Bill McKibben:The Keystone XL pipeline defeat
is one goal in the game, and we're way behind
We've shown that people aren't going to just give up and go away when the
government ignores climate change, if we can show them how to have an effect.
In the first two weeks of the Keystone fight, we couldn't get any press to pay attention to our work to defeat the environmental disaster we knew it would be if it were approved none at all. Because back then in the summer of 2011 everyone knew that we couldn't win. No one ever beats big oil.
Now I'm sitting here fielding dozens and dozens of phone calls and emails from reporters, because we did: Barack Obama announced on Friday that he had denied TransCanada's proposal to build the Keystone XL pipeline.
Sometimes all the money in the world which is roughly what the fossil fuel industry has can't carry the day. Sometimes, with an awful lot of spirit and passion and creativity and sacrifice, movements erupt. This one erupted that summer, when 1,253 people went to jail for protesting the project. Soon after, 15,000 people were calling the White House. The following winter, 800,000 people emailed their senators on the same day a new record. The year after that, millions submitted public comments to the State Department.
Eventually, through it all, two basic truths shone through.
One, the Keystone XL pipeline was indicative of the kinds of things we cannot continue to do: dig up vast tracts in faraway places to produce more carbon than the atmosphere can stand. It's the epitome of senseless destruction.
Two, people aren't going to stand for our governments ignoring climate change and environmental degradation any longer. By people, I don't mean environmentalists as the media usually imagine them: I mean indigenous people, and people from front line communities, farmers and ranchers, scientists and lots of rabbis and ministers and imams. People are worried sick by climate change.
Usually we suppress our worries about climate change because, we ask ourselves, What can we do? It's so big and we're so small. But given a realistic chance to affect the future, people are ready to take action.
In retrospect, I'm not so sure that our chance really was realistic in 2011. We shouldn't have won. But luck favors the committed and people were remarkably committed. I remember spending 3 days in Central Cell Block in Washington DC with 50 or 60 colleagues, and no one's spirit ever wavered.
We'll need lots more luck in the years ahead. Today was a good goal scored, but we're still way behind. (If you want proof of that look at the hurricanes gouging the Arabian Sea, or look at the record temperatures month after month.) There's no guarantee that we can beat climate change, but there's every guarantee we're going to give it a hell of a fight.
Bill McKibben is the Schumann Distinguished Scholar at Middlebury College, founder of the climate campaign 350.org and author, most recently, of Oil and Honey: The Education of an Unlikely Activist . Follow him on Twitter: @billmckibben. Petroleumworld does not necessarily share these views.
Editor's Note: This commentary was originally published by The Guardian , November 06, 2015. Petroleumworld reprint this article in the interest of our readers.
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