#TastesLikeTarSands Photo Shoot

Heading to Ocean Beach, with the beautiful Marin Headlands in the background.
The Golden Gate Bridge is just to the right, off-camera.

I recently had the opportunity to be part of a very fun bit of environmental activism: a photo shoot to support the “Tastes Like Tar Sands” campaign, which is pressuring Coke and Pepsi not to buy tar-sands-derived oil for their delivery fleet.

In the last few months, I’ve gotten involved in a lot of environmental activism, primarily focusing on the toxic, dirty tar sands and the proposed Keystone XL pipeline that would transport Canadian tar sands across the US to Texas, endangering communities, ecosystems, and aquifers, as well as worsening global warming.

I’ve engaged in some civil disobedience in front of a State Department office, locked down in a non-violent direct action to shut down construction of a Keystone XL pumping station, participated in a huge demonstration at Chevron’s Richmond refinery, and am now helping Pittsburg, CA residents stop a proposed crude oil storage facility.

All of these things are great, but none can quite compare to dressing up in a modified Coke can costume (which reads “Tar Sands”) and heading to San Francisco’s Ocean Beach to cover myself in mud and sand for a photo shoot. I was joined by a Pepsi can and an activist/hazmat character for an afternoon of fun.

Continue reading “#TastesLikeTarSands Photo Shoot”

My Comments on the Proposed WesPac Pittsburg Crude Oil Storage Facility

For background, see the Contra Costa article on Oil storage and transfer facility proposed for Pittsburg waterfront. We need to make sure that NO MORE FOSSIL FUEL INFRASTRUCTURE is built. (Pittsburg is a town in the San Francisco Bay Area.)


To Whom It May Concern:

I am writing about the proposed WesPac Pittsburg crude oil storage facility.

Such a facility would risk the health of nearby residents by unusual events such as spills. Its day-to-day operations would doubtless also aggravate the existing asthma epidemic in Pittsburg.

Even if the facility operated flawlessly, however, it would contribute to the increased global use of fossil fuels, which generates greenhouse gases that through climate change endanger our physical infrastructure, our health, our environment, and potentially the very viability of human civilization.

It is imperative that we change our energy system. To start with, we must insist on NO MORE FOSSIL FUEL INFRASTRUCTURE.

There is simply no excuse to do otherwise; any statement of environmental impact that claims low impact for additional fossil fuel infrastructure and allows its construction is extremely irresponsible.

Martin MacKerel

Abolish the NSA, Already

After a bit of a lull in August, new revelations about the NSA from the Snowden documents are coming thick and fast again. These are, if anything, bigger stories than the first ones. They show us a picture of a government agency that has gone completely out of control.

One set of revelations shows that the NSA’s actions go well beyond searching for “terrorists”. In addition to previous revelations of spying at the UN, we now know that the NSA:

However, those are all foreign targets, and while I am surprised at their hacking a media organization and at the economic espionage, that’s not entirely out of their remit. Doesn’t make it right, but it’s not totally shocking.

What is totally shocking is that the NSA considers Americans and American companies as “adversaries” and has acted to make the US less safe by subverting encryption every chance it could. In particular, we now know that the NSA:

  • infiltrated and corrupted Internet standards groups in order to weaken security,
  • corrupted individual employees of US tech companies,
  • when that wasn’t successful, hacked into tech companies’ systems to steal encryption keys, and
  • worked with companies to deliberately place security holes in commercial software.

This is the height of irresponsibility. In the guise of protecting the US, the NSA has made everyone much, much less safe. It should be called the National Insecurity Agency.

This level of corruption and blatant disregard even for US persons and corporations shows that the NSA has ranged far beyond its original mandate. It clearly has a culture of arrogance and a refusal to accept any ethical limits whatsoever.

It’s clear now that the NSA has strayed so far that it cannot be reformed. The only reasonable course of action is to abolish the NSA.

"Guilty" of Misdemeanor Trespassing

Some guy wearing my shorts underneath an excavator (a 100-ton bulldozer), locked down through its tread.

On June 24th, 2013, I and several other people engaged in a non-violent direct action in which we temporarily halted construction of a Keystone XL pumping station in Seminole County, OK. If completed, the Keystone XL pipeline would allow increased exploitation of tar sands, a particularly dirty fossil fuel.

Yesterday, September 3rd, I chose to take a plea deal and pleaded guilty to “trespassing after being forbidden” related to that action. I do not regret my actions, and I hope that in the months and years to come more and more people choose to engage in such direct actions and protests of all kinds in order to prevent construction of more fossil fuel infrastructure. We must act now to prevent further pollution of land, air, and water and limit the risk of climate catastrophe. Such actions are not without their costs, but inaction is the most costly path of all.

Martin MacKerel