystone XL pipeline, which will transport bitumen from Alberta to the Gulf of Mexico. The pipeline would open an artery to Canada’s tar sands fields—one of the world’s largest, most costly, and most polluting sources of oil.

McKibben has likened the protests to Martin Luther King Jr.’s civil rights battles: He has used the unveiling of the King memorial in Washington, D.C., this week to draw parallels between human rights and environmental equity. In a joint op-ed in yesterday's New York Daily News, McKibben, Van Jones, and Lennox Yearwood write, “We believe King, who as his life progressed embraced the anti-war cause and showed his solidarity with poor people all over the world, would have joined in the fight against climate change, which is already wreaking havoc on those living closest to the margin.”

The action has impact because of its seriousness more than its size. It spans two weeks and the demonstrators include an array of celebrities, scientists, experts, and ordinary folks. Each day, a chosen few stand at the White House gates and quietly submit to arrest—381 have been hauled to jail so far, then released. McKibben was among the first group detained and was held for several days. Margot Kidder, the actor who played Lois Lane in the Superman films of 1978 and 1980, was also arrested this past week.

Today the crowd was small—dozens, probably no more than 100 people. They had called off the civil disobedience portion of the rally—protesters agreed that they woudn’t hamper the police’s ability to deal with potential emergencies brought on by the hurricane. I expected only dyed-in-the-wool veteran activists to appear in the midst of apocalyptic weather warnings, but the crowd was mixed. I noted a lot of 20-somethings, a granny in a rain bonnet, a number of Baby Boomers, and everyone in between, including a contingent that had traveled from Alberta to speak first-hand about the devastating impact of tar sands mining. McKibben called out a couple who were celebrating their 34th wedding anniversary. I spoke to a 24-year-old consultant in a button-down shirt and khakis: He had planned to look respectable in case he got arrested today. And I met a couple in their mid-50s who had made their first foray into political activism in 2008. They were so enthusiastic that they spoke over another. “It was the first time in my life. I’ve never done political stuff before,” he told me. “We were incredibly excited by Obama,” she said. We just wish he would hold firm,” he said.

After a few speeches, several cheers, a few choruses of “We Shall Overcome,” and some shouts and sign-waving, the group disbanded, but they will return on Monday, and day after day in the coming week, attempting to bend the ear of the Obama administration, which has sole authority to halt Keystone XL.

Author pic
ABOUT Madeline Ostrander

Madeline is a writer and journalist, who brings the sensibilities of an environmental activist and ecologist to bear on the stories she tells about people, landscape, and the possibility for change.

She is the senior editor for YES! Magazine, a national, independent magazine offering solutions to critical challenges our world faces. She holds a Master's degree in environmental science from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

"Madeline Ostrander deftly weaves land and people into her narrative, giving us whole worlds, rendering their wounded beauty palpable, and in the very act of putting such stories to paper, offering hope for healing."

I wonder what you guys have

I wonder what you guys have to say now the Irene petered out into nothing and did very little damage.... "Oops, everyone can go home now, there is no global warming after all????"

Have you noticed the sun is rising later and later each day now... there has to be a link from that phenomenon to global warming that can be exploited for the cause... and I'll bet it continues to happen so if we can get that link we can use it at least until December 21st or so....

and Chatham Hale... There are places one is allowed to protest and places where it is not allowed.... AND who talks like that anymore... "This question must not pass without a satisfactory answer." I mean really.... There are so many "passing" humorous lines I could use here and I will PASS on them....

Have a great day...

Peaceful Assembly is a

Peaceful Assembly is a guaranteed right under the First Amendment. Why is The Peaceful Assembly in front of the White House "civil disobedience?" Why were the peaceful demonstrators led off in handcuffs? No violence was reported by the media. This question must not pass without a satisfactory answer.

Madeline OstranderYes!

Madeline OstranderYes! Magazine / Op-Ed
many , many words......M.B.A. ?? many words......part of the problem....many ass - no solutions.......
G.E.D. your deal is bullshit -.- I live the life - talked about ... ... many, many word intelligent ??? intelligence ???
MANY - MANY WORDS........little letters........ m.b.a.

How can anyone not be

How can anyone not be protesting what this Pipeline can do to destroy this nation ? Does everyone not know that the proposed route is straight through the very heart of our nation ? Think what an earthquake or a Nuclear Plant accident on the order of what Japan just went through would create. ( And will be experiencing for many decades..not counting all the deformed babies that will be born. )

Is not the health and welfare of the American people even worth mentioning ? Anyone of these occurrences would poison our water supply forever. Is Oil Wealth all that matters anymore ? When is enough enough ?

I am sure that if the American people had a voice, there would be No Pipeline. Besides, don't they realize that the Oil is destined to be shipped to Europe and not for our use, anyway ? Obviously not.

Is this the reason the Oilman Ex-President G.W. Bush bought up most of Paraguay and all the land encompassing the main Fresh Water Source in Paraguay ? Just wondering ?

More power to you, Bill and

More power to you, Bill and Friends (of the Earth).It's not always easy doing what's right, but it's always right.

I applaud all of you

I applaud all of you protesting, I wish I could be there.

Comment with your Facebook account

Comment with your Disqus account

Top Stories

comments powered by Disqus

NationofChange works to educate, inform, and fight power with people, corruption with community.

If you would like to stay up to date with the best in independent, filter-free journalism, updates on upcoming events to attend, and more, enter your email below:

7 Compelling Reasons Why You Should Support NationofChange

Our readers often tell us why they’ve decided to step up and become supporters. Here are some of the top reasons people are giving.

1. You’re keeping independent journalism alive
The corporate owned media has proven that it can’t be trusted. In a media landscape wrought with spin and corruption, NationofChange stands in very scarce company.

2. You’re sticking it to the rich, powerful, and corrupt
When you have money in this country you can get away with damn near anything, and they do. NationofChange isn’t afraid to expose these criminals no matter how powerful they are.

3. Your donation is 100% tax-deductible
NationofChange is a 501(c)3 charity. People tend to assume that many other organizations are (most nonprofits are NOT) but it’s that 501(c)3 status is a bit more rare than you think.

Read the rest...