Faiz Jaspar Abu-Jaber
There was a little protest in downtown Los Angeles on Sunday, February 17. Around 300 people marched on City Hall to show solidarity with the 35,000 plus protestors in Washington D.C. who called on President Obama to address climate change and block further construction of the Keystone XL oil pipeline.
Starting at Union Station, the crowd made its way to City Hall where actor and environmentalist Ed Begley Jr. presented speakers ranging from Congressman Henry A. Waxman and Council Member José Huizar to Gloria Arellanes of the Tongva Tribe and Rachelle Figueroa, Clan Mother of the Yamassee Muskogee Tribe.
Huizar discussed the importance of not only derailing climate change but also making Los Angeles friendlier to pedestrians and bikers in order to both reduce dependence on cars and to build community. Others spoke about respecting and preserving resources such as L.A.’s water reserves.
The event was organized by groups including Sierra Club Beyond Coal, 350.org, Tar Sands Action Southern California, NRDC and the Food and Water Watch. While there was an atmosphere of general hyper-optimism (chants of “Can we stop climate change? Yes, Yes, Yes!” could be heard), the rally prioritized the concrete objective of preventing the construction of the Keystone pipeline system.
The pipeline will run from Canadian tar sands in Alberta to refineries in the United States. It initially generated profuse political controversy due to a proposed route that passed through seismically active areas, a wetland ecosystem in Nebraska known as the Sandhills and the Ogallala Aquifer, one of the world’s largest fresh water reserves. The route has since been altered to avoid the Sandhills.
Other issues with the pipeline include dozens of eminent domain actions by the oil company TransCanada against landowners in Texas and South Dakota, potentially inflated numbers describing the economic benefits of the project, and the extant overcapacity of pipelines from Canada to the United States. While the claim that this single pipeline will destroy the environment is perhaps an overstatement, the fact remains that jobs provided by this endeavor will be temporary, profits will be fleeting and when all is said and done, an area the size of Florida will have been transformed from a healthy ecosystem into a strip-mined wasteland.
The rally on Sunday fought against that future. Though only a few hundred people showed up, it was the largest protest for climate change in Los Angeles history. Hopefully, the event will help to raise awareness of the issues surrounding the pipeline construction as well as encourage more people to start to look for new ways to reduce their oil dependency—since, in the end, the way to effect change is not only through rallies, but by each of us changing how we consume.