Hundreds of student protesters from the group XL Dissent marched from Georgetown University’s Red Square to the White House this past Sunday, where they protested the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline with a mock oil spill and by tying themselves to the White House gates. Although the event ended with over 400 arrests, its chaotic conclusion should not prevent the government from heeding XL Dissent’s call to action to not only prevent construction of the Keystone XL pipeline, but to also take more meaningful efforts to address climate change and environmental damage.
That XL Dissent started their march from Georgetown is notable since President Obama delivered a speech on climate in front of Old North last summer, in which he promised not to approve the Keystone XL pipeline if it would significantly increase greenhouse gas emissions.
The protesters should be commended for holding Obama accountable. The Keystone XL pipeline would not only result in significant greenhouse gas emissions, it also poses an environmental hazard capable of damaging parts of the American ecosystem, such as the fragile Nebraska Sandhills. Most of all, the fact that Obama still has not made a decision on the pipeline demonstrates his lack of commitment to the environmental goals he has long held.
Instead of relying on this pipeline to meet the United States’ energy demands, Obama must invest more of America’s efforts in researching and building new sources of alternative energy. XL Dissent is correct to call for this solution when they demand an end to the XL Keystone pipeline plans.
The 400 arrests that resulted from the protest must not diminish XL Dissent’s credibility or the protest’s overall success. The 400 students who were arrested merely tied themselves to the White House’s gates with plastic zip ties and were charged only with blocking passage of the sidewalks, according to Al Jazeera.
The protesters acted out of a desire to have their message heard and practiced civil disobedience in doing so. They send a strong message to the Obama administration that this nation’s youth will not stand by idly while an older generation makes decisions that may destroy the environment.
The oil executives and politicians who stand in support of the new pipeline will not be impacted by the environmental damage nearly as much as the younger generations—the ones who have been protesting its construction most fervently. The student protesters in XL Dissent rightfully stand up for the young and future generations who will have to live on a much less habitable planet.
Regardless of whether the Keystone XL pipeline is approved, this protest will be remembered as one of the largest youth demonstrations in memory. Obama would be a hypocrite if he fails to notice and realign himself with these environmentalist views—the ones he had promised to the demographic that helped get him elected in the first place.