Some of you may have seen the hashtag #NoDAPL in recent weeks (or months). The acronym DAPL refers to the Dakota Access PipeLine, a 1,168-mile pipeline proposed to transport crude oil from North Dakota’s bakken oil fields to pre-existing Illinois refineries. It was initially supposed to go north of Bismarck, ND, but this plan was rejected due to concerns regarding the water supply. Instead, the pipeline route was redrawn so the water quality issues would affect Standing Rock Sioux Reservation instead of the (mostly white) population of Bismarck.
While largely ignored by mainstream media, a movement has grown to support the people of the Standing Rock Sioux tribal reservation on the ND/SD border who are standing up to this pipeline. Objections to this project include threats to local water supply and sensitive environments; violation of indigenous rights; and the environmental impacts of the pipeline construction itself, the carbon emissions from the burning of the oil, and the potential for the pipeline to explode.
(The environmental impacts are, in fact, not entirely certain, due to the lack of an Environmental Impact Statement as required under NEPA; but the Environmental Assessment yielded a Finding of No Significant Impact, which is currently being contested.)
So here we have a few things going on. First, the route was redrawn because concerns for white people’s water outweighed concerns for indigenous people’s water. Second, mainstream media has overlooked the issue almost entirely, in contrast to the water pollution issues facing Flint, MI. Third, we see environmental considerations being overlooked in favor of fossil fuel production. Fourth, peaceful protesters at Standing Rock are being shot with rubber bullets, pepper-sprayed, and arrested by police outfitted in riot gear with armored vehicles (photos). Fifth, this protest has begun to reach major news outlets at nearly the same time as the 7 (white) leaders of the Bundy militia group that occupied Malheur Wildlife Refuge in Oregon were acquitted.
This pipeline and protest perfectly encapsulate the state of affairs in the United States in 2016: If you’re not white, the government gives no appearance of caring about you. If you’re an indigenous community, the media pays no attention to you. If it is about the environment, neither the government nor the media cares. If you are being peaceful, force will be used against you. If you are white and heavily armed, you can basically do whatever you want.
So what should happen now?
I argue that three things should happen:
- The Dakota Access Pipeline should be shut down.
- Surplus military equipment should not be available to U.S. police forces, and training in de-escalation and racial sensitivity should be made available to all U.S. police.
- U.S. citizens should all take a good, long look at their priorities… on their way to the ballot box.