Since April, American Natives, specifically the Standing Rock Sioux tribe, have been gathering outside the town of Cannon Ball, North Dakota, to protest the construction of a nearly 1,200-mile-long oil pipeline, according to the New York Times.
The pipeline is a part of the Dakota Access project, costing around $3.7 billion and carrying 470,000 barrels of oil a day. Proponents of the pipeline state that the economic benefits from interstate oil trade and the 8,000 to 12,000 temporary construction jobs are well worth the risks associated with the pipeline.
The Standing Rock Sioux are of a different opinion. The tribe points out that not only is the economic benefit actually very small as the pipeline will create very few permanent jobs, but they also raise environmental and cultural concerns.
The route of the proposed pipeline crosses over the ancestral lands of the Standing Rock Sioux, even though the lands in question are not a part of the tribe’s current reservation.
The tribe’s other major issue with the proposed pipeline is the route it takes under the Missouri River. According to the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration, although pipelines are generally safe, ruptures and leaks occur regularly and range from small leaks to raging gushers. This is exactly what protesters fear. As of Sept. 17, protesters’ fears were temporarily alleviated when the Washington, D.C. Circuit Court issued a temporary injunction preventing construction of the pipeline within 20 miles of the land that is in dispute.
The court will hear arguments from the tribe and will make a final decision in the coming months.
America has a long and distinct track record of conservationism and environmentalism, that is, up until recent times. Our modern history of environmentalism starts with President Theodore Roosevelt, a conservationist who founded the National Forest Service, the National Park Services and recognized U.S. National Monuments.
The period of conservation continued through President Franklin Roosevelt, who in fact, included conservation efforts as part of his New Deal programs. In the late 1950s-1970s, we saw the birth of modern environmentalism, with a focus on protecting natural resources as opposed to a more “fair use” approach.
However as special interests grow more powerful, environmental protection fell to the back of our minds. How many environmental disasters can we think of in the past ten years?
Deepwater Horizon, the Mount Carbon train derailment, and the Kalamazoo River Oil spill are just a few that come to mind.
And these are only the ones that we hear about, what about those that go under reported by the media?
In this country we are facing an environmental crisis. We are asked to choose between profits and the future of our planet every day. And more and more we choose profit. This is not the right choice. We only have one planet. For all of us. For all future generations. We must start taking care of it now. We can not leave it to future generations to do better than we are. We must be the ones to leave the world a cleaner, healthier place.