After I heard that President Obama had decided to reject the Keystone XL pipeline last week, I was decidedly ecstatic. The pipeline, which would have connected Canadian oil interests to the Gulf of Mexico, was an environmental disaster waiting to happen, and would have only added to the global problem of man-made climate change by supplying more fossil fuels to be burned into the atmosphere.
While it’s all very nice that Obama stopped this project, in large part due to the attention brought by environmental activists, it’s important to remember that there are still many battles to be fought on the issue of climate change. Was this important? Absolutely. Obama’s decision was symbolic of a greater move toward awareness and change about this issue. But there’s still so much more to do.
In an interview with NPR on Saturday, Nov. 7, University of Notre Dame professor of energy law Bruce Huber said of the decision that “the impact of this particular decision is really not all that large on the grand scale.” Well, if the Keystone XL pipeline is so unimportant, why should we care?
It’s simple: This serves as a baseline for future policy decisions. Here, Obama acted with the foresight to see the bigger picture; he understood that any short-term economic benefits of the pipeline would pale in comparison to the devastating effect it would have on the environment.
If we the people, the same people who through activism brought this issue to light, don’t continue to fight the battle against climate change and environmental disasters, then Obama might as well have done nothing about the pipeline. Environmentalism isn’t a one-time deal, it’s an ongoing issue. It’s very tempting to look at this decision and pat ourselves on the back for a job well done, but doing so would be ignoring the larger problem. It takes the efforts of a community to make this kind of change, and those efforts are something we need to participate in daily as responsible citizens of the planet Earth. The big decisions are exciting, but it’s the everyday environmentalist work that counts. That means worrying about the little things like recycling paper, or how much gas your car’s using. That means taking issue with and fighting against not just well-known and controversial projects like Keystone XL, but also the ones that seem to fly under everyone’s radar on a regular basis.
Although it’s pretty messed up as is, it really would be nice to at least try to improve the state of our planet’s environment. It’s OK to be happy with the decision Obama made last week, but just don’t forget that there’s still a lot of work to be done.