Letter: The environmental injustice of Standing Rock
This September, the Standing Rock Sioux set up camp in peaceful prayer to protest the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline. Not only does the pipeline violate unceded territory under the 1851 Treaty of Fort Laramie, the company responsible, Transfer Energy Partners, wishes to transport over half a million barrels of crude oil a day beneath the Missouri River. Evidence suggests that despite their assurances, much of this oil would be exported, presupposing an increase in fracking and benefitting solely those companies involved.
The project will not significantly benefit the country as a whole. Should it ever rupture or leak, a legitimate concern that led the Army Corps of Engineers to reroute the pipeline from passing upstream of Bismarck, North Dakota, then the only source of clean drinking water for the Standing Rock Sioux would be severely poisoned. The Army Corps of Engineers has yet to submit a full environmental impact report, dividing the project instead into a series of small permits rather than assessing the overall risk of pushing a giant pipeline beneath a great river that nourishes many ecosystems and millions of citizens downriver.
The Dakota Access Pipeline is an illegal project, sidestepping Environmental Protection Agency regulation, violating the promised territory of a sovereign nation and has been fervently backed by increasingly militant police and private security. Many thousands of people, including United States veterans and hundreds of indigenous tribes, have shuttled supplies and stood in peaceful, prayerful solidarity with the Standing Rock Sioux. The Morton County Sheriff’s Department has responded with attack dogs, chemical weapons, psychological warfare and lethal use of non-lethal weapons, prompting the United Nations to issue a denouncement.
This singular movement is representative of a much greater, global narrative. As our fossil fuel dependency sinks us further into desperate means of extraction, indigenous voices around the world remind us of our intimate, interwoven connection to this planet and her well-being. In today’s society we are starkly isolated from the earth, moving from one artificial sphere to the next. We easily forget that our health, the lives of our children and all subsequent generations depend directly upon our active stewardship.
Truly, no resource is more sacred than water and certainly not oil. It is only by severe mental and moral sickness that we would condemn the right to clean drinking water of a First Nation for the profit of a company and an industry that depend upon the careless destruction of our communal environment, our living home. This is an opportunity to stand behind an essential ideal and set a new precedence for respect and human dignity as we transition into an uncertain political future. It is a time to place our health, our rights and the futures of our children before the financial gain of the few at the cost of a great many.
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