Last year, as a protest against wasteful consumption and the construction of identity through fashion, Kristy Powell wore just one dress for 365 days straight. While other people threw up their hands and asked the rhetorical question, “What can be done?” Powell took the question seriously and came up with an answer.
Powell didn’t just restrict her protest to what she wore, either. She wore that dress to other protests as well, getting arrested at the protest outside the White House last summer that demanded that President Barack Obama stop the XL Pipeline designed to send dirty tar sands oil from Alberta down to Texas, so that the oil can be refined and sold.
Compare Powell’s actions on sustainability and climate to those taken by President Barack Obama. In his State Of The Union address this year, Obama announced that he wouldn’t even try to get climate legislation passed through Congress. Then, Obama said there was nothing he could do to stop the tar sands pipeline proposed for construction across the U.S. Midwest, because, “Canada is going to be moving forward with tar sands, regardless of what we do. That’s their national policy, they’re pursuing it.” In line with this comment, Obama hasn’t stopped the XL Pipeline. He’s merely delayed its construction until after the 2012 presidential election.
Of course, there’s a great deal that can be done by the U.S government to slow Canada’s development of the Alberta tar sands. The U.S. government can decide not to give a special exception to environmental regulations for the XL pipeline, and thus cut off the tar sands oil from easy access to American markets, cutting the profitability of the tar sands development.
Barack Obama isn’t willing to commit to take that action, however. He’s just throwing his hands up in the air and saying that nothing can be done. While Barack Obama may be the Chief Executive in name, activists like Kristy Powell are demonstrating a great deal more genuine executive leadership.