Dozens of Berkshire-area residents are in Washington this weekend to participate in a protest against the Keystone XL oil pipeline from Canada through several states and into Nebraska.
The protest, led by a coalition of Native Americans, ranchers and farmers, culminates a weeklong demonstration calling on President Barack Obama to reject the proposed 875-mile pipeline to protect the lands concerned in Montana, South Dakota and Nebraska.
Local residents, coordinating through the recently formed Berkshire chapter of 350 Massachusetts, chartered a bus that was to depart from Lee on Friday morning and return Sunday night.
Like the rest of the protesters in the coalition, called Reject and Protect or "Cowboy Indian Alliance," they'll spend the weekend in a teepee encampment that the activists erected on the National Mall. The demonstration began on April 22 -- Earth Day.
"I'm most looking forward to meeting people from across our country who are passionate about the environment and moving toward green renewable energy," said Mary Hannah Parkman, a Berkshire Community College professor taking part in the trip.
Parkman said the Berkshire coalition represents all generations, with young children and people old as 70 on board. Fourteen Williams College students are going as well as several people from Amherst and lower New York.
"It's important for people getting involved in activism to see how strong the broader [environmental/anti-carbon] movement is," Parkman added. "It gives you the strength and feeling of solidarity you need to continue the fight back home.
The principal action planned for Saturday involves the creation and design of a gift for the president -- a teepee. Parkman said organizers hope they can get 10,000 people to embellish the teepee with their thumbprints.
And the message will be: Reject this proposal, Mr. President.
The U.S. State Department announced recently that it would put off a decision on the pipeline until after November's midterm elections. The TransCanada Corp. proposed the pipeline in 2008.
Native Americans and indigenous Canadians say the project could damage sacred sites, lead to pollution and water contamination and community degradation.
Public opinion polls in the United States typically show majority support for the proposal. Environmentalists, however, say the project and decades more reliance on fossil fuel could spell trouble for future generations.
"Essentially, it's game over for the planet," said James Hansen, the head of NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies, in an interview with The New Yorker magazine.
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