The tar sands fight is the right fight

March 7, 2013

Clinton McBride explains why, contrary to the claims of the Obama administration, the fight against the Keystone XL pipeline is a critical battle environmentalists must win.

HOW MANY reiterations of a talking point does it take to make a liberal mantra? The Obama administration seems to have been quite successful in convincing liberal outlets like the New York Times, the Washington Post and CNN to cover his back with the line that environmentalists who fight against the Keystone XL project are fighting the wrong battle.

The Keystone XL pipeline, as the talking point goes, is only a minor cog in the oil industry machine. The pipeline isn't all that important to either Canadian or American powers that be, either in the industry boardrooms or the respective governments.

To quote the Washington Post, "activists have trumped up a relatively mundane infrastructure issue into the premier environmental fight of this decade." "The activists," they argue, "ought to pick more important fights. Until they do, the president should ignore their pressure."

How convenient. Yet it remains unclear why, if this is such a minor issue, the president doesn't respect communities' and environmentalists' concerns. If the Keystone XL pipeline really is so mundane and irrelevant to the industry, why the dramatic push to complete the project?

The truth is that stopping the pipeline almost certainly will not stop the flow of tar sands from Canada. But stopping the pipeline nevertheless would deal a blow to TransCanada, the State Department and the entire oil-congressional complex. Perhaps more importantly, it would be a huge victory for the grassroots movement.

That's the real fear for the Obama administration and the media outlet lackeys. Behind the language of faux-environmental concerns--"if they only fought the right battles, we might listen!"--is a concern that if we don't fight the same uninspired battles, we'll start winning.

They understand well that grassroots movements that involve real communities in their own struggle for justice resonate across society and teach important lessons about challenging systemic forces of oppression.

Stopping the pipeline won't stop climate change. Stopping the pipeline won't turn back the immense damage already done to Canada's boreal forest. Stopping the pipeline won't win the fight for indigenous rights.

But the Tar Sands Blockade is about building and connecting communities that struggle together and just as the pipeline is only one aspect of a massive industry, so is this battle only one part of a broader struggle.

The Tar Sands Blockade is fighting the right battle. And its job won't be done with the pipeline. What the fabricators of the liberal talking points fear is that environmentalists will take inspiration to work outside the system, to hold the system accountable as a community, and will ultimately begin to win the battle for climate justice.

It says a lot about this struggle's success that they take the time to present an argument--it means they're getting worried. That's a good sign.

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