The United States has a long history of imperialist policies that have resulted in the displacement of indigenous peoples. Following the country's independence, much of the belief of Manifest Destiny led directly to native tribes’ getting expelled from their land. As U.S. imperialism rose, the country formed treaties with tribes that have frequently been violated. The Line 3 pipeline is a proposed channel that will carry tar sands oil from Alberta, CA to Superior, Wis.
The United States must immediately stop construction of the Line 3 pipeline — and further, it should refuse to invest more money into infrastructure for nonrenewable energy sources.
The proposed pipeline route crosses through territory belonging to the Anishinaabe peoples, the headwaters of the Mississippi River and the shores of Lake Superior. By authorizing the construction of this pipeline, the United States is both continuing its imperialist influence over native peoples as well as further supporting a dying industry of harmful energy production. The U.S. should instead divert those funds toward production of new, green sources of energy.
There are a significant number of special interest groups entwined to this issue who stand in the way of progress toward clean energy. Stopping this pipeline’s construction will undoubtedly require congressional support, and certain tactics can be employed in order to garner said support.
A study conducted by Dylan Gibson and Leslie A. Duram through Southern Illinois University entitled “Shifting Discourse on Climate and Sustainability: Key Characteristics of the Higher Education Fossil Fuel Divestment Movement” offers some notable parallels that can translate to congressional lobbying. One of the biggest takeaways from this study surrounds the incorporation of connections and stakeholders into the lobbying process.
The study uses initiatives to encourage higher education institutions to divest from fossil fuels as a case study. Much of the lobbying power with education administrators offers some insight into what tactics could be used in congress. The study found that campaigns which directly referenced some of the stakeholders affected by the polices proved more successful in convincing the institution to divest. Campaigns invoked students as stakeholders in the divestment calls.
In a similar manner, lobbying techniques should invoke the effects on a congressperson's primary stakeholder: their constituents. Organizing a campaign that ties the people most affected by the pipeline can help to localize the issue.
Katharina Rietig investigates other lobbying techniques in their study “The Power of Strategy: Environmental NGO Influence in International Climate Negotiations.” Rietig identifies one of the challenges with lobbying being that a lobbyist is heavily demanding a certain policy implementation, while not being able to offer much in return.
In order to become more effective, Rietig suggests, a lobbyist needs to align themselves with delegates who share like-minded stances. In doing so, the lobbyist is no longer trying to convince someone of an issue, but instead serves in a more advisory role to that congressional figure. This can be a way that the issues related to the Line 3 construction can be voiced in congress. Aligning with representatives who share a common value in protecting the environment and stopping environmental injustice can be a key strategy in making this issue pertinent in congressional discussions.
Other countries have adopted strategies surrounding environmental action as it pertains to legal rulings. The idea is granting personhood to different environmental bodies such as lakes, rivers and mountains. This forces the policy discussion to change from a discussion of who “owns” the physical land, and instead makes the affected lands hold an equal voice in the policy discussion. Lobbying discussions in the future should begin to include this theory in order to provide a framework for adequate environmental protections.
Ultimately, taking the policy discussion around a grassroots initiative of showing how this pipeline will directly harm the Anishinaabe people and other folks who live near the pipeline can be synthesized with lobbying a few congressional actors who are invested in championing this cause can become one of the best ways for action to be taken at a federal level to prevent this pipelines construction. Accomplishing this would be a huge step in preventing climate injustice and set a clear precedent for any attempts for future construction of oil pipelines.
Many forms of nonviolent direct action have already occurred in the fight against the pipeline’s construction. The organization Stop Line 3 has organized demonstrations against the pipeline, and many of the strategies they use should continue to be implemented to gain exposure to the issue. As more attempts are made to further pipeline construction, organizers and land protectors should continue to demonstrate in order to receive media attention which can have a role in changing the minds of legislators.
Professor Clemens Kaupa teaches law at Vrije Universiteit in Amsterdam and discusses some of the social movements and civil disobedience globally. Kaupa argues that civil disobedience — specifically a number of nonviolent forms of discussion — has been used historically to make institutional changes.
The United States’ civil rights movement was a significant tactic used in the 1950s and 60s. In these demonstrations, protesters hoped to expose some of the immoralities in the judicial system. Another example referenced were the protests in the 1980s exposing the government's ignorance of the AIDS crisis. In these protests, demonstrators hoped to garner public attention for this injustice.
In order to prevent construction of the Line 3 pipeline, land and water protectors can further utilize some of the strategies which have already been implemented. There have been some precedents with recent success in preventing pipelines as well, as Kaupa discusses. The Dakota Access Pipeline was temporarily halted by the Obama administration after civilians formed blockades. Unfortunately, the pipeline was later authorized to continue construction, but there were sparks of success with these demonstrations in years past.
To ensure the fate of the Line 3 pipeline isn’t the same as the Dakota Access Pipeline, some of the tactics investigated by Nicole Rodgers, a Senior Lecturer at Southern Cross University’s School of Law and Justice should be utilized. Rodgers offers that some level of breaking laws can be instrumental in making land protectors’ voices heard. Breaking some laws can trigger a key message to folks who may be on the fence of an issue in order to further discussion. “Once it is conceded that the legitimacy of existing laws is not an absolute legitimacy, we can query the legitimacy currently [accepted toward greenhouse gas emitters].”
Ultimately, extralegal demonstrations can convey the idea that laws are relative and can open the conversation to the idea that maybe the capitalist invasion of native land may be the actual injustice.
As environmental justice is continually discussed and moved to the forefront of the American political landscape, it's important to acknowledge the communities most impacted by these policies. Protest movements have often neglected the needs of minority communities when addressing climate change. Congress has acted quickly on environmental protections before.
Dolores Greenberg references Love Canal, in upstate New York. In 1980, the canal housed dangerous chemicals that caused chromosome damage to nearby residents. In just over two months, Congress passed the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act. In a largely white community, Congress was able to move rapidly to come up with solutions to an issue. Many years later now, environmental racism is still a concern. Demonstrations need to place Indiginous groups at the center of this discussion.
Line 3 protesters should continue to put effort into blockades and occupation of proposed pipeline territory. In doing so, the land protectors can garner media attention and gain public support — but also, more importantly, to make the public as well as legislators question the authority of Enbridge to construct an international oil pipeline spanning over treaty-protected land and one of the largest rivers in the United States.
This can lead to further policy discussions that entail stopping investment in unclean energy infrastructure.
In order to prevent further irreversible damage to the global climate, the United States — along with many other countries — will need to make significant changes in consumption habits. Ending the construction of the Line 3 pipeline will put the country on track toward making the necessary changes. It will also be an important first step in recognizing the sovereignty of the Anishinaabe people and other native tribes across the country.
Activists can utilize three key strategies in order to prevent further construction of these pipelines. First, use messaging strategies that can unify those heavily invested in climate change issues with folks who are more skeptical about issues. Second, employ tactics to lobby congresspeople to leverage opposition to this pipeline's construction. Finally, land protectors should continue to occupy the territory that the proposed pipeline would be built on.
Utilizing these strategies can create a strong campaign to protect the Anishinaabe people and the land they occupy.
Riley Sumner is Senior Staff Writer of the Opinion Desk. He is a Senior studying Computer Science & Journalism with an emphasis in reporting. Do you agree with the need to stop construction on the Line 3 pipeline? Send all comments to email@example.com.