Regarding fossil fuels
Everyone wants to believe the agreement reached in Paris is definitely “better than nothing.” For all countries, big and small, this “self-prescribed” neutrality climate pledge of 2 degrees-with 1.5 Celsius appears to be a good idea. However, voluntary compliance seems a rudimentary flaw in the plan–a serious misstep in creating the setting for this somewhat lofty, more likely unachievable goal. According to 350.org, “this agreement finalized by politicians” is unmonitored (for all practical purposes) and voluntary, leaving many skeptical as it should us all. While it may look beneficial on paper, as a practical application it makes little sense. Another flaw is its intent to begin leaving fossil fuels in the ground at mid-century—another serious misstep for its failure to address the current crisis, a crisis fully exposed by the scientific community, yet underplayed by the greed of others.
Who are responsible for creating this nonbinding, voluntary, self-monitored deal? Huh? (Answer me that!)
As broadcast on Democracy Now!, the treatment of “Rising Tide” activists and others in Paris was unsettling. Rising Tide was the brains behind “Shell No” and the resistance to Shell’s oil drilling rigs seeking shelter at the Port of Seattle. They, along with a coalition of organizations and individuals, also resisted Shell’s plan to drill in the Arctic. Peaceful kayak demonstrations were staged to draw attention to the proposed Arctic oil drilling—a proposal with potentially immeasurable threats to waters and people. Known as peaceful and informative group in Paris, Rising Tide and other individuals were forcibly removed from the “Paris Petroleum Fair” for nothing more than a gathering to expose the plan of the corporation-Engie to frack across Europe. The company is also known in Australia for its effects on health and the environment by its coal industry. For this peaceful appearance, they were forcibly removed from the Paris affair, many carried out in the arms of police wearing riot gear and away from the booths set up for fossil fuels corporations to exhibit their wares. Journalists were blocked from filming.
So what does this say for the rest of us and our voice in the climate summit in Paris? Not much.
It leads one to wonder whether this supposed quantum leap for climate control gives us any leverage for our own grassroots posturing for the health and safety of our citizens here in Washington or Grays Harbor or Vancouver or Anacortes or Cherry Point. We are a citizenry that is in opposition to an unbelievable 20-some proposals to place billions of gallons of oil and coal in our own backyards and in and on our coastal waters. Must we wait and see if the Paris “voluntary” agreement plays out? Must we wait until all the crude oil has been fracked in North Dakota and hauled through our state? Must we wait until all the crude oil has been barged out and tankered away to China? Must we wait in the anticipation of these billions of gallons of coal and oil to be burned and the carbon emissions blow back to Washington contributing to our carbon emissions here and elsewhere? Wait and see as the agreement states, until 80% fossil fuel is still left in the ground-checking every five years to see if everyone is following the Paris playing rules?
Time is of the essence…we need leverage here and now. Excuse me if the Paris “Agreement” seems so far away, so nebulous, too big or badly organized to function efficiently: unwieldy. That it requires too much watchdogging. And there remain several, more legitimate questions: How does this “agreement” trickle down? Better, yet, does it trickle down to the people at the bottom of the power heap? Were the people equitably, or even remotely, represented at COP21? Probably not, if Rising Tide was shown the door at this Paris Exhibit. Probably not, if most were in the streets carrying signs and not at the table talking. Were the people by the railroad tracks in the blast zone or living on the edge of toxic coal mines and terminals here in the U.S.A represented? The Indigenous peoples in North Dakota, the Bakken Shale, whose homeland is being toxified and fracked to death-now-today! Talk about a government ignoring the plight of a suffering group! You will find it right here in this country. In the blast zone!
It is difficult to grasp the idea that progress was made in Paris and to be reassured that the effects of climate change effects will be lessened. An agreement that will “begin leaving fossil fuel in the ground at midcentury” is especially hard to grasp when you are sitting in your house near the railroad tracks in Aberdeen, Washington, waiting for those explosive, polluting crude oil trains to come rolling by on a more than daily basis. The threat of losing your home is very real. The threat of losing the value of your home by 30% is more real.
And what about the millions of gallons of oil placed beside a wildlife refuge that hosts thousands of globally migrating shoreline birds; the monopolization of the Port of Grays Harbor by 2.7 billion gallons of crude oil, yearly. The oil barges and tanks that are coming will be here at the expense of the Quinault Indians’ treaty rights of 1856. Each crude oil train carries far more than was spilled by The Exxon Valdez in 1989 on waters not yet restored and financial obligations not yet paid to those who lost everything. It could happen to us.
In spite of public outcry and 122,000 public comments against coal and crude oil shipments by rail, and against Imperium & Westway’s storage and shipping in Grays Harbor, the beat goes on. Those living in Vancouver await the verdict of Tesoro—the largest proposed crude oil terminal in America poised for operation. While Paris talked, Tesoro readies to fire up their business of oil, toxicity, and the probable ruination of a coastline and marine life. Big Oil Tesoro needs only a wink and a nod from our governors. But he could say, “No, now; we’re not waiting for mid-century.” He could volunteer to implement climate change here in his home state. Now.
As for me, this Paris voluntary climate change stuff rings less of progress and more of placebo—the logic of it escapes me. Perhaps there is little logic to it, huh, Governor? Undoubtedly, Washington State’s governor took notes on ways to implement the Paris Climate Agreement in order to decrease carbons and save our lives, health, water and environment-beginning with efforts here in Washington State. Right now, before mid-century when the Paris Agreement fires up. Right now is the chance for the “green” governor to help us continue our status as the Evergreen State! We cannot wait for the Paris agreement to kick in. No to fossil fuel infrastructure in Washington State…now.
Paris is too little, too late. It may be better than nothing. We’ll see come midcentury or beyond.
Carol Seaman lives on the Chehalis River in Grays Harbor.