The Dakota Access Pipeline, or DAPL, is a pipeline originating in North Dakota and ending in Patoka, Illinois. If completed, it will transport at least 470,000 barrels of domestic crude oil every day.
Economically, the DAPL sort of makes sense, but in regards to the environment and social justice, it's a disaster. If the DAPL project is allowed to continue, it will cut through sacred Native American Reserves in Standing Rock and potentially contaminate sacred waters.
To lay a pipeline, vast areas of land must be cleared. This destroys ground cover as well as the habitats of many species. With grass and plants removed and underlying soil exposed, weathering and erosion will take place at expedited rates. This leads to loss of soil fertility, loss of species and contamination of water. Furthermore, pipelines are not indestructible and can crack which allows for oil seepage into the ground and into water sources.
Originally, the DAPL was meant to go through Bismarck, a predominately white and relatively affluent community in North Dakota, but because of the community's concern about environmental contamination, the plans were redrawn. Bismarck community members had their voices heard in a timely manner but Native Americans have been fighting against the DAPL project for months and to no avail.
Members of the Sioux Tribe in Standing Rock, North Dakota and those that stand in solidarity with them are peacefully protesting against the DAPL. For months, their protests have gone on with little payoff. Instead, as they stand side-by-side, not inciting violence, they are shot with rubber bullets and sprayed with tear gas. Sometimes, they are arrested. Even militarized police officers have been called in to "subdue" the protesters that are simply trying to protect their land and water and ensure that future generations will be able to make use of it.
When asked why this is the case, officials might argue that the project is in everyone's economic best interests and has to continue, that the reserve just happens to be in the path the DAPL needs to take. The real answer though, is "environmental racism."
Environmental racism is a term first coined in the 1970s or 80s and is defined as "a type of discrimination where people of low-income or minority communities are forced to live in close proximity of environmentally hazardous or degraded environments, such as toxic waste, pollution and urban decay." It can be unintentional but more often than not, the cases seen today are largely intentional. Another example of environmental racism in recent news is the Flint Water Crisis. Allowing instances of environmental racism to take place is the same as saying that money and (your own) convenience are more important than human well-being and justice.
It would be easy to say that you should care about the DAPL because similar issues could happen to your friends, your family or yourself but that would be an insult to Native American autonomy. This issue is important because they are just as much of a person as you are, regardless of whether or not you know them. From the very second white people came to America, we decided to steal Native American lives, land, culture and voices and we haven't yet stopped.
If you've read this far you can no longer say you're unaware of what's happening in standing rock but being aware isn't enough. It is only the first step of many on the road the justice. So what can you do to make a difference? Email and call your senators and congressmen and women to let them know that environmental racism isn't okay, collect donations to send to Standing Rock, start conversations at your university, online and with your family and don't let yourself forget that environmental racism is real and happens all the time.
To keep up to date with the progress of protests in Standing Rock against the DAPL and to find further suggestions on how you can help, visit http://standingrock.org/news/.
Lead Image Credit: John Duffy via Wikimedia Commons