(L.Polk – Alternet, 18/10/12) – Why are scientists in alarm mode over the proposed Keystone XL pipeline, a 1,700-mile long conduit that would transport a chemical-laden synthetic oil from the tar sands of Alberta, Canada, to refineries in Texas? Scientists across specialized fields have joined forces to make public statements, penned a formal letter to President Obama, and have even committed acts of civil disobedience in front of the White House during the national Tar Sands Action .
What do they know that we don’t?
I sought out these questions, traveling to the furthest southern extent of Cape Cod to the township of Woods Hole; a place of world renown for its oceanic studies and a hub of scientific exploration since the late 1800s. I had come to meet with one of the signatories of the Obama letter , ecologist George M. Woodwell, at the Woods Hole Research Center.
While awaiting his arrival, I walked around the facility and its grounds. WHRC, also a campus, is ensconced in eight acres of oxygen-rich forest where burnt and downed tree trunks are left alone to decompose. The carpet of detritus underfoot was so dense and varied its components were indecipherable to the naked eye. The outdoor laboratory is a sliver of what they do on a global scale: WHRC is a preeminent collector of data on forests. They track and record the health of forests worldwide in tandem with cooperators in the Amazon, the Arctic, Africa, Russia, Alaska, Canada, New England, and the Mid-Atlantic.