I wrote the following statement early this morning (Aug. 23) before leaving to present a petition to the Gulf of Mexico regional office of the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management demanding the cancelling of tomorrow’s Gulf oil lease auction. After being barred from entering the waiting room, our group of four presenters remained in the outer entry way. After much negotiation, I was allowed to enter the waiting room and present the petition to a staff member. I was told that the petition would be forwarded to the Director and the President. We were then ordered to leave the entire building, but our group replied that we chose to stay until we received a reply from the Director and the President. We were told that since the Bureau offices are rented we were trespassing on private property and had no right to wait there for a response. We rejected this position as an illegitimate infringement on our freedom of speech, freedom of assembly, and right to petition. We remained and were eventually arrested and removed from the building. Three members of our group were given summonses and released in the afternoon and the fourth member is still in the Jefferson Parish Prison. [Note: He was released later in the day.]
* * * * * * * *
We have come to the Gulf of Mexico Region office of the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) to present petitions with 184,000 signatures demanding the cancellation of tomorrow’s Gulf oil lease auction and an end to all new oil drilling in the gulf. We are presenting these petitions as concerned citizens of a threatened and disappearing coastal Louisiana and citizens of a beleaguered and endangered Earth. We, the 184,000 signatories, and the millions of others who are in agreement with us, demand that President Obama cancel the oil lease auction and that additional drilling be ended.
My family came to southeast Louisiana almost three hundred years ago and has remained here for twelve generations. Both the City of New Orleans and our family are about to celebrate three centuries of life in our region. Native people whose traditional lands are being rapidly destroyed have lived here for thousands of years. We celebrate our long history here but we mourn both the previous injustices that have been part of it, and the fact that we are faced with a brutal end to that history. We must adopt the principle of indigenous people that we must think about the welfare of the Seventh Generation. We realize that none of our families and none of our peoples will remain here even a century from now if the oil industry merely continues its business as usual.
This harsh reality must be recognized fully and faced with courage and dedication. The land and people of coastal Louisiana will simply no longer exist if we accept this catastrophe as normal everyday reality. I have taught environmental ethics here in New Orleans for over thirty years. I strongly believe that it is important for us to reflect deeply on what is right and good for people and the Earth. However, I also believe that thinking about such things or even affirming our belief in what is right and good for both people and the planet are not enough. We must ultimately make a decision to act on behalf of what is right and good and to get to the roots of what is both wrong and destructive to both humanity and the Earth.
The oil industry has been the overwhelmingly most powerful destructive force in the devastation of both the land of our coastal bioregion and the waters of the Gulf of Mexico. In my own lifetime, this industry has caused the loss of an area of Louisiana coastline equivalent in size to the state of Delaware. It has caused both catastrophic major oil spills and continuous smaller yet still disastrous ones that have degraded and threatened the integrity of the Gulf ecosystem. It has been instrumental in producing the global climate change that causes increased hurricane activity and major climate disturbances. This greatly increases the frequency of disasters like Hurricane Katrina and the recent 500 to 1000 year rain and flooding events in Louisiana.
We are in the midst of a global climate catastrophe, in addition to the sixth great mass extinction of life on earth, and other major ecological crises. Indeed, we are facing the possibility of the collapse of the entire global ecosystem. This possibility will soon become an inevitability if we do not rapidly transform the global economy and system of production. We must end all denial and disavowal of this reality, and fully recognize our role either in promoting and contributing to the coming ecological catastrophe or in preventing it.
The immediate and complete replacement of fossil fuels by ecologically sound energy production is essential to our survival and the survival of much of life on earth. It is essential that we begin to undertake immediate direct action on a massive scale, in addition to other forms of legal, political and economic action, to put an end to the ecocidal and genocidal fossil fuel economy, and replace it with a life-affirming one. The cancelling of tomorrow’s Gulf oil lease auction is one important step in this fight for our own lives and for the future of life on Earth.