When I first heard about Bill McKibben's zeal to be arrested, on behalf of the effort to prevent the Keystone XL pipeline, scheduled to run from the Alberta, Canada tar sands, to gulf coast oil refineries, I was dubious. I tend to look at Mckibben as a boomer environmentalist, the kind with pie-eyed, top-down notions of an eco-technic America for 300 million Americans, with readily available fossil fuels, as if more than a bare handful of Americans actually care about the particular source of the energy we burn. I imagined him and a few hundred others arrested, America yawning in the face of more immediate concerns, namely, the economy, Obama signing off on the permit because not to would be played like a treason against America and the death of jobs, adding another nail in the proverbial coffin of his presidency, cum 2012. And everyone would go home resigned to the next Environmental battle, ever more weary in the awareness that America is likely to burn every last fossil fuel it can, unto the very destruction of the biosphere, so as not to address what the end of fossil fuels actually means for our civilization.
The Alberta tar sands are a vast reserve, equivalent in volume at least to Saudi Arabia in it's prime. They are equally more vast a dirty business to extract, making generationally unrecoverable moonscapes potentially horizon to horizon, upriver of Lake Athabaska, the Great Slave, the Mackenzie River and the fragile arctic. The tar, turned into transportable oil by toxifying thousands of gallons of water for every barrel of oil, would then be transported across America's heartland, to the gulf coast, where it would be turned into gasoline, diesel, airline fuel et al, to be sold in the global marketplace, landing wherever it will fetch the highest price. Hardly contributing to a job anywhere in America, but certainly maintaining jobs on the gulf (and maybe a kind of army to protect the pipeline - plenty of warriors looking for jobs), and enriching a few who will then invest their ill-gotten gains globally, in the way of an American elite who are sacrificing America in the name of global market share.
Carl Pope, Chairman of the Sierra Club, had a nice assessment of this, in a recent blog post. He's another I tend to view through the lens of my assessment of the big time Environmental Organizations as better at paying staff than framing the argument. But his words clarified my notion of McKibben's zeal, and while I don't think the sacrifice will have much affect on Obama'a decision, I certainly admire it, even if it was only a few days in jail, though that few days being a clear sign from above, about where this is headed. The fact is, the work for the kind of eco-technic future people like to paint doesn't begin tomorrow as much as it did begin about 40 years ago, and then was effectively and widely abandoned in the advent of our zeal toward Empire and the Presidency of that man who is now a god, Ronald Reagan.
The idea that Obama will deny the permit is almost laughable. On what grounds? Saving the Earth? Yeah, good luck with that. Not only has he shown no willingness to take any stand on anything but quintessentially Liberal and increasingly, ideologically Conservative ideas, he has to face a loud and exceptionally influential segment for whom nothing about the Earth is as sacred as the right to transform it into garbage, which is what the bulk of the current economic model amounts to in the end. And even if he takes a stand, what does he have to give? Fourteen trillion dollars in debt; he'd have to tax the arrogance out of corporations, and everyone making more than a million dollars, to pay for that eco-technic future, and pay off the debt - which I'm all for by the way. But there isn't an idiot in Congress talking that kind of Americanism, and most Americans are too chicken-shit to make it happen (remember, it's in the cattle feed.)
I had one of those burgers today, with a friend who tolerates my oddities, and my relentlessness on certain things. I advised him to skill himself, as much as possible, with an appreciation for mastery. He and I share a dream of land and water flowing out of the ground and big gardens and grape and hops vines and fields and big woods, and guitar lessons and deer gutting, and other such pursuits. He's a kind of wizard, actually, and gets paid like one, about as useful as anyone I know, with a beautiful family. Just what a good community needs. He sees the way people are losing jobs that took them 25 years to earn, that won't be filled domestically, shipped permanently to foreign countries, until such time as Americans are willing to do the job for the same pay a Filipino is willing to accept. Filipinos, perhaps someday, burning a share of the Athabaskan tar sands, quickening the global decline toward economic and ecological ruin, or at the very least, more of this weird rule of quasi-global overlords, American mostly in name.
Right. Maybe I'm not such a great beer drinking companion, but I don't have many illusions left about where this whole operation is headed, this epic collapse that very likely awaits America, and the species Homo sapien sapien. But who can say what will come of it? I keep saying too, this universe is vastly more mysterious than we have been led to believe, and there's no saying we won't evolve - as if we aren't in this very moment, evolving.
Every morning in my back yard for a week now, the monarchs have been gathering. There is a five year old Liatris, a rough blazing star as tall as I am, that from morning till evening, has up to twenty or more monarchs feeding from it. There are Liatris, rough and otherwise, elsewhere in the yard and on the boulevard, but this one is visited by all the forty or more monarchs that are in my yard at any given time, because it has the advantage of being the healthiest, in the quietest spot. It puts into stark contrast Inspector Harold, who showed up again, shouting something at me with his first words, telling me to clean up my boulevard and clear the sidewalk, which is more like a walk through a woods and woodland edge, on a well traveled path. The first image in my head after he shouted at me before I even had a chance to acknowledge him, was my Brazilian ironwood sword; but I'm a civilized man, and I tried to have a conversation with him instead, but he walked away from me, to file another letter. That will be about a dozen, or twenty letters this year, from my friendly Inspections Department. There are people who want to come to my yard to film these butterflies, but that and the abundance my yard represents is lost to a few of my disaffected neighbors, who channel their ignorance into the inspections department who then take the opportunity to generate revenue, forcing poor Harold to have to deal with me.
Harold nor his employers can dim for long my joy about the butterfly, or the first heavenly blue morning glory to bloom this year, five of them, with many more to come soon. It's been a long wait, as the more aggressive uncle ott's with their smaller purple, red and pink flowers, have been gradually taking over much of the yard for most of the last half of the summer, as they always do; once I see them blooming, I lose me zeal for pulling them out. There are asters and golden rod blooming in the yard and on the boulevard. In short, many of the vegetables have peaked and are drying up, at the same time my yard is about to burst with color, on-going until the frost. It's wild, and I love it. Because the more crazy the world gets, the more clear I become about what I love.
As for that god-damned pipeline, any act toward it that isn't about preventing it, is an act of tyranny, and a threat to America.