It’s cold on the prairie and a lot of protestors are feeling the discomfort of winter in North Dakota. With more than a foot of snow to contend with the winter campers are finding that their commitment is being tested. Told to leave their campsite by the Governor of North Dakota and by the Morton County Sheriff’s Office for safety’s sake, protestors are vowing to stay and fight. No force is to be used to move the camp from Corps of Engineers land back onto the Standing Rock Reservation but should protestors be allowed to suffer frostbite, hypothermia and possible death? Are they capable of making rational decisions in the face of life threatening weather when few have experienced what lies before them? Sure, there are many well-meaning supporters out there who are willing to send coats, tents, firewood and foodstuffs but despite these good intentions will the protestors suffer and die?
A North Dakota winter is amazing to behold. With a constant breeze, the wind-chill factors make the below freezing temperatures much worse. Today, for instance, the ambient air temperature is expected to top out right at 33 degrees Fahrenheit. With a 24 mile per hour wind, this reduces the impact of the cold to the equivalent of 15 degrees. Drifting snow becomes a significant problem in these conditions making for zero visibility and clogging roads, preventing vehicles from moving. There is an additional 3” to 6” of snow expected on top of the 12” already received. Thin tents provide little more than a windbreak to campers trying to escape the cold, water freezes and fires are difficult to maintain safely. Let’s face it, conditions are miserable and are only expected to get worse as winter progresses.
A Winter Scene in Bismarck ND
But it’s worth it for a great cause, right? A life and death struggle to prevent a pipeline from being extended under the Missouri River. Fearing the potential pollution of the water, protestors have arrived from all over the world to make a “last-stand” where the Cannonball River dumps into the Missouri. Being told that the will of corporate interests stand in conflict with the downtrodden Indian tribes who will suffer environmental disaster if the pipeline goes through, vagabonds have arrived from four corners to bang a drum and decry yet another intrusion on the rights of a people that have been wronged at every turn. Seeking an international forum to bring their issues to light, the core reason for their protest has been cast aside. The movement has outgrown the interests of the downtrodden and has now become a mechanism of publicity for environmental extremists, a tool to create street cred for celebrities who have made their careers by standing up for the little guy and a political football that can be used to acquire funding for protestor causes.
Watching interviews with protestors, it is clear that their understanding of what is being fought for varies with each individual spoken to. A Native American being interviewed on local news last week spoke to his fear that if the pipeline goes through, there will be no more water for the tribes. This morning a protestor described his fear of lead poisoning caused by a pipeline located well below the bottom of the Missouri. Considering the pipeline materials are not made of lead, this must mean an alchemist will be required to convert fiberglass to lead. Frequent emotionally charged interviews are broadcast nationally with protestors claiming that the pipeline company has destroyed sacred sites, desecrated burial grounds and trampled the grounds of the Standing Rock Reservation. Unfortunately, there has been absolutely no credible evidence produced that the claims are true. In fact, the pipeline does not even cross the boundaries of the Standing Rock Reservation but remains on Corps of Engineer property adjacent to the Indian lands.
Clearly an ulterior motive underlies the protest and the question that wanna-be campers should ponder is whether they should risk their lives for something that represents a ploy by professional protestors who have learned to leverage the pressure they put on corporate America for their own gain. As you endure the frostbite, shiver in the cold and find yourself in the middle of nowhere without an audience for your cries of protest, will you see the foolishness behind this movement? Is there a better place for you to be? Aren’t there oppressed groups located in tropical environments who could use your energy for their good? You will be exploited when you lose an ear or fingers to frostbite or are found frozen inside a flimsy tent. That is an image that leaders can leverage for greater gain, more sympathy and ultimately funding for their cause. Don’t be a poster child for futility, abandon this cause and find one that will not profit from your pain.