Last year Standing Rock launched national and international conversations on indigenous rights, environmental justice and the nature of global development. In the months since Oceti Sakowin Camp was evacuated, the ongoing question from both supporters and critics has been, “What now?” Well, we see the answer as relatively simple: Keep going.
When it comes to continuing the work of the movements that coalesced at Standing Rock, there are two major frontlines: one focused on stopping unsustainable, exploitative development projects, and a second frontline dedicated to building the communities of tomorrow. Both are essential to continuing the momentum created at Standing Rock. Additionally, the yearly People’s Climate March keeps issues of environmental justice present in mainstream consciousness, encouraging people to work toward solutions and maintain the urgency that is essential to protecting our planet.
This month the Thunder Valley Community Development Corporation took action to build a better future by installing a 26 kilowatts worth of solar panels on buildings in our 34-acre Regenerative Community Development. This from-the-ground-up community has been designed around the triple bottom line of People, Planet, and Prosperity. Homes and buildings are extremely energy-efficient, the community design incorporates the revitalization of the land, and Oglala Lakota culture is at the center of every decision made for the space.
Solar power is one of the fastest growing industries in the world, and training nearly 30 local people in solar energy is a way for us to expand renewable energy industry here on the reservation. By creating jobs, we are honoring years of community engagement feedback that has emphasized the importance of building a stronger economy here on Pine Ridge. But the decision to pursue solar panels also upholds the local priority of sustainability and environmental consciousness.
Dan Rosen, Founder and Preseident at Solar Mosaic says, “Our vision at Mosaic is 100% clean energy for all and to empower millions of people to prosper from clean energy. Tribal Nations have enough potential renewable resources to power the US many times over, yet we continue to see irresponsible and economically unviable fossil fuel projects forced on these communities. Ironically, renewable energy projects can create hundreds of thousands of good jobs in a growing market. We are honored to be a part of this project because Thunder Valley CDC is showing a path to job creation and economic prosperity by producing clean energy on tribal lands.”
The desire to protect the planet and expand job creation are not at odds. In fact, sustainable development is critical to long-term security and stability. By investing in industries that will not degrade the earth, we ensure that those industries will be able to provide for generations to come. We are committed to pushing forward the energy revolution and thank our partners at GenPro, Mosaic, SunPower, and Fronius for helping to make this dream into reality.
"Global climate change and our dependence on fossils fuels is one of the consequential issues of our generation,” says Executive Director, Nick Tilsen. “We are making a stand and showing what's possible by building a net-zero energy community that also meets the basic needs of our people. Our triple bottom line philosophy of People, Planet and Prosperity is aligned with our indigenous values, and this solar install is us continuing to move to action and implement our vision."
See how we're making change in our latest video, Two Frontlines.