Column: ‘Not my backyard’ should not mean, ‘Not my problem’ – Oct. 17, 2016

Actress Shailene Woodley was arrested Oct. 10 while she live-broadcasted protests opposing the $3.7 billion Dakota Access pipeline.

The Dakota Access pipeline is a 1,172-mile pipeline stretching from regions in North Dakota to Patoka, Ill., a project that was approved in July by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

Protesters include environmental groups, property owners near where these pipes will be laid and, most passionately, Native Americans.

The pipeline is currently set to cross through a section of the Standing Rock Sioux reservation in North and South Dakota where the Native American population is over 8,000.

The Standing Rock Sioux have been opposing the pipeline since its introduction and filed a complaint stating that it would threaten both the tribe’s economic and environmental well-beings as well as have the potential to damage significant sites.

Woodley was alongside 100 protesters at one of the construction sites to campaign for a new pipeline route — one that would not cross through the Missouri River and have the potential to contaminate clean water.

She spoke on “Late Night with Seth Meyers” after her release and stated the importance of these protests. She noted that this is the first time this many tribes have gathered in one place to stand together for “not only their rights, but human rights.”

We tend to live in our own worlds until something happens that has the potential to directly affect us. You may be reading this and saying, “So what? That’s not my backyard.” I’m here to tell you that the world impacts you more than you think.

Pipeline leaks happen frequently, so who is to say the North Dakota Access pipeline will not leak? If the Missouri River becomes contaminated, more than the Standing Rock Sioux would face the consequences.

Many opponents are protesting because intersecting waterways have the potential to carry this contamination into areas that provide the Midwest with our clean water supply. All of a sudden, the North Dakota Access Pipeline is not only in your backyard, but also in your water bottle.

Take what Woodley said. This fight is for “human rights,” not just for the people of Standing Rock Sioux and not just for those with the potential of having contaminated water, but everyone.

People from all across the country have come together to oppose this pipeline, yet many of my peers at Illinois State University have no idea it even happened.

Unfortunately, this is the story all too often. Take Hurricane Matthew, for example.

Matthew struck Florida and parts of our Southeast. My heart was full when I saw students spreading word about the potential magnitude of this disaster, and the relief when we woke up the morning after to find out that its implications were much less devastating than predicted. Then suddenly — poof — the topic disappeared.

Yet, here I am and I can nearly hear the screams of the people in Haiti crying out from lost homes, possessions and loved ones. Did you even know that Matthew’s impact in Haiti was devastating? Do you even care?

We stand by one another’s side when it comes to terror, whether it’s in France, Belgium or at our very doors, but not all terror holds a gun.

What ever happened to caring about humans in general, not just those who surround you directly? What ever happened to selling T-shirts to raise money for the Boxing Day tsunami victims or the 2010 earthquake in Haiti?

If we are going to work together and progress in the world, we must be aware of our allies and know when they are struggling. We must care when our Native American neighbors are oppressed, or when our friends in our world are struggling.

Even if your awareness does not directly help, care enough to educate yourself so that you can have a logical conversation about such topics. Making a conscious effort will only encourage those around you to do the same.


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