Historic Step Forward at Standing Rock, Demonstrates Power of Protest

December 5, 2016

When she heard the news of the historic environmental and social victory at Standing Rock, the youngest water protector, 13-year-old Tokata Iron Eyes said “I felt like I got my future back.”

She was speaking to journalist Naomi Klein about the courageous decision by the Army Corps of Engineers to deny the permit for the Dakota Access Pipeline to be built under the Missouri River after months of non-violent protest by indigenous water protectors and their allies.

The victory at Standing Rock demonstrates once again that standing in solidarity is one of the most effective strategies for “taking the future back”. It is only by unifying together that we can force the urgent transition to sustainable energy sources and away from dangerous dirty fuel.

The fight for a ‘just transition’ to renewable energy, providing both a clean environment and good jobs, is far from over. But by halting the Dakota Access Pipeline construction, the brave activists at Standing Rock have held back another step towards ‘locking in’ a carbon future.

Having witnessed the power of resistance, we must now double down on our efforts to avert the climate catastrophe. It is only by organizing and resisting that we will have a chance of changing the attitude of the new administration which is about to enter the White House.

The world’s scientists agree that the only path to avoiding global climate catastrophe is to quickly phase out the use of dirty fuels – oil, gas and coal – and transition to clean forms of energy such as solar, wind, wave and geothermal.

As healthcare workers, we are alarmed by the dire threats to public health posed by climate change, such as increases in asthma and the spread of viruses like Zika, Chikungunya and West Nile.

As union members, we reject the notion that our country needs to choose between good jobs and a clean environment. In fact, the key to a cleaner and safer environment and the end of climate degradation is the creation of millions of good union jobs, repairing our crumbling infrastructure, including our roads, schools, hospitals and bridges. We desperately need infrastructure repairs such as the replacement of lead-filled and corroded pipes in cities like Flint, rather than the laying of oil pipes in our rivers and on sacred land.

Therefore, we must immediately halt all new dirty-fuel infrastructure, and instead begin massive investments in clean energy manufacturing, construction, research and development. Our movement must also ensure that there is a just transition to a 100% clean energy economy that provides job training, placement and security for workers.

The Standing Rock Sioux Nation and their allies have made a huge step forward. They have pointed the way to a cleaner, safer environment and a more democratic energy policy that places the interests of people above the profits of the dirty fuel industry. We salute them.