Transcript: Josh Fox - Did Obama "Sell Out” On The “Standing Rock” Pipeline? - 11 November '16
Thom Hartmann: For tonight's Green Report we stay right here in Washington, DC where we have some breaking news tonight about the Dakota Access Pipeline. According to a report out today
in Politico [since denied - for now - ed.], President Obama is on the cusp of approving that pipeline's contested path under the Missouri river.
Donald Trump's election as president probably made this inevitable - it's not like he cares about Native American rights or clean water - but it's still a huge blow to both the environmental movement as a whole and the protest movement that has emerged over the past few months in an attempt to block that project.
So is there any chance now that the Dakota Pipeline can be stopped?
And how will the protestors, who call themselves water protectors, continue their fight going forward?
Joining me now is Josh Fox - Activist, Filmmaker and Oscar-Nominated Director of numerous films, including his latest: How to Let Go of the World and Love All the Things Climate Can’t Change. Josh Fox - welcome back.
Josh Fox: Thanks. It's great to be on, Thom.
Thom Hartmann: Great having you with us. What's the significance of today's news and what was the status of the pipeline route before today? Where is it now?
Josh Fox: Well, today's news is not welcome. It's one more in a long string of disappointments from the Obama administration on climate and on energy in particular. But let me tell you, I was in Standing Rock last week. I have never, ever in my life experienced the kind of bravery, courage and peacefulness in the face of violent opposition than I did when I was observing and reporting on the water protectors.
I arrived, you know, late in the game. The struggle has been going on there for months. But what I witnessed changed my life forever. And I think that if people start to understand what's really happening at Standing Rock it will change their lives forever. I saw water protectors in North Dakota in the water, on the banks, trying to get to their sacred burial ground called Turtle Island where Army Corps of Engineers land, treaty land that was given to them, and a row of a hundred policemen preventing them from getting out of the water.
Now, this is North Dakota in November. That water's about forty degrees. They stood there and were peaceful and spoke to the police and said, "we're praying for you, you're human beings", and then they were pepper sprayed in their face. And then they were tear gassed. They were shot at with rubber bullets.
My colleague, Erin Schrode, who's a reporter was shot in the back with a rubber bullet out of a grenade launcher. You know, the kind of suppression of the media out there, and the violence against peaceful protesters, it made me feel like I was with Gandhi at the salt mine protests. I felt like I was witnessing something so beautiful and so transformative that it delegitimized the government of the United States itself. The moral authority of the United States and certainly of North Dakota police fell apart at the feet of these peaceful protesters.
Josh Fox: So the Dakota Access pipeline is a struggle of indigenous sovereignty, of water protection, of our environment, of climate change, of fracking, of our bill of rights. All of America is standing there with Standing Rock and if that pipeline is allowed to go through it would be like shredding the constitution.
So when Barack Obama agrees to this, he is doing yet one more disservice to the progressive agenda that we believed we were getting when we elected him.
Thom Hartmann: Yeah. That's tragic. Talk about the term "water protectors." What do they mean by that and what does it mean to you?
Josh Fox: Well, the Dakota Access pipeline is scheduled to run underneath the Cannon Ball River, right at the intersection of the Cannon Ball River and the Missouri River. That's a watershed for 17 million people. So the Dakota Access pipeline was originally supposed to go through Bismarck - white, predominantly white Bismarck - and they rerouted it. So in another instance of a long history of environmental racism, they moved that route away from Bismarck and down through the Native American reservation.
So what this means is they're trying to prevent a pipeline which is oil from fracked oil fields in North Dakota from potentially leaking under their river, under their only source of water. And they've got a point. There have been 3,300 significant spills of major pipelines in the United States between 2010 and 2015. The Yellowstone River has been contaminated, the Kalamazoo River destroyed a couple of years ago and an ongoing multi million dollar cleanup has not solved that problem. Mayflower, Arkansas, a town had to be entirely abandoned due to an oil spill. Santa Barbara beaches contaminated during an oil spill, all from pipelines. I could go on and on and on.
The pipeline industry exists in a criminal negligent state all the time. They're not adequately monitored, they're not adequately regulated, so it's not if the pipeline breaks, it is when. So we're talking about a watershed for millions upon millions of Americans downstream. So the water protectors are protecting not only their watershed but the watershed of 17 million Americans that could potentially be contaminated by the leak should it occur under the watershed, near the watershed, which is very common.
Thom Hartmann: You mentioned Erin Schrode and I've got a little clip of that incident. Take a look at this.
Josh Fox: Sure.
Thom Hartmann: That was her being shot in the back. My feeling is that if Erin were a militia member with the Bundy brothers and the police had shot her in the back it would have gotten 24/7 corporate media coverage for a week and it would have become an international cause célèbre. Why isn't that happening in Standing Rock? Why is there no mainstream corporate media coverage?
Josh Fox: Well, it wasn't lost on Erin, there. Her video. She actually captured herself being shot in the back by this grenade-launched very large rubber bullet. Earlier that afternoon, or rather, about 15, 20 minutes before we arrived on the scene when that happened, one of the Native American water protectors was shot in the back. And he wasn't wearing a big puffy coat like Erin was. He was gathering wood to create a blockade of the gun boats that were trying to come in. Shot in the back, coughing up blood, coughing up blood until several days later.
There have been so many atrocities against the native protesters. Erin's video went viral, thank God, it helped bring, shine a spotlight on what's happening there. But there is no question in my mind that this environmental racism is pointing out another kind of deep racism in the mainstream media.
Why is the mainstream media not reporting on the police brutality and the violence being wrought against the Native Americans which is part of a 400 year history of violence against those tribes. Why are they not there? Where is MSNBC? Where is CNN? Where is Fox News? I mean, Mark Ruffalo went on to talk about Standing Rock but that's because he's a major celebrity.
Where are the reporters on the ground? I mean, I saw a video that I made for Now This News get 25 million views in the course of 4 days. People want this news. People want to hear about Standing Rock because they understand it is the most important civil rights struggle, indigenous rights struggle, climate change struggle, and fracking struggle.
And yes, it is clear that they're targeting journalists. NoDAPLAction or 350.org. You can find the action there. There are Army Corps of Engineers offices all across this nation. I'll be at the one in New York City. There will be ones in Washington, DC. But please do look into that because we need people to show up and say by no means should this pipeline get this permit under this administration.
Thom Hartmann: Yeah. You recently came out with a film called 'How to Let Go of the World and Love All the Things Climate Can’t Change'. It looked at how people are responding to the new reality of climate change. How does what you saw out at Standing Rock fit into story that you told in that film?
Josh Fox: Well, that's a great question. I mean, how to love all the things climate can't change. The things climate can't change. You know, we might lose our major cities to sea level rise. We might see droughts and floods. But the things climate can't change are our civic virtues. They're our values. You know, community, human rights, democracy, love, innovation, resilience, courage. These are the things that are inside of us that no storm can take away.
And what I saw at Standing Rock was a remarkable display of a new kind of values that is emerging right now among the climate fighters all across the world, whether these are indigenous tribes in the Amazon, or Native Americans at Standing Rock, or the Pacific climate warriors in the South Pacific, or people in New York City who faced down Hurricane Sandy and then repaired their communities out of love and out of mutual aid.
This is a new value system. It's not based on greed. It's not based on competition. It's not based on individualism or institutionalized violence or oil and gas. It's based on renewable energy. It's based on a different sense of resilience and generosity and care for your fellow man. And if you get to Standing Rock, if you get to there, that self-organized, beautiful, incredible community with so much integrity you will be welcomed by people from all over the world. Yes, by the over 300 tribes that are represented there that have created unity for the first time in hundreds of years.
You will be welcomed by something rather extraordinary. There are camp fires every night. There are songs. There are prayer ceremonies. And this is a place where culture is open to those who are willing to participate. And that cultural value
is on display all across the United States right now. It certainly flies in the face of the insanity of the racism and corporate greed of a proposed Trump administration.
And listen, it is also something against the democratic establishment that has way too long been a shill for corporate America and has let the oil and gas industry run roughshod all across the United States whether it was fracking or the BP oil spill. So we have to build a new system of values. Those are all the things that climate can't change. My film really focuses on that all across the world on six continents. Standing Rock is an incredible shining example of that. And I'm looking forward to going back there as soon as I can.
Thom Hartmann: Josh, we have about half a minute. How has the election of Donald Trump put a nail in the coffin of the planet? Or do you think not?
Josh Fox: Well, I think we have to strengthen our resolve. I think we have to be more non-violent. I think we have to be more organized than ever. I think the most important litmus test for climate action is, did you leave your house. You can't do this by clicking on things. You've got to show up at the organizing rallies. You've got to show up at the organizing meetings. You've got to show up at the protests, the sit-ins, the blockades. We need boots on the ground right now. If we're going to survive the insanity of a climate change denier in the White House, it's going to take us redoubling our efforts and being more steadfast, more resilient. And I think more peaceful and loving than ever.
Thom Hartmann: Yeah, brilliantly said. Josh Fox, you do such great work. Thank you so much for being here.
Josh Fox: Thanks, Thom, it's great to be on. Thank you so much.
Transcribed by Sue Nethercott.