Academic Master

Environmental Science

Environmental Ethics

Consider the following situation: The United States government wants to put down an oil pipeline through American Indian land. The land includes rivers, lakes, marshes, and is generally undeveloped. These include lots of vegetation and animals, including a very rare salamander. Parts of this land is deeply historically and spiritually important to the Sioux people. Building the pipeline will mean the outright destruction of much of that land, alteration to much more, and the pipeline will certainly spill, as all pipelines do.


The primary reason behind building the pipeline is to expedite energy production as it will provide southern powerplants and refineries direct access to oil-rich northern shale basins. The rapid oil supply will also ensure the smooth operations of chemical plants throughout the country. In this way, the pipeline can supply the essential energy resource to remote areas by reducing the cost and potential risks involved in other means of transportation. Moreover, it has been reported that greenhouse emissions are significantly reduced if the oil is transported through pipelines. Also, the pipeline can provide a continuous supply of oil as it is less exposed to traffic and natural disasters making it an economical, reliable, and safer way of transportation. Furthermore, the construction and maintenance of the pipeline is a mega project which will bring many employment opportunities. All these factors constitute socio-economic development and morally support the construction of the pipeline.


The pipelines are subjected to spillover that heavily damages the soil and water. Alone in the United States, there have been more than 1500 spills since 2010 which indicates that despite all risk management efforts, oil spill is a potential threat. Also, since the pipelines are entirely underground, repairing becomes extremely difficult. Moreover, oil being a potent environmental pollutant destroys everything in its way including plants and trees, and kills animals and aqueous life. Humans can also develop skin rashes, increased rates of cancer, and pregnancy complications if exposed to oil for a significant duration. These impacts often last for decades. Furthermore, as the supply of oil is tremendously increased through pipelines, the consumption will also increase accordingly which will ultimately enhance the greenhouse emissions and cause climate change. These are the moral reasons against the construction of pipelines.

Indigenous Perspective

It is important to investigate the construction from an indigenous perspective to produce more successful and equitable outcomes. Because the native people understand the value of the land and culture more broadly. Moreover, in the current case, the pipeline demolishes the historical and spiritual holiness of the sacred land of the Sioux Nation that is according to the 1851 Treaty of Fort Laramie, their unceded and sovereign territory. Also, any oil spill can contaminate the drinking water of the Standing Rock Tribe as well as millions of people downstream. Therefore, the construction of pipelines will badly impact the reservations of native inhabitants such as the Sioux people who play a very significant role in preserving the land, forests, and historical places (Keith, 2018). Thus, disturbing the sustainability by occupying their lands to construct the pipeline, impacting their traditional way of life, and contaminating the drinking water will lead to destructive social and environmental consequences. In this regard, it is the federal obligation to protect the rights of native tribes, their lands, and resources.


Keith, S. (2018, August 2). Out of spotlight, tribes keep fighting Dakota pipeline. Reuters.



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