An Intimate Look Inside the Climate Justice Movement

Blockadia Rising documents the campaign of direct action against the Keystone XL pipeline.

Blockadia Rising: Voices of the Tar Sands Blockade from Garrett Graham on Vimeo.

The Keystone XL Pipeline has been called the “fuse to the biggest carbon bomb on the planet” and would encourage the extraction of Canada’s tar sands. Meanwhile, the resistance to the project has become so complex, energetic, and diverse that it qualifies as a movement in itself.

Those who want to know more about that movement will be happy to learn about filmmaker Garrett Graham’s documentary, Blockadia Rising, which provides a unique window into the Tar Sands Blockade.

The film details the story of how landowners and environmental activists tried to challenge Keystone’s builders in court, but to no avail. In response, they take to the ground with a wide array of direct action techniques, in an attempt to physically thwart attempts at clearing land. The film shows them sitting in trees, locking themselves to equipment, and standing in front of bulldozers. Many have been arrested for their efforts.

One of the best things about this film is that it depicts the intimate moments missing from newsier coverage of the Tar Sands Blockade. In one scene, we see an older woman apologizing to a young man for allowing environmental destruction to take place throughout their lives.

“You’re not responsible,” the young man responds.

“We’re all responsible,” the woman says, and the two of them share a hug.

Moments like this humanize the struggle against fossil fuels extraction, and provide a look at the emotional demands that go along with direct action.

  • The corporate push to construct tar-sands pipelines is transforming the environmental movement across North America by increasing the involvement of local residents and normalizing the use of direct action.
  • In January, the Sierra Club reversed a 121-year-old ban on civil disobedience to reflect the urgency of climate change. The move presents an opening for radical groups to try new tactics like the three discussed here.


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