The tar sands in Canada are the second largest pool of carbon on earth. If all the recoverable oil there was burnt Hansen's latest paper said, it would be more carbon than we burnt in all of human history so far. Bill McKibben with 350.org together with Naomi Klein and climate scientiest James Hansen has organised protests against the Keystone XL Pipeline, linking the tar sands with the U.S. raffeneries in the South to speed up extraction. Last year more than 1200 people were arrested in a civil disobedience protest in front of the White House in Washington D.C. demonstrating against the pipeline. People in the U.S. are increasingly ready to put their bodies in the line against the destruction of the planet, says McKibben.
Bill McKibben: Environmental Journalist and Activist, Founder of the grassroots global warming movement 350.org, Author of "The End of Nature", Middlebury, USA
David Goessmann: You are right now very much engaged with James Hanson and Naomi Klein together in mobilising against the further exploitation of the tarsands in Canada. Talk about that.
Bill McKibben: The tarsands in Canada are the second largest pool of carbon on earth. If we burnt all the recoverable oil up there Hanson's latest paper said, it would be more carbon than we burnt in all of human history so far. So, it's a lot of carbon. I got very involved among with many others in this fight to stop the first really big pipeline into that tarsands, the so called Keystone XL pipeline. Last year in Washington we held what was the largest civil disobedience action in 30 years in this country about anything. 1253 of us went to jail and before the fall was out the Obama administration had at least temporarily stopped the construction of that pipeline. Environmentalists only ever win temporary victories. This one may be more temporary than most, because the fossil fuel industry does not like to lose and they're pouring money in to try to impede it. But, at least we began to show that it was possible to stand up to big oil. Now we gonna have to do it in a much more systemic way, because we can't win the fight against global warming one pipeline, one coal mine at a time. We have to go after the financial power of richest industry on earth.
David Goessmann: But Obama approved the southern part of the pipeline. So could the northern part be added to this?
Bill McKibben: Mitt Romney's already anounced that if he is elected the first job in office, the very first thing he'll do will be approve the Keystone pipeline. And that's because he's a creature of the fossil fuel industry. The Obama administration might well do the same thing, because they are under super-heavy pressure too.
David Goessmann: So you have to build up the same kind of pressure to get him not to approve it.
Bill McKibben: That's right. There are no permanent victories in this business.
David Goessmann: The protests you are talking about. You did a civil disobedience act in front of the White House. So it's not only about holding up signs now to stop it.
Bill McKibben: No, I mean, there's many tools I guess in the activist's toolkit and civil disobedience is one of them. I think it works best done in a certain way. This was very civil disobedience. We told everybody, if you want to come protest, please wear a neck-tie or a dress. Because we want to get across the point that we're not the radicals here in any way. Radicals work at oil companies. If your willing to alter the chemical composition of the atmosphere then you are a radical. That is the most radical humans have ever engaged in. The rest of us, who merely want the world to work a little bit like the one we were born onto, well, by some meanings of the word anyway, i suppose we're conservative in that regard.
David Goessmann: People in the US are blocking streets to fracking or mountain top removal sites. They engage in a lot of civil disobedience acts, risk prison time as you do by foiling an oil or gas lease on land - I think it was in Texas - or even burning SUVs. Describe the environmental resistance as it is right now.
Bill McKibben: Well, there is not much burning of SUVs going on. These are the most isolated kinds of things and i don't know anybody who condones violence against property or people. But there is a big upsurge in people willing to lay their bodies on the line. My friend Tim DeChristopher is spending two years in prison, I was just out to visit him in Federal Prison, because he engaged in creative protest to foil auction of gas and oil leases on western land. I think it's really clear that there are a lot of people who are willing to, as in the civil rights movements before us, make the point with their bodies, that we can't go down this road.