Last Monday, 25 people were arrested at a protest against the proposed Keystone XL pipeline. Rachel Soule, a Boston-area climate organizer, was one of them. This is her account.
Photos by Lindsay Metivier.
On Monday, March 11th, I was arrested for handcuffing myself to 24 other people inside TransCanada’s office building in Westborough, MA, to protest the Keystone XL pipeline—the deadliest fossil fuel pipeline in history.
We were part of a group of over 100 students, young people, clergy, mothers, and concerned citizens who came to the office that day to hold a Funeral for Our Future. It was a beautiful and powerful service, mourning the loss of our future at the hands of the Keystone XL.
If the Obama administration approves the permit for this pipeline, it will put us over the edge toward catastrophic, irreversible climate change. It will wipe out hopes of a livable future for my generation and all generations to follow. Even today, fossil fuel extraction is destroying communities. From well water poisoned by fracking in rural Pennsylvania to air poisoned by oil refinement on Houston’s east side, people in communities on the frontlines of fossil fuel extraction are getting sick and dying because of this industry. But the severity and finality of this one pipeline’s effects on climate are most alarming of all.
The Keystone XL pipeline is not like any oil pipeline in human history.
It would provide the transport system necessary to tap the tar sands—a deposit so large of a substance so vile that it would effectively be game over in the fight against climate change. A sandy mix of bitumen, toxins, and minerals, the tars sands have the potential to produce more carbon dioxide than all the oil that has ever been burned in human history.
Tar sand’s corrosive nature ensures regular spills from the pipeline at about once per week—spills we still don’t know how to clean up. What’s more, building this pipeline will destroy more American jobs than it creates, grabbing land from farmers and families through eminent domain. And it will lock us into irreversible, catastrophic climate change that will destroy the bright future I and so many of my generation hoped would be ours.
With outcomes this harsh, it isn’t just 100 college kids in Massachusetts who are ready to resist this pipeline.
A recent online pledge to resist Keystone XL by whatever nonviolent means necessary has gained upwards of 52,000 signatures.
America is seeing a resurgence in civil disobedience, and this time climate and environmental justice are our issues.
For me, this moment was a long time coming. When I told my parents what I had done—after the fact, of course, because I could not put them through the worry of knowing I was going to “jail”—it was no surprise to them.
While the temperature of the earth’s atmosphere has risen steadily over recent years, so too has the reading on my internal thermometer. I am not the kind of person that breaks rules. Not just for the heck of it, anyway. But I am angry, and I am at the point where I will risk my freedom and safety to fight TransCanada’s pipeline.
That is the beauty of nonviolence. We can turn our outrage into action, our anger into a voice.
With nonviolent direct action, we question the rules because it really matters. It doesn’t have to mean getting arrested; it just means taking a stand. And guess what? It’s the best feeling in the world. It is freeing to live your values, and it is exhilarating to do it next to people you care about. There is a vibrant and growing community of people who are ready to rise up like never before against the fossil fuel industry’s power. And it is a beautiful, friendly, welcoming community indeed. I know this because I have lived it.
Sitting cuffed to 24 other energized climate activists, I felt the strongest bond I have ever had with a group of people in my life. As we sang, our voices became more urgent and more defiant: “TransCanada, you shall not pass! / TransCanada, you will not last!” It was a solemn protest about a serious issue, but our souls and our voices rang out joyfully because we did it together. Our hearts grew larger with the feeling that this group of remarkable, dedicated people cared the same as us, and our resolve grew. This is what it means to be organized. This is what it means to find joy in what you do.
On Monday, I and 24 other people stood for our future against a fossil fuel industry that would destroy it. Today, I ask you to stand with us. Tomorrow, what will you do for the movement?
Share it, talk about it, think about it. Rise up.
Joshua Eaton contributed to this piece.