The heaven of heavens is for God,

    but he put us in charge of the earth.”

-Psalm 115: 16, (The Message)

The State Department weighed many different factors as it evaluated the request to build the northern branch of the Keystone XL tarsands pipeline.  Judging by the topics covered in the record of decision, it was a thorough review.

Turns out it was the last factor that tipped the scale towards denial of the permit.  Secretary Kerry twice mentioned this concern in his statement --

The critical factor in my determination was this: moving forward with this project would significantly undermine our ability to continue leading the world in combatting climate change.”

The second reference is in the conclusion to his statement --

“The United States cannot ask other nations to make tough choices to address climate change if we are unwilling to make them ourselves. Denying the Keystone XL pipeline is one of those tough choices – but it is the right decision, for America and the world.”

Who knew this would be the deciding factor?  I don’t think any of the activists opposed to the project knew that this would be the winning argument.  They voiced their concerns, explained their fears, and hoped the politicians and civil servants would care.

Come to find out that what the decision-makers ultimately cared about was the potential negative impact the pipeline would have on one of their areas of concern.  The Environmental Protection Agency was the department that pointed out the climate change-related foreign policy issue.  Its letter to the State Department reads in part --

The letter concludes --

Viewed from this perspective, rejecting the permit is a signal and message to other countries that the United States will forego economic gains in favor of climate change gains.  The rejection gives the United States a strong bargaining position heading into the COP21 negotiations starting November 30, 2015.

The outcome of this controversy shows me that working for justice involves more than going public with my concerns.  That approach will only succeed if the decision-makers share my concerns.  If they don’t, then I need to take the time to get to know them, understand their fears and worries, and care enough to explain how their actions would undermine their interests in the long run.

Once again I’m back to the lesson that works of mercy will only succeed when love of the enemy is part of what motivates my action.  How many times will Jesus have to reinforce that lesson before it finally sinks in and defines my behavior?