Keystone: not just a beer

There are 7.2 billion people living and breathing on planet Earth. Climate change affects every one of us, from Tempe to Toronto, Canada, and we must consider every decision about oil and natural gas accordingly.

We have huge impacts on each other regardless of how many human beings we meet. How is this so? The way we treat our environment can be transcribed, onto a larger scale, into how we treat each other. But if we’re meant to treat others well, assuming that this is an inherent pursuit of us all, is everyone holding up their end of the bargain? Let’s try to comprehend this concept by shifting our focus to a global leader: the U.S.

Here at home, environmental awareness slowly makes its way into mainstream thought. As scientific consensus on the matter of climate change is now widely accepted, the U.S. becomes a global leader in solar power and, no matter where you stand on the political spectrum, Barack Obama’s presidency has managed a praiseworthy environmental agenda, even if it may not have been perfect.

 

 

Tackling as large and abstract an issue as climate change isn’t easy, and it is arguably revolutionary that we have, in recent years, turned the topic into something that is more commonly spoken about. In spite of this, this year’s State of the Union and Obama’s brief touch on climate garnered only minimal cheers.

Others were left unamused. What hushed praise during a minuscule green celebration was the fact that silence fell in on the matter of the Keystone XL pipeline. But why does this matter?

As a brief refresher to some and a CliffsNotes version of news to others, Keystone XL is a proposed section of a pipeline that will carry one of the world’s dirtiest fuels, tar sands oil, from Alberta, Canada to the Gulf of Texas. Take note that not only will this line transfer a fuel with more carbon dioxide than we can, in the end, humanly handle, but we will also see little economic benefits from this.

Job creation? Cheaper oil? For one, it’s debatable whether or not we can permanently employ 30 U.S. workers while this oil production will, more than likely, be shipped abroad. Obama’s silence on this proposal is not a first and it continues to remain unacceptable under a president who claims he is trying to leave behind a “safer, more stable world” for future generations.

Environmentalists from all over know, as James Hansen, NASA climate scientist has said, that this would be “game over for climate change,” but this shouldn’t just be a hot issue for “environmentalists.”

Rather, this should be a hot issue for families, for economists and especially students. We should be proactively taking care of our environment today so that we can have a clean future. After all, we don’t only owe it to ourselves, we owe it to others — more than 7.2 billion others, to name a few.

Although we should not be as ambitious as to go about claiming that our own willingness to abuse the environment will hurt everyone, everywhere immediately or obviously, the fact remains that if we are careless with how we treat the earth, others will be careless with it, too. This apathy is detrimental to all.

Right now, the pipeline must undergo an approval process by the State Department before being sent to Obama for final say on whether or not this in the “nation’s best interest.” If a green light is granted, construction may begin. A comment period on the matter, opened on Feb. 5 and extending to March 7, is open for input from the general public. Opinions and concerns can be posted to regulations.gov or mailed to: U.S. Department of State, Bureau of Energy Resources, Room 4843, Attn: Keystone XL Public Comments, 2201 C Street, NW, Washington, DC 20520

Reach the columnist at Alexis.Gonzalez@asu.edu or follow her on Twitter @0Moscwow