Wednesday, December 7, 2016

The Dakota Access Pipeline -- Part 7. Ethical Considerations and Conclusions

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Today concludes my series on The Dakota Access Pipeline controversy. News broke recently that the pipeline will be rerouted. However, the issues brought up by the pipeline are far from over. Indeed, the decision is an executive branch decision via the U.S. Army. The executive branch is currently changing hands and the decision could be reversed or modified. While many who fought against the pipeline are cautiously optimistic, the issue is not closed.

My goal was to provide some materials for those interested in teaching or learning about the issue. The set of posts can be used as introductory reading materials in classes or they can be mined to select content of interest. In addition, I hope that the posts will be useful not only for teachers and students, but for those interested in the topic who are readers of On the Brink. I have found that most people do not fully understand the complexities of the issue and some of you may find the content interesting, if not enlightening. If anyone finds any errors, please let me know so that I can update the posts for accuracy. Please note that I will tried to link as much as possible to primary resources that can be used for supplemental material or further reading. In addition, for each section, I have included questions that can be used for in-class discussions or homework. In today's post, I have interspersed a series of critical thinking questions that would be appropriate for essay questions on exams or for classroom discussion prompts.

The series consists of several parts:

Part 1. North Dakota
Part 2. Boom! Fracking and the Bakken Shale
Part 3. The Pipeline Project
Part 4. The Heart of the Matter:  The Missouri River
Part 5. The Standing Rock Sioux
Part 6. The Legal Issues and the Protest
Part 7. Ethical Considerations and Conclusions

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The Dakota Access Pipeline crossing of the Missouri River 1/2 mile from the Standing Rock Indian Reservation was stopped by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers recently. Yet since it is an executive branch decision, and the executive branch is changing hands in a month, it is unclear at this time if the decision is temporary or permanent. There are several main ethical considerations that are worth reviewing.

1. If Missouri River crossing at Bismark was rejected due to concerns over the impact of water quality on the city, why was it okay to locate the pipeline 1/2 mile upstream from the Standing Rock Indian Reservation?

2. The Sioux have claimed the unceded territory noted in the 1868 Fort Laramie Treaty (see Parts 5 and 6 of this series) that includes the area where the pipeline was to cross the Missouri River. Do the Standing Rock Sioux have a reasonable claim to the land?

3. Many have noted that fracking leads to boom bust economies and some have suggested that the North Dakota boom is going bust fast (see Part 2 of this series). Plus, some have noted that we are developing new dirty energy sources at the very time we should be moving rapidly to alternative energy. At the same time, some argue we need to develop U.S. energy resources to promote energy independence. Is it appropriate to build a pipeline that impacts so many people at this moment in time?

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4. The Native Americans who fought the pipeline project called themselves water protectors, not protestors. How we are recognized by others matters in how our personal stories are told. Think about how the Millennial Generation is portrayed in the media in positive and negative ways. These generalities about a generation are not always accurate. In the case of the Standing Rock Sioux, which term do you think is appropriate for those who fought the pipeline: water protectors or protestors? Who has the right to name them?

The issues brought out in this series are not over with the closure of the Dakota Access Pipeline controversy. Native American land rights, environmental justice, and climate activism will continue in different ways. How do you see each of these issues moving forward in the next few years or decade?


Note, if you like this series, you may like my textbook, Introduction to Sustainability available from Wiley.

1 comment:

Michelle Parks said...

Thank you again for On the Brink and this series in particular. While the vast majority of my family and friends are not in school, they are curious and lifelong learners. We learn a lot from you!