by Jill Jones
Grass roots on-site protests actually work, according to blogger Jason Koebler in a recent post on MOTHERBOARD. This is good news for Utah Tar Sand Resistance, Peaceful Uprising, and Canyon Country Rising Tide who together have organized a summer-long, non-violent direct action public protest against tar sands mining at PR Springs on the Tavaputs Plateau in Eastern Utah.
In the blog, a research study -“Local Protesters are Killing Big Mining Projects Worldwide” – is featured. Several encouraging findings related to the effectiveness of on-site environmental activism are described. The bottom line is that direct action has had a costly effect on fossil fuel extraction industries. Among the fifty international projects studied (4% in North American), fully half were met with public protests – one, a major, world-class mining project with capital expenditures of between 3 million and 5 million US dollars, lost roughly 20 million dollars per week on delayed production due to a “project blockade” launched by the local community – and fifteen of the projects were suspended or abandoned altogether. “There is a popular misconception that local communities are powerless in the face of large corporations and governments,” Dr. Daniel Frank, the study’s director, has noted. “Our findings show that community mobilization can be very effective at raising the costs to companies.”
Protests during the early feasibility and construction phases of a project were found to be most successful. During later stages, projects are usually larger in scale, have more capital investment, and are more likely to have generated revenue. Thus, there are increased incentives for companies and governments to “defend’ their projects.” This provides further evidence of why the mobilization of nonviolent resistance during the beginning stages of the Utah tar sands mine’s development is so critical.
It was also determined that delayed projects are especially expensive to the extraction industry; $20 million per week loss in revenues and investments is not uncommon. According to study results, $750 million a day was lost in a nine-month delay at a Latin American mine and $750,000 a day at another extraction operation due to a power lines shut down. Even before extraction has started, lost wages and startup delays can be extremely costly if projects are stalled by on-site direct actions and protests.
On a more sobering note, in 40 percent of the 50 projects studied, someone died as a result of a physical protest. So there are costs to grass roots activists as well. But it’s not as if this hasn’t been carefully considered. For many activists, when compared to the imminent environmental destruction of our planet, it is a risk they are willing to take.
So join us at beautiful PR Springs in the pristine Book Cliffs of Eastern Utah for a summer of non-violent direct action against tar sands mining. Grass roots protests are not new to US Oil Sands – the Canada corporation that is developing the Utah tar sands mine, the first in the nation. In July 2013, climate justice activists shut down construction of the PR Springs test mine and of nearby Seep Ride Road for a full day, resulting in a 13 percent drop in US Oil Sands’ stock. This shows – like the study results described above – that our actions can have substantial and far-reaching environment-saving outcomes.
Next up on the PR Springs protest schedule is the Campaign Field School camp-out from July 15 to July 22. For this event, California Student Sustainability Coalition (CSSC) will join Utah Tar Sands Resistance, Peaceful Uprising, and Canyon Country Rising Tide to create a context for building relationships with like-minded activists and organizers and for learning the strategies of direct action resistance, all within a ever-deepening climate and collective justice framework. The Campaign Field School will serve as a training hub for people from the refinery communities of Salt Lake City, as well as for rural Utahans, indigenous allies, students, and other interested groups from throughout the region. By hosting the field school near the point of actual tar sands extraction, we are able to experience first hand the visceral realities of the relentless extractive economy, and show–not simply tell – the destructive forces our current fossil fuel economy is unleashing on ecosystems, land, water, and people.