Another Dam is Not a Solution to Climate Change

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An area of the Bear River that would be submerged by the Centennial Dam.

The excessive rainfall that we have experienced recently is something that we can expect with climate change.  As average global temperatures rise, weather patterns are thrown off balance. We can’t know whether a particular extreme weather event is caused by such warming, but we do know that it makes such events statistically more likely. In recent years, there have been thousands of record-breaking weather disruptions all over the world.  As air warms, more water evaporates, drying out the land and causing drought, as it has here in California.  Clouds carry this additional moisture, making storms more likely. This results in the excessive rainfall, super storms, typhoons, hurricanes, and floods that are creating disasters on every continent.

Recent storms have stressed the Oroville Dam to a point where 200,000 people had to be evacuated.  I grew up in Oroville while the dam was being built.  My family and I lived just a few blocks from the Feather River.  As kids we spent most of our summer days there. The dam flooded habitat of plant and animal species.  The fish ladder and hatchery were built to counteract its toll on salmon and steelhead.  The dam also flooded our upstream swimming sites and areas where local teenagers used to find arrowheads, that is, the ancient homelands of the Maidu people of the region.  My Maidu step-brother Lee, whose mother was born on at the Moorehouse Rancheria near Oroville, still lives there.  When the dam failed, his grown kids and grandkids evacuated and joined him at his house above the dam.

Nevada County responded to flood evacuees with great generosity.  Now that people are returning to their homes and the immediate danger has been alleviated, we can hope that the damage will be repaired and people will be safe.

Now our community is facing another dam-related challenge: the proposal to build the Centennial Dam near Colfax and create another reservoir on the Bear River. This project is being billed as a response to ongoing climate change. We can expect many more such proposed solutions as the planet continues to warm.

Recently my husband and I spent time with our daughter and several grandchildren at a nearby campground on the banks of the Bear River, in an area that will be submerged if the project goes forward. Concerned people opposing the dam displayed maps and charts showing the areas that would be taken by eminent domain, destroyed, and submerged: 125 existing homes, trees and native plants, downstream waterways, ecosystems and various species that thrive here. Members of the local Indigenous community told the children stories and demonstrated traditional uses of particular stones found on the river bank, then invited everyone into a circle for a ritual of protection for all the beings who inhabit this place, and for our descendants who will come after.

Whether or not to build this dam is a climate justice issue. From one perspective, another reservoir makes sense, since precipitation is less dependable and the snowpack no longer ensures a continuous supply of water. But there would be great social and environmental costs, including the loss of people’s homes, destruction of Native cultural sites, loss of habitat for many plant and animal species, damage downstream to fish and other wildlife, and the forfeiture of people’s ability to enjoy this unique part of the natural world. Furthermore, logging the trees, bulldozing the plants, scraping the soil, building the dam, and flooding the region would release stored carbon into the atmosphere and eliminate the carbon sequestration function that the living trees, plants, and soil provide. There are alternatives that would avoid these social and environmental costs, including recharging groundwater that has been depleted by over-pumping. This dam is an example of a so-called solution that exacerbates the problem of climate change.

This proposal to respond to climate change by building a dam, along with the controversy it is generating, is an example of difficult policy decisions that will face us for the foreseeable future. It is also an example of a regional struggle to prevent ecosystem destruction, block further carbon pollution, and link the rights of Indigenous people with the rights of the earth. For people who live nearby, go to the SYRCL website at yubariver.org/ to find out more and send your comments.  This struggle may yet become another example of people around the world doing what we can to preserve the integrity of the places we call home.

Postcard from Burleigh County Jail

Sharon being released from Burleigh County Jail in Bismarck, North Dakota.

Sharon being released from Burleigh County Jail in Bismarck, North Dakota.

This postcard arrived for my family a few days ago, now that I’m home from North Dakota.  It was written so lightly that it was barely legible, but this is what it said:

Dear Ones,

Here I am on my third day in Burleigh County Jail, happy to have a postcard and a rubber pencil so I can write to you.  I am doing just fine, in good spirits and being treated with kindness.  Right now I’m sitting in the dorm on my bunk, watching the movie “Desperado” with my five roommates, each one a beloved child of God.  I’ve been reading, writing, working a jigsaw puzzle, going to the gym, talking, eating (we have lots of cake, but no fruit or vegetables), and catching up on my sleep.  I may get out tomorrow (Monday) or at least get a phone card so I can call you.  I miss you and can hardly wait to see you, my beautiful family.  I feel privileged to stand with the water protectors here at Standing Rock, and will be so glad to be home with you.

Love,

Mom, Grandma, Sharon

I haven’t written about my time in jail, like I promised to do in my last post.  I was planning to post more about my experiences at Standing Rock, the direct action I participated in, and jail, but I was speechless when news came of the extreme violence being perpetrated against the water protectors.  Now there are threats of eviction or roadblocks to prevent supplies from being delivered to the camp.  There is snow on the ground.  Meanwhile, over 2,000 veterans are planning to go to Standing Rock on December 4 to provide nonviolent support to the water protectors.  Things are moving very fast.

Still, I have decided to share a bit about my experiences in jail there.  Why?  Because it really was a great privilege for me to be able to take an action of solidarity with others who are assuming risk for the sake of us all, in a way that was tangible.  Many people are risking far more than I did when I was arrested for holding up a banner in the middle of a road with thirty other people.  I am a privileged white woman, with friends, family, and colleagues who support me.  There is even a fundraising site now to help pay the legal fees for myself and three affinity group members with whom I was arrested.  But so many of the people in jail in North Dakota, including those whom I spent time with, and in our country overall, do not have that kind of support, and Indigenous people are disproportionately incarcerated.

Most important, the Standing Rock Sioux have put out a call for support from people who are willing to stand with them to protect the waters in that place, and who are challenging us to honor the earth for the sake of future generations.  I encourage others to respond to this call in whatever ways they can.  You can begin by calling these numbers listed here to call for a halt to the eviction.  You can also donate to the main camp at Standing Rock, the Oceti Sakowin Camp.  Most important, pray.  On December 4th, you can join a unified time of prayer with Standing Rock.   This is a movement that is bathed in prayer.

Follow Sharon’s blog by clicking the “Follow Sharon Delgado” button at the right or by “liking” the Shaking the Gates of Hell Facebook page.  

Find her previous blog postings about Standing Rock

Official website and place to donate to the Oceti Sakowin Camp at Standing Rock.    

 

Peaceful and Prayerful Resistance

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Nonviolence Guidelines at Standing Rock.

In my last post, I wrote about how my friends and I were arrested at a peaceful and prayerful action, separated, and taken to different jails.  My next post will be about my experiences in jail, as people have requested.  Today, though, I’m writing about the importance of the struggle for justice and healing that is taking place there.

The courage of the water protectors in the face of historic and current oppression is inspiring people around the world, and people are joining in to support their struggle in many ways.  The struggle continues to intensify as the water protectors refuse to back down, even as they prepare for snow and frigid temperatures.  Day by day, more allies are coming to join in the work.

Last Monday, the Army Corps of Engineers clearly stated that the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) cannot legally proceed without further study and consultation with the tribe and with government agencies.  This is an apparent victory.  But Energy Transfer Partners continues to work night and day.  As of last Tuesday, the company had moved horizontal drilling equipment on to their fenced off drilling pad near Lake Oahu.  Law enforcement continues to harass water protectors and protect DAPL work.  Meanwhile, the pipeline project is in financial jeopardy, with contracts for oil delivery set to expire in January if the pipeline doesn’t go through.

Will Energy Transfer Partners stop construction or will they go forward illegally, hoping to simply be fined?  Will the Obama administration step in and enforce its temporary prohibition on routing the pipeline under the Missouri River?  That would be unusual, since the federal government has not historically protected Indigenous rights.

What about a Trump Administration?  Trump is invested in DAPL.  The CEO of Energy Partner Transfers, Kelcy Warren, contributed to Trump’s presidential campaign, and claims that once Trump is in office, the pipeline will be a sure thing.

The only hope I see in in the “power of the people” standing together in resistance to the institutional Powers that seek to ignore the sacred value of the water, air, land, and life itself, all for the sake of profit.  The institutions and systems based on the primacy of the market (that is, money), have left the waters, land, and atmosphere polluted, and have left people unable to sustain themselves and without hope.

Many people have been seeing this and have been working hard, trying to turn it around.  With climate change alone, we are reaching the end of the road.  With the election of Trump, many more people are recognizing the bankruptcy of the current system, which only exists by the consent of the people.  When we go along and enjoy the benefits of the current system, consider it normal, and close our eyes to historical and current injustices, we contribute to the problem.  When enough of us withdraw our consent, the system cannot stand.

Not all of us can go to Standing Rock, nor do we need to.  But each of us can do something.  Those of us who are committed to justice already know that we need to stand in solidarity with the many groups of people who are being targeted by hate groups emboldened by Trump’s election.   Indigenous people may help to lead us out of the present darkness, and to discover what it means to live in peaceful and prayerful resistance to oppressive Powers.  After all, they have been resisting for over five hundred years.

By joining as allies with our Indigenous brothers and sisters, not only at Standing Rock but also in our own regions, we can gain insight into who we are and what changes we need to make.  By listening and learning we can begin to understand how “settler-colonial” attitudes and behaviors have shaped us and what we can do to turn that around.  By taking a stand as allies in Indigenous struggles to protect the air, land, and water, we may learn what it means to live as human beings in harmony with the earth, from people who did so for millennia on this continent.

Follow Sharon’s blog by clicking the “Follow Sharon Delgado” button at the right or by “liking” the Shaking the Gates of Hell Facebook page.   Find previous blog postings about Standing Rock here.  

 Official website and place to donate to the Oceti Sakowin Camp at Standing Rock.    

 Articles:

Suddenly Time—and the Oil Market—are on the Side of the Standing Rock Sioux:  http://www.yesmagazine.org/people-power/suddenly-time-is-on-the-side-of-the-standing-rock-sioux-20161117

Obama Administration Halts Work on Dakota Access Pipeline: http://247wallst.com/energy-business/2016/09/10/obama-administration-halts-work-on-dakota-access-pipeline/

Dakota Access is in Financial Jeopardy: https://www.facebook.com/groups/1595421937418090/1623319824628301/?notif_t=group_activity&notif_id=1479573200580003

CEO confident Dakota Access Pipeline will be completed under Trump presidency: http://www.cbsnews.com/news/dakota-access-pipeline-energy-transfer-partners-ceo-kelcy-warren-breaks-silence/

On Our Way to Standing Rock

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Here we are having lunch at a park in Rawlins, Wyoming, on our way to Standing Rock.  Tonight my good friends and I are staying in Spearfish, South Dakota, planning to get up early so we can check in at the camp in time for the nonviolence training at 2 p.m. tomorrow.  We are ready to do what we can.

I recently read This is an Uprising, How Nonviolent Revolt is Shaping the Twenty-First Century, by Paul and Mark Engler.  They write about the “whirlwind,” those times in history when things come together in a new way that makes possible what seemed impossible before.  Standing Rock is such a time.  Many people around the world are recognizing that respecting the rights of Indigenous people and learning from them about honoring the creation are at the center of what needs to happen if we are to get through this historic time in a way that leaves hope for a habitable planet.

I’m here for the sake of the children and for future generations.   Ready to enter the whirlwind.

Standing for Standing Rock

image“The Earth does not belong to man; Man belongs to the Earth. This we know. All things are connected like the blood which unites one family. Whatever befalls the Earth befalls the sons of the Earth. Man did not weave the web of life, he is merely a strand in it. Whatever he does to the web, he does to himself.”        Chief Seattle

Anyone who is concerned about climate change or human rights ought to be paying close attention to the Standing Rock resistance to the Dakota Access Pipeline taking place right now in North Dakota.  Working for climate justice does not simply mean lowering our carbon footprints or sending emails to elected officials.  It also means joining together in solidarity with people who are most vulnerable to a changing climate and those who live on lands that are threatened and polluted by extreme forms of fossil fuel extraction, transport, and refining.  Such “sacrifice zones” are often on historic Indigenous lands.

Although most people know that this country is built on a history of land theft and genocide of Native peoples, relatively few realize that the historic assault on Indigenous lands continues today.  In the United States and Canada, this often takes place through the violation of treaty rights and the exploitation of Native lands by extractive industries.  Large corporations have repeatedly violated treaty rights by extracting resources and polluting traditional lands that sustained Indigenous peoples for millennia.

Members of  more than 150 Native American tribes have joined the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe in their attempts to block the $3.8 billion Dakota Access Pipeline.  The 1,172-mile, 30-inch diameter pipeline would transport 470, 000 gallons of crude oil each day from the Bakken Oil Fields. Tribe members are concerned because the pipeline would travel below the Missouri River near the Standing Rock Reservation, and a pipeline accident could contaminate their water supply. Over 2,000 Indigenous people and their supporters have gathered there, and nonviolent protesters blocking construction are being arrested each day.

The United Nations has issued a statement calling on the United States government to ensure the right of the Sioux to participate in decision-making about the pipeline, since its construction would negatively impact their rights, lives, and lands. The United Methodist General Board of Church and Society and other religious groups have made statements in support of this action.  Here’s an article with background from the United Methodist News Service:  United Methodists, Native Americans Oppose Pipeline.

People around the country are sending money, transporting supplies, and engaging in solidarity demonstrations.  This climate justice struggle is ongoing.  Donate through the Standing Rock Sioux official website. To stay updated, visit and follow the Standing Rock Sioux Facebook page.   Democracy Now is covering this action on a daily basis.

In This Changes Everything:  Capitalism vs. The Climate, Naomi Klein wrote about the importance of supporting Indigenous struggles, such as the resistance taking place at Standing Rock.  She said, “Their heroic battles are not just their people’s best chance of a healthy future… they could very well be the best chance for the rest of us to continue enjoying a climate that is hospitable to human life.”

By taking actions in solidarity with the Standing Rock Sioux, we take concrete steps toward repentance for historical wrongs against Indigenous peoples, including wrongs perpetuated under the banner of the cross by institutional Christianity.  By supporting their Camp of the Sacred Stone, we respond to calls to respect the rights of Indigenous nations and the rights of Mother Earth, while acknowledging the value of Indigenous teachings and Indigenous ways, regardless of our spiritual convictions or secular beliefs.

Perhaps Chief Seattle was right.  Perhaps all things really are connected.

 

You are invited to sign up to “follow” this  blog and to “like” the Earth Justice Ministries Facebook page.  Updates on this action will also be posted on the Climate  Justice Action website and the Climate Justice Action Facebook page.