The struggle over construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL), an oil pipeline stretching 1170 miles from North Dakota to Illinois, highlights many problems facing people, the planet, and our democratic systems. Whether Native American land and the drinking water of millions of people will be poisoned by oil from the DAPL remains to be seen. But it is clear that our society is already poisoned by ill will, delusion, and greed.

Ill Will

Following centuries of hostilities against Native Americans, land near what is now the reservation of the Standing Rock Sioux is being used for the Dakota Access Pipeline. The land being used for the DAPL may include burial grounds and sacred sites once belonging to the Standing Rock Sioux and raises concerns about risks to the environment. The violence toward people trying to protect the land and water includes the use of dogs, pepper spray, water cannons, and rubber bullets and is bringing denunciations from UN officials. Because the environmental risks involve a marginalized group of people, this particular form of ill will could be called “environmental racism.”


While misrepresenting the concerns and attacking the character of those protecting land and water, representatives from the pipeline maintain that the DAPL is “environmentally safe” and look to “fossil fuels to power our economy and warm our homes.” However, other pipelines have lost oil, including pipelines of the builders and future operators of the DAPL. And the consensus of scientists concerning greenhouse gases emitted by fossil fuels warns that “global climate change caused by human activities is occurring now, and it is a threat to society.”  The reality needing to be faced is that fossil fuels do come with risks.


The risks of fossil fuels may be hard to face because billions are invested in the DAPL by banks and oil companies. Neither the Republican nor the Democratic presidential candidates directly opposed the DAPL, raising questions about how people can find representation in our democratic systems. And even the AFL-CIO supports the pipeline on the grounds that DAPL might bring jobs. Meanwhile, other nations such as Germany show that we can have both energy and jobs through development of renewable sources of energy. Perhaps the profits in fossil fuels interfere with more prudent judgment.

Compassion, Truth, and Moderation

A prudent assessment shows that our future depends on respectful relationships among people and with the planet that sustains us. And yet the quality of life for people, the safety of the environment, and the effectiveness of our democratic systems continue to be at risk. In place of ill will, delusion, and greed, we need to encourage compassion, truth, and moderation.