The Sustenance of Progress

Photo credit: Joe Brusky, Veterans Stand with Standing Rock 

“Joy doesn’t betray but sustains activism. And when you face a politics that aspires to make you fearful, alienated and isolated, joy is a fine act of insurrection.” – Rebecca Solnit, Hope in the Dark

One week ago, water protectors seeking to block the Dakota Access Pipeline won a major victory at Standing Rock. With news that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers had denied the permit to complete the pipeline in the area, the celebration was warranted. But so was the skepticism that compelled many braving the winter weather to remain at camp, vigilant and waiting for the other shoe to drop.

The permit was denied to allow for consideration of alternate routes, not exactly the most assuring rationale for those who fear that the engineers will take the requisite time to “study the issue” and conclude that the route near Standing Rock is the best one. And the specter of a pro-pipeline Trump administration raises serious doubts about whether the permit denial will stand post-inauguration. Some also worried that, permit or no, the companies building the pipeline would simply forge ahead if water protectors took the victory and closed up camp.

But even with these credible threats and well-founded doubts, it is important to celebrate the victory.

These victories are the sustenance that feeds our progress toward a just world. They allow us a moment to sit back and pat our bellies, satisfied. But even in that moment, we know that our bellies will growl soon enough, we will grow weak with hunger, and we will need to eat again.

The battle that Standing Rock has come to exemplify is far from over. A reroute would surely assuage some concerned with indigenous people’s land rights and the (related) struggle for environmental justice against corporations that hold little regard for the effects of pollution on communities of color.

An altogether cancellation of the nearly-complete pipeline project would be a monumental win for the move toward cleaner energy, prioritizing the concern for a habitable planet in the future over profits today.

And perhaps the ultimate victory is the vision that brought many to Standing Rock, a world in which a project such as the Dakota Access Pipeline never would have been considered in the first place.

So let’s celebrate. Let’s pat our bellies. And then let’s start looking for our next meal.


Two things you can do to continue to support Standing Rock:

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