The activists protesting the Dakota Access Pipeline call themselves “Water Protectors,” but there’s a more evocative one-syllable Anglo-Saxonism that better describes them.
Now that the last of the Protectors have been hauled out of the protest camp, authorities have been better able to take the measure of the mess they left behind — which can be described most charitably as post-Woodstockian.
Or more plainly as a dump in training to be a Superfund site.
Here’s some of what has emerged so far:
According to an ABC News story on February 15, local and federal officials estimated that there was enough trash and debris in the camp to fill about 2,500 pickup trucks. That conservatively works out to somewhere between 1,250 and 3,750 tons, depending on what size pick-up truck they’re talking about. Even before the last protesters left, 240 rollout dumpster loads had been removed.
The garbage ranges from ordinary household trash to building debris and human waste, according to Morton County Emergency Manager Tom Doering.
“There’s more garbage down there than anybody anticipated,” he added.
At the time North Dakota Governor Doug Burgum said the state would hire additional contractors and worry about who would pay them later.
That’s because there’s a real sense of urgency about the clean-up due to the fact that the Water Protectors had, insanely, built their camp on the Cannonball River flood plain. If the spring melt causes flooding this year, as it routinely does, the camp’s detritus could end up in the Cannonball River and then in the Missouri River. And as of last week, the area was experiencing an early melt, which had turned the camp into a quagmire.
“I don’t want to sit around and argue about who’s going to pay for it while we’ve got buildings floating down the Missouri River,” Burgum said.
Not to mention cars.
According to George Kuntz, vice president of the North Dakota Towing Association, as of February 18 there were 200 vehicles in the camp, including cars, pickups and rental trucks.
“You’re not going to just go in there with a tow truck,” Kuntz said. “We’re going to have to go in with heavy equipment to be able to get these vehicles out of there, get them to the roadway, load them and haul them. We’re going to run 24 hours a day,” he added.
(It’s not clear how many vehicles were still there as of last weekend when the camp was finally emptied of protesters, nor is it clear why so many vehicles might have been left behind. It may be some couldn’t be moved because of the mud or because they belonged to protesters who had been arrested. There were more than 600 arrests during the protest.)
“You’ve got oil leaking out, you’ve got gas,” said Bob Keller, public information officer for the Morton County Sheriff’s Department. “You talk about wanting to protect the water, and yet not a lot of people are staying around to clean up what they started.”
Garbage, shit and cars weren’t the only things the protesters left in the camp.
Two dogs and six puppies that were abandoned were removed from the camp by Furry Friends Rockin’ Rescue, a local animal rescue group. They think there are more but are having a hard time finding them because the loud machinery is scaring the animals.
Some of the animals that were rescued had frost bitten ears, patchy fur, and mange.
Kuntz made the obvious point about the protest: “How do you just totally destroy something? How do you not care about something that you are here saying that you care about?”
How indeed. The Water Protectors, for all their green posturing and animistic pieties, really amounted to little more than an Occupy Wall Street Anarchist/Syndicalist gig in green drag.
The Water Protectors’ camp didn’t look all that different from any one of dozens of abandoned Occupy Wall Street protest camps — only filthier and bigger.
The entire protest was a green-washed fraud.
No environmentalist with a shred of integrity and self-respect would have conducted a protest like the so-called Water Protectors did, because to protest with such a reckless disregard for the environment delegitimizes both the protest and the cause. Nihilistic radicals on the other hand would fail to see the contradiction, because to them the violence and vandalism is the object of the exercise.
Nor was there ever a chance that the protest would stop or even delay oil production from the Bakken, which was its real agenda. Not in a country that consumes 19.4 million barrels of petroleum products a day (7 billion barrels a year). The American people would never stand for that, nevermind Trump. The only question was whether the oil would be shipped out of North Dakota by train or pipeline.
Rail shipment is five times more prone to accident pipelines.
Maybe the Water Protectors weren’t entirely aware of this, but it is a safe bet that their enablers and backers in major U.S. environmental organizations like the Sierra Club and Greenpeace were. But that didn’t stop those worthies from encouraging the poor bastards in the camp from freezing their asses off and desecrating a supposedly sacred site, in order to perpetuate a bright, shining lie.
This opinion column does not reflect the views of Boulder Weekly.