18 February 2014

Keystone, Climate Change, and My Children's Future

Image by Jmcdaid via Wikimedia Commons
I haven't written anything in about two months because my kids have been sick, I have been sick, my husband has been sick, the holidays happened, and now my grandmother is in the hospital.

But we are in the 30-day window for the public to weigh in on the Keystone XL Pipeline. Every day that we go without rain in California makes me nervous and edgy. This photograph makes it abundantly clear that a severe water shortage is coming, worse than any in living memory. I can feel, in my bones, that everything we have experienced — hurricanes, the Polar Vortex, record-breaking droughts — is only the beginning of the effects of global climate change. I honestly worry that my children will inherit a planet less able to support life than any time in human history. I had to speak up.

I decided to post this because I am hoping that others will also be moved to write. Please make your voices heard. Comments close on March 7, so please write

I stand against the Keystone XL Pipeline. The U.S. State Department has determined that the extraction, refinement, and transportation of the tar sands will not increase the effects of climate change, but ONLY because the Department claims that the tar sands oil will find its way to market one way or another. In other words, the State Department is advocating in favor of the Keystone XL Pipeline because it is protecting U.S. interests without accurately accounting for a rapidly warming planet and its effects on future generations.

Yet the Keystone XL Pipeline, in fact, threatens U.S. interests precisely because it will have climate effects. The U.S. is a global leader, and the action we take on Keystone will signal to the rest of the world whether we intend to take material action on the changing climate, which will affect every person on this planet, or whether we will ride cheap oil to oblivion.

If we wish to remain a global leader, must take a stand on climate change and our dependence on oil, for the sake of our homeland and for the home of our entire species. I have heard arguments that Keystone XL will make the U.S. energy-independent. Yet we cannot deny that oil will not and cannot be the fuel of the future. Our continued dependence on oil is a testament to the industry's powerful influence on national policy rather than an argument in favor of the status quo. Rather, if we continue to rely on oil, we will no doubt fall behind in the development of alternative fuel and solar technologies. Our country uses oil as a crutch, and it is holding us back.

During my childhood, during the administration of President Carter, the U.S. made first steps towards solar technology. The Reagan administration turned our economy back towards oil, bringing all that innovation to a halt. Imagine where we might be if we had, instead, aggressively pursued solar all those decades ago. Only now are houses and cars beginning to be heated by our most abundant energy source, and we are in competition with other nations to retain a slim edge. Are we going to turn the clock back again?

Our planet is already in turmoil due to human-created drastic climate change. Most of the country is suffering from frigid temperatures and massive snowfall due to the Polar Vortex. Here in California, we are laboring under the worst drought in our recorded history with no relief in sight. Our agricultural economy is threatened by a dire water shortage. Food prices are already rising. Across our entire nation, we are only beginning to feel the climate crisis that is building, threatening our economy, our food security, our infrastructure, and the very lives of our citizens.

The Keystone XL Pipeline marks a watershed moment. Our decision to exploit the tar sands oil will not be a final carbon "push" that will send us into irrevocable disaster; alternatively, our decision not to exploit it will not halt climate change. Nevertheless, the world awaits our decision as a signal. The symbolism of the Keystone XL can be as influential as the movement of the markets that signal confidence or lack thereof in a stock or a country's economy.

For this reason, I urge you to in the strongest possible terms to reject the Keystone XL Pipeline. We must send a clear signal that we will forge a new energy future rather than drain oil down to its poor, dirty dregs in the tar sands. Not only our nation's citizens, but our entire species is suffering from what are only the first effects of climate change. We must do everything in our power to halt our current path.

Oil is the handbasket. It's time to get out.

For a deeper analysis of the calculations regarding the carbon effects of Keystone XL, see this. For a more eloquent argument on behalf of the planet, please read this. Ultimately, I decided the numbers were less important than the symbolism of the pipeline, since the calculations are elastic and the effects likely won't be entirely known unless/until we go through with it. To my mind, the potential risks far, far outweigh the potential benefit.

Finally, if you still aren't feeling alarmed enough, there's always this: "How Science Is Telling Us All to Revolt."

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