Do Unto Others focuses on the Middle East, (nonviolent) social movements, and how I make sense of my place in the world. I'm currently based in Cairo, Egypt doing peacebuilding and community development.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Draw the line in the Tar Sands before it's too late

From Firedoglake:
A major two-week action involving daily sit-ins at the White House against the granting of a permit for the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline began Saturday. Just over seventy people were arrested. The action continues today, as over thirty plan to engage in civil disobedience at the White House again.
The Keystone XL pipeline, transporting petroleum, would flow from Alberta, Canada to ports in the southern US. The environmental impacts of this project would be astronomical. There is a plethora of information available about the tar sands fields in Alberta and about the high degree of processing that must occur before bitumen, a semi-solid state of petroleum, can be made into usable petroleum. This is the dirtiest petroleum around that requires the highest energy input in order to create petroleum. It's also destroying indigenous communities in Canada. An excellent documentary detailing the fatal health impacts on an indigenous community near the Tar Sands sites is available from Al Jazeera English in two parts, here and here (highly recommended).

Firedoglake continues:
The possible construction of the Keystone XL pipeline is a prime example of something that would be a huge injustice that would threaten justice everywhere. The TransCanada pipeline will wind its way from Alberta to Texas through Nebraska and ruin the livelihoods of farmers while at the same time polluting the Sandhills and the Ogallala aquifer in Nebraska. It would put the Missouri, Yellowstone, Cheyenne and Niobrara Rivers at risk of spills.
So what are people asking in their civil disobedience? They're asking Obama and the State Department to say no to this dirty tar sands oil. The Keystone XL pipeline would solidify our dependence on oil for many more decades, while greatly accelerating our approach of catastrophic global climate change.
If built, the Keystone XL Pipeline would lock America into a future of planet-warming energy dependency. Indeed, Dr. Hansen – America’s top climate scientist – has said that full exploitation of Canada’s tar sands would be “game over” for efforts to solve climate change. President Obama alone – without input from Congress – has the power to approve or reject the Keystone XL Pipeline. He will decide as soon as September whether to honor his campaign pledge to create a clean-energy economy, or to lock us in as a nation that cooks and distills filthy tar sands for much of our energy. Building this pipeline will be an economic and moral setback for clean-energy sources of all types. This is a line in the sand. The tar sands!
Follow Common Dreams for near daily press releases on the issue and the ongoing demonstrations in front of the White House. 

Saturday, August 06, 2011

East Bay represents with Arabic stop signs and good questions

I stayed at my sister's place in Oakland last week. My M.O. was to see my friends, in a band called The Tree Ring, play some great music and also to see three Giants games. I successfully accomplished my MO, but I also had a pleasant morning near the Oakland port after dropping off a friend at the 12th St. BART station. I parked and headed towards Blue Bottle Coffee when I stop sign caught my eye.

It's a double-language stop sign in English and Arabic. 'Stop' and 'Qaff.' I stopped, smiled, and snapped a photo as Oakland wormed it's way a little closer into my heart.

I arrived at Blue Bottle Coffee and while standing in line I noticed the people to my left were looking at me fairly intently. I had been getting 'Hey, it's Lincecum,' comments all week long, and frankly, I was tired of it. I looked over in their direction with two objectives: 1) to give them a full view of my face, instead of a just a profile, so that they would decide that I wasn't Tim Lincecum, and 2) to make them feel guilty for staring at me. But once I made eye contact, the women of the male-female pair made it clear she wasn't a Lincecum-look-alike fanatic by asking, "What does your shirt say?"

I am always pleased with the opportunity to talk about my shirt, that's in fact why I wear it. "In Hebrew and Arabic, it says, 'Stop the occupiers in Sheikh Jarrah, which is a neighborhood in Jerusalem.'"

I continued with the explanation as I turned around to show them the back of the shirt, "and on the back it says, 'end the occupation.'"

Others have asked me about this shirt before, such as the young man who excitedly stopped me at a Seattle Sounders game. He said he recognized the Hebrew from his Hebrew school days, and wondered what it meant. When I said the words, 'end the occupation,' his face transformed from a smile into something horribly serious, yet expressionless. He turned and walked away without even responding to my translation of the shirt.

So the fact that this Oakland couple had pretty neutral reactions was a positive sign. She responded, "so it's a pro-Palestinian shirt," more matter-of-factly than interrogatively. "No, it's a pro-justice shirt,"  I clarified.

She smiled and nodded approvingly.
Ending the occupation is good for Palestinians and Israelis, it's good for the whole world. 

Go Oakland.