It’s late and I am pretty wiped out, but before I have to resume shooting Gasland 2 and running around the country tomorrow I want to set down a few words about why I chose to be arrested at the Tar Sands Action sit in at the White House today.
First of all, the mining tar sands for oil is incredibly destructive. It can and must be stopped. I felt that standing against it, shoulder to shoulder with climate justice activists and fracktivists was a moral imperative. For more on why the Tar Sands extraction is horrifically tragic and wrong, please see my video on the subject, here:
Secondly, fighting the development of the Tar Sands in Canada is also a component of the fight against fracking for Natural Gas. Oil is extracted from the Tar Sands by strip mining the Canadian Boreal forest for oil-saturated sands, which must be boiled to yield crude. The process uses an enormous amount of water and natural gas, often fracked gas from other parts of Canada. Using fracked gas to make oil, then transporting it thousands of miles to refineries in the US is an incredibly inefficient, wasteful and dangerous process. Fighting the Tar Sands is fighting fracking. You can’t make dirty tar sands oil without dirty fracked gas. For more info on fracking go here.
Thirdly, the tar sands extraction fits into a pattern of extreme energy development which has become a disturbing trend on the planet. As we run out of fossil fuel, as sources of oil, natural gas and coal become more sparse, the extractive fossil fuel industries have turned to ever more polluting, dangerous and contaminating forms of energy extraction. These new extractive techniques are not “technological innovations” as the energy companies often claim, they are desperate, relentlessly damaging and insane.
Mountaintop removal for coal, fracking for natural gas, and deepwater drilling and tar sands extraction for oil are inherently contaminating, incredibly destructive and irreparably harmful techniques. All four methods have ramped up in recent years, churning enormous areas of land that were once habitable by people into toxic sacrifice zones. We should be turning as fast as we can toward viable and deployable renewable energy such as solar, wind, geothermal, hydropower and other innovative and sustainable strategies as we run out of fossil fuels. That would be logical, since they are available now, clean and sustainable. Instead, we are letting the extractive energy industries turn the world inside out. Renewables are not a thing of the future, they are here now. For more info on that go here.
Fourthly, non-violent civil disobedience has historically been the only tool that has created real change. From Henry David Thoreau to Susan B. Anthony to Gandhi to King and now to DeChristopher and McKibben, getting arrested for one’s beliefs is the only way to show that there is a higher moral imperative than unjust laws and policies. If not for civil disobedience, women would not have the vote, children would still be working in factories, there would be no unions, India would still be ruled by the British and people of color would still be second class citizens in the United States. The history of real change in the world, when it was most direly needed, has been written by actions of non-violent civil disobedience. A great film is this the recent doc, Freedom Riders.
Lastly, I have been deeply compelled by Bill McKibben’s book “Eaarth”, which paints a very dire picture for the future of the planet if we don’t act to curb greenhouse gas emissions immediately. I highly suggest you pick up a copy. I was reading mine while my house was being battered by Hurricane Irene last week, which, if I am not mistaken, was the first Hurricane to hit Central PA just about ever. Patterns of extreme weather, the warming of the planet, the melting of polar ice caps, massive droughts, the list goes on and on. We have to heed this warning. Get it here.
The sit-in itself was intensely moving and beautifully organized and orchestrated. The police were friendly and in some cases, supportive. The camaraderie of the activists gave me hope and a sense of support that I have direly needed during this fight against fracking and the leadership of Bill McKibben, 350.org, Peaceful Uprising and so many others was inspiring to say the least. Taking a stand with so many others right in front of the White House, urging Barack Obama, a president that I support, to do the right thing, gave me an immense pride as an American. I encourage everyone to take part however you can.
Thanks so much for reading. We have many hurdles ahead as a movement against fracking, tar sands and against other forms of fossil fuel development . I can only hope that we can proceed with as much dignity, poise and urgency as the tar sands action organizers have these past two weeks. I am eternally thankful for their urgency and to all who have taken part.