The Dakota protests: a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity

The Dakota pipeline protests could be the start of something big. Germany’s Energiewende began as a civil rights movement. Now, Americans are beginning to protest across the country, demanding that the energy sector respect society. Craig Morris asks: when will you join the movement?

Solidarity rally with the Standing Rock in Saint Paul, against the Dakota Access Pipeline

Solidarity rally in Minnesota against the Dakota Access Pipeline; we encourage you to join the movement in your area (Photo by Fibonacci Blue, edited, CC BY-SA 2.0)

At present, my coauthor Arne Jungjohann and I are touring North America to promote our book. Our main message: Germany’s national energy and climate policy began as a grassroots movement for civil rights – against the practice of privatizing profits and socializing risks. At the end of our presentations, one question is often asked: how can we make that happen here in the US?

My answer? It’s already happening. You just have to join the movement. Can’t make it to North Dakota? Hundreds of people marched in Seattle recently. Take the protests to your home town (you can sign up for world-wide November 15th #NODAPL Day of Action here). President Obama’s recent announcement that the US is considering changing the pipeline’s route shows that the protests are having an impact. So take your next vacation in North Dakota. And help make sure the protests remain peaceful.

The overlapping between the beginnings of Germany’s Energiewende movement and the current protests against the pipeline through Native American lands in the Dakota is salient. We could therefore be witnessing the beginning of a grassroots US movement for greater respect for citizens in the energy sector – but only if we grasp this unique opportunity. Here’s why we should:

  • Rarely do two opposing sides so clearly represent good and bad. Sympathies will easily lie with the Native Americans, who have been wronged for centuries.
  • The firm and the government (!) have clearly broken the law. The Native Americans had the right to have input on the process. They were not consulted. They were ignored.
  • The show of force by the police will backfire, and the whole event will become an issue of respecting citizenry – exactly what happened in Germany in the protests of the 1970s that became the anti-nuclear movement.
A screenshot from the 2013 documentary Welcome to the Energiewende showing police brutality against German citizens against the industrialization of their lands. Source: Petite Planète.

A screenshot from the 2013 documentary Welcome to the Energiewende showing police brutality against German citizens against the industrialization of their lands (Source: Petite Planète)

The Energiewende has led to an informed public that now speaks eye to eye with engineers and public officials. Both sides now respect each other. We need respectful civil discourse now in America more than anything else. The Dakota protests are the best opportunity for the public to demand that respect that I can remember. It’s time for energy democracy in the United States.

With that in mind, here are some quotes showing the overlapping between the Dakota protests (taken from the press in the left column) and the Energiewende (taken from our new book in the right column).



[1] (The New Yorker), [2] (The New Yorker), [3] (, [4] (Mother Jones), [5] (CNN), [6] (Native News Online), [7] (CounterPunch), [8] (The New Yorker), [9] (The New Yorker), [10] (, [11] (


Craig Morris (@PPchef) is the lead author of German Energy Transition. He is co-author of Energy Democracy, the first history of Germany’s Energiewende.


Craig Morris (@PPchef) is co-author of Energy Democracy, the first history of Germany’s Energiewende.


  1. heinbloed says


  2. Edmund Wood says

    Where is Chapter 1 of “Welcome to the Energiewende”? I can’t find it anywhere. Chapters 2 – 16 no problem.

  3. Vivi says

    I suppose President Trump will at least make a better “Feindbild” – enemy to rally against – for such a civil movement than Ms. Clinton would have. She’s way too good at seeming progressive and ‘green’ while behind closed doors pushing fracking and supporting corporate interests above all, just like any good Republican would. Remember, the peace / Occupy movement pretty much collapsed right after getting Obama elected – despite the fact that he still bailed out Wall Street and ended up dropping even more bombs on more countries than Bush Jr. ever did. Plus, you know, all those collateral-heavy, extrajudicial executions with drones and his recent trillion dollar plan to restart the nuclear arms race. But he always seems so progressive, level-headed and charming when speaking to the public, and you can’t very well protest against the first black president if you’re left-wing enough to care about such things. Better an obvious right-wing douchebag like Trump in the White House, if it doesn’t matter much in terms of the actual political decisions anyway – which as science has proven, are determined by the corporate elite, not the People, in the US. I’ll bet the main reasons that almost the entire corporate elite – even traditional Republican supporters like the Koch brothers – was so scared of the possibility of a Trump presidency and threw their support behind Ms. Clinton instead, was that Trump and his inability / unwillingness to censor his tone and keep his personal awfulness under wraps – the way the just as predatory Bill Clinton has always successfully managed, for example – will make such a crappy mouthpiece and might not be able to play pied piper and keep the ‘sheeple’ in line.

    and, hey, at least Trump doesn’t seem personally determined to provoke a war with Russia and/or China, the way Ms. Clinton and the current Democrat government are. It may be a case of the broken clock striking right twice a day, and I wouldn’t discount Boing, Blackwater and Co. switching horses and bribing Trump into enabling their business just yet, and it’s not like he isn’t in favor of big military spending in general and continued bombing of countries who can’t really fight back, but still… Nothing kills civil disobedience faster and distracts a disgruntled population better than an external enemy that’s actually capable of posing a military threat, and all the opportunity for ‘patriotic’ propaganda that comes with that.

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