With the magnificent expanse of the Golden Gate Bridge as backdrop and pathway, rallied on Thursday to call an end to the Keystone XL Pipeline project, a ghastly effort to transport poisonous tar sands 1,700 miles from Canada to Texas, exposing hundreds of communities en route to calamitous spills, ruined water systems and deleterious health effects.
Nurses also called for an end to the politics of austerity, one that puts the false choices – jobs through environmental degradation – before us.
“Nothing related to Keystone XL is good for our families, our communities, or our planet,” announced Debra Burger, RN and NNU co-president from the rally stage. “From extraction to transport to refining, tar sands oil will exacerbate our current health emergency…. This is a clear and present danger to public health.”
Burger spoke before a gathering of 1,500 nurses and environmental activists, including members of 350.org, Greenpeace, Credo Action, Sierra Club, Asian Pacific Environmental Network, Friends of the Earth, Rainforest Action Network and others. Their colorful signs told the story: “Clean Energy Creates Jobs” and “One Planet, One People, No Pipeline”.
Brenda Prewitt, RN and NNU member, traveled from Houston to join in. She’s a pediatric nurse with 25 years on the job. “We have a lot of kids with respiratory issues coming in everyday. We have ozone alerts all the time. Another pipeline increases the issues we already have.”
NNU opposes the Keystone XL Pipeline (KXL) because of the adverse health and environmental impact on communities along the proposed route, as well as how the emissions from tar sands will lead to climate change that affect public health more broadly.
Earlier in the day, before nurses gathered for this year’s Staff Nurse Assembly in San Francisco, California Governor Jerry Brown acknowledged that climate change and inequality top the world’s agenda.
“There are no bigger issues today,” he said, “then the growth of inequality and the continued destruction of our environment.” He likened climate change to “a tsunami coming at us.”
“Of all the unions I’ve been talking to,” said the California governor in a compelling salute to our members, “nobody has a better global vision than the nurses.”
A green economy makes dual sense: growing the economy and keeping communities healthy. Approval of KXL would further entrench the corrosive power of the fossil fuel industry in distorting U.S. public policies.
Kat Taylor at the rally
Before the rally wrapped up and nurses and supporters headed across the Golden Gate Bridge, as planned, to continue the protest against KXL, a spirited rendition of Marvin Gaye’s “Heard It Through the Grapevine” was delivered by Kat Taylor, CEO of One Pacific Coast Bank. Her lyrics, “Heard It Through the Pipeline… Not much longer will you be my world” was a crowd pleaser. Taylor saluted the “calling of nurses” and its “imperative of stopping the Keystone Pipeline”.
As protesters were marching across the bridge in San Francisco, Bay Area climate activist, businessman and Obama supporter Tom Steyer was stepping up his opposition to KLX today. Steyer commissioned a study carried out by the Environmental Working Group released today in Washington, D.C.
The report is a scathing indictment of tar sands, its extraction and transport. The study sets out independent lab tests of a sample from a tar sands spill earlier this year in Arkansas that detected several highly toxic chemicals.
“A single sample of tar sands oil included chemicals that cause cancer in humans and produce serious and permanent birth defects in children,” said Renee Sharp, director of research of the Environmental Working Group.
Among the chemicals detected in the sample were benzene, xylene, chromium and lead, which are known carcinogens and injurious to the nervous system, according to the study.
With kites hugging the air above the bridge, a sailboat beneath outfitted with banner, protesters cheering and chanting -- “We are unstoppable, A healthy world is possible! – nurses and supporters, a group extending hundreds of yards crossed the Golden Gate Bridge on its pathway.
Madison Davis, a college student and environmentalist from San Jose was there with the nurses. “This is the one chance we have to stop major oil companies. Obama is going to lose a large amount of support if he allows Keystone to be built. It would be a tragic mistake,” she said. “There is no other planet to go to.”