How could we not love the concept of 1000 Standing Rocks?
Yet, despite the immediate appeal of this sentiment, one can’t avoid seeing particularities of Standing Rock that don’t necessarily replicate themselves everywhere. What does this expression really mean?
There’s something brewing in Appalachia about a natural gas pipeline that will require cutting a long swath through protected forest. Habitats will be put at risk and pristine views will be corrupted. Not the same as a potential spill of tar sand slurry into a major waterway. Nevertheless, it’s yet another piece of the commons that is technically removed from the category of wilderness for the sake of furthering the dinosaur agenda.
Does this particular issue have anything to do with water? Is that even a requirement for it to “qualify” as another Standing Rock? Is it even necessary to spend energy constructing an ideological barricade to encompass Standing Rocks popping up like mushrooms across the activist galaxy–or has that already been accomplished? Is the intent to construct the compelling argument against routing a pipeline from going through a protected forest… or is the argument to stop the pipeline completely?
Is Standing Rock about stopping the Dakota Access Pipeline altogether or simply directing it elsewhere? The ACOE said they would produce a comprehensive EIR (presumably for alternative routes), so if Standing Rock is just about water, or just about the sacred land (of a sovereign nation), is an alternative route even acceptable? I think not, actually, but I’m not sure this point has been clearly made.
If “water protectors” are strictly about water, then fracking anywhere is not OK (and that is the best rationale for completely obstructing DAPL because–like obstructing export terminals for coal–doing so protects water resources upstream). But what about people whose livelihoods already depend on fracking? Is a NG pipeline through territory that doesn’t put water at risk then OK?
1000 Standing Rocks means local organizing around local issues that put communities and the resources they depend on directly at risk. If so, are there other aspects of Standing Rock that can still be duplicated regardless of the different circumstances? Yes. There are elements of a ceremonial template
to integrate, rituals, prayers, ceremonial entry into deep time. There is the decolonizing effect of the direct experience, the propagation of indigenous consciousness taking us out of our reflexive objectification of the earth and into an examination of the ways in which we each have been captured by that objectification.
Like the occupy movement in some respects, there is also the crucible of relationship in which the governance of the process and how it is represented to the world is negotiated. Then, of course, there are the training and legal aspects of the event, the direct action training and the legal resources to back up the consequences.
The Industrial Growth Society (to use Joanna Macy’s term) sacrifices land, people and the natural world for private gain…in the name of progress. When we say it sacrifices people we can look beyond the obvious sacrifice of water resources in ways that injure local communities. As a medium we all share and one we might consider a single integral planetary resource, pollution literally reaches into the deep tissues of every body in the form of pharmaceuticals, petrochemicals, food additives and particulate matter. We have tolerated these conditions for decades.
When we say the planet or nature is becoming polluted, we are recapitulating in our bodies the objectification of the planet. We are the planet. Water is the medium that connects all of us, all of it, the plastic in the oceans, the rising percentage of fish that now contain plastic, the plastic we ingest if we eat those fish, the lead levels in thousands of municipalities all over the USA alone, fracking chemicals in the ground water, the radical depletion of the aquifer in the central valley of California, the destabilisation of the food chain. On and on.
“Water protector” can be a term encompassing practically any dimension of the ways in which the Industrial Growth Society has been and continues to corrupt the most essential and common bases of life. Along with the corruption of the atmosphere, that other essential basis of life, we need look no further than to water to see a common element of every aspect of the damage we are doing to ourselves.
Hence, when we speak of ‘water consciousness,’ we’re not really talking about replicating Standing Rock in a physical sense as a form of visible frontline defense against overt incursions against the natural world. We are talking about propagating a consciousness created by and within Standing Rock to a diverse and a not necessarily visible set of conditions (but where the real exercise of power occurs), such as Congressional Committee meetings, trade conventions such as the National Association of Water Companies, the offices of lobbyists, city offices in Flint, Michigan, Duke Power’s fractured coal-ash receptacles. Everyone working in their activist silos who already knows that we have to step up our game knows theirs is already one of an emerging 1000 Standing Rocks waiting to happen.