A strategy of protest
Protests at the Standing Rock Sioux reservation in North Dakota over the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) occurred in 2016, catching the attention of environmentalists and the news media. The Dakota Access Pipeline is a 1,168 miles mile pipeline that will carry crude oil from the Bakken oil fields from North Dakota to southern Illinois. It would carry up to 570,000 barrels of oil a day.
The Bakken shale formation, named for the farmer on whose land it was discovered, is 200,773-square miles in Montana, North Dakota, and the Canadian provinces of Saskatchewan and Manitoba. It contains an estimated 7.4 billion barrels of undiscovered, technically recoverable oil, according to 2013 estimates by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS). The oil from the Bakken formation is derived through hydraulic fracturing, commonly known as fracking.
There are good reasons why the Standing Rock Sioux tribe protested the DAPL. It cuts across tribal lands. It would pass only half a mile away from the Standing Rock Sioux reservation. The pipeline also crosses directly through lands reserved for the Yankton Sioux Tribe, the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe, and others by the 1851 Fort Laramie Treaty, as well as the Yankton Sioux Tribe’s aboriginal title lands in South Dakota. It puts sacred and burial sites at risk and could bring environmental harm to wildlife habitat and sensitive natural areas. It poses a public health threat to the tribe’s drinking water if a spill occurred.
From protest to calls for divestment
The Standing Rock Sioux have shifted from protesting to calling for divestment from fracking. Mazaska Talks is an indigenous-led divestment campaign. The group, whose name is derived from the Lakota word for money, led a global three-day protest known as Divest the Globe from October 23 to 25. Actions in cities across the U.S. and Canada occurred, along with actions in Africa, Europe, and Asia as 91 banks met at the annual meeting of the Equator Principles Association (EPA) in Sao Paulo, Brazil.
“Until these banks start investing in the future of Mother Earth, we will bring attention to the injustice they contribute to and we will continue to use divestment as a tool to help end these atrocities,” said Rachel Heaton, co-Founder of Mazaska Talks, in a statement.
“Making the transition from fossil fuels to green power is no longer a matter of financial capital, but of political will,” said Jackie Fielder, Organizer with Mazaska Talks:
“These banks have learned nothing from Standing Rock or the Great Recession, so it’s up to us to make our own public banks and finance our own communities.”
Divestment picks up steam
The divestment movement has already had success. Launched during the resistance to the DAPL, the divestment movement has withdrawn over $5 billion from DAPL-funded banks, including money from three major U.S. cities and over $80 million in individual accounts. The BNP Paribas Group of France announced on October 10 that it will no longer fund companies whose primary business is tar sands, fracking, or Arctic drilling. They also are ceasing funding of projects primarily involved in transporting or exporting oil and gas from shale or oil from tar sands. Two other European banks (DNB of Norway and ING of the Netherlands) sold their shares of loans to the DAPL pipeline company.
National organizations signed a letter in support of the Divest the Globe, including 350.org, Rainforest Action Network, Greenpeace and the Sierra Club. “We are writing today to inform you that we are boycotting your bank,” the letter states.
Image credit: Joe Piette, courtesy Flickr