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Thursday, December 8, 2016




Thursday, 8:30 AM.  24 degrees F at the ferry dock, 20 on the back porch.  Wind NNW, mostly calm with light to moderate gusts.  The sky is overcast and cloudy, with heavy "lake smoke" fog, the humidity 88%.  The barometer is now rising, currently at 30.21" of mercury.  The ten day forecast is for more of the same, with much colder temperatures.  It is snowing heavily, with four to five inches of lake effect snow already on the ground.  Biboon, it is winter.
   Most folks have heard  of the Dakota Access protest,  the standoff between Indian tribes and crews of the Enbridge Corporation project trying to finish the last leg of a pipeline from oil fields in North Dakota to refineries in Illinois.   It is a good example of the hazards of trying to simplify very detailed and complicated issues.
   The Indians and their environmental supporters are protesting and trying to block the completion of the pipeline project on the basis of it being inherently hazardous and likely to be subject to future damage and a catastrophic oil spill into the Cannon Ball River.  The countervailing argument is that there are thousands of similar pipelines criss crossing the North American continent; that their safety is very great and in any case far safer than shipping oil by rail.
   My initial opinion has been to support approval of completion on the basis of the more logical argument, and the fact that the project does not go through Indian Reservation lands (one would assume that fact would reduce, at least, their standing in the case).
   The problem with my initial opinion is that one doesn't have to read more than a few news articles to understand that many of these pipelines were built half a century or more ago and are actually becoming prone to failure.  Today's protest is really more  about the past and the future than the present.  This doesn't usually fit well with our (read "my") "get 'er' done" typical American attitude.  The Indian attitude, it seems to me,  is as much based on off-reservation treaty rights signed a century and more ago as it is on immediate environmental concerns. So we have here an inherent conflict between a dominant culture with an attitude of "do it now and fix it later if we need to," and an ancient culture that values tradition and caution.
   We have crossed the Straights of Mackinac on the marvelous bridge between the UP of Michigan and lower Michigan many times. The straights separate Lakes Michigan and Huron.  In each of those times I thought more about the beauty of the bridge and the water than about anything else.  Now that I know that there is a fifty year old oil pipeline at the bottom of the straights I will be thinking about a possible oil spill as well.
   We are a nation of laws.  Treaties are laws.  We need to respect the treaties we have made with the Indian nations, and respect their cultures.  They in turn are obligated to protest peacefully and to respect the judgement of the courts.  If this slows things down a bit, so be it.

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