Tar Sands Action, Turning People Out

Guest Blog | September 7, 2011 | Energy Policy

What do the nuclear catastrophe at Fukushima, BP’s Deepwater Horizon oil spill, and the Kingston coal ash spill have in common?

Former Southern Energy Network staffer, Seth Gunning - takes action.
Former Southern Energy Network staffer, Seth Gunning – takes action.

In each of these crises, the mainstream media’s response coverage only occurred AFTER the disaster reached a critical point.  Furthermore, each of the aforementioned projects’ production sites were compromised BEFORE they became newsworthy.  Finally, communities directly impacted by all of these projects will feel the results long after the television crews move on to the next hot topic.

Events along the slow march toward environmental disaster rarely make the front page, but these incremental steps are what ultimately lead to disaster and impact the prices of goods like gas and food, where we send our troops, and the overall health and stability of our country. Unfortunately, they are often buried under conditional stories – news of deficits, wars, and healthcare debates – all of which can be tied back to the way we acquire energy and power.

Given this typical lack of media coverage, it has been especially inspiring to watch Tar Sands Action bring an important conversation to the front page and make a noise loud enough to be heard outside of the environmental community.  Coverage in popular media outlets like NPR’s All Things Considered and Google Top News Story make it clear that this was not any ordinary environmentalist protest.  Republican governors and NASA scientists joined to say that the Keystone XL project is dangerous, not only for the health of our planet, but for human health as well.

Indeed, the Tar Sands Action campaign has built a strong coalition of supporters – big game players, nonprofits and individuals, all rallying together.  The collective is drawing attention to concerns around health and safety impacts of processing tar sands.  Nontraditional allies are joining in to say ‘no’ to thousands of miles of new pipe that would displace our nation’s farmers.  Coalition partners continues to drive the message of the high cost and harmful ecological impacts of this project.

Through two weeks of efforts culminating on Saturday, September 3, our friends and allies made this proposed high risk energy project a headline, not a byline; by standing together in front of the White House for days on end, they brought the issue to the President before a casualty occurred.  Over the weekend activists from all over the country gathered in front of the White House with a banner with a huge number on it: 618,428 – the number of people around the world who signed on to the “Stop the Tar Sands” petition to President Obama. 1,252 protesters were arrested, and thousands more gathered outside of embassies and consulates and hosted events in communities across the country, standing in solidarity.

Climate change impacts everyone, and the turn out for Tar Sands Action was a testament to the commitment. Although the Keystone XL project would not lay track through the Southeast, we should still lend our support to this larger movement.  Solidarity is essential in advancing the conversation on how we are to craft a clean and prosperous energy future for the entire world. There is power in numbers.

Tar Sands Action was just the first step though.  On September 14,the next push to rouse public attention will take place with the Climate Reality project.

24 Hours of Reality is a worldwide event to broadcast the reality of the climate crisis. It will consist of a new multimedia presentation created by

Al Gore and delivered once per hour for 24 hours, representing every time zone around the globe. Each hour people living with the reality of climate change will connect the dots between recent extreme weather events — including floods, droughts and storms — and the manmade pollution that is changing our climate. We will offer a round-the-clock, round-the-globe snapshot of the climate crisis in real time.

The push will then continue on September 24, with Moving Planet — the massive day of climate action that will unite people all over the world to prove that we can rise above fossil fuels.

Both of these events are strategic in pushing the global conversation on how we must confront the issue of climate change.  Stay tuned to see how SACE staff participates in upcoming actions.  We hope you join us in showing your commitment to mitigating climate change and supporting a clean energy future.

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