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Standing Against the Banks: DAPL Divestment and Water Protectors' Fight for Justice, Indigenous Rights, Water and Life
By Michelle Cook and Osprey Orielle Lake
Despite shifts in the terrain of struggle, the courageous and determined Water Protectors of the movement to stop the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) continue to stand strong, gain momentum and mobilize in diverse and effective ways in their work to protect Indigenous rights, water and life in North Dakota and beyond.
From powerful Indigenous and frontline leadership at the 200,000 strong People's Climate March in Washington DC, to ceaseless advocacy and actions in courtrooms, in the streets, in the halls of government, and in the offices of financial institutions that support exploitation and extraction—the DAPL resistance continues, while also joining together with other communities to face mounting pipeline struggles including Kinder Morgan's Trans Mountain, Enbridge's Line 3, TransCanada's Energy East, Sonoco Logistic's Bayou Bridge, the resurrection of TransCanada's Keystone XL and efforts to stop fossil fuel extraction at the source.
Over the past months, Water Protectors from various Indigenous nations across the U.S. have made waves while traveling to seven European countries for The Stand Up for Standing Rock Tour; have opened the L'eau Est La Vie (Water is Life) Camp in South Louisiana to stop the Bayou Bridge pipeline (the southern end of DAPL); and have helped organize, through the International Indigenous Youth Council, an 80 mile run across Northern New Mexico in opposition to growing fracking in the Chaco Canyon region; amongst many other diverse and powerful actions.
Indigenous organizations including Honor the Earth and the Indigenous Environmental Network, who have successfully fought fossil fuel developments projects for years, continue to advocate, take action, and help open platforms for the voices of the NoDAPL and other pipeline resistance movements to be heard.
The Indigenous-led Mazaska Talks coalition has also been formed, joining the 121 First Nations and Tribes of the Treaty Alliance Against Tar Sands Expansion in demanding banks divest from the companies building Dakota Access and proposed tar sands pipelines.
Many other allied groups are organizing around fossil fuel divestment and actions are underway, with Defund DAPL reporting that, thus far, more than $82 million dollars by individuals and more than $4 trillion dollars by cities and tribes have been removed from the financial institutions connected to DAPL.
On June 14, there was a critical victory when, as part of the lengthy legal battle being led by the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, a U.S. federal court from the District of Columbia agreed that the Army Corp of Engineers failed to consider the National Environmental Protection Act and off reservation treaty rights in DAPL's permitting process.
Standing Rock, late November 2016Osprey Orielle Lake / Women's Earth & Climate Action Network
In May 2017, leaked information from The Intercept helped expose counter-terrorism tactics used by DAPL's private security firm Tiger Swan to aggressively suppress Indigenous peoples and their allies in Standing Rock, North Dakota as they exercised their human rights.
Significantly, all of this momentum has taken place in the face of a climate change denying Trump administration determined to drive forward pipelines such as DAPL through an expansion of a government that caters to fossil fuel corporations, and the banks and financial institutions that support them.
As part of the multifaceted pipeline resistance and divestment effort, earlier this year an Indigenous Women's Divestment Delegation traveled to Norway and Switzerland to meet face to face with bank representatives from financial institutions invested in DAPL and parent company, Energy Transfer Partners. Facilitated by the Women's Earth and Climate Action Network, the delegation was initiated by grassroots Indigenous women who were harmed by and/or observed human rights and Indigenous rights abuses in North Dakota, and through the subsequent and continued persecution of Water Protectors.
In Norway, the advocacy of the Indigenous Women's Divestment Delegation helped push DNB bank to sell their $331 million dollar credit line to DAPL, following strong advocacy efforts from many groups, and an independent investigation in which DNB affirmed the violation of Indigenous rights and failure to properly consult the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe.
Members of the Indigenous Women's Divestment Delegation outside of Credit Suisse Bank in Switzerland before their April 2017 meeting with the bank in Switzerland before their April 2017 meeting with the bank.
In collaboration with Norwegian Sami people, members of the Delegation are continuing advocacy efforts calling for the Norwegian Government Pension Fund Global—one of the few Norwegian financial institutions still heavily invested in companies like Energy Transfer Partner, Sunoco Logistics, Marathon Petroleum, Enbridge and Phillips 66—to immediately exclude Energy Transfer Family of Partnerships, DAPL, and other DAPL related companies from their investment universe.
As follow up to intensive meetings with Credit Suisse bank representatives in Switzerland, a detailed letter has recently been sent to the bank clarifying exactly why they must immediately divest from DAPL related companies; offering an in-depth analysis of the rights violations that occurred at Standing Rock; and demanding from Credit Suisse corporate responsibility and accountability to its human rights policy.
The letter also analyzes and provides examples of the U.S. legal system's failure to protect, secure and guarantee human rights such as self-determination and Free, Prior and Informed Consent to Indigenous peoples, ultimately providing a stark picture of how resource wars against Indian people in their traditional homelands and territories continue in the U.S. to this day.
As the letter to Credit Suisse points out, the financial institution's continued banking relationship with Energy Transfer Partners, and the stated "provision of loans, the issuing of securities (notes) and advisory mandates" violates the bank's current policies and guidelines in regard to human rights and indigenous rights relating to:
- Not financing or advising oil and gas companies against which credible evidence exists of involvement in such grave human rights abuses as forced labor, employment of children, or the use of violence against local communities and indigenous groups
- Public involvement, consultation, and disclosure
- Water contamination and use
- Prevention, preparedness, and response for oil spills, gas leaks, or both
- Worker and community health and safety
- Violations of local laws
The letter concludes as follows:
"Credit Suisse has stated that, 'Credit Suisse takes concerns about the DAPL seriously and will consider them in the further development of internal guidelines.' However, if Credit Suisse took human rights and indigenous rights abuses seriously they would have already complied with, and implemented their current human rights policy and publicly withdraw its credit facilities and end its banking relationship with the Energy Transfer Family of Partnerships. Credit Suisse needs to show that its commitment to sustainability and human rights is more than mere lip service, obscuring complicity and contribution to human rights, environmental rights, and indigenous rights abuses in the United States."
Divestment advocates worldwide are turning to financial institutions like Credit Suisse and calling for accountability such as the letter demands. In this vein, the Indigenous Women's Divestment Delegation to Norway and Switzerland helps expose the complex interplay and interdependency between states, corporations and banks in the harmful extraction and exploitation of natural resources of Indigenous peoples' territories and lands.
Indigenous women and their allies are illuminating the deleterious but key role banks play in maintaining the unjust design of a fossil fuel economy detrimental to their survival, and are working to stop the pipelines at the financial source. Their quest for justice and accountability from banks for human rights violations is imperative not only to Indigenous peoples and Nations, but to American citizens and global civil society.
The aim is not only divestment, but also economic paradigm shifts that include investments in renewable energy technology, sustainability, and just, transparent, and accountable banking institutions; economic systems that are not detrimental to Indigenous peoples rights or the environment.
Through the ongoing efforts of Water Protectors, the Standing Rock movement continues to shine a fierce light on the historic and contemporary indigenous rights and human rights violations occurring at the hands of state and corporate actors, and has made it clear once again that the transition to a just and dignified future must be one that upholds human rights, sustainable renewable energy, climate justice, and respect for indigenous peoples self-determination. The torch and spirit of the movement for water, life and rights will continue as people's movements around the world seek justice, truth, accountability and transformation.
Michelle Cook is a Dineh (Navajo) human rights lawyer and a current SJD candidate at the University of Arizona's Indigenous Peoples Law and Policy Program.
Osprey Orielle Lake is the Founder and Executive Director of the Women's Earth and Climate Action Network (WECAN) International.
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Global Banks, Led by JPMorgan Chase, Invested $1.9 Trillion in Fossil Fuels Since Paris Climate Pact
By Sharon Kelly
A report published Wednesday names the banks that have played the biggest recent role in funding fossil fuel projects, finding that since 2016, immediately following the Paris agreement's adoption, 33 global banks have poured $1.9 trillion into financing climate-changing projects worldwide.
By Patti Lynn
2018 was a groundbreaking year in the public conversation about climate change. Last February, The New York Times reported that a record percentage of Americans now believe that climate change is caused by humans, and there was a 20 percentage point rise in "the number of Americans who say they worry 'a great deal' about climate change."
England faces an "existential threat" if it does not change how it manages its water, the head of the country's Environment Agency warned Tuesday.
By Jessica Corbett
A new analysis revealed Tuesday that over the past two decades heat records across the U.S. have been broken twice as often as cold ones—underscoring experts' warnings about the increasingly dangerous consequences of failing to dramatically curb planet-warming emissions.
By Madison Dapcevich
Ask any resident of San Francisco about the waterfront parrots, and they will surely tell you a story of red-faced conures squawking or dive-bombing between building peaks. Ask a team of researchers from the University of Georgia, however, and they will tell you of a mysterious string of neurological poisonings impacting the naturalized flock for decades.
The initial cause of the fire was not yet known, but it has been driven by the strong wind and jumped the North Santiam River, The Salem Statesman Journal reported. As of Tuesday night, it threatened around 35 homes and 30 buildings, and was 20 percent contained.
The unanimous verdict was announced Tuesday in San Francisco in the first federal case to be brought against Monsanto, now owned by Bayer, alleging that repeated use of the company's glyphosate-containing weedkiller caused the plaintiff's cancer. Seventy-year-old Edwin Hardeman of Santa Rosa, California said he used Roundup for almost 30 years on his properties before developing non-Hodgkin's lymphoma.
"Today's verdict reinforces what another jury found last year, and what scientists with the state of California and the World Health Organization have concluded: Glyphosate causes cancer in people," Environmental Working Group President Ken Cook said in a statement. "As similar lawsuits mount, the evidence will grow that Roundup is not safe, and that the company has tried to cover it up."
Judge Vince Chhabria has split Hardeman's trial into two phases. The first, decided Tuesday, focused exclusively on whether or not Roundup use caused the plaintiff's cancer. The second, to begin Wednesday, will assess if Bayer is liable for damages.
"We are disappointed with the jury's initial decision, but we continue to believe firmly that the science confirms glyphosate-based herbicides do not cause cancer," Bayer spokesman Dan Childs said in a statement reported by The Guardian. "We are confident the evidence in phase two will show that Monsanto's conduct has been appropriate and the company should not be liable for Mr. Hardeman's cancer."
Some legal experts said that Chhabria's decision to split the trial was beneficial to Bayer, Reuters reported. The company had complained that the jury in Johnson's case had been distracted by the lawyers' claims that Monsanto had sought to mislead scientists and the public about Roundup's safety.
However, a remark made by Chhabria during the trial and reported by The Guardian was blatantly critical of the company.
"Although the evidence that Roundup causes cancer is quite equivocal, there is strong evidence from which a jury could conclude that Monsanto does not particularly care whether its product is in fact giving people cancer, focusing instead on manipulating public opinion and undermining anyone who raises genuine and legitimate concerns about the issue," he said.
Many regulatory bodies, including the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, have ruled that glyphosate is safe for humans, but the World Health Organization's International Agency for Research on Cancer found it was "probably carcinogenic to humans" in 2015. A university study earlier this year found that glyphosate use increased cancer risk by as much as 41 percent.
Hardeman's lawyers Jennifer Moore and Aimee Wagstaff said they would now reveal Monsanto's efforts to mislead the public about the safety of its product.
"Now we can focus on the evidence that Monsanto has not taken a responsible, objective approach to the safety of Roundup," they wrote in a statement reported by The Guardian.
Hardeman's case is considered a "bellwether" trial for the more than 760 glyphosate cases Chhabria is hearing. In total, there are around 11,200 such lawsuits pending in the U.S., according to Reuters.
University of Richmond law professor Carl Tobias told Reuters that Tuesday's decision showed that the verdict in Johnson's case was not "an aberration," and could possibly predict how future juries in the thousands of pending cases would respond.