An iconic struggle is happening now
People are putting their lives on the line to protect the waters in Standing Rock, but the choices we make every day mean that pipelines are being built through sacred sites, carrying fracked oil, and vast areas of wilderness are being destroyed for tar sand extraction. Our climate is overloaded with carbon and the speed of the melt and change to our climate life-support system is staggering. The future for our children is looking uncertain. Do we really want to be a part of this?
Right now, an iconic struggle is happening at Standing Rock, where the Dakota and Lakota people of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe have been peacefully putting their bodies on the line to protect the waters from the construction of a new oil pipeline cutting through their lands. It is meant to pass over the river Missouri, a river that provides water to millions of people, not to mention farms, and wild nature. The security forces both private and public that have been bought in to clear them out the way are both violent and unyielding.
The water protectors have been joined by Elder groups from around the world, climate activists, Hollywood “A” listers and over 1.5 million people who checked-in to the area on facebook in solidarity, to confuse the local sheriff’s office.
Personally, once I understood climate change and all its implications I too became a protester. I was dragged from fifty foot up a beautiful oak tree in an attempt to prevent an open cast mine being dug. We didn’t stop it. But in the process of moving through my anger and frustration I came to realize that the only way to prevent more mines being dug, and pipelines constructed, is to build a new system to replace the extractive destructive one that is currently mainstream.
That was twenty years ago, and so much has changed since then. Yes climate change is now more urgent than ever, and we seem to be in the most toxic place politically that we have been in decades in many western nations. But there are also many positive changes. Renewable energy technologies have become the cheapest form of power in many parts of the world, and the speed with which they are being deployed is truly amazing. In the last year China installed a wind turbine every two hours and globally we installed 500,000 solar panels every day.
Never before shifts are occurring in the field of energy as renewables power through barriers growing at an exponential rate. The opportunity of this moment is immense for people all around the world. But the barriers are also still strong as the “Oil Men” feel the threat to their very existence and fight to remain in control.
We must all acknowledge our complicity in the status quo and take action. That pipeline through sacred sites in Dakota is being built in our names, every time we fill our cars or turn on the lights we empower those companies to pursue their suicidal business plans, and concentrate wealth and power in a small number of hands.
We cannot expect our politicians to solve this even if they wanted to, when we are all pouring financial fuel on the fire. Anyhow, right now it seems like our leaders are mostly captured by the vested interest groups (fossil fuel lobbyists).
Protesting, whilst so very important, will never be enough. Checking in on facebook or venting your anger on social media, whilst understandable is just a distraction from the work that we need to do. I don’t say this to make you feel guilty, but to encourage you to act!
Defeating fossil power – a new generation of community-owned energy companies
It is essential we build the new world right now, in our town, in our city. There is a growing movement of people doing just that all over the world. One pioneer, the Island of Samso in Denmark first started in the journey to go renewable in 1997. By 2007 they made more energy on the island than they used – just from renewable energy. Much of what they built was owned cooperatively by local people, and the process bought the community together.
There are many other great stories like this around the world, there are even 100% renewable countries like Costa Rica and Iceland. But we rapidly need a whole load more to stop the destruction, disarm the toxic businesses and to give our children a future. That’s where you come in!
Yes, turn down your heating, insulate your loft and change your lightbulbs to LEDs – we could cut 15% of our peak power consumption in the UK if we simply swapped our bulbs. But above all we need to amplify the movement of new social businesses built to solve these multiple problems in our communities. We cannot solve these things in isolation. Only by coming together and getting organized do we have a chance.
We need a new fleet of businesses that have social purpose at their heart, and that enable people to engage positively with the change. Businesses that create a new commons and knit our communities together in the shared purpose, of reducing carbon emissions, solving fuel poverty and sourcing our energy locally from community owned renewable energy.
In times when the dominant narrative is one of fear and division, it has never been more urgent to bring people together. Take the radical step of getting your town off fossil fuels – it is possible to do so in a decade, and we all need to start now.
So if you’re feeling the fear folks draw strength from Standing Rock, and know we can do this. We have to do this. It’s time to get organized and make the change happen. It’s time to truly stand with Standing Rock… and, by coming together and (em)powering our communities together – we may be surprised by all the riches we discover in the process.
Howard Johns is the author of Energy Revolution – a detailed guide for how we can all play a vital role in the energy revolution and change the world, one community at a time:
Things we can all do now:
- Support standing rock online
- Switch to Good Energy
- Move your savings to Abundance
- Switch to an ethical current account
- Work with your local community energy group: