The news of the first victory from this weekend at Standing Rock marks an important moment of celebration, but also an opportunity for reflecting on what is next.
The danger is to have our attention divert elsewhere even though the struggle of Standing Rock will almost surely continue.
The most lasting victory, I believe, still lies in the future.
That’s because drilling for the pipeline is very likely to continue. Energy Transfer Partners can pay only $29M or so in fines for ignoring the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers denial of permit — a pittance for a multi-billion dollar pipeline.
Those in the know assure me that this is NOT the time to turn our attention elsewhere as we are now likely to see an escalation and most likely the illegal activity of drilling without a permit. The company is operating with the assumption that a Trump administration will strongly support the completion of the pipeline, endangering key water sources and despoiling sacred Native lands.
For those not tracking Standing Rock as closely, here’s my perspective on why this struggle is so important and why we need to focus on the longer-term victory rather than short-term gains.
First, the context: for many months now, thousands of courageous souls, led by Lakotas, Native Americans from across the country, indigenous allies from around the world, veterans, people of faith, and environmentalists, have been standing up in a truly awe-inspiring way.
They have been standing up to water cannons in sub-freezing weather, rubber bullets, pepper spray and more to protect and defend their water supplies from the DAPL oil pipeline. They are standing up to power. To greed. To oppression.
And they are doing it powered mainly by prayer.
While it might seem that Standing Rock is a local issue, this is actually a fight for the future of humanity. Understanding why is important for all of us.
I do not use the word fight lightly; as someone committed to non-violence, fight can take us too easily into violent means. And yet, to stand up to a $3.8 billion dollar corporation, supported by troops from multiple states, the only word that does justice to the courage, conviction and fortitude required is fight.
This is ultimately a fight for our most sacred and precious resource, the one thing that every human being requires and the most essential prerequisite for our civilization: water.
Water is sacred. It is the blood of life.
When we pollute our water, we poison our children and destroy life for future generations.
It has taken the bravery of our Native American allies to wake us up to the extreme danger into which we are putting life on planet earth with the pipelines that have begun crisscrossing the world.
These pipelines are carrying poison and they are, each and every week, creating leaks that damage our precious water supplies. Just since 2006, in the United States alone, there have been 3032 significant leaks causing $4.7B in damage.
Our Native elders have finally stood up and said enough. They are leading the way forward. And they are not standing up just to push the DAPL pipeline onto someone else’s land and jeopardize someone else’s future.
They are ultimately standing up to end the bullying of Big Oil, which is poisoning our world, superheating our atmosphere, and creating geopolitical instability, corruption of our democracy, and much more.
Ultimately, this is not just a fight for the waters of Standing Rock, as important as that is. It’s a fight to end the dominance of oil corporations over the people of the world. It’s a fight to preserve life as we know it for future generations.
That is why people have been called to Standing Rock from around the world. I just met two of the most noble, beautiful souls who felt the call and prepared for weeks, putting everything they have in storage, heading out now to brave the cold winter. I stand in awe of them and their courage.
All around the world, people like them are waking up to the need to show solidarity with Standing Rock and the need will likely only increase after this weekend’s first victory, in which the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers denied the Dakota Access Pipelin’s drilling permit.
We must not become distracted and think that this fight is complete. The company will push forward. They know the stakes.
If the Water Protectors win, the oil industry is on notice around the world and they stand to lose billions.
And yet, that loss is what will be required to end the insidious “black snakes” that threaten the water supplies of communities around the globe.
Standing Rock is ground zero for a peaceful global revolution that will keep rising until it stops pipelines around the world.
I believe that the courageous leaders at Standing Rock will inspire and train a whole new generation of Water Protectors who understand how to marry the sacred power of prayer, the moral persuasion of non-violence, and a fierce commitment to not back down.
The Water Protectors are the new civil rights leaders. They are our satyagrahas.
When the final victory is declared at Standing Rock, as I believe it will be, it will not be because they have simply diverted the pipeline’s path elsewhere, but they will literally shut the pipeline down completely and permanently.
All of us who wish to rectify centuries of genocide and oppression of Native peoples, and who care about our future need to join in solidarity.
There are many things we can do. But perhaps most of all, we need to pressure and threaten to divest from the banks that are supporting this pipeline until the entire project is permanently stopped.
That is what will send the signal to people around the world that it is time and we are powerful enough to say no to corporate power that endangers us.
That is what will send that signal that Big Oil’s reign on our planet is coming to an end.
And yes, to be in integrity, we also have to double down on our commitment to get off fossil fuels as fast as possible. Solar panels. Electric cars. Renewable power. That is our future, the only future that will keep this planet habitable.
By blocking pipelines from going in around the world, Water Protectors will not only preserve water, we will increase the costs of fossil fuels and make renewables more competitive. We will ensure that the true costs to our planet are factored into the profit and loss statements of the companies involved and push capitalism towards a far greener future.
Standing Rock is ultimately a call to rapidly transition from oil because it threatens to poison our water and therefore our future.
Water is our common denominator. It’s the thing that links us most deeply as humans. As we near 7.5 billion people, it’s also the single most valuable resource for the preservation of our human race.
The brave souls facing a brutal North Dakota winter, filled with the power of prayer and reverence for water, are doing a great service for all of humankind.
Let us offer them our deepest gratitude, our most generous support, and our most heartfelt praise for reminding us what truly matters and how to summon the courage necessary to protect our future.
It is time to rise up with them.
Here is an excellent summary of what you can do to help.