PORTLAND, Oregon- Around 11 AM, dozens of activists from the Trans and Women’s Action Camp (TWAC) erected a tripod blockading the entrance to the downtown office of TransCanada, dropped multiple banners and raised a ruckus outside the office. Environmental and social justice activists, indigenous communities and concerned citizens have come together this summer under the slogans ‘#IdelnoMore, #fearlesssummer, and ‘#summerheat’ to protest extractive industry. TWAC stands in solidarity with indigenous folks whose land is exploited for the extraction of tar sands; with the communities that are forced to live in toxic environments; and with all people whose homes lie along the route of the Keystone XL pipeline and who face the repercussions of an inevitable pipeline spill. TWAC also recognizes the ecological consequences of the tar sands and the ecosystems that have been destroyed for TransCanada’s profit.
NASA’s leading climate scientist, Dr. James Hansen has called the Keystone XL pipeline “a fuse to the largest carbon bomb on the planet.” Hansen has said that this could mean “game over” for the planet. Tar sands are currently being surfaced mined in Alberta, Canada, destroying the Northern Boreal Forest including the indigenous lands rooted in the bioregion. The Keystone XL will pipe tar sands, to Port Arthur and Houston, Texas, to be refined, destroying every community in its path. Yudith Nieto, a TWAC participant who traveled from a community in Houston affected by tar sands refineries, says, “I am committed to amplifying the voices of communities of color that are systematically silenced, like mine, that are being disproportionately affected by environmentally destructive industries, and experiencing racism and classism.”
Transcanada has frequently come under fire for repeated violations of safety and environmental standards and has been the subject of many protests across this continent. Tar sands are an incredibly corrosive substance which increases the risk of spills. These spills have caused irreparable damages to the ecosystems and the people who live there. Although TransCanada maintains that their pipelines seldom spill, historically these pipelines have spilled with unprecedented frequency and with devastating effects on employment and the economy. Whistle blower Evan Vokes said the corporation fosters a “culture of noncompliance” with “deeply entrenched business practices that ignored legally required regulations and codes” and carries “significant public safety risks.”
This protest comes on the heels of TWAC, a weeklong camp in the forest where nearly 100 transgender and women activists met to build skills in a supportive environment and to organize collective resistance around an issue of significant concern to social and environmental movements. The focus of this year’s action is the many injustices entailed by the extraction, transportation, and refining of tar sands. Steph Cascadia who risks arrest today at the top of the tripod outside TransCanada’s office, says, “Extraction of the tar sands is the most destructive project on the
continent. It threatens the integrity of the entire biosphere, not to mention the First Nations peoples dependent upon access to clean water, land, and air for the health of their communities.”