Legal Rights for the Earth ???

This is ecocide. But it is not a crime – yet

Destruction, damage or loss of ecosystems is happening on a mass scale everyday.

This is ecocide.

This is the campaign to make ecocide a crime.

You can help us close the door to the ecocide and open a new one to a clean green world. The more of us that stand up and call for ecocide to be made a crime the sooner our world will change for the better.

We demand:

  • Ecocide be made a criminal offence
  • Ecocide be made the 5th UN Crime Against Peace
  • Ecocide be eradicated

Suing the US government for pollution

A coalition of green groups are suing the US government for pollution. They claim that the government has failed to protect the atmosphere. The aim of the suits is to have the atmosphere declared a “public trust” deserving of special protection, a concept previously used to clean up polluted rivers and coastlines.

The cases are likely to take years to be resolved, but if successful they could have huge implications for carbon intensive businesses by effectively forcing the government to impose more stringent emissions regulations.

Read this article from businessGreen for more information on the case.

Young activists who are part of the iMatter movement are part of the group suing the government – read their manifesto which demands the government to protect the atmosphere for future generations.



“Hands Across the Land” for Clean Energy – Thank you !

JOIN IN ON JUNE 25th,  2011   –   A Message To The World

During and after the event, share videos and photos from your beach or city on YouTube and Flickr:



  1. Subscribe to Hands Across the Sand’s YouTube Channel
  2. Upload videos to your YouTube account
  3. Email us a link to your YouTube channel
  4. We’ll add your videos to the Hands playlist

  1. Join the Hands Across the Sand Flickr Group
  2. Upload photos to your Flickr account (please make sure to geotag your event to include your state location)
  3. Add your Hands images to our group pool
Santa Monica Hands Across The Sand June 26, 2010 Photo by Nancy Smith


Thank you for joining hands for Clean Energy!  We cannot afford to allow the major dirty fuel industries to continue to control our energy policies through political influence. We must join hands on so many levels beyond what will happen this Saturday on the beaches around the world. We must join hands and demand by whatever peaceful means our leaders steer a clear path of logic towards clean energy.” -Dave Rauschkolb

What is Hands Across The Sand?

Hands Across the Sand is a movement made of people of all walks of life and crosses political affiliations and the borders of the world. This movement is not about politics — it is about the protection of our coastal economies, oceans, marine wildlife and fisheries.  The accidents that continue to happen in offshore oil drilling are a threat to all of the above.  Expanding offshore oil drilling is not the answer; embracing Clean Energy is.


Let us share our knowledge, energies and passion for protecting our planet from the devastating effects the burning of filthy fuels and offshore drilling present. On June 25, 2011, the people of the world will join hands to champion clean energy solutions to our filthy fuels problem.  Embracing a clean energy future now is the path to a sustainable planet.

What are we trying to accomplish? On a local, national and global level, Joining Hands sends a powerful visual message of human solidarity to our nation’s leaders. We are unified in the defense of the air we breathe, the water we drink and the food we consume from dangerous, dirty energy sources. Every time we join hands that message is reinforced. It’s simple and logical: embrace clean energy. A line in the sand is a powerful thing.

The Movement Started In Florida

In Florida on Saturday, February 13, 2010, a statewide gathering against near and offshore oil drilling occurred.  10,000 Floridians representing 60 towns and cities and over 90 beaches joined hands to protest the efforts by the Florida Legislature and the US Congress to lift the ban on oil drilling in the near and off shores of Florida. Florida’s Hands Across The Sand event was the largest gathering in the history of Florida united against expanding oil drilling into Florida’s waters.  Events were held from Jacksonville to Miami Beach and Key West to Pensacola Beach.

On June 26, 2010, in response to the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill Disaster in the Gulf of Mexico, Hands Across the Sand went National and Global. The event was announced and the website went live allowing event organizers sign up only four weeks prior to June 26th. It became the largest gathering of people in the history of the world united against expanding offshore oil drilling and championing clean energy and renewables. Over 1000 events were held worldwide. Events took place in all 50 United States, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico. Events were held in 42 countries outside the U.S. including Australia, Bangladesh, Brazil, Belize, Canada, China, Colombia, Costa Rica, Germany, Denmark, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Spain, France, United Kingdom, Greenland, Greece, Croatia, Ireland, India, Italy, Japan, South Korea, Lebanon, Mexico, Malaysia, Nicaragua, Netherlands, Norway, New Zealand, Panama, Peru, Poland, Romania, Sweden, Turkey, Tanzania, and South Africa.

Mission Statement

  1. To bring together like-minded individuals and organizations with the conviction to organize a Global movement to promote a clean energy future for our earth and end our dependence on dirty fuel sources. These gatherings will bring thousands of American and Global citizens to our beaches and cities and will draw metaphorical and actual lines in the sand; human lines in the sand against the threats Fossil Fuels and offshore oil drilling pose to our present and future planet.
  2. To convince our State Legislators, Governors, Congress and President Obama and world leaders to adopt policies encouraging the growth of clean and renewable energy sources in place of oil and coal.

An Opportunity of National and Global Importance

Now is the time for America and global leaders to join hands and steer our energy policy away from our dependence on fossil fuels and into the light of clean energy and renewables.

Speedier Arctic Drilling ?? What ??

Lawmakers set to allow speedier Arctic drilling

By Steve Hargreaves @CNNMoney June 21, 2011: 3:12 PM ET

Shell's new oil spill containment ship in an exercise off the Alaskan coast. Oil companies want to drill in Arctic waters, but environmentalists say they don't have enough safety equipment in place.Shell’s new oil spill containment ship in an exercise off the Alaskan coast. Oil companies want to drill in Arctic waters, but environmentalists say they don’t have enough safety equipment in place.

NEW YORK (CNNMoney) — The House is set to streamline regulations around Arctic drilling this week that would speed the development of oil and gas reserves off the Alaskan coast over the objections of environmentalists.

At issue is a series of leases held by Royal Dutch Shell (RDSA), Conoco Phillips (COP, Fortune 500), Norway’s Statoil and a handful of other companies in the Chuckchi and Beaufort Seas, which lie west and north of Alaska. The leases are outside Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

The areas have been open for drilling for years and the companies have paid billions of dollars to the federal government for the right to explore for oil and gas on them.

But gaining the final permits for drilling has been challenging as environmentalists have made it more difficult for drillers to secure the permits using procedural and legal tactics.

Supporters of the drilling argue that a significant amount of oil and jobs are at stake.

Debating arctic drilling safety: Environmentalists say the industry does not have the proper equipment in place to deal with a major oil spill in the Arctic, which would be far more challenging than the warm and accessible Gulf of Mexico.

Drill baby drill won’t lower gas prices

Marilyn Heiman, Arctic program director for the Pew Environment Group, said she is not opposed to drilling in Arctic waters eventually, but that more equipment and better procedures need to be in place before the industry begins exploration, which it wants to do in 2012.

Specifically, she wants more deepwater ports built that can handle the large ships needed in case of an accident; a containment dome on standby similar to the one BP used to cap its runaway well in the Gulf last summer, and more airstrips and other infrastructure in place to respond to an emergency.

“The Arctic Ocean is one of the most dangerous places in the world to drill for oil, and we have species there that cannot be found anywhere else in the world,” said Marilyn Heiman, Arctic program director for the Pew Environment Group. “This is too much, too soon, too fast.”

Heiman cited a news report Monday which quoted the U.S. Coast Guard commandant as saying “there is nothing up there to operate from at present and we’re really starting from ground zero.”

But Shell said it has spent millions lining up the right equipment to handle an accident.

That equipment includes a state-of-the-art oil recovery ship specifically built for the Arctic ocean, as well as a series of smaller boats, boom, and an Arctic oil tanker and extra drill ship on lease that can be called upon in the event of a disaster.

“In the extremely unlikely event of a blowout or spill, Shell would be ready to respond within one hour,” a spokeswoman for the company said in a statement.

The company also said it plans to have a capping device in place by the time it starts drilling.

Shell wants to drill 10 wells off the Alaskan coast in 2012, calling the pace something “that we would not propose if we weren’t absolutely certain we could conduct these operations safely.”

There are currently a small amount of wells producing off the Alaskan coast, but they are close to the shoreline. The new leases extend to nearly 200 miles from shore, although none of the proposed well sites are in deep water.

What slowed Alaska’s off-shore drilling: Environmentalists have held up the new permits by saying they violate the Clean Air Act, as the drilling rigs and ships servicing them produce air pollution during operations.

The Environmentalists have appealed decisions by the Environmental Protection Agency to issue the permits to an oversight board within EPA — the Environmental Appeals Board.

The House legislation removes the clean air issues around offshore drilling from the purview of that board, and relaxes the clean air standards the industry must meet.

“We can either safely produce American energy in Alaska and create thousands of jobs in the process,” said a republican staffer on the House Energy and Commerce Committee, “or ignore this area’s great energy potential and import oil via tanker from places where the environment is not a concern.”

Supporters of the drilling say the areas could yield an extra 1 million barrels a day of oil production, create 54,000 American jobs and add $200 billion to government coffers over a 50 year time period.

The United States currently produces about 10 million barrels of oil per day, including natural gas liquids, biofuels, and other products that are all used to make gasoline. The world consumes about 88 million barrels a day.

The legislation is expected to pass the House this week. There is similar legislation in the Senate, although its fate there and whether the president will sign it into law is uncertain.

The administration was supportive of Arctic drilling in the past, but has taken a more cautious stance since the BP disaster. It’s latest comment on the offshore Alaskan leases was that they are “under review.”  To top of page

First Published: June 21, 2011: 2:11 PM ET

National Geographic – Polar Bears July 2011 editorial

Polar Bears

A male polar bear investigates a whale backbone

On Thin Ice

The Arctic is warming so fast that by 2050 it may be largely ice free in summer. Without their frozen hunting platform, how will polar bears survive?

By Susan McGrath
Photograph by Florian Schulz

In August 1881 the naturalist John Muir was sailing off Alaska aboard the steamer Thomas Corwin, searching for three vessels that had gone missing in the Arctic. Off Point Barrow he spotted three polar bears, “magnificent fellows, fat and hearty, rejoicing in their strength out here in the bosom of the icy wilderness.”

Were Muir to sail off Point Barrow in August today, any polar bears he’d see would not be living in a wilderness of ice but swimming through open water, burning precious fat reserves. That’s because the bears’ sea-ice habitat is disappearing. And it’s going fast.

Polar bears ply the Arctic niche where air, ice, and water intersect. Superbly adapted to this harsh environment, most spend their entire lives on the sea ice, hunting year-round, visiting land only to build maternal birthing dens. They prey mainly on ringed and bearded seals (it’s been said that they can smell a seal’s breathing hole from more than a mile away) but sometimes catch walruses and even beluga whales.

Sea ice is the foundation of the Arctic marine environment. Vital organisms live underneath and within the ice itself, which is not solid but pierced with channels and tunnels large, small, and smaller. Trillions of diatoms, zooplankton, and crustaceans pepper the ice column. In spring, sunlight penetrates the ice, triggering algal blooms. The algae sink to the bottom, and in shallow continental shelf areas they sustain a food web that includes clams, sea stars, arctic cod, seals, walruses—and polar bears.

Experts estimate the world’s polar bear numbers at 20,000 to 25,000, in 19 subpopulations. Bears in Svalbard (the Norwegian archipelago where Florian Schulz made most of these photographs), the Beaufort Sea, and Hudson Bay have been studied the longest. It was in western Hudson Bay, where ice melts in the summer and freezes back to shore in the fall, that the creatures’ predicament first came to light.

Ian Stirling, now retired from the Canadian Wildlife Service, has monitored polar bears there since the late 1970s. He found that they gorged on seals in the spring and early summer, before breakup, then retreated to land as the ice melted. In a good year, breakup found bears packing a thick layer of fat. Ashore, the bears entered a state known as walking hibernation, their metabolisms on idle to hoard their fat stores. “Until about the early 1990s at Hudson Bay,” Stirling says, “bears were able to fast through the open-water season of summer and fall because hunting on the spring sea ice was so good.”

During subsequent years of bear-watching, Stirling and a colleague, Andrew Derocher, began to see an alarming pattern. They observed that although the bears’ population held steady, the animals were getting thinner. The western Hudson Bay bears were missing vital weeks of peak seal hunting, and the later winter freeze-up was extending their fast. By 1999 the biologists had correlated a steady decline in most measures of polar bear health with a decline in sea ice. Bears didn’t grow as large, and some came ashore notably skinnier. Females gave birth less often and had fewer cubs. Fewer cubs survived.

When that same year Stirling and his colleagues published their findings, it was still possible to doubt that warming in the Arctic had already affected polar bears. In a 1999 interview Steven Amstrup, chief scientist at Polar Bears International, who had studied bears in the Beaufort Sea since 1980 for the U.S. Geological Survey, said he hadn’t yet seen the kind of changes Stirling had. Or had he? “My aha! moment,” Amstrup recalls, “was when I realized the difficult time I’d been having getting out onto the ice to conduct my autumn fieldwork was not just an odd year or two but a prolonged and worsening trend. Shortly thereafter we began to see the same biological changes in our bears as well.”

The world didn’t know it yet, but during the summer in the Arctic Ocean, sea ice had been melting earlier and faster, and the winter freeze had been coming later. In the three decades since 1979 the extent of summer ice has declined by about 30 percent. The lengthening period of summer melt threatens to undermine the whole Arctic food web, atop of which stand polar bears.

Data have since bolstered the early warning signs. Since Muir set out in the Corwin, greenhouse gases have contributed to an average warming of the Earth of about one degree Fahrenheit. This may seem negligible, but even one degree of warming can noticeably disrupt an environment of ice and snow. It’s as if a giant hand has trained a magnifying glass over the Pole.

The sea ice above the shallow continental shelves provides the richest sustenance for polar bears, but recently the ice has been retreating far from those areas, reducing the summer habitat bears need most to survive. Whether a polar bear lives in Hudson Bay or the Beaufort or Barents Seas, it faces the same problem. Sea ice on which to hunt is available for progressively shorter periods, forcing bears to fast for longer periods. And because thinner sea ice is more easily shifted by winds and currents, bears may be swept into strange territory, forcing them to make longer, more arduous swims in open water to find favorable sea ice or to get to land.

Polar bears are strong swimmers, but swimming long distances in open water is draining and can be fatal. In 2008 a radio-collared bear with a yearling cub swam an astounding 427 miles to reach the ice off the northern Alaska coast. The cub didn’t make it. Researchers counting bowhead whales in September 2004 spotted four dead polar bears afloat after a storm in the Beaufort Sea. Scientists estimated that as many as 27 bears may have drowned in that one storm.

Females face especially hard times. Malnourished males may kill and eat cubs—and even their mothers—behavior scientists believe may become more common as food diminishes. Increasingly, getting to ancestral denning places on land can be an ordeal. On one island in Svalbard, when the sea has frozen late in the year, scientists have seen few, if any, dens the following spring. That’s when they’d normally see 20 or more, Jon Aars, of the Norwegian Polar Institute, says. Whether females find other sites or skip a year of breeding, Aars can’t say.

From childhood we create a picture of our physical world: The sky is blue, the Arctic is white. But before this century ends—and perhaps much sooner—most of the Arctic is predicted to be blue water every summer.

Can a blue Arctic support polar bears? Only in the short run, Amstrup and Stirling say.

Currents still cram drifting sea ice against the Canadian Arctic Islands and northern Greenland in summer, creating pockets that may retain enough ice to support polar bears through this century. If we can reduce the warming of the atmosphere, Amstrup says, it will not be too late for polar bears, but “if the world keeps warming, ultimately even those last refuges will fail to sustain the icon of the Arctic.”

Amazing Sea-Ice Map of Arctic

Cryosat mission delivers first sea-ice map

Map showing ice thickness in the Arctic
By Jonathan Amos Science correspondent, BBC News, Paris

This is the best view we have yet had of the thickness of sea-ice across the entire Arctic Ocean basin.

It is the first fully processed map from Europe’s new Cryosat spacecraft.

It only covers the months of January and February, but the UK team behind the data says it can now roll out the information on a continuous basis.

The extent of Arctic sea-ice has become a major issue in recent years, with summer melting appearing to outstrip what many climate models had predicted.

But a proper assessment of the status of the sea-ice requires knowledge also about its thickness – something scientists have only recently had the tools to measure from space.

Sea-ice (S.Laxon) The old ice in the Arctic tends to have rough ridges

“Some years the wind will push the ice out of the way or pile it up, and it may look from the area coverage like it’s all melted,” explained the Cryosat mission’s principal investigator, Professor Duncan Wingham.

“But it’s only when you combine the area coverage information with the thickness information that you get the product – volume. And that’s what you really need to know to answer the question about melting,” he told BBC News.

Professor Wingham presented Cryosat’s first ice map here at the Paris Air Show in Le Bourget, a major event in the space calendar.

The European Space Agency (Esa) launched its “ice explorer” last year. It carries one of the highest resolution synthetic aperture radars ever put in orbit.

The instrument sends down pulses of microwave energy that bounce off both the top of the Arctic sea-ice and the water in the cracks, or leads, which separate the floes.

By measuring the difference in height between these two surfaces, the Cryosat team is able, using a relatively simple calculation, to work out the overall volume of the marine ice cover in the far north.

Wingham’s group at the Centre for Polar Observation and Modelling, University College London, has spent the past year learning how to interpret the radar data and turn it into a form that the research community can use.

Continue reading the main story

How to measure sea-ice thickness from space

Infographic (BBC)
  • Cryosat’s radar has the resolution to see the Arctic’s floes and leads
  • Some 7/8ths of the ice tends to sit below the waterline – the draft
  • The aim is to measure the freeboard – the ice part above the waterline
  • Knowing this 1/8th figure allows Cryosat to work out sea ice thickness

This has involved calibrating the instrument and then validating its output by comparing it with independent assessments.

One such assessment employed a German Alfred Wegener Institute (AWI) aeroplane.

It obtained thickness information by flying a laser altimeter to record the distance to the top of the ice and a conductivity sensor to identify the location of seawater on the underside of the floes. Being an aeroplane, it could only record limited lines of data, but these strongly correlated with the Cryosat observations.

Another independent assessment called on a different type of radar satellite instrument known as a scatterometer, which, as its name suggests, looks at how much of the energy beamed down from space is reflected back or scattered away. This type of instrument can discern the thin flat seasonal ice from the rough terrains associated with floes that have been around for many years.

Again, what the scatterometer saw with its approach was an excellent match for the Cryosat map.

Validation of ice data The Cryosat team has been “in the field” to validate the satellite’s measurements

“We’re now processing the rest of the Cryosat data to get it to the same standard as we’re showing you here,” said CPOM researcher Dr Katharine Giles. “Then we will use that data to look at how the ice cover is changing. This is only two months of data – and we’re very excited to have our first map – but we need to compare year-on-year changes.”

Scientists already have a number of insights on sea-ice thickness in the Arctic – from buoys, from submarine sonar data, from field expeditions, from aircraft sorties such those by the AWI, and from previous generations of satellite radar and laser altimeters. But Cryosat should be a big boost to that data haul, not least because it sees the entire Arctic basin, right up to two degrees from the pole.

In addition to its sea-ice mission, Cryosat is also tracking changes in land-ice.

For this, the radar instrument carries a second antenna. By listening to the radar echoes with an additional device offset from the first by about a metre, the satellite can sense much better the shape of the ice below, returning more reliable information on slopes and ridges.

This is especially important in Greenland and Antarctica where past missions have struggled to discern events at the edges of the ice sheets – the very locations where some of the biggest, fastest changes have been taking place.

Here at Le Bourget, an elevation model of Antarctica, built from Cryosat data, was displayed. Again, this covered just a couple of months earlier this year.

Antarctica (CPOM/UCL/A.Shepherd/Esa/Planetaryvisions)

• As with the Arctic sea-ice map, this height model of Antarctica incorporates just two months of data at the start of the year

• The outer ring shows the closest older satellites could get to the pole. The inner hole is the only portion unseen by Cryosat

• The exaggerated model has been sliced open like a cake to show the position of the Antarctic bedrock under the ice

• By subtracting ice-surface height from bedrock height, Cryosat can derive ice thickness across the entire continent

Cryosat was given an initial mission plan to 2013, but engineers fully expect it to keep working until perhaps 2017. To pay for that extension, Esa will need to get new funding from Europe’s space ministers when they meet for their big conference in Italy next year.

Dr Volker Liebig, the director of Earth observation at the agency, said Cryosat had already made a compelling case for the additional support – and perhaps for something even bigger down the line.

“Cryosat is a [one-off] science mission that is part of Esa’s Envelope Earth observation programme. I think it has the makings of a [on-going] operational mission,” he told the air show presentation.

“The need for this data will not stop when we retire this mission. The first step is to run Cryosat for as long as possible, but then we have a couple of missions that have the potential to become operational – and Cryosat is one of them.”

Esa itself does not launch repeat missions. It leaves this to Europe’s meteorological satellite organisation, Eumetsat. One option also for a recurring Cryosat series would be to incorporate it into the European Union’s forthcoming Sentinel Earth-observation project. These satellites are being launched to acquire high-priority environmental data-sets long into the future.

Norwegian and Russian Border Guards meet annually

Norwegian border guards visit Russia

Russian Border Commissioner Colonel Bobrov gave all the visiting Norwegians gifts.Russian Border Commissioner Colonel Bobrov gave all the visiting Norwegians gifts.
Photo: Trude Pettersen

Last week the Norwegian and Russian border guard service had their annual exchange event where around 20 soldiers and officers from each country cross the border to see what the daily service is like on the other side.

This year’s event took place in the border guard detachment of Salmijärvi on the Russian side and Elvenes on the Norwegian side.

– Events like this are important in building relations between the two sides guarding the border, Norwegian Border Commissar Colonel Ivar Sakserud told BarentsObserver. – Norwegian and Russian guards jointly constitute one border guard. – You can almost say we have one common border and one common border guard service, he added.

According to Sakserud, the Norwegian soldiers participating in the exchange event are hand-picked from the different detachments and have been looking forwards to this day for a long time.

Head of Sør-Varanger Garrison (GSV) Jørn Erik Berntsen confirms this: – Of course this is a special occasion for the soldiers that are picked out to participate. – At what other place of duty do you get the chance to visit a Russian military camp? – It is only soldiers from GSV who have this privilege.

The 20 boys and girls in the age 19-20 years are about to finish their one-year service in the Norwegian Armed Forces. In Salmijärvi they were shown the newly renovated quarters, where the servicemen either live together with their families in apartments, or in rooms for one, two or three persons. This surprised the Norwegians, who are used to sleep in rooms for eight.

They were shown how the Russians train in recognizing attempts of illegal crossing of the border fence and how they use dogs in the service. The Norwegian soldiers got a thoroughly lesson on how to assembly and disassembly the AK-74 rifle, the Russian border guard’s main weapon, and even got to try shooting with it.

The next day around 20 soldiers and officers from different detachments on the Russian side of the border visited Elvenes border guard station and GSV’s main camp on Høybuktmoen outside Kirkenes, where they got to take a look at different equipment and weapons and shoot with the Norwegians soldiers’ main weapon HK416.

Block the proposed Keystone Pipeline from Alberta


A Call for Civil Disobedience on the Keystone XL Pipeline


June 22, 2011



Washington — Eleven veteran environmentalists on both sides of the border today called for demonstrations outside the White House later this summer to block the proposed Keystone XL pipeline from the tar sands of Alberta.


“This is one issue where the president has total control–he has to grant or deny the necessary permits. Congress can’t get in the way” said Bill McKibben, author of the first book for a general audience on climate change. “It’s where Obama can get his environmental mojo back. But we need him to lead.”


The letter’s signatories, who include some of the continent’s most prominent scientists, writers, and indigenous activists, ask citizens to come to Washington for entirely peaceful and dignified protest. They call the proposed pipeline a “1500-mile fuse to the continent’s biggest carbon bomb,” and one signatory–the climate scientist James Hansen–pointed out that there’s enough carbon in the tar sands, were it all burned, to increase the atmospheric concentration of CO2 by nearly 50%. If the tar sands get fully developed, said Hansen, “it is essentially game over” for the climate.


“I was fascinated to read Al Gore’s essay this morning,” said McKibben. “The last thing we want to do is harass the president–instead we’re asking people to dig those Obama buttons out of their closet and wear them when they protest. The president asked supporters to keep pressuring him once he was in office, and we’re going to try and make it clear there is real support for action on climate.”


Signatories of the letter include Maude Barlow, Wendell Berry, Tom Goldtooth, Danny Glover, James Hansen, Wes Jackson, Naomi Klein, Bill McKibben, George Poitras, David Suzuki, Gus Speth.


Tar Sands Action


Invitation Sign Up Guidelines Press About the Tar Sands Contact/Questions


Dear Friends


This will be a slightly longer letter than common for the internet age—it’s serious stuff.


The short version is we want you to consider doing something hard: coming to Washington in the hottest and stickiest weeks of the summer and engaging in civil disobedience that will quite possibly get you arrested.


The full version goes like this:


As you know, the planet is steadily warming: 2010 was the warmest year on record, and we’ve seen the resulting chaos in almost every corner of the earth.


And as you also know, our democracy is increasingly controlled by special interests interested only in their short-term profit.


These two trends collide this summer in Washington, where the State Department and the White House have to decide whether to grant a  certificate of ‘national interest’ to some of the biggest fossil fuel players on earth. These corporations want to build the so-called ‘Keystone XL Pipeline’ from Canada’s tar sands to Texas refineries.


To call this project a horror is serious understatement. The tar sands have wrecked huge parts of Alberta, disrupting ways of life in indigenous communities—First Nations communities in Canada, and tribes along the pipeline route in the U.S. have demanded the destruction cease. The pipeline crosses crucial areas like the Oglalla Aquifer where a spill would be disastrous—and though the pipeline companies insist they are using ‘state of the art’ technologies that should leak only once every 7 years, the precursor pipeline and its pumping stations have leaked a dozen times in the past year. These  local impacts alone would be cause enough to block such a plan. But the Keystone Pipeline would also be a fifteen hundred mile fuse to the biggest carbon bomb on the continent, a way to make it easier and faster to trigger the final overheating of our planet, the one place to which we are all indigenous.


How much carbon lies in the recoverable tar sands of Alberta? A recent calculation from some of our foremost scientists puts the figure at about 200 parts per million.  Even with the new pipeline they won’t be able to burn that much overnight—but each development like this makes it easier to get more oil out.  As the climatologist Jim Hansen (one of the signatories to this letter) explained, if we have any chance of getting back to a stable climate “the principal requirement is that coal emissions must be phased out by 2030 and unconventional fossil fuels, such as tar sands, must be left in the ground.” In other words, he added, “if the tar sands are thrown into the mix it is essentially game over.” The Keystone pipeline is an essential part of the game. “Unless we get increased market access, like with Keystone XL, we’re going to be stuck,” said Ralph Glass, an economist and vice-president at AJM Petroleum Consultants in Calgary, told a Canadian newspaper last week.


Given all that, you’d suspect that there’s no way the Obama administration would ever permit this pipeline. But in the last few months the administration has signed pieces of paper opening much of Alaska to oil drilling, and permitting coal-mining on federal land in Wyoming that will produce as much CO2 as 300 powerplants operating at full bore.


And Secretary of State Clinton has already said she’s ‘inclined’ to recommend the pipeline go forward. Partly it’s because of the political commotion over high gas prices, though more tar sands oil would do nothing to change that picture. But it’s also because of intense pressure from industry. The US Chamber of Commerce—a bigger funder of political campaigns than the RNC and DNC combined—has demanded that the administration “move quickly to approve the Keystone XL pipeline,” which is not so surprising—they’ve also told the U.S. EPA that if the planet warms that will be okay because humans can ‘adapt their physiology’ to cope. The Koch Brothers, needless to say, are also backing the plan, and may reap huge profits from it.


So we’re pretty sure that without serious pressure the Keystone Pipeline will get its permit from Washington. A wonderful coalition of environmental groups has built a strong campaign across the continent—from Cree and Dene indigenous leaders to Nebraska farmers, they’ve spoken out strongly against the destruction of their land. We need to join them, and to say even if our own homes won’t be crossed by this pipeline, our joint home—the earth—will be wrecked by the carbon that pours down it.


And we need to say something else, too: it’s time to stop letting corporate power make the most important decisions our planet faces. We don’t have the money to compete with those corporations, but we do have our bodies, and beginning in mid August many of us will use them. We will, each day, march on the White House, risking arrest with our trespass. We will do it in dignified fashion, demonstrating that in this case we are the conservatives, and that our foes—who would change the composition of the atmosphere are dangerous radicals. Come dressed as if for a business meeting—this is, in fact, serious business.


And another sartorial tip—If you wore an Obama button during the 2008 campaign, why not wear it again? We very much still want to believe in the promise of that young Senator who told us that with his election the ‘rise of the oceans would begin to slow and the planet start to heal.’ We don’t understand what combination of bureaucratic obstinacy and insider dealing has derailed those efforts, but we remember his request that his supporters continue on after the election to pressure his government for change. We’ll do what we can.


And one more thing: we don’t just want college kids to be the participants in this fight. They’ve led the way so far on climate change—10,000 came to DC for the Powershift gathering earlier this spring. They’ve marched this month in West Virginia to protest mountaintop removal; a young man named Tim DeChristopher faces sentencing this summer in Utah for his creative protest.


Now it’s time for people who’ve spent their lives pouring carbon into the atmosphere to step up too, just as many of us did in earlier battles for civil rights or for peace. Most of us signing this letter are veterans of this work, and we think it’s past time for elders to behave like elders. One thing we don’t want is a smash up: if you can’t control your passions, this action is not for you.


This won’t be a one-shot day of action. We plan for it to continue for several weeks, till the administration understands we won’t go away. Not all of us can actually get arrested—half the signatories to this letter live in Canada, and might well find our entry into the U.S. barred. But we will be making plans for sympathy demonstrations outside Canadian consulates in the U.S., and U.S. consulates in Canada—the decision-makers need to know they’re being watched.


Twenty years of patiently explaining the climate crisis to our leaders hasn’t worked. Maybe moral witness will help. You have to start somewhere, and we choose here and now.


If you think you might want to be a part of this action, we need you to sign up here.


As plans solidify in the next few weeks we’ll be in touch with you to arrange nonviolence training; our colleagues at a variety of environmental and democracy campaigns will be coordinating the actual arrangements.


We know we’re asking a lot. You should think long and hard on it, and pray if you’re the praying type. But to us, it’s as much privilege as burden to get to join this fight in the most serious possible way. We hope you’ll join us.



Wendell Berry – Author and Farmer

Tom Goldtooth – Executive Director, Indigenous Environmental Network

Danny Glover – Actor

James Hansen – Climate Scientist

Wes Jackson – Agronomist, President of the Land Insitute

Naomi Klein – Author and Journalist

Bill McKibben – Writer and Environmentalist

George Poitras – Mikisew Cree Indigenous First Nation

Gus Speth – Environmental Lawyer and Activist

David Suzuki – Scientist, Environmentalist and Broadcaster


P.S. Please share this newsletter to anyone else you think might be interested. We realize that what we’re asking isn’t easy, and we’re very grateful that you’re willing even to consider it. See you in Washington!

Squeezing Sand for Oil

At the bottom of a mine, a giant shovel devours sand and delivers it to trucks like this three-story, four-million-dollar Caterpillar, which muscle up to 400 tons at a time to extraction plants.

Like a city aflame, Syncrude’s upgrading facility burns on the twilight horizon above one of the company’s waste pits. About two tons of bitumen-laden sand are required to produce a single barrel of oil, but it’s no straight line from the mine to the gas tank. After being separated from its sandy matrix in a hot water wash, bitumen is transferred to upgrading facilities like Syncrude’s, where it is heated and processed in order to break its long, heavy chain of hydrocarbon molecules. Carbon is removed, hydrogen is added, and the new, lighter product is transformed into synthetic crude oil. From there the oil can be further refined into gasoline or jet fuel.
Dust hangs in the sunset sky above the Suncor Millennium mine, an open-pit north of Fort McMurray, Alberta. Canada’s oil sands are layers of sticky, tarlike bitumen mixed with sand, clay, and water. Around a hundred feet of soil must be stripped off to reach many deposits.


Join us:


Beneath a green sweep of fen and forest in northern Alberta lies a promise of wealth—vast layers of hydrocarbons that can be refined into petroleum products like gasoline. Undisturbed until now, these trees may soon fall: This land has already been staked out by prospectors.
Your help is needed more than ever for this effort and for the many community empowerment campaigns IEN leads. Click here to make your secure tax-deductable donation today.
Sand, water, and bitumen residues are finally piped to a tailings pond…. these ponds can be seen from space – and are leaching deadly chemicals into the Athabasca River.


Photographs by Peter Essick

Images from:


Scraping Bottom: The Canadian Oil Boom – National Geographic Photo Essay – Once considered too expensive, as well as too damaging to the land, exploitation of Alberta’s oil sands is now a gamble worth billions.

Canada…what is your stand on Climate change?

Bonn climate talks end with Kyoto Protocol left hanging

New talks on global warming ended in Bonn on Friday with the UN’s climate chief calling on world leaders to help resolve the fate of the Kyoto Protocol ahead of a key meeting six months down the road.

“There is a growing realization that resolving the future of the Kyoto Protocol is an essential task this year and will require high-level political guidance,” said Christiana Figueres, executive secretary of the 194-nation UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).

“By Durban, governments need to come forward with options that will be acceptable to all parties,” she told journalists, referring to the UNFCCC’s annual gathering, taking place from November 28 to December 9 in the South Africa city.

Kyoto is the only international agreement with binding targets for curbing
greenhouse gases. But its future is uncertain because China and the United States, the world’s two worse emitters, are not subject to its constraints.

A first commitment period covering nearly 40 industrialized countries – except for Washington, which refuses to ratify Kyoto – expires at the end of 2012.

Japan, Canada and Russia have said they will not sign up for a new round of carbon-cutting vows.

The European Union (EU) says it will only do so if other nations – including emerging giants such as China and India, which do not have binding targets – beef up efforts in a parallel negotiating arena.

“It is not enough for the EU to simply sign up for another commitment period,” said Belgium’s Jurgen Lefevere, representing the European Commission.

“We only represent about 11 percent of global emissions. We need a solution for the remaining 89 percent as well.”

Developing countries, though, have insisted the Protocol be renewed in its current form. The Protocol remains critically important because it contains proven market-based mechanisms for CO2 reduction and tools to quantify and monitor
such efforts, Figueres argued.

If Kyoto collapses, it could stymie progress elsewhere in the hugely complex, dual-track talks, negotiators here warned.

Figueres said the fate of Kyoto was closely linked to progress in the parallel UNFCCC negotiations, which include all nations under the Convention.

These talks made headway in Bonn on technical matters, but remain deeply riven on the core issue of how to share out the task of slashing carbon pollution.

“Governments are realizing that this link needs to be dealt with to get to a global solution, and that will require high-level leadership during the year.”

There will be at least three opportunities for such dialogue between now and late November, she said, including a meeting of heads of state organized by Mexico on the margins of the UN General Assembly in September.

One option discussed being closed doors in Bonn is a “political” deal to extend Kyoto commitments “for one, two, three years,” said Jose Romero, a veteran climate negotiator for Switzerland.

“That gives us some space to look for a solution,” under the other track of the climate talks, he said.

The United States recognizes actions taken by China to slow the growth of its carbon emissions, but said they should be more transparent.

“That’s the conversation that we are currently having with the developing government,” said US negotiator Jonathan Pershing, who said he had met separately in Bonn with both his Chinese and Indian counterparts.

“But we haven’t agreed on that. That is one of the outcomes that we think would be very significant in Durban.” Even if a scaled-down second round of Kyoto commitments – including the EU and a few other small nations – may be acceptable to some developing countries.

“It is better to have that than having nothing at all,” said Grenada’s Dessima Williams, chair of the the 43-nation Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS).

At the same time, rich nations must “raise their level of ambition,” she told AFP.

Under current trajectories, “we are looking at a 4.0 degree Celsius (9.2 degree Fahrenheit) increase in global average temperatures,” she said.

The figure of 2.0 C (3.6 F) above pre-industrial levels is widely viewed as a safety threshold although many scientists say it is no guarantee of preventing extensive damage to the climate system, inflicting worsening floods, droughts, storms and rising seas.

Were the laws of the earth considered in this deal?

Russia and Norway agree deal over oil-rich Barents Sea

Hong Kong flagged Nordic Barents leaves Kirkenes in the north of Norway on route to China The Barents could become a valuable shipping route

Russia and Norway have agreed a deal to divide up their shares of the Barents Sea.

The deal follows decades of negotiations between the two sides over how to divide the region.

The accord will allow companies to explore for oil and gas in the 68,000 square mile area.

The agreement has been approved by the two countries’ parliaments and will be implemented on 7 July this year.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and his Norwegian counterpart Jona Gahr Stoere ratified the deal during a ceremony in Oslo on Tuesday.

It splits the disputed part of the Barents Sea into two equally sized areas.

The region has become more accessible recently as global warming has caused the ice to melt.

There is always a tendency to talk these things up”

End Quote Julian Lee Centre for Global Energy Studies

Analysts say the melting ice could open up new, shorter, shipping routes between Russia and Norway and Asia.

Oil and gas reserves

State oil companies from both countries have expressed an interest in exploiting reserves in the region.

Russian owned Gazprom is already working with Norway’s Statoil on the Shtokman field, 310 miles off the Russian coast.

“The potential economic benefits are enormous,” said James Nixey, manager and research fellow for the Russia and Eurasia Programme from Chatham House on a visit to Norway.

“The significance of the deal is that it is widely recognised that the Arctic is a scene of future commerce and possibly future conflict,” he added.

It will allow significant exploration of the region for the first time.

The US Geological Survey estimated in 2008 that the Arctic was likely to hold 30% of the world’s recoverable, but yet to be discovered, gas and 13% of its oil.

“The expectation is that it has the potential to hold significant volumes of oil and gas because the area to the east of it has proven to be gas prone and the area to the west of it has proven to be gas prone,” said Julian Lee, a senior energy analyst at the Centre for Global Energy Studies.

However, with so much of the Arctic unexplored the estimates are unreliable.

“There is always a tendency to talk these things up because that is how you attract investment, but it’s probably far too early to say there are significant volumes of anything there until somebody looks for it,” Mr Lee added.

UK in support of Arctic Drilling

Arctic oil drilling “entirely legitimate”: UK


Britain's Minister for Energy and Climate Change Charles Hendry speaks during the Reuters Global Energy and Climate Summit in London June 13, 2011. REUTERS/Benjamin Beavan

Britain’s Minister for Energy and Climate Change Charles Hendry speaks during the Reuters Global Energy and Climate Summit in London June 13, 2011.

Credit: Reuters/Benjamin Beavan

LONDON | Mon Jun 13, 2011 10:00am EDT

LONDON (Reuters) – Britain strongly supported Arctic oil drilling, within the right safety regime, energy minister Charles Hendry said on Monday after Cairn Energy last week halted a Greenpeace protest off Greenland.

Governments around the world are cautiously backing deepwater drilling, a year after a BP oil spill at its Macondo well spewed more than 4 million barrels of crude into the Gulf of Mexico. “It’s entirely legitimate that, given the ability to carry out this work safely, this should be part of the work of the industry,” Hendry told Reuters Global Energy and Climate Summit when asked about Cairn’s Greenland activities.

“I would urge any country around the world to look at the Norwegian, British approach in terms of robust regulation.”

Norway has endorsed Arctic exploration, awarding licenses off the north. Britain has allowed probes in the rough, deep waters west of Shetland hoping to slow a decade-long slide in production in shallow seas.

Cairn is leading a charge into offshore Greenland which explorers believe could hold billions of barrels of oil. Exxon Mobil, Husky Energy and others have plans.

The company last week won a court injunction against Greenpeace aimed at preventing the environmental protest group from interfering with its drilling operations off Greenland.

Protesters have tried twice this year to delay Cairn Energy’s drilling by boarding a rig there.

Greenpeace complained that Cairn had no published emergency response against a spill. The company said Greenland authorities had required that its plans were not made public.

Companies in UK waters had to publish such plans, said a spokesman for the Department for Energy and Climate Change.

“There’s random checks, a constant process of monitoring and that’s been tightened further since Macondo,” added Hendry.


Hendry also invoked Britain’s safety regime against concerns over shale gas, new discoveries of which have cut U.S. gas prices but also raised worries over groundwater contamination.

Hendry said Britain was not considering banning shale gas exploration following a drilling suspension in Lancashire, northwest England, where two tremors were measured near a Cuadrilla Resources exploration site in April and May.

“We haven’t felt a ban was necessary. Our view has been that the safety approach which we have in the UK is sufficiently robust and as long as it satisfies those issues it’s a legitimate activity,” Hendry said.

He added that he was certain the Cuadrilla site did not contaminate water supplies, a concern which has led other countries, such as France, to consider a ban.

“I am very satisfied that it can’t (contaminate water supplies). There are several thousand feet separating the water table and where the shale gas is,” he said speaking about a visit to the site.

“We believe that unconventional gas does have a role to play and we’re keen to see that taken forward subject to very stringent safety rules and regulations.”

Cuardilla’s Lancashire site is the only area in Britain where shale gas exploration is being carried out.

Members of Parliament said last month that a shale gas ban was not necessary given insufficient evidence proving it has a negative impact on the environment.