Monday, July 13, 2015

Oil trains, coal trains: extractive economics vs. people and place

On Saturday -- on my way to a march protesting the transport of Bakken oil via "bomb train" through Richmond, California and other cities and towns -- and within lethal range of homes, schools, churches, shops, and workplaces -- a coal train was slowly rolling south (toward the Port of Oakland) as I stepped off the BART train. Its engine was too far ahead to see from the platform. After hauling my bike down the stairs, through the station, up some more stairs, and peddling to the corner of W. MacDonald and 16th, where I met and chatted with a friend, then finally headed west toward the march's starting point ... yep, that the train was still chugging past.

That was dispiriting.

On the other hand, the march that kicked off at Atchison Village, stopped at the entrance to Kinder Morgan's Richmond railyard, and wound up with a rally at Washington Park, was spirited and colorful. The photo below shows Forest Ethics organizer Ethan Buckner speaking to the crowd at Atchison Village.

Ethan spent the night in jail earlier in the week, arrested by the California Highway Patrol for hanging a banner off a railroad bridge in Benicia, part of a week of action aimed at stopping lethal transport of volatile crude (whose extraction via fracking from the Bakken formation dangerously exacerbates CO2 emissions that are changing Earth's climate, not to mention the earthquakes and fouled aquifers) along routes that endanger anyone and everything within a kilometer of the tracks (see the Canadian National Post timeline of the Lac-Megantic train disaster, in which a bomb-train killed 47 people).

Here's an excerpt from a call to participate in Saturday's march:
In Richmond, the fight against crude by rail is the latest example of the fossil fuel industry’s blatant disregard for the climate and the health and safety of communities of color. We know we don’t need this toxic and explosive extreme oil - already, our communities are building solutions for climate resilience and social justice. Together, we demand an end to extreme fossil fuels as we usher in a just transition to a clean, equitable, and thriving economy for all.

This summer, the fight against oil trains is heating up across the Bay Area, California, and North America. Richmond is on the front lines of two major oil train fights: first, environmental justice leaders have been fighting to shut down the illegal Kinder Morgan oil trains terminal, which was permitted behind the backs of the community. In addition, the proposed Phillips 66 oil trains terminal in San Luis Obispo County would bring an additional 2.5 million gallons of toxic, explosive tar sands oil daily through the city. Already, the climate justice movement in Richmond and beyond have been stepping up to fight both projects. Now is the time to turn up the heat.
So what about that coal train?

Well, I can't say for sure but I'm guessing it was headed for the Port of Oakland, where the city (both government and citizens) and real-estate developer Phil Tagami are in a nasty fight over whether the dirty coal is to be shipped through the port. A rally followed by a speakout at the Oakland City Council meeting next Tuesday, 21 July, will demand a coal-free Oakland.

The threat to people and planet posed by our deeply-embedded reliance on fossil fuels to power economies around the world isn't going to be neutralized easily. Anyone who has paid the least bit of attention to climate change politics over the last fifty years knows that. Regular people need to engage en mass if we're going to successfully drive a wedge between politicians and the massive energy companies that grease their every lubricious surface.

Later this year, the United Nations Conference of Parties will have its 21st annual meeting, in Paris this time around (COP21 is one of the meeting's several appellations). Here in the Bay Area, organizing has begun for a mass action to demand "a global agreement to implement dramatic and rapid reduction in global warming pollution" (from the emergent coalition's Points of Unity statement, to be finalized later this week and published online soon). The coalition keeps tweaking its name, but this week it's the Northern California Climate Mobilization.

What's happening in your part of the world?

Related posts on One Finger Typing:
The lemming situation: things we've known for 50 years about environmentalism
Human are like rats and cockroaches: the coming feudalism
Unvarnished truth is hard to swallow

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