As caring people and design professionals, we are outraged to see peaceful acts of resistance against the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) met with escalating police brutality. The growing movement at Standing Rock puts the spotlight on both a planning process gone wrong and deeper societal design flaws starting with the genocide of indigenous peoples at the founding of this nation. As a nation, we need to hear and heed the voices of the Water Protectors, instead of yet again threatening first amendment and basic human rights in service to development interests. We urge fellow designers to add your name to this petition calling on President Obama to stop the Dakota Access Pipeline and then take additional steps in active solidarity.
As planners, we are greatly concerned by federal fast-tracked permitting of the DAPL and other pipelines across our nation. Responsible planning takes working with stakeholders, not just stockholders, in an inclusive process. It behooves us to hear and heed the voices of the thousands of native peoples and non-native allies that have gathered in response to direct threats to the drinking water, burial grounds and other sacred sites of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe. The threat to the Missouri River, which is the tribe’s primary water source is evidenced by the 220 ‘significant’ pipeline spills already this year, and over 3000 since 2006. The re-routing of the DAPL from its original proposed path through the state capital to native treaty landundermines a number of existing regulations and treaties and continues along history of siting dangerous and polluting infrastructure in native and other disadvantaged communities.
The #NoDAPL struggle is fundamentally about the rights of native peoples to defend their water and lives. Emerging from this foundation, #NoDAPL is also a nexus for a host of social and environmental justice issues facing our nation including systemic racism, global climate change, and intergenerational justice. As professionals, we can no longer afford to see these as disconnected concerns, separate from design. They impact both what we are contracted to design and our ability to conduct planning, design, and development in a socially responsible manner.
As architects, designers, and planners, we have the know-how to design net-zero energy buildings and to retrofit existing buildings to achieve high environmental standards. We know how to design livable, walkable communities and low-carbon transit systems. We also know how to engage communities in our planning processes and the importance of doing so. It isn’t lack of technical know-how that stymies our efforts to design-out fossil fuels and design-in community accountability, but rather improperly structured incentives for owners and designers.
What Standing Rock highlights is that we cannot effectively right these problems via voluntary measures by professionals. We need systemic change, and, given entrenched interests, we won’t get that change without people on the ground engaging in active civil disobedience. At a time that the planning and design industry is championing an integrated design approach, the Standing Rock struggle is highlighting a massive failure of social integration in planning procedures and natural resource policies. Active solidarity, that supports this native-led struggle without subsuming it, is a good place to start designing our way to a responsible, responsive, resilient society.