One woman's commitment to solidarity and sustainability

Toni Brink believes there are so many things that people can do for a better world today and tomorrow. She really hopes that people can "live more harmoniously with the planet." Driven in part by a longtime commitment to social and environmental justice, the 66-year-old grandmother joined thousands of demonstrators in Washington, DC to oppose the proposed Keystone XL pipeline last week.

The 1,600-mile pipeline would carry heavy oil from Alberta's tar sands across Montana and the Midwest to Port Arthur, Texas. A broad range of environmentalists, scientists, farmers, politicians, and citizens worry about air, water, and land pollution, damaged habitats, and the climate impact of tar sand development. Proponents, including TransCanada who has proposed the pipeline, argue that tar sands oil could reduce U.S. dependence on oil from the Middle East and Venezuela. That claim is disputed by Oil Change International. [For background from Sustainability Now, read our previous story here.]

On Thursday, September 1st, Brink was arrested in front of the White House. [Picture below courtesy of Nick Brink] “It really solidified my commitment," said Brink. After a briefing the night before and joining three other women, two of whom were lawyers, she felt as prepared as she could be. Bill McKibben spoke to them as did Josh Fox, director of the film Gasland, who sees an intimate and destructive connection between tar sands development and natural gas development in the Marcellus Shale and elsewhere. Tar sands refinement to get bitumen requires enormous amounts of natural gas, enlarging its energy and climate impacts.

"I've been standing with 8 or 10 people opposing the wars [in Iraq and Afghanistan] for years." She sees joining the likes of Fox, Bill McKibben (who spoke at Penn State last year), James Hansen, Naomi Klein, Darryl Hanna, and 1,200 other people as a natural and necessary step for a better world. [Learn more from 350.org.]

She hopes people will make better choices. These can be as varied as growing your own food or purchasing from local markets to reduce energy waste and restore soil to organizing political actions to helping develop cleaner and more efficient technologies.

Asked what she took away from the experience, she said, “While the destination is a safe, sustainable, equitable future for all, the journey can be a joy. It can open up new creative avenues when we work together. We are not alone.”

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