Dakota Access Pipeline draws student attention at panel, rally

Aileen Ida December 8, 2016 0

Graduates of Elizabethtown are prepared to make the world a better place. They do so, in part by living in ways that reflect their individual commitments, response to the needs of others, and value personal and ethical integrity,” says an excerpt found under the Purposeful Life Work section of the Elizabethtown College mission statement.

Many Etown students find ways to embody this mission in the classes they take, the clubs they devote their time to and the causes they believe in. Sometimes the school helps facilitate this kind of work through presentations that help to educate students on current events and issues.

One such event recently took place regarding the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) which has been causing extreme controversy in North Dakota near the Sioux Tribe of Standing Rock and in communities across the country.

According to the website ran by the company placing the pipeline—Energy Transfer Partners—”the Dakota Access Pipeline project is a new approximate 1,172-mile, 30-inch diameter pipeline that will connect the rapidly expanding Bakken and Three Forks production areas in North Dakota to Patoka, Illinois.”

The idea behind the pipeline is that it would take oil taken from North Dakota oil fields and transported to refineries in Illinois. The oil could then be for energy production in the US or exported to other countries for profit. This pipeline would reduce the need for oil transportation by rail and truck.

Though the company argues the public value of this pipeline, residents of Standing Rock Tribe—and activists across the country—disagree. The pipeline was originally set to run near Bismarck but was rerouted following outrage by the locals who believed a potential leak could pollute their water source.

The pipeline was then rerouted through lands recognized as Sioux lands according to an 1868 treaty, though they do not fall on what is nationally recognized as the Standing Rock reservation. The Missouri River runs along this land and is the primary water source for those living at the reservation. The waters are also considered to be sacred to the tribe.

Because of these potential issues, there have been protestors camped at the site of the potential pipeline since April 2016, though there weren’t large crowds until August. Since August, there has been a consistent amount of people numbering in the thousands at any given time.

Jonathon Rudy, Peacemaker-in-Residence at Etown, organized a panel regarding the pipeline. This event took place Wednesday, Nov. 30 at 11 a.m. in Gibble Auditorium and included Rudy, professor of political science Dr. Fletcher McClellan, professor of geosciences and engineering Dr. Michael Scanlin and Maryann Robins, the President of Circle Legacy (a local Native American non-profit meant to honor and protect Native American traditions).

Each panelist discussed the issue from their field of study, allowing for new and unique perspectives. Rudy discussed the non-violence of the movement as the model for how protests should be held. He also discussed that those at Standing Rock have branded themselves as Water Protectors instead of protestors. This specific brand provides the image that “it’s not what they’re against; it’s what they’re for.”

“I think what they’re doing there represents what’s going to have to do moving forward for the survival of our species,” Rudy said during an interview.

Scanlin discussed the reasoning behind the pipeline as well as the overall climate change impact by fossil fuels. His main point was the discussion around the idea that people in the US are addicted to energy. This addiction is represented on the American reliance on fossil fuels for 84 percent of the country’s energy usage.

This addiction to fossil fuels prevents most of the population from being willing to reduce their use of these types of energy—which is the only true way to stop the production of pipelines and use of fossil fuels. As long as citizens use their money to buy for fossil fuels, companies will continue to produce and sell them.

Having spent 25 years in the energy industry, he was able to provide insight on how to stop the pipeline. Scanlin talked about the use of the “rule of law,” which is the idea that law governs a nation, and the nation is not ruled by the arbitrary decisions of individuals.

Specifically, he discussed the need for those trying to prevent this pipeline to use the court system to fight the eminent domain used to take the land used for the pipeline in the first place.

“Eminent domain laws, both federal and state were originally enacted to acquire private land necessary for public purpose,” Scanlin stated.

If those whose land has been claimed file a lawsuit, the organization that claimed the land must prove that is to be used for the benefit of both the local people and general public. In the case of the pipeline, Scanlin thinks this kind of lawsuit is the only way the water protectors could win their battle.

“The problem in this culture is we get lost in the emotional rhetoric of the situation and don’t focus on a strategy to win the battle,” Scanlin said.

Robbins discussed the importance of water as a crucial aspect to Native American society. She requested that students imagine what it would be like to try to turn on their faucet and have polluted, dirty and undrinkable water come out. She also discussed the fact that her sister lives in Pine Ridge—a reservation near Standing Rock—giving her a very personal connection to the struggle in North Dakota.

McClellan discussed the implications that President-Elect Trump will have on this pipeline project. Trump has recently stated that he supports the building of the pipeline and plans to encourage its continuation once he is inaugurated.

He also discussed the fact that, in his opinion, one of the most important ways to discourage the building of this pipeline is to convince those who are concerned at the possibility of job loss because of the cancellation of this project that stopping the project would still be in their best interest.

Dr. Alexandria Poole, assistant professor of philosophy, was meant to be on the panel but was unable to make it the day of due to extenuating circumstances.

In a separate interview, Poole discussed the externalities—or hidden costs and hidden benefits—associated with the pipeline. Specifically, the potential of a leak that would pollute the ground water and therefore negatively impact locals in ways that the company may not have expected.

In addition to these potential issues, she also discussed the fact that this movement has brought up many other issues which have long been debated throughout the country.

“[The movement is] bringing to the forefront the question of colonialism and the heritage of our land,” Poole said.

Following, but unrelated to the panel, was a rally held in Penn Square in Lancaster, Pennsylvania to support the fight at Standing Rock. The rally welcomed speakers of diverse race and ethnicities, musical performers and traditional tribal dances.

These different speakers and performers encouraged attendees to get involved and led chants such as “Mni Wiconi”—which translates to “water is life,” “You can’t drink oil…Keep it in the soil” and “Honor the treaties,” all of which are chants that are also common among those at Standing Rock.

At least 10 Etown students attended the event and were able to do fulfill the mission statement by standing for what they believe in and standing for the needs of others. One student, junior Nicole McGlyn, talked about the importance of this movement and the protest itself.

She specifically discussed the fact that the violence used by law enforcement toward protestors appalled her. There have been reports that protestors were attacked with rubber bullets, tear gas and even concussion cannons. This protest offered McGlyn the opportunity to take a stand and support a movement she has become extremely passionate about.

“I was like here’s my chance to say my word, say my part and help these people,” McGlyn said.

She also discussed the need for everyone to do what they can for movements they are passionate about; in this case, while she wasn’t able to fly out to North Dakota and protest with those there she was able to attend the rally, donate some money and donate hats to help those currently camping in the cold at the protest site.

Sophomore Stevie Caronia also discussed her passion toward this movement and the impact of the rally. Specifically, she discussed the impact learning about Native American cultures in elementary and high school had on her perception of this issue.

“I remember this one time learning about [Native Americans] and really being old enough to understand them getting kicked out of their land and disrespected and killed, and I was so pissed off that it is still happening today,” Caronia said.


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