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Biking On Keystone

by Abby Zimet

Normalization of Things We Shouldn't Have to Normalize Dept: The Wall Street Journal reports that over 15 million Americans, including 99.5% of Texans in one particularly deadly county, now live with a fracking well within a mile of their home, and that with the expansion of big operations like the Marcellus Shale region - production is reaching 12 billion cubic feet a day - America will have a million new oil and gas wells over the next few decades, many basically in Americans' backyards. The story, being in the Wall Street Journal, fails to cite any of the well-documented dangers of those wells, or that most of those backyards will belong to poor and minority Americans, but we digress. The perfect if bizarre complement to that report is the news that SWA Group, a Houston-based architectural firm, last week sent a letter to the State Department and TransCanada Corp. proposing to make the Keystone pipeline more palatable by creating a “recreational corridor” along its 5,000-mile right of way. Pictures show a sunflower-dappled bike trail and various tourist attractions en route; their mood is flippant, but the proposal is evidently serious.

SWA frankly presents such "mixed-use infrastructure," again in mostly poor and brown-skinned communities that otherwise wouldn't benefit from the pipeline, as a "lipstick on a pig" solution to what pretty much everyone concedes would be an evitable disaster, one worse than any that have come before. Says SWA principal Kinder Baumgardner, "The environment (the pipeline)  will create isn’t beautiful, useful, or necessarily safe. If we’re not thinking about how to make it better for people, that’s a problem...It’s time to set a precedent for imagining infrastructure that folds into the reality of our everyday lives.” Even, evidently, if it's a toxic reality. Read James Hansen, the first scientist to cite the perils of carbon buildup, on what he calls "The Pipeline to Disaster” and the climate change science that finds "just catastrophe after catastrophe." Oh yeah, and enjoy the biking.


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