The Family of People on the Great Plains

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Editor’s Note: Mary Pipher delivered the body of this piece at the rally to protect our homeland in front of our State Capitol on Jan. 5.  She then edited it into an Op-Ed piece for the Omaha World-Herald on Jan. 8.  We’re thrilled to have advocates like Dr. Pipher fighting to protect our homeland from the Keystone XL pipeline.

On Jan. 5 Nebraskans protested the development of the TransCanada XL Pipeline.  We met beside the statue of our bold and visionary president, Abraham Lincoln, and under the dome of our capitol, paid for by dirt farmers, schoolteachers, ranchers, and merchants, built because they loved our state and wanted their grandchildren and great grandchildren to have a golden future.

I am the granddaughter of sodbusters.  My great-grandparents homesteaded in Hitchcock County.  I grew up in Dorchester and Beaver City.  I married a man whose great-grandparents settled in Burt County.  My children and their families live in Nebraska.  In fact, 3 of my grandchildren live in Merrick County, only a few miles from the proposed site of the XL Pipeline.

What I love most about our state is its rural nature.  I grew up in empty places.  My aunts and uncles were farmers, and my dad raised cattle and hogs.  As a girl, I spent a great deal of my time alone and outdoors.  (That was when children could still do that.)

On summer days, I would take a sandwich, a canteen and a book and ride my bike to Beaver Creek.  At night I’d meet my girlfriends in the park.  We’d lie under the stars and tell ghost stories and talk.  The night sky was so clear that The Milky Way really looked milky.  Sometimes, in Furnas County, we could see the Northern lights.

In my childhood, the water and air were clean and the land was good for plants, animals and people.  When my brothers and I went fishing, the rivers and lakes were full of fish.

Over the decades, I have seen the quality of life diminish for all of us, but especially for children.  I regret that I did not work harder to keep our state healthy.  Now I want to do what I can so that future generations can enjoy high quality lives.

Fighting this pipeline is not about politics.  It is about protecting our homeland.  On this issue, Republicans and Democrats, country people and city dwellers, business owners and ranchers are all in the same family.  We are the family of people who live on the Great Plains.

Ordinary Nebraskans are up against a powerful international corporation who only wants to use our home to make money for their stockholders and executives.

They do not care about our heritage or our ability to earn a living and maintain our way of life.

They do not care if our children drink from poisoned wells or develop cancer.

They do not care if the pipeline endangers the aquifer or pollutes our ranches and farmlands.

They do not care because they are not Nebraskans.

They do not live here and will not suffer serious consequences if things go wrong.

We Nebraskans, including our legislators and our governor, have a right to control and protect our own lands.  That is what democracy is actually: the right to exert control over decisions that affect our lives.  We have a right to fight for clean water, air and safe places for our children.

We also have a responsibility to do this work.  We are the grownups in this household.  It is our job to take care of our state.  Who will take care of Nebraska if we don’t?

The issues around the XL Pipeline are not political; they are geographical.  At legislative hearings in the fall, not one Nebraska citizen spoke in favor of this pipeline.  But, passive resignation will not save us.

All Nebraskans must unite to say No to the XL Pipeline.  We will not let outsiders take our land and ruin it.  We have a common cause.  We are a family of people who live on the Great Plains.

And, to quote Abraham Lincoln, “The struggle of today is not altogether for today, but for vast future also.”

We will work together to give my grandchildren and yours the good life.

Outdoor educator Josh Minor said, “Just once in your life you are lucky to be associated with a very good idea.”  Saving our state from TransCanada’s XL Pipeline is just such an idea.  Let’s get to work.  Together we can do this.

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