Risking arrest to stop the Keystone XL pipeline

Update on August 31st 2011, 8pm:
I was arrested today with passionate supporters all around, alongside supportive and inspiring friends and colleagues, and was released from jail only to find a truly humbling outpouring of support from you all by email, phone and FB. Thank you. Please help me continue to spread the word.

Friends, family and colleagues,
Tomorrow (8/31) I will be risking arrest in Washington DC in a coalition-based nonviolent protest of the proposed Keystone XL pipeline, and I want to take a moment to tell you what I’ll be doing and why it matters to me.

The Keystone XL pipeline is a massive project that, if built, will carry oil from the Tar Sands of Alberta, Canada down to the Gulf Coast. The Tar Sands in Alberta are one of the most dangerous, environmentally devastating ways of harvesting oil from the earth, and the pipeline will have the capacity to carry so much oil that, well, we might as well just melt our planet now. Dr. James Hansen, one of the world’s most respected climate scientists, has said that building this pipeline with the intention of burning that much oil is essentially “game over” for the climate, and our climate is already unstable and being pushed past dangerous tipping points. Think of the Keystone XL pipeline as the fuse to a giant carbon bomb.

That’s the situation, but why risk arrest? Why now? Why me? The short answer is that I believe we have tried all other options. We have tried for decades to enact real, forward-thinking legislation around energy, environmental protection and the like, with meager (but important) success. We have framed the issues in a thousand ways a thousand times, patiently, peacefully, diligently fighting for a planet worth inheriting. In the last few years, I have seen a president that I elected to be a leader capitulate on nearly every major campaign promise he made on energy and the environment. I often speak about how inspired I am by the people I organize with, but I will be candid: the political climate of the last few years, the manipulation of monumental issues to score political points, and the complete inaction of both congress and President Obama on climate change — one of the greatest, most widespread crises our world may face in this century — has left me disheartened, incredulous, angry and terrified.

Civil disobedience is not something I take lightly. We have the privilege to live in a democratic society where the vast majority of what we decide do as a country can be worked out without violence and with fairness through the democratic process, representation and civic discourse. But the advocacy and hard work of millions of Americans through those channels stands to be overridden by the money and power and wishes of the oil industry — an industry that will do (and has done) anything it can to keep us burning oil for as long as it possibly can. I have fought that industry with my peers using my voice, my vote, my consumer choice, my bike, my organizing mojo and my time. Tomorrow, I’ll add my body to that list, as if to say “If you want me to get out of the way and stop advocating for the future I think we desperately, desperately need, you’ll have to arrest me.” I suspect they will.

This is a peaceful, nonviolent act of civil disobedience called the Tar Sands Action. It began on 8/20, and for two weeks courageous citizens, religious leaders, actors, students, mothers and fathers, sons and daughters have been and will be standing together to risk arrest and call on Obama to deny the permit for this pipeline. He can. So far there have been 595 arrests, and by the end that number will be in the thousands. Tomorrow I’ll be standing with over a hundred people from all walks of life.

I would love to hear from you if you have questions, concerns, words of support, constructively framed points of disagreement, or any other thoughts. This is some of the most important stuff in the world to me, and I think sharing this with you is part of my civic responsibility in taking this action. I hope to hear from you.

If you would like to support me in this action, I would be honored if you would share this story with friends and family. If you would like to support me monetarily, I would gratefully accept donations (http://bit.ly/jdhdonatetarsands) up to $100 total as a way for you to participate in this with me, which is the penalty I expect to pay. Any donations exceeding that will go to the Tar Sands Action fund which helps to cover travel and legal support for other participants in need. There’s a petition and more information at http://www.tarsandsaction.org/.

Yours in peace and justice,


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