Saturday, October 22, 2016

My comment on Deia Schlosberg and the 5x Dilbit Pipelines shutdown action

(Related: My general statement about the Center for Climate Disruption's actions to shut down 5 dilbit pipelines is here.)

I left this as a comment on this article:

This took me a lot of introspection and deliberation before I concluded that I agree that there should be broad journalistic immunity. We have embedded journalists in the US Military, why not the climate movement?

Let me explain why this was so difficult for me.

FIRST-- I DO what Deia does! I am a climate activist. I have been to the front lines as a videographer and recorded dozens of NVDA direct actions. I have also participated in several blockades and disruptions targeting fossil fuel infrastructure. I have been arrested for my intentional, thoughtful action to #shutitdown.

I am a huge fan of NVDA as a strategy, since administrative remedies almost always fail. I have attended several NVDA trainings, and I have even organized such.

So what's the deal? Where was my conflict? Should be a no-brainer, right?

Wrong. This action was very different than other actions I have recorded as a Indymedia journalist, and participated in.

I wear many hats. In addition to being a videographer, I am also a map maker, blogger, and pipeline safety researcher for the last 4 years.

I have studied several pipeline failures in great detail: Sissonville WV, Salem PA (both gas), and Mayflower AR (dilbit). Dilbit is the tar sands product being transported in the 5x pipelines shut down in the action Deia was filming.

No one knows exactly why the Exxon Mobil Pegasus pipeline failed when and where it did. But I have a theory, published in 2013, that it was a chain of events beginning with a failed pressure sensor, and an **improperly closed block valve**. (you can find this on my blog).

The Mayflower spill was a catastrophe. The people there are still experiencing health impacts. The cleanup is still happening 3 years later. The damage to the environment could take 50 years to recover from. Many trees, birds, and fish were killed.

What these people did was close block valves on 5 active, high pressure Dilbit pipelines. These pipelines have very large forces involved (physics), and are very complex systems. Starting up and shutting down these systems is non-trivial, requires specialized knowledge & coordinated efforts amongst dozens of people spanning sometimes thousands of miles.

What these people did was essentially industrial sabotage. And they CREATED the conditions for a pipeline failure.

The essence of Nonviolent Direct Action (NVDA) is putting *your own body* in harms way. But no one has the right to put others in harms way.

I am not a big fan of police or jails, but I do believe that if there is any reason to use physical, restraining force against a citizen, that is when they, by their actions, put others in harms way (or cause actual harm).

My analogy is, let's say someone thinks shopping malls are bad. (I agree!) But let's say their remedy is to go into a mall and start shooting off automated weapons. Even if no one got hurt, I think most would agree this deserves physical, restraining force to stop them. In order to protect public safety. This is the essence of police powers.

Now I realize these folks took some training classes, spoke with engineers, and called the 800# to the pipeline operators telling them what they were going to do. However, I do not believe anyone has enough specialized knowledge or can take enough precautions to mitigate all the risks involved.

This action had the possible consequence of harm to many living beings. This violates the principle of Nonviolence, and the Precautionary Principle.

This was clearly a symbolic action. The purpose of a symbolic action is gaining positive press and changing minds.

However, this action, especially if there had been a rupture, had the potential of contaminating one or more watersheds for 50+ years, and generating extremely bad press, which could poison this movement in the eyes of many people.

I do support the release of Deia and all charges dropped against her and the others doing media work, and broad immunity for the press in such cases.

However, I do not condone acts of sabotage of live pipelines which puts the lives of many living beings in jeopardy.

I DO understand the present state of climate emergency. I DO understand we are in the middle of a mass extinction event, w/species dying off at a rate 4-5 orders of magnitude over the background rate. I DO understand the consequences of 5'C temperature rise. (could lead to a mass dieoff of 95% of all life on earth).

Thus I DO understand how some people could come to the conclusion that this kind of sabotage is necessary now to save the planet. I applaud the bravery of these people, and their careful planning, and that no rupture happened.

However, I strongly discourage and condemn these kinds of actions in general. Because the next actors may not be so lucky.

We do not want to destroy the environment, in order to save it.

Bill Huston,
Binghamton, NY

May you, and all beings
be happy and free from suffering :)
-- ancient Buddhist Prayer (Metta)

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