That message was conveyed by hundreds of people, including Salem residents, at the Columbia River in Vancouver, WA on Saturday July 27, during Summer Heat PDX.
From the rally point at Vancouver Landing, dozens of kayaks and other small craft formed a flotilla in the river and hundreds of people streamed onto the I-5 Bridge, drawing a symbolic line from Washington to Oregon. Three climbers rappelled down from the bridge unfurling a banner that read: Coal Oil Gas - None Shall Pass.
The event was one of several actions across the country called by climate action group 350.org to highlight fossil fuel hotspots. Summer Heat PDX protested current proposals to use the Pacific Northwest as a fossil fuel transport corridor, saying they would greatly expand rail, port, refinery and pipeline capacity.
The rail lines along the Columbia River and the river itself are at the heart of these plans, a funnel from coal, oil and gas fields in Montana, Wyoming and North Dakota to west coast ports and refineries.
In the course of the rally, award winning Portland filmmaker Trip Jennings told the crowd that “these terminals are not compatible with life on earth as we know it,” because of the increased dangers of climate change and also because of the loss and contamination of land in “front line” communities where “beautiful pristine places will be converted to fossil fuel wastelands.”
Drawing the line against fossil fuel transport is an urgent issue for the Pacific Northwest residents, according to Portland Rising Tide which organized the event in conjunction with 350.org.
“If they can’t ship it, they can’t sell it, and that means it stays in the ground.”
More than once speakers pointed out that someday it may be necessary to draw a real line, not just a symbolic one. In other Summer Heat actions, 44 people were arrested blockading New England’s largest coal-fired power plant; in Utah protesters temporarily stopped construction at the first tar sands oil extraction site in the US. For months, activists and local residents have been non-violently resisting construction of the southern leg of the Keystone XL pipeline.
Peter Bergel, former Executive Director of Oregon PeaceWorks, said, “This was a great event, the most encouraging part of which, for me, was that all the organizers I saw were under 35. There’s a new crew coming forward on this issue with a spirit that reminds me of the 60s.”
Nine people from Salem traveled to Summer Heat PDX in a yellow school bus chartered by 350 Corvallis. Three of them, Bergel, Gary Pullman and Nancy Baker-Krofft put oars in the water. They all admitted it was hard to pull against the current and hold position near the bridge, but as Pullman said, “It was nice to see that many people in the middle of the river.”
With Mt. Hood in the background, Adam Elliott’s breathtaking photo captured it all: the boats below, the people above, the banners in between, the beauty and the resolve.