This post cross-posted from WeArePowerShift.org. Visit them to see why other young people are opposing Keystone XL.
When I first heard about the Tar Sands Action, I thought I would attend a rally or two to support the people joining the sit-in and risking arrest. I changed my mind and decided to join them after I researched the Keystone XL pipeline and saw a map of where the pipeline would be placed. If built, the Keystone XL will reach from tar sands in Alberta, Canada to oil refineries in the Gulf of Mexico. It will run from Montana to Texas and Louisiana. The people who will live near the pipeline will be the people who can’t afford to live farther away. They will be the ones too busy working multiple jobs and caring for their families to voice their concern to elected officials. Or, they will be the people who have already been disenfranchised by the political process. A lot of times, they will be communities of color. This protest is important to me for many reasons. I was a field organizer on the Obama Campaign for Change in Lynchburg, Virginia. We were placed in unsafe conditions, such as when homeowners purposely unleashed their dogs to get canvassers off of their property. But that didn’t matter. We were determined to elect a progressive, climate-conscious president, and we would knock on as many doors as we had to in order to win that election. We wanted change we could believe in. This protest is also important to me because I am African American, and many times our communities pay the price by living near health-risks such as coal-fired power plants or oil pipelines.The Keystone XL pipeline isn’t just an environmental issue, but a justice and civil rights issue as well. It could destroy aquifers and introduce toxins to our food supply. Already, tar sands oil extraction requires removing ancient forests and leaves behind toxins that cause cancer and increase air pollution and lung disease. This protest is important to me because I have Powhatan Native American ancestors. Indigenous people, who have perfected how to coexist with nature, will see their communities destroyed by this pipeline. Indigenous peoples have contributed little to climate change, yet they suffer from the brunt of its direct and immediate effects. And this protest it is important to me because I was born in 1988, the same year James Hansen gave his testimony on climate change and brought the issue to broader awareness. I’ve seen the effects of droughts and some of the largest, most destructive hurricanes in history. I’ve lived through the hottest years on the planet, and I graduated college weeks after the BP oil spill. Right now, we need Obama to pick a side. During his inauguration speech, Obama said, “each day brings further evidence that the ways we use energy strengthen our adversaries and threaten our planet.” We cannot afford to threaten our planet anymore. We desperately want to see the Obama we campaigned for, and spent countless days and nights organizing, phone-banking, canvassing, and celebrating for make a decision to deny the permit for the Keystone XL pipeline. Either he will support the oil industry or he will stand for environmental and civil rights justice. I just finished reading “Climate Coverup” by James Hoggan, and the advice in the book’s last paragraph summarizes the reason I am joining the Tar Sands Action sit-in at the White House: “So please, be bold. Be courageous. Be positive. Act and demand action. This, for our sake and for the sake of all those who follow, is a fight that we can and must win. For this bears repeating: the world is worth saving.”–Danielle Simms was a Obama campaign volunteer from Lynchburg, VA, and leader with Young Democrats of America: