An estimated 35,000 people gathered in Washington, D.C. on February 17th in freezing weather to rally against the development of the Keystone XL pipeline, a project designed to carry oil from Alberta’s tar sands to refineries on the Gulf Coast, passing through Cushing, OK on the way. The rally pulsed with thousands of citizens waving flyers bearing the words, “Forward on Climate” and “Clean Energy.” This decision will be the first major climate change decision Obama will make this term. In the pipeline’s defense, TransCanada, the company hoping to construct it, has said that a more sustainable energy source is needed, but that transition would take decades. An email excerpt from a company spokesperson on the day of the rally reads as follows: “The oil sands and their greenhouse gas emissions’ impact have been overstated. As the respected Nature Science Journal stated the other week, Keystone XL will not determine whether or not the oil sands will be developed. Nor is oil from the oil sands as ‘dirty’ as many believe.”
The protest was organized by the Sierra Club, 350.org, and the Hip Hop Caucus and has been billed as the largest climate rally in American history. Founder of 350.org Bill McKibben addressed the crowds at one point, saying, “All I ever wanted to see was a movement of people to stop climate change and now I’ve seen it. I cannot promise you we’re going to win, but I’ve waited a quarter century to find out if we were gonna fight. And today, at the biggest climate rally by far, by far, by far, in U.S. history — today, I know we’re going to fight.”
No matter what side of the issue you fall on, it’s thrilling to see so many people uniting to talk about the impacts of human decisions on the environment. It’s a visceral demonstration that people are really starting to care about the decisions their political representatives are making regarding issues of global climate change. I’d love to see something like this on an international level next, calling for clean energy across the board. I also just really love the slogan “forward.” It implies an almost never-ending campaign for addressing the climate, a movement larger than protesting this single construction and dedicated to constantly reevaluating and progressing. The decision is expected to be reached in March. I’m interested to see which side Obama will land on and how this blossoming movement will respond.
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