Report from Summer Heat Environmental Action at Columbia River

August 8, 2013 | Revolution Newspaper |


From a reader:

From July to mid-August actions and protests are taking place as part of the “Summer Heat” campaign against fossil fuel extraction and shipment. The actions are being called by national, regional and local environmental groups—including, Rising Tide, Peaceful Uprising, Sierra Club, and tar sands action groups around the country. In Somerset, Massachusetts, 44 people were arrested on July 28 for blocking the Brayton coal-fired power plant. In Utah activists are engaged right now in actions to try to block the “first tar sands mine in the USA from ever breaking ground.” (For background on the danger to the environment represented by tar sands oil, see the article “The Keystone XL Pipeline: An Urgent Danger to the Environment“)

Everywhere you turn there is a stepped-up race by capitalist interests to dig out, drill, ship and pipe new sources of oil, coal and gas—the very fossil fuels whose burning is advancing a global climate emergency that is spinning out of control. Disaster after disaster keep happening as a result of this madness—from Superstorm Sandy last year to the July 8 disaster at the small town of Lac-Mégantic, Quebec where a train loaded with oil from North Dakota crashed into the city center, incinerating dozens of buildings and killing 47 people. There is increased understanding among millions of the need to stop fossil fuel projects that are killing the planet’s ecosystems and people.

On July 27, revolutionaries from Seattle traveled to the action in Vancouver, Washington at the Columbia River across from Portland, Oregon. We wanted to be at this to join in and help build this critical resistance and to bring to the people that there is a viable way to go at dealing with the global environmental emergency—through revolution and the new synthesis of communism applied to this situation. We were hosted by friends in Portland who are interested in revolution and helping bring BA’s vision and strategy for revolution to Portland. A showing of the film BA Speaks: REVOLUTION—NOTHING LESS! Bob Avakian Live was held in Portland the night before the Summer Heat action.

The Columbia River action was built by Portland Rising Tide and other groups.

A striking and important feature of the action was opposition to all development and shipping of fossil fuels. There are plans to build a new oil terminal at Vancouver that would receive oil from the Bakken oil fields in North Dakota. There are other plans in different stages of development for building new oil, gas and coal terminals all along the West coast. There is widespread opposition to all of this. A speaker from Portland Rising Tide said all “fossil fuel infrastructure must be resisted. If they can’t ship it, they can’t extract it.” He noted that in the wake of powerful hurricanes like Sandy, “The climate crisis must be addressed. These terminals are not compatible with life on the planet.”

People came from all over Washington and Oregon—including a bus full of activists from Corvallis, Oregon, carloads from Bellingham, Washington, and others from Seattle, Portland, etc. There was a wide range of ages of people present—from kids and quite a few college students to older folks. Organizers say 800 people turned out.

We mixed it up very broadly with people there, distributing the special issue of Revolution on the environmental emergency and palm cards for BA Speaks: REVOLUTION—NOTHING LESS! During the rally we unfurled a large banner saying, “No tar sands, no fracking, no coal! We need revolution to save the planet,”

I’d spoken with a guy earlier who was knowledgeable about alternative energy forms and was arguing society could easily switch to these if money was just put into it. We struggled with him that technology wasn’t the problem, that the climate crisis was happening because of the drives of the system of capitalism and that dealing with this would require a revolution. When the banner came out, he came up to me and asked if it was our banner, and I told him yes. He said, “You’re right, it will take a revolution to solve this.”

The revolutionaries had lots of discussion and struggle with people over what the problem is—the corporations and the fossil fuel industry, or the entire system of capitalism?—and over whether revolution is the answer, and also is it possible? There were a number of people who agreed that we needed revolution, although what they meant by revolution often differed from the real revolution we were advocating. Still, there were some who were definitely looking to find, engage with and hook up with a radical way to resist this crisis and to discuss and debate various more radical solutions. We fanned out throughout the crowd to try to get every person there a palm card for BA Speaks: REVOLUTION—NOTHING LESS!, telling people they needed to check out this DVD because this was about fighting for a fundamentally different world through revolution. Quite a few said, “We need revolution,” and the great majority of people, who had never heard about the film or BA, wanted a card. One fool said he didn’t need to know anything from BA because this was a cult. We challenged him on the spot to say what he knew about BA’s actual vision and strategy, and when he could only repeat the same shit, said loudly so everyone around could hear, “then you’re not serious about radically changing the world—here is a person who has brought forward a vision for and a way to get to a totally different world and you refuse to even engage it, you’re not serious.”

The Columbia River action was creative and fun. People jumped into around 100 kayaks and paddled out to the middle of the river to symbolize their intention to block fossil fuel shipments if they take place down river. The rest of us marched up to the walkway across the Interstate 5 bridge from Washington to Oregon. People were chanting, “If you build it, we will block it, if you ship it, we will stop it.” We stretched all across the bridge from almost one side to the other, holding our signs and banners along the bridge as well as to traffic whizzing by. Crews of people hooked up ropes to the bridge and suddenly three people rappelled off the bridge. After getting everything ready, the climbers unfurled a huge banner hanging under the bridge saying, “Coal, oil, gas, None shall pass.” There were some threats by the authorities to organizers that the climbers could be arrested, so people stayed on the bridge and made sure that after the banner had been out for some time, the climbers could get safely back and that the authorities wouldn’t know who they were. We did rounds of agitation over the bullhorn connecting the climate and environmental emergency to what the system did with the Zimmerman verdict, NSA (National Security Agency) spying, etc. and that we needed revolution and were building a movement for that. Some people joined in chants saying, “Climate emergency, We need revolution.”

Things are heating up on environmental resistance. Various groups are calling for a campaign of civil disobedience in the event of a finding this fall by the Obama administration that the Keystone XL pipeline that would ship tar sands oil from Alberta into the U.S. is in “the national interest.” Some of these same groups are also fostering a lot of illusions about Obama and the possibility of him siding with the environmental movement, and seeking to confine this struggle within the limits of the system as it is. It’s crucial given the tremendous stakes for humanity and ecosystems, as well as the potential for truly massive resistance around the environmental crisis, that revolutionaries find ways to relate to this resistance and fight to connect it to building a movement for revolution.


Send us your comments.

If you like this article, subscribe, donate to and sustain Revolution newspaper.