It is a sweet victory. President Barack Obama has listened to his people and his better nature and rejected the Keystone Pipeline. In spite of a massive campaign south of the border by the federal and Alberta governments and the energy industry, which included expensive wall-to-wall television ads, common sense has won the day.
The tar sands of Northern Alberta have become a symbol of the destructive side of globalization and a flashpoint in the debate about alternative futures. With their heavy carbon footprint and their destruction of watersheds, the tar sands have become an international symbol of excessive development and the clear reason behind Canada's abandonment of its Kyoto commitment.
The route the pipeline would have taken through the United States on its way to be refined in Texas would have taken it over the Ogallala Aquifer, one of the most important and endangered underground water sources in the world. As ranchers and farmers and communities across whose land the pipeline would have traversed found out about it, they spoke with one voice: Putting the waters that grow the food for America's heartland at risk for the profit of the energy industry is lunacy. The President agreed.
It is important to be clear that the fight against these pipelines is not against the workers of Northern Alberta and their families. They too seek a safe energy future and workplace. And their union, the Communications, Energy and Paperworkers Union, is a clear and progressive voice in the call for a just and sustainable energy future.
The fight against the Keystone and other pipelines is that they represent unparalleled growth in the dirty oil industry, essentially shutting out the search for alternatives. When untold billions are spent in building the delivery system for this industry, the imperative is set to exponentially increase production. Thus we see the big energy and pipeline companies driving energy policy, instead of energy policy being the outcome of an open process of deliberation and consultation between elected officials and citizens. Pure profit is driving energy policy in Canada to our international shame.
Proponents of the Enbridge Northern Gateway Pipeline that would "punch a hole in the Rockies" to carry this oil to western ports for Asian export should be put on notice: The powerful coalition of community, environmental, labour and justice groups that came together across the Canada-US border to stop Keystone in its tracks is on the move. Under the leadership of the First Nations people along the pipeline's proposed path, this growing peoples' movement will take great heart from this victory. The Gateway will never be built.
On this day, I think back to that lovely warm September day when a number of us crossed a police barrier on Parliament Hill and were arrested for our opposition to Keystone. I think back to that November day in Washington, when, under the leadership of Bill McKibbon of 350.org and other wonderful American allies, 12,000 of us surrounded the White House and demanded that sanity prevail in the decision about this project. All of us who addressed the crowd that day spoke about the right of future generations to clean air and water and a healthy future on a living planet.
Today that dream seems a little closer.
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