President Obama, in an unprecedented move to protect the earth’s ecosystem at the expense of big business, rejected a request to build a pipeline connecting Canada’s tar sands to oil refineries in Texas.

Some crude oil needs to be left in the ground to keep the climate from warming further, and rejecting Keystone XL will help meet that goal.

I’ve never been a fan of Obama. He was always too wishy-washy, too “middle class” and too smiley to be trustworthy. His platform of “hope” and “change” spoke to heart’s cry of millions of people in our country, and rightly so, but in the ever so vague terms that only a national politician could master. Ultimately, little change in his seven years of service can be directly attributed to his efforts, and at best I think he might have stemmed the tide of some changes that were greater and uglier than anything a single man could enact.

sunset oil rig
There is beauty, even in destruction. Credit: DN Penner /

Here, now, however, he does something wise. Perhaps it is something that can only be done on the way out of office? It’s not whether or not he approved yet another pipeline to carry crude oil to refineries and then to the guzzling belching industry that burns it, but the wisdom in his reason for rejection. Fossil fuels are the result of millions (billions?) of years of plant and animal matter absorbing energy from the sun, converting it into organic matter and dying with that energy still contained in their bodies. Fossil fuels are literally the sun itself preserved for us from eons past. Global warming is not so much a scientific theory that can be verified or rejected by collecting data as it is the very real and incontrovertible reality of the law of conservation of energy: Take that energy out of the ground from billions (millions? does it matter?) of years ago and burn it and you will add to the earth’s atmosphere the heat of a sun from that many years ago. Take that many millions of years of life, of warmth coming down to us from outside our little planet, and release it all back into the atmosphere in the space of a few hundred years and you can be damn certain you’re going to induce massive change on a global level, possibly even permanent change.

Indeed, the only way to halt global warming might be indeed to leave that heat in the ground where we found it. Of course that will hurt. It will mean

  • “Heating costs in the northeast will remain high this winter”
  • “The price of gas will not decline”
  • “Several thousands of jobs will [not] be created by the development of new oil based infrastructure”

but it will also mean

  • “The United States can reduce its dependence on foreign oil by reducing its dependence on oil”
  • Organic foods will once again become the norm
  • Mysterious diseases causing mass die offs (honey bees, Saiga antelopes, diabetes and cancer in human populations) might just cure themselves

Change is difficult, painful even. No one wants to change what they have grown accustomed to, and everyone wishes someone else would make it their problem. What we must realize, though, is that as long as we live in a world where it is possible to ignore our contribution, to feel like our car is not the one that is destroying the ozone layer, to believe that our made-in-Indonesia t-shirt is not the one that is enslaving pre adolescent children, we will never be able to get off this one-track car headed straight for disaster.

I am not calling for you to feel even more guilty about your lifestyle. I myself recently came to the realization that off-the-grid, totally sustainable living is not possible for me. The costs of contributing nothing to the destruction of our planet are astronomical. I know you agree with me. Just compare the price of an apple to the price of an organic apple. That’s the price of not destroying the planet. Just ask yourself how long it would take you to get to work if you didn’t drive a car. That’s a huge change, and chances are you are too strung out already to afford that kind of time. For me, the ultimate decision came because I realized that if I left the grid, I would be doing it alone and I would be sacrificing my ability to chase other dreams. We only have one lifetime; I am not saying waste it feeling guilty because the world you were born into was a mess from the start.

Obama, on the other hand, has the power to do something. Nothing in his life changes if he approves the pipeline. Nothing in his life changes if he disapproves the pipeline. I’m sure there was great pressure from industry to approve. At the end of his service he was most likely bombarded with juicy stock options and other marginally legal bribes in order to sway his decision. But in this case, in this one case, just this one time, a man in a position of power made a choice that most of us wish we could make, and for that I applaud him.

source: Livescience