Tag Archives: Madison

Keystone XL Delay Demonstrates Power of Resistance Movement

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On Friday the Obama Administration announced it would once again delay the decision on whether to approve the controversial Keystone XL pipeline. This is a clear sign that Obama is feeling the heat of popular opposition to the project.

That opposition continues to grow. Nearly 100,000 people have signed an online Pledge of Resistance to engage in non-violent civil disobedience if needed to stop the pipeline, and over 100 actions are ready to deploy on short notice across the country. Last month nearly 400 students from around the nation were arrested at the White House, where many of them zip tied themselves to the fence. This coming weekend the Cowboy Indian Alliance will be setting up camp in Washington DC to protest the pipeline.

Prominent individuals are also speaking out against the project. Recently ten Nobel laureates called on Obama to deny the permit for the Keystone XL. Not long ago over 200 business owners, venture capitalists, and other prominent leaders in the business community did the same.

In the words of Bill McKibben, “Three years ago this pipeline was a done deal, and thanks to you it’s come steadily undone.” This is something that all those fighting the pipeline can be proud of.

The Keystone XL would transport tar sands oil from Canada to the Gulf of Mexico, crossing America’s heartland and much of the country’s fresh water supply. In addition to posing a threat to communities and ecosystems along its route, the pipeline would allow the extraction of vast quantities of the Alberta tar sands, some of the most carbon-intensive fossil fuel on the planet. In the words of top climatologist James Hansen, burning those reserves would mean “game over” for the climate.

While this delay is a victory for opponents of the Keystone XL, they haven’t won yet. After perhaps a brief pause to enjoy the Easter weekend with their family and friends, there is no doubt that they’ll keep fighting the good fight to protect our planet, our children and our future.


UW Student Coalition Keeps Pressure on University Foundation to Divest

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Madison, WI – The movement to divest university endowments from fossil fuels continues to gain steam. Recently the student government at UW-Madison (the Associated Students of Madison, or ASM) overwhelmingly passed a resolution calling on the UW Foundation to divest from the top 200 fossil fuel companies over a five-year period.



The ASM resolution cannot force the university to divest, as the students do not have direct control over the funds. However, it sends a clear message: students do not want university money going to companies whose business model depends on destroying the planet’s climate.



The group of students that brought the divestment resolution to ASM, the Fossil Free UW Coalition, doesn’t plan to stop now. To keep the pressure on, they collaborated with the Overpass Light Brigade to bring three pro-divestment messages to the university’s campus, beginning at the top of Bascom Hill and ending at Science Hall.



The divestment push isn’t confined to Madison. At UW-Oshkosh, the Faculty Senate recently called on their foundation to divest, and their student governance body (the Oshkosh Students Association) also joined the call, asking the foundation to explore its divestment options in detail. There are also active divestment campaigns at UW La Crosse, Steven’s Point, Green Bay, Eau Claire, and River Falls. Around the world, groups at about 380 campuses are pushing for divestment, in a campaign spearheaded by 350.org’s Bill McKibben called Go Fossil Free.



The goal is to speed the transition away from fossil fuels. When universities and other institutions choose to shift their investment portfolios away from the top fossil fuel companies, they chip away at these companies’ credibility as sound investments and good corporate citizens. This can reduce the amount of money these firms have to work with, and also set the stage for broader policy reforms.

Universities that divest signal to other investors that these companies’ asset aren’t worth as much as the market thinks they are. Current stock prices assume these firms will extract and sell all of their fossil fuel reserves. However, to avoid catastrophic climate change, three-quarters of these reserves need to stay in the ground. The result is that these assets are currently overvalued, creating a “carbon bubble.” Someday this bubble will burst. By divesting, universities protect themselves from this risk. They also start to let the air out of the bubble, making it more likely that other investors will choose to divest as well.



The divestment campaign is already having an effect. For example, recently Bloomberg LP, a major financial information firm, launched a tool that allows investors to measure the risk of “unburnable carbon assets.”

History shows that divestment campaigns have been successful before. In fact, a recent study by Oxford University’s Stranded Assets Programme concluded:

In almost every divestment campaign we reviewed from adult services to Darfur, from tobacco to South Africa, divestment campaigns were successful in lobbying for restrictive legislation.



The results of the international fossil fuel divestment campaign are yet to be seen. However, the fact that many groups like the Fossil Free UW Coalition are working so hard to push their schools to divest is a hopeful sign. Let’s keep the pressure on UW-Madison and other universities to do the right thing.

You can view more photos from the Light Brigade action here.

A Valentine’s Wish for Obama: “No Keystone XL!”

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Madison, WI - There are too few doilies in the political process. And not nearly enough construction paper and glitter. At least, that seemed to be the opinion of more than 100 people who gathered Friday evening to make valentines for President Obama and Secretary of State Kerry.

The valentines, made on Friday, expressed one overriding wish: Do not approve the Keystone XL pipeline. Their message was conveyed on pink paper with heart-dotted i’s, but their request is deadly serious.

If built, the Keystone XL pipeline would transport vast quantities of tar sands oil from Alberta, Canada to the Gulf of Mexico. This is some of the dirtiest, most carbon-intensive fossil fuel on the planet. The proposed pipeline would put many communities and agricultural lands at risk of toxic spills, and would release vast quantities of carbon into the atmosphere, spelling “game over for the climate” in the words of top climatologist James Hansen.

Denying the permit for the Keystone XL should be a no-brainer, especially for a President who has spoken of slowing the rise of the oceans during his tenure, and for a Secretary of State who himself ran for President on his strong environmental record. However, the final Environmental Impact Statement released by the Administration on January 31 left the door wide open for approval, under the guise that building the pipeline would not increase carbon emissions.

A 30-day public comment period opened on Wednesday, February 5: please click here to register your own opposition to the Keystone XL. After doing that, if you want to take your resistance to the next level, consider signing the Keystone XL Pledge of Resistance to engage in peaceful civil disobedience to stop the pipeline.

And if you’re itching to break out the construction paper and scissors after seeing the photos above, go ahead and make some valentines of your own to send to Obama and Kerry.

What’s the Overpass Light Brigade’s New Year’s Resolution? Revolution!

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Overpass Light Brigade would like to present to you a short “end of the year” film created by Dusan Harminc for your inspiration and enjoyment. Our wish for the New Year is that everyone understands that their voice matters and that we have the right – and necessity – to engage in creative resistance against the gathering forces of greed.

Resolution/ Revolution from Overpass Light Brigade on Vimeo.



Overpass Light Brigade: 2013 A Year of Collaborations and Light

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The Overpass Light Brigade was definitely visible in 2013.

The Overpass Light Brigade was definitely visible in 2013.

Milwaukee, WI -  In 2013, the Overpass Light Brigade (OLB) worked hard to shed light on issues ignored by the mainstream media. Along with the other 40 affiliates comprising the nationwide Light Brigade Network, OLB is a vivid example of the power of collective action to drive public debate. Eight collaborations this past year between OLB and other groups exemplify the power of the light brigade medium.

350.org/No KXL: Alberta Tar Sands Extraction

This past year, OLB collaborated several times with groups resisting the exploitation of the Alberta tar sands and fighting to address the climate crisis. In one example, OLB joined forces with 350.org to present an illuminated message as part of the nationwide Draw the Line day of action. In another, OLB teamed up with local NOKXL organizers, who are training local people to engage in peaceful civil disobedience to stop the Keystone XL pipeline as part of the nationwide Pledge of Resistance.

Idle No More: Penokee Hills Mine/Sand for Hydraulic Fracking/Water Rights

The growing Idle No More movement, which works for indigenous rights and land and water protections, collaborated closely with OLB in 2013. The two groups organized several events opposing the Penokee Hill iron ore strip mine in northern Wisconsin, sand mining for hydraulic fracking, and the recent creation of a statewide wolf hunt. They also worked together to support indigenous treaty rights and access to water resources.

Planned Parenthood Advocates of Wisconsin: Women’s Rights

This year, Governor Scott Walker and the GOP-controlled Wisconsin legislature attacked women’s rights by passing a mandatory ultrasound bill. This regressive legislation forces women to have the invasive procedure before they can have an abortion. It also mandates that doctors providing abortion services have admitting privileges at a hospital, reducing the number of locations where the procedure may be performed and needlessly forcing women to travel great distances to access services. To pressure legislators, the Holders of the Light displayed messages right in front of the Capitol in Madison. OLB also worked with the group Focus on Jobs, Not Vaginas! to take the fight to the National Governors’ Meeting in Milwaukee.

Planned Parenthood Advocates of Wisconsin asked OLB to make a short film, titled “Be Visible.” This powerful short was directed by Emmy nominee Brad Lichtenstein, and featured the personal stories of woman forced to rely on the vital services of Planned Parenthood in their time of need.

These messages were all held on the Capitol lawn in Madison in July, when the Walker Administration passed his mandatory ultrasound bill.

These messages were all held on the Capitol lawn in Madison in July in solidarity with women across the country, undergoing similar attacks on their reproductive rights.

Solidarity Sing Along: Freedom of Speech

The Solidarity Sing Along, a daily singing protest at the Wisconsin State Capitol, came under attack this past summer. Scott Walker cracked down on the peaceful singers, rewriting a series of administrative rules to force them to get a permit and accept liability for singing in their own statehouse, and then arresting people for noncompliance. Several OLB messages supported the singers and their fight.

Poster and messages created by Overpass Light Brigade.

Poster and messages created by Overpass Light Brigade.

Palermo’s Pizza Workers Union: Labor Rights

Workers continued their year-and-a-half-long strike and boycott against Palermo’s Pizza in Milwaukee, after the company fired and intimidated employees for union organizing activities. They decided to march 18 miles to take their message to the company owner’s home, and OLB stood in solidarity with them.

Milwaukee Teachers: Strengthening Public Education

Teachers continued their fight to improve working and learning conditions in the Milwaukee Public School system. When the School Board refused to negotiate a new contract, the educators worked with OLB to deliver messages directly to School Board directors’ homes, and turned out en masse with lighted letters at public School Board meetings.

Milwaukee Public School educators held this message at the back of a full public School Board meeting in early February.

March Against Monsanto: Food Sovereignty

OLB helped bring visibility to two major March Against Monsanto actions this past year. The international movement is fighting against the food giant’s threats to consumer safety, ecological health, and family farmers’ welfare.

Wisconsin Jobs Now: Fast Food Workers Rights

Fast food workers went on strike several times in 2013, and the Holders of the Light shone boldly in solidarity. Wisconsin Jobs Now, which led the effort to organize workers in Wisconsin, worked with OLB to organize several actions in support of the nationwide strikes.

2013 was a pivotal year for the Light Brigade Network. The group forged new collaborations, tackled fresh issues, and expanded into areas where they had previously had no on-the-ground presence. At the dawn of 2014, they are stronger than ever, and ready for another year of light activism.

Photo credit: Dusan Harminc

Photo credit: Dusan Harminc


Resolution/ Revolution from Overpass Light Brigade on Vimeo.