The construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) and indigenous-led resistance to it raises multiple important matters that should be of interest to all of us. These include questions of democracy and sustainability.
The point issue related to democracy is how to protect land and water deemed important to communities when these communities do not have the same political influence as other actors.
A fundamental issue of sustainability is being highlighted by the DAPL protesters. They are not just challenging the status quo practice of resource extraction that is proving to be detrimental to the common good. While climate change is a real and imminent threat and continuing to consume fossil fuels will exacerbate the crisis, there are underlying beliefs that also need to be questioned. The DAPL protesters are challenging the social norms that lead a society to objectify and exploit the natural world.
The collective action, prayer and cultural activities being employed in the pipeline protests are profound in that they create space for fundamentally different way of viewing the world. They are an attempt to recognize the interconnectedness and interdependency between people in a society and between people and their environment.
We all need clean air and clean water. We, and future generations, would all benefit from a society that acknowledges the complex living systems upon which we depend. We should stand with the water protectors and for a democratic, diverse and resilient world.
Jim Burridge, State College