The big President's Day rally on the National Mall is more than a Keystone pipeline protest. It's a statement of principle for climate action.
After a year of unprecedented destruction due to weather extremes, the climate fight is no longer just about impacts in the future. It’s about physical and moral consequences, now. And Keystone isn't simply a pipeline in the sand for the swelling national climate movement. It’s a moral referendum on our willingness to do the simplest thing we must do to avert catastrophic climate disruption: Stop making it worse.
Specifically and categorically, we must cease making large, long-term capital investments in new fossil fuel infrastructure that “locks in” dangerous emission levels for many decades. Keystone is a both a conspicuous example of that kind of investment and a powerful symbol for the whole damned category.
It’s true that stopping a single pipeline -- even one as huge and odious as Keystone -- will not literally “solve” climate disruption. No single action will do that, any more than refusing to sit on the back of a single bus literally ended segregation. The question -- for Keystone protestors as it was for Rosa Parks -- is whether the action captures and communicates a principle powerful enough to inspire and sustain an irresistible movement for sweeping social change.