Texas to Poland: Coal & Pipelines. Culture Shock? Not Really.

After a delegation meeting, one of the delegates asked “Did you hear about the pipeline explosion today?” I immediately answered, “YEAH! The one in Texas?! Again!?” “No… here in Poland…” they replied in a tone that I can only describe as reserved surprise.

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Before I go on my rant: SIGN THIS PETITION!!!! I met a wonderful Polish woman named Diana who is working hard to keep an unnecessary proposed coal plant from being built. The man who owns the proposed coal plant is also the chairman of Green Cross International’s BOD and is a member of the Climate Change Task force. What the hell, right?

This whole trip I’ve felt these odd connections between Poland and Texas. Not only is coal a big problem here in Poland, but back home in Texas. Texas is home to two of the five dirtiest power plants (note: this list is not just limited to coal) in the United States: Luminant in Martin Lake and NRG is W.A. Parish- both coal-fired power plants. Poland is home to the Belchatow coal-fired power plant in Lodz which spews 35 million tons of CO2 annually.

Today, I felt even more like Texas and Poland aren’t so different from one another.

Today, both countries had natural gas pipelines explode. In Texas, Natural gas is being touted as an alternative to coal- same as in Poland. This is a big problem. Natural gas is by no means a clean transition source of energy over coal. While natural gas does not release as much carbon when burned, it releases more methane, which is “more efficient” at keeping greenhouses gases in our atmosphere. Not only is the expansion of natural gas extraction accelerating climate change, it’s creating accidents like these where pipelines explode. Is this really the future we want? Earthquakes where there have never been earthquakes before. People’s homes being ruined by exploding pipelines. New cases of cancer popping up near fracking well pads. Does this sound like a “Clean Energy” future? I think you know the answer to that question (“NO”, duh!).

Sitting in Poland thinking of Texas, I can only hope that both of our states are able to figure out what is important: the long-term health of our communities, not short term economic profit.

The only real difference I can think of between Poland and Texas: Temperature (it’s freeeeezing in Poland)

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Blockade and Hater-ade.

I live in Texas ( I know- Yeehaw, ride horses, gun-carrying, bible-thumpin’, Rick Perry, Texas). More specifically, I live outside of the Capitol city of Austin- the political and liberal hub of this otherwise very conservative state.

Recently, I attended the #ForwardOnClimate rally in Washington D.C. and marched on the Capitol with 50,000+ activists from around North America. We demanded “CLIMATE JUSTICE NOW” and sang our cries of “Show me what Democracy looks like,” replying, “This is what Democracy looks like”. Shortly after the rally, a picture of myself from during the march was featured on 350.org’s Flikr account. Not long after the picture was posted, it went viral in the activist community.

Reverse side says "Texans say NO to KXL"

I had gone to D.C. as a representative of Texas- hoping to spread the word about the land grab occurring in the state that my family has been living on and cultivating for the past century. My sign was my attempt to draw national media attention to voices that are being consistently ignored by the mainstream media (a.k.a. The Tar Sands Blockade).

I was shocked (and not too surprised, I might add) that my sign had sparked conversation about the inadequacy of my activism. “It’s not enough” were the resounding cries from commenters. “If I lived anyhere near Texas TransCanada would be spending money fixing their machines,” one commenter stated. While I am someone who prefers to stick to non-violent means of protest and political dialogues as sources of change, I recognize the validity in other tactics. Don’t get me wrong- if I weren’t a broke college-student who depended upon loans and scholarships contingent upon my clean record, I’d be direct-actioning all over the place. (For now I will just wait until I retire. I will be the grandma who chains herself to bulldozers by day and bakes cookies by night).

Personally, I believe in what Mahatma Gandhi says “Victory attained by violence is tantamount to a defeat, for it is momentary.” With the largest and dirtiest energy project knocking on people’s door steps, I understand that sometimes talking is not enough and that action is needed. I personally agree with non-violence, but I will not invalidate others based upon what they believe. What I found to be saddening about the aforementioned online dialogue was not so much the negativity aimed at my own activism, but a lack of understanding that when everyone completes their own tactic it strengthens our movements and unifies our voice.

In a perfect world, I envision activists validating each other’s different tactics and using our alliances with one another to apply the strongest force possible when pressuring our policy-makers, decision-makers, and the perspectives of members within our community.

If we want “Climate Justice Now” we can’t put down our coalition members, we have to act and think in solidarity.

“Honest differences are often a healthy sign of progress.”- Mahatma Gandhi

In Solidarity,

J

From One Oil State to Another.

Here I sit, right where I began in Texas. My journey from one oil state to another has shaped the way I see the world.

Right now, I can say that I’m experiencing some slight reverse culture shock. Why are women showing so much skin when it’s this cold outside? I don’t hear car horns blaring at all hours of the day or the prayer songs from a dozen mosques playing 7 times a day (it’s eerily quiet at night when I try to sleep). There are Christmas decorations everywhere and pictures of the Emir are nowhere to be seen (I don’t think most people in Texas know that an Emir is, even.)

After not having driven my car for over a month, it’s odd to have to freedom to drive myself around once again. There are traffic lights, stop signs, and street names. Doha’s traffic circles, nameless streets, and camel-mounted police seem so long ago, and yet it was only a few days ago.

Jet lag has taken it’s toll again, but this time I am in my own bed surrounded by the comfort of my loved ones. Overall, COP made me think quite a bit about my privilege. I may not be able to enter negotiations with a pink badge, but by meeting with my negotiators I am able to influence not only the happenings within my own country- but within others as well. As a U.S. citizen, my voice directly impacts the climate because of my country’s wrong-doings. I think that I, as well as everyone else in my country, should take away from this COP that we are working on a strict timeline- Climate change will not spare island nations while we discuss the proper adverb in one of many treaties. We need to ACT and we need to ACT NOW.

What could the future look like if everyone got involved? We need to REALIZE that the time for action is not when we start to really feel the impacts of climate change (I would argue that we’ve already felt it enough).

That We Need Climate Action Now!

That We Need Climate Action Now!

Until next time: Aloha, Doha.