Biggest Environmental Issue of Our Generation

As a new Sierra Club intern and engineering student at UT,  I am lucky enough to have the chance to stay well informed about current environmental issues facing our world today. The biggest environmental issue of our generation will be culminating this fall — the proposal by Transcanada to build the dangerous Keystone XL tar sands Pipeline.

If President Barack Obama allows this proposed pipeline to be built, every single person in Texas will suffer.  Every student at UT, every child entering kindergarden at a Texas elementary this fall, the young, the old, the weird, the rich.  Those around the world have taken notice, including eight nobel laureates that have written to President Barack Obama urging Obama to reject the proposal to build the $7 billion pipeline that spans from Canada to Texas. Over a thousand protesters from all over the nation were arrested in Washington D.C protesting the pipeline, yet looking around my campus of 50,000, how many people know what is being planned without their consent, without their knowledge?

Although this is not strictly a Texas issue, it will effect Texans profoundly. 10-12 million Texas inhabitants who get their drinking water from the Carrizo-Wilcox aquifer that the pipeline will run over will be at the mercy of a pipeline similar in construction to the Keystone pipeline in Michigan, one that has had 12 spills in one year of operation and has caused 40 miles of the Kalamazoo river to become unusable.

Texas has been plagued by drought and wild fires.  Everyone from Bastrop to Tyler is feeling the hurt of a Texas without water. Can a state with 93% of its counties listed in extreme drought afford to lose any amount of water to an oil pipeline spill?

I as a student will not  let my friends and colleagues remain in the dark about this issue, but everyone in Texas needs to become aware of this proposal. If you respect the student sitting next to you in class, or the woman at your HEB with grocery shopping for her small children, or the men and women who work along side you every day, as fellow human beings capable of great things, you need to inform them about the upcoming proposal to build the Keystone XL pipeline.

Once informed about the Keystone XL pipeline it is hard to not to take action.  A fellow UT student of mine, John Richter, has taken a great step forward by creating a great cheat sheet — John is a Computer Science major spurred to action after hearing about the Tar Sands.

When I first heard about the Tar Sands, I immediately wanted to go to DC and protest, but I couldn’t afford the flight or miss classes.  So, I did what I could at the time and created a cheat sheet on the tar sands at

Being in Texas, I’m at the epicenter of where the pipeline fight will play out, and I can make my stand here.  I feel happy that I have this opportunity to work with other students and take a stand.

Time is running out on standing up to Tar Sands, and my generation, and those following that have everything to lose. I encourage everyone, to implore their colleagues, family, and friends to educate themselves on what is going on, and how to take action. Every single person in Texas will be effected by this. An easy way to do your part is to attend a public hearing. Barack Obama will be closely watching the public hearings to see how many attend, especially in Austin, one of his favorite cities.

Please attend the public hearing in Austin this Wednesday. Your attendance will matter.

U.S. Department of State Hearing.  The public is invited to comment.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011 from 12:00 Noon – 8:00 PM, LBJ Auditorium, University of Texas, Austin, TX.  Free parking. 

Come speak at the hearing.  Attend the press event at 11:30, a rally at 6:30 and/or the bike ride at 8:00.  For more information, contact or

Posted by Kathleen Hetrick, Sierra Club intern

One response to “Biggest Environmental Issue of Our Generation

  1. Love it Kathleen! Great piece. Hope that raucous & righteous rally restored some energy and hope for ya

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