November 14, 2016 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
More than a thousand people gather at an encampment to protest Dakota Access oil pipeline near North Dakota's Standing Rock Sioux reservation, September 9. Photo: AP
Revolution: Can you tell us your name, who you are with, and why you are here?
Eleanor Bravo: My name is Eleanor Bravo and I am with Food and Water Watch. We’re here because this encampment, this struggle here, has become the focal point for all pipeline battles—not just pipelines but all infrastructure for extraction and transportation of oil and gas, which is a huge corporate issue in this country. So we’re here to find out what’s going on, see how we can assist and to try to put this struggle into the context of so many other pipelines that are being built all over the country.
Revolution: And what do you think are the stakes, what are the consequences of people actually being able to stop this DAPL [Dakota Access Pipeline] pipeline, or if they don’t stop it, what are the consequences?
Eleanor Bravo: If we’re able to stop it here, that is good news because then that bodes well for stopping not only this pipeline but other pipelines. And this pipeline is also being fought in Iowa and we’re also involved in that fight in many different ways. The pipeline here in Standing Rock is being fought with direct action. There is some litigation going on against eminent domain, which the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission has been abusing for many years. Eminent domain is supposed to be for the good of the people, not for the good of Kelcy Warren and Energy Transfer Partners, which is a corporation. So, this is in a greater context and these people are not alone; it just so happens that these people have been colonized and terrorized for hundreds of years. And this pipeline was rerouted once already. It was supposed to go to Bismarck and they said, well, let’s not put it there, it will hurt other people—let’s put it over here where the Native People, they’re there and we’ll just put it over there. Well, that’s not OK anymore. That’s been going on for way too long. And what we would like to see is that it’s just not OK for any people, people in Bismarck or Native people. No one should be subjected to the dangers of the corporate structure that has taken over this country.
Revolution: Very concretely, what is the actual danger of this pipeline?
Eleanor Bravo: All pipelines leach, crack, leak, explode. Only two weeks ago, maybe two and a half weeks ago, the Colonial Pipeline exploded—terrible explosion in Alabama. There’s a terrible pipeline in Arkansas, the Diamond Pipeline. There’s a pipeline that goes on the floor of Lake Huron, which was built in 1950; it was a 50-year pipeline, it’s still going on. And now they’re supposed to clamp it every 75 feet and they won’t do it. Now if that pipeline—if, it’s not if, it’s when that pipeline breaches, there will be no cleanup for the Great Lakes. These are serious irrevocable damages to the environment. And the environment and the natural resources are not owned by these corporations and they won’t clean them up. No one should own the natural resources. It is owned by the people.
So Food and Water Watch doesn’t take any corporate or government money. We’re funded by foundations and small, personal donations so we are beholden to no one. So this particular election that just happened is extremely troubling. This president is straight out of corporate America. But no matter who is president, we have work to do because our job is to hold government officials, elected officials, accountable. And we still have that role, so we just have more work to do and we will not be deterred. And we are not going to lose because we will not go away. So we will be vigilant and we will continue in what we are doing and we won’t stop.
Revolution: When I met you yesterday, you talked about how in fact there are many different pipelines across the country that are similar to DAPL. Can you talk more about that?
Eleanor Bravo: Well, there is a pipeline that’s called the Trans-Pecos Pipeline. This is bigger than the Keystone XL and it is now permitted to go across the U.S.-Mexico border to ship fracked gas from Texas into Mexico. And Mexico can sell it to China. So this is going through Big Bend National Park, right near Big Bend, near Marfa [Texas]. And it is a pipeline that really promotes the continued extraction of fossil fuels, continued fracking in Texas. That’s a pipeline that we are heavily opposed to and working with people and trying to oppose. There’s another pipeline called the Piñon Pipeline, and it will transport fracked gas in the San Juan Basin in the northwestern part of New Mexico, near Chaco Canyon, a national, historical treasure, which could easily be damaged by any more truck traffic and air pollution and pollution of the night skies....
Revolution: So what are the consequences for humanity—of not getting out of a fossil fuel-based economy?
Eleanor Bravo: First, of all, global warming, we’re destroying our Earth. This is the basic consequence. There are other consequences—the rich get richer; the poor get poorer. And we are essentially slaves to big corporations. The consequences are we are leaving our children and grandchildren a legacy that will not sustain them. So we are destroying Mother Earth, we are shifting all the wealth in this country to a tiny little percentage of people—those are huge consequences. And we are leaving our children a devastating legacy.
Revolution: A lot of people have come here and literally—and we’ve interviewed some of them who went to jail—they’ve put their bodies on the line to stop DAPL. There’s all kinds of different views on tactics and strategy. But this has gone out all over the world because people actually stood up and put their bodies on the line to stop it.
Eleanor Bravo: Look, these people have been colonized. I come from a country that was colonized in the 1400s. I’m from the Philippines. The Jesuits came—you don’t get baptized, you get your head cut off or your hand cut off. These people were treated the same way. This has happened, colonialism has happened all over the world. It is wrong. It is wrong. People deserve to live the lives that they choose for themselves without being enslaved and without being punished and without being colonized. So what is going on here is just the limit. This is the tipping point for people, not just indigenous people, but people who believe that they have the right over their own government, to have the kind of life that they choose. And it just so happened that the energy converged here. And that people were able to look at what’s going on here and take it to heart and say, hey, I believe in that as well. What’s going on there is wrong and what’s going on in our community is also wrong. So there is a lot of commonality. We have met people from all countries, from all walks of life, all different economic situations here. It is really a place where like-minded people have converged.