"Renaissance Thinking About the Issues of Our Day"
Thom Hartmann: Welcome back, Thom Hartmann here with you. Our green report today, brought to you by SolarWorld.com, solar panels for home and business and there is nobody greener these days than Bill McKibben. Environmentalist, founder of 350.org, educator, author of numerous books, including “Eaarth," with two a’s. 350.org the extraordinary website. And Bill welcome, welcome back to the program.
Bill McKibben: Thom, as always, what a pleasure to be with you.
Thom Hartmann: Thank you. I understand that you and a, you have an open solicitation to a group of friends to get arrested with you.
Bill McKibben: And it’s turned out to be a bigger deal than we might have thought right at first. A couple of months ago a group of us, Naomi Klein and Wendell Berry and I sent out a letter asking people if they’d come to DC beginning August 20th through September 3rd to commit civil disobedience in an effort to persuade the president, not to grant a permit for this pipeline from the tar sands of Northern Alberta down to the Gulf of Mexico.
Thom Hartmann: This is called the Keystone XL Pipeline.
Bill McKibben: The Keystone. And you know, it’s by far the biggest straw stuck into that tarry milkshake up there. Jim Hanson, the greatest climatologist on the planet, said not long ago that if we burned a large quality of that tar sands oil it’s, and dare I quote, “essentially game over for the climate." That’s what got even those of us who don’t live along the pipeline route and have to worry about spills and those of us who don’t live in Alberta and haven’t watched the royal forest be destroyed, that’s what got the rest of us finally, scared of the facts.
Thom Hartmann: Now is that because either A, it’s just that much more oil being burned, because basically this is bringing Alaskan oil down to Texas refineries. Or is it B, that the process of extracting this oil from shale and from tar sands is, releases in and of itself, independent of the ultimate oil and gasoline that is burned, the process itself releases massive amounts of carbon dioxide. Or is it both?
Bill McKibben: A little of both. It is a completely ridiculous way to get oil out of the ground. You have to burn a lot of natural gas to heat the oil enough to make it flow and, but even if you didn’t’ have to do any of that, that pool of carbon up there in Alberta is the second biggest pool of carbon on the planet, after only the oil fields of Saudi Arabia. We can’t burn it if we’re serious about climate change. It’s got to stay in the ground. And the good news is, to the extent that there’s good news, is that, you know, this time President Obama is going to get a clean shot at doing this. Congress doesn’t play a roll. The president has to sign a piece of paper saying this thing is in the national interest. And he said he will do it one way or another by the end of the year, and we’re trying to demonstrate that there’s deep support for him doing the right thing. And I think we’re starting to do that. We’ve got about two thousand people committed to coming and getting arrested. This will be the largest civil disobedience action, I think, in the history of the U.S. environmental movement, and one of the largest of its kind in many years.
Thom Hartmann: Wow.
Bill McKibben: One of the great wonderful ironies, we didn’t know it at the time, not ironies, beautiful coincidences, is that in the middle of these two week sit ins, two weeks of sit ins, they will be dedicating a monument to Martin Luther King on the mall and it will be a wonderful chance to show that his tactics and his witness aren’t just history. They’re very much in the present.
Thom Hartmann: Right. Speaking of non-violent sit ins. Two quick thoughts here. One, is that, my understanding, and correct me if I’m wrong, is that this oil is actually a whole heck of a lot closer to the Pacific Ocean than it is to Texas. But Canada won’t the next states over, won’t allow the pipeline to go through their states and that’s why Alberta is trying to go through the United States. Do I have that right?
Bill McKibben: More or less. It’s first nation’s Indian tribes in Canada that have been very effective at blocking that pipeline. They have more legal rights than American native tribes and they’ve tied it completely up in litigation to the point where the Alberta Energy Minister said the other day that if they can’t build this pipeline through to Texas they’ll be, and here I quote him, “landlocked in bitumen," that’s the technical name for this gooey, tarry sand they’ve got up there.
Thom Hartmann: Oh it’s pronounced bitument, I always thought it was bitumen.
Bill McKibben: It could be, but…
Thom Hartmann: I have no idea.
Bill McKibben: They’re going to be landlocked in the stuff if they can’t build this pipeline. Which is why, as always, they’re doing everything they can to game the U.S. political system that you know hired Hilary Clinton’s old campaign, deputy campaign manager to be their chief lobbyist. Wikileaks document that came out a couple of weeks ago showed our envoys meeting with Canadian energy companies to help them gain favorable media coverage. It’s wired. The only thing that will stop it is president Obama.
And that’s why a bunch of us will be wearing, when we get arrested, we’ll be wearing our old Obama ’08 buttons, you know. In a sense this is less a protest of him than a kind of, an attempt to remind ourselves and him of the hope and joy that accompanied his campaign and election. On the night he was nominated he said, “If I’m elected it will mean the rise of the oceans will begin to slow and the planet will begin to heal." Now he’s been hampered by our idiot congress for a very long time in doing at least some of the things that would have helped. This one, you know, he’s a basketball player. He’s got a 20 foot open jumper from the top of the key. And the question is will he shoot or will he pass? And we’ll learn a lot about President Obama from this decision because it’s his decision to make.
Thom Hartmann: It seems to me, Bill McKibben, that there’s another natural ally for you in this, although, you know the right is typically bought out by corporate America which is all about the oil. And the Koch brothers, of course, are going to be all about this oil. They’ve got big refineries, I believe, down in Texas. But having a massive oil pipeline run right through the center of the United States is like a, you know, put your dynamite here with a giant red arrow on it on the map for any terrorist in the world that wants to do some harm to this country. And there’s no possible way, given how big and how rough and how unpopulated much of the land through which that pipeline would pass, that it could be protected. It’s a terrorist magnet.
Bill McKibben: That’s one of the reasons why people in Texas and Nebraska in particular have been so outspoken against it. The great Jane Kleeb who has been leading much of the fight in Nebraska is here with us today. There’s a huge caravan of people coming from Texas and Nebraska doing road shows all along the way and arriving here in time to be arrested toward the end of this two week protest. They’re all over this. And it’s not just a terrorism threat. The great threat of this stuff leaking into, among other things, the Ogallala Aquifer over which it will past and the fact that they’re using imminent domain to take beautiful…
Thom Hartmann: They’re going to take a lot of peoples’ homes and maybe even some cities. They’ll probably route around the cities but they’re going to take a lot of peoples’ homes and a lot of peoples’ farms and a lot of peoples’ ranches. The Ogallala Aquifer is the nation’s largest?
Bill McKibben: It’s the biggest pool of fresh, underground fresh water on the continent, I think.
Thom Hartmann: Yeah. And this is a giant lake of fresh water that’s ten thousand or more years old, underground, that it took ten thousand years for rain water to seep down and fill it. And it supplies water to, what, about a dozen or more states?
Bill McKibben: Yes. I think 20 million Americans take their water from there.
Thom Hartmann: And if this pipeline was to be either blown up by people with nefarious intent or just good old fashion broke and nobody noticed it for a while and that oil got into that Aquifer, that’s the end of safe drinking water and agricultural water for 20 million people.
Bill McKibben: 20 of the most preeminent scientists in the U.S. sent a letter to President Obama last week saying this thing is a dog. It’s a no brainer to oppose it scientifically. The only question is politically. The Koch brothers have put so much money into it, the big oil companies put so much money into it. It’s going to be hard for the president to stand up to this. We’ll find out what he’s made of. And the more people that go to TarSandsAction.org and get involved, the better the chances.
Bill McKibben: There is indeed.
Thom Hartmann: Okay and we’ll put one off there from ThomHartmann.com as well and we’ll put it in our newsletter tonight that goes out to all of our subscribers as well. So, Bill McKibben, 350.org . Thank you Bill.
Bill McKibben: Take care.
Thom Hartmann: Keep up the great work. And let us know when you’re in town, love to see you.
Transcribed by Suzanne Roberts, Portland Psychology Clinic.