It’s been a long term.
Day one, mine started with environmental justice. Corvallis’ League of Women’s Voters sponsored a well attended Climate Justice discussion at the Benton County Library with Allison Davis-White Eyes and Robert Figueroa. The Dakota Access Pipeline protests at Standing Rock, ND (#NoDAPL) had intensified and was beginning to get more coverage. Both of these experts in social and environmental justice represented important perspectives from indigenous and scholarly calls to action. Our community can join in solidarity with indigenous peoples and address these environmental and social challenges.
For too long, indigenous lands have become national sacrifice areas. Tribal sovereignty has been challenged since the first treaties were broken. Tribal lands have become the other backyard people would have toxic and polluting fossil fuel extractive conduits threatening instead of their own.
Allison Davis-White Eyes suggests there is a way to keep things in balance by living in good relation to all beings and places, all the plants, rocks, animals and humans. It is a path of right action. Relationship, interconnectedness, regardless of species, regardless of bias.
Climate change is a macroscopic symptom of materialist epistemologies. Western knowledges have their uses, but we can see their disastrous colonizing and extractive patterns too. We must object to its myopic and monetizing narratives.
We must embrace being one human family, and living on one Earth, and only having one Earth’s resources to share with everyone. We can eco-manage in a way that is just, honoring and sustaining.
Climate justice is a meeting between social, environmental and ecological justice. Each line of this thought is actually inseparable from the others, each relevant, impactful, value overlapping and processing simultaneously. We need all three to achieve any one of them.
Figueroa suggests we need reorientations. We need better resource distributions. We need better equity compensations and dispensations. We need intergenerational considerations and obligations met. We need cultural heritage and representation honored. We all suffer together when pollution becomes distributed—and we all benefit from removing the obstacles to its proper use and remediation with the Earth.
It’s a heavy curriculum.
Following on the heels of Trump’s election, anxiety over hateful and divisive rhetoric, the increasing climate of white supremacy in the alt-right, the environmental and social justice issues has been on the forefront of media concern and attention.
Director of the Environmental Arts and Humanities program Jacob Hamblin introduced a further panel on Fracking & Resistance: the Dakota Access Pipeline, with his usual calm, wry demeanor. (His article about the Regan administration’s ‘antienvironmentalism revolution’ is a telling tale of potential portents in the current political climate.)
Perhaps we don’t need to have balanced and fair discussions. Perhaps we are charged to have tough, civil conversations because that’s what we do at University. To pretend that there ever will be balanced discussions is to ignore history and critical social perspectives, and we’ve run out of patience in pandering to balances that were never there.
Allison Davis-White Eyes, Robert Figueroa, Hilary Boudet, and Luhui Whitebear-Cupp contributed to our panel. There are many concerns and reactions on the table: bewilderment, anxiety, calling of sides, strange bedfellows, native and community rights, past-wrongs and future rights, energy choices, policies undeclared, environmental effects, fracking and energy transport, slactivism on facebook and social media. What kind of victories happen if the pipeline is delayed? Will it only move to another front? Will it change from the black snake above ground to a black hydra below?
For over six-hundred years this crap has been happening—a long history of colonization and climate change interrelation colors all of this discussion. Energy policies that rely on extractivism and fossil fuels implicate the corporations that carry out the process as political entities. If industrialization can only function in growth modes, it is antithetical to self-sufficiency that tribal lands strive for.
This is not only a tribal issue, or a rights issue, or an environmental issue. It is all of them, and a call to an American issue. A call to national awareness, and an important political opportunity for everyone to get on board. And it is a call to understand a spiritual way of being. We don’t want this happening in anyone’s backyard, and so we must all fight for our collective backyard.
We can respect tribal cultures, even if we are not from those cultures or identify with them by respecting the local community, protocols, and rights established by treaties and political structures already agreed upon. Consciousness about support and where those donations and profits go is important. Watch how the elders work.
We must listen to our elders.
Intensifying the discussion, we then heard from Winona LaDuke. The Spring Creek Project hosted the tribal leader, writer, pipeline protester, and previous Green Party vice-presidential candidate at the historic Whiteside Theatre.
Winona spoke beyond supporting Standing Rock. We need supporters to go to Bismarck, talk to the people there that are afraid and concerned. Afraid of a pipeline in their backyard, and help them understand why other people, their neighbors, might also not want that pipeline in their backyard. To talk and find out what concerns everyone has to share. This election has told us that at least. We must realize, recognize and connect with the fly-over zones and the many people that are being forgotten in our modern world—and then being burdened with the pollution and aftermath of that carnage.
DAPL will provide little local economic support and little to look forward to in energy self-sufficiency. We could use those pipes elsewhere; Flint, MI needs some better pipes. We need infrastructure growth in the right places and at the right size—at the level of community and engagement.
Our European-centric style education system may not be a strong enough model to understand and embody the kind of paradigm shift necessary to foment the change and provide the education we need. Our democracy’s founders borrowed from the Iroquois confederacy to inspire U.S. democracy—as our founders all largely came from monarchical mindsets and might likely have repeated it without careful revision. Women were responsible for appointing and removing chiefs in tribal societies. Condolences were given for those chiefs and the responsibilities they were burdened with.
We must all recognize that our burden of the fossil oil party is shared. We must call it a night and walk each other home, make a graceful exit together. We will all be the designated drivers home, be it home from copyrighted seeds, blowing up mountaintops, or pipeline construction. Recognizing that the party is winding-down already: more pipeline is built than oil from the Bakken fields to fill future projects. The fight is over control of our own lands and the sovereignty to have them. When all of those lands are seen as collective lands, no lands should be flown-over, forgotten, or abused as they would be.
What we do is create economies of scale. We learn from Zapatistas: do not be an island of political correctness unto yourself; organize in a place where neoliberalism is not. Talk to Bismarck. Talk to everyone, bring them into the rights of nature. Talk to them the rights of people instead of corporations. Talk to them about old ceremonies and new ones happening at Standing Rock now. We listen and work.
Please see the entirety of Winona’s talk of Economics for the Seventh Generation.
And we rise up.
My friends and I are all listening to Hamilton these days (the Mixtape is awesome) to feel something important and revolutionary about politics again. I find it wonderful and strange that a musical written, produced and staged by people that were originally marginalized and controlled by the founders of our nation is inspiring. It is telling, educational, that we face many of the same issues of abolishing racism and discrimination against women, immigrants, and so many others. Its popularity is about caring again, recapturing that passion for a new country and making progress on our past mistakes. I cringe at the fact that Hamilton’s banks are part of the problem, though capitalism and post-depression finance reform and a lack of oversight and regulation is a complex conversation. But the musical is critical of everyone for the time, and brings the messages in art that we can and must understand.
We rise up to the challenge, to the level of our elders and peers and community. We bring all our friends, bring all our relations, all of our lands, spaces and places. We have a world to heal together, and we’re going to need the all the help.
(The views expressed here are those of the author, though inspired and contextualized through many of the perspectives and authors referenced above.)
(Photo courtesy Samm Newton.)