To the Finish Line

Fall Colors

Fall Colors

Heading into the general election, public life is converging into a melee with an uncertain outcome.

Worklife had me circling the wagons, inner focus broken only by work, social media, and news feeds on my hand-held computer. I engaged with thousands of people, yet remained focused on sustaining a life midst social turbulence.

The streams of politics, environmentalism, justice, and conflict seem heading for an apocalyptic finish line.

Where to begin?

Environmental activism is off track with opposition to the Keystone XL and Dakota Access pipelines. Mode of transportation will never be as important an issue as reducing global greenhouse gas emissions. Oil and natural gas production is predicated on economic models — models that can change dramatically as solar, wind and other forms of renewable power generation continue to be developed and deployed. The same economic, governmental, technology and health factors driving the decline in coal extraction and use can and should be at the forefront of environmental activism regarding oil and natural gas production, distribution and use.

Environmental advocates are distracted by development of the Dakota Access pipeline by Energy Transfer Partners. The pipeline is nearly complete in North Dakota, nearly complete in South Dakota, two-thirds complete in Iowa, and 75 percent complete overall as of earlier this month. The pipeline is not finished but clearly will be despite heartfelt protests.

The issue of land rights has taken prominence among advocates against the pipeline. That fight would more properly be fought in the United States Supreme Court by overturning the June 23, 2005 5-4 decision in Kelo v. City of New London which granted private developers the right to transfer ownership of property as a permissible public use under the Takings Clause of the Fifth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Use of eminent domain by Energy Transfer Partners to gain easements for their pipeline may be wrong, however, it is legal. Even if the U.S. Senate confirms a Democratic President’s appointment to the high court, there is no guarantee eminent domain would be taken up nor that Kelo would be overturned. Land rights issues activate people who would not normally be a part of environmental actions. The long-term value of such engagement to the environmental movement is an open question.

I support the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe’s resistance to land acquisition for the Dakota Access Pipeline. A web site No  DAPL Solidarity calls for people to take action in support of tribal goals, including going to the site, organizing solidarity actions in our own communities, and sending money. I could do more to support the effort.

Election of anyone other than Hillary Clinton as president would be a setback for efforts to stop the Dakota Access Pipeline, and for environmental issues generally. Clinton may not be the champion for the environment we want, however, election of her main opponent would undo the environmental progress of the last 40 years. Melee may be too mild a word for what may happen after the Nov. 8 election.

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