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CONTRIBUTION · 25th January 2012
Bill McKibben for
Dear friends in Canada,

I've been visiting Canada all my life, but I'm a little worried about my upcoming trip.

In late March I'm supposed to come to Vancouver to give a couple of talks. But now I read that Joe Oliver, your country's Minister of Natural Resources, is condemning "environmental and other radical groups that would seek to block" Enbridge's Northern Gateway pipeline from the oil sands of Alberta to the Pacific.

I think he's talking about people like me.

So Iím pushing back a bit, and I need your help. Letís tell Joe Oliver that preventing the combustion of the second-largest pool of carbon on the planet isnít ďradicalĒ itís exactly the opposite. Itís rational. Itís responsible. And itís just plain right.

Sign the petition to Prime Minister Harper and Joe Oliver, and help show that Canadians everywhere are committed to stopping the oil sands.

Hereís the thing: I've spent much of the last year helping rally opposition to the Keystone XL pipeline from the oil sands to the Gulf of Mexico. I was arrested outside the White House in August, and emceed the demonstration that brought thousands of people to circle the White House in November. And just yesterday, I helped lead a crew of hundreds of "climate referees" to blow whistle on the influence that Big Oil has over our democracy. But this fight knows no borders, which brings me back to my concern about my trip to Canada in March.

When I come to British Columbia, I'll urge everyone I meet to join a growing movement standing in solidarity with First Nations Peoples across Canada who oppose Enbridge's Gateway project. Since a majority of Canadians, according to the polls, also oppose the pipeline, I'll be in good company. But Oliver, Prime Minister Stephen Harper and the organizers of the ďEthical OilĒ campaign don't want any outside voices. As the latter explained on its website, "It's our pipeline. Our country. Our jobs. And our decision."

Fair enough. But you know something? The atmosphere belongs to all of us. There's not some wall at the 49th parallel that separates Canada's air from everyone elseís. Since the oil sands is the second biggest source of carbon on the planet, that makes their development everyone's business. As NASA's James Hansen, the planet's premier climatologist, put it recently, if you heavily develop the oil sands, it's "essentially game over for the climate." That's why I'm doing everything I can do build this movement -- and that's why I need your help to unite a groundswell of activists in Canada.

Add your name to the petition saying you're ready to take a stand to stop the oil sands if we can get 10,000 Canadians to sign on, weíll stage a high-profile delivery that Joe Oliver, Prime Minister Harper, and the oil companies wonít be able to ignore.

It's much easier for Ottawa to pretend that anyone who raises doubts about the oil sands are ideological extremists who hate Canada, much easier to demonize the scientists and citizens who ask uncomfortable questions. You can judge for yourself, but I don't think I'm some kind of extremist. I'm a Methodist Sunday School teacher who happened to write the first book for a general audience on climate change.

To me, the extremists are the ones running the oil companies, because they're willing to alter the chemical composition of the atmosphere; those of us who want to keep the planet a little like the one we were born on seem more like conservatives.

I know I don't hate Canada. I spent five years living in Toronto as a young boy, while my father worked for Business Week magazine. I remember with great fondness Mrs. Reesor, Miss Beer, Miss Conway and Miss Wright, who taught my first four grades. I remember rooting for Davey Keon, the Toronto Maple Leafs centre, and I remember waiting with great impatience each summer for the CNE to open.

In later years I've traveled the country stem to stern, written about fishermen struggling in Newfoundland, hiked the mountains above Jasper, skied the trails of the Gatineau. The Canada I remember was open to the world: It welcomed the rest of the planet to Expo 67, it hosted the Olympics, it helped crack the Great Wall of China.

I don't know how that changed, but my guess is that the wealth of the oil-sands had something to do with it. Canada's government doesn't want to hear from the rest of the world because paying attention to their legitimate fears might cost it some money.

To judge from Oliver's nasty little letter, those vast pits of bitumen across Alberta aren't just dirtying the sky, they're starting to do some damage to the country's soul.

Help start to undo that damage, and sign on today.

Bill McKibben for
Read more from Bill McKibben

P.S. If we're going to have any shot at stopping the wholesale burning of the oil sands, we're going to need a massive movement of Canadians willing to take a stand. Please help spread the word on Twitter and share it on Facebook it only takes a couple of clicks. Many thanks in advance.
FB Page: "A Letter to Canadians from Bill McKibben"
Comment by Lloyd on 26th January 2012
I absolutely agree with you Bill. I am BC born and should not be considered a terrorist when I stand up against Enbridge and Harpers dictatorship. Harpers puppeteers are foreign "radicals" and we do need stronger opposing representation here. Obviously the amount of tax revenue generated from this would allow them to buy the next election.
fossil fuel
Comment by al earl on 25th January 2012
kinda funny we can put a vehicle on Mars, drives around all by itself, doesnt require a gas station on a planet with intense gravity (dont qoute me here but I believe its harder to move around up there) sends back info to earth for years, and I need a gas operated vehicle here. seems to me something fishy is going on, are we keeping Mars clean for when we destroy this planet, we have somewhere else to reake havoc on, put some money into EARTH TECHNOLOGY instead of exploiting other planets and small countries, oil equals dishonest cash, thats the bottom line, dishonest cash equals dishonest people and so on, the money Enbridge and the Canadian government has spent on trashing the people that want to preserve earth, probably could have came up with a solution to the energy crisis, as they call it,clean options would still generate billions into the economy with less confrontation, look for something new. you cant rob forever and expect more, the well is dry.
Uprecedented stupidity
Comment by Mr. Peters on 25th January 2012
How about we just leave that toxic junk right were it is. I cannot wait for the day when the last drop of oil is sucked out of the ground, maybe then the collective stupidity of humanity might get a head shacking. My bike gets more miles put on it in a year then my vehicle does, and I am the healthier for it. We are like drug addicts not wanting to stop a bad habit.
'good idea"
Comment by blocky bear on 25th January 2012
Bill, let`s slow this sucker down! We can give Harper the boot next election! Don Bruce
Unprecedented Oppertunity
Comment by Randy Halyk on 25th January 2012
Agreed we have an opportunity to make positive change. The first thing we must do is look to clean renewable fuels that impact the least on the environment and wean ourselves of the fuels that do not meet these criteria. Following the clean energy movement has been a hobby of mine and what I see is the best opportunity we have had for some time to change our direction for the better. Around the world inventors, entrepreneurs, small and big business are all starting to make good money and creating thousands of clean responsible jobs with clean energy.

If we must use up Canadaís supply of dirty fuels it should be done with three things in mind. It must be done with the environment in mind, it must produce long term manufacturing jobs for Canadians, and it must be done with respect for first nationís entitlement.

Piping Bitumen to other jurisdictions so they can create Manufacturing jobs is not only dangerous it is counterproductive for Canada.
unprecedented opportunity
Comment by bill braam on 25th January 2012
If this is the second largest carbon pool on the planet why couldn't Canada demand that it be processed in the most environmentally process possible? I am sure that if the will was there we could process it in a near-zero carbon emitting process. Where there is a will there is a way. Automobiles are very clean today compared to fifty years ago, apply that same idea to processing the tarsands. The oil isn't going anywhere on its own, Canada has a great opportunity here.