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Seriff: Will Standing Rock happen here?

Seriff: Will Standing Rock happen here?

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By David Seriff

Seriff is a Training Manager at AT&T, a citizen deeply concerned about our environment, and he lives in Blacksburg.

Are you concerned about the health of our environment? Then I hope you are following a critical turning point in the fight to protect it — the Dakota Access Pipeline protests. Protestors are demonstrating American’s will to stand up against the fossil fuel industry. Native Americans and others are working to protect our rights to clean water and a safe environment.

Similar protest actions may take place in our own backyard next year. When Mountain Valley and Atlantic Coast pipelines begin construction expect to see hundreds, if not thousands, of concerned citizens challenge these environmentally destructive projects. These protesters won’t be tree-hugging left-wing factions, no, an incredibly diverse group of average Americans, many willing to face arrest, will stand up for their moral beliefs and our constitutional rights. Expect farmers, ministers, professors, students, homemakers, retirees and working people to fight these rich energy companies. Many will be trained in peaceful protest techniques to avoid violence, yet may be confronted by military-style tactics from the aggressive pipeline companies. These deeply caring citizens may put their lives on the line to block construction.

Why is it critical to take such a firm stand against these projects now? How did we get to this point? During the energy crisis in 1979, President Jimmy Carter made his famous “malaise speech.” He touted the need for energy conservation and warned of the economic and environmental dangers of America’s insatiable energy appetite. Carter installed solar panels on the White House. Some heeded his call, but he was basically run out of office. People simply did not want to hear the truth. Reagan arrogantly tore those solar panels off the roof and kept us on the fossil fuel path.

Scientists have warned that America must become more energy efficient and find alternatives to environmentally destructive fossil fuel. Positive change has occurred far too slowly. Automobile fuel consumption improved after the first standard was set in 1975, but it was not revised until 2007 and recently under the Obama administration. Home appliances became more efficient with Energy Star certification in 1992, but greater progress is needed. Insulation and building materials advanced, yet our government remained impotent in pushing for efficiency and sustainable energy.

In 2006 Al Gore warned us of “An Inconvenient Truth.” Humans must change or face catastrophic consequences. Almost all scientists agree about the human cause of climate change, yet deniers continue to cast doubt. Why? The fossil fuel industry has invested billions buying political favor. How can politicians lead change when their biggest donors essentially purchase the status quo? Renewable energy progress continued at a crawl as two presidents from the oil business set us back even further.

We’ve finally reached a turning point. Technology like LED bulbs, hybrid cars and building materials are changing energy requirements. While fossil fuels will continue to be an important part of our energy mix, we now have affordable alternatives. I invested in twenty rooftop solar panels and a recent power bill was $13. While not every building can add solar, with government support millions of solarized homes and businesses could alter our entire energy outlook. Countries around the world are ahead of the U.S. in this effort.

Can you imagine if the $8 billion investment proposed for these destructive gas pipelines went into sustainable energy instead of infrastructure for a polluting energy source? Fracked gas pipelines are the latest effort by a dinosaur industry reaping profits at the expense of our neighbors and the environment.

The Roanoke Times effectively pointed out our plight in a recent editorial “The system is rigged” (Nov. 3). It’s true: No matter how scientific — and sane — citizen’s objections to these pipelines have been, the corrupt agency FERC will approve these unnecessary projects.

We’re at a critical juncture. Solar and wind energy now cost less than coal or gas. Citizens must unite and stand up for immediate change. Communities must join together to prevent the use of eminent domain for private gain. We must halt the destructive fracking process. We have an obligation to our children to stop these pipelines by whatever means necessary. That will inevitably mean exercising our constitutional rights to protest. Like protestors in North Dakota, people willing to stand up for our rights may face violence. But now is the time. We must be willing to risk our lives to protect our land and our children’s future. We have no other choice.

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