The most emotionally devastating and artistically gifted scene in Above All Else, John Fiege’s new climate change documentary, comes late in the film. Deep in the night, East Texas landowner David Daniel hikes through the darkness to an environmental activist encampment where he has to deliver bad news. The scene is lit only by the head lamps that Daniel and the others wear, highlighting or obscuring their grief-stricken faces. Around them is the hush and murmur of the forest. It’s a scene that may have occurred millions of times through history — a half dozen humans, alone among untouched wildness, sharing their pain.
By the early months of 2012, after every Occupy camp in Texas had been evicted, the state became the sight of a dramatic new, ongoing protest: the Tar Sands Blockade. Though largely ignored by the national environmental advocacy groups that had fought to delay the Keystone XL Pipeline, construction of the southern leg of the pipeline continued, cutting across beautiful, untouched Texas wild lands and waterways.
Until police violence and a legal settlement forced a halt to action, the Blockade operated almost continuously from the famous tree village through dozens of smaller direct actions, working from landowners’ property and a secluded tent village. Though the movement attracted many Occupiers and long time activists, it also drew many who’d never taken a stand before — Texas landowners, parents and grandparents who wanted East Texas (and Planet Earth) to be beautiful and life sustaining for their children. The Blockade was truly a citizen’s movement.