The Power of the People, Organized

On Monday, October 31, speaking about a possible permit for the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline, President Obama’s press secretary Jay Carney told the press that “this is a decision that will be made by the State Department.”

On Tuesday, November 1, speaking during an interview at the White House with a reporter from Omaha, Nebraska-based TV station KETV, President Obama himself said that he will be making the decision.

More than that, Obama gave the rhetorical back of his hand to the false argument of pipeline supporters that it is a big jobs creator:

I think folks in Nebraska, like all across the country, aren’t going to say to themselves, ‘We’ll take a few thousand jobs if it means that our kids are potentially drinking water that would damage their health,’ or [if] rich land that’s so important to agriculture in Nebraska [is] being adversely affected, because those create jobs, and you know when somebody gets sick that’s a cost that the society has to bear as well. So these are all things that you have to take a look at when you make these decisions.

What has gotten into the President? Are we seeing the reappearance of the person who campaigned in 2008 as a strong proponent of action to “end the tyranny of oil” and address climate change?

Perhaps.  And it is important to note that Obama made no mention of climate change in his TV interview. But the most important takeaway from this positive development for Mother Earth and all of its life forms is this: when people get organized, when they are willing to make sacrifices for the common good, when they are able to build broad-based alliances and when they are able, as a result, to break through into the national mass media, changes that once seemed impossible all of a sudden become possible.

These are all things that the movement to stop the Keystone XL pipeline has done and accomplished over the past four months. This movement has built upon the leadership given by Indigenous people, in particular, fighting for years against the exploitation of the tar sands in Alberta, Canada.

It’s like the Occupy movement. Less than two months ago, who would have thought that the national conversation as defined by the news media would now be on the issue of the 1% vs. the 99%? But because a relatively small group of young people were willing to take risks in the heart of the Wall Street financial district in New York City, getting pepper sprayed and arrested, it’s an entirely new political world in the USA.

This political sea change, however, is in no way a guarantee that we, the people are going to win on the pipeline issue, much less all of the many other issues around which we are organizing. It is essential, critical, that the upcoming November 6th surround-the-White-House action be even bigger than it would have been. We haven’t really won anything yet. Things are moving in the right direction, but make no mistake, Big Oil and the Chamber of Commerce, those leading representatives of the 1%, are going to bring every lever of pressure to bear that they can to get to Obama. We can’t let up for an instant.

It’s pedal to the metal time. All out to the White House on November 6th!

Ted Glick is the National Campaign Coordinator of the Chesapeake Climate Action Network. He can be followed on twitter at http://twitter.com/jtglick. Read other articles by Ted, or visit Ted's website.