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“Forward on Climate” – What Are They Protesting About?

The day before President’s Day, a reported 50,000 people spent hours in the frigid cold, rallying, yelling, and dancing on the National Mall. Some were in polar bear suits, and many more in polar bear hats.

Unfortunately, this wasn’t a massive demonstration of love for the Coca-Cola mascot bear. This was “Forward on Climate.”

Billed as the largest climate rally in U.S. history, “Forward on Climate” saw attendees of all ages from at least 35 different states. They all gathered to protest the Keystone XL Pipeline, and the extraction of tar sands oil.

Here’s the slick and dirty version of the KXL and the tar sands (pun attempted and failed):

The organizers of the protest have declared the Keystone XL Pipeline to be the fuse to the world’s largest “carbon bomb.” Tar sands oil extraction is one of the most energy intensive and inefficient ways of extracting energy, producing 3-6 times the greenhouse gas emissions as conventionally produced oil. What’s more, if the tar sands industry continues to grow for the next 5 years, Canada’s permafrost will melt, releasing even more methane into the atmosphere. Climate scientist James Hansen claims tar sands extraction would be “game over” for the climate.

The KXL pipeline would the bring oil extracted from the tar sands in Alberta Canada down to oil refineries in Texas, by a path that would traverse over crucial aquifers and farmlands in the Great Plains. The extraction itself would require destruction of boreal forest in Northern Canada, in an area larger than the state of Florida.

The Rainforest Action Network writes of the effects tar sands extraction is already having on locals:

In Canada, the toxic burden on communities near the tar sands is already enormous. In addition to direct human exposure, oil contamination in the local watershed has led to arsenic in moose meat—a dietary staple for First Nations peoples—up to 33 times acceptable levels. Drinking water has also been contaminated.”

If you couldn’t make the rally, DC EcoWomen has your back! Stay tuned for a photo slideshow from  photographer extraordinaire Marine Jaouen.

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