FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

The Future Cries Out: ‘Water Is Life’

The dogs growl, the pepper spray bites, the bulldozers tear up the soil.

Water is life!” they cry. “Water is life!”

This isn’t Flint, Michigan, but I feel the presence of its suffering in this cry of outrage at the Standing Rock Reservation in North Dakota. No more, no more. You will not poison our water or continue ravaging Planet Earth: mocking its sacredness, destroying its eco-diversity, reshaping and slowly killing it for profit.

The dogs growl, the pepper spray bites, the bulldozers tear up the soil and a judge rules against the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe’s demand that construction of the Dakota Access pipeline be stopped. Sorry, the wishes of the rich and powerful come first. And you protesters are just common criminals.

But sometimes the forces of corporate supremacy don’t get the final word. Something about this tribal-led protest could not be ignored, even by politicians. Initially, the permit application to build the 1,172-mile pipeline, from North Dakota to Illinois, had been fast-tracked through the federal bureaucracy. No matter that it would cut under the Missouri River or destroy ancestral burial grounds. Environmental and tribal concerns were not considered and the tribe was not consulted. The permit was granted and that was that. But shortly after the judge’s ruling upholding the permit, three branches of the Obama administration — the departments of Justice, the Interior and the Army — issued a joint statement temporarily suspending pipeline construction . . . and, good God, suggesting the intervention of a larger consciousness:

“. . . this case has highlighted the need for a serious discussion on whether there should be nationwide reform with respect to considering tribes’ views on these types of infrastructure projects.”

Water is life? And the feds give a damn?

As Rebecca Solnit wrote a few days later in The Guardian: “What’s happening at Standing Rock feels like a new civil rights movement” — one, she said, “that takes place at the confluence of environmental and human rights” awareness.

“Indigenous people have played a huge role, as (have) the people in many of the places where extracting and transporting fossil fuel take place, as protectors of particular places and ecosystems from rivers to forests, from the Amazon to the Arctic, as people with a strong sense of the past and the future, of the deep time in which short-term profit turns into long-term damage, and of the rights of the collective over individual profit. All these forces are antithetical to capitalism, and it to them.”

This extraordinary movement is also taking place at the confluence of the past and the future. David Archambault II, Standing Rock Sioux tribal chairman, put it this way recently in a New York Times op-ed: “As American citizens, we all have a responsibility to speak for a vision of the future that is safe and productive for our grandchildren.”

The world’s most powerful governmental bodies have demonstrated an alarming inability to do this on their own, beholden as they are to the military-industrial status quo and its need for endless growth. This is the maw of capitalism, which could care less about the future.

“We are also a resilient people who have survived unspeakable hardships in the past, so we know what is at stake now,” Archambault writes. “As our songs and prayers echo across the prairie, we need the public to see that in standing up for our rights, we do so on behalf of the millions of Americans who will be affected by this pipeline.

“As one of our greatest leaders, Chief Sitting Bull of the Hunkpapa Lakota, once said: ‘Let us put our minds together and see what life we can make for our children.’ That appeal is as relevant today as it was more than a century ago.”

As Winona LaDuke said of the Missouri River itself, this is a force to be reckoned with.

“Water is life!” they cry. “Water is life!”

“It is early evening, the moon full,” she writes. “If you close your eyes, you can remember the 50 million buffalo — the single largest migratory herd in the world. The pounding of their hooves would vibrate the Earth, make the grass grow.

“There were once 250 species of grass. Today the buffalo are gone, replaced by 28 million cattle, which require grain, water, and hay. Many of the fields are now in a single GMO crop, full of so many pesticides that the monarch butterflies are dying off. But in my memory, the old world remains.”

So the monarch is also part of the protest, part of the movement, with its drumbeat reverberating across the planet. The tribal peoples of Earth are making their voices heard in so many ways. Their mission is to reconnect the modern world with the circle of life — a circle that much of humanity left behind maybe ten millennia ago, in pursuit of the Agricultural Revolution and dominion over nature. In the process, we’ve succeeded in changing the climate and, perhaps, establishing a troubling new geological epoch. Now it’s time to rethink “progress.”

Building another pipeline is its antithesis.

More articles by:

Robert Koehler is a Chicago award-winning journalist and editor.

Weekend Edition
January 18, 2019
Friday - Sunday
Melvin Goodman
Star Wars Revisited: One More Nightmare From Trump
John Davis
“Weather Terrorism:” a National Emergency
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Sometimes an Establishment Hack is Just What You Need
Joshua Frank
Montana Public Schools Block Pro-LGBTQ Websites
Louisa Willcox
Sky Bears, Earth Bears: Finding and Losing True North
Robert Fisk
Bernie Sanders, Israel and the Middle East
Robert Fantina
Pompeo, the U.S. and Iran
David Rosen
The Biden Band-Aid: Will Democrats Contain the Insurgency?
Nick Pemberton
Human Trafficking Should Be Illegal
Steve Early - Suzanne Gordon
Did Donald Get The Memo? Trump’s VA Secretary Denounces ‘Veteran as Victim’ Stereotyping
Andrew Levine
The Tulsi Gabbard Factor
John W. Whitehead
The Danger Within: Border Patrol is Turning America into a Constitution-Free Zone
Dana E. Abizaid
Kafka’s Grave: a Pilgrimage in Prague
Rebecca Lee
Punishment Through Humiliation: Justice For Sexual Assault Survivors
Dahr Jamail
A Planet in Crisis: The Heat’s On Us
John Feffer
Trump Punts on Syria: The Forever War is Far From Over
Dave Lindorff
Shut Down the War Machine!
Glenn Sacks
LA Teachers’ Strike: Student Voices of the Los Angeles Education Revolt  
Mark Ashwill
The Metamorphosis of International Students Into Honorary US Nationalists: a View from Viet Nam
Ramzy Baroud
The Moral Travesty of Israel Seeking Arab, Iranian Money for its Alleged Nakba
Ron Jacobs
Allen Ginsberg Takes a Trip
Jake Johnston
Haiti by the Numbers
Binoy Kampmark
No-Confidence Survivor: Theresa May and Brexit
Victor Grossman
Red Flowers for Rosa and Karl
Cesar Chelala
President Donald Trump’s “Magical Realism”
Christopher Brauchli
An Education in Fraud
Paul Bentley
The Death Penalty for Canada’s Foreign Policy?
David Swanson
Top 10 Reasons Not to Love NATO
Louis Proyect
Breaking the Left’s Gay Taboo
Kani Xulam
A Saudi Teen and Freedom’s Shining Moment
Ralph Nader
Bar Barr or Regret this Dictatorial Attorney General
Jessicah Pierre
A Dream Deferred: MLK’s Dream of Economic Justice is Far From Reality
Edward J. Martin
Glossip v. Gross, the Eighth Amendment and the Torture Court of the United States
Chuck Collins
Shutdown Expands the Ranks of the “Underwater Nation”
Paul Edwards
War Whores
Peter Crowley
Outsourcing Still Affects Us: This and AI Worker Displacement Need Not be Inevitable
Alycee Lane
Trump’s Federal Government Shutdown and Unpaid Dishwashers
Martha Rosenberg
New Questions About Ritual Slaughter as Belgium Bans the Practice
Nicky Reid
Panarchy as Full Spectrum Intersectionality
Jill Richardson
Hollywood’s Fat Shaming is Getting Old
Nyla Ali Khan
A Woman’s Wide Sphere of Influence Within Folklore and Social Practices
Richard Klin
Dial Israel: Amos Oz, 1939-2018
David Rovics
Of Triggers and Bullets
David Yearsley
Bass on Top: the Genius of Paul Chambers
Elliot Sperber
Eddie Spaghetti’s Alphabet
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail