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Wildfires menace backcountry housing developments, sea level rise threatens to inundate Huntington Beach ocean views, and reservoirs and rivers dry to dust throughout the Southwest. As the consequences of a heating planet continue to compound, a growing chorus of voices is calling President Obama to action.
On Sunday, more than 100 community organizations from across Orange and Los Angeles counties plan a “Forward on Climate” march and rally in downtown LA, in solidarity with the thousands converging on Washington, D.C., the same day.
Planned to be the largest climate-change rally in history, an interesting alchemy is forming, uniting people and organizations around a call to action. Never before has such a wide array of groups — environmental, humanitarian, religious, political, labor, civil rights and educational — come together in the Southland to say: “Solve the climate crisis! Take a stand, Mr. President!”
Organized by Tar Sands Action SoCal, Sierra Club Beyond Coal and several community activists, Orange County groups standing in solidarity are Friends of Harbors, Beaches and Parks; Orange County Interfaith Coalition for the Environment; San Clemente’s Residents Organized for a Safe Environment (ROSE); the Sierra Club Orange County Global Warming Committee; and Earth Resource Foundation from Costa Mesa.
Unfortunately, some factions in Orange County continue to urge inaction: Don’t worry, be happy, the 13 national science academies have it wrong with all their “alarmist” research regarding the impact of a 40 percent rise in atmospheric carbon dioxide since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution. Anthropogenic climate change, they assert, is all a ruse to “regulate everything.”
In the next paragraph, they suggest “adaptation” to “slow-moving” climate anomalies, like sea level changes on the East Coast. Tell that to New Jersey; a head in the sand will put you underwater during the next superstorm surge, my friend.
With the warming of the earth’s surface comes melting of glaciers, with the Arctic Sea projected to be ice-free by 2030. Facing this reality, the Obama administration and Congress must enact a comprehensive plan to reduce our greenhouse gas levels through energy efficiency and conservation while integrating clean, renewable energy sources into the economy. Today we must break our addiction to dirty and dangerous fuels like coal, fracked natural gas, nuclear and tar sands oil.
The Keystone XL and Tar Sands: U.S. National Interest?
The first order for climate stabilization required of the president is to stop the 1,700-mile Keystone XL tar sands oil pipeline. Secretary of State Kerry will decide later this year whether it is in the national interest. Why should we care about Canadian oil and a pipeline across the Midwest? TransCanada, the private pipeline builders, leverage public-enforced eminent domain to bisect farmland and open range, but the gain is not for our national interest, but TransCanada’s bottom line.
The Keystone XL would cross rivers and streams and the Ogallala Aquifer, from Hardisty, Alberta, in Canada, to Port Arthur, Texas. Experts predict the pipeline-corroding diluted bitumen sludge would only occasionally leak into the great Ogallala Aquifer, water source for the Midwest and irrigation for a significant share of U.S. wheat, cotton, corn, sorghum and cattle production. Another similar pipeline blew out 12 times the first year of operations. Processed and refined in a tax-free trade zone in Texas, it would be shipped to China, India, anywhere willing to pay. Climate scientists posit, from mining to burning, tar sands oil releases from 3.2 to 4.5 times the greenhouse gases of regular Saudi Crude. Is this in our national interest?
It should be noted, the Athabasca Tar Sands of Alberta is the largest and most destructive industrial project on the planet, requiring mining of open pits and underground wells on a section of the boreal forest the size of Florida. The extraction process requires massive amounts of energy and fresh water, fouling the air and rivers, destroying habitats for millions of migrating birds and about 70 communities of First Nations people. Is this in our national or international interest?
Are 6,500 employment opportunities from a pipeline, most temporary and non-local, worth this destruction? Stumping for the cause, pipeline builders TransCanada refer to billions of dollars that would be invested in the U.S. economy to build this project. Really? Where?
What if we invested billions into innovative rooftop solar film, vertical-vortex wind turbines within existing high-tension transmission lines and advanced biofuel technologies generated from algae and wastewater treatment? These would be jobs Earth could support.
How about billions invested into intrastate high-speed rail, dedicated rapid transit bus lanes and suburban light-rail projects with associated transit-oriented development at stations? We could reshape our cities for a cleaner and leaner tomorrow and survive to take a stroll to the park with the kids. Aren’t these options more in our national interest?
Sustainable Clean Energy Policy Before It’s Too Late
The rallies in LA and D.C. on Feb. 17 demand President Obama adopt an energy policy that would help wean ourselves off the fossil fuel addiction, demand smarter sustainable growth of our cities and provide meaningful alternatives to the automobile.
We need to walk, bike, take public transit. We need a national carbon pollution cap while pricing carbon pollution with a built-in public dividend to reflect the cost of its toxicity to the land and water. Serving this addiction is killing us slowly.
Sunny skies, another beautiful day, 80 degrees in winter and a swirling desert breeze. It is nice not to have to wear a coat. Yet, I don’t mind the cold if I can snuggle up next to a wood-burning, electricity-generating, food-cooking stove.
Jack Eidt is an urban planner, environmental advocate and member of the Voice of OC Community Editorial Board. In addition to serving as editor of the website WilderUtopia.com, he is director of Wild Heritage Planners and represents Tar Sands Action Southern California at the rally.