Down Keystone XL


I was in Calgary this past July, with a side trip to Edmonton, not going further north to Fort McMurray where tar sands abound, but my conversation with folks at a Calgary parish was on the liquefied tar sands the province of Alberta pipes down to the Gulf of Mexico. Nine out of 10 of the Catholic faithful supported the venture funded by the likes of the Texas’ Koch brothers for the job it will furnish local citizens and the revenue it will earn the province.

The Keystone XL pipeline construction is a controversial legislative item as the White House continues to delay its approval and the Republican Congress vows to legislate the legal continuation with BHO promising a veto as his executive hand is going to be forced. The GOP may not, however, have the numbers to override a veto. It appears that BHO in his last two years is determined to play hardball. Besides, existing lines already zigzags the stuff to the Gulf anyway!

An 80-year-old friend from Houston, ex-veep for Gulf Oil along with significant other, “fling their bodies into the barb wires of history” as it were, and a few colleagues raise their voices against the construction supported heavily by well-paid lobbyists in Congress.

On Saipan, where accumulation of carbon monoxide by the lagoon does not take long to be breezed out into the ocean, is happily “safe” from the effects of climate change, in spite of ex-VP Gore’s warning of global warming in An Inconvenient Truth. Informed ones blithely pray the woes of the world away in our predominantly religious theistic island, or ignore it in strident stances of sophisticated science-buffeted denials. Either way, many are happy campers.

Of course, residing in Dong Bei where one is resigned to the accumulated effects of burning the abundant mei to generate power (also in Shaanxi and Shanxi, and Pennsylvania and Kentucky in the U.S.) has me prepared for the advent of asthma in due time. Given the brevity of my remaining 16.5 years before an anticipated exit, and not overly preoccupied with longevity nor eternity of one’s footprints in humanity’s sands of time, I am spared the high level of tomorrow’s anxiety that many colleagues fall into.

So I understand the nonchalance that accompanies the reality of climate change; the Earth’s surface, with dislodged tectonic plates gurgling and gushing out more pools of black gold for industry, the enlightened direction of the United States and China agreeing to cut down on carbon emission is refreshing. Innovation and creativity with a lot of responsible sense overrides the rapacious greed of corporate energy concerns determined to keep us coughing under our breath. Nah!

The Keystone XL pipeline is not just a practical issue, though it is the safest way to transport liquefied tar sands compared to alternatives, but the wider issue other than the immediate returns on investment and employment harkens into the health of a planet itself whose holding capacity is now in excess of its innate capabilities, and the neurological evolution of creatures in it are going bonkers way off the ordinary chart and scale. Incidence of autism alone indicates that the metabolic system lags behind in its ability to adjust to the increasing exposure of our bodies to chemical stimuli.

Protest against the Keystone XL pipeline is North America’s struggle with sanity. We will be sad to see the triumph of the quick buck at Wall Street over the long-term health of planetary creatures on Main Street, and the coughing, wheezing, rasping, croaking, belching functions of Mother Gaia! Profit, however, trumps sanity.

China is still addicted to coal burning. Politically smart, it built electric plants in the grasslands of Inner Mongolia, away from the prying eyes of the public, but Siberian winds deliver its atmospheric effluents into my Dong Bei skies, and PM 2.5 still keeps Beijing in mouth masks, and I, in earmuffs. It also contributes to climate warming that melts ice at the polar caps, igniting turbulent weather in the planet that is raising alarmed concerns.

In the Euro-American markets, time is of the essence. Bottom lines are read per quarter to determine return on investments. Thus, the anxiety accompanying the urgency of dealing with climate change is heightened. Not so in the Oriental mindset where the tranquility of internal space and the equanimity of neighborly relations precede human anxieties over visual space. Occidentals call the stance a practice of “short-term” measures with long-term consequences; Orientals do it to “keep face,” adequate for now but nursed along the way in the yin-yang cycles of life.

Keystone XL is a struggle between heavily financed Leviathan corporate Goliaths against the pebble-slinging shepherd boy David, but the story is heading toward the ogre getting the upper hand and my placard holding friend literally flings his body into the annals of yet another frustrating bend of public protest in the meandering river of human history.

Jaime R. Vergara | Special to the Saipan Tribune
Jaime Vergara previously taught at SVES in the CNMI. A peripatetic pedagogue, he last taught in China but makes Honolulu, Shenyang, and Saipan home. He can be reached at

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