Can’t Drink Oil

Thinking this afternoon of that Cree proverb “When the last tree is cut down, the last fish eaten and the last stream poisoned, you will realize that you cannot eat money.” Over the years I’ve seen different translations of the words, but the idea is always the same. This afternoon the thought came to me with different words, but the same intent. I found myself thinking “It is only when the last drop of water is gone when you’ll realize that you can’t drink oil.” Different words, same idea.

Those words, that idea is becoming increasingly important these days as the war rages in Ukraine. War in Ukraine, decades of war and unrest continue in the Middle East, abandoned oil fields burn in Texas, and pipelines in through the Great Lakes region. It all tells the same story. We need to stop depending on this undependable fuel and look to better options, options that are renewable and sustainable. We need to take action to stop the companies that are continuing to poison us. Here in the Midwest, one way to do that is to be a part of the efforts to stop Line 5.

Line 5 is a pipeline owned by Enbridge originally built in 1953 that transports roughly 540,000 barrels of mostly tar sands oils from Superior, Wisconsin to Sarnia, Ontario. The proposal being considered right now would install a 41 mile pipeline around the Bad River Nation.

The pipeline proposal threatens tribal land, violates treaty rights in ceded territory, and adds to the environmental dangers already made evident by the existing pipeline that has outlived its usefulness and is now leaking into surrounding waterways.

The dangers of the pipeline proposal are many. An oil spill could destroy the Bad River hatchery, some of the largest producers of walleye fingerlings in the Great Lakes region. The wild rice beds would also be lost. So many generations ago the creator told the people that they would settle in the place where the food grew on water. That food was the wild rice, manomiin. It is wrong for any corporation to take that away for any reason. The rice, the hatcheries, the water, all poisoned. How can we allow that to happen?

The dangers aren’t only environmental. Enbridge pipeline construction projects have a history of bringing with them sex trafficking and other violence against women. There are also the economic impacts on the communities, the costs of increased policing, loss of tourism, increased medical and social services costs, etc. and the costs as the construction phase is finished and community must deal with the ongoing impacts as the line degrades as the existing line has continued to do over the past nearly 70 years. There is so much to consider beyond a few months or years of construction.

The DNR is currently accepting comments on the draft Environmental Impact Statement through March 18th. More information is available on the DNR website at

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