This is not the Standing Rock Pipeline. What these five people did is illegal.
But these rebellious activists had a similar goal in mind — to protect the environment from those who are destroying it.
On October 11, 2016, five people, who call themselves the Climate Direct Action group, drove to Leonard, Minnesota early in the morning and closed off the safety valves to trigger the emergency shut off of five pipelines that were carrying tar sands crude oil.
Some will call them heroes, others rebels (or perhaps far worse). But for them, they felt that this was their last resort.
“This is the only way we can get their attention,” said one of the activists Annette Klapstein. “This is the only way we can put a stop to it is by putting our own bodies on the line.”
The Dakota Access Pipeline battle that unfolded at Standing Rock Sioux Reservation between April and December this year opened the eyes of many to the environmental crisis that we are facing and the stubbornness of those who contribute to it.
While many celebrated on December 4th as the official statement came that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers was able to halt the pipeline, the battle is far from over. The Dakota Access Pipeline company has also issued a statement that they have no intention of stopping.
The battle over the Dakota Pipeline is just one of many happening at this time, and as a result more and more activists are heeding the call, unafraid of putting their own freedoms, and perhaps their lives, on the line.
One of the main goals of the climate activists is to significantly and urgently reduce excess carbon and other forms of pollution. The dangers of excess carbon pollution may include rising of global temperatures and sea level, weather changes, higher risks of extreme weather such as hurricanes, smog, and changes of ecosystems, potentially leading to an extinction of many animal species, with overpopulation of other invasive species such as ticks and mosquitoes.
Because many activists feel like the people in power are not doing enough to stop a climate catastrophe and other environmental nightmares from happening, we are likely to continue seeing both protests and illegal shut offs (as the last resort) in the future.
As the Climate Direct Action group, consisting of five activists and four supporters, explains it: “At this point, we have to do something. We have to try.”
“We are now fully immersed in the climate crisis, with the earth’s ice melting and its oceans turning ever more acid. Hence it is reasonable and necessary that people take nonviolent but increasingly firm action to try and address this emergency. Those who have acted will be considered great heroes by future citizens,” said Bill McKibben.
What they did some called “the biggest coordinated move on U.S. Energy Infrastructure ever undertaken by environmental protesters.”
The activists in just minutes shut off 15% of U.S. daily oil demand. They even called the pipeline companies to warn them they were going to turn off the valves.
They stated their act was done in solidarity with Standing Rock protest. And their final shut off was happening in Walhalla, North Dakota, about 400 miles away from the Standing Rock Reservation.
They were stopped by the authorities while attempting to shut down all the pipelines leading from Canada into the U.S. by shutting down pipelines in Minnesota, Montana, North Dakota and Washington State.
Annette Klapstein and Emily Johnson are facing two felonies each with over 20 years in prison. Leonard Higgins faces up to 10 years in jail. Ken Ward faces up to 30 years in jail. Michael Foster faces up to 51 years in jail.
Filmmaker Deia Schlosberg was charged with three felonies and faces up to 25 years in prison for filming this rebellious act, but her charges were later dropped.
Deia later spoke that the incident is why many journalists are afraid to cover important topics anymore.
“…What’s so scary about this whole thing; it’s not just me. I know it’s made me pretty wary, but every journalist, filmmaker, reporter is becoming aware of this trend and probably thinking similar things and being scared of going and covering these stories,” she told to Mother Jones.
Fortunately, Deia says that although hesitant, she will film events like this again. (Her newest documentary involvement is How to Let Go of the World and Love All The Things Climate Can’t Change, a movie about climate changes and the power of the human spirit).
As for the fate of the arrested activists, they are awaiting trial but their spirits do not seem to be broken.
“My love for the beauties of this world is far greater than my love of an easy life,” said Johnston.
Whether you support their rebellious act or not, it opened the eyes of many of the severity of the war on climate change.
Everything the activists did and their motives was recorded.