By Winona LaDuke
The Loire River is the longest river in France. This year, the riverbed is dry for the first time in the history of people who write. That’s not the only river that is dry. The Colorado, Yangtze, Danube, Po and Rhine are also severely depleted. That means farms have no water, hydroelectric dams have no water, and ultimately life is without water. That’s a result of human induced climate change, it’s not bad luck. Droughts, like the one in Minnesota last year (the worst in the past century) are more common, and fossil fuels are at the center of it. It’s sort of like watching late stage addicts. We just happen to be late stage fossil fuel addicts . And it turns out that you can’t win a fight with Mother Nature.
We live next to Lake Superior and the Great Lakes, a fifth of the world’s water. It’s time to be a Water Protector, not hate on us. This year’s Water is Life Concert was at Bayfront on September 4. We missed Renee Van Nett, former Duluth City Council President, who last year welcomed us to Duluth. Van Nett sent a message to work together. We live on the same land and drink the same water. Her passing was a great loss to all of us.
This year’s concert brought together multiple genres, from legendary rocker Ani DiFranco and the Indigo Girls to the up and coming legends of Corey Medina, Low, Dessa, Allison Russell, and more. They are joined by local luminaries like Annie Humphrey, Lyz Jakkola and Keith Secola; all coming out to sing for the water. Also, about half the cast of the award winning Reservation Dogs tv series came to the event. And Vogue and international supermodel Quannah Chasing Horse, who is also an outspoken Water Protector, was on stage and rocking to the music.
Last year’s concert was at the height of Enbridge’s full court press on the north country, and by fall Enbridge prevailed in a seven-year-long battle over Line 3, pitting Native people and Water Protectors against laborers and industry, brother against sister, and police against civilians. Last year, the mayors of eleven Enbridge-friendly towns like Clearbrook, Thief River Falls and Bagley called on the Duluth City Council to close down the Water is Life Concert. The mayors alleged that Honor the Earth was an organization which supports violence. The City Council stood with the constitution, as well as the permits. In turn, five thousand people came to Bayfront to rock for the water. Bon Iver closed the show, with Bob Dylan’s “With God on Our Side”.
I am hoping she still is. We will need her divine intervention.
It’s a year later, and 800 Water Protectors have been arrested by the police, five billion gallons of water were squandered for Enbridge’s drills, rivers have been contaminated with drilling fluids, and aquifers continue to pour out water in a water-parched world.
Enbridge, having succeeded in Minnesota by paying $8.5 million to Minnesota’s Department of Natural Resources (DNR), State Troopers and police to repress water protectors, shamed a democratic government.
After all the riot gear and violent arrests, maybe someone will note that Honor the Earth is not a violent organization, and in fact, Enbridge financed most of the weapons.
Enbridge is now fully engaged in work to reroute and lay pipe bringing more oil back to Canada through Line 5. There, Enbridge is doing it’s best to divide tribal communities over money, and is even running a candidate for Governor: Tim Michels, he’s the Republican’s candidate. Not only did he get the approval of Donald Trump, but he is one of the single largest contractors for Enbridge. It’s all about getting Enbridge through Wisconsin and Michigan, where Governor Whitmer ordered Enbridge to close down a 60-year-old pipeline under the Straits of Mackinac. The fact is oil and water do not mix. Nor do Canadian corporations and Democracy.
In the meantime, there’s more ways to protect the water. It turns out we are wasting almost as much water as we use. Consider this: The average American household wastes 180 gallons per week, or 9,400 gallons of water annually, just by letting water run. But it’s not just you and me. It’s about the pipes we really need: water pipes. Some 50% of the water in the US leaks out of old pipes. That’s failing infrastructure. That’s like when Duluth collapsed under a flood almost a decade ago, and there will be more of that ahead.
“People talk about reducing the time you take showers, but if you think about 50 percent of water flowing through the system being lost, it’s another magnitude,” said Stanford professor Daniel Tartakovsky.
Those are the pipes we really need: water and sewer. Those are pipes for people and Mother Earth, not for dirty oil companies. And maybe we could save some water from the sulfuric acid in mining projects for Canadian corporations, or protect the water from agricultural run off.
No matter what political party, water is always going to be life. This September 4, Honor the Earth offered free admission to anyone charged in the Line 3 cases. We promise to bring prayers, stars, music, civil rights, treaty rights and enjoyment back to the lake. And we celebrate that Water is Life.