Friday, September 16, 2016

What is being birthed in North Dakota?

The Sacred Stone Camp in North Dakota, one of the two front lines of struggle against the Dakota Access Pipeline (the other being in Iowa), continues to grow - both physically in place, and in terms of solidarity all around the world. It has captured the imagination of people who are facing a similar harsh reality - the threat to their land and waters, the threat to their families and their futures, the threat to climate, from the fossil fuel industry.

Photo: Sacred Stone Camp

One of the harsh realities of the Obama administration, despite a public commitment to address the threat of the atmosphere's rising carbon load, is the record expansion of the domestic oil and gas industry by way of drilling and fracking, greater than ever in our history. This is being done in the name of "energy independence," a strategy that Obama called "all of the above." Expand it all - solar, wind, sure, but the real ticket in this global economy was to get at our own oil and gas reserves. And that meant developing the technology to go after the hard-to-get stuff, the carbon stuck in shale rock or deep under the seas or all mixed up in the sands we call "tar" sands because what this is really is tar, not sand, and needs to be extracted and refined into a synthetic fuel.

And to get that stuff extracted and then moved to refineries and to market, the other thing needed was infrastructure - more and more infrastructure. More pipelines, bigger refineries, larger export platforms, super-tankers for ocean carriers, more rail cars, more frac sand mined from the rich sand hills of western Wisconsin.

One result is a real dirty mess wherever the expansion is underway, grave costs to the natural environment, irreparable damage - the boreal forests of Alberta, the poisoned water from the fracking process, the stripped sand hills, gone forever, the sites of hundreds and hundreds of pipeline spills.

Here's the latest pipeline disaster down in our southern states:

Pipeline Spill Triggers Supplier 'Red Alert' in Alabama, Georgia

One of the reasons this is all coming to a head now is precisely because of the ramped up pace of the extraction of our oil and gas reserves. It's in overdrive and its tentacles are being felt, actually experienced, in more and more communities.

So when the Sacred Stone Camp really began to be noticed - thanks in large part to the brilliance of social media, groups like the Indigenous Environmental Network which produced near-daily videos - it captured the moment perfectly. And the fact that this was not a national organization, white-led campaign, but an emergent struggle straight from the heart of a history of white domination and genocide, with tactics both fierce and non-violent, well, it really caught the imagination. What the Standing Rock Sioux nation was struggling for was something about as basic as it gets when it comes to being alive - water.

Water - one of the most precious gifts of this planet, what made the evolution of life possible, what we cannot live without for more than a few days. That's what's at stake here.

Enbridge pipeline breach in Michigan, 2010
In the wake of the Flint lead crisis and the discovery that that is only one place where lead is contaminating the brains of our children; in the wake of hundreds of communities that have found their tap water contaminated by the toxic wastewater of fracking; in the wake of oil spills like the Enbridge pipeline breach in 2010 that contaminated the Kalamazoo River; and on and on, the stand being taken by the Standing Rock Sioux struck a chord that needed badly to be struck.

It took months for the nation to hear it, but we are hearing it now. A movement is growing all around and from within this struggle. We urge you to find local ways to offer solidarity.

Last week, the water Defenders were attacked by private security personnel hired by the company using mace and dogs. Many were injured, including children who suffered dog bites. Amy Goodman from Democracy Now! visited the camp and was there when the attack took place. Her video went viral. You can view it here:

Dakota Access Pipeline Company Attacks Native American Protesters with Dogs and Pepper Spray

In response, authorities have issued a warrant for Goodman's arrest for trespassing. Actually, she was a journalist doing her job and we still have the Constitution which guarantees freedom of the press. No charges are being filed against the security personnel for the assault.

As part of her coverage, Goodman posted this interview with Winona Laduke who lays out the historical roots of this struggle and what is at stake for all of us:

Winona Laduke at Standing Rock: It's Time to Move On from Fossil Fuel

As for the powerful witness in Iowa, where dozens of people have been arrested in civil disobedience actions trying to stop the pipeline there, go to this link:

The Rise of the Water Protectors

The struggle to salvage a habitable planet for future generations is now engaged. No way to avoid this one. We are all a part of this. We each have a role to play. It is what Thomas Berry called "the Great Work" of our time.

~ Margaret Swedish

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