Though not widely reported by the mainstream press, protests to the Keystone XL Pipeline have been held all over the nation. In Massachusetts, this included a protest of about 100 people at the TransCanada headquarters in Westborough, which resulted in the arrests of 25 people. One of those arrested was Peter Malagodi, who heads a pro environmental band called Melodeego. Here is my interview of Peter. In it, Pete provides tribute to other social protesters who have inspired Melodeego to use music as a vehicle for raising social and environmental justice issues.
-David Adams, Co-Director of Emerge and Co-Chair of the Branding and Publicity Committee of Community Works
Question: Peter, you were one of 25 people arrested during a protest of the proposed Keystone XL Pipeline project in early March. What were you charged with?
Peter: We were charged with Trespassing because we were on private property
Question: How long were you detained?
Peter: It was about 8 hours. All 25 of us were in the same cell. It definitely smelled like BO by the time they let us out! 🙂 Good company though.
Question: Well, I’m glad to hear that! What was the primary goal of your protest and do you believe you achieved it?
Peter: The protest was deemed “Funeral for our Future” and the reason for that was to call out TransCanada for their disregard of the extreme long-term danger this pipeline will create for everyone. Another goal was to truly raise awareness of the importance of stopping this pipeline and inspire others to take action. I believe that because of the attention the action got from the Huffington Post, The Boston Phoenix and more it certainly raised some awareness with people to what’s going on and spurred more folks to step up. I’d also like to think that some of the employees at the TransCanada office might reconsider their career choice.
Question: If built, the Pipeline will carry so-called tar sands, which is essentially a blend of oil and the sand from which it is extracted, from across Alberta to Texas. What are the environmental risks that this poses?
Peter: The fact that this is no ordinary oil is significant. These companies do not know how to clean it up because is so thick and sticky. Take for example the pipeline spill from 2010 in Michigan. It’s still being cleaned up! Also, all pipelines leak and this one will be no different. Mainly, the environmental effects will be due to the amount of Carbon Dioxide emitted into our atmosphere by extracting, transporting, refining and then burning this dirty oil. This pipeline has become a true battleground to turn the tide on Climate Change!
Question: The protest was at TransCanada’s Northeast Regional Office. They have mounted a multi-million dollar campaign to promote the pipeline. Two of their main selling points are that it will create jobs and that Canadian oil will help to make us less dependent on ‘foreign oil’. What do you say in response to this?
Peter: While it’s true that the building of the pipeline will create many temporary jobs the truth is that it will create very few permanent jobs. In fact the State Department did a study in which it was estimated that only 35 would be created. As far as making the US more energy independent, TransCanada is a Private Canadian Company and has their eyes on selling this oil worldwide. This brings up the other issue of how messed up it is that people are being moved off their land to build this pipeline because of Eminent Domain. This is in support of a private oil company! It’s not right.
Question: Your band, Melodeego, is unique in using music as a vehicle to raise environmental and social justice issues. Tell us a little bit about its history and why this type of music is needed.
Peter: The band took part in something called “March to re-energize New Hampshire” about 4 years ago. Through learning more about climate change and its real effects on people as well as experiencing a real role for us a musical leaders for the movement we were “re-born” I guess you could say. When the BP Gulf oil spill happened in 2010 we were upset like many other people. As a response to the spill and the dangers of fossil fuels, the band began using a bike-powered sound system. It’s our small way of supporting clean energy solutions and we play all our concerts that way. We’ve been very inspired by the movement and the people fighting to fight climate change and create social justice. We now take part leading marches such as The Forward on Climate Rally in DC and we marched with Veterans for Peace in the St. Patty’s day parade. And it was also a true pleasure to play some bike-powered music in the Memorial Day parade in Newton!
The band is inspired by people like Pete Seeger, Bob Marley and Marvin Gaye, to name a few, who truly understood music’s ability to inspire and inform. Music connects so directly. We’ve been told by many who were with us at the office in Westborough that our song “Digging us a hole” truly made the action. We were able to really capture the spirit of the group and through song that becomes truly powerful!! Because of this, we recently recorded a studio version of the song featuring many of the folks we got arrested with. It’s our gift to the movement to inspire folks around the whole country to stand strong against the pipeline and a part of the national Fearless summer campaign!
Question: Congratulations on your new recording! It sounds like your arrest hasn’t exactly hurt your reputation. In fact, has it added to your political cred?
Peter: Ha! Probably. That being said, there’s folks in this movement chaining themselves to bulldozers and in the pipes themselves that deserve the real cred. It’s gonna take a real mainstream acceptance of these kinds of tactics and more willingness to join in from everybody to stop this thing!!
Question: I noticed that most of the 100 or so protesters in Westborough were in their twenties. You were one of the elders! Do you think there’s been a resurgence of commitment to social protest and direct political action among young people?
Peter: Yes. There is a strong push from folks younger than I to really change the system. I think folks in their early and mid-twenties are feeling the urgency of the time and are acting. It’s a pleasure for me to take part in it. Fortunately I’m not the only Gen-Xer who’s jumped in the ring! We need everybody, including those who are much older than me!!
Question: President Obama hasn’t ruled out possible support of the Pipeline, and he appears to be facing pressure on both sides of this issue. Recently, some green activists have even lobbied Secretary of State John Kerry to oppose the Pipeline. For those of us who oppose the Pipeline, what actions do you believe might be most effective?
Peter: Take action! Get solar panels, support clean energy initiatives. I think the most effective way to oppose the pipeline is to get involved. There’s a real community that’s growing! Local groups like 350MA are organizing many actions this summer as a part of the Fearless Summer and in fact, from June 24-29 there will be a week of action. There’s “a march from coal to wind” that’s going on from Aug 28-Sept 2 put on by 350MA that will be inspiring to be a part of.
David: Thank you Peter!