Time is of the essence

For Your Consideration

Alan CheahFebruary 27, 2013 

As most know, President Obama will soon decide the fate of the United States and the planet. I'm speaking of the decision on whether the Keystone XL pipeline will be allowed to cut through the middle of the U.S. from Canada to the Texas Gulf Coast.

It will transport the dirtiest and most toxic form of oil through pristine wilderness, grasslands, rangeland, farms and Ogallala aquifer. The aquifer is the single most important source of water in the High Plains region which covers South Dakota, Wyoming, Nebraska, Colorado, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Texas.

What is this toxic sludge? It is tar sand oil (Athabasca crude).

What is the risk? The obvious risks are pipeline leaks and breaks polluting the agricultural land, ranch land, and water source in these states. The greatest risk of all is the sixth mass extinction from global warming. The Keystone XL pipeline will rapidly advance that outcome.

And you thought there were only two extinctions -- so did I. The science and mounting evidence of global climate change is indisputable unless, of course, one is a denier or skeptic. Not being either, I and my wife marched at the historic Forward on Climate Rally organized by Bill McKibben's 350.org and held at the National Mall in Washington D.C. on Feb. 17.

It was most eventful to say the least and I'm not even speaking of the rally. We left home at 4:30 p.m. to catch our 6:20 p.m. flight on Feb. 15 -- no problem. Down to San Diego we went, then bounced back up to Los Angeles to catch a red-eye to Dulles International arriving at 6:50 a.m. It was smooth sailing until we got to baggage claim. You guessed it -- no baggage.

After much wrangling and almost missing our pre-booked shuttle, we finally arrived at the Kimpton Hotels Donovan House. Images of floating gently onto a mattress cloud for a good morning sleep quickly vanished when they announced our room was given away when we didn't arrive at check-in time, even though we paid for the room.

Pat Robertson would have interpreted this as a sign of punishment for believing in the science of global climate change as he believed that 9-11 and Katrina was God's punishment for our sins, and that the Haitian earthquake disaster was to punish Haitians for overthrowing French colonialism.

Fortunately, God saw fit to figuratively put his finger in the eye of Robertson when He not only gave us free unrestricted menu breakfast at the hotel, but upgraded us $900/night (peak season rate) room with free breakfasts for the next two days.

After a power nap, we were off to the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History. It was cold but the temperature for the rally the next day was even colder (18 degrees).

From 8 p.m. on, I called on the hour, but no luggage. Without the warm clothing, our effort to "stop the rise of the oceans" would have been squashed and Pat Robertson would get the last laugh after all. Just as I gave up hope, the phone rang at 11:30 p.m. The luggage arrived. God was not only on our side but apparently on the side of science -- hooray.

The day arrived. The hotel is on 14th and L. As we walked across to 15th and down towards the Washington Monument, people were funneling in from all the side streets. Some were riding their Segways. It was a very moving experience. At the monument, the crowd swelled to 35,000 strong. Some have reported 50,000.

People are getting it -- young and old. Polls show the tide has turned. We can only hope actions on the pipeline, fracking, oil drilling, coal and a carbon tax are adopted soon enough before the point of no return. The historical average of CO2 content is 286 ppm (parts per million). 350ppm is considered the limit for sustainability. We are now at 392 ppm.

Believers now outnumber deniers and skeptics. We can no longer waste time trying to convince non-believers. Instead, expend those energies calling your representatives, senators and President Obama.

Time is of the essence. Write Obama to stop XL and use EPA powers to regulate greenhouse gases. Write Congress to pass the Climate Protection Act.

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