The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe of North Dakota is on the front lines of a war for the existence of the human species.
In April, the tribe and its allies set up Sacred Stone Camp in the path of the Dakota Access Pipeline. The pipeline stretches 1,172 miles from northwestern North Dakota to south-central Illinois. It has the potential of carrying 570,000 barrels of oil a day. It crosses the pristine waters of the northern part of the Missouri River, and the the already depleting Ogallala Aquifer, which provides 30% of groundwater used in irrigation in the United States, as well as drinking water for millions of people.
The company building the pipeline, Dakota Access, LLC, is owned by Energy Transfer Partners, a giant conglomerate of fossil fuel interests ruled by Kelcy Warren, a Texas fossil fuel billionaire.
While many Americans have been subject to the comforting lies of the psychotic fossil fuel industry, the Standing Rock Sioux are among those of us who understand that burning fossil fuels threatens the habitability of the climate. They understand that oil spills threaten to contaminate the water. And the Standing Rock Sioux sure as hell understand that the authorities, from local police forces to federal agencies, are there to protect big business interests, and not the public.
That is, unless the public raises enough hell to force them to do otherwise.
On Friday, September 2nd, the Standing Rock Sioux filed papers in federal court disclosing the locations of burial grounds and sacred sites on or near the pathway of the pipeline construction. A day later, Saturday September 3rd, Energy Transfer Partners halted work in the location they were working, drove bulldozers over to where the burial sites were, and proceeded to destroy them. This is outlined in the Democracy Now report, corroborated in a Facebook video by Dallas Goldtooth of the Indigineous Environmental Network.
“They stopped construction, and hopscotched over all this land to drop the machinery in and plowed through the last two miles, right through that cultural site. On purpose. They purposely went through that site, plowed through those grave sites. Because they wanted to get there before state officials could come out and do an official survey to tell them to stop.“
This obviously angered the crowd at Sacred Rock Camp who then confronted the workers. They were met with attack dogs from a possibly unlicensed company called Frost Kennels from near Akron Ohio. Dogs were released into the crowd and encouraged to bite the demonstrators.
The local police force, Morton County Sheriff’s Department, was reportedly not on the scene, but put out a press release simply re-stating the company’s claims, and not taking into consideration the Democracy Now! video or the claims of the demonstrators on the ground. The AP took this as gospel and repeated the false narrative that protestors (who call themselves “water protectors”) suddenly attacked Frost Kennels for no reason, with not one word about what happened in the video: unrestrained, poorly trained attack dogs encouraged to bite people, pepper spray being deployed.
Saturday’s clash, on the anniversary of the White Stone Hill Massacre of 1863 that happened in the same area, is an arrogant American tradition in how authorities deal with peaceful protests. Protestors are provoked by authorities, protestors retaliate, then the retaliation is presented as irrational violence out of nowhere.
As Naomi Klein points out in her book This Changes Everything, indigenous people are on the front lines of the fight against oil extractors all over the world. In Klein’s Yes Magazine interview with indigenous activist Leanne Betasamosake Simpson, Simpson links extraction to historical theft of indigenous resources by Europeans:
Colonialism and capitalism are based on extracting and assimilating…extracting is stealing—it is taking without consent, without thought, care or even knowledge of the impacts that extraction has on the other living things in that environment. That’s always been a part of colonialism and conquest. Colonialism has always extracted the indigenous—extraction of indigenous knowledge, indigenous women, indigenous peoples.
Waiting for Our First Quake-nado
That same Saturday when mercenaries attacked Native Americans with dogs and chemicals, I woke up at 7am to my bed vibrating. I knew what it was. I held my hands up for some reason. I was in that pocket between sleep and awake where you’re melancholy and demented every morning.
“It’s an earthquake,” Redhead replied.
“Earthquake,” I said with my hands held up like a street preacher. It rumbled and rumbled, the longest one I’d felt since being in DC in 2011 when the National Mall grounds turned to jello just as I stepped on the outer ring of the Washington Monument.
Redhead and I live in Midtown, Tulsa, Oklahoma, near the fairgrounds operated by the Cherokee Nation. We’re close to residing directly in the shadow of Tulsa’s iconic Golden Driller, a 75 foot tall oil-worker with no dick and balls.
Tulsa was built on oil. And the oil industry remains the economic driver in this town. Low gas prices are great at the pump, but shitty for the local economy.
Since 2009, Oklahoma has been fracking, and in the process poisoning billions of gallons of water which then has to be injected in disposal wells. This is in addition to the wastewater from oil wells. With the massive increase in wastewater injection, comes a massive increase in seismic activity. In 2015, the same year Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin signed a bill into law preventing localities from banning fracking, Oklahoma recorded 907 earthquakes with a magnitude of 3 or greater. Before 2009, Oklahoma had fewer than two such quakes yearly.
The Oklahoma Corporation Commission, who oversees oil and gas extraction, has been ordering wells shut down since 2015. Sandridge Energy made news for refusing to shut down their wells in January 2016. Following Saturday’s 5.6 magnitude quake, the Commission ordered 35 more wells shut down adjacent to the epicenter in Pawnee, OK.
In an ironic and metaphorical twist, the largest oil storage hub in North America in Cushing, OK is now threatened by the increase in the strength of earthquakes. If that doesn’t wake these bastards up to the destructive nature of their pillaging, nothing will.
Here in Tulsa, smart young city councilmen and entrepreneurs are trying to combat the ravages of capitalism by diversifying the local economy. Like my native Pittsburgh, a city once destroyed by dependence on a single industry controlled by greedy scum, Tulsa is attempting to make its downtown a destination area for tourists, drinkers, music-lovers, foodies, and the coveted Young Urban Professional who will pay top dollar for a newly built loft or an old broken down house their parents have money to renovate.
Which of course will, in turn, as in other cities from New York to San Francisco, drive up the cost of rent and push out all the non-yuppie culture that made the neighborhoods great places to be in the first place.
And the cycle of colonialism and plunder continues… And this is why we need not to build new forms of the old system, to but destroy this system entirely.
With the Paris Agreement, many nations have finally decided to agree to cut down on carbon admissions. Science said, years ago, that we have to keep post-industrial warming levels to under 1.5 degrees Celsius. Politicians said, okay, we’ll fuck off for a few years and not agree on anything and keep our public stupid so the money can keep on rolling in from the fossil fuel industry. Then finally, this week, all these psychopaths decided to sign the Paris Agreement, which, according to science, is seriously and gravely inadequate.
From a Nature abstract published in June “Paris Agreement climate proposals need a boost to keep warming well below 2 °C”:
The Paris climate agreement aims at holding global warming to well below 2 degrees Celsius and to “pursue efforts” to limit it to 1.5 degrees Celsius. To accomplish this, countries have submitted Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs) outlining their post-2020 climate action. …The INDCs collectively lower greenhouse gas emissions compared to where current policies stand, but still imply a median warming of 2.6–3.1 degrees Celsius by 2100. More can be achieved…both in ambition and scope. Substantial enhancement or over-delivery on current INDCs by additional national, sub-national and non-state actions is required to maintain a reasonable chance of meeting the target of keeping warming well below 2 degrees Celsius.
Non-state actions. I like that one. Scientists have to be careful with language, but I don’t. That means sharpen your pitchforks and fire up your torches.
This Means War
Bold, courageous, arrest/injury-risking direct action like the Standing Rock Sioux are taking in North Dakota should be happening everywhere fossil fuels are extracted. And it takes lots of people organizing and forming nonviolent warfare strategies. Sign me up, show me where the meeting is! (seriously, if you are part of an environmental justice group in Tulsa, contact me firstname.lastname@example.org, let me know when the next meeting is).
But ultimately, we need to seize government from the hands of big business interests, or half measures like the Paris Agreement will continue to be taken by Corporate Democrats, and zero-measures will be taken by the Republican fossil fuel industry whores who currently run the Sooner State. We desperately need more representation of the public interest in our current government if we are to topple the fossil fuel empires.
A government of the people needs to take control of the oil industry, to flip the current arrangement on its head. And then implement a long term plan for shifting, much faster than any corporate-sponsored government or Paris Agreement would allow, to a 100% renewable economy.
Ideally, the day after the government-of-the-people takeover, all fossil fuel profits would go to renewable infrastructure rebuilding. All those working in the actual production and sale of fossil fuels would keep their jobs. Workers would be guaranteed new jobs in the vast renewable energy infrastructure as fossil fuel production is gradually phased out.
All the oil barons, the CEOs, COOs, and other unnecessary executives would be fired and their salaries applied to infrastructure building. Also they would be given a lifetime supply of sardines and contaminated water and locked in a coal mine while their assets are seized. Ideally.
The infrastructure will consist of a new electric grid set up like the internet. Just like the internet consists of millions of computers producing and uploading content for all to download, the new electric grid will consist of millions of structures (buildings, houses, solar and wind farms) producing and uploading energy for all to download.
Power, in both a literal and political sense, will no longer come from a centralized source that extracts, hoards, and doles it out. Power will be created by each of us for the benefit of all of us.
And that, my friends, spells the end of a hierarchical society, and the re-emerging of a truly cooperative, egalitarian one. And that’s how human beings have survived for 95% of our time as a species, and that’s how we’ll continue on.
“Everyone must choose to walk with the water of life, or the weapon of destruction.”
Black Elk, Oglala Lakota (Sioux) (1863-1950)