Soon after his arrest at the White House to protest the controversial Keystone XL pipeline, writer and activist Bill McKibben came to Pittsburgh to raise the climate-change alarm over the tar-sands oil the pipeline would improve access to. But some Pitt students were ahead of him.
The three students -- who were also among the 1,250 protestors arrested in Washington, D.C., in August and September -- are planning to demonstrate when President Obama comes to town on Tue., Oct. 12.
Pitt seniors Seth Bush and Nikki Luke and sophomore Eva Resnick-Day were among several hundred students from around the nation who gathered at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center yesterday for the annual meeting of the Association of Sustainability in Higher Education.
In his keynote address, McKibben urged students to get involved in the larger climate battle outside their campuses.
As if on cue, Bush, Luke and Resnick-Day -- who learned about Obama's visit only this weekend -- are asking people to meet at 11 a.m. Tue., Oct. 12, at 313 Oakland Ave., in Oakland. From there, says Bush, the protesters will march to the South Side and hope to catch the president's eye with their large anti-pipeline banner.
Obama is visiting to pitch his jobs bill in a speech at the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers training center, on the South Side. The protesters, however, will be urging him to exercise his unilateral option to reject the 1,700-mile Keystone XL pipeline, which would link the tar sands of Alberta, Canada, with New Orleans.
Opponents of the pipeline characterize the tar sands as an environmental disaster: The fuel source, also known as bitumen, is mined rather than drilled for. Its extraction devastates vast swaths of forest and pollutes the air and water. Meanwhile, refining and burning the fuel is considered dirtier than conventional oil, especially in its release of carbon dioxide, the primary cause of climate change.
With the U.S. State Department preparing to give its ruling on the pipeline, opponents point to overly cozy relations between State and TransCanada, the corporation that wants to build it. For instance, the State Department hired a company TransCanada recommended to perform the environmental analysis on the project.
But even if the State Department approves the project, Obama can reject it.
McKibben and others have taken up the warning of climate scientist James Hansen that if the pipeline is built, it's "game over" for the climate: There'll be no way to slow down the effects already causing the air to warm, sea levels to rise, and intense droughts in some places and historically desctructive flooding in others.
And that's not even counting the risk of spills through ecologically sensitive areas of the American Midwest.