Month: January 2021

Keystone XL Pipeline Canceled as DAPL Fight Continues and Line 3 Drills Under the Mississippi

With President Biden’s January 20th executive order canceling permits for the Keystone XL (KXL) pipeline, my involvement with the Montana Sierra Club gave me some backseat insights into the many stages of pipeline resistance. Organizers often begin with lawsuits, sometimes with Indigenous groups or tribes as the leaders or co-plaintiffs challenging various legalities of pipelines. These challenges, which are necessarily based on what existing laws will recognize, often have to do with water crossings, endangered species survival, and Indigenous sacred sites and treaty territories.

Organizers check the boxes of every aspect of civic engagement to draw attention to these challenges, organizing letter-writing campaigns and public commentary addressed to elected officials and the agencies that issue permits to these pipelines, like the Department of Environmental Quality and the Army Corps of Engineers. They hold marches and sit-ins, and write op-eds for the newspapers. At the end of that process, the companies seeking to build usually receive their permits. Many lawsuits can delay construction for a while, even though pipeline companies’ usual playbook includes constructing while permits are appealed in court, so they can later argue that they’ve invested too much to turn back on the project. In the last month, three major oil pipelines – Keystone XL (KXL), the Dakota Access pipeline (DAPL), and Enbridge Line 3 – have come to the forefront as environmental injustices the Biden administration must address.

During the Obama presidency, the KXL pipeline made national headlines. Most Americans were unaware, however, that after then-President Obama rejected KXL’s construction in 2015, Donald Trump put the project back on track at the beginning of his presidency in 2017. Between 2017 and 2021, organizers and activists, especially in Montana, South Dakota, and Nebraska, have mobilized to fight this pipeline returned from the grave, even as the pandemic descended.

Unlike KXL, most pipeline protests in the U.S. receive little national media attention. That includes pipelines like Spectra Energy’s natural gas pipeline, which the Center for Earth Ethics’ Karenna Gore was arrested protesting in 2016. The Standing Rock Sioux led resistance to the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL), which peaked in 2016, only garnering mainstream coverage when its resistance camp grew so large that people around the world knew its name and supported the resistance on social media. Similar to KXL, President Obama canceled permits for DAPL in 2016 just before he left the presidency. President Trump resurrected the pipeline in 2017. Since then, the Dakota Access pipeline has been funneling oil from North Dakota to Illinois for nearly four years.

(Photo by Keri Pickett) with link to article from The Nation. ‘Stopping Trump’s Last Pipeline Will Take All of Us’: A report from occupied Palisade, where Water Protectors confront a dying, but still deadly, energy behemoth. By Winona LaDuke

Since late November, news of another major oil pipeline resistance has spread through organizing communities. In northern Minnesota, Enbridge, a Canadian oil transport company, is constructing a new and expanded Line 3 across the Canada-U.S. border. Anishinaabe (Ojibwe)-led resistance groups have called for support from around the country. Enbridge’s first Line 3 was built in 1961, and its over 900 “structural anomalies” have finally pushed Enbridge to seek to reconstruct the pipeline along a new route, increasing its size and capacity, creating the ability to transport tar sands oil from Canada. Enbridge has released no plans for cleanup of the original Line 3 and its many leaks, and no laws in the state of Minnesota require it to do so. The original Line 3 pipeline cuts through the Leech Lake and Fond du Lac reservations. Both the first and second Line 3 pipelines cut straight through the wetlands and wild rice growth that are sacred to the Anishinaabe people. In fact, treaties with the U.S. government in both 1842 and 1855 promised the Anishinaabe people the rights to hunt, fish, and gather from this territory of theirs. With the oil leaks and spills we know will follow this new pipeline construction, all of these ways of life are threatened.

Enbridge began constructing the new Line 3 in late November 2020 immediately following state and federal permitting of the pipeline. The White Earth Band of Ojibwe, Red Lake Band of Chippewa Indians, environmental groups, and the Department of Commerce of Minnesota are all involved in litigation against the pipeline, filed in December. For reliable, updated information on the pipeline resistance, see this Medium article. Only one tribal government out of the five in the immediate area of the pipeline, Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa, reached a financial settlement with Enbridge for the construction of the pipeline through their territory. However, Winona La Duke’s organization, Honor the Earth, reports that the Fond du Lac Band’s “agreement” misrepresents the situation the tribe faces.

Since the election in November, communities around KXL, DAPL, and Line 3 have looked to the Biden administration to continue acting on its promises for progressive environmental governance. KXL opponents have had the first victory. In North Dakota where the Dakota Access pipeline transports oil across Sioux treaty area, leaders from four different Sioux tribes sent a letter to President Biden asking him to shut down DAPL. Over in Minnesota, as Enbridge burrows under the Mississippi, water protectors call on President Biden and his nominated secretary of the interior, Deb Haaland (Laguna Pueblo) to cancel permits for Line 3 as well. While a presidential decision can kill a pipeline for the remainder of a presidency, in these struggles only one thing is for sure: The protests, led by Indigenous water protectors around the country, only grow bigger with each new pipeline.

Here are links for further involvement in the Enbridge Line 3 resistance.

Honor the Earth – Line 3 Background

StopLine3.org up to date action


Author, Tess Gallagher Clancy

CEE Field Ed Student, MDiv candidate at Union Theological Seminary

How to Fix the Climate

Catherine Coleman Flowers offers a response to the Boston Review Forum on ‘How to Fix the Climate’.

“The people least responsible for climate change are the most impacted. We must prioritize exposed, fence-line, frontline, and vulnerable communities.”


Living in Alabama, a state bordered by the Gulf Coast, it is hard not to reflect on climate change and the environmental justice calamities that have been at the forefront of 2020. The pandemic has brought death to every corner of the world—and, as anticipated, vulnerable and marginalized communities have faced the highest death and infection rates. Next came the wildfires. So much of the world and the United States have been burning that adequate description conjures apocalyptic visions. Now we are in the midst of a historic hurricane season, battering the Gulf Coast over and again. There have been so many named storms this year that the twenty-five alphabetical names have been used up and we’re now on to using Greek letters to designate them. As I write, we anxiously await the arrival of Zeta.

“Communities of color, low-income families, and indigenous communities have long suffered disproportionate and cumulative harm from air pollution, water pollution, and toxic sites.”

This year Mother Nature has previewed the destruction that is to come if climate change worsens and we continue to act as if humans are not its cause. Denial of climate change is not dissimilar to the denialism that causes so many to refuse to wear a mask and social distance to contain the spread of COVID-19. Denial doesn’t prevent bad things from happening, and ignoring reality has caused traumatic consequences around the world. Lack of action will cause all of us to have the blood of future generations on our hands. And people are suffering now.

People living in communities plagued by environmental and climate injustice are already experiencing the effects of climate change—on the heels, for many, of having been traumatized by industrial pollution that has sickened them with cancers and other illnesses. Many in these communities are already doing what Charles Sabel and David G. Victor advise and are pursuing local climate activism and action. At the same time, many are also running up against the limits of what it is possible to achieve locally when global actions by states and moneyed corporations are stacked against them.

In Lowndes County, Alabama, climate change and a lack of adequate sanitation have intersected catastrophically.  Read on…

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This forum response is featured in Boston Review’s new book, Climate Action. ORDER A COPY TODAY

Faith and Climate Crisis in the Biden Administration

In a Video Recorded for FÉ NO CLIMA, Center for Earth Ethics director Karenna Gore comments on the approximation between Faith and the Climate Crisis in the Biden Administration.

The founder and director of the Center for Earth Ethics at the Union’s Theological Seminary in New York, Karenna Gore, believes that the rapprochement between “religion” and “climate crisis” will be an important aspect of Joe Biden’s policies, president elected from the USA. The inauguration of Biden and deputy Kamala Harris on Wednesday, January 20, is considered a historic day for the climate agenda.

In a statement recorded especially for the IV Fé no Clima Meeting, at the end of last year, she affirms that, during the elections, Biden “made it clear that the climate is a priority” and stressed the importance of the appointment of the former Secretary of State, John Kerry, for the role of Special Representative on Climate Change for the new government. The message to the event’s participants is now available on Fé no Clima’s YouTube channel .

“President Joe Biden will trust God and will also rely on science to guide our work on Earth to protect God’s creation,” said Kerry last November, at the event that announced part of the new presidential office.

In the opinion of Karenna Gore, the new climate representative’s speech “signals and implies that involving religion will be crucial to the approach that the Biden administration will take in climate action”.

According to her, the work at the center she runs is focused on seeking solutions to the ecological crisis of the faith and traditions of indigenous peoples. “We work through education, convening, public speaking and movement building,” he explained. Recently, Fé no Clima, an Iser project, started a dialogue to deepen relations with the Center for Earth Ethics.

Regarding the link between beliefs and discussions about the environment, the activist says that “religion can create a sense of belonging that goes beyond political or partisan alignment and guides us to be the best version of ourselves”.

And he highlighted the importance of religion in social transformations. “Archbishop Desmond Tutu said that the teaching of the scriptures had a role in ending apartheid in South Africa,” he said, also celebrating the influence of Martin Luther King Jr, pastor of the Baptist Church, in the fight for civil rights in his country.

US returns to Paris Agreement

“I am also very excited to be speaking to you at a time when my country, the United States, announced that we will again participate in the Paris Agreement, a very important 2015 treaty in which all countries in the world have come together to create a plan to really face this serious existential crisis and overcome it,” said the director.

Biden made a commitment to return to the Paris climate change agreement on the first day of governing. The measure is part of a package of actions that will revert, on the day of inauguration, several measures of the Trump administration for this and other topics.

Read the full speech

In the video recorded for the event participants, Karenna Gore also pays homage to the environmentalist Alfredo Sirkis, who died last year. In addition to being a friend of the Gore family, Sirkis was director of Centro Brasil no Clima, a Brazilian partner of the Climate Reality Project, an organization created by former US vice president, Al Gore.

Published on: 20/01/2021 – # Fé no Clima

Some Thoughts on Inauguration Day 2021

Like so many others, I have deep and mixed emotions on this Inauguration Day. This awful chapter is coming to a close and there is a lot to celebrate about the incoming administration, but there is also wreckage upon wreckage to examine, and it goes all the way back to the foundations of our nation. In a moving ceremony at the Reflecting Pool last night, with 400 lights shining to represent the 400,000 lives lost to Covid-19, President-Elect Joe Biden said “to heal, we must remember.” This wisdom is itself a guiding light forward.

Rev Dr. William Barber II is among those who have explained that the kind of mob violence we saw at the Capitol on January 6 has a long history of terrorizing communities in this country. The symbols on display on January 6th reflected the white supremacist ideology behind the breathtaking sense of entitlement to desecrate whatever sanctuary it claims. While not all of us can ever fully grasp it, we must acknowledge the trauma that this touches and exploits.

There was also a religious element to the insurrection. As many have noted, there were prayers and signs and shouts that invoked God, the Bible and Jesus. This too must be examined. To say that White Christian nationalism has always been a force in this country is an understatement. As many have documented (and I touched on in a blog last spring), the presence of people of European heritage on this land was launched in large part by proclamations from the Vatican in the mid-15th century that invoked the Bible for authority to “conquer, vanquish and subdue.” The way that American history has been taught (the revanchist 1776 project is a reminder) tends to downplay the extent to which dehumanization (and even demonization) of Black and Indigenous peoples worked in tandem with the narrative that God ordained the presence and reign of people of European descent (who came to be known as “white”) in this land.  

Rev. Dr. Kelly Brown Douglas calls it “racial-religious synchronicity.” In Stand Your Ground: Black Bodies and the Justice of God, she brings plenty of “receipts,” as they say, painful and important to read. For the field of earth ethics, it is important to note the construction of whiteness included language exalting ecological domination as part of the proof of racial superiority. For example, in 1775 in Observations Concerning the Increase of Mankind, Peopling of Countries, Benjamin Franklin wrote approvingly of “scouring our planet, by clearing woods, and so making our side of the globe reflect a brighter light” in making his argument that America should not “darken its people.” 

Missouri Senator Thomas Hart Benton, speaking in 1846, at the height of the myth of Manifest Destiny: “It would seem that the White race alone received the divine command, to subdue and replenish the earth! For it is the only race that has obeyed it, the only one that hunts out new and distant lands, and even a New World, to subdue and replenish.” There are unmistakable echoes of this sentiment among the MAGA crowds today. At the Republican National Convention this past August, Rep. Matt Gaetz proclaimed: “The frontier, the horizon, even the stars belong to us.” On January 6th, a current Senator from Missouri,  Josh Hawley gave a salute to the stirring mob as he entered the Capitol to dispute the clear outcome of a free and fair election in which  the candidates who stood for an end to systemic racism (and the assault on our climate) prevailed.

On a personal note, I feel reverberations from family experience during every Presidential election cycle, but this one has been especially so. I did not take the time to consider it in depth until idle chatter at the beginning of a zoom meeting a last week prompted me. Someone said, “oh I remember when this whole thing was happening with your father,” and someone else said something like “when this was all happening in 2000 . . . ” It was not the time to articulate it, but the details came rushing back to mind. There was a stark contrast between that occasion and recent events. In 2000, the candidate who won the popular vote and only lost the electoral college by a razor thin margin in just one state made a gracious concession and gave a heartfelt blessing to his rival. And let’s not forget that the circumstances in Florida in 2000 left plenty of room to stoke ongoing controversy and fan flames of division, if he so chose. My father attended that Inauguration, of course, and though he was not onstage today, I feel moved to honor him for his role in upholding American democracy.

Now that Trump is leaving office in disgrace, we must have the courage to look at what he has revealed about us as a nation. We can remember that racism and ecological destruction were joined in a mistaken belief system that was present at the founding, but need not define us any longer. This administration is off to an excellent start with these executive orders that restore the U.S. to global leadership on climate, respect Indigenous people and address environmental justice. There are several other urgent actions they should take, including stopping Line 3, the Mountain Valley Pipeline, the Dakota Access Pipeline, and the mining of Oak Flat, a sacred site for the Apache. All economic development decisions must be made with an ethical lens that includes long term vision. There is also a need for a major revitalization of civics education, not only to enrich our collective knowledge of how a healthy democracy functions, but also to help us remember and heal the wounds that almost caused us to lose it.

As National Youth Poet Laureate Amanda Gorman spoke today in The Hill We Climb: 

And yet the dawn is ours before we knew it
Somehow we do it.
Somehow, we’ve weathered and witnessed
A nation that isn’t broken, but simply unfinished.

p.s.
I also want to share Amanda Gorman’s “EarthRise” which she performed for Climate Reality Project’s 24 Hours of Reality in 2018.

The UN Secretary-General —  Remarks for the ONE PLANET SUMMIT 

THE UN SECRETARY-GENERAL 
 
REMARKS FOR THE ONE PLANET SUMMIT 
 
11 January 2021 
 
[All English version] 
 
Dear friends, 
 
2021 must be the year to reconcile humanity with nature. 
 
Until now, we have been destroying our planet.  
 
We have been abusing it as if we had a spare one.  
 
Our current resource use requires almost two planets but we only have one.   
 
If we compare Earth’s history to a calendar year, we have used one third of its natural resources in the last 0.2 seconds. 
 
We have been poisoning air, land and water – and filling oceans with plastics.  
 
Now, nature is striking back. 
 
Temperatures are reaching record highs. 
 
Biodiversity is collapsing. 
 
Deserts are spreading.  
 
Fires, floods and hurricanes are more frequent and extreme. 
 
And we are extremely fragile. 
 
Meanwhile, COVID-19 has taken more than 1.8 million lives and devastated economies. 
 
For the first time in this century, poverty is increasing.  
 
Inequalities are deepening. 
 
As we rebuild, we cannot revert to the old normal.  
 
Pandemic recovery is our chance to change course. 
 
With smart policies and the right investments, we can chart a path that brings health to all, revives economies and builds resilience and rescues biodiversity. 
 
Innovations in energy and transport can steer a sustainable recovery and an economic and social transformation.  
 
Nature-based solutions – such as Africa’s Great Green Wall – are especially promising. 
 
Preserving the world’s biodiversity also yields jobs: according to the World Economic Forum, emerging business opportunities across nature could create 191 million jobs by 2030. 
 
But the world has not met any of the global biodiversity targets set for 2020, and biodiversity is facing a financing gap of $711 billion per year until 2030.  
 
Sustainable financing is essential if we are to transition away from polluting sectors. 
 
Our meeting in Kunming, the COP in China, this year is a vital step in establishing a post-2020 global framework for biodiversity and stopping the extinction crisis. 
 
Dear friends, 
 
A new momentum is emerging. 
 
Many large emitters have committed to achieving zero net emissions by 2050. 
 
The main goal of the United Nations in 2021 is to build a truly global coalition for carbon neutrality. 
 
Every country, city and business must adopt an ambitious roadmap to achieve net zero emissions by 2050. 
 
The time has come to: 
 
Put a price on carbon. 
Stop building new coal plants. 
 
End fossil fuel subsidies. 
 
Shift the fiscal burden from taxpayers to polluters. 
 
Align public and private financial flows with the Paris Agreement commitments and the Sustainable Development Goals. 
 
And integrate the goal of carbon neutrality into all economic and fiscal decisions. 
 
We must also help the most vulnerable, who are already suffering from the effects of climate change. 
 
Today, adaptation efforts account for only 20 per cent of climate finance. 
 
Only 14 per cent of climate finance is dedicated to the least developed countries. 
 
This is far from enough, especially to protect small island States, which face an existential threat. 
 
Everyone must do much more. 
 
COP26 cannot be another missed opportunity. 
 
For three years, the One Planet Summit has been bringing together private, public and civil society actors around concrete initiatives at the country level. 
 
The High Ambition Coalition for Nature and People, which will be formally launched today, is a perfect example. 
 
Dear friends, 
 
We begin a new year under the sign of hope. 
 
Together, let us seize the opportunity to build a safer, fairer and more sustainable world. 
 
Thank you.  
 
 

Battling America’s ‘dirty secret’

Climate change raises the risk from failing sewage systems. So Catherine Coleman Flowers is working for a new way to deal with waste.

Originally published DECEMBER 17, 2020 by Sarah Kaplan for the Washington Post – Climate Solutions.

LOWNDES COUNTY, Ala. — To Catherine Coleman Flowers, this is “holy ground”: the place where her ancestors were enslaved and her parents fought for civil rights and she came of age. Here, amid the rich, dark earth and emerald farm fields, she is home.

Yet this ground also harbors a threat, one made worse by climate change.

Untreated sewage is coursing through this rural community, a consequence of historic government disinvestment, basic geology and recent changes in the soil. On rainy days, foul effluent burbles up into bathtubs and sinks, and pools in yards. Some residents have hookworm, an illness rarely seen in developed nations.

It’s America’s “dirty secret,” Flowers said, a problem stretches beyond one county in central Alabama. Heavier rainfall caused by climate change is saturating soil and raising water tables – confounding septic systems. From the flooded coasts of Florida to thawing Alaska towns, an estimated half-million U.S. households lack adequate sanitation.

Now Flowers, a MacArthur Foundation “genius”, is partnering with environmental engineers at Columbia University on a solution. They are working on a new kind of toilet that will act as a mini sewage treatment facility. Instead of flushing waste, the system they’re working to build will filter, clean and recycle waste on site. Instead of sending raw sewage into the soil, it will turn it into water for use in washing machines, and into nutrients for fertilizer, and perhaps even energy for homes.

The new Wastewater Innovation and Environmental Justice Lab at Columbia will serve as a hub for research on sanitation policy, an incubator for rural activism, and — advocates hope — a birthplace for a better, greener way of managing waste.

What was once a problem can become a solution, Flowers said. And the change will start in Lowndes County, as it has before.

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Read on…