Why Standing Rock Is Important to Our Community
The Standing Rock protest against the Dakota Access Pipeline is taking place in North Dakota. Why is that important to Appleton, Wisconsin? There are three main reasons why this is important to us.
The first, has to do with why Energy Transfer Partners is trying to put the pipeline by Standing Rock. They were originally going to route the pipeline north of Bismarck, but people living there said no. They protected their resources, they said no and they were successful. But instead of saying “not in my backyard”, they could have said “don’t put this in anyone’s backyard”. Until recently, we didn’t have the advantage of technology like the internet and infrastructure like social media. When terrible things happened far away, we never learned about it until it was too late to get involved. Now we can be vigilant about everything happening anywhere, and we have a responsibility as human beings to reach out to each other and unite our voices – when we make someone else stronger, we make ourselves stronger. Corporations and governments have relied for centuries on the fact that those who would oppose them are isolated and lack resources, to the point that they take it for granted. Standing Rock is an historic event relevant to every city everywhere in the same way that the Arab Spring was an historic event for the human race.
The second, has to do with militarization of the police force. Any mobilization of militarized police is an assault on the freedom and liberty of every citizen in a democracy. This really doesn’t need much explanation. If we don’t take action against militarized police, then we are undermining the liberty and civil rights of ourselves and all people on American soil. Standing Rock is one of the most publicised instances of militarized police in our lifetime, and it is happening right now as we speak. We must do everything we can to prevent this militarization of those who are supposed to “protect and serve”, otherwise these authoritarian tactics will become normalized and taken for granted, and it will become even more difficult to fight the oppression and abuses of government and corporate collusion.
The third reason, is that water protection is relevant to every community, and especially to a community like Appleton with the resources and privilege we enjoy. One of the committees I serve on as a council member in the city of Appleton is the Utilities Committee, and I couldn’t even begin to describe how proud we are of our water quality, and how much we invest in managing our water as a precious resource. We sit on a river, we draw our water from Lake Winnebago, and our water and wastewater treatment plants are some of the best in the country, maybe even the world. How much do we take this for granted? Do we even know how many pipelines already cut through our land and threaten our lakes and rivers? Snaking through Wisconsin, we have pipelines operated by Enbridge Pipeline Inc, Magellan Pipeline Co, Koch Refining Co, Westshore Pipeline Co, and Mid-America Pipeline Co, with terminals in Superior, Eau Claire, Wausau, Green Bay, Waupun, Milwaukee, Madison, and Janesville, and that was all just as of 2012. If the Dakota Access Pipeline is successfully constructed, it will lead to more pipelines, and the struggle is already at our own front door.
To recognise the relevance of Standing Rock to our community, most fundamentally we have to embrace a perspective that acknowledges and encompasses the connectivity of all our systems, social and physical, and remember that what affects one location, affects us all in many ways both visible and invisible, both obvious and counter-intuitive. It’s easy to understand that we all have essential human rights. Having a right to life, gives us a right to water, because water is life. It’s harder to understand that we live in a time when governments have failed us, corporations have abused us, and the only actual guarantee of our right to life, is the action we take personally and collectively to protect each other and our resources, in order to defend the right to life for future generations.