The Dakota Access pipeline battle may have been lost for now, but oil companies are getting more concerned about water security.
Bad news for activism yesterday, and bad news for water, and a particularly bad taste for official relationships with the people the US government slaughtered and displaced: the last stretch of the Dakota Access pipeline was approved, and construction is set to begin to lay the last stretch of pipeline near the Missouri River, underneath a reservoir.
The last five words alone should give you chills. Pipelines burst, and DAPL will potentially be carrying tar sand, which is considerably more dangerous and causes more pollution than even normal oil spills, which themselves are terrible. Given the importance of the Missouri and nearby aquifers to everyone in the region, and given that the Missouri is obviously the biggest tributary in the massive Mississippi system, this should make everyone nervous. It’s on the scale of an oil spill in the Great Lakes, and maybe even more damaging.
And it is a terrible symbol as well: this is Standing Rock Sioux land, and it is their water being immediately threatened. “The Army says it will allow the pipeline to cross under a Missouri River reservoir in North Dakota, the last big chunk of construction. Chase Iron Eyes says that violates the rights of Native Americans.
Iron Eyes says the pipeline goes through land that’s sacred to Indians and threatens the water supply of his tribe, the Standing Rock Sioux.”
This reversal comes, of course, via executive order by the man who ran the most revanchist white nationalist campaign since George Wallace, and is running the most atavistic racist administration since Andrew Jackson, who with a stroke of a pen allowed for any Indian protests to be wiped away. It’s not your land, he is saying. It’s ours. You can almost hear him smirking and saying “Sorry, chief.”
There is of course a non-racist (though still not good) case for DAPL, but to pretend that the team of Bannon and Miller and Trump didn’t like sticking it to protestors, especially those who remind us that America wasn’t so great, and was in fact a genocidal empire, is disingenuous.
And while protests are erupting across the country, things are dangerous near the river. We’ll see what happens when people protest Trump’s direct orders. This could get very ugly.
So what’s the good news? Well, outside of America…
The world’s top mining companies warned on Tuesday that assets will be stranded and investors will walk away unless they deal with water scarcity in key mining regions such as Africa, Australia and Latin America. (h/t Circle of Blue)
Reuters reports that top extraction officials are beginning to feel more pressure to conserve water. Part of that is that they need it for their operations, so wasting water is a real foot-shoot of a move, but it is also because growing awareness of scarcity has led to more pressure. The article doesn’t say that local protests have had an impact, but the end result is the same: more conservation.
“Investors say to us: ‘don’t talk to us about returns’; they want to know how we’re managing water,” Nick Holland, Chief Executive Officer of Gold Fields, said at an international mining conference in Cape Town.
We all do, really. And that’s why protesting is so important, in areas like the Dakotas and around the world. No one (almost) wants to stop industry altogether. We just want it to be responsible, to be clean, to take into account local considerations and needs, and maybe not be reminisicent of the ongoing historical nightmare on which this nation was built.
That’s more important in an era of unchecked swaggering capitalism mixed with nasty racial triumphalism. Indeed, it’s the only way to fight.