Few would disagree that the last couple of weeks have been significant ones in the environmental world. First, on November 12, the United States and China came to an agreement that would see both nations commit to taking action against climate change. Obama announced that the U.S. has set a target to reduce carbon pollution by 26-28% below 2005 levels by 2025, while Xi Jinping stated China’s commitment to peak its carbon emission around 2030 while concurrently seeking out non-fossil fuel energy sources.
Then, on November 18, the U.S. Senate rejected a bill to speed the approval of the Keystone XL pipeline, a decision which will prevent (at least for now) additional crude being transported from Alberta’s oil sands to refineries in the US Gulf Coast.
While critics (myself included) remain skeptical about how much of a difference either of these decisions will make in actually countering the effects of climate change–let’s face it, they won’t–in looking at a map of where the proposed Keystone XL pipeline would run, I was struck by the symbolism of the U.S. Senate’s decision.
By rejecting to speed the approval of the Keystone XL pipeline, the U.S. Senate was saying no to allowing (at least for now) another oil pipeline to cut straight through the heart of their country.
And, perhaps, this is the most appropriate way to conceptualize the decision.
Unless you have your head in the (oil) sands, you would know that there is not future in oil. From an economic standpoint, we do not need it. From an ecological standpoint, our planet cannot handle it. Ultimately, pursuing the construction of pipelines like Keystone XL is short-sited, close-minded, decision-making.
The reality is, the future of the United States (and Canada, along with it) is an uncertain one in our increasingly unstable, globalized world. There is one thing that we can be sure of, however.
If we keep our blinders on, and continue with our current unsustainable way of life, the future will be very bleak, indeed.