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Tangled Priorities

Why Sierra Club 'Ally' Statement On Saudi Arabia Is So Offensive.

by Daniel Johnson

    Those who keep tabs on Sunnews and other right wing media will have noticed the anti-environmental frenzy that exploded today around the Sierra Club's recent statement in support of Saudi Arabia, in which the Sierra Club called the regime 'Our Best Ally In The Fight Against Keystone XL'. 

   When the story about this come up on Sunnews, the immediate assumption is 'probably an exaggeration of a statement coming out of context. 

But it isn't. The Sierra Club website confirms a statement that is being used as 'definitive proof' of the absolute worst conspiracy theories being projected onto the environmental movement as a whole. 

   The question mark at the end of the title doesn't nullify the impact at all, and the fact that it is 'just' an article and not an official organizational statement is not as much of a distinction in the minds of the public as it might be for activists who know the difference between the 2. 

   To be fair, the main point of the article, written by Sierra senior editor Paul Rauber, is true. 

   The article's focus is on Saudi Arabia's brilliant economic warfare strategy, as the Sierra Club's statement describes it "Rather than cutting back production in order to stabilize oil prices, the world's largest oil producer is keeping its petroleum taps wide open, hoping to drown upstart competitors in Canada, North Dakota, and Russia in a sea of cheap oil." 

   This is a good summary of the tactic, and it's true that this is having a dramatic effect on new shale gas and oilsands projects. It's true that this might result in the cancellation of Keystone XL, which is the Sierra Club's main projects right now. 

    So great, that would be a victory. For those whose main goal is to stop Keystone XL. But would that be a victory for the environmental movement who are concerned with the damage done by the fossil fuel industry as a whole? What is the point of fighting Keystone XL while ultimately making the oil industry as a whole stronger, while reducing the leadership role of western companies in that industry?

    This is bringing us no closer to an energy economy based on renewables, no further in the fight against climate change, ocean acidification, etc., caused by oil. Saudi oil, Canadian oil, US oil, Venezualan oil, tarsands oil, offshore oil, the effect is still the same in every way that matters. The fossil fuel centered global economy is endangering our planet's ability to support life, and having different people get rich from it or transfering the ecological damage to some other region is not fixing the problem it's just a blatant example of shuffling the deck chairs on the Titanic. 

    Perhaps the statement is being taken out of context, perhaps this is not an endorsement of Saudi policies, but merely an article observing the impact of Saudi policies on western oil projects, especially Keystone XL. Those observations are correct. 

      But the headline, especially the headline, that horrible headline, but also the overall tone of the statement, the lack of reference to major human rights issues in Saudi Arabia, is making all the conspiracy theories targetting environmentalists as 'pawns of foreign oppressors' sound reasonable and well informed, when those accusations are patently false. It is putting every environmental activist in danger because it is 'confirming', in the minds of many laborers in the oil industry, the stuff they are being told about how the environment is all a foreign funded conspiracy to take their jobs. 

   In one passage the statement quotes from the Washington Post, passingly referred to Saudi Arabia having 'he world’s lowest production costs.' with no contextualization or explanation as to why that is so.  Labor and environmental laws that appear strong on paper but are practically non-existent in terms of enforcement and an overall disregard for human rights by companies, police and courts play a large role in those low production costs.

     It is imperative that the Sierra Club retract, contextualize and apologize for that statement, and that headline, especially that dreadful headline, that could have been written by Ezra Levant himself.  It is imperative that people in the environmental movement as a whole loudly denounce and distance themselves from the Sierra Club until they do. 



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Daniel Johnson (Daniel Johnson)
Regina Sask
Member since Août 2013


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