The pipeline – which will stretch over four states from the Bakken oilfield in North Dakota to refineries in Chicago – is slated to cut through Native American sacred grounds, and would be immediately upstream from the Standing Rock Sioux reservation. The threat to both indigenous culture and water supplies brought Native American tribes and environmental activists to the banks of the Missouri to stymie the pipeline’s construction.
Additionally, 90 Native American nations have also joined the protest, contributing members to a movement that fuses both civil rights and environmental activism into an exciting new force for the social good.
In September, President Obama placed an injunction on the pipeline’s construction, placing the section where protesters had put up active resistance on hold. Construction east of the spot, however, continued apace, and a federal court lifted the temporary ban this past Sunday, allowing the building to continue and jettisoning this temporary victory for both indigenous rights and the fight against climate change.
In response, activists came back out in force. One high-profile protestor – Shailene Woodley, actress famous for the Divergent series – was arrested along with 26 others on charges of criminal trespassing.
As Impact Tap reported last month, initial protests were met by private security firms hired by the Dakota Access Pipeline’s funder, Dallas-based Energy Transfer Partners, which used attack dogs to maul activists in scenes jarringly reminiscent of civil rights protests in the 1960s.
The battle for clean energy and a all-out cessation of fossil fuel extraction is gaining ever more urgency by the day. In September, scientists announced that the earth had surpassed 400 parts per million carbon in the atmosphere. Having passed this symbolic threshold, the global community faces a future where it is nearly impossible for the atmosphere to dip below this highly damaging level of green house emissions.
Despite the somewhat positive news that the Paris Agreement will likely take effect by the end of the year, the dire climate situation has pushed activists to take bolder action against those profiting from the destruction of the earth.
While such business remains legal – and authorities drag their feet on meaningful clean energy research and development – we need such bold intervention to persistently raise this existential issue to the public’s attention.