Now that protesters have vacated their camps in Standing Rock and the Trump administration's executive order has catalyzed the construction of Dakota Access Pipeline, perhaps you find yourself wondering how and if you can continue to fight for indigenous rights and environmental justice?
Although the chances of blocking the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) may be slim at this point, there are still a number of accessible avenues for protesting the massive oil pipeline that would compromise sacred indigenous land, clean drinking water and ultimately the autonomy the Standing Rock Sioux have over large chunks of the land they have formally inhabited since 1868. Even if continuing to object to DAPL does not ultimately succeed in blocking the project, expressions of dissent for this project are an important symbol for the longer range fight for environmental equity and justice in our own country and around the world. Here are a few strategies you can consider if you would like to take an active role in advocating for indigenous rights.
Here's what you can do:
Join the campaign for divestment
Divestment is a tool of opposition that involves shifting your money so that you are not indirectly enabling an outcome you do not support. In the case of DAPL, there are two ways you could be indirectly financing the project: through the bank where you keep your personal finance accounts, or through the bank that your city uses for financial services. The DeFund DAPL campaign identifies the banks and financial service providers that are financing the pipeline. The website can guide you through the steps for divesting your personal finances or the steps for lobbying your city or town to divest from one the banks in question. At scale, this can be a particularly powerful strategy for sending economic signals that require large multinational businesses to be socially responsive. ING Bank’s divestment in DAPL is evidence of the effectiveness of this strategy.
Write to your elected officials
No, your elected officials can’t sway the outcome of the Dakota Access Pipeline now that the case is held in the appeals court. However, letting them know that you care about indigenous rights lays the foundation for political will that can serve as a powerful force of momentum in the future. By putting indigenous rights on the map, you are increasing the odds that these types of projects will be handled more justly and with more complete consideration in the future. To learn more about how and why to contact your elected officials, check out this article.
This is a dually effective approach. First, it is another mechanism of divestment. By refusing to participate in an industry that is overflowing with irresponsible projects like DAPL, you will actively be part of the transition to a low carbon economy that depends upon and demands a much greater mix of renewable energy in the consumer grid. Second, some of the justification behind a project like DAPL is that it will create “good American jobs,” by participating in the market for renewables, you are building the case that clean energy can, will, and is already creating even better “good American jobs.” This is not to say that indigenous rights issues will be absent in scalable renewable energy projects. Massive solar fields have a similar potential to displace indigenous people. What we can do, if and when we face those conflicts, is ensure that we have the right conversations and use a systematic, equitable, and inclusive method for assessing the appropriateness of a site.
As I write this, I do not truly understand what the construction of DAPL would feel like or mean for a woman who has lived in Standing Rock (or one of the other impacted communities) for her entire life. It is likely impossible for me to step into that woman’s shoes. However, what I can do is ask and really listen. I can read, I can watch, I can engage. I can seek to cultivate my own capabilities for empathy. I can raise this issue outside of my own inner circles and see how others think about indigenous rights, if they think about them at all.
All of us can quietly spread knowledge, awareness, and compassion for the diversity of the human condition, experience, values, and identity. There is great progress yet to be made, both within and beyond the bounds of our own country. We can, and should, strive to gracefully and humbly acknowledge the incompleteness of our own perspective and seek to validate the perspectives of those who often do not get due weight.
This post is by Anna Menke, one of Boston Green Blog's newest contributors! Learn more about Anna and the rest of the team here.