What Are You Willing To Do To Protect The Environment?

ILLUSTRATION: PABLO HURTADO DE MENDOZA

Elizabeth Flock has written the most unusual article I have ever read published by The Economist (in this case its 1843 magazine, which offers longform stories). The question in the title of her article below gives the reader permission to draw their own conclusion on the ethics of destruction of private property in the interest of environmental justice. It is the second time I have been surprised in such a way (this conversation was even more surprising since it was the first time a mainstream publication raised such a question). This article poses the question in the context of a very human story, well-told:

Two environmentalists sabotaged an oil pipeline in America. Are they terrorists or heroes?

As the devastating effects of climate change became impossible to ignore, Jessica Reznicek and Ruby Montoya took matters into their own hands

ILLUSTRATION: PABLO HURTADO DE MENDOZA

When Jessica Reznicek walked into a courtroom in Des Moines, Iowa, last June, her sun-weathered face was the only clue that she’d lived rough: that she’d camped at the edge of an oil-pipeline construction site for months; that she’d camped night after night all over the country when she and Ruby Montoya, her co-defendant, were on the run; that she’d camped simply because, as far back as she could remember, she loved being in nature.

Reznicek, dressed in a black trouser suit and white blouse with her blonde hair hanging neatly, hoped that the federal judge deciding her sentence might show her some sympathy (Montoya was due to be sentenced later in the summer). So much had happened since the two women had started sneaking onto construction sites in the autumn of 2016, setting excavators on fire and blow-torching dime-sized holes in the Dakota Access Pipeline, which was being built to carry crude oil from North Dakota to Illinois. Since then, Hurricane Harvey had left a third of Houston underwater. Australians had fled to the sea to escape the grasping flames. California had seen its two worst fire seasons ever. The temperature in Portland, Oregon, had hit an all-time high of 116℉ (47℃).

In 2014, Energy Transfer Partners, a fuel-transportation company, had announced its plan to erect the giant oil pipeline, saying it would help end American dependence on foreign oil. The project would cost $3.8bn and stretch 1,200 miles, ferrying enough fuel to fill an oil tanker every 40 seconds. To environmentalists, the Dakota pipeline wasn’t a solution to anything. It would simply further feed America’s addiction to fossil fuels, driving the planet ever closer to collapse.

A large, sustained demonstration by the Standing Rock Sioux tribe in North Dakota in 2016 brought the proposed pipeline to the attention of the world – and to Reznicek. The Sioux argued that construction had already despoiled their ancient burial grounds. Were the pipeline to rupture, it could poison their water. The company building the Dakota pipeline repeatedly said that it would be safe. But in recent decades, oil spills and leaks from other pipelines in America have left hundreds of people dead, most of them workers killed in explosions, and caused extensive environmental harm.

Inside the baronial courtroom, barrel-chested marshals in bulletproof vests and earpieces ringed the perimeter. Reznicek’s supporters packed the pews: a Zen Buddhist, several Vietnam vets reeking of cigarettes, a few members of “100 Grannies Uniting for a Livable Future” and a contingent of eco-activists who had traded their grunge-wear for dresses and suits…

Read the whole story here.

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