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I think we're nearing the end-game on Keystone XL

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It feels to me like we’re getting close to the endgame on Keystone XL.

Last week the Canadian government sent a letter to President Obama offering vague promises of reducing carbon emissions from the tar sands in return for the right to build the pipeline. Scientists and energy analysts quickly pointed out that this was nonsense -- it’s as if you were to begin your diet with two dozen jelly doughnuts, or plan to quit smoking by buying another carton or two of cigarettes.

I think this means the Canadians are getting a little desperate. They know the tide has turned against this pipeline in the U.S.

We only arrived at this point because of the heroic work you've put in -- a point that is made quite well by this video that I hope you’ll share around. It shows the beautiful work everyone has done for the past two years, and it's an excellent energizer for this critical stage of the fight:

An article in The New Yorker magazine this week called the fight over Keystone XL “the most prominent environmental cause in America.” The article also pointed out that now there are TV ads airing around the country telling the truth: that this is an export pipeline that will threaten every town it passes with ugly spills.

Just two years ago everyone told us this was a done deal. Now we’ve clearly got a chance.

The Canadian government is going all-out right now, and we need to do so as well. September 21st is the day -- that's when we will Draw the Line to oppose the pipeline and the tar sands it would carry. The President has made his promises, and now he needs to keep them. That means stopping the pipeline, and stopping it now.

Click here to find an event near you to Draw the Line on Keystone XL: act.350.org/event/draw_the_line/search/

Extra innings, overtime, at the buzzer: pick your sports cliché, but now’s the moment. Stopping Keystone XL won’t stop global warming -- but it would keep a huge pool of carbon in the ground, and perhaps begin to turn the tide against the relentless greed of the fossil fuel industry. That would be a big deal indeed.

With fingers crossed, and fist clenched,

Bill McKibben

P.S. Here's a link to that New Yorker article, it's quite good: www.newyorker.com/reporting/2013/09/16/130916fa_fact_lizza


"Canada Offers a Worthless Bargaining Chip in the Fight Over Keystone XL" The New Republic, Sept. 9 2013



Message to AFL-CIO: Jobs FOR the Environment

The problem of a broken economy and destabilized climate are well known, with increasing evidence arriving daily.

Activists and organizers within the twin movements of economic and climate justice are grappling for solutions and finding them in the way many of our current challenges are solved: through collaboration. The most recent example is a letter from the newly launched Our Power campaign to Richard Trumka at the AFL-CIO (American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations), calling for a meeting to incorporate climate into the AFL-CIO's agenda.  The letter comes from a wide array of community-based grassroots groups and their allies, and it turns to one of the most historically powerful institutions to forge a common interest in advancing a new politics on climate change. As one of the letter's authors, Brendan Smith of the Labor Network for Sustainability, is known to say, "there are no jobs on a dead planet."

A jobs program for our time that takes climate change seriously provides a compelling vision. Jobs in the construction sector, to revitalize old, leaky buildings and make them more energy efficient and therefore relying on less fossil-based electricity. Jobs repairing leaky water infrastructure, to restore and retain our shrinking fresh water sources. Jobs to enhance transit ridership, helping enable more people to rely on buses, trains, and ferries over individual automobiles. It's not a new concept, and in fact it was advanced during the Economic Stimulus, yet look at any struggling city to see that there's more to be done.

Not only that, but the AFL-CIO and community groups have another thing in common: an enemy. The fossil fuel sector is a job-cutting and exploitative industry, from the coal mine to Capital Hill. The set of policies advanced by industry trade groups like the American Petroleum Institute are at odds with a vision for working people, and the fossil fuel industry and its allies will stop at nothing to continue business as usual, with perverse examples coming up daily. Within the past few weeks, BP sued the Environmental Protection Agency  in order to drill anew, and the Canadian Prime Minister tries to convince the Obama Administration that a climate agreement between the two countries is possible--yet contingent on the construction of the Keystone xl tar sands pipeline. Since facts alone won't stop this industry, a vibrant movement is needed to do so, and that's why this letter matters.

The problem is clear: we need a renewed economy and we need a stable climate, which is dependent on leaving 80% of fossil fuels in the ground. That means we need to find a new source of electricity. One critical part of that is a new politics, that involves workers, as well as the labor and climate movements advocating for the common ground--the land and climate we all share and depend upon.



A Win with a big 'W'

Win!Do you know that feeling when your biggest problem seems to be that song playing in your head and you can’t figure out which song it is exactly? Sometimes, you try to figure it out without success for months at an end. It slows your system like a never ending virus scan (old and cluttered PC users will get what I mean), so when you finally figure out the song, clouds part and a ray of light hits you and you begin to levitate. Feels like it anyway.


Something akin to that happened here in Turkey last week. Gerze is a small and very green, lovely corner of Turkey on the Black Sea coast. For more than 5 years, the locals there have been battling a 1200MW coal power plant which was being built there by Anadolu Group. The locals have ‘occupied’ the site of construction for more than 2 years now, preventing the entry of construction machines into the site of the proposed plant. Because, although the project’s Environmental Impact Assesment (EIA) report had not been approved, the company was keen to start construction. Gerze locals were also battling the company in the legal arena.


Last week, the court handed the EIA report back to the company for the fourth time. This time the reason for refusal was clear: the proposed plant was within a forest area and that the proposal should be redrafted to stay outside forest areas. For Gerze this is good news as there are forest areas all around, which practically makes it impossible to build a coal plant there after the court’s decision. We still don't know how the company will respond, but by all accounts from our friends and allies the project is all but dead. The Gerze local community won, and it was particularly exciting to all of us who signed on in solidarity with the local Gerze resistance back in 2011 and also for those of us who marched in solidarity with the anti-coal movement of Turkey back in June 2013 during GPS Phase 1 in Istanbul. It’s a Win with a big ‘W’!


But that is not all. Last week also saw a remarkable setback for one of the biggest coal projects in the world. A key funder of the $12 billion and 8GW capacity Afşin - Elbistan plant, the United Arab Emirates company TAQA  ‘postponed’ its $8 billion share of financing until 2014, with rumors saying that the company might have withdrawn completely from the project. Moreover, 17 coal plants, including some running since 1995, has been suspended as a result of another court decision following a suit by 12 NGOs. The Turkish Council of State is asking for a cumulative environmental impact assessment on a regional level. This decision by the state council sets a very strong precedent for future projects to provide impartial EIAs based on scientific data. Another win.

We still have a long way to go. There are over 50 new coal plant projects in Turkey. But every once in a while, it is good to sit back, take a deep breath and whistle out a tune in celebration.


Cologne Court prohibits Reclaim Power Camp

Yesterday, Wednesday the 21th August, the Administrative Court of Cologne ruled that no tents or kitchen should be built on the climate camp site in Manheim (Rhineland), at which several hundred people are expected to arrive for the Reclaim Power camp this Friday. 

The camp comes hot off the heels of the UK camp, Reclaim the Power, in Balcombe, where thousands took action to stop Cuadrilla’s attempts to start a generation of fracking across the UK. The German camp will target the RWE (nPower) Group, recently criticised for alleged corporate tax evasion in the UK, that is looking to expand the heavily criticised mining of lignite across the region. 


The German authorities are accused of a campaign of cuts to public freedoms, attempts which seem to be successfully limiting the effectiveness of such camps as a form of protest. This has happened on numerous occasions in the recent past, with the refugee protests in front of the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin, and with Blockupy in Frankfurt.


Melanie Schubert a participant at the camp said. "The de-facto ban on the climate camp has far reaching consequences for the fundamental right to freedom of assembly, beyond any specific conflict here over brown coal... This harassment serves only to prevent and criminalise legitimate and effective protest throughout Germany. If enacted, political camps would be made almost impossible in the future. We are calling out in hope of broad solidarity, from citizens who are worried about the future of freedom of assembly. "


Despite months of harassment by the authorities and the judiciary, three bicycle caravans are on route to Manheim and the camp, due to start tomorrow, 23 August, will go on. 


For more information about the camp click here. And for more information about the lignite problem in Germany, click here.


Movements without leaders

The history we grow up with shapes our sense of reality -- it’s hard to shake. If you were young during the fight against Nazism, war seems a different, more virtuous animal than if you came of age during Vietnam.  I was born in 1960, and so the first great political character of my life was Martin Luther King, Jr. I had a shadowy, child’s sense of him when he was still alive, and then a mythic one as his legend grew; after all, he had a national holiday. As a result, I think, I imagined that he set the template for how great movements worked. They had a leader, capital L.

As time went on, I learned enough about the civil rights movement to know it was much more than Dr. King.  There were other great figures, from Ella Baker and Medgar Evers to Bob Moses, Fannie Lou Hamer, and Malcolm X, and there were tens of thousands more whom history doesn’t remember but who deserve great credit. And yet one’s early sense is hard to dislodge: the civil rights movement had his face on it; Gandhi carried the fight against empire; Susan B. Anthony, the battle for suffrage.

Which is why it’s a little disconcerting to look around and realize that most of the movements of the moment -- even highly successful ones like the fight for gay marriage or immigrant’s rights -- don’t really have easily discernible leaders. I know that there are highly capable people who have worked overtime for decades to make these movements succeed, and that they are well known to those within the struggle, but there aren’t particular people that the public at large identifies as the face of the fight. The world has changed in this way, and for the better.

It’s true, too, in the battle where I’ve spent most of my life: the fight to slow climate change and hence give the planet some margin for survival. We actually had a charismatic leader in Al Gore, but he was almost the exception that proved the rule. For one thing, a politician makes a problematic leader for a grassroots movement because boldness is hard when you still envision higher office; for another, even as he won the Nobel Prize for his remarkable work in spreading climate science, the other side used every trick and every dollar at their disposal to bring him down. He remains a vital figure in the rest of the world (partly because there he is perceived less as a politician than as a prophet), but at home his power to shape the fight has been diminished.

That doesn’t mean, however, that the movement is diminished.  In fact, it’s never been stronger. In the last few years, it has blocked the construction of dozens of coal-fired power plants, fought the oil industry to a draw on the Keystone pipeline, convinced a wide swath of American institutions to divest themselves of their fossil fuel stocks, and challenged practices like mountaintop-removal coal mining and fracking for natural gas. It may not be winning the way gay marriage has won, but the movement itself continues to grow quickly, and it’s starting to claim some victories.

That’s not despite its lack of clearly identifiable leaders, I think. It’s because of it.

Reead the full post  by clicking "read more"


Draw the Line: The Next Step to stop Keystone XL


Here at 350.org, we believe, above all, in people power -- and there is no better example of that than our work against Keystone XL and the tar sands.

From the summer of 2011, when 1,253 people were arrested in civil disobedience at the White House to stop the pipeline, to earlier this year when we were part of the largest climate rally in US history, to the ongoing pressure of Keystone demonstrations at Obama Administration events -- taking action together has turned what was once a done deal into a defining test for the President's climate legacy.

In the past few weeks, President Obama has said that he's willing to stop the pipeline if he thinks it ‘significantly contribute[s]’ to climate change -- and so it's time for us to take action together once more. Today’s announcement that he is putting solar on the White House makes his choice even clearer: it makes no sense for him to put solar in his back yard and a tar sands pipeline in ours.

On September 21st, I'd like to invite you to join 350.org and allies across the country to put people power to work again. That’s when we’ll be taking action against Keystone and the tar sands in communities coast-to-coast, and telling President Obama that there is no turning back -- to keep his climate promises, he must reject Keystone XL.

We’re calling it Draw the Line, to show that our commitment to defending our communities and stopping the tar sands is non-negotiable.

Some of us will draw a line showing where sea levels threaten to rise, others of us may link arms in front of refineries or tar sands industry targets to stop business as usual, still others may march with giant pipelines through the streets -- but together we will draw lines that send an unmistakable message that the tar sands are a climate disaster and President Obama must stop the pipeline.

If you think you’re ready to lead a Draw the Line action in your community, click here to register your action and get started: act.350.org/event/draw_the_line/create/


President Obama is Putting Solar on the White House Roof!

Exciting news: the Obama Administration just announced that they are at work installing solar panels on the White House roof! This is a victory for a multi-year campaign by 350.org and many allies to get the White House to go solar. Many thanks to the tens of thousands of you who called on the President to take action -- and a special thanks to everyone who helped with our "Put Solar On It!" Roadtrip back in 2010. Our press release about the announcement is below. 

August 15, 2013

350.org’s Bill McKibben Applauds Decision to Put Solar on the White House

Washington, DC -- 350.org founder and well-known environmentalist Bill McKibben applauded the Obama Administration's announcement today that they are at work installing a new set of solar panels on the White House roof. 
“Better late than never--in truth, no one should ever have taken down the panels Jimmy Carter put on the roof way back in 1979,” said McKibben. “But it's very good to know that once again the country's most powerful address will be drawing some of that power from the sun.” 
The solar panels President Carter installed in 1979 were taken down by President Reagan in 1986.
In September of 2010, 350.org found one of the original Carter era-panels at Unity College in Maine, where it had been heating water for the cafeteria. McKibben and a group of Unity students decided to take a roadtrip to return the panel to the White House and request that President Obama reinstall it on the roof or commission a new set of panels. 
Over 50,000 people also signed onto a petition led by Sungevity, along with other solar companies, calling on the President to take action. 
The White House initially declined the request, but reversed course a month later when then Secretary of Energy Stephen Chu announced that the White House would put up a new set of panels by the end of Spring 2011. The administration missed that deadline, but appears to be moving forward with the commitment today. 
350.org sees President Obama’s decision to install solar panels on the White House as another good sign that the adminsitration is preparing to reject the Keystone XL pipeline, one of the highest profile environmental fights in the country. 
“There’s no good faith way that the president could install solar panels on his roof and then put a pipeline in America’s backyard,” said Jamie Henn, Communications Director for 350.org. “In fact, the installation ceremony for the new panels would be the perfect place for the president to announce he’s rejecting the Keystone XL pipeline.” 
The White House announcement comes at a time when the US solar market continues to expand. Last year, the United States installed a record 3,313 megawatts of photovoltaic solar. The market size for the U.S. industry grew from $8.6 billion in 2011 to $11.5 billion in 2012, according to GTM Research. At the same time, costs of solar panels continue to fall, making it easier for consumers and businesses to install their own systems. (1) 

Fighting Australian coal from India

Organisers in Hyderabad, India protested outside the annual general body meeting (AGM) of the infrastrucutre company, GVK on August 12th. GVK is making a terrible investment choice and planning the 10 billion USD Alpha coal project. The project constitutes a coal mine in the Galilee basin of central Queensland that if burnt will eat away 6% of the global carbon budget, a port to export coal to India and other North Asian countries that falls within the Great barrier reef heritage area and railway lines that cut through some of the most beautiful farms and landscapes in Australia.  

Even economically, the project has been thrashed as highly dubious and investors were warned not to make such a risky financing. Activists in Hyderabad gathered to protest outside the company AGM with messages from Indians and Australians alike to stop this dangerous project. The protest was quelled by the local police and the organisers detained for a couple of hours. Below is a slideshow of images with messages from friends in Australia who are ready to fight GVK, images from the action in Hyderabad and the action video.

Please share the story and these images with your networks as we hope to escalate pressure to stop the project.