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Today We Risk Arrest for Justice; Tomorrow We Organize for It

Letter from Young People at the Tar Sands Action

Young Climate Activists

Moved by the Tar Sands Action & the sentencing of Tim Dechristopher, a number of leaders and I drafted the letter below to show our resolve and call for others to take this momentum and action back home this fall. Read the letter, leave a comment, and join us in commiting to bold action this fall. We'll be back!

Today we sit to demand justice. Tomorrow, we’re getting back up to organize in our communities to ensure justice. And we’re calling on you to join us.

A growing movement of young people has been organizing to build a more clean and just economy that works for all of us, addresses the climate crisis and creates jobs for those who need them. Together, we will build an economy steered by communities, not corporations.

We’ve been successful in leading change in our communities; more than 700 college campuses have made commitments to adopt renewable energy and become carbon neutral. And we’re following up on these commitments by forcing campuses to move beyond coal and other forms of dirty energy.

But it’s not an easy road, and we have major challenges ahead. Big corporations are using their financial influence to corrupt our democracy and deepen their pockets at the expense of Americans. And it’s not just related to energy and the environment; they are threatening the very foundations of our democracy, working to disenfranchise voters, attack workers’ rights and the middle class.

In an act of civil disobedience, we stand together today and risk arrest in front of the White House to demand that President Obama stand up to these big corporate interests, reject the Keystone XL Pipeline permit, and put an end to this corporate-dominated madness. The Keystone XL tar sands pipeline would further open up disastrous mining on indigenous lands in Alberta, Canada. The pipeline would then take this toxic and corrosive crude across the country down to the Gulf Coast, threatening communities with spills and health impacts all along the way. It would release enormous amounts of global warming pollution, further fueling the climate crisis. Bottom-line: it threatens our future and we can’t let it happen.

We’re crossing the line to demonstrate the severity of the issue, and our commitment to take bold action to ensure that President Obama does the right thing.

But we can’t and won’t stop here. We’ve been deeply inspired by Tim DeChristopher, who only two months ago was sentenced to a two-year prison term for an heroic act. Tim blocked an illegitimate public lands auction, thereby preventing oil mining on public lands. His sentencing was intended to intimidate others from taking bold action. Instead, it’s done just the opposite; it’s emboldened us. In the great tradition of movements before us, we are determined to continue to organize and confront injustice until it no longer stands. As demonstrated by the lunch counter sit-ins of the civil rights movements, and the marches of the suffragettes, we must be willing to continue until we persevere.

Last April, 10,000 young people from all over the country came together in Washington, DC for Power Shift 2011 to re-launch a movement that would lead form the grassroots and demand our elected officials follow our lead and support a 100% clean and safe energy economy. Under pressure, President Obama invited 11 young leaders into the White House to hear our concerns. The take-away from this historic interaction? The Obama Administration re-established its commitment to stand up to big polluter attacks on the Clean Air Act and for weeks after, President Obama led a wave of calls to end big oil subsidies. But our job is not done yet, and thus President Obama’s parting words in that meeting are perhaps the most important take-away of all: “… it’s your job to push me.” And so, that’s exactly what we intend to do. Since Power Shift 2011, our organizations and networks have been working hard to launch local, state and regional campaigns to challenge the dirty energy industry and bring in the clean energy economy. We must continue these fights, and call on elected officials to follow our lead.


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The Keystone XL decision is a significant test of President Obama’s commitment to our generation, but it’s not the only one. In the coming months, the Obama Administration’s EPA will decide on key rulings on clean air that would force the oldest and dirtiest coal plants to clean up, or more likely retire. And President Obama’s Army Corps of Engineers holds the key vote this September on whether hydraulic fracturing will happen in the Delaware River Basin, the source of drinking water for over 15 million people in New York City, Philadelphia, New Jersey and Delaware. Above all, President Obama must decide to stand up to corporate interests that threaten the American public, our environment, and our democracy; we have to do everything within our means to band together, and lead the way so that President Obama has no excuse but to act.

In the coming weeks, we are re-launching and re-committing ourselves to campaigns that confront dirty energy in our own backyards and bring in a 100% clean and just energy economy. We will take these demands to our college campuses and communities, and together build a groundswell of movement against dirty energy and reckless corporations. We can demonstrate that once again the youth generation will lead us into the future by moving our campuses beyond coal, and demanding that it be replaced with 100% clean energy. We’re taking the fight to the grassroots with regional Power Shift convergences across the country and we will continue to come together to exercise our collective power to take direct action.

From the Tar Sands Action we have begun the journey down the path of justice, but we cannot stop here. We hope you’ll join us.

  1. Commit to join us in taking bold action this fall, and step up the fight against dirty energy on your campus and in your community.

  2. Join us in another wave of direct action at regional Power Shift conferences this fall - they are sweeping the nation: Albany, NY, Asheville, NC, Blacksburg, Virginia, Cleveland, OH, and Eugene, OR.

With Joy and Resolve,

The undersigned:

Arizona Student Environmental Coalition
Bus the Change
California Student Sustainability Coalition
Florida YES Coalition
Georgia Youth for Energy Solutions
Green Umbrella: NY Youth for a Just and Sustainable Future
Maryland Student Climate Coalition
Ohio Student Environmental Coalition
New Hampshire Students for the Environment
New Jersey Sustainable Collegiate Partners
Peaceful Uprising
Real Food Challenge
The Art Affect
Virginia Power Shift

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