After months of activity, the people talking, posting, and hashtagging #noDAPL about the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) seem to have gone silent. The happy ending story of President Obama’s calling for a review of the plan shifted when our new president quickly not only reversed that order but called for a sped up timeline for construction. Just last week, construction was approved, and though there is legal action against this renewal of construction on the DAPL, this action will most likely not be settled before the construction is completed. Thus, those protesters physically at the site seem to be vital to any hope of social justice.
It’s cold in North Dakota. The protesters are exhausted both physically and emotionally. The pictures I’ve seen of the campsite on pro-DAPL fact checker sites, don’t show a camp polluted with garbage (despite their claims) but a cold, muddy place in dead winter. I’ve camped in cold, muddy places in the cold before. They aren’t pretty like the beautiful spring “before” picture on that same site. I can’t even imagine what it must be like to not only have to face inclement conditions but also brave the menace of the businesses who want you gone and don’t care if you are alive or dead.
Standing up for what is right is not pretty nor nice. The people at Standing Rock and their allies don’t have the luxury of politeness; further, they are not facing people, they are fighting business. Businesses have no empathy. Their concern isn’t religious sites, poisoned water, or social justice. Their concern is the bottom line. And the bottom line for the DAPL has the potential to be very fat.
Thus, the logic arguments that businesses put forth for the DAPL do make sense. It is a fiscally sound project with very little risk to backers and, by current standards, acceptable environmental impact (not zero. And “current standards” of what is “acceptable” are often revised in the future—think DDT.). Businesses will grow and thrive because of this pipeline.
A pro-DAPL site claims, “the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) is the safest and most environmentally sensitive way to transport crude oil from domestic wells to American consumers.” It’s that last word that’s key: consumers. We contribute to the DAPL being a worth-while venture for the companies involved. We consumers use oil in one form or another for something every single day; thus the businesses involved have guaranteed consumers for their product that will be cheaper and easier to transport to us once this pipeline is completed. Again, the bottom line looks really good in this scenario.
I’ve spent a lot of time looking into the DAPL (starting here is a good place), and in my research, I realized that the pipeline isn’t actually an environmental issue (though environmental concerns are worth considering). This struggle is about people. It’s about social justice. The fact that native people have literally been made voiceless in our history because our government stole children from their families, outlawed their languages, and sanctioned genocide while dictating that the people who survived must live on land deemed worthless for commercial purposes, makes logicking away pipeline concerns even more problematic. The Atlantic has a really nice article that discusses the issue of justice and care for humans.
Again, businesses don’t care about social justice. They care about making money. Protests are good in the short term, but when the business has political power and the money to wait out the human fervor, they will continue their practices that exploit human beings. Especially when we all know that the American attention span for social justice issues is so short.
So where we can affect positive change now? We can exercise our powers as consumers. Businesses need consumers to survive. Already many cities are divesting from the banks that are funding DAPL. And there is call for individuals to also pull their money from DAPL-funding banks.
In addition to these bigger moves, there is a daily way as a consumer you can let the businesses involved know that you will not support their actions against humans: your purchases as a consumer.
Below is a picture of the companies who are directly involved with construction of the DAPL (green stars) and some of their consumer products brands. If you don’t agree with the DAPL, if you want to let businesses know that we will not participate in harming humans for a bottom line, choose to spend your money elsewhere. This is not an exhaustive list (frankly, corporations are super convoluted), but it’s a start.
The current political environment in Washington has left our government unable and/or unwilling to act on behalf of those who will feel the adverse effects of this pipeline. It falls on us as consumers to act on their behalf. We cannot trust our government to legislate for good. We have to be the good.