A year ago, President Obama sent the Keystone pipeline project back for more review. In the months since, Mother Nature filed compelling public testimony:
The hottest year in American history.
An epic drought that drove up the price of food worldwide.
Superstorm Sandy, with the lowest barometric pressure ever recorded north of Cape Hatteras.
An Arctic melt so intense that NASA scientists said we faced a "planetary emergency."
Those abrupt and extreme changes in the planet's patterns demonstrate the stupidity of prolonging our addiction to fossil fuel, which is exactly what Keystone will do.
By providing a new and easy way to access the "dirtiest oil on earth," the pipeline will drive the expansion of tar-sands production. It is the definition of folly.
Its proponents have always claimed it will create lots of jobs (it will create some, for a couple of years, which is nothing to sneeze at -- but the real jobs bonanza comes when we move decisively toward renewable energy) or boost energy independence (which is nonsense -- this oil is destined for export). By easing the glut of Canadian oil, even its backers concede, it will raise, not lower, gas prices.
But the biggest argument for Keystone has always been: If we don't take the oil, someone else will. The oil barons boasted a year ago that they would build a pipeline to the Pacific instead -- but people across Canada have risen up to block that plan, which is now all but dead.
That same kind of movement has arisen in the United States, where Keystone has become the first environmental issue in a generation to bring Americans into the streets and jails.
Sunday, on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., the largest climate rally in U.S. history took direct aim at the pipeline. As the Rev. Lennox Yearwood said, "This is our lunch-counter moment for the 21st century," when activism can help decide the future.
And should President Obama reject the pipeline, he'd be the first world leader to block a big infrastructure project because of the damage to the climate.
That's a legacy -- the only one people will care about in the decades ahead.
Bill McKibben is Schumann Distinguished Scholar at Middlebury College in Vermont and founder of the global climate campaign 350.org.
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