Editorial: The fight against the pipeline

Editorial: The fight against the pipeline

The Dakota Access Pipeline has received widespread backlash nationally. The 3.7 billion dollar, 1,172-mile, 30-inch diameter pipeline will connect the Bakken Formation and the Three Forks production areas in North Dakota to Patoka, Illinois. It can transport over half a million barrels of oil each day.

The problem? It’s a potential disaster for the environment and for the communities of people there. People are worried that their drinking water will be polluted by a leak, and rightfully so. While the DAPL website lauds the plan as safe for the environment, these claims are laughable when they are stacked against the history of leaking pipelines. There have been hundreds of pipeline ruptures since 2010, and they have the potential to completely ruin a water supply.

North Dakota is not unfamiliar with pipeline incidents, as in 2013 another pipeline stemming from Bakken spilled over 20,000 barrels of crude oil into a wheat field after getting struck by lightning.

Not only does the pipeline pose a threat to clean water supplies and the environment, it infringes on the rights of Native American people. The Sioux Tribe worries about the protection of their water supply, but they also oppose the pipeline because it could potentially damage sacred sites and burial places. If the pipeline were to leak or burst, as many have in the past, it could destroy these sacred sites and erase years of tradition and history.

Despite the pipeline’s decreasing popularity, environmental and humanitarian reasons to abandon the pipeline and the fact that construction has been halted until more data exists on the possible costs for the environment, construction is still slated to continue at some point in the future. The ongoing physical battle at the pipeline between law enforcement and protesters has resulted in over 300 injured people, according to the Standing Rock Medic and Healer Council. North Dakota Governor Jack Dalrymple has not authorized the use of force to remove people from the main camp grounds at Oceti Sakowin, but he has issued an evacuation order. As a result, people who come to the ground to protest or to bring supplies will be notified that they are trespassing.

Though law enforcement officials are attempting to fine demonstrators and prevent supplies from coming through, more people are standing up to assist protesters. Over 2,000 veterans are offering their bodies as shields to protect them from militarized law enforcement. A 21-year old woman even had her arm blown off by what protesters called a concussion grenade, but police have denied using any type of explosives on the crowd. The injured woman was a recent college graduate and environmental activist.

Those who want to show solidarity with the Sioux Tribe by going to North Dakota might not be able to. Not everyone can be a physical presence. Students are preparing for finals and others may be taking care of families or working.

You do not need to be there to help. In this time you may ask yourself as a college student, what can I do to assist the pipeline protesters?

First, do not make your activism about yourself and your own goals, and respect the people who are most affected. Some protesters have taken to social media to point out that other protesters are being disrespectful of the land and of the protest, turning down tap water for more expensive fluoride free water, using donated funds to make the purchase. They also have been overheard comparing the experience to Burning Man and other festivals.

Needless to say, what is going on at Standing Rock is not a revival or a pilgrimage. This is not about people finding themselves on some mystical journey; it is about protecting the Sioux people’s sacred grounds and their water supply. The protesters who have come from other areas can simply leave and return to the comfort of their situations where they will likely have clean water and where their homes are not being threatened. The people of Standing Rock do not have that option.

To show support, some people have donated money either directly to the cause, or to others who are traveling to support the cause. Donations have also taken care of medical bills of the injured protesters.

As a college student, you can show support in non-monetary ways. Those aligned against the Dakota Access Pipeline have called government officials and businesses behind the construction and have signed a petition to the White House to halt construction permanently.

If you don’t want to sign anything or call anyone, social media is an effective way to voice your opinion; the pipeline protests initially struggled with mainstream media representation until activists flocked to social media. To bring awareness to stories that national media outlets may not catch, protesters have used the #NoDAPL hashtag to keep the outside world updated.

It’s time that we showed respect to Native American communities and stand in solidarity with the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe to protect their sacred lands and water from the Dakota Access Pipeline in any way possible.