Written by Emily Mullins
On Saturday, Sept. 21, members of Niles Discovery Church UCC in Fremont, Calif., will gather near a dried up pond in Niles Community Park to call attention to climate change. Equipped with signs, cameras and a sense of urgency, the group will protest global warming and its effects on the environment as part Draw the Line on the Keystone XL Pipeline, a day of action initiated by the environmental organization 350.org that will take place that day in more than 200 communities around the country.
"Some of the ponds at Niles Community Park have completely dried up because we have had such a dry year and a half," said the Rev. Jeffrey Spencer, pastor of Niles Discovery Church UCC. "It's time to draw the line on fossil fuel use because it is changing our climate and changing our environment."
The group will gather at the pond at 3 p.m. Attendees are asked to bring signs asking for real action on climate change and demanding an end to the creation of the Keystone XL Pipeline, as well as chalk to leave messages on the pavement. Spencer is asking people to take photos in front of the dried up pond to send to President Barack Obama, and to sign petitions against the Keystone XL Pipeline to send to Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry. At 4 p.m., the group will carpool to a busy intersection where they will hold their signs for another hour.
"As for why we're participating, you just need to look to what NASA climate scientist James Hansen said about the Keystone XL Pipeline: If it gets built, it's 'game over' for the climate," said Spencer. "Eighty percent of the known reserves of fossil fuels need to stay underground if we're not going to raise the average temperature above 2 degrees Celsius. It only makes sense to mine the 20 percent that is easiest and cleanest to get, and the Alberta tar sands are not clean. In fact, they are probably the dirtiest form of oil on earth in terms of water use, waste product, and carbon intensity to mine and process."
Like Mission 4/1 Earth, the UCC's 50-day earth care initiative that took place this spring, other UCC congregations and groups are also getting in on the action. The Social Action Committee at Everett UCC in Everett, Wash., is co-sponsoring a Draw the Line event in conjunction with the Pilchuck Audubon Society. Fast for the Earth, an ongoing environmental initiative co-founded by Carl Kline, a semi-retired UCC pastor and member of Brookings UCC in Brookings, S.D., is calling for people to fast on Sept. 21 in recognition of the event. Environmental Ministries of the Massachusetts Conference of the UCC is also supporting the movement.
"We call on people of all faiths, religions and good will to unite on Saturday, Sept. 21 for a day of fasting, prayer and action against Keystone XL in its entirety and all tar sands development," said the Fast for the Earth website. "Our fasting, prayer and action will be a powerful, unified witness in support of humanity's rapid transition away from fossil fuels to renewable energies, in support of landowners' rights, in support of indigenous treaty rights, in support of human rights, and in support of Mother Earth."