On Saturday, September 21, a curious black string snaked its way across the campuses of the Claremont colleges, passing by the fountains in front of Mckenna Auditorium along its route. This string was part of a protest staged by members of the Claremont Divestment Club to voice their disapproval of the Keystone XL pipeline, a proposed 1,179 mile pipeline that would span from Alberta, Canada to Steele City, Nebraska. The purpose of this pipeline is to transport a crude oil known as tar sands oil in order to allow oil producers more access to oil refining markets. Although a pipeline for this purpose already exists, the new Keystone XL addition has aroused controversy among environmental groups across the nation.
Two areas are of particular concern to Claremont Divestment Club member Patrick Pelegri O’Day PO’15, “The pipeline runs through dozens of the First Nation’s people’s land (the indigenous people of Canada). It infringes on their land rights and runs straight through their territory, and it would be highly, highly disruptive to their way of life.”
In addition, O’Day mentioned that, “The biggest environmental consequence of this pipeline is its impact on the Ogallala aquifer, which is in Nebraska, and is the primary source of drinking water for the High Plains region. Environmental impact reports have found that in the case of a spill, the oil would likely penetrate well past the deepest water in the aquifer, so it has the potential to pollute this entire groundwater source, which is a fundamental source of life-giving drinking water. “
Because this pipeline spans the USA-Canada border, TransCanada requires a Presidential Permit from the U.S. Department of State. This means that the decision essentially comes down to one man-President Barack Obama.
This is where the Claremont Divestment Club comes in. Its protest, which was entitled Draw The Line, was an effort to convince Obama to reject the pipeline. The event was part of the National Day of Action, in which 200 different installments across the nation participated. The Claremont march began at 11:30 at the Pitzer Clock Tower and the participants, clad in black shirts emblazoned with the phrase, “No KXL”, (an abbreviation for Keystone XL pipeline) marched along the length of the “pipeline”, represented by the black yarn, which wound its way across the campuses. The group played music as it walked and engaged any curious passerby in conversations about the purpose of the demonstration. In addition, the team attached notecards with information about the cause along the yarn.
The main concern of the Claremont Divestment team is to convince the administrations of the Claremont Colleges to freeze any new investments in fossil fuel companies, so this protest represented a wider scope than usual for the group.
According to O’Day, “We were trying to show Obama the breadth and passion behind this movement, the number of people and the diversity of people involved. We need him to back up his political promises, show some foresight, and pick some sensible policy”.