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McKibben links Occupy Wall Street and anti-Keystone-pipeline movements


This post is coauthored by Jessica Goad, manager of research and outreach for the Public Lands Project at the Center for American Progress.

 

In keeping with the momentum of the Occupy Wall Street movement, activists took to the streets in Washington, D.C., on Friday to protest the Keystone XL pipeline outside the State Department, where the final public hearing on the project took place.

Pipeline opponents are drawing a clear connection between the movements, calling their overnight stay at the building where the Keystone hearings were held #OccupyStateDepartment. As activists explained to Climate Progress on Friday, the climate movement and the Occupy Wall Street movement are both made up of a diverse group of people who feel shut out of the political system by the financial and corporate elite.

Tar Sands Action founder Bill McKibben told us that the pipeline is “sort of the poster child for the kind of arrogant corporate power that people are rightly taking to task on Wall Street and elsewhere”:

"You could even say Wall Street’s been occupying our atmosphere, since any attempt to do anything about climate change always runs afoul of the biggest corporations on the planet,” says McKibben. So it's a damned good thing the tables are starting to turn.”

The increasing opposition to the Keystone XL pipeline (already 2,000 people have signed up toprotest at the White House on Nov. 6) mirrors the Occupy Wall Street and “The Other 99 Percent” movements that have been sweeping the country over the last two weeks.

As climate activists explained, the Keystone XL pipeline is a symbol of everything protesters around the country are concerned about: profits over people and the environment. Bill McKibben, who also co-founded 350.org and is a board member at Grist, described the sentiment in Climate Progress’s exclusive interview:

We’ve already proved this thing’s an environmental disaster. Now it’s becoming clear, it’s sort of the poster child for the kind of arrogant corporate power that people are rightly taking to task on Wall Street and elsewhere. When we find these emails … saying that TransCanada and its lobbyists are working hand and glove with the State Department, when we hear that the State Department has hired to run this hearing a company … one of whose main clients is TransCanada, the first thing you do is your mind kind of explodes … and the second thing you do is say, "Damn it, I completely understand why people are going crazy. This is just not fair." I guess the way to say it is, we’ve been concentrating on how environmentally dirty this project is, and we’re going to spend a lot of time now also talking about how politically dirty it is.

As Tar Sands Action puts it on its website, “#occupywallstreet and the Keystone XL — One Movement, One Goal”:

#occupywallstreet was called by a small group with impeccable timing. Americans have seen three years of hard times now and many are at the end of their savings, their unemployment benefits, and their patience. The economy collapsed and our government funneled massive bailouts toward the richest among us while cutting our services and benefits. Republicans and Democrats alike have sold out the people. Those individuals within the government who work hard to make good policies that help Americans are like the little Dutch boy with his finger in the dike. They can’t do this alone. They need the support of the people and they need us to take some responsibility for creating this change ourselves.

That’s why I participated in the Tar Sands Action and it’s why I’m participating in #occpuywallstreet. We’re fighting the same fight, the fight to restore our democracy, the fight to end corporate influence and rebuild a society based on cooperation, trust, and brotherly love. We can’t solve the carbon problem until we solve the power problem. And history has shown time and time again that the only way to solve a power problem is for citizens to join together in the street and bring the great machine to a halt. Only then can we find a way forward together. Only then can we begin enacting the policies we need to build our new carbon-free economy.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has declared that a decision on the pipeline will be made at the end of the year. But the president has the sole authority to decide whether to approve the pipeline. So the question is: Will President Obama stand with “the other 99 percent”?

Stephen Lacey is a reporter with Climate Progress covering clean energy issues. He formerly worked as a producer/editor at RenewableEnergyWorld.com. 

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