Sierra Club to Engage in Civil Disobedience to Fight Tar Sands Crude

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The Sierra Club Board of Directors has approved the one-time use of civil disobedience for the first time in the organization’s 120-year history to fight the further exploration for tar sands crude oil.

Oil sands, tar sands or, more technically, bituminous sands, are a type of unconventional petroleum deposit, according to Wikipedia. The oil sands are loose sand or partially consolidated sandstone containing naturally occurring mixtures of sand, clay, and water, saturated with a dense and extremely viscous form of petroleum technically referred to as bitumen (or colloquially tar due to its similar appearance, odour and colour). Natural bitumen deposits are reported in many countries, but in particular are found in extremely large quantities in Canada. Other large reserves are located in Kazakhstan and Russia. The estimated deposits in the United States could be as much as 2 trillion barrels.

Recognizing the imminent danger posed by climate disruption, including record heat waves, drought, wildfires and the devastation of superstorm Sandy, the Sierra Club board of directors has suspended a long-standing club policy to allow, for one time, the organization to lead a group of environmental activists, civil rights leaders, visionaries, scientists and other high-profile individuals in a peaceful protest to dirty and dangerous tar sands. The action will be by invitation only and is being co-sponsored by 350.org.

“For civil disobedience to be justified, something must be so wrong that it compels the strongest defensible protest,” Michael Brune, Sierra Club executive director, said in a press release announcing the action. “We are watching a global crisis unfold before our eyes, and to stand aside and let it happen — even though we know how to stop it — would be unconscionable. As the president said in his inaugural address, ‘to do so would betray our children and future generations.’”

The Sierra Club will continue to use all other legitimate tools and channels to protect the nation’s water, air, land and people from polluters, and will focus intensely on moving the nation to safe, clean energy alternatives and away from the fossil fuels that have caused the climate crisis.

“The Sierra Club has refused to stand by. We’ve worked hard and we have had great success — helping establish historic fuel economy standards for cars and trucks, stopping more than 170 coal plants from being built, securing the retirement of another 129 existing plants and helping grow a clean energy economy,” Brune said. “But time is running out, and the stakes are enormous. We can’t afford to lose a single major battle. The burning of dirty tar sands crude is one of those major battles. That’s why the Sierra Club’s Board of Directors has for the first time endorsed an act of peaceful civil disobedience.”

Allison Chin, President of the Sierra Club, said the recent decision made by the Board of Directors “is not one we take lightly.”

“As a nation, we are beginning to achieve significant success in the fight against climate disruption,” Chin said. But allowing the production, transport, export and burning of the dirtiest oil on Earth now would be a giant leap backwards in that progress. The Board is answering the urgency of this threat with our decision to engage, for one time, in civil disobedience.”

© 2013, Glynn Wilson. All rights reserved.

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