Arrow-right Camera
The Spokesman-Review Newspaper

The Spokesman-Review Newspaper The Spokesman-Review

Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
Partly Cloudy Day 34° Partly Cloudy

Down To Earth

Friday Quote: “My 1,700 mile hike across the Keystone XL pipeline”

I’d felt strangely drawn to the Keystone XL.

In the fall of 2011, when I fantasized about walking the length of the 1,700-mile proposed pipeline — that, if approved, will carry oil from the Tar Sands of Alberta to the Gulf Coast of Texas — I was a lowly dishwasher at an oilman’s camp in Deadhorse, Alaska.

At the time, I was broke, just out of grad school, and demoralized with my situation. I had a miserable job that didn’t require a high school diploma, let alone the liberal arts degree that had nearly bankrupted me, and I was living in quite possibly the coldest, darkest, dreariest place on earth. I was an adventurer at heart, burdened with the duties of making a living.

I can say, from experience, that when you find yourself washing spoon after spoon, in the middle of the night, in a silent kitchen, at a working camp 300 miles north of the Arctic Circle, you will begin to question the direction of your life. But I can say this also: The soul must first be caged before it can be freed. And when Liam, the cook I worked with, suggested we go on an adventure the next summer and hike the XL, I knew his idea was both crazy and brilliant. I looked at him and said, with what must have been an almost frightening excitement, “We must!”

More than just another pipeline, the XL, to me, is a historic battleground: the first-ever fight — led by Bill McKibben and his organization — over a project because of climate change. Even if its path would lead me through the “middle of nowhere,” with the fate of a warming world at stake, I thought of the XL as the center of the universe. And I wanted to be there and learn everything I could about it.

If President Obama approves the XL — which he may or may not do in the next few months — the Tar Sands of northern Alberta will continue to be developed (perhaps to the size of Florida), a prospect that one climate scientist has called “game over” for climate change. Obama has the final say, and while experts predict that he will grant his approval, environmentalists hope that a rejection of the XL might mark a turning point, one where we will begin to wean ourselves off fossil fuels and head toward a more sustainable future.

After I left Deadhorse later that autumn, I began preparing for the hike. I bought a software program so I could map out my route, as well as a new ultralight tent, a quality sleeping bag to endure shivering nights, and about $1,000 worth of food. I packaged the food — mostly energy bars, granola and powdered potatoes — in Priority Mail boxes, which a friend in Denver would mail to post offices along my path. I jogged five miles nearly every day to get myself in shape. Everything was coming together.

And then, in a flash, everything fell apart.

This is an excerpt by Ken Ilgunas that appeated in Salon - be sure to read the rest of this amazing story. Do you think President Obama will clear the Keystone XL Pipeline?

Down To Earth

The DTE blog is committed to reporting and sharing environmental news and sustainability information from across the Inland Northwest.