Break Free: Stop the Bomb Trains
On May 14, people from across the Northeast will stand in the way of the fossil fuel industry in one of the largest actions in a coordinated, global wave of escalation. In Albany, NY, local groups have been fighting oil trains—which bring explosive fracked oil from the Bakken shale of North Dakota to the Port of Albany—for about four years. May 14th will be the first mass direct action, an escalation welcomed by the local community. This is one person’s call to action.
If I asked you to be part of a huge global day of civil disobedience for the Climate, you might well ask me “Why?” Why should I spend time and energy travelling to the distant city of Albany to shut down operation of a rail yard for a day, and then go home and back to business-as-climate-destroying-usual?
Well, I’ll let you in on a little secret. The truth is that we citizens and activists have been doing a really decent job fighting new fossil fuel infrastructure. It’s actually pretty hard for companies to build new pipelines, because of strident and sustained public opposition to them. But, I think the fossil fuel industry might be a bit confused. It seems they didn’t quite understand that it’s not just the pipelines that bother us. Transporting explosive fracked oil through our cities and towns on rickety railways bothers us too. It’s fossil fuel infrastructure. It’s the opposite end of “keeping it in the ground.” It’s more like “Frack it, transport it, refine it, send it half way around the world, burn it. Repeat.”
Fracked oil from the Bakken Shale magically became available in the mid-2000s. (http://www.what-is-fracking.com/bakken-shale/). Funny, because that’s right about exactly the time (2005) when the Bush/Cheney Energy Bill passed, exempting fracking from the Safe Drinking Water Act and exempting companies from disclosing the chemicals used in hydraulic fracturing. And of course, fracked oil and gas is not for the benefit of the communities where the stuff is fracked. It’s for the highest bidder in the global market. They can all take that “energy independence” argument and throw it right out in front of a bomb train.
But I know what you’re thinking: Please not another sign-holding, slogan-chanting protest march! And this is where I tell you the good news. This isn’t that. This time we’re actually putting our bodies in the way of the dirty, explosive oil-by-rail which sends a very different message: When it comes to fossil fuel infrastructure and global warming pollution, no means no. And yes, we can and will shut down operation at your rail yards just like we do your pipeline construction. It will take tactics that are gutsy to be effective, but we can and will break free from the dirty fossil fuels of yester-year.
We’re saying no, our cities and towns are not sacrifice zones. We’re saying yes, will remember the Lac Megantic disaster, when a train carrying Bakken crude derailed and caused an explosion that killed 47 people in the little Quebec town. It left roughly half of the downtown area destroyed, and contaminated an area so large that all but three of the remaining downtown buildings had to be demolished. We will remember, and we’ll make sure the fossil fuel companies don’t forget about it either.
And so we’re making some important connections. Why go to Albany on May 14? Because these bomb trains rumble by on tracks in the back yards of low income housing communities like the Ezra Prentice community. Residents there are victims of a botched assessment for environmental injustice by the New York Department of Environmental Conservation. We’re standing with them because there are children and families in danger right now. And because our oil soaked economy is like a smoker who is going to quit, eventually…maybe after these last two packs.
Break Free is not just against one company like Exxon, Koch Industries, Halliburton, Kinder-Morgan, TransCanada (although any chance to stick it to them is reason enough for me to go). This is really an opportunity to stand against all climate crimes and all climate criminals. Against extreme methods of extraction. Against an unjust economic system that allows these atrocities to continue as somehow inevitable and ensures that the evil elite profit off the destruction of communities, planet, and future.
So why am I hopping a bus in May to go to Break Free Albany 2016? I’m not really going because of Dick Cheney, or Charles and David Koch. I’m going because I’ve been told we need technological and social mobilization of World War II scale if we want to solve this climate crisis. We need to start treating it like the global crisis it is. And I’m not currently seeing that vital mobilization underway. I’m going because a few years ago I didn’t think that it would come to this—to global mass action by the peoples’ climate movement—but it has.
You’re not alone if you feel powerless, overwhelmed, isolated, and even cynical. But they can’t ignore climate change just like they can’t ignore thousands of people blocking the train tracks at Albany. They can’t ignore millions of people all over the globe saying the same thing—“Keep it in the ground!”—and acting on it.
If you’ve done the chanting and the marching and the letter writing, this action is for you. If you haven’t done any of those things, this action is for you. If you have something to say, this is a big chance to say it in bold and effective non-violent direct action. I’m going because that’s the most important thing I can do.
Jane Pekol is an active member of Central Vermont Climate Action, a 350 Vermont Node group. For more information about this Saturday May 14, 2016 Break Free direct action and to get on the bus to Albany check out www.albany2016.org and http://www.albany2016.org/the-action/getting-to-albany/. Non-violent direct action training is strongly encouraged will be offered Friday night and early Saturday morning. Join the local movement to solve the global climate crisis by sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org or checking out Central Vermont Climate Action on facebook.