Michael: The only property damage I caused was to two
small padlocks that I snapped with bolt cutters. I replaced one,
so I owe them one. Fine.
Ken: As Bill McKibben has said for years, the real radicals
are running the fossil fuel companies — apparently they think
it’s okay to play dice with every life on the planet.
Emily: I would say three things. One, we shut o= the
emergency shut-off valves The only reason they exist is so that if
there’s a fire or something else going on, local emergency personnel can shut them down. So if it’s true that shutting them
down endangers the environment, that’s a little disturbing.
Two, between 1999 and 2010, Enbridge had 804 spills, one
every five days. It’s not shutting down the pipelines that’s dangerous; it’s running them.
And three, there is a 100 percent chance of catastrophe if
we do not shut down the tar-sands extraction, as global warming irretrievably damages the life-supporting systems of the
planet. That sounds like “inviting an environmental incident”
Michael: But in another respect, what we did was very dangerous for the oil industry, because we revealed how vulnerable it is. There was a question in the White House briefing
room the day after this action about the security of our nation’s
oil supply. They know that they can only do this right under
our noses with our consent.
Emily: That’s something I think is super important.
Whether it’s tankers or trucks or pipelines, these companies
can’t destroy life on Earth without our implicit permission,
because the fuels have to travel through thousands of miles of
pipelines, and they have to travel on our highways, they have
to travel on our railroads. So if people are determined to stop
them from doing that, and are willing to take the legal and
physical risk to put themselves on the line and in the way, we
can make sure that we stop “business as usual.”
Kathleen: One of your support people said, “I used to think
of these companies as so powerful, inevitable, invincible. What
tickles me is how fragile and vulnerable and frail they are.
These pipelines are thin, twenty-eight inches. Two and a half
million miles of them. Tens of millions of people who care
about clean water and a future for their kids. Do the math.”
That kind of talk shakes me—this notion that we could
stop the oil companies from doing so much damage to the
future if we would only try — because it brings up the problem
of complicity. If I see a harm, and I can prevent it, and I don’t
stop it, then I am complicit in that harm. Think of the moral
obligation to save a drowning child or stop a rape. Or to make
it impossible for the fossil fuel companies to wreck the world.
Emily: If we make it impossible for them to go about business
as usual, we remove the implicit permission that we have given.
This seems to me to be a moral obligation.
Kathleen: But how much can a person ask of herself and, by
extension, of her family— is going to jail for decades too much
to ask? Your action might be a beautiful, symbolic thing, but not
if it destroys you or silences your voice. Let’s talk about fear and
the calculation of consequences. Were you afraid out there on
the prairie? Are you afraid now?
Emily: People keep saying that we’re brave, we’re heroes,
but I don’t feel brave at all. I dread the thought of going to
prison. But I took part in the action in full awareness of these
risks because of the risk that Enbridge and other tar-sands
companies are taking. If the world’s scientists are correct, what
really flows through those pipelines is the end of human history. I’m much more frightened of climate change than I am
afraid of jail.
Annette: I had made my decision in advance, so I can’t
say I was feeling any fear in the moment. The hope of giving my children a future outweighed the fear that I would
spend a year or two in jail. But I’ll tell you when I was afraid:
the first time I took this sort of action, a couple of years ago
when I chained myself on the railroad tracks to protest the oil
trains —just sitting there chained to a barrel, with an oil train
waiting to come through.
Ken: I was feeling full of fear, but then I decided that the best
way to deal with fear is to practice doing what you’re afraid of.
So I stood in front of a gas pump, like Bill McKibben, until I got
arrested and went through the whole process. I think anybody
who wants to learn how to go to jail for what they believe in, they
can just go practice.
Kathleen: Interesting that Aristotle says that too—that if
you want to acquire virtuous character traits, the only way is
to go out and act virtuously. You practice and after a while you
become a virtuous person.
Michael: I was terrified that the law would be waiting for us
when we showed up. But then I visualized myself stopping the
car, getting the bolt cutters out, walking up to the sheri=, and
saying, “Look, I’ve come a long way to do this.” But there was
no sheri=, and it became clear that I was at the right place at the
right moment in history. Look at these hands! These hands! They
cut o= the Keystone pipeline!
Kathleen: What does it feel like, after all that fear and preparation, to break into the chain-link enclosure, walk past the NO
TRESPASSING sign with bolt cutters in your hand, cut the chain,