Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Tar Sands, Pipelines, and Our Changing Climate

In an effort to raise awareness and encourage the Mason community to stand against the proposed construction of the Keystone XL Tar Sands Pipeline, George Mason’s Environmental Action Group shifted the agenda of their November 2nd meeting to devote the entirety of their evening to host a discussion on how the implementation of the proposed Keystone XL Tar Sands oil pipeline would lead to catastrophic and perilous consequences for both the natural environment and humanity. Yiming, an organizer with the Chesapeake Climate Action Network and Sieren, an environmental consultant who specializes in carbon emissions reduction, led the discussion. Both Yiming and Sieren have been at the forefront of the movement to stop the Keystone XL Pipeline. In fact, after meeting at a Tar Sands related action, Yiming and Sieren decided to stay in contact. After much discussion, they decided to work together to develop a presentation that would cover highlight the overarching issues and conflicts surrounding the debate over the implementation of the Keystone XL.

What resulted from this collaboration was a 45-minute presentation entitled “Being the Change We Hope For,” a compelling and thoroughly researched overview of the inherently unsafe nature of the Keystone XL pipeline. In the course of the evening, Yiming and Sieren discussed how the installation of the pipeline and subsequent extraction of tar sands oil would adversely affect the Canadian Boreal Forest, one of the world’s largest intact ecosystems in the world. While Yiming and Sieren highlighted the regional environmental problems the pipeline would produce, the majority of their talk laid stress on the pipeline’s adverse contributions to the global environment and TransCanada’s misrepresentation of the pipeline’s economic benefits. To emphasize the severity of the situation, Sieren explained how the burning of tar sands oil would lead to rising levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, which would in turn result in increased ocean acidification and rising sea levels. Audience members dryly noted that this was hardly a recipe for stability in these trying economic times.To wrap up their talk, Yiming and Sieren urged the roughly 30 members of the Mason community in attendance to come to the November 6th Circle of Hope action.

With the conclusion of the talk, members stuck around to watch the film “H2Oil,” a documentary about the war waging between water and oil in the middle of Canada’s boreal forests. While many members left the screening feeling shocked and horrified about the extent of tar sands expansion in Canada, Jason Von-Kundra, a member of the Environmental Action Group’s Steering Committee stated, “While this was hard to watch, I want everyone to know that we’re going to win this fight. This documentary was released a few years ago and since then, our numbers have grown. We will continue to fight this fight, and we can do this.”

Von-Kundra had a point. When a member of the group asked how many people would be attending on Sunday, more than two-thirds of the audience raised their hands.