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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By Eric Tate and Christopher Emrich
Disasters stemming from hazards like floods, wildfires, and disease often garner attention because of their extreme conditions and heavy societal impacts. Although the nature of the damage may vary, major disasters are alike in that socially vulnerable populations often experience the worst repercussions. For example, we saw this following Hurricanes Katrina and Harvey, each of which generated widespread physical damage and outsized impacts to low-income and minority survivors.
Mapping Social Vulnerability<p>Figure 1a is a typical map of social vulnerability across the United States at the census tract level based on the Social Vulnerability Index (SoVI) algorithm of <a href="https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/1540-6237.8402002" target="_blank"><em>Cutter et al.</em></a> . Spatial representation of the index depicts high social vulnerability regionally in the Southwest, upper Great Plains, eastern Oklahoma, southern Texas, and southern Appalachia, among other places. With such a map, users can focus attention on select places and identify population characteristics associated with elevated vulnerabilities.</p>
Fig. 1. (a) Social vulnerability across the United States at the census tract scale is mapped here following the Social Vulnerability Index (SoVI). Red and pink hues indicate high social vulnerability. (b) This bivariate map depicts social vulnerability (blue hues) and annualized per capita hazard losses (pink hues) for U.S. counties from 2010 to 2019.<p>Many current indexes in the United States and abroad are direct or conceptual offshoots of SoVI, which has been widely replicated [e.g., <a href="https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s13753-016-0090-9" target="_blank"><em>de Loyola Hummell et al.</em></a>, 2016]. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) <a href="https://www.atsdr.cdc.gov/placeandhealth/svi/index.html" target="_blank">has also developed</a> a commonly used social vulnerability index intended to help local officials identify communities that may need support before, during, and after disasters.</p><p>The first modeling and mapping efforts, starting around the mid-2000s, largely focused on describing spatial distributions of social vulnerability at varying geographic scales. Over time, research in this area came to emphasize spatial comparisons between social vulnerability and physical hazards [<a href="https://doi.org/10.1007/s11069-009-9376-1" target="_blank"><em>Wood et al.</em></a>, 2010], modeling population dynamics following disasters [<a href="https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007%2Fs11111-008-0072-y" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"><em>Myers et al.</em></a>, 2008], and quantifying the robustness of social vulnerability measures [<a href="https://doi.org/10.1007/s11069-012-0152-2" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"><em>Tate</em></a>, 2012].</p><p>More recent work is beginning to dissolve barriers between social vulnerability and environmental justice scholarship [<a href="https://doi.org/10.2105/AJPH.2018.304846" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"><em>Chakraborty et al.</em></a>, 2019], which has traditionally focused on root causes of exposure to pollution hazards. Another prominent new research direction involves deeper interrogation of social vulnerability drivers in specific hazard contexts and disaster phases (e.g., before, during, after). Such work has revealed that interactions among drivers are important, but existing case studies are ill suited to guiding development of new indicators [<a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ijdrr.2015.09.013" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"><em>Rufat et al.</em></a>, 2015].</p><p>Advances in geostatistical analyses have enabled researchers to characterize interactions more accurately among social vulnerability and hazard outcomes. Figure 1b depicts social vulnerability and annualized per capita hazard losses for U.S. counties from 2010 to 2019, facilitating visualization of the spatial coincidence of pre‑event susceptibilities and hazard impacts. Places ranked high in both dimensions may be priority locations for management interventions. Further, such analysis provides invaluable comparisons between places as well as information summarizing state and regional conditions.</p><p>In Figure 2, we take the analysis of interactions a step further, dividing counties into two categories: those experiencing annual per capita losses above or below the national average from 2010 to 2019. The differences among individual race, ethnicity, and poverty variables between the two county groups are small. But expressing race together with poverty (poverty attenuated by race) produces quite different results: Counties with high hazard losses have higher percentages of both impoverished Black populations and impoverished white populations than counties with low hazard losses. These county differences are most pronounced for impoverished Black populations.</p>
Fig. 2. Differences in population percentages between counties experiencing annual per capita losses above or below the national average from 2010 to 2019 for individual and compound social vulnerability indicators (race and poverty).<p>Our current work focuses on social vulnerability to floods using geostatistical modeling and mapping. The research directions are twofold. The first is to develop hazard-specific indicators of social vulnerability to aid in mitigation planning [<a href="https://doi.org/10.1007/s11069-020-04470-2" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"><em>Tate et al.</em></a>, 2021]. Because natural hazards differ in their innate characteristics (e.g., rate of onset, spatial extent), causal processes (e.g., urbanization, meteorology), and programmatic responses by government, manifestations of social vulnerability vary across hazards.</p><p>The second is to assess the degree to which socially vulnerable populations benefit from the leading disaster recovery programs [<a href="https://doi.org/10.1080/17477891.2019.1675578" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"><em>Emrich et al.</em></a>, 2020], such as the Federal Emergency Management Agency's (FEMA) <a href="https://www.fema.gov/individual-disaster-assistance" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Individual Assistance</a> program and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development's Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) <a href="https://www.hudexchange.info/programs/cdbg-dr/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Disaster Recovery</a> program. Both research directions posit social vulnerability indicators as potential measures of social equity.</p>
Social Vulnerability as a Measure of Equity<p>Given their focus on social marginalization and economic barriers, social vulnerability indicators are attracting growing scientific interest as measures of inequity resulting from disasters. Indeed, social vulnerability and inequity are related concepts. Social vulnerability research explores the differential susceptibilities and capacities of disaster-affected populations, whereas social equity analyses tend to focus on population disparities in the allocation of resources for hazard mitigation and disaster recovery. Interventions with an equity focus emphasize full and equal resource access for all people with unmet disaster needs.</p><p>Yet newer studies of inequity in disaster programs have documented troubling disparities in income, race, and home ownership among those who <a href="https://eos.org/articles/equity-concerns-raised-in-federal-flood-property-buyouts" target="_blank">participate in flood buyout programs</a>, are <a href="https://www.eenews.net/stories/1063477407" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">eligible for postdisaster loans</a>, receive short-term recovery assistance [<a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ijdrr.2020.102010" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"><em>Drakes et al.</em></a>, 2021], and have <a href="https://www.texastribune.org/2020/08/25/texas-natural-disasters--mental-health/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">access to mental health services</a>. For example, a recent analysis of federal flood buyouts found racial privilege to be infused at multiple program stages and geographic scales, resulting in resources that disproportionately benefit whiter and more urban counties and neighborhoods [<a href="https://doi.org/10.1177/2378023120905439" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"><em>Elliott et al.</em></a>, 2020].</p><p>Investments in disaster risk reduction are largely prioritized on the basis of hazard modeling, historical impacts, and economic risk. Social equity, meanwhile, has been far less integrated into the considerations of public agencies for hazard and disaster management. But this situation may be beginning to shift. Following the adage of "what gets measured gets managed," social equity metrics are increasingly being inserted into disaster management.</p><p>At the national level, FEMA has <a href="https://www.fema.gov/news-release/20200220/fema-releases-affordability-framework-national-flood-insurance-program" target="_blank">developed options</a> to increase the affordability of flood insurance [Federal Emergency Management Agency, 2018]. At the subnational scale, Puerto Rico has integrated social vulnerability into its CDBG Mitigation Action Plan, expanding its considerations of risk beyond only economic factors. At the local level, Harris County, Texas, has begun using social vulnerability indicators alongside traditional measures of flood risk to introduce equity into the prioritization of flood mitigation projects [<a href="https://www.hcfcd.org/Portals/62/Resilience/Bond-Program/Prioritization-Framework/final_prioritization-framework-report_20190827.pdf?ver=2019-09-19-092535-743" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"><em>Harris County Flood Control District</em></a>, 2019].</p><p>Unfortunately, many existing measures of disaster equity fall short. They may be unidimensional, using single indicators such as income in places where underlying vulnerability processes suggest that a multidimensional measure like racialized poverty (Figure 2) would be more valid. And criteria presumed to be objective and neutral for determining resource allocation, such as economic loss and cost-benefit ratios, prioritize asset value over social equity. For example, following the <a href="http://www.cedar-rapids.org/discover_cedar_rapids/flood_of_2008/2008_flood_facts.php" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">2008 flooding</a> in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, cost-benefit criteria supported new flood protections for the city's central business district on the east side of the Cedar River but not for vulnerable populations and workforce housing on the west side.</p><p>Furthermore, many equity measures are aspatial or ahistorical, even though the roots of marginalization may lie in systemic and spatially explicit processes that originated long ago like redlining and urban renewal. More research is thus needed to understand which measures are most suitable for which social equity analyses.</p>
Challenges for Disaster Equity Analysis<p>Across studies that quantify, map, and analyze social vulnerability to natural hazards, modelers have faced recurrent measurement challenges, many of which also apply in measuring disaster equity (Table 1). The first is clearly establishing the purpose of an equity analysis by defining characteristics such as the end user and intended use, the type of hazard, and the disaster stage (i.e., mitigation, response, or recovery). Analyses using generalized indicators like the CDC Social Vulnerability Index may be appropriate for identifying broad areas of concern, whereas more detailed analyses are ideal for high-stakes decisions about budget allocations and project prioritization.</p>
By Jessica Corbett
Sen. Bernie Sanders on Tuesday was the lone progressive to vote against Tom Vilsack reprising his role as secretary of agriculture, citing concerns that progressive advocacy groups have been raising since even before President Joe Biden officially nominated the former Obama administration appointee.