Climate Justice: Stopping the Keystone XL Pipeline

Fighting the Keystone XL Pipeline one protest at a time.


| November 2015


The science is clear: catastrophic climate change, by any humane definition, is upon us. In What We’re Fighting for Now Is Each Other (Beacon Press, 2015), author Wen Stephenson tells his own story and offers an up-close, on-the-ground look at some of the remarkable and courageous people who have laid everything on the line to build and inspire this fast-growing movement. This excerpt, which discusses the opposition to the Keystone XL Pipeline, is from Chapter 6, “Too Late for What?”

We are now faced with the fact that tomorrow is today.
—Martin Luther King, Jr., 1967

Mount Auburn Street, a block south of Harvard Yard in Cambridge, Massachusetts, with its brick sidewalks, its exclusive old-boy college clubs, and its late Victorian “Gold Coast” dorms, is about as far as you can get from the piney woods of East Texas.

Unless, that is, you find yourself sitting on an ancient cast-off sofa in the small, dimly lit “library” of a former fraternity house, sunlight and street sounds filtering through lowered blinds, where a group of young people plot nonviolent direct action at the suburban offices of TransCanada Corporation—in solidarity with the Tar Sands Blockade fighting construction of the southern leg of the Keystone XL pipeline. Then you’re practically in Nacogdoches.

That room is where I found myself on an afternoon in December 2012. I was there not as a journalist but to help the organizers, mostly students and recent grads from nearby schools, with media outreach and communications. It was the first time I’d been on the inside of a well-planned civil-disobedience action—the first time I’d felt the tingle of adrenaline, and the faint undercurrent of anxiety, that comes from participating in an act of principled resistance where power would be confronted, laws would be broken, and people would go to jail.

Nervous laughter punctuated the bewildering logistical checklist. This would be no ordinary sit-in. I listened with fascination as kids twenty-five years younger than me, utterly in control, spoke of “jewelry,” or hardware—in the present instance, the hardened-steel chains and locks they would use to secure themselves to each other once inside the corporate office. I’d gotten to know several of the students and twentysomethings over the past summer and fall, working alongside them in the Boston-area climate movement. But in that room, that afternoon, they appeared suddenly older, mature beyond their years, and uncommonly brave.