This is a complete transcript of my new documentary film, Blockadia Rising: Voices of the Tar Sands Blockade (2013). It is provided here to make quotations easier for anyone who may want to cite this documentary for their own purposes. Included below are all the narrations, written by me, and all of the interviews in the film as well as all of the words spoken on screen. I hope it is useful to those who value this documentary and may wish to cite the information within.
Narrator (Garrett Graham): These are the Piney Woods of East Texas. Home to some of the oldest trees in the state. A hundred years ago, this forest used to cover nearly half of Texas before lumber became the state’s largest export. And after that, forests were clear-cut to make way for oil fields and highways and now this delicate bio-region has become an endangered habitat.
As a result, the ivory-billed woodpecker has gone extinct, and the surviving cockaded woodpecker is becoming endangered, but these old-growth forests are still home to many beautiful creatures like the burrowing beetles and the luna moth. Catfish and tree frogs swim the waterways, and the grasslands are populated with armadillos and white-tailed deer which are hunted by cougars and bobcats. They all depend on each other to make this ecosystem thrive. This forest is their home, and it’s being destroyed every day by industry and from the extreme droughts of a rapidly changing climate.
This forest is also home to many families, mostly farmers and ranchers, who cherish this beautiful country and live close to the land, but now their homes and their lives are in danger too. A new threat is cutting its way across the Piney Woods that could endanger all life on planet Earth.
Kate Armstrong: How does it feel to take people’s land that they’ve cultivated for years and generations? How does it feel to clear-cut that land, to destroy their property so it can never be cultivated again? So we’ve polluted, for the generations to come, so that their children will be drinking water that is full of oil and tar sands. So that their children’s children will be going to a school where all the water and all the food will as well be polluted.
I know this is probably sustaining you and all your families right now, for the present moment, but what about tomorrow? And what about the future for everybody else who’s standing here today and everybody else who’s going to be affected by this pipeline coming through all of America, coming straight down from Canada? And what about Canada? Right now Canada is being exploited as well, and if y’all are Texans and if y’all care about Texas then why are you killing Texas?
Narrator: These people are here to stop the violence by disrupting a serious threat to their health and safety. A tar sands pipeline that will cut across the entire United States is beginning right here. They’ve spent several years trying to use the legal system to protect their friends and family, and the system has failed them every time. But today, they’re ready to take direct action. They’ve prepared for this moment for a long time, and it all started with the opposition to the Canadian tar sands.
The Canadian tar sands in Alberta have become the single largest construction project in human history and covers an area the size of England. With the global extraction of crude oil peaking, the industry is hunting for new carbon reserves to meet the demands of an ever-growing market. This massive project has destroyed an area of arboreal forest the size of Florida, diminishing the bio-diversity of the region and releasing cancer-causing pollutants into the water ways.
This has been especially disastrous for the indigenous communities that live nearby, who are dying from cancer at an alarming rate and from whom this land was originally stolen hundreds of years ago. This ongoing extermination of first nations people has been assisted by the Canadian government, violating their tribal sovereignty and permanently destroying their ancestral homeland.
The tar sands of northern Alberta are one of the planet’s last remaining oil fields, but this isn’t conventional crude oil. This is bitumen, an expensive and hard-to-reach substitute. Crude oil is a liquid, but bitumen is a viscous solid that must be excavated from the sand and mixed with toxic chemical dilutants in order to flow through the pipe.
For every barrel of bitumen produced, the process contaminates three barrels of water and releases three times as much carbon into the atmosphere as one barrel of conventional crude oil. The process also requires the movement of more than two tons of Earth per barrel. It is the largest and most wasteful extraction process ever conceived.
As one of the last remaining fossil-fuel deposits, the tar sands have attracted nearly sixty percent of all global oil investments. Every major multinational and nationally owned oil company has invested in the extraction of the Canadian tar sands.
The Keystone XL pipeline is slated to carry the tar sands across the United States in a toxic slurry of chemicals at extremely high pressures. TransCanada, the corporation building the pipeline, refuses to disclose the all the chemicals involved, as well as the associated human health environmental risks. These crews are clear-cutting a path for the Keystone XL pipeline, which will run from the tar sands in Alberta, Canada, to refineries near the Gulf of Mexico.
The project has sparked massive opposition across the globe because of the health and safety risks to nearby communities and because of the vast amount of greenhouse gases that will be released into the atmosphere if the project is completed, which will accelerate dangerous climate change.
Leading NASA climate scientist Dr. James Hansen has called the Keystone XL pipeline “a fuse to the largest carbon bomb on the planet.” According to Hansen, of all the carbon stored in the Canadian tar sands is released into the Earth’s atmosphere it would mean “game over” for our planet.
Which brings us back to Texas, where the forests are being clear-cut to make way for the Keystone XL pipeline. The southern portion of the pipeline is called the Gulf Coast Project, and the first pipes were laid down in Livingston, Texas, after the forest had been cleared away.
TransCanada claims that they have the right of eminent domain, where a state or a corporation can seize private property in the public interest, and this classification has accelerated the Gulf Coast Project. But the Keystone XL pipeline is an export pipeline owned by a foreign corporation for private profit.
The pipeline will run from Cushing Oklahoma to refineries in Houston before being exported overseas through the Gulf of Mexico. Before any pipes can be laid in the ground the land must be destroyed, but a coalition of Texans, landowners and volunteers from around the continent have come together to prepare a campaign of non-violent direct action to physically stop the Keystone XL pipeline, and we call ourselves the Tar Sands Blockade.
We choose to engage in non-violent direct action because it is a historically proven tactic for resisting violence while empowering people to build communities of resistance, and these are the voices of that community.
Aidan Kriese: My name is Aidan Kriese and I’m from Austin Texas. I’m here because I feel, as a white person who benefits from white privilege and settler privilege on stolen land, that it’s my responsibility to do what I can to stand in solidarity with indigenous people in Alberta, Canada, who are under assault. I want to get in between what’s left of this planet and fossil-fuels. I’m here because I want to see an escalation in our movements so that we resolve to physically stop, by whatever means necessary, the fossil-fuel industries and shut them down permanently so that we have a small chance, a chance, any chance for there to be a livable planet, not just for our human grandchildren but for the grandchildren of the trees here, for the other members of our greater living community.
I also don’t want to see the lives and homes of these folks in East Texas and elsewhere to be destroyed by this pipeline, and I’m deeply honored to be included among them, to be invited onto their land to work with them, to work with all the fine folks here who are doing amazing things. I really hope that we can muster the courage to be honest with ourselves about what needs to be done and the sacrifices that we need to make to ensure that we have the basics; drinkable air and breathable water.
Mary Francis: I’m Mary Francis from Norman Oklahoma and I have been an activist for fifty years, I’m seventy, and I do what I do because it’s the right thing to do and when my grand-daughter asks me “Grandma, how did you let it get this way?” I’m going to be able to say “Sweetheart, I never stopped trying to fix it.”
These people are so short sighted, that are in congress and in the corporations that they’ve essentially – they’ve ruined the Earth, and I am so sorry, I apologize to you for letting that happen
Aidan Kriese: Sweetie, you are not responsible like Weyerhauser. [Paper Company]
Mary Francis: We are all responsible.
Aidan Kriese: Sure, we all have to take responsibility, but the biggest culprits, they don’t look like you and I.
Mary Francis: Yea, it’s the greed that is ruining us.
Gary Stuard: My name is Gary Stuard, I’m a native Texan currently living in Dallas, Texas. I finally am convinced that the current political system that we have is corrupt, it is not working. There are some good people who are able to do some things but the cards are stacked against us, and I realize it’s time for direct action. We don’t have a democracy. We have corporate fascism and its time for us to create “the new” and I realize that it’s going to mean direct action and civil disobedience.
That’s been the only way that there has been progress in the United States from the abolition movement, the feminist movement, the suffrage movement, the gay/lesbian rights movement and the environmental movement and peace and justice movements, it’s taken people like us to say “No, no more, no more of this” and I’m going to put my well-being on-the-line and say this has to stop.
Narrator: The Tar Sands Blockade is building a community of resistance here in East Texas, including local landowners who have been fighting this pipeline for years, and they say that the TransCanada corporation lied, coerced and intimidated them into signing away their land rights or else the company would take their land by eminent domain.
Ron Seifert: As I said, this fight’s been going on for years. Those institutional avenues have been approached. Lawyers have told various landowners they have a case, they probably were defrauded out of their property. They were probably lied to. TransCanada’s contracts are very non-standard, but they also say this is a multinational, multi-billion dollar corporation and we’re not going to do this on a contingent value. This could be years of our time. We might lose, so unless you have hundreds of thousands of dollars up-front we can’t argue your case. So for rural landowners that avenue is, more or less, closed. As far as the formal representatives around here there is not one, not one state or federal representative in all of Texas that stands with landowners. Every single one of them has sided with TransCanada, for the pipeline, lock-step with the oil and gas industry. This isn’t a new phenomenon. This type of thing has been going on for industry for basically our entire lives. I think it’s becoming clear that our institutions are failing us, that if we want to stop industry we have to fight industry on our home turf, our land, our extraction sites, the places they don’t want to have the fight. They love having fights in courtrooms. They love Washington where they have their dark money dens. They don’t want to have a fight in rural East Texas in a hundred degree weather. That’s our home turf and that’s where we’re going to have this fight.
TransCanada approached a lot of these landowners out here in 2008 and 2009. So some of us are pretty new to this campaign but a lot of the locals, this is year four or year five for them. So it’s been a long struggle and Susan’s been there from the outset so, Susan, why don’t you come out here and just tell folks a little bit about what’s gotten you so far.
Susan Scott: Well, as y’all can see, I’m still alive and I’m still kicking. I’m real proud that y’all are here. I’m real, real proud about it and, I ain’t a real good speaker and I done told him that but, we’re fighting a battle now and I feel like I’ve been in Hell for about three or four years already and can’t seem to climb out of it. The pipeline came to me and intimidated me basically. You know, told me to “take what we’re offering or we’re going to sue you. We’re gonna take you to court. You’re going to pay court cost, lawyers fees and whatever else comes up.” And, of course, I’m just a farmer. I got real nervous, you know, and I said “Well, okay” you know, and I was unaware of the northwest corner. The whole, entire northwest corner was going to get wiped out. And when I really started asking them what they’re going to be pumping through the lines and what they’re going to be putting through there, they never would come clean and tell me, period. And we kind of all got – and they kept us separate, you know, the landowners. Everybody thought “Well, this is it. We’ve just got to take what we’ve got to do and go on with it.” but that was not the case at all. They didn’t have eminent domain. They lied about that. They lied about a lot of things, numerous things. So, here we are today standing here fighting for a little old piece of land that means my entire life and like I’ve told other people, I’m going to be in the front lines. And I ain’t real good about talking to a lot of people but I’ll do the best I can, you know, and I’m going to be standing there when they start and it’s like I told the little girl yesterday. If they kill me they can burry me up there by my horse. It’s that simple, you know, because I’m going down with it and I don’t know, you know, what else.
Narrator: Despite her opposition, Susan’s land was destroyed after she had been threatened and deceived by TransCanada. This is Susan’s neighbor, David Hightower. He’s also a farmer and he owns his own business selling homemade wine that he produces from the muscadine grapes that he grows on his farm. When TransCanada came to him, all that he asked was that they not destroy his farm, his business, and his family legacy.
David Hightower: I’m David Hightower here in Winnsboro, Texas, and I’m standing in front of my farm where the Keystone pipeline is cutting across my corner of my farm and I have all these young people here in support of not having a pipeline going across my farm and I appreciate their support in this effort. This is my homeland that my father bought fifty years ago and I’ve lived here all my life. I’m not sure what will happen if the TransCanada builds their pipeline. It looks like they will. I’m not sure if my ability to continue to grow produce for the public is going to be able to happen like I wish it would. These young people are here protesting I appreciate their support of me and people like me throughout the country.
Narrator: This is all that remains of David’s vineyard, and the pipes are being laid less than two hundred feet from his front door. Meanwhile, the clearing crews move on to David’s neighbor, Eleanor Fairchild, another farmer resisting the pipeline.
Eleanor Fairchild: This is a letter from TransCanada. I think all of the landowners got it, and it says that they had gotten their permits and they were coming through with this pipeline, but they would notify me before they came onto my land and explain what they were going to do. And so, yesterday, they were cutting on my land and they hadn’t notified me. They just came on. And I just think it was bad that they just came on me without even letting me know they were coming when they said they would. To me, it’s – It made me mad, and I hate to see my land torn up but I realize at this point there’s nothing I can do, and I’m concerned about everyone’s land because a lot of people are being hurt a lot more than I am, and it just breaks my heart. And this is their life’s savings or their biggest investment is in their land and their home and it’s land being destroyed, trees being cut down, their property values are dropping, and I’m also very angry with our public officials for not standing behind the citizens. I mean, and they’re standing behind a foreign company? That, to me, is very maddening, but I’m going to be alright because I’m tough. That’s all I have to say.
Narrator: This is Eleanor’s freshwater spring. She’s afraid that if the pipeline leaks it could poison her land, her livestock and herself. The pipeline also threatens the Carizo-Wilcox aquifer, which supplies drinking water to more than twelve millions people in drought-stricken Texas, and for Eleanor Fairchild, this was all just too much to risk.
Darrel Hannah: They’re not to go through here. This woman has not agreed to have tar sands go through her land. She has not signed any agreement.
Camara Person: Hey. Watch your back. Watch your back. Watch your back.
Police Officer: Just don’t go towards the equipment. Do not go towards the equipment. Do not go towards the equipment. Hey Charlie, arrest here. Tell her to quit fighting. Charlie, arrest her. Grab her arm.
Camera Person: This is her land right here. She gave us –
Police Officer: Grab her arm.
Darrel Hannah: Are you hired from out of state?
Police Officer: I’m a police officer.
Darrel Hannah: Are you private security?
Camera Person: Go Eleanor! Do you want to say anything about your land or TransCanada?
Eleanor Fairchild: Get off my land, period. And I don’t want tar sands anywhere in the United States. This land is my land, and it’s been our land since eighty three. Our home is on it. They’re going to destroy the woods and also they could destroy the springs. It’s just devastating but it also is not good to have that tar sand anywhere in the United States. This is not just about my land. It’s about all of our country. It needs to be stopped.
Narrator: After months of training and organizing the Tar Sands Blockade is preparing for direct action. The plan is to shut down a pipe yard that supplies worksites in the area. This is the first direct action of the campaign, and the blockades will continue until the Keystone XL Pipeline is stopped for good.
Tammie Carson: I’m Tammie Carson. I’m from Arlington, Texas and I’m here because I’m outraged at what people with money and power are doing to our Earth. It’s not just mine. It’s my kid’s. It’s my grand-kid’s. It’s all of our’s and the potential for the destruction of it is not okay and I’m here to say “It’s not okay.” Ready to put myself on the line to make that statement. I’m so glad he turned the engine off.
Worker: No, they’re not hurting the truck.
Tammie Carson: We’re doing this thing. Yea buddy!
Chris Voss: My name is Chris Voss. I live in Fannon county. North up by the Red River. Stopping the Keystone XL Pipeline is very important to me because, if we exploit tar sands in Canada to the full extent that they’re available, we are basically dooming ourselves to horrible, run-away climate change. I feel like the climate justice movement is my generation’s moment to shine. It’s my time to step up and do something for the world.
Narrator: Several blockaders were arrested, but the pipe yard was shut down for the entire day and the Tar Sands Blockade is spreading to work sites all along the pipeline route.
Sarah Reid: My name is Sarah Reed. I’m from Houston, Texas. I’m here because everything I love, everyone I love, is being threatened by this pipeline. My family in Houston will be forced to breath toxic air from tar sands refineries. My friends all along the pipeline route will have their groundwater poisoned. Their farmland will be infertile. And all my friends globally will have to deal with the consequences of climate change that will be unleashed by the tar sands oil. TransCanada has so little regard for my life, for the life of my eleven year-old brother who hasn’t had the chance to really live at all yet and I want him to grow up in a world with clean air, clean water, without run-away climate change. And yea, that’s why I’m here to blockade.
Shannon Beebe: My name is Shannon Bebe and I’m from Lake Dallas, Texas, and this is so important to me because our environment is what sustains all life. If no one is going to step in they’re just going to continue to lay down the pipeline and just start pumping the tar sands as quick as possible. I mean, like, it doesn’t matter if we send in papers saying “Oh, we don’t want this.” We’ve already tried to do that and it’s not working. We need to take direct action. Direct action is the only thing that is going to make a change. It’s the only thing that’s going to make a difference, in my opinion. Protect the environment. It’s all we have.
Camera Person 1: Coming out. Coming out. We’ve got bogey coming in. Go go go! We’re going to stay up here. We’re going to stay up here.
Blockader 1: Get your hands off of her!
Camera Person 1: Hey! Get your hands off her!
Camera Person 2: Hey! What’s your badge number!
Blockader 2: I will not be moved and you will have to hurt me.
Blockader 3: She’s a seventy year old woman you could hurt her!
Blockader 2: I will not be moved. I will not be moved. This is not – I will not be moved. You’re going to have to hurt me. I will not be moved. I am a Cherokee native and you do not belong here. You do not belong here. I belong here.
Camera Person 1: Sir! Do not touch her like that!
Blockader 2: You will not get me out of here.
Camera Person 1: You are hurting her arms!
Camera Person 2: You are hurting her!
Blockader 2: You will not move me. You will not move me. I belong here, your machines do not. You’re hurting me. Your machines don’t belong here and you know this. You know this. You know you don’t belong here. I belong here. My parents are Cherokee. I belong here. Your machines are devouring my property. Get out of these lands. Stop abusing these lands. Stop! No! I’m not going anywhere.
Camera Person 2: There is no reason to man-handle her.
Blockader 2: This is my land not yours get these God-awful machines off of here. This pipeline will not go without a fight. Don’t think we don’t mean this. We are not going anywhere.
Police 1: Alright, is she connected right now?
Police 2: No.
Blockader 2: Yes I am. In a way you cannot see I am connected to this land and I will not move. I will not move.
Chanting: We are unstoppable. Another world is possible (Repeated).
Police 1: Here’s what we’re going to do. I need him. Okay?
Blockader 2: I am not moving. I will not move. This is my land not yours. You know you’re doing the wrong thing. If you break my arm you’ll pay for it. You’re trying to hurt me. Stop it! Don’t take me.
Camera Person 1: Stop hurting her!
Blockader 2: This is not your land. This is my land. Get these machines off of here. Stop this pipeline. This is my land.
Police 1: Ma’am, do me a favor. Stand up.
Blockader 2: I’m doing you any favors.
Police 1: Okay. We’re just going to scoot you over here.
Blockader 2: I belong here. I belong here. Get out of here. I belong here.
Police 1: Just keep her right here. Okay. Stay right there. Just keep her right there.
Singing: We’ve got to let the know we’re going to stop this pipe. We’ve got to let the know we’re going to stop this pipe. We’ve got to let the know we’re going to stop this pipe. Stop this pipe, stop this pipe, stop this pipe. (Repeated) Because everywhere I go, I’m going to lend a fight. Everywhere we go, we’re going to stop this pipe. Everywhere we go, oh we’re going to stop this pipe. Stop this pipe, stop this pipe, stop this pipe. Building a new world, we’re going to stop this pipe. Oh, building a new world, we’re going to stop this pipe. Building a new world, we’re going to stop this pipe. Stop this pipe, stop this pipe, stop this pipe.
Narrator: The blockades continue across Texas. From the pipe yards in Livingston to the refineries in Houston, resistance to the pipeline is everywhere.
Lief Hayman: My name is Lief. I’m from Houston and I live at the base of the sixth largest oil refinery in the United States and the air stinks. People get sick. The water’s polluted. I think there needs to be a resistance to wake these people up. I’m tired of the smell. I’m tired of the pollution, and I’m tired of profits off of our livelihoods, our future, our life.
Benjamin Franklin: My name is Benjamin Franklin and I live in Houston, so that’s the terminus of this horrible evil project that’s causing pain and suffering across the planet and will cause more so I have to go and do something. This is the struggle for our time and that’s why I’m here.
Narrator: Over fifty people have been arrested in order to shut down work at locations across the pipeline route. In total, the blockade has organized more than six months of sustained resistance, but it will take a lot more than that to stop the pipeline. The blockade must continue to innovate and discover new methods of resistance. In the city of Winona, two people have locked themselves inside a section of the pipeline between two barrels of concrete weighing over six hundred pounds each, a blockade technique that has never been attempted before. Neither barrel can be removed without risking serious injury to the blockaders.
Mathew Almonte: My name is Mathew Almonte. I’m here from Tampa, Florida, and I’m here in Texas blockading the Keystone XL pipeline. This is the first night being here in this pipe and basically we’ve set up shop here. I feel its very important for people to feel empowered to take action against resource extraction. The Keystone XL pipeline is – it doesn’t really serve to benefit anybody but the corporations that will reap all of the profit at the expense of the communities that will be poisoned through their water, through their air, and it’s just not right. And I wanted to plant myself in the middle of that fight. It’s all really tied together whether it’s here in Texas against tar sands or in West Virginia against coal extraction or in Pennsylvania against fracking it’s about coming together and making a stand, and I feel like this campaign is filled with people from all walks of life whether they’re students, or they’re workers, they’re parents, you know. Everybody that I’ve meet here is dedicated to fighting this struggle because it is one of the most important struggles that we face today. That’s why I’m here, dedicated to stay in this pipe as long as it takes.
Narrator: Before they barricaded themselves inside, this pipe was set to be buried less than a hundred feet from these homes. It’s a fact of history that all pipelines spill, and when they do, the first ones in danger are the people who live nearby. According to TransCanada, the Keystone one pipeline was predicted to spill once every seven years. Instead, it spilled twelve times in its first year alone. TransCanada has even admitted that up to seven hundred thousand gallons of tar sands crude could leak out of the Keystone XL pipeline without triggering its real-time leak detection system.
In the history of the campaign so far, the longest lasting blockades have been in the trees themselves. In the Piney Woods of Winnsboro, blockaders have raised platforms eighty feet into the trees, directly in the path of the pipeline. TransCanada’s clearing crews must cut down the trees before they can continue, but the platforms are stocked with enough food and water to last a while. And until the pipeline is stopped, these people aren’t going anywhere.
Tree Sitter 1: I’m from North Texas and I’m here because the extraction of tar sands is destroying our planet and I don’t want to spend the rest of my life having to clean up the mess that previous generations decided to put in place for us. The extraction of this type of fuel is much worse than any other type that we’ve seen. The only method that we can find now to actually do anything about it is non-violent direct action.
Tree Sitter 2: Seeing the pipeline as a major component of increasing tar sands production and extraction, I want to see whatever it takes to get this pipeline stopped for good.
Tree Sitter 3: I’m here because I think this pipeline is careless and it’s going to devastate the environment and it’s going to harm a lot of people and a lot of living beings. Part of being here has also motivated me to keep being here because, I mean, you can just look around, like, this place is beautiful and I don’t want to see it destroyed.
Tree Sitter 4: I feel obligated ethically to be here. I feel like I need to do everything I can to stop climate change and stop the environmental destruction in general that our society creates constantly and has created constantly since its inception. We need to transform society so that it’s actually sustainable. We need to undo all forms of oppression against ecological systems as well as social systems that oppress individuals and groups in our society. I’m here because I feel morally obligated to do everything I can to stop the omni-cidal machine that is our system.
Tree Sitter 2: Another key facet of this campaign and another one of the reasons I’m here is to inspire more folks to take this kind of direct action and to sort of escalate in terms of what tactics we find acceptable and to, you know, strengthen the movement and inspire more folks to come out here and do the same.
Narrator: The identity of the blockaders must be obscured because of the serious legal threats made by TransCanada against anyone who stands in the way of their profits. For months, these blockaders have been living eighty feet in the air, high above the heavy machinery eating away at the forest around their blockade. The risk of hurting these brave people is the only thing stopping the machines from ripping down the trees. TransCanada has hired out-of-state companies to do the dirty work of destroying these forests, and they’ve even recruited the local authorities, hiring off-duty police officers to serve as private security for their worksites.
The blockade is monitored say and night but the tree sit continues despite the constant threat of violence from machines and police alike. On one occasion, a TransCanada supervisor specifically told the police to use chemical weapons and tasers to disrupt the blockade, and the heavy machinery is getting dangerously close to the safety lines that support the platforms. One wrong move, and these people could be fatally injured. All day long, they can hear the sounds of destruction as danger closes in around them and at night they are blasted with spotlights so that sleep and rest do not come easily. During the course of the blockade, TransCanada and their hired security have shown complete disregard for the health and safety of those living in the trees.
Tree Sitter 5: That tree is going to kick up a huge pile of dust.
Tree Sitter 6: We could all be killed! Don’t cut down any trees that will fall on that tree or that tree or these over here!
Tree Sitter 4: It’s cutting trees that are probably like twenty feet from me. Now thirty feet, over.\
Narrator: The closer the danger gets, the more difficult it is to resupply food and water by evading the police on foot, and several people are arrested in the process. But even under stress, they dare to do more. Beyond the blockade, they weave ropes through the trees, erect monopods in the clearing and lock themselves to more heavy machinery. They do everything they can to stop the violence, but they know there is more to be done. And TransCanada continues to risk people’s lives for private profit with the help of the local police and even the federal government. In the end, the Winnsboro tree blockade lasted for eighty five days, the longest action of the campaign, but no blockade lasts forever and the Keystone xl pipeline will not be stopped by one blockade. It will be stopped by many, and resistance is spreading along the pipeline route, as well as the story of the Tar Sands Blockade.
Amy Goodman: This is Democracy Now, democracynow.org, I’m amy Goodman. We begin today’s show in Texas where a standoff is underway over construction of the Keystone XL pipeline, which would run tar sands oil from Canada to U.S. refineries on the Gulf Coast. While President Obama delayed a final decision on the pipeline until after the November election, he’s already approved TransCanada’s plans for the southern portion of the project, but as the pipeline route makes its way down from Cushing Oklahoma it’s run into resistance in Winnsboro, Texas. Dozens of environmental activists working with local landowners here have blocked the pipeline’s path with tree sits and other non-violent protests.
A group of leading climate scientists has renewed calls for President Obama to reject the Keystone XL pipeline as he nears a decision in his upcoming second term. Obama will soon decide whether to allow the company TransCanada’s plan to move tar sands oil from Canada to refineries in the Gulf Coast after putting off a decision until after the 2012 campaign. In an open letter the scientists, including NASA climatologist James Hansen write, quote “We hope as scientists that you will demonstrate the seriousness of your climate convictions by refusing to permit Keystone XL; to do otherwise would be to undermine your legacy.”
President Obama: And today we’re making this new pipeline from Cushing to the Gulf a priority. So the southern leg of it, we’re making a priority and we’re going to go ahead and get that done. The northern portion of it, we’re going to have to review properly to make sure that the health and safety of the American people are protected. That’s common sense, but the fact is that my administration has approved dozens of new oil and gas pipelines over the last three years including one from Canada. And as long as I’m president we’re going to keep on encouraging oil development and infrastructure, and we’re going to do it in a way that protects the health and safety of the American people.
Narrator: During the 2012 Presidential election, the two mainstream candidates rarely ever mentioned the Keystone XL pipeline or the disastrous consequences of run-away climate change, but that didn’t stop Green Party Presidential candidate Dr. Jill Stein from traveling to Texas herself to personally resupply the blockade in order to bring attention to this struggle.
Jill Stein: I’m Jill Stein. I’m the Green Party candidate for President, and it is such an honor to be here at the site of the Tar Sands Blockade here in Winnsboro, Texas. And I am really honored to be able to support the efforts of the Tar Sands Blockade. And I feel like I have to be here. There’s no more important place to be especially in the wake of the super storm Sandy, and I’m here as a mother, I’m here as an American, I’m here as a citizen of the planet to stand up for our children, our grandchildren, for all of us really because we are all in the target hairs right now of this climate change, this climate catastrophe which is barreling towards us. And this is just the beginning.
This is just a series of events over the past year. The hottest months on record. The warmest twelve months in the record since records have been kept. The most severe drought impacting sixty percent of the continental U.S. The worst forest fires. Seventy five percent of the Arctic has melted down decades ahead of schedule. It’s very important that we stand up, and I’m here to connect the dots between super storm Sandy, between that storm and the climate policies, the fossil-fuel policies that are taking place right here at the grounds of the Keystone XL pipeline blockade. There’s a very direct connection between these policies and the worsening of storms, drought, fire, you name it, that we’re getting right now with climate change.
We have the power to stand up like the incredibly courageous Keystone pipeline blockaders. We can take an example from their courage and break this silence, this effort to suppress the reality of the destruction of the climate that’s unfolding before us right now and which is just a taste of the devastation to come. We cannot wait four years. We cannot wait until 2020. We cannot wait. This is what we need to do and I am so honored to be able to be here to support the incredible courage of the Keystone blockaders to take that step forward, to stand up now, to reclaim our voice, our courage, and our future and to do it together. Together we are unstoppable. Thank you for caring and thank you for standing up for the climate future that all of us depend on.
Narrator: The story of the Tar Sands Blockade is far from over. There are new blockades in Oklahoma and the movement has reached out and formed alliances with the indigenous communities along the pipeline route. Together, we can stop the Keystone XL pipeline.
Ramsey Sprague: My name is Ramsey Sprague. I’m a spokesperson for the Tar Sands Blockade. I’ve been out here fighting this pipeline since august for my people, for all people. We understand that this pipeline is an extension of the slow industrial genocide that happening in Canada, that’s being experienced by the Athabascan Chipewyan people and we are here, Tar Sands Blockade, to announce our solidarity with Idle No More and we will continue to do everything that we can to halt construction, permanently, of Keystone XL and end tar sands exploitation as we understand it today.
Narrator: These actions will continue until the project is canceled, and this movement is just getting started because every mile of the pipeline is an opportunity for resistance and so many communities are directly affected. But this struggle is bigger than just one pipeline, and it’s even bigger than the tar sands. Every living community on the planet is being affected by the hazardous consequences of climate change accelerated by industrial extraction. This is about whether or not we have the courage to take action before our biosphere is no longer suitable for human life, and all the other forms of life that we depend upon. Every society and every ecosystem on Earth has only planet to call home.
The tar sands represent one of the latest threats to our planet’s health, but we still have a responsibility to resist all other forms of ecological and social oppression. We recognize that all of these struggle are connected, just like all living systems on our planet. Our actions in the coming years will determine whether or not the human species has a future on planet Earth.
The stakes have never been higher, but resistance is everywhere.