Dear Mr. President: What does it say when historical foes march together, hand-in-hand against your indecision on #nokxl?

I’ll be brief. Maybe.

Dear President Obama: I sorely missed being in Washington, DC, this week. The Reject and Protect protests by the Cowboy Indian Alliance (and thousands of other supporters) against the Keystone XL pipeline wraps up today. The big show was yesterday and the pictures are fantastic, symbolic and powerful. Check the video above of the opening ceremony earlier in the week. I hope you heard them. They mean business and you should listen.

My views on this are hardly a secret. #NOKXL. But I’m still a little in awe of how many people have come together, from very different subject positions, despite what I consider to be an adverse environment for environmental politics.

Consider the context: U.S. politics are poisoned/paralyzed by a hypocritical, psuedo-”freedom from government” movement; the Democratic leadership is focused on public relations damage control over its greatest achievement (which I still support); the Republican-controlled House hates nature; the uber-rich Koch brothers live and breathe climate change denial* and bankroll idiocy* on the matter; some scholars say as national governments are unable/unwilling/less necessary to lead in global environmental governance, cities may/can step up in their place.

Such gridlock, political distractions, misinformation (lies, you giant Kochs*) and city-scale momentum might suggest that a national environmental movement would have trouble gathering steam.

Yet somehow, Mr. President, you have managed to repeatedly draw large crowds of protest very near to your doorstep. More than 1,200 got themselves arrested in 2011 in a massive display of civil disobedience, and tens of thousands have again and again crowded downtown DC to tell you to take a moral stand and reject this pipeline.

In the latest action, Obama-sir, you’ve managed to convince historical foes — ranchers and indigenous tribes — that they have something important in common that would trump even the grave injustices and conflict of the past. In case you haven’t figured it out, that common interest is telling you where you ought to shove the pipeline.

As you well know, Mr. President, climate change is real and scary. We’re on a runaway train of oil addiction; stopping said train will be painful, to be sure. But the whole planet is headed for an even worse fate if tar sands crude goes up in so much smoke. If Keystone XL is approved, the United States will be aiding and abetting the consumption of immoral, uber-dirty (like, Koch Bros.-dirty*) tar sands crude.

Perhaps I should be thankful that your indecision on the looming threat of this pipeline has galvanized a new environmental movement that bridges some serious political gulfs. Perhaps I could be thankful, Mr. Obama, if I wasn’t still so damn flustered that you and your administration are politically punting (again) on environmental protection.

* For you prickly Koch Bros. fanboys, my angst about your money-grubbing heroes is of course my opinion, no matter how many other people (or facts) share said opinion. No need to line up the libel suits.

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Mr. Obama, reject this pipeline! #nokxl

There’s only about two weeks left to make comments on the final State Department Environmental Impact Statement of the proposed Keystone XL pipeline. This is the pipeline that more than a million of us have opposed from D.C. to Nebraska to Alberta to countries across the globe, large and small. This is the pipeline that I was protesting when arrested in 2011. My views on this are no secret.

Anyone wishing to comment can do so directly on the Regulations.gov or through a proxy such as 350.org, an organization I support.

My own comment is below, which anyone is free to use.

President Obama boldly claimed he would reject the Keystone XL pipeline if it significantly affected the climate. More to the point, he linked our own national interest with the global climate. Time and again, the president has called for accepting the reality of climate change and attempting to do all we can to mitigate (or adapt to) its impacts, particularly for the most vulnerable communities. Kudos to him for strong words.

I hope this translates into strong action that resolutely rejects the pipeline. This pipeline will allow 830,000 barrel per day of the worst oil to reach market. This will only lower marginal costs for companies to extract and sell more tar sands crude than they could otherwise. This will only increase our economic path dependency on dirty oil. Any claims to the contrary — and even parts of the final Keystone XL EIS — are based on faulty assumptions, poor models (essentially accepting a 6 degree temperature rise, for example) and an unhealthy amount of industry involvement in what was supposed to be an unbiased accounting.

However, beyond the dithering over details and quibbling over accounting, I have a larger concern. The president has repeatedly suggested that we as a country have the moral obligation of right action. In my favorite Obama moment, he claimed in 2004 that he believes that we are our brother’s keeper, that the fates of those less fortunate and the misery of people elsewhere still make our own lives poorer. We must then recognize that we are members of a global community and climate change continues to make people in that community suffer. And that suffering happens at home and abroad. And that suffering is caused by our misuse of resources.

This is a moral issue; the president must not duck it as a fiscal, balance-of-numbers question. Nor can it be sidestepped as part of any political calculus. The practical nature and political expediency of the president’s “all-of-the-above” energy policy must be discarded, at least this time.

Simply put, this test has no “all-of-the-above” bubble to mark. The cost — financial, yes, but also human and environmental — of some forms of energy is too great. Keeping Keystone XL on the table is simply not a moral option. Doing so aides and abets climate destruction and contributes to global suffering.

Mr. President, you now have the findings of the State Department, as problematic as they are. Now it is your turn to act, and act rightly.

Please, Mr. President, reject this pipeline.

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One hand tied behind our back

I only spent a summer living in Boston, yet that brief connection to people and a place left me completely enrapt this week with the incredible, horrifying tumult that turned a wonderful American city into a police state of fear.

The ordeal has made me want to hug loved ones. We, watching and listening from the distanced gallery that is INTERNETNEWSPAPERSTWITTERPOLICESCANNERTV, first and foremost can be thankful that it didn’t happen to us.

But as life restarts now, big questions, drama and arguments lie ahead as a nation focuses on the fate of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev. We must all pray for healing for victims; we must also pray for sanity in whatever comes next.

And something will come. I hope it is true justice. Not angry mob vengeance, but sober, encompassing, compassionate, holistic justice. As others deliberate what justice will look like, I have one quote from Aharon Barak, former president of the Israeli Supreme Court, ringing in my ears:

This is the destiny of democracy, as not all means are acceptable to it, and not all practices employed by its enemies are open before it. Although a democracy must often fight with one hand tied behind its back, it nonetheless has the upper hand. Preserving the Rule of Law and recognition of an individual’s liberty constitutes an important component in its understanding of security. At the end of the day, they strengthen its spirit and its strength and allow it to overcome its difficulties.

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The scent of spring on a late night breeze conjures Neruda

Quiero hacer contigo lo que la primavera hace con los cerezos

The famous D.C. cherry blossoms on one of my middle-of-the-night rides last week. Warm breeze, the scent of the blossoms and I reminisce of Neruda and the love of my life. The cherry blossoms always do that. The last two stanzas of Sonnet XIV:

My words rained over you, stroking you.
A long time I have loved the sunned mother-of-pearl of your body.
I go so far as to think that you own the universe.
I will bring you happy flowers from the mountains, bluebells,
dark hazels, and rustic baskets of kisses.

I want
to do with you what spring does with the cherry trees.

Maybe I’m cliche and schmaltzy. I’m OK with that. Of course one Neruda poem immediately has me reading another.

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Dear State Department: #NOKXL

There are only a few more days to submit comments to the State Department regarding its draft environmental impact statement on the latest version of the Keystone XL nightmare pipeline. Following the closure of the comment period, the state department may make revisions to its currently flawed assessment of the pipeline, which will ultimately be used to make a recommendation to the president.

[For those folks who are not deeply mired/versed in this debate already, this article, this archive and this video are some places to start. Bonus: If you pause the video at 2:29, you can see me in my white linen protest suit and Panama hat getting arrested in front of the White House.]

The pipeline is a focal point for environmental protest because its construction would be devastating to any attempt to stave off extreme climate change. As NASA climatologist James Hansen has said, the pipeline would essentially be “game over.” I won’t belabor the well established point that tar sands oil is particularly noxious. Suffice to say: We need to stop the pipeline.

Anyone concerned can submit comments on the impact statement to keystonecomments@state.gov. You can also send letters with suggested text via 350.org’s Stop KXL campaign or through other outlets, such as The Nation.

My own comment (which anyone can use):

I oppose Keystone XL because it serves neither our national interest nor the planet’s. The pipeline only returns profits to TransCanada (which has lied about facts and spun the story to suit its ends) while bolstering the incredibly destructive tar sands industry. This extraction is particularly bad for our planet (and hence our nation) and will only deepen our path dependency on an economic mode that cannot and will not survive in the long-run. If we are to transition to a post-carbon economy — which is the only option if we value the future and don’t simply discount all coming generations — we must take concrete steps to move beyond oil. Any economist worth her salt can explain that concept; adjust the discount rate, extend the time horizon a generation or two and there’s no way this pipeline is “in our national interest.”

More importantly, this is no longer just an economic calculus. The president’s “all of the above” energy strategy may be politically expedient and may (but still probably doesn’t) make sense in the very short-run. But expediency doesn’t equal morality, and this is not only an economic decicision. It is also a moral one. Some forms of energy — in this case, tar sands crude — are simply incompatible with a just and right future.

As such, blocking this pipeline is the only moral course of action.

— Adam Jadhav, April 14, 2013

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Lousy Smarch weather…

Winter wonderland? Meet Monday morning ride

While the Midwest received a blizzard Monday, DC got its only real dose of winter weather, after the official arrival of spring.

Perhaps we had a calendar misprint? Or just a fluke snow+sleet storm?

Either way, the larger pattern of weather extremes, instabilities and oddities (hots, colds, hurricanes, super storms, etc.) might indeed be part of that nasty phenomenon called climate change. Scientists say the unseasonal cold this spring on both sides of the North Atlantic is likely the result of the loss of Arctic sea ice. Climatology is complicated, but here’s the gist: The loss of ice cover warms the polar ocean which shifts the jet stream in a manner that allows colder Arctic air to reach mid-range latitudes, precipitating snowfall when we’d expect warmer weather.

The heavy snowfall and freezing temperatures which have marked March 2013 across the northern hemisphere are in stark contrast to March 2012 when many countries experienced their warmest-ever springs. The hypothesis that wind patterns are being changed because melting Arctic sea ice has exposed huge swaths of normally frozen ocean to the atmosphere would explain both the extremes of heat and cold, say the scientists.

Specific implications if cooler-than-normal temperatures last (delayed planting for farmers already suffering from lingering drought?) are mixed or unclear. But, generally speaking, we’re headed for a new normal of weather, which may be anything but normal, even year to year.

This is me trying to restart the blog by not focusing on writing my damned thesis.

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Why I ride in freezing weather…

DC's understanding of snow this winter

Because my first downhill into the park makes it all worthwhile.

Well, my wrists were exposed and are now burned by windchill.

But it’s worth it.

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There’s actually more tryptophan in this…

Pretend Thanksgiving dinner

My belated and fake all-vegetarian Thanksgiving dinner: A Tofurky “roast” with a paprika baste on a bed of homemade rosemary stuffing surrounded by roast potato slices.

Nearly two hours of baking later, I had something akin to a turkey dinner in a pot. The Tofurky — a ball of tofu with a wild rice stuffing of its own — was not bad though still a poor substitute for an actual turkey. And my homemade stuffing crushed the baked-in variety.

But, surprisingly, soy has a substantially higher concentration of tryptophan per gram. This may be why I am rather sleepy at the moment.

Nonetheless, like a real Thanksgiving turkey, there will be plenty of leftovers.

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It’s festival season!

Now I just need a puzzled monkey

Per tradition, I have today, the day after Thanksgiving, decorated a nifty little tree in my apartment, hung some bits of garland and turned on some holiday tunes.

Festival season — the Dussehra to New Year’s Eve blitz — has been underway for a while. I’m celebrating Diwali late with lights and Christmas early with my Norfolk Island Pine (Araucaria heterophylla), also known as the Monkey Puzzle tree.

No more cut trees, as beautiful and mulch-compostable as they are. I went with a live evergreen that I picked at a local nursery. It’s already nearly five-feet tall and if properly treated for the next several years it will continue to grow even indoors. This is a more grown-up version of the same tree I had in India for a few seasons.

As I type this, I’m already basking in warm, holiday glow.

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Open letter to [school of your choice] president

I wrote and sent roughly this same letter to the president of American University this week. Fill in the blanks and send one on yourself.

President [so-and-so]:

The campus has been crawling with prospective students this fall. Many a day, I watch tour guides roving from building to building with hordes of high schoolers and parents in tow. I overhear all the usual chatter about history, scholarship and community — in short why they ought to attend [school of your choice].

As well we should tout what we have to offer. I just hope that maybe, when the conversation turns to our school’s principles, values and efforts toward justice and sustainability, the university might consider a new talking point. It would be great if we could tell prospects, “And because we value everyone on this planet — including all those unable to access the privileges of [relevant institution], we divested our financial portfolio from fossil fuels.”

I’m guessing this isn’t the first time you’ve heard of this concept — fossil fuel divestment — and if you’re well versed, then you can feel free to

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