Congress’ pre-Christmas approval of a two-month extension of the payroll tax cut came with a lump of coal for President Obama: a provision that forces him to make a decision on whether to allow construction of the controversial Keystone XL pipeline. The pipeline, which would carry millions of barrels of toxic tar sands from Canada across 1,600 miles to Texas, has been fiercely opposed by the faith and environmental community. A petition by Faithful America opposing the pipeline already has over 5,000 signatures and Interfaith Power & Light, which works with over 14,000 congregations nationwide, has mobilized its network in opposition to the proposed project.
Of course, that hasn’t stopped proponents of the pipeline from making inflated claims about its ability to create jobs and using the issue as a political hostage. Moreover, the entire debate has brought into sharp focus the influence that the oil and gas lobby has over our political process. Until our leaders decide to seriously invest in a national clean energy strategy, Big Oil’s lobbyists will continue to have a stranglehold on our environmental and energy policy.
The good news is that President Obama still has the ability to delay or stop this dangerous project. But even that is unlikely to be enough to permanently stop the pipeline. If the oil companies make a renewed push, expect the faith community to raise their voices even louder in opposition to this assault on God’s creation.
Photo credit: tarsandsaction, Flickr
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At the U.N. Climate Change Conference in Durban, South Africa, Catholic Cardinal Oscar Rodriguez Maradiaga, president of Caritas Internationalis, said a special Mass at Emmanuel Cathedral. In his homily, Cardinal Rodriguez Maradiaga highlighted the moral imperative to develop global policy solutions to the climate change crisis and the great humanitarian crisis from climate change that will result if we do nothing.
From the Cardinal’s homily:
Barely a week ago, torrential downpours caused a great deal of suffering and death in Durban. Don’t we realise that the climate is out of control? How long will countless people have to go on dying before adequate decisions are taken?
It’s true that in faith we wait “for the new heavens and the new earth” as the second Reading told us, but this does not mean indifference or complicity with those who destroy this land where we live. “Living holy and saintly lives” means living in justice with creation and the environment, and especially with the poor people who are the primary victims of this serious problem.
In the desert John “cried out” the need to prepare a way for the Lord. Today, in the desert of our planet Earth, and in the desert of our hearts, the same voice is ringing out. This conference of delegates from so many countries cannot remain as a voice silenced by economic power.
Read the whole thing at Think Progress
Photo credit: Christoph Muller-Girod, Flickr
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As the Obama administration debates whether to approve the permit for the proposed Keystone XL oil pipeline–which would carry millions of barrels of toxic tar sands oil from northern Canada over 1,700 miles to refineries in Texas–the faith community continues to raise their voices against this dangerous project.
NASA climate scientist James Hansen has said that “if the tar sands are thrown into the mix, it is essentially game over” for the earth’s climate. Reaching the oil in the tar sands will require cutting down hundreds of thousands of acres of boreal forests — a natural carbon reservoir. And a rupture in the pipeline could poison the source of drinking water for over two million people.
The pipeline was relatively unknown until climate activists spent two weeks protesting and getting arrested in acts of civil disobedience outside the White House to draw attention to the issue. Religious leaders played a key role in those protests and are planning to do the same when they return to DC this Sunday.
Faithful America is running a petition to show solidarity with these faith leaders and demonstrate their opposition to the pipeline. The petition is directed at President Obama, who is expected to make a final decision on approval soon:
The tar sands represent a catastrophic threat to our communities, our climate and our planet. We urge you to stand by your religious tradition and your commitment to clear moral leadership on climate change by rejecting the requested permit for the Keystone XL pipeline and instead focus on developing safe, clean energy that manifests reverence for God and God’s creation.
You can sign the petition here.
Photo credit: Josh Lopez, Tar Sands Action
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The Obama administration is facing some necessary scrutiny from religious groups who care about global justice. New “free trade” deals pushed by the administration and passed by Congress last night were broadly opposed by faith-based organizations, including the Presbyterian Office for Public Witness, the Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns and the Interfaith Working Group on Trade and Investment.
Meanwhile, diverse religious leaders are still protesting the $7 billion Keystone Pipeline Project designed to run from Canada to the U.S. Gulf Coast. President Obama is set to decide by the end of the year whether the project gets a green light, but the State Department has, according to Catholic News Service, “cleared the way for construction in a report that found the project poses no serious threat to the environment and will enhance national security.” And earlier this week, five health and environmental groups sued the Obama administration over its rejection of a stricter standard for ozone pollution that would have improved inadequate Bush-era regulations.
Trade and environmental justice have long been central, and interrelated, issues, for many in the faith community. NAFTA-style trade agreements are a boon to multinational corporations but have a devastating impact on local jobs, wages, food and product safety and the environment. The trade deals just passed with Colombia, South Korea and Panama expand this failed NAFTA model.
Faith-based activists and others found the Colombia trade deal particularly troubling given the country’s shameful record in targeting union leaders. Last year, 51 trade unionists were murdered in Colombia – more than the number killed during the same time period in the rest of the world combined. As a candidate for the White House, Obama himself opposed the Colombia free trade deal and promised to change course from the Bush-era model of corporate globalization.
At Fire Dog Lake, Lori Wallach, the director of Public Citizen’s Global Trade Watch, notes that while the mainstream media framed the story this morning as a rare bipartisan victory for the White House, discontent from the president’s own party was significant:
This represents a complete flip-flop for President Obama, who won crucial swing states by pledging to overhaul our flawed trade policies. So it is no surprise that a sizeable majority of Democrats in Congress voted against these agreements, against Obama and for American jobs.
Today a larger share of House Democrats voted against a Democratic president on trade than ever before. It took Bill Clinton nearly eight years of NAFTA job losses, sell outs and scandals to have nearly two-thirds of the House Democrats vote against him on trade.
Given the strong Democratic opposition, ultimately it was the Tea Party GOP freshmen who passed these job-killing deals despite their campaign commitments at home to stand up for Main Street businesses, against more job offshoring and for Buy American requirements.
For faith-based advocates who generally commend President Obama’s politics of the common good, his promotion of Bush-era trade deals and weak environmental standards is a major disappointment.
The president of late is sounding a more populist note on economic issues and more forcefully taking it to Tea Party Republicans who make obstructionism into an art form. But this president can do better, and in the past has encouraged social justice advocates to keep pushing him. I’m guessing there will be no shortage of progressives taking him up on that offer.
Photo credit: ElvertBarnes, Flickr
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Further proving how much influence Tea Party members yield over the Republican Presidential field, new polling this week conducted by Public Religion Research Institute in partnership with Religion News Service suggests there are large divisions between the beliefs of Tea Party members and the general public on climate change. While “nearly 7-in-10 Americans say that there is solid evidence that the average temperature on earth has been getting warmer over the past few decades”, only 4-in-10 Americans who identify as Tea Party members agree.
Defying the majority of scientifically-supported research, Tea Party members have radically influenced Republican candidates on climate change. Not only do Tea Party members reject that man-made climate change exists, but as Ezra Klein aptly pointed out,
“…Tea Partiers are also by far the most confident in their beliefs — more likely to say they are “very well informed” and that they “do not need any more information about global warming.” Note that this dovetails with earlier research finding that when you give those dismissive of global warming more information, it only serves to harden their doubts.”
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