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Organizing Against Oil Trains: Risk, Guts, Solidarity
A newsletter called 'Popular Resistance' reports on civil disobedience against fossil fuels in Maryland and New York. Here are ideas for other groups.
By Kevin Zeese
Editor's Notes: The article below was written by Kevin Zeese with Margaret Flowers for a group located in Baltimore, Maryland, called Popular Resistance. I am including it here because it is describing several efforts of groups which are actually daring to engage in civil disobedience.
Too many environmental groups say they want to engage in action but never do it. Real non-violence is not actually non-violent; it risks having violence done to one's own self including jail or worse. Too many church-related groups get together to study and sing songs to feel good but are afraid to engage in civil disobedience leading to actual change. Especially some of the larger environmental groups, because their goal becomes to raise money rather than effect change, end up doing little more than giving the false impression that something is happening. This wastes everyone's time and money. Real action requires risks to ones body, guts to stick with it, and solidarity with others that the cause is worthy of our lives and sacrifice. As the civil rights movement demonstrated in the 1960s, it is possible to create real change.
Oil trains are now threatening the gorgeous Columbia River Gorge and the Pacific Northwest. A propane export terminal is also proposed at the Port of Portland by Pembina Pipeline Corp. of Calgary, Alberta, which would be supplied by trains from the fracking fields of Canada. Nobody seems to be coming up with firm actions to stop these trains. There are lots of groups around but they don't seem to be getting anything done. These groups have even allowed a supportive governor to be drummed out of office by a pro-oil business newspaper, The Oregonian. The groups have allowed the paper to create a lynch mob atmosphere against the governor's fiance who was trying to influence state government for clean energy alternatives.
There is a group called "Columbia Riverkeeper" but it appears to be a corporate group providing some helpful information but not proposing any real action by local people. As part of its "story" it says that it has earned "a seat at the table for big decisions." When a group makes such a statement you know it doesn't represent local folks willing to take direct action.
The newsletter below tells how some folks are actually doing something in Maryland and New York.
Most of the Popular Resistance team is in Cove Point, Maryland right now [where a liquefied natural gas (LNG) export facility is located right on the Chesapeake Bay in Southern Maryland]. Almost all are very likely to go to jail for several weeks after Monday’s hearing for our efforts to stop the Dominion fracked gas export terminal at Cove Point. Stopping this terminal is the key to stopping fracking on the east coast.
When the Environmental Commission in Calvert County expressed concerns about the health and safety of the community and the impact of the terminal on air and water, the County Commissioners told them to stand down and work on something else. Community members have repeatedly sought a study on the risks to the health and safety of Cove Point. The Commissioners have refused to answer.
Protests and civil resistance are the only avenues left to stop the Dominion terminal. This is literally a life and death situation for a community of 44,000 people; hundreds, probably more than a thousand lives, will be shortened and diseases that are not common now, will become common from the toxic chemicals that will be emitted in the air and water from the terminal.
Our Energy Future is at the Heart of the Transformation We Need
Big Energy understands the challenge against the carbon-nuclear energy economy and is afraid of it. In Cove Point, Dominion has given the police and sheriff departments a blank check – whatever they need to protect their terminals from protest, Dominion will pay. In Canada, police documents show that they see the carbon-free movement as a national security threat. The power of one activist is shown by how Cabot energy is attacking 64-year-old Vera Scroggins, who is standing up to them.
Free Your Voice youth who won a battle stopping nation's largest incinerator. Photo by United Workers. Free Your Voice youth who won a battle stopping nation’s largest incinerator. Photo by United Workers. Communities are banding together to fight Big Energy. One approach is to create a Community Bill of Rights a tool to keep gas pipelines, fracking and other infrastructure out. In Denver, the community is demanding an immediate moratorium on fracking. In New York local actions were a key to the fracking ban. The courts in New York upheld the power of communities to ban fracking. This week an Ohio court reached the opposite conclusion saying communities could not protect their own health or environment. Why should people not have the power to protect themselves? Shouldn’t these Texas communities with ticking time bomb oil refineries be able to say “no” and protect their safety?
A new issue that took off this week was the issue of oil trains. There were oil derailments in Canada and the US that show the need for action on these massive oil bombs moving across the continent. In our city, Baltimore, they are planning to allow oil trains to drive through the center of the city. It is already happening in Philadelphia, where they nearly had a derailment, and other cities.
The fossil fuel divestment campaign’s response is escalation and demanding that people show which side they are on by their actions. The divestment campaign is primarily being led by youth; it is an example of how youth have the power to rally people and how we all need to invest in youth activism. However, we need to realize that just like with other segments of the population, youth have a lot of pressures on them and challenges in their lives and balancing activism with the rest of life. We were also inspired by these Baltimore youth, primarily high school students, who successfully stopped the largest trash incinerator in the country.
People are learning that they have been sold apropaganda lie with the lie that methane gas is a bridge to clean energy. The reality is that methane, from fracked gas and other sources, is a climate gas that does incredible damage. The time is now to invest in real clean energy – wind, sun, thermal and wave energy. In West Virginia, where coal has been king and where fracking is making inroads, people are looking to the sun as an energy solution.
Big Energy Abuses a Symptom of Foundational Issue: Corporatocracy
Long-time journalist and commentator, Sam Smith, the editor of Progressive Review writes “The Real World War III: Corporations vs. Nationhood.” Smith writes that “not since the Civil War has the sovereignty and constitution of this land come under such assault.” He writes:
“Without debate, without formal conflict, without even much consciousness, we have absorbed the principles of America’s greediest, adopted their language, and surrendered our constitution and other values to their will. Our last three presidents have been willing participants in undermining our sovereignty, our values and our culture.”He writes “The Battle of the Economic Bulge – aka TPP – is the struggle presently before us, involving arguably the most disloyal legislation since secession.” These corporate trade agreements are not just another piece of legislation, but will impact every aspect of our lives. This is a high stakes conflict to stop political leadership selling the country bit by bit.Free Trade is coreporate tyranny
There are protests going on across the country against these agreements. The focus is stopping Fast Track trade authority.
Two of our campaigns are involved in the Fast Track battle. The Rolling Rebellion for Real Democracy has a map of actions you can join as does Flush The TPP. You can join an action or organize your own. Next week our Fast Track rapid response team will begin actions in DC when Congress returns. Our initial focus will be Senator Ron Wyden, the ranking member of the Finance Committee. We are planning a “Drop In and Hang Out” rolling protest where people will take turns sitting in his office. Wyden is key because we do not want him to co-sponsor Fast Track with Senator Orin Hatch. Without Wyden, the Republicans and the President will have to go it alone. You can sign-up here to join the Rapid Response Team.
Strategic Choices Against Corporate Power
We know that throughout US history nonviolence has helped to shape the American identity. Rivera Sun points to numerous examples: “The Civil Rights Movement comes to everyone’s mind, and perhaps the United Farmworkers’ struggle, but nonviolent action also liberated slaves via the Underground Railroad, brought us women’s suffrage and environmental protections, formed the core of the labor movement tactics, replaced child labor with public education, and, according to John Adams, won the American Revolution.” Think what the nation would be like if people had not used the powerful strategic and moral choice of nonviolence to shape this nation.
This week there was a major step to victory in a three year campaign of nonviolence and strategic action – the Our Walmart campaign for a living wage. Walmart has agreed to raise wages above the minimum wage to $9 then by February 2016 to $10. This is still not a living wage, but it is a significant increase and we expect the Our Walmart and Fight for $15 campaigns to continue to push for more.US Flag as Bar Code
Writer and psychologist, Bruce Levine, gives us some pointers on how to fight the corporatocracy, listing ten ways we can act for our transformation. We must not be “resigned to the status quo nor intimidated by established powers.” We must not let institutions like the mass media, schools that teach obedience and bureaucratization as well as cultural norms like consumerism and greed, controls us. We must confront these issues and act with integrity, Levine writes: “Integrity includes acts of courage resisting all illegitimate authorities.”
While we recognize the challenge before us, to transform society, culture, government and the economy is large, we must not allow defeatism to destroy us. Levine quotes Gramsci’s phrase “pessimism of the intellect, optimism of the will.” Levine emphasizes the need to restore courage and hope in young people who are too often beaten down by corporate-run schools that teach obedience, put into deep debt by school loans and having their rebel spirit beaten out of them. The rest of us need to rebel against obedience schools, the indentured servitude of student loans and give youth the opportunity to resist. We need to recognize we are in an abusive relationship with the corporatocracy and break from it by standing in solidarity across age, race, and class against it. Division is the tool of the status quo, unity is the strength of resistance.
“…democracy will not be won without guts and solidarity. Risk-free green actions – such as shopping from independents, buying local, recycling, composting, consuming less, not watching television and so on – can certainly help counter a dehumanizing world. However, revolutions that truly transform fundamental power inequities and enable us to feel like men and women rather than children and slaves require risk, guts and solidarity.”This appeared at Popular Resistance. The photo is a Canadian Pacific Bakken oil train south along Lake Champlain
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