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Super Soul Sunday: Thoughts on Standing Rock

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BHNY is hosting a special community Kirtan and Spiritual Discourse today and all the proceeds will be donated to Standing Rock in North Dakota. I offer you some thoughts on why I feel this movement is important.

In graduate school, I took a class called The Future of Environmentalism. My professor created the class so together we could explore the environmental movement’s trajectory as we move deeper into the climate crisis. We read folks like David Abram and Johanna Macy (both highly recommended), Gandhi and writings from the Deep Green Resistance, a radical and violent group of environmentalists; and of course we read Bill McKibben, our modern day “every man” steward of the land and a self proclaimed “unlikely activist.” He started 350.org and created the campaign around the Keystone Pipeline, a massive pipeline would transport oil from Tar Sands up north through the middle of the country. Keystone was the centerpiece of the movement a few years ago, and now it’s Standing Rock.

Environmental issues and social justice are deeply intertwined. Those who have been marginalized and left out of society’s “advances” are generally groups that are most affected by environmental degradation and exploited for their resources. Folks from the Indian reservation, Standing Rock (and several other tribes have joined in, some of which have reconciled deep historical differences with Standing Rock), from across the nation and overseas have come together to stand up to the government and the oil industry to protect their sacred land and water. The 1,172 mile North Dakota Access Pipeline encroaches on indigenous lands and will contaminate the water source for the people on the reservation and millions of others in towns downstream, not to mention, contribute to carbon emissions and corporate greed of an arcane oil industry. We have been at the mercy of capitalism, corporations, Big Oil. Water has been contaminated by the coal and oil industry most recently in Charleston, West Virginia and Flint, Michigan, and countless other communities across the globe for centuries.

In the aftermath of a historically unique election, many are trying to make sense of it, the future feels uncertain, and resting in the present seems more difficult than usual. The collective mind has changed since the shift in political landscape. I’ve been talking to friends about how this (traumatic) change has brought a clarity of purpose and a reason to step up and be our best selves. As it relates to Standing Rock, now is the time to organize socially and go be a part of the movements you hold dear in your heart. I stand for Standing Rock.

In the abstract, beyond the oppression of indigenous people specifically and marginalized groups in general that has persisted since time immemorable, beyond Big Oil, the coal industry and corporate greed, beyond climate change and it’s urgent message to take better care of the planet, beyond politics, economics, environmentalism, social justice, etc., there is a fundamental need to unite, support and see each other in a way that moves beyond otherness. To me, climate change seemed like the appropriate issue to come together around, simply because if we don’t, we are only causing more harm (potentially irreparable) to ourselves, our families, and all of life. If we continue to extract resources from our beloved Mother Earth, we will dry her up and she will spit us out. Where will we go then? This beautiful Earth supports and holds us always. Our bodies are made of her body. When we weep for her and ask how we can help her heal, she hears us. Culturally, this knowing runs deep in the Native American reverence for Nature, for the Great Mother – this movement is about protecting her sacredness. Water is the blood of the Great Mother. Water is life.

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