For Immediate Release
Majority Of Energy East Applicants Want to Talk About Climate
Economists, students, teachers, farmers, unions among Canadians asking to be heard during pipeline review
Toronto, ON – At least 65 per cent of the total number of applicants, as of the deadline last night, to intervene in the National Energy Board’s review of the Energy East pipeline want to talk about climate change. Applicants include prominent climate scientists, economists, farmers, students, teachers, First Nations and hundreds of community members alongside and near the pipeline route.
TransCanada’s Energy East pipeline, what would be North America’s single largest oil pipeline, has galvanized opposition, especially in Eastern Canada in much the same way the Northern Gateway and Kinder Morgan pipeline proposals have led to staunch opposition in the West. With Energy East, concern with climate impacts has become a unifying force across Canada.
“I have applied to intervene at the NEB hearing to talk about the impact of the proposed pipeline on greenhouse gas emissions because I think that it’s outrageous that impacts of the pipeline on climate would be deliberately excluded from the assessment process,” said Danny Harvey Ph. D., Professor in the Geography and Planning department at the University of Toronto.
The NEB has refused to consider the climate impacts numerous times, despite over 100,000 messages demanding they include climate in the review.
“A full accounting of economic costs and benefits must include external costs of production — in particular, the impact on existing economic activity, potential impacts due to spills, and impacts on human populations associated with climate change impacts.” explained Marc Lee, Senior Economist, Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, who also applied to intervene in the review.
Landowners and people dependent on the land and water that Energy East could impact also applied, including fisherman on the East Coast and farmers like Katie Ward, President of the National Farmers Union Local 362.
“As farmers in the Ottawa Valley, we’re concerned about the potential impacts of this pipeline, not only if there was a spill that could devastate our crops and animals, but also the long-term impact of focusing Canada’s efforts toward greater use of fossil fuel at the expense of renewable energy,” said Ward. “That’s why we’ve decided to register our opposition with the National Energy Board.”
Dozens of First Nations communities also applied to participate in the review of Energy East, many – like the Wolastoq Grand Council in New Brunswick – raising concerns about the threat that Energy East would pose to water and the risk of spills.
“The proposed route of the Energy East Pipeline will cross our rivers, streams, brooks and lakes at a minimum of 185 times,” said Ron Tremblay, spokesperson for the Wolastoq Grand Council. “Our people depend on those sacred waterways to gather medicines, pick fiddleheads, catch fish, and harvest numerous types of berries, nuts and animals.”
Students all along the pipeline route also applied by the hundreds, including the University of Winnipeg Student Association, the Student Society of McGill University, the Dawson College Green Earth Club and others.
“Students across Canada have been calling for divestment from tar sands companies because we know it’s not an investment if it’s wrecking the planet, and with Energy East we know it’s definitely not an environmental assessment if it doesn’t include climate impacts,” said Bronwen Tucker, a McGill Student and organizer with Coalition ÉCO (Étudiants et étudiantes contre les oléoducs), a network representing over 100,000 students in Quebec opposed to Energy East.
Other applicants to the NEB process include New Brunswick Green Party Leader David Coon, the Nobel Women’s Initiative, municipalities, provincial governments and more.
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Cam Fenton, 350.org, 604-369-2155, firstname.lastname@example.org
Note: We will be happy to connect you with other spokespeople
By Miles Goodrich and Allyson Gross, Bowdoin College and the Divestment Student Network
On April 18, 2001, students from Harvard’s Living Wage Campaign marched into their school’s main administrative building and refused to leave. After 21 days of teach-ins, camp-outs, pickets, vigils, confrontations with the police, and intensive media coverage, the occupation came to a close as the students secured a living wage for 95% of campus workers. This escalated action was the culmination of four years of campaigning, and finally pushed the students to victory. Confrontational tactics like Harvard’s sit-in are often celebrated as flashy, but this alone does not explain why they’re so popular. If implemented strategically, they win.
When we think of student movements in history, they’re often characterized by these big moments that catapult campaigns to victory. From the 6-day student strike and occupation of Columbia University against the Vietnam War in April of 1968, to the shantytowns and sit-ins of the South African divestment movement in the late 1980s, the significance of nonviolent direct action lies in its ability to demonstrate student power and halt business as usual with a vision for a better future. Nonviolent direct action demonstrates activists’ commitment and willingness to make personal sacrifices, and shines a light on how far the opposition is willing to go to quell peaceful student protesters. By taking over their administrative building, Harvard students sent the message that if their officials wouldn’t take action for a living wage, they would.
Flash point moments alone, however, are not capable of changing the status quo. In every case of successful escalation, the tactics were preceded by years of organizing–building a strong base across campus, engaging with decision makers, and working through institutional channels. The adage “move slow to move fast” dictated activists’ strategy for years prior. In occupying Mass Hall, however, Harvard students drove their campaign to victory by forcing the administration to make a choice: either commit to a living wage, or show your true colors as callous and corrupt. The students would have won either way, by securing their demands or by strong messaging that painted the administration as repressive.
Such polarization, when supported by the broader community, not only demonstrates the commitment of the organizers but also propels the broader movement forward. Columbia’s first blockade for apartheid divestment in 1985, for example, sent shockwaves that were felt on other campuses, as students followed Columbia’s lead to build shantytowns on dozens of college lawns. Such escalation further alienated administrators from their communities and brought the devastation of apartheid onto campus. In effect, the actions asked of the administrators, “whose side are you on?”
Now it’s time for the fossil fuel divestment movement to escalate and force our college administrators to answer that question. We’ve petitioned. We’ve met with our administrators. We’ve demonstrated our power with rallies and marches. Coming up on the four year anniversary of the first calls to divest, we are now in the same place as Harvard’s living wage campaign was in 2001, and as Columbia in 1968 and 1985. This spring, we are taking the next step to ask our administrators whose side they are on, because neutrality is no longer an option: either they will side with perpetrators of the climate crisis, or with the students, faculty, and almni they claim to support. There is no middle ground.
This spring, the fossil fuel divestment movement is pledging to take nonviolent direct action in order to escalate our campaigns to victory, with some of us risking arrest on campus to further highlight the urgent need for action. Not only are we following in the footsteps of the movements before us, but we are also preparing to take action for justice even if our administrators are reluctant to join us.
Just as in the struggles against the Vietnam War, for a living wage, and for divestment from apartheid, our movement is powerful because we have risen up together. Join hundreds of students across the country in the biggest and most widespread demonstration of student power in the history of the fossil fuel divestment movement by taking the pledge now.
Just a few short weeks after 1000 people hit the streets of Oslo demanding divestment from fossil fuels on Global Divestment Day, we’re hearing reports that the City of Oslo has responded by divesting from coal.
Oslo is divesting US$7 million from its pension fund investments in coal. This places Oslo as the first capital city in the world to make a divestment commitment and we should congratulate them for doing so.
Our partners in the divestment campaign over in Norway, Framtiden i våre hender met the news with the following response:
“The year of 2015 is important, both because this is the year when we need to come together globally and secure a path towards a carbon free society, but in Norway we’re also having local elections, and if there’s any time for local leaders to show what future they want – this is the time.
The fact that Oslo is now divesting from coal is a victory for our hard work, and sends a strong signal to the government that is currently reviewing the investments of the national oil fund. We will regard it as poor leadership if the government choose to take a less powerful stand than Oslo when deciding their own strategy for a sustainable future.”
Framtiden had sent a letter to the mayor of Oslo along with other Norwegian municipalities in January, asking them to take climate leadership and become fossil free.
Let this be a signal for other cities to follow suit. It should also be inspiration to the Fossil Free network that organising for divestment is a solid strategy, and to keep on pushing the communities in which we live to make the right, moral and financial choice by divesting from oil, coal and gas.
On March 3rd the National Energy Board application period for the Energy East pipeline review ends. By then hundreds of people from all across Canada will have applied to the NEB review demanding to speak about the massive climate impacts of Energy East, equal to adding 7 million cars to Canada’s roads.
The NEB is the last review process and last regulatory body in Canada that could mandate climate reviews on tar sands pipelines, a necessity if Canada is going to get serious about tackling climate change. Unfortunately, NEB chair Peter Watson has so far refused to include climate change in the Energy East review claiming that despite the Board’s responsibility to review the cumulative environmental impacts of pipeline projects, climate change doesn’t rate.
Here are five reasons why Watson is wrong and why the NEB needs to review Energy East on climate.The NEB needs to rebuild public trust
Earlier this year a former Suncor board member and lifetime energy executive called the NEB a “farce” and stated that “this Board [is] a truly industry captured regulator”. This was just the latest piece of a story that has seen faith in the NEB fall so low that last October the Canadian Energy Pipelines Association presented polling at an industry conference that showed that only 3 in 10 Canadians still believed in the process. In BC support for the NEB process has fallen so far that the provincial NDP are calling for the province to abandon the Board all together.
The NEB knows that the public has loss faith, Watson himself has commented on the challenges facing the board, even setting off on a cross country tour trying to drum up support for the NEB and pledging to open regional offices in Montreal and Vancouver to better interact with communities. The problem though, is that the NEB’s refusal to listen to climate concerns is at the core of why people have little to no faith in the review process. The inability to bring climate concerns forward at the NEB was the spark for many to risk arrest on Burnaby Mountain late last year and led over 100,000 people to demand a climate review of Energy East – the largest petition ever delivered to the NEB. If the NEB truly wants to rebuild the public trust, they need to start by including climate change in the review of Energy East.It makes economic sense
According to their existing list of issues the NEB is responsible to review pipelines on the “economic feasibility of the Project”. With the collapsed price of oil and the threat of the carbon bubble become more and more real with each passing week, even earning a study from the Bank of England, the economic feasibility for pipeline projects like Energy East may actually hinge on considering the climate impacts of the project.
Andrew Leach, the Enbridge Professor of Energy Policy at the University of Calgary, puts it this way:
“When it comes to the question of demand for the pipeline, there’s an important climate change risk, which the NEB appears to be ignoring. Will the pipeline still be needed if Canada acts to meet its domestic commitments on climate change or if the world takes significant action on climate change, with or without Canadian participation?”
If the NEB is truly interested in making a determination as to whether a pipeline is in the national interest, whether or not there is an economic future for that pipeline or for the oil that is supposed to go in it seems like a good place to start.The precedent for climate reviews has been set
In 2011, then Environment Minister Peter Kent made a proud announcement that Canada was pulling out of the Kyoto Protocol, abandoning our previous climate targets with the goal of harmonizing our climate plans with the United States. Fast forward to today and US President Barack Obama seems poised to reject the Keystone XL pipeline, largely because the pipeline would have a significant impact on climate emissions. Obama has the information to make this decision because the Environmental Protection Agency performed a climate review of the Keystone XL pipeline and found that “Until ongoing efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions associated with the production of oil sands are more successful and widespread, the Final SEIS makes clear that, compared to reference crudes, development of oil sands crude represents a significant increase in greenhouse gas emissions”. If Canada truly wants to align our climate change action plans with the US, we should start by mandating NEB reviews that include climate change.The tar sands carbon math
A recent study in Nature found that in order to maintain a global climate target of 2 degrees maximum warming, Canada needs to keep the vast majority of tar sands in the ground. An earlier study by Marc Lee at the Canadian Center for Policy Alternatives estimated that to stay within Canada’s fair share of a global carbon budget at least 78% of Canada’s proven fossil fuel reserves need to stay underground – 89% if you include proven-plus-probable reserves.
In other words, the math doesn’t add up. If Canada is going to have a just, fair climate policy that respects our role in the rest of the world the first step is to know how much more carbon we can emit. Only once we know that can we can craft policy and make decisions on whether a project is truly in the national interest by determining if fits with building the pathway for a just transition to 100% clean energy – a transition that the world best scientists say we need to make as soon as possible.Because they can
With over 100,000 messages demanding it and cl of all applicants to the Energy East review asking to speak on it, you’d think the easiest thing for the NEB to do is just to add climate change to the list of issues, as they already have with marine shipping concerns around Energy East. Even the NEB used to think it was in 2010 when a spokesperson to the Globe and Mail that “just because [climate change] wasn’t listed in the terms of reference doesn’t mean it’s not an issue that the hearing can consider” .
In other words, the only real barriers to a climate review of Energy East are political. The NEB is appointed by the government, and Stephen Harper has stacked the NEB with hand picked allies of the fossil fuel industry. Let’s be crystal clear, if the NEB refuses a climate review it’s not because they can’t do one, it’s because they don’t want to do one – and if that’s the case we have to ask the question, who benefits when pipelines don’t get a climate review?
February was a *huge* month for the divestment movement — and even that might be a bit of an understatement. For one, our movement went truly global, with over 450 events in 60 countries for Global Divestment Day. From the Pacific Islands to South Africa, from the United States to Germany, check out some of what happened on the Global Divestment Day wrap-up page and check out the celebration web workshop here.
Not only that, but it became clear that the fossil fuel industry is getting mighty nervous.
Even oil giants like Shell have been forced to look at whether or not their business plans are compatible with the global goal of limiting warming to below 2°C — hint: they’re not– and the industry is pushing back more and more every day (albeit clumsily). See their silly PR counter-campaign attempting to smear the divestment movement. But, oh wait — then the world’s biggest PR firm dumped the American oil lobby… #sorrybutnotsorry.
All major political parties in the UK — the birthplace of the coal-powered industrial revolution — signed an historic pledge to totally phase out unabated coal. And on top of that, just this week President Obama vetoed the Keystone XL pipeline.
Fossil fuels are on their way out, and the industry knows it. Now, it’s up to us to keep the pressure on.
But first, let’s take a few moments to celebrate some of the incredible wins we’ve had this month:5 GLOBAL CAMPUS UPDATES
USA: The New School goes big
This is one for the divestment history books, friends. The New School will be permanently severing its $220 million endowment from dirty fossil fuel investments, making it the second largest university in the world so far to take that step. Not only that, but they’re going even further with a broader plan of action for sustainability. Read more here.
Australia: USYD should Divest the Rest
Fossil Free USYD welcomed the University of Sydney’s decision to reduce the carbon intensity of its investments by 20% over 3 years, but renewed its calls for Australia’s oldest University to divest from all fossil fuels.
USA: Brevard College leads the way in the SE
Here’s a HUGE win in the Southeast, folks. Friday, February 20th, Brevard’s Board of Trustees voted to divest by 2018, becoming the first academic institution in the Southeast to do so. Read more here.
USA: Harvard Heat Week launches as part of Spring escalation
What do Natalie Portman, Dr. Cornel West, Robert F. Kennedy Jr and a Nobel Peace Prize winner have in common? They’re all Harvard alumni who are joining hundreds of faculty and students to turn up the heat until the university divests with a week of escalated action in April — check it out here. The announcement comes right on the heels of a sit-in at the President’s office as part of Global Divestment Day and is part of a broader campus movement to turn it up a notch for campus campaigns this spring — watch the call to action.
Sweden: Chalmers University of Technology is first Swedish university to divest
Chalmers University of Technology has long been a leading university when it comes to sustainability – and now they’ve really stepped up to the mark by selling their assets in fossil fuels worth almost 5 million SEK.
With this first university win, the Swedish divestment movement is gaining momentum rapidly and making an impact on the climate response from its universities. Jönköping University also recently made changes to their investment policy,5 GLOBAL COMMUNITY UPDATES
Norway: World’s richest sovereign wealth fund divests
In terms of cold hard cash, this is the biggest divestment decision to date. The Norwegian Sovereign Wealth (oil) Fund ($850 bn) divested from a total of 22 coal and tar sands companies. This is a landmark win. Read more here.
Australia: Divestment gets HOT
Australia’s institutions are taking a line from Snoop Dogg to heart — drop it (those fossil fuel investments) like it’s hot! Australia’s been making’ waves this month, following an intense period of bushfires. From Perth and the Shire of Goomalling divesting, to Bob Massie’s tour envisioning the post-fossil fuel era, to ANU’s Commonwealth Bank closing during student protests, to the Australian Guild of Screen Composers divestment commitment this week — Australia’s divestment movement is heating up. Follow Australia’s Fossil Free campaigns here.
UK: Bristol becomes 2nd UK city to go Fossil Free
This is a major win for the up and coming Fossil Free Bristol Divestment Campaign launched only recently and marks the culmination of exponential growth in the Fossil Free UK movement. Read more here.
USA: Fossil Free California launches
The new Fossil Free California campaign wants the state to become the first in the U.S. to divest from fossil fuels, and they’re asking its two largest pension funds, CalPERS and CalSTRS to ditch those fossil fuel investments quick. Fossil Free California launched their new campaign in Sacramento for Global Divestment Day! Find out more here and check out the video from the launch below:
USA: Boston & more (from Amy)
Bonus: One to watch in the coming months…
Germany: Divest Berlin
Over 300 people — including Angela Merkel’s former climate advisor Professor Schnellnhuber and high-profile politicians, doctors, teachers, artists and other Berliners — have signed an open letter calling on Berlin to divest from fossil fuels.And for a dose of fun…
Check out our favorite social media trend that swept the web this month — #fossilfuelbreakuplines!
- Here’s a roundup of some of the best ones.
- And UK Youth Climate Coalition made a hilarious video that you won’t want to miss.
That’s a wrap, folks!
There was an apparent media frenzy when news came that French President Francois Hollande will be visiting the Philippines accompanied by prominent personalities known for their involvement in environmental advocacies to the Philippines, including Marion Cotillard, Mélanie Laurent and high officials from various international organizations and French investors. Hollande’s trip is meant to be a build-up to the 21st Conference of the Parties of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP 21) to be hosted by France in December 2015.
We in the Philippine Climate Movement sees Hollande’s visit as an important opportunity for us to remind France and other developed countries governments of their historical responsibility for climate change and their obligations towards peoples of developing countries who suffer the brunt of the impacts. That is why we took to the streets singing a Filipino rendition of “Do You Hear the People Sing?” from the musical Les Misérables.
While visit from parties who wish to help many of us in the Philippine climate movement that a mere show of sympathy with our predicament is not enough, that is why we took to the streets to remind President Hollande, and the Philippine government that” Climate justice is best served in actions, not words.
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What we need from France is not posturing, but the fulfilment of their obligations to radically reduce their greenhouse gas emissions and deliver sufficient climate finance as their historical responsibility for climate change requires.
Today, we’re one step closer to a final rejection of Keystone XL — President Obama has vetoed Congress’ bill that would have forced him to approve the pipeline.
It’s not the same as rejecting the pipeline, but it is a big deal: it’s just the third time this President has vetoed a bill. He wouldn’t be taking this step if not for the extraordinary work you’ve done to push him to take this issue seriously. A few years ago, he was barely acknowledging the pipeline, and now he’s talking about climate change often, and Keystone is one of the top issues in Washington.
This is history in the making — and it’s because of you.
Now it’s time to make our closing argument to the President. He has the power, the information and the opportunity to reject the pipeline now.
Today dozens of movement leaders, economists, musicians and filmmakers — folks like Bill McKibben, Willie Nelson, Mark Ruffalo, Julianne Moore, Patti Smith and others — just released a Unity Letter ahead of the President’s final decision.
Here is the full letter, including some of the other signers whose names you might recognize.
The only thing it’s missing is your name at the bottom. I’m hoping (hoping!) that this will be our final message to the President about Keystone XL. The more unified we are, the clearer the message will be. Click here to read and add your name to the Unity Letter against Keystone XL: 350.org/unityletter/
I want to say this again because it’s important: people power has brought us to this point. Whatever the President decides, we have done what we set out to accomplish — build a movement able to force President Obama to take the climate crisis seriously.
With thousands of people standing beside us, I’m confident we can move the President to reject the pipeline once and for all. I hope you can sign with me, and be there with us as we make our mark on history.
Yours in unity,
On the day after US President Obama, in a notoriously challenging domestic political context for climate action, vetoed a major fossil fuel infrastructure project, the EU has announced its vision and commitment kicking off the UN climate talks’ country pledges process. Prepare to be underwhelmed.
The move is failing to deliver the emissions cuts proposal required to be in line with science and justice, and represents a missed opportunity to amplify positive climate action already happening in the bloc.
The proposed emissions reduction figure by the EU, as unambitious as it is, masks an even more worrying continued reliance on fossil fuel-friendly policies, particularly evident in its most recent investment plan (the so-called Juncker plan in Brussels circles).
Up to €69 billion of Member States’ contributions over the next two years could be going to high-carbon projects, including €16 billion towards coal and €26 billion in gas and oil pipeline infrastructure. The UK sends a strong signal for the beginning of a major coal phase out in the region? The EU says: let’s fund some more. Warnings around stranded assets and the moral imperative to stop funding climate disaster? The EU says: let’s double down on fossil fuel infrastructure.
Emma Hughes, from Platform London, commented on the announcement: “Juncker’s investment offensive is a disaster for the climate. The EU plans to throw public money at hundreds of dirty projects like the Euro-Caspian Mega Pipeline which, if built, would pump over a billion tonnes of carbon into the atmosphere during the next forty years – locking us into both fossil fuels and the brutal Azerbaijan and Turkmenistan regimes.”
The EU can’t claim the role of climate leader and stick to its commitment to 2° warming with one foot timidly in the direction of a clean energy future and the other fully in the past.
Throughout the rest of the year we will need a broad regional movement of people to generate and sustain pressure for bold climate action, and to show that climate leadership and continued support of fossil fuels are fundamentally incompatible positions for political leaders to take ahead of the UN climate talks in Paris. Only then the vast gap between talk and action will be bridged.
Blair Palese, 350.org Australia CEO writes about how Bob Massie’s tour downunder is kicking off a lively conversation about how Australia can move into the post fossil fuels age – while still supporting jobs and prosperity, and being awesome for the climate.
“Life After Fossil Fuels: Opportunities in the Emerging Low Carbon World” with visiting US expert, Bob Massie.
Several years ago the concept of a transition to a low carbon economy was considered science fiction – a pipe dream like those flying cars on The Jetsons – yet now, as the reality of irreversible climate change draws ever closer, the question that global leaders must ask is no longer when this transition will happen, but how. Will this structural shift away from traditional fossil fuels result in economic contraction, job losses and the extinction of regional communities dependent on coal, oil or gas or can we find a way to make the necessary change whilst preserving our economic and social wellbeing?
The idea is not impossible and in fact, around the world, from Germany and the US to India and China, we are seeing countries tackling this problem head on and putting in place measures and plans to ensure that the action we need is taken as painlessly as possible. In 2011 the German government launched a comprehensive national plan called Energiewende, meaning Energy Transition. They put a small tax on energy bills to subsidise the transition to renewable power. Late last year China and the US signed an agreement to drastically cut the proportion of their energy derived from fossil fuels – a move which has sent coal and gas producing countries such as Australia into a flurry of panic. And now in the US we’re seeing the likely death of a huge oil pipeline that is no longer financially nor ethically relevant.
This type of visionary action and discussion is sadly lacking amongst our leadership circles in many countries and sadly, Australia, a country in the midst of building a mega coal mining complex in Queensland’s Galilee Basin with exports through the iconic Great Barrier Reef that would, if it were a country, become the 7th largest carbon emitter in the world.
Thankfully, organisations such as the New Economy Coalition and others, have been seeking answers to these big picture questions of how to save our planet whilst balancing the books. This problem of a ‘Just Transition’ to a low-carbon economy that secures a strong and stable economic future and supports jobs, communities and the environment is exactly the topic that US expert Bob Massie, the outgoing President of the New Economy Coalition, former President of CERES and prominent global anti-apartheid campaigner will address during his two week speaking tour of Australia.
As Bob says in his talk, “Climate change poses huge problems but it also present huge opportunities. At this very moment we are the middle of a global struggle, as country after country battles to break free from the thinking and the politics and the damage caused by fossil fuel in order to move into a new era.”
Many countries now we stand at a crossroads between ignoring the obvious – that climate change is already happening and that we need to address it urgently — and continuing with business as usual or take the next great leap forward toward climate action. As Bob has noted in his talk, we will all not only need to demand leadership on how we will tackle this issue as a key priority but to be part of the change that needs to happen.
No issue could be more important to ensure we face up to the need to leave our fossil fuel reserves in the ground and find new, long-term and low-carbon energy sources and jobs as we minimise the transition on the workers and communities that will be most impacted. In Bob’s words, “Most great change goes from impossible to feasible to real to inevitable. If we choose the path to take the necessary change head on, it will become our common destiny.”
Bob Massie speaking tour: Life After Fossil Fuels – Around Australia from late Feb to early March 2015.
Watch this guy explain how he received an email — and then organized something beautiful right in the heart of Nepal for Global Divestment Day.
This is Binod Parajuli, one of the people behind Nepal’s umbrella rally, and this is what can happen when every day people join together to organize for change.
Such an inspiring story:
Want to see what the umbrella rally looked like? Check out their awesome video:
“I would like people to have a much more nuanced look at what is happening there, and I would like them to see in some small way the way that the oil industry has affected a community of people and to think long and hard whether that is something they want in their own community.”
The Academy Awards are this Sunday, and one of the films nominated is a documentary short about the oil boom in North Dakota as seen through the eyes of three children and an immigrant mother. I interviewed the director J. Christian Jensen about ‘White Earth’ and what it might mean for other communities impacted by the fossil fuel industry.
Watch the trailer below:
Q: What drew you to this location and this story?
A: I first heard about what was happening in North Dakota from my father who lives in southern Utah, in St George. There were a lot of people that were leaving my home town because of the bad situation, the housing market crash, and many of them were moving either by themselves or with their families to North Dakota. It was this economic promise land and it really felt like or sounded like something a little bit from the ‘Grapes of Wrath.’ These people moving up in their cars and trucks and looking for work. So, that’s what led me to North Dakota.
What really sold me on sticking with the story and following through was when I arrived for the first time, it was around sunset in the late fall in 2012 and as I started driving across the highway – you just see miles and miles of wheat fields, and it kind of harkened on all these images I had in my head of the heartland. But, as the sun set, the transformation on the land became so dramatic because there were flames coming out of the ground as far as the eyes could see, and oil rigs with light that made it look like something sort of alien invasion and constant truck traffic, and the sounds. It really felt like something post-apocalyptic. And those images really stuck with me. I felt like I wanted to get to the bottom of those images in a small way.
Q: Out of all the different towns, what drew you to White Earth specifically?
A: My film is about people on the outside, outsiders, misfits, people on the periphery. Just like the characters in the film, I felt like White Earth was sort of a misfit town. It was far enough outside of the highway that most people wouldn’t really know it was there and it was old and lot of derelict buildings. And it was also the home of this boy James who becomes sort of the heart of the film and the film’s narrator. I was just compelled by this tiny town, and the fact that multiple times a day hundreds of oil tankards passed through that town heading to who knows where. So it felt like this little microcosm of what was happening all across the region.
Q: What kind of research did you do in the lead up to making this film?
A: I tried not to go into it with a really strong political stance about what should or shouldn’t be happening there. I wanted to delineate my story to be about the people and even moreso, the people that you probably wouldn’t hear from in the major media coverage of what was happening. I learned about the process of fracking, which has driven the boom so I could have a sense of what kinds of technologies and what kinds of processes were being used. And that was very important so that I could speak the language and understand what people were doing.
Q: Something I really love about your film, is it shows the voices, the people impacted by the oil boom who usually aren’t heard from. Besides the people you spotlight in the film, are there other perspective you met whose stories you wish you could also tell.
A: What’s happening in North Dakota and the regions it is so huge that there are limitless numbers of stories that could be told in a very compelling way. I met women who were working there in very much a man’s world, a man’s environment. I would have loved to tell some of their stories. And I was also very interested in the way that the locals, many of them, farmers and ranchers were having their lives transformed – sometimes through wealth. Vast wealth that was coming to them, and the conflicts and the tensions that arose out of that new found wealth and the fact that one farmer could be making millions and his next door neighbor could be making nothing – and how it might divide families who have grown up for generations next to each other. So there were a lot of stories I would have loved to tell, but just couldn’t given the constraints of my film.
Q: Were people welcoming to you? Were they eager to tell you their story or were some people more hostile to you being there recording?
A: There were definitely some people who were hostile. Largely because there were so many people out there – making films, reporting for the news, many of whom who had strong political leanings or leanings what was happening out there. And they were resistant to being misrepresented or made to look bad in some way. However, I was really surprised by generally how welcoming people were – especially the locals, the North Dakotans. They were so nice, and most of them allowed me into their home, tried to help me get access to some of the oil sites. The locals themselves were quite open and transparent about what was happening, but where I always seemed to get hung up was when I tried to engage with or get permission from the oil companies themselves and almost every single one of those experiences ended in failure.
Q: Were people aware of the negative environmental or climate impacts and it just seemed too far removed – was it just never part of their thought process of equation?
A: I think that most of the people that were involved in the work were either politically leaned in some way that they really didn’t care that much about the larger environmental impact or the narrative that surrounds that – or there was a lot of willful ignorance or self-deception about what was happening. And almost anyone could hide behind the immediate economic needs they had.
It’s so complex, how can you judge someone that is really going to great lengths to try and provide for their family if they truly don’t have other options. It’s really difficult for me to judge someone in that situation. And for me, my sense was – and I heard this from a lot of people – we all use this energy, people of all political leanings use this energy, using this oil- and we’re the ones doing the dirty work in order that they can have what they need. And so sometimes they felt targeted and misrepresented people were against the oil. And even I myself wondered – if we as a society continue to not make the changes in our energy priorities so that we do need this energy source, maybe we should be counting it in our back yard, maybe we shouldn’t be letting other countries do the dirty work. And perhaps if we saw what it does to our own land and landscape we might have a greater incentive to change our energy priorities on a much larger scale. I don’t know if that’s the answer, but it was something I frequently found myself thinking.
Q: Yourself being from southern Utah, the extractive industry is a very real presence isn’t it?
A: Yes, and that’s something I’m very close to. There’s definitely a battle brewing in southern Utah where my home is. The lands that are under threat are places that are very dear to me because I’m a big outdoor canyoneer and I very much have a deep sense of love for the wild places in southern Utah. And that’s something I will actively fight, because that is my place and that is my land, and it’s still my home. It’s a place where I have an especially strong stewardship and I think that the costs far outweigh the benefits.
Q: What are the some takeaways you want people to have after seeing your film?
A: I think that one of the main takeaways of my film is I would like people to have a much more nuanced look at what is happening there, and I would like them to see in some small way the way that the oil industry has affected a community of people and to think long and hard whether that is something they want in their own community. Ultimately, we are the stewards over the places we live, and the more knowledge and long term understanding about those places, the better we will be at making those decisions. Any time that outside forces come in seeking to capitalize off of a region, I think that there needs to be a very strong power balance between those forces and the local people. And not just a balance of who can say who is able to allow or disallow what happens, but also a balance of information. And if people are truly informed and given a very long term view of the pros and cons of the decisions they’re are making, then I think that people are more likely to make wise decisions they will not regret one or two generations down the road.
This guest post was written by Ecocare Maldives and cross-posted from their website.
“Divest or Drown!” read one of the orange papers hanging on the ‘divestment thought strings’, at our event. Friday, 13th February 2015. On Friday February the 13th, 2015, at 21:00 hrs, Ecocare Maldives took the ‘Global Divestment Day’ event public at Masveringe Park – Malè, a common socializing point where most middle aged and elderly hang around playing board games and talk politics. We took the Global Divestment Day to them!
Many young people, youth activists and passionate environmental advocates gathered to show their support to our global cause; ‘Go fossil free!’. Some people expressed their thoughts by writing them while others chose to draw on our orange “thought papers”. Which were then hung on our “thought strings” for display.
We took time to reflect on how important it is to ‘Divest Maldives from fossil fuels’. We had speakers come up on open mike sharing their worries, calling government to invest on renewables and to stop ventures to explore oil in the country.
Speaking at the gathering Director, Advocacy and Campaigns of Ecocare Maldives, Maeed M. Zahir spoke about the importance of talking about climate change. “Once Mahatma Gandhi said ‘First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win’! We maybe small in number today, and we maybe laughed at today, but we are fine, we will do more of this again. We will speak about climate change! We will speak about our reefs and we will talk about our fisherman as the implications of climate change will affect them!” he said.
Speaking on the implications of climate change and its realities on food insecurity, Environmental Advocate Aisha Niyaz said, “Climate change is real and we Maldivians are already experiencing the negative consequences. Our islands are too tiny for food production, which means we are heavily reliant on imports. With extreme weather events occurring across the globe, farms and factories are being destroyed. This means there is less food available for the current demand, which ultimately increases the price of food items available for Maldivians. What I fear most is us experiencing famine in the not so distant future.”
“We see climate change and fossil fuels as abstract concepts, when it’s not. Even by using electricity we’re using non renewables. Let’s look into what we can do. Even turning off the lights when we aren’t using it is a step. Start being part of the change, one step at a time.” Ish Afeef, President of Dhi Youth Movement said.
Our friend Laurence from Amsterdam who spoke at the gathering pointed out how this is in fact a global movement as he went on to say, “I feel privileged to be here and to witness this truly Global Day of Divestment. I am one those people who show up for 350.org events back home in Amsterdam I am glad I made the Divestment day here in the Maldives”.
Our small but meaningful gathering ended with a collective call from all of us: Divest Maldives from fossil fuels – Go Fossil Free!
Check out more event photos on our Facebook Page
This post was written by Jenai Longstaff, a student at Stanford University and member of Fossil Free Stanford.
When President Obama came to Stanford University on February 13th, more than 50 students and community members were there to tell him to veto and reject the Keystone XL pipeline.
Fossil Free Stanford has led Stanford’s campaign to divest from the fossil fuel industry. With the University’s assets successfully out of the coal industry, Fossil Free Stanford continues its work to end the University’s investment in oil and natural gas companies, which are causing enormous environmental destruction and human rights abuses–just like the Keystone XL pipeline would.
Along with members of the Stanford Native American community and 350 Silicon Valley, Fossil Free Stanford organized this protest in line with our friends around the nation who are holding Keystone XL protests at all of Obama’s public appearances. It was both powerful and humbling to see the huge number of people who showed up to stand in solidarity with communities on the front lines of the pipeline and let the President know how urgent it is for us to address climate change and work towards environmental justice.
Now that the Keystone legislation has passed Congress and President Obama is expected to veto the bill, it is more important than ever for the President to heed our call and reject the pipeline once and for all. This rejection would be an extremely important step in ending our country’s dependence on the destructive and unsustainable fossil fuel industry. Although Fossil Free Stanford is proud of our University for divesting from coal, we must continue our fight against all fossil fuels. It is time for not just our school, but our country, too, to invest in a just, sustainable future for all.
At over 450 events in 60 countries, people around the world declared that it’s wrong to wreck the climate — and it’s wrong to profit from wrecking it.
From the Pacific Islands to South Africa, from the United States to Germany, we stood up to demand that our governments, universities and financial and religious institutions stop investing in the rogue industries that are destroying our planet. It was a massive turning point in the divestment movement with people across six continents fighting to de-legitimize the fossil fuel industry.
And we did it in some incredibly beautiful and creative ways — here’s just a small sample of what happened
The head of the National Energy Board head Peter Watson has abdicated responsibility for considering climate impacts, claiming that while the NEB is required to consider the cumulative environmental impacts of projects it review, climate change isn’t a part of that. Add this to Stephen Harper’s 2012 changes to Canada’s environmental reviews and a complete absence of any climate regulations for Canada’s oil & gas sector and it seems like the Energy East project, with a climate impact the same as adding 7 million cars to Canada’s roads, is caught in regulatory purgatory when it comes to climate change.
Thankfully, in the absence of political leadership – and with just over two weeks left until the end of the NEB’s application period for Energy East – communities across Canada are stepping up to submit hundreds of applications to NEB requesting to speak to the pipelines massive climate impacts.
Events from Winnipeg to Halifax have already gathered hundreds of applications, and still over 20 more events are already planned for the coming weeks. Check out these photos and videos from past events!
In participation with Global Divestment Day, Fossil Free Indexes LLC just released an updated Carbon Underground list for the divestment movement to take forward. It’s now posted on gofossilfree.org/top-200/
This is a list of the top 100 coal companies and the top 100 oil and gas companies by size of reserves converted to CO2 equivalent. These are the companies holding the bulk of the carbon risk to the planet and the portfolios.
With a new list comes new numbers, and the Carbon Bubble equation continues to shift. The arguably high ceiling, 2°C (3.6° F) of global warming, remains; but the carbon budget is shrinking as we burn somewhere around 35 to 40 GtCO2 (billion tons of CO2) per year; and the reserves keep growing. But before we dig into the numbers, it’s important to note that the heart of the divestment movement remains the moral argument; if If it’s wrong to wreck the climate then it’s wrong to profit from that wreckage.
It’s also important to add the context of the current market environment to the shifting Carbon Bubble equation. The growth of reserves over the last year came with a BIG price tag. According to Deutsche Bank, the oil industry spent $650 billion on exploration and development of new reserves in 2014. And that’s not the only catch around these reserves. According to Goldman Sachs, over the past two years no major [oil/gas] project has come on-stream below $70 per barrel, with most in the $80 – $100 per barrel range. That’s a troubling prospect for reserve holders looking at oil prices bounce around in the $50s.
Here are the two big takeaways from the new reserves report:
Reserves are getting bigger
The 200 list now represents 555 Gt of potential CO2 emissions – five times more than can be burned if global warming is to be limited to 2°C. That’s 9 Gt more than last year’s list. The report says, “[That growth] is equivalent to adding another PetroChina – the world’s third largest public oil and gas company – to the industry.” These 555 Gt of CO2 are scheduled to be exploited in the next 10-15 years. And that is just the emission potential of these 200 companies. There are still State owned fossil fuel reserves, and other GHG sources to consider.
Fossil Free Indexes thinks we will see a slow in reserve growth in 2015 as low oil prices have the industries cutting exploration spending. But, bottom line for this year’s list, reserves have grown (especially on the coal side) and the math is getting scarier.
Too Big to Fail
Just like banks, the fossil fuel industry is consolidating into a few companies at the top. Only 20 companies accounted for 95% of the growth of oil and gas reserve emissions during the past five years. Hyper-consolidation is not an unfamiliar redflag. Significant market risk signals (like high levels of debt) are easily hidden within the complicated balance sheets of giant firms (we experienced this with Banks in 2007). The fossil fuel business model isn’t even working for fossil fuel companies anymore, and only the largest corporations, with the most wiggle room in their budgets, can afford to carry on. This means they’re buying out their struggling little brothers, and doubling down on a doomed business model. The top five ranked oil and gas companies, Gazprom, Rosneft, PetroChina, ExxonMobil and LukOil account for over 50% of overall list emissions.
Luckily, the divestment movement is growing too. With over 500 divestment campaigns globally, a power we will see flexed today, we are building a movement to take on the top 200. For more juicy information, read the report here.
Ahead of Global Divestment Day we asked people from across the fossil free divestment network which institution they wanted to divest and why. Here’s just a few of the responses. Share why you divest – Take a photo of yourself holding a divestment message and share it on social media using: Why I #Divest
Just now, the House of Representatives just voted to force approval of the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline, sending the bill to the President’s desk. This vote was a charade: Keystone XL is the President’s decision, and he pledged to veto this legislation — and we fully expect him to do so right away.
What’s more, Big Oil’s friends in Congress don’t have the votes to override the President’s veto.
Presidents don’t veto legislation all that often. This would be only President Obama’s 3rd veto in his entire Presidency. Once he vetoes this bill, the pipeline won’t be stopped, so we hope he will then use his power to reject the pipeline outright.
We wouldn’t be here today were it not for the unbelievable growth of a powerful climate movement, fighting on absolutely every front against Keystone XL, the tar sands, and the fossil fuel industry. We went back and tracked down information on over 750 #noKXL actions from the past 4 years, and put them all together on one map so that we can show the world how powerful we are.
Big Oil can buy votes in Congress but they can’t buy a movement — and it’s a movement that will make the difference in this fight. If you want to know why the President is pledged to veto this bill, here’s a glimpse of the movement that’s built over the past 4 years:
Stars: Major actions and events
Big Blue pins: Presidential events
Yellow dots: Draw the Line event (9/21/13)
White dot: FEIS vigil (2/3/14)
Green dot: Reject Keystone XL Now rally (1/13/15)
Red dot: Submitted event
There are over 750 actions with photos on this map, and we probably missed a lot too — if you see something missing, you can add your own to the map as well.
Once he’s vetoed this bill, the President’s next step should be to immediately reject the pipeline permit once and for all.
Right around the same time that the President will likely veto the bill, over 400 communities across 6 continents will take to the streets calling for divestment from the entire fossil fuel industry as part of Global Divestment Day. The divestment movement has already shifted tens of billions out of fossil fuels, and forced Big Oil to spend millions to try to protect their image.
We’ve not won yet. But tomorrow will be one more step on the long path to victory. Thank you for everything you’ve done — I can’t wait for what’s next.
The first ever Global Divestment Day kicks off tomorrow and runs through til Saturday 14 February. And it seems you’ve already put the fossil fuel industry on the backfoot before we even get started!
Earlier this week we got word that a Big Oil PR company released a, frankly, hilarious cartoon as an attack against Global Divestment Day. You know what that means? We’re really starting to rattle them, so let’s keep pushing until we win
Tomorrow going to be huge — we’re talking epic – with more than 450 events spanning 58 countries on six continents .
As you prepare to attend an event, here are couple of tips and resources to help make Global Divestment Day as incredible as it can be:Photos & videos galore!
Images are a powerful way to share our message to the world, so take lots of lively pictures of your event. Then, send us your best ones (click here for tips on how to take great event photos) so that we can spread their power. We’ll also be including the best video clips we can find in the Global Divestment Day wrap-up video — click here for instructions on submitting your photos and videos to Fossil Free. Deadline is end of 14 February to make it into the video.Tweet & share!
Social media is key these days, so let’s blow up the conversation online. We’re pulling together all the best social media content on this page, so make sure you’re posting and tweeting with the #divest hashtag all day long! You can use the hashtag on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Vine, Tumblr, or YouTube. Also, remember to change your profile picture to let your friends and family know that you’re supporting Global Divestment Day.Wear the orange square!
Every movement needs an iconic symbol, something that unites and connects us globally. Ours is the orange square and the color orange more generally. Show you’re part of the growing movement for fossil fuel divestment by wearing at least a little orange square on Global Divestment Day, and reminding other organisers and participants to do the same.
Tomorrow, let’s send our most powerful message yet to make fossil fuels history. Join us and keep spreading the word.
A fossil fuel industry PR group just released this cartoon video as an attack on Global Divestment Day:
The Environmental Policy Alliance is a front group for Big Oil that pushes out specious and inaccurate opposition research on individuals and organizations who fight climate change. The group is led by Rick Berman, who was taped by the New York Times as saying in a talk to oil executives that “you have to play dirty to win”.
This is what the fossil fuel industry is saying about you: that you’re a bunch of big, bad, radicals who want everyone to go hungry in the dark. But we know that’s ridiculous. We know that this movement is pushing for a just, sustainable future for all of us — one where energy is something that helps communities instead of hurting them, and where you don’t need to spend a lot of money to have a voice.
If that’s a movement you’re excited to be part of, join us tomorrow for Global Divestment Day:
The industry’s hired guns are trying to take over the #divest hashtag ahead of the big day. Will you help make sure #divest stays a tool that we can connect and celebrate with? Social media can be a simple numbers game, and you can help us beat back these PR flacks:
This video is pretty low… but it’s also pretty laughable. In fact, that’s just what we did when we stumbled across it yesterday.
Then Aaron Packard, our Oceania Region Coordinator, used his own narration skills to do a remix of the video. And THEN the “Environmental Policy Alliance” made YouTube take down our parody version — but you can still listen to Aaron’s fake “oil baron” narration below. (Try muting the video above and playing them at the same time!) If the fossil fuel industry was being honest, this is what they’d actually say: