"Guilty" of Misdemeanor Trespassing

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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

Book Review: Imperiled Life: Revolution Against Climate Catastrophe

Imperiled Life cover: the Statue of Liberty with waves above her waist

It seems my lot in life is to slog through badly written books. The Specter of Sex was informative, but a bit painful to wade through. Conscious Capitalism was truly horrendous, both in content and form, but I read through to the end for the greater good.

Javier Sethness-Castro’s Imperiled Life: Revolution Against Climate Catastrophe is a book I really wanted to like. I’ve been thinking for a while of posing the question “Can capitalism save us from climate catastrophe?” honestly, not as a leftist already knowing the answer. I’m inclined to believe the answer is no, but if it can, by all means, show me.

This book is definitely an attempt to preach to the choir, but color me an intrigued chorister. In addition, the author is a good speaker, and he and I have a mutual friend. So I was ready to enjoy this book.

The problem is that the book is absolutely awful. It’s basically a PhD thesis about the Frankfurt school smashed into mini-book form. It’s loaded down with references to and quotes from Adorno, Horkheimer, Adorno, Marx, Adorno, Kant, Adorno, Marcuse, Adorno, Hannah Arendt, Adorno, and others. We get it. You’re a fan of Adorno.

Continue reading “Book Review: Imperiled Life: Revolution Against Climate Catastrophe”

Why I am Engaging in Civil Disobedience to Prevent the Keystone XL Pipeline

Note: I provided the following as a public comment to the State Department. The last day to submit comments is the day I am posting this, April 22nd, 2013. You can easily add your name to comments from 350.org.


Later today (Earth Day, April 22nd, 2013), I am going to engage in civil disobedience in San Francisco to pressure the State Department and Obama to reject the Keystone XL pipeline proposal.

I am part of a growing and determined movement to move us off of our addiction to fossil fuels – to keep the oil in the ground. A key part of that goal is stopping the mining of tar sands, which Michael Brune of the Sierra Club says “is symbolic of development that is not sustainable”. Right now the first step is preventing Keystone XL from being built.

The core of the Draft Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (SEIS) for the proposed Keystone XL pipeline is section 1.4, titled “Market Analysis”. In it are tucked away all the assumptions and the mindset that leads to the glib conclusion that Keystone XL would not substantially contribute to greenhouse gas emissions.

The basic argument is that the alternative ways to move tar sands oil to refineries are more polluting, and that the tar sands will be developed regardless of the decision on the Keystone XL proposal. Therefore, the logic goes, you might as well approve the pipeline.

The document essentially counsels capitulation to market forces.

large area of tar sands strip mining area with roads through it

But that’s the whole problem – “the market” is insane. It is leading us to catastrophic climate change. We need to interfere with the market. “Fundamental changes to the world crude oil market, and/or [more] far reaching actions than are evaluated in this Supplemental EIS, would be required to significantly impact the rate of production in the oil sands.” (Page 1.4-2)

That’s what we’re asking for, and that’s what we’re focusing on providing.

And thankfully, that’s happening. Other pipeline projects “face significant opposition from various groups”. (Page 1.4-26) Here in the San Francisco Bay Area, there is an active campaign to make sure that tar sands oil is not refined in Richmond, California. No doubt there are similar campaigns elsewhere. We will attempt to stop the destruction of the boreal forest, to stop the strip mining, to stop the pipelines and the trains and the ships, and to prevent the refining, distribution, and sale of products from tar sands oil.

Keystone XL does not have social license to operate – this is the beginning of the revocation of the social license to operate of all sorts of fossil fuel industries.

The State Department and President Obama can either help us in our effort to turn us back from catastrophic climate change, or they can try to hinder us. It would be “in the national interest” to come willingly and lead the way to a sustainable future. But we will act regardless.