(Photo credit: “Overpass Light Brigade”)
Not satisfied to wait quietly or sit idly as the Obama administration continues its deliberations over the approval or rejection of the Keystone XL pipeline, students from over fifty U.S. colleges have announced their intention to organize and partake in an “unprecedented” day of protest and direct action at the White House in less than three weeks.
In a “manifesto” sent out Tuesday explaining their purpose and promote what they’re calling “XL Dissent,” the students say their goal is to “set the record for the largest single-day act of civil disobedience at the White House in American history” as they denounce the Keystone XL pipeline and the President Obama’s “all-of-the-above” energy which they (not to mention climate and energy experts) say is driving the dual crises of global warming and climate change.
“We are young, awaiting a future fraught with uncertainty,” the statement reads. “This will not deter us from participating in an act of civil disobedience. Indeed it has compelled us to organize one.”
Scheduled for Sunday, March 2nd, the youth-led action will take place following a national student divestment conference on Saturday in the nation’s capital.
Though the organizers and co-signers of the call to action hail from schools large and small, public and private, and from all over the country, the message from the students is unified. As they continue to coordinate logistics and raise the necessary funds, the students say the president has no wiggle room in order to meet their demands.
“Obama was the first President I voted for, and I want real climate action and a rejection of the Keystone XL pipeline,” said Nick Stracco, a senior at Tulane University. “The people that voted him into office have made it absolutely clear what we want, and that’s to reject Keystone XL.”
“We are young, awaiting a future fraught with uncertainty. This will not deter us from participating in an act of civil disobedience. Indeed it has compelled us to organize one.” —’XL Dissent’ manifesto
And Aly Johnson-Kurts, who is taking a gap year from Smith College to help fight the climate crisis, said: “As young people, the Keystone XL pipeline assures irreversible environmental destruction. We stand in solidarity with First Nations communities and other groups on the front lines who have been fighting Tar Sands development for years, and call on President Obama to reject this pipeline to prevent climate catastrophe from defining our future.”
Though the industry has tried to suggest that the expansion of Canada’s tar sands mines will continue with or without the construction of the Keystone XL, the students reject that as self-interested, corporate spin.
As The Nation‘s Peter Rothberg recently reported:
The tar sands, also known as the oil sands, are one of the largest remaining deposits of oil in the world, and efforts to extract the resource from a mix of clay and other materials underneath Canada’s Boreal forest have created the biggest, and by the accounts of numerous scientists and environmental groups, one of the most environmentally devastating energy projects on earth. For details and background, the Natural Resources Defense Council has compiled an extensive document.
The Keystone XL fight has become an iconic issue for environmentally minded young people across the country, many of whom are involved in local campaigns to help stop the pipeline or the broader fossil fuel divestment campaign, which has spread to over 300 universities across the United States.
“Rejecting Keystone XL will help keep the tar sands where they belong, buried safely in the ground,” the students say. “It will protect communities that are already struggling to survive. And it will send a resounding message that the days of unchecked fossil fuel recklessness are coming to an end.”
Receiving a shout out from 350.org co-founders Bill McKibben and Phil Aroneau on Tuesday, the group’s crowd-funding effort received a publicity bump when the respected activists and author tweeted:
Others continued to use the #XLDissent hashtag to support the organizers and spread the word via social media:
Tweets about “#XLDissent”
From the XL Dissent “manifesto” signed by student activists:
So here is our plan:
On March 2nd, throngs of young people from around the country will converge at Georgetown University to demand of President Obama that he follow through on the promise he made there during his speech. From Georgetown, we will march to the White House. When we get there we will have a huge rally featuring speakers from communities that are at the frontlines of the fight against tar sands oil.
We will proceed to engage in an act of peaceful and principled civil disobedience at the White House gate. We hope that this action will set the record for the largest single-day act of civil disobedience at the White House in American history. You will learn about the exact details soon, but for now we can say that this will be different from previous White House protests. Emboldened by our passion and our frustration, we will partake in an unprecedented action to denounce the Keystone XL pipeline and the “all-of-the-above” energy approach that makes such fossil fuel projects possible.
We ask you to join us in Washington, D.C. on Sunday, March 2nd for this action.