Tar Sands for the week (Mar 11, 2014).

I know it isn’t supposed to be like this. An engaged public, demanding action on climate in general and the stopping of new infrastructure for tar sands “oil” in particular, has been more than clear. In BC, opposition to the largest pipeline proposed (between 5-600 thousands barrels of oil a day– more than two giant mines worth) has been given near guaranteed approval, even with the knowledge that it means corporations and oil and gas have established near-total control over the decisions about development within the country.

Even in Ontario, dealing with not a “new” pipeline but a proposed expansion and reversal of older, existing ones, people cared enough to get involved and even disrupted the hearing of the National Energy Board. Line 9 got approved anyhow, and all it seems that was left behind was the dirty taste of bitumen in our mouths.

You may have gone to the White House, even helped some who had never been involved in civil disobedience take those incredibly brave first steps and be handcuffed for a short stint– to alert the sitting government in Washington– partly elected (so they say, anyhow) on the promise of real action on climate change. You didn’t even vote for the Obamacrats, but nonetheless, given the size and scope of the voice saying “no!” you just couldn’t help feeling betrayed, even without illusions.


Still, we keep participating. Taking matters into our own hands and fighting through all the official channels, looking right at the actual face of power and defying it– it gives a sense of control when there, in fact, is little to none. So– do we quit?


Some have said, clearly through actions, no. Their stories are often only referred to as Tweets by the ones who recently told us we can’t win on Keystone XL in the case of the tar sands blockaders in Texas and Oklahoma; the imprisoned Micats in Michigan; anti-tar sands communities in Lakota Territory and, perhaps most significantly, the Unist’ot’en Camp defenders in Wet’suwet’en Territory.


Across British Columbia both settlers and indigenous communities alike have voiced clear opposition to the planned Enbridge Gateway pipeline, and often the similarly planned Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain expansion to Burnaby– but not in general to fracking, and not with a clear: “We are not asking” motif.


When we hit the wall in BC and saw that Enbridge was approved anyhow, what of those who had not given up on the system yet? What happens now? Well, the trap is set– we need to walk into it. The point of the various hearings– and now, the point of the Big Green struggle against the single Enbriddge pipeline– is to tie up and exhaust the popular sentiment. To render it null and void through attrition. Further, since the corporate media can be counted on, the only “Green” voices that will be heard in BC now are mainly those who are for heightened prices of carbon, offsets, “alternative” sources of energy and more– but not those who see the general struggle as one against not a bad pipeline in a healthy family of development, but a sick society.


Building a real world alternative is something we hear of, but seldom identify. We have just such all around us, should we take the time to see it. However, we do have another to ask ourselves: If those who have put their reputations on the line over KXL are going to quit– and it seems they are, minus continuing on the road towards getting university divestments, and the like– why does that mean the rest of the population should as well?


You have done more on this subject– climate change and tar sands– than you ever had before, and the feeling of self-actualization is intoxicating and cause for confidence. You know what is right, and have carved out your little place in the earth to stand and say so. It’s not your fault that BC has a well-funded Green movement that is partially tied to the BC Liberal Party and is silent on fracking– you know (now, no thanks to them) what fracking is already doing to northern indigenous communities, rivers and how it relates to tar sands.


You got your citation from the White House protests– you never were consulted on the decision to make the campaign against the Keystone XL modelled after the one that got Obama elected. You never asked to join the Democratic Party, you wanted to protect water, human rights and end the climate contributions that Keystone XL would make facilitating tar sands.


The system is supposed to be there for our use, they have told us, and we have believed it. Even those who organized the rallies for the right reasons– never stopped to question much beyond that. And now you know your own power, and recognize through your prior experience that this power is wielded along side others who also know.


Let’s consider that there is little to no chance to make the needed inroads in time to stop climate chaos from getting many factors worse. What then– pack up, go home, build a shelter to keep the worst extreme weather patterns from killing or maiming you and your family? It’s better than pretending everything is fine.


But wait a minute: Isn’t it supposed to be that groups of committed peoples change the world, and nothing else does? Forget the media-managed leaders who have led us to a point of defeat and may walk away. This is about, now anyhow, actualizing who you are, in concert with others, towards building a society fit for human beings. That starts with rejecting power, and embracing our own.


We have multiple examples of real alternatives to surrender– they are going on across North America. It’s not a menu, either– we don’t need to pick and choose which to embrace. We just need to be determined, and to understand that the limits constraining big-capital financed NGO’s are not constraining the people. The people will lead, through actions, and it will take aim at two things:


One, dismantling the oil and gas plunder that threatens our very survival, our families, our shared landscapes, our water and those we love. This must be done simultaneously with the principle that the dominance of money on political life, on media relations, on industrial decisions, on access to information and everything else– is why, in the words of Ansel Adams, “It is horrifying that we have to fight our own government to save the environment.” Remember, however, Edward Abbey as well: “It is not enough to fight for the land; it is even more important to enjoy it. While you can. While it’s still here.”

The solutions must change the problem, capital has made the problem. Our opposition to tar sands is opposition to an entire systemic mess run amok.