Science, Now + Beyond

Why aren’t you protesting the Dakota Access Pipeline?

A recent pipeline rupture spilled about 250,000 gallons of gasoline south of Birmingham, AL.

Y’all know about the on-going protests against the pipeline being built through Native land (if you don’t, here). Hundreds of years after the genocide against Native Americans began, they are still fighting for basic rights like land and religion. Tribes have lost battle after battle, proving over and over again that this country cares little for Native communities. Often times, these battles involve elements of environmental justice, with communities concerned for their health and water supply.

Protesters of the Dakota Access Pipeline are rightfully concerned about potential pipeline ruptures, which would pollute their drinking water and destroy local ecosystems. And this isn’t just some ridiculous concern based on paranoia. Pipelines rupture all the time. Check out this comprehensive list of pipeline accidents in the US since 2000.

Recent rupture

In fact, a pipeline that runs from Houston to the East Coast just had a rupture last week in Alabama. The pipeline company announced that 250,000 gallons of gasoline were spilled about 30 miles south of Birmingham, AL. Currently, the leak is being contained in a retention pond and hopefully it doesn’t reach nearby rivers and watersheds that supply water to the population. In the wake of the current protests, it’s interesting how few media platforms are reporting on this rupture. What does it take to get media attention? Polluted water? Disrupted ecosystems? Death?

Protesting the pipeline

The dangers of pipelines, and continuing to use nonrenewable sources of energy in general, are real. And they’re deadly – not only to wildlife, but to humans too. The communities most threatened are low-income and communities of color, who are often alone in their protests against environmental racism. Or should I say, their requests for basic human rights, like clean drinking water

But if supporting the livelihoods of people who you don’t know or see or economically/racially relate to isn’t up your alley, here are some other reasons you should be protesting the pipeline:

1. The more we rely on oil and other fossil fuels, the amount of pollution and death increases across the country. The data proves it. Protest the pipeline because it’ll probably lead to problems in your own community, considering we keep building more.

2. The disruption and destruction of local ecosystems itself is enough to warrant protests against pipeline construction. Ask any high schooler learning about ecology – even small disruptions in an ecosystem have a domino effect, causing large problems. And messing with water, which is what pipeline leaks/spills do, is a major problem since all living things depend on water for survival. Including you. Many endangered wildlife populations are at risk from potential pipeline ruptures across the country.

3. The pipeline goes right under the Missouri River. A spill there could most certainly affect majority of the nation, considering the Missouri River connects to several other watersheds, including the Mississippi River watershed. Gasoline won’t just hang out in the one river the rupture happened near, it’ll follow the natural flow of water.

4. The use of nonrenewable sources of energy, like oil and other fossil fuels, is a major contributor to global warming. As a society that is growing more conscious of climate change, we should all be actively involved in the alternative/clean energy revolution. Protest the pipeline for its inevitable role in increasing our dependence on fossil fuels.

5. Gas prices rise when pipeline leaks happen. And remember how point 1 says more pipelines mean more accidents? Protest the pipeline.

All of that said, why aren’t you protesting the Dakota Access Pipeline?