An iconic image from my childhood haunts me as I watch the Standing Rock Sioux tribe fight the Dakota Access Pipeline. In 1971, a TV advertisement that was part of the Keep America Beautiful campaign dramatized how pollution hurts the environment. The message was, “It’s our responsibility protect it.”
Here’s how it goes…
The ad begins with an actor dressed in traditional Native American clothing paddling a canoe down a pristine river. In the background there are drumbeats, like heartbeats, getting louder and louder as the man glides past power plant smoke stacks, garbage and debris. When he reaches a highway, he gets out of his canoe and steps up an embankment strewn with litter. The narrator says, “Some people have a deep, abiding respect for the natural beauty that was once this country, and some people don’t.”
Then a bag of trash gets tossed from a passing car. The filth scatters at the man’s feet. As a tear runs down his cheek, the narrator says, “People start pollution. People can stop it,”
During the height of this campaign, it received more than 2,000 letters a month from people wanting to join clean up teams. According to the Ad Council, by the end of the campaign, Keep America Beautiful local teams had helped to reduce litter by as much as 88% in 300 communities, 38 states, and several countries.”
Like many of you following the Dakota Access Pipeline fight, I am moved to tears by the recent images of a group of people who have been living on this land the longest. And like many of you, I know America’s most polluted communities are where families of color live, work and play. (Tweet this) These communities continue to be targeted by the oil and gas industry, exposing them to a front row seat to the devastation of their land and the adverse health effects of climate pollution on their children.
The Indigenous Environmental Network has voiced concern over climate change, pointing to changes they’ve seen on ancestral lands. With years of extreme heat, wildfires and drought, plants are harmed and animal habitats have shifted. Those climate challenges are outlined here in an article on Yale Climate Connections,
“They’re among North America’s most vulnerable population groups, and their 95 million acres of tribal lands present Native Americans with a complex array of challenges and opportunities as they confront a warming climate.”
As the sentiment portrayed in the Keep America Beautiful campaign showed, fighting pollution (or the construction of a pipeline) isn’t just about one group of people. It’s about ALL people. It’s about uniting for a habitable world for everyone’s children. And it’s everyone’s responsibility to ask the question actor Robert Redford in his recent TIME essay says we need to ask sooner rather than later,
“Should new pipelines be built at all?”
Here’s how you can help.
Make phone calls:
- Call North Dakota governor Jack Dalrymple at 701-328-2200 and share your concerns
- Call the White House at 202-456-1111 and tell President Obama to rescind the Army Corps of Engineers’ permit for the Dakota Access Pipeline.
“Only when the last tree has died, the last river has been poisoned, and the last fish has been caught, will we realize we cannot eat money.” — Cree Proverb