While the week was dominated with giddy speculation over the true meaning of the word ‘covfefe’, a bigger story deserves our attention: namely, President Donald Trump announced moments ago that the United States will withdraw from the historic Paris climate accord.
Negotiated in 2015 by members of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), the Paris climate agreement is the world’s first international attempt to slow global climate change by voluntarily limiting the greenhouse gas emissions of member countries. The agreement was set to become effective once 55 countries that emit the majority of the world’s greenhouse gases had signed the treaty; that milestone was reached in April of 2016 when the United States and China — who alone contribute more than 40% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions — joined the Paris climate accord as signatories.
Climate scientists largely agree that the planet is quickly reaching a point-of-no-return when it comes to climate change. Atmospheric carbon dioxide is roughly 400 ppm, ~30% higher than it was in 1950 and at levels never before recorded in the Earth’s history as determined by ice core measurements. Over the last century, the earth’s air and water have both noticeably warmed, and global sea levels have risen 8 inches due in large part to disintegrating polar ice. These changes are predicted to threaten coastal ecologies and urban centers, increase the frequency of extreme weather events, and devastate the world’s food production. While the Paris climate accord will not alone be sufficient to halt and reverse man-made climate change, it is a necessary first step that will likely slow global warming compared to if global gas emissions continues unchecked.
A war is being waged right now to defend Native lands and people from fresh exploitation by the United States government, and yet it rages to virtually no mainstream coverage.
This week, protesters entered their fifth month of peaceful protest against the proposed $3.8 billion dollar, multi-state oil pipeline that would when completed transport crude oil from North Dakota to Illinois. The Dakota Access Pipeline is being constructed by private developers, and will intersect through ancestral lands once held by the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe as well as running under the Mississippi River and within half a mile of current reservation land borders. Earlier this year, the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe sued the US Army Corps of Engineers denouncing the Corps’ fast-tracked approval of the Dakota Access Pipeline plans, saying that the Pipeline’s construction will threaten sacred sites and risk contamination of the Tribe’s water supply.
The Tribe further argues that the Corps ignored its own policies requiring it to consider the impact of construction projects on the environment and on Native lands in order to “meet the pipeline’s aggressive construction schedule.” Dave Archambault II, leader of the Standing Rock Sioux, added:
Last week, the Standing Rock Sioux filed a temporary restraining order asking that construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline be halted pending discovery of multiple cultural and historic landmarks that will be destroyed by the project’s continuation. And yet, over the weekend, protesters were met with violence by private security forces. Members of the Standing Rock Sioux, including Archambault himself, have been arrested for trespassing while standing upon the Tribe’s own ancestral lands.
The Corps’ overt disregard for the many concerns of the Standing Rock Sioux in this matter is well in-keeping with this country’s long history of physical, cultural, and economic violence committed by American settlers against the many indigenous peoples whose resources we assert our entitlement over, whose histories we erase, whose sovereignty we ignore, whose blood we shed, and whose lands we callously now occupy.
Right now, hundreds of Native protesters hailing from multiple tribal nations have come together with non-Native allies to form a united front demanding a halt to construction of the Pipeline. As Asian Americans, we must add our own voices to this mix.
Since 2001, Reappropriate has been the web's foremost Asian American activism, identity, feminism, and pop culture blog!