Occupiers bike for environmental change

By Heather Scroering

While protesters participate in marches tromping across the city to oppose NATO, some demonstrators stride in a different way—on bicycle.

Dozens of protesters on bikes gathered at Jackson and LaSalle on May 17 to exodus to the Canadian Consulate in Prudential Plaza, 180 N. Stetson Ave., to advocate against Canada’s extraction of unclean oil from the Athabasca oil sands in Alberta, Canada.

“I don’t think people understand how energy and environmentally intensive extraction of oil from the [tar] sands is,” said Ryan Metz, 28, who graduated from DePaul with a biology degree. “It’s one of the dirtiest forms of oil extraction on the planet, and it isn’t particularly energy efficient as opposed to cheap, sweet crude right out of the desert.”

Oil sand, or tar sand, is a mixture of sand, clay, water and a thick petroleum deposit used to make gasoline and diesel, according to Alberta’s energy website, Energy.Gov.Ab.Ca. The oil is refined and transported via pipeline all over North America, including California, Louisiana and the Midwest, the site said.

The demonstration, organized by Occupy Chicago, was to raise awareness of the deforestation and other harmful destruction caused by Alberta oil refineries. Protesters held a large tube, symbolizing a pipeline, painted with phrases such as “spill, baby, spill” and “one planet, one fight.”

According to NASA’s Earth Observatory, approximately 265 square miles of land has been destroyed for oil mining. The process also causes health hazards such as water and air pollution.

Bicycles and all other environmentally-friendly means of transportation were encouraged. Metz along with Sam Sandmel, 24, both members of Occupy Chicago, rode a tandem bicycle—which Sandmel found in his parents’ basement—so the two could send a live feed of action to their UStream channel.

While Metz operates the bicycle, Sandmel films from his iPhone from the second seat on the bike. Footage can be watched at UStream.tv/Channel/SamWiseOccupies

Folk artist David Rovics from Protland, Oreg. performed at the rally. About 100 people attended.

Several protesters covered themselves in a mixture of molasses and other edible ingredients to represent dirty oil and the risk it has on humanity. Matthew McLoughlin, 26, of Occupy Chicago and 2009 alumnus, was among the few who caked himself with the mock oil.

“[NATO is] fighting illegal and unjust wars while there’s a real war on for the future of our planet right now that’s being ignored and caused by the United States,” McLoughlin said. “We’re currently making our planet uninhabitable because we’re being short sided, and we’re wasting hundreds of millions of dollars killing people when we have real problems that could be solved that we’re not addressing.”