The Common Good

Oil Addicts Anonymous

If the United States is a fossil fuel addict, then the Alberta tar sands are our next big fix.

The tar sands contain the largest oil reserves in North America and their extraction has been called "the most destructive project on earth." The proposed Keystone XL Pipeline would carry oil from the tar sands down to Texas refineries, making it available for our consumption and pushing a turn to green energy sources even further down the road.

Borrowing wisdom from the twelve step program pioneered by Alcoholics Anonymous, theologian Ched Myers contends that addiction -- "the inability to say no because of captivity to pathological desires" -- names our spiritual and cultural condition. Perhaps nowhere is this clearer than in the case of fossil fuels.

We know that burning oil, coal, and gas releases vast amounts of carbon, trapping heat in the atmosphere and placing our planet on an uncontrollable collision course. Already far beyond the safe upper bounds of 350 ppm CO2, the effects of climate change can be felt all around us and threaten much dire consequences as global temperatures rise.

Despite all this, our country continues to promote policies that favor the fossil fuel industry and delay the development of renewable energy sources. Rather than recognizing climate change and the ruining of precious ecosystems as the radical alarms they are, we persist in denial and defend a way of life which deep down we know is reckless.

According to NASA climatologist James Hansen, "if the tar sands are thrown into the mix it is essentially game over" for the fight against climate change. In other words, our next big fix could be the planet's final overdose. And this is why some of us are coming to Washington, D.C., to stage an intervention.

Thousands will risk arrest in front of the White House demanding that President Obama block approval of the Tar Sands Keystone XL pipeline. On Monday, August 29, people of faith will join those risking arrest.

Together we will be praying with our bodies that our country can begin the process of ecological recovery before we hit bottom.

Tim Kumfer is co-director of Tell the Word, a ministry of The Church of the Saviour. He is a former Sojourners intern and a graduate of Duke Divinity School. If you would like to be part of this interfaith witness, sign up at and email

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