The essay below was written by Victoria Furio, Convener, Climate Justice, in support of the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation and their confrontation with the Dakota Access Pipeline.
From the Hollow to the Hallow
By Victoria Furio
The struggle against the Dakota Access Pipeline (known as DAPL) epitomizes the dangers and moral depravity of our current climate crisis but also points to the way out of it. We are witnessing once again the same coveting of what is not rightfully ours with which this nation was born, repeating the same historical disregard for life and dignity that continues to the present day.
In the pipeline frenzy, we see a seething for material gain, which Jesus tells us, is ephemeral (Mt. 6:19-21). He also warns us against being like the foolish man who built his house on sand instead of on the rock (Mt. 7: 24-27). A colossal pipeline stretching close to 1200 miles across four states, transporting dirty and volatile fracked oil, DAPL is a stunning reminder of the warning in Lakota prophecy of a black snake that is to bring with it destruction and devastation. In the pursuit of profit, there is no regard for the trampling of sacred sites, nor for the potential poisoning of water for millions, never again to be pure.
With disrespect for our First Nations peoples as the shameful common currency, the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation became Flint II, a repeat of decisions to protect a select group, while a racial group is condemned to sickness and death. Only months after the switch to Detroit’s contaminated Flint River water, the General Motors plant complained that the water was corroding its engine blocks. GM was permitted to switch back to a Detroit municipal water supply, but not so for the 100,000 Flint residents. The largely black community remained locked-in to the toxic, foul-smelling liquid to drink and bathed in for nearly two years. North Dakota’s capital, Bismark, was originally scheduled to be the site for the Dakota Access Pipeline, but when its residents protested, fearing a spill that would poison their drinking water, the pipeline was re-routed. What was the ideal location? The Standing Rock Sioux Reservation, despite the risk not only to their drinking water but to that of 18 million other residents in 50 cities downstream of the Missouri River.
When Scripture tells us that we cannot serve God and Mammon (Mt. 6:24), that we cannot serve a graven image of gold (Ex. 20: 4), and also the Almighty One, if we listen deeply, we can locate the source of our inhumanity. Of our racism. Of our unbridled selfishness and greed. This produces a blindness so great that not only do we not see how we are endangering life on the entire planet, but neither do we see the imminent danger to our very own lives! Environmental destruction does not remain confined to a capsule!
And the worst and most dangerous blindness is the one that keeps us from seeing God. A blindness that separates us from the very Source of Life, of Eternal Life, in contempt of the Other, while laying waste to God’s Good Creation.
Is this not madness? Science has been telling us for decades, in ever-more impassioned pleas, that we must abandon fossil fuels if we are to survive. And yet we live in an economic system that values and justifies the pursuit of profit over and above anything else, leading us in the complete opposite direction. We don’t need more oil! It needs to stay in the ground! We have truly fashioned the golden calf and are racing headlong into the physical and spiritual destruction forewarned since ancient times.
Why do we choose Death instead of Life? We have drifted so far away from the One who desires “life and life in abundance” for all. The wreckage from the deadly sin of worshiping false gods is now strewn before our eyes with alarming frequency.
The Dakota Access Pipeline must be a line in the sand. To allow it to go forward would open the floodgates, sending us hurtling down the path to double or triple the extreme weather we are already experiencing, to unbearable life conditions, a true apocalypse. Not only must we do all in our power to stop this and all pipelines, and support the struggle of our Native American sisters and brothers, but we can and must learn from them, from the Protectors of the Water and of Creation. We must rediscover the Spirit, the Light that Guides Us, and make Her the center of our beings, the inspiration for our every action, large and small. As a local minister recently said, it is “Time to Stand with the Sacred.” (Rev. Steve Holton, White Plains).
The cry of the Standing Rock Sioux has been a lightning rod for some two hundred tribes and thousands of individuals who have flocked to their side from across the country and around the world. Their struggle is not merely in their own interest but for the benefit of all their neighbors, and of all the world. And they are concerned for the welfare not only of their own children but for the next seven generations’ children. Is that what Energy Transfer Partners cares about? The question is, what actions truly honor a Supreme Being?
We are duty-bound as citizens and as children of God to do justice. Our lives must be dedicated first and foremost to doing God’s will ─ the only rod by which to measure our acts, and the very reason we were placed on this Earth. By that measure, we cannot go wrong.