With great trepidation, I just had a look at TransCanada’s website regarding the Keystone XL Pipeline. As I don’t know a single soul who supports the thing, it seemed important to look, not just stay wrapped up in my cocoon of certainty about the foul nature of the proposal. Not that my mind or heart are open to change on this point, but I do want to know where these people on the other side of the public comment race to March 7th are coming from, to see what reasons people could possibly support inefficiently, dirtily ripping an ecosystem apart to send the—aptly named—crude oil thousands of miles through a thin pipe to be refined. After the refining, it will be burnt, consumed, combusted, and all its carbon will be released into the world, continuing to alter the climate, to change the weather patterns, ecosystems, and landscapes of our homes, increase storms, make enormous numbers of jobs uncertain, and all the rest that climate change means.
I want to know the reasons anyone could be for a future that looks like that.
TransCanada’s argument for the pipeline is, essentially, “Keystone XL is a choice between construction of a pipeline that supports the creation of 40,000 American jobs and reduces America’s dependence on Venezuelan and Middle Eastern crude oil versus continuing to import oil from countries that do not share American values.” Also, it purports to be the safest pipeline ever constructed, promises to pump billions into the U.S. economy, and in the “Myths and Facts” section skirts the overall issues of climate change and ecosystem impact. The website soothingly tells landowners that that TransCanada will be liable and responsible for all spills. As they should be, but wouldn't it be better to not have anything to spill in the first place?
I am American. I do not share the values of Keystone XL. I do not share the values of continuing to do business as usual while nothing—climatically, economically, politically, culturally—seems “as usual” of late. The uncertainty of the weather, of the skies we look at, the temperature and amount of sunlight on our skins, these do underlie more things about our lives than we might like to think, with all the insulated boxes we hop in and out of all day. And things are not usual in the weather department. At heart, we’ve built our lives, our culture, our ways and means of being in the world around certain natural truths—regular seasons, predictable tides. This is the underpinning of what “usual” has been, the foundation of all else.
I believe that all actions come out of love and fear, and generally, fear is just the result of love being threatened.
TransCanada’s rationale preys upon the deep fears that have grown, culturally, out of the uncertainties that the unusual and unpredictable climate create. Their theme that it is time to circle the wagons, make America’s energy needs interwoven only with like-minded countries, preys on this fear. Similarly, harping on the jobs that will be created, the billions that will flow through the pipeline and into the economy—things are hard for a lot of people right now, struggling to keep themselves dignified and fed, their children happy—plays into our deepest personal fears, doubts that have all too real reasons to suspect will bear bitter fruits. However, clothed in comfort and the language of patriotism and security, TransCanada is just fear-mongering, the tactics of a frightened bully, almost cornered, and seeking to sow discord.
What do you love?
When you watch the news, when you read about injustice or state-sponsored terrorism or unemployment numbers or particle counts of carbon in the atmosphere or any of the rest of the not very good news that swaddles us all day and night, are you afraid? Do you fear for the safety and security of what and who you love?
Yet, in my fear—which manifests as wanting to reach out and wrap my skinny little insufficient arms around so many people, so many places, so much of the tangible and intangible good that there is in the world—I am not inclined to take comfort from the lulling words of an international fossil fuel extraction company.
I do not believe for a second that TransCanada's intentions are any purer than their crude oil. They—and other fossil fuel companies—ravage the environment to suck out the crude oil for gasoline and petroleum products that our consumption of continues to alter the chemistry of the atmosphere, continues to throw our most basic senses of security into the increasing chaos of a planet in flux. And, through all this, the fossil fuel industry continues to make money, while selling us a poisonous snake-oil panacea for all our fears.
They profit from our fear, which in another extrapolation, means they are making money off our desire to protect what we love from nebulous threats.
The threats aren’t nebulous. One very real threat is a proposed pipeline, no wider than a hula-hoop, and today, standing in as the target for all my fear and fury about what I cannot control, what I cannot protect who and what I love from.
There are still more threats than Keystone in how we live, how we are afraid to change although we know that we are living unsustainably, that we are sickly addicted to a cultural structure that harms more than we knew we could love. And, we are all learning how to live better, how to change, how to make our own lives simpler, kinder, more sustainable, happier and more about what we love than what we fear. In time, we will always improve in these ways.
As one step of work towards that improvement, today, or tomorrow, or Friday, please for the love of all your holy things, submit a public comment to the State Department in opposition to Keystone. Answer TransCanada’s threatening myths with the clear truth of what you want this world to be for all that you love.
(photo of oil spill from nrdc.org)