So far, October and November have ushered in victories for environmentalists. Corporations and fossil fuels have been soundly defeated or exposed on many fronts, from the dismissal of the Keystone XL pipeline project, to the revelation that Exxon knew about climate change by the mid-80s, and denied it. More than anything, the news items below stand as proof that activism gets results.
Nurses welcome suspension of application for Keystone XL
After a long battle, it seems that the controversial Keystone XL pipeline is now a pipe dream for corporations, and little more than an unpleasant memory for the environmental activists who have been fighting it. The announcement came Nov. 2 that TransCanada was suspending its U.S. application for approval of the project.
At the forefront of the celebrations was National Nurses United (NNU), the nation’s largest nurses organization, whose workers have long opposed the pipeline. “Today’s announcement is a reminder of the power of public protest by tens of thousands of environmental justice and climate activists, First Nation members, ranchers, nurses, and social activists across the U.S. and Canada who have raised public awareness about the threat posed by the pipeline,” stated NNU co-president Jean Ross, RN.
The NNU went on to praise Sen. Bernie Sanders, another longtime opponent of Keystone XL. Ross remarked, “His outspoken public advocacy on the issue, in joining with activists who have worked to stop Keystone, has helped raise the public debate in the Presidential campaign, and encouraged others to also oppose the project.”
Ross concluded, “As a society we need to reduce the effects of environmental factors, including climate change, that are making people sick and endangering the future for children.”
Obama cancels oil drilling leases in the Arctic
After teams of kayaktivists blocked oil rigs and joined in with the armies of other activists who cried out in opposition, Shell withdrew its plans to drill for oil in the Arctic. The corporation quietly backed out after wasting over $7 billion there and making a series of pitiful blunders.
But if the Arctic drilling project is dead, then on Oct. 18, President Obama laid it to rest. The U.S. Interior Department cancelled the two drilling leases for the Beaufort and Chukchi Seas. Now Shell will no longer have the opportunity to restart its efforts, as demonstrated two days prior to the announcement, when the department rejected the company’s request for an extension on the lease. The department noted that the corporation could not properly illustrate how it would take advantage of the extra time.
“This is a historic decision to keep Arctic oil in the ground that will be felt for years to come,” said Greenpeace spokesman Travis Nichols. “It’s great news for the Arctic and for everyone fighting against extreme fossil fuel projects. This is [also] the right move for President Obama to secure his climate legacy.”
Exxon knew about climate change, denied it anyway
But Shell is not the only oil company thought to be in a state of embarrassment. Investigation by two separate teams – one at Inside Climate News, the other at the LA Times – has uncovered a startling fact about ExxonMobil – that the company knew everything about climate change during the 1980s. The corporation then, of course, spent the decades that followed spreading and funding climate denial.
Drawing public attention with the Twitter hashtag #exxonknew, the news publications are currently doing further reporting on the matter. In the meantime, presidential candidate Bernie Sanders has called upon the Department of Justice to investigate the matter. Sanders said, “Exxon’s scientists did studies and told the leadership of Exxon that climate change was real and potentially very dangerous. Exxon took in this information and proceeded to spend tens of millions of dollars on organizations whose job was to deny the reality of climate change. If that’s true, that happens to be against the law. That is a violation of racketeering legislation.”
He added, “The scientist community is virtually honest. But when you have people like the Koch brothers and ExxonMobil spending huge amounts of money trying to deny reality, it slows up the entire world from directly addressing what is an international crisis.”
In agreement with what Sanders has said, ThinkProgress further clarified that ExxonMobil could be held liable for violating the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO) if it’s discovered that the company worked to suppress knowledge about climate change.
It is still not known whether the Justice Department will pursue the matter, but it’s very likely that attention will continue to be drawn to this controversial issue.
Photo: Nati Harnik/AP