My last weekend was pretty memorable, to say the least. On Sunday, March 2, I was arrested at the White House while protesting the Keystone XL pipeline. I was part of a mass youth march and peaceful civil disobedience movement called XL Dissent. More than 1,200 people took to the streets and 398 people were arrested in the largest youth civil disobedience demonstration to take place in a generation. Our goal was to tell President Obama that although young people helped elect him, we did not vote for the Keystone XL pipeline.
The Keystone XL pipeline is a proposed system to pump crude oil from tar sands 1,700 miles from Alberta, Canada to refineries and ports in Texas. TransCanada, the Canadian company proposing the pipeline, needs permission from President Obama to build the pipeline because it would cross the Canadian border into the United States.
There are many social, environmental and economic problems with Keystone XL. CO2 emissions from tar sand oil are 3-4 times higher than conventional oil. The pipeline would carry 830,000 barrels of oil into the U.S. every day, resulting in greenhouse gas emissions equivalent to adding 5.6 million new cars to our roads. The tar sands oil is under an area the size of Florida and is the largest intact ecosystem in the world. Alberta’s boreal forest is a buffer against climate change and supplies water to an enormous region. Construction of the pipeline would hasten the forest’s destruction.
Dr. James Hansen, NASA’s former top climate scientist, has called the pipeline “a fuse to the largest climate bomb on the planet,” saying that burning the tar sands in Alberta would mean “game over” for the climate. Many indigenous groups and other communities that are already suffering adverse health effects due to tar sands extraction oppose the pipeline.
The 398 students who decided to participate in peaceful civil disobedience had strong personal reasons for taking this step. I chose to be arrested for my future and the future of my children. I chose to be arrested to speak truth to power and to show that lives are more valuable than profits. I got arrested for the people in frontline communities who are already experiencing the devastation of climate change. I chose to be arrested in the hope that we will create a world free from the dirty energy of the past, a world that is happy, peaceful, resilient and sustainable. I chose to be arrested because I love my life, I love the planet and I love the global grassroots movement that is standing up to the ways of the past with a message that is daring and hopeful. We do not have to pollute rivers with toxic chemicals, destroy mountains to extract coal, kill wildlife and pollute ecosystems with oil spills. We can do better.
We are on the brink of amazing changes. Our generation has the opportunity to alter the course of history. We can prevent countless deaths, extinctions of species, rising sea levels and disappearing cities, distress, famine and war by fighting climate change. That is why I chose to be arrested at XL Dissent.