Gun Violence & Fossil Fuel Violence Are Connected

A month ago the high school where I spent four years of my life became a war zone. I watched online with the world as images of terror poured out of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. For a month now I’ve been struggling to write about what that felt like.

I read over and over again people saying they never thought something like this could happen in Parkland. I never felt that way.

Maybe it’s because after Sandy Hook, I could imagine a mass shooting happening anywhere. They happen in schools. They happen in churches, in movie theaters, clubs and at concerts. There isn’t a place where this doesn’t happen today.

But I think it has more to do with the fact that I have felt a very militarized presence in my life for several years now fighting to stop fossil fuels. It started in December 2015 when I was in Paris for COP21. The city had just experienced it’s own horrific terror attack and the government was using it as an excuse to silence protestors calling for real climate solutions and justice for the world’s most vulnerable populations.

After forcefully arresting folks for days, a massive march to mark the end of the conference was allowed to go on despite originally being banned. Thousands of us took to the streets, but the sidewalks were lined with officers with assault riffles and helicopters flew overhead.

There was a lot of love, joy and resistance in the street that day, but I don’t think anyone was immune to the military presence that surrounded us. They were supposed to be there to protect us but not a single one of the hundreds of guns I saw that day made me fee safe. They were crushing. Silencing. Terrifying.

And then the next year I watched with the world as armed police pointed assault rifles at peaceful water protectors at Standing Rock. I watched as hired security sicced dogs on indigenous people trying to protect their families and the next seven generations. They shot rubber bullets and tear gas at them while they prayed.  

On “Thanksgiving” of 2016 I was at Standing Rock and looked up the hill to where security forces were armed to the teeth, aiming their weapons at people just trying to pray where their ancestors were buried.

And you might be thinking what the fuck does Standing Rock have to do with the Douglas shooter, but I can’t get it out of my head that 37 officers who came from the state of Indiana to North Dakota to ‘protect’ Energy Transfer Partners’ pipeline were given AR-15s.

So yes, we should definitely be asking ourselves as a society why a 19 year old with Nicolas Cruz’s history of violence was able to purchase an AR-15 but we also need to ask ourselves why were officers at Standing Rock sent in with AR-15s to respond to peaceful, prayerful people?

The weapons industry and fossil fuel industry aren’t that different. And often they work hand in hand to make their billions. Who profited off the war in Iraq? Oil companies and private security firms like Blackwater.

The fossil fuel industry and the weapons industry even have the same funders. Wells Fargo is one of the largest funders of gunmakers and the NRA. They also funded the Dakota Access Pipeline.

So let’s ask ourselves, who will profit if we arm teachers instead of banning assault rifles? Who profits as our country increasingly arms private security forces like Tiger Swan to ‘protect’ pipelines? The Intercept recently reported that Tiger Swan has now even figured out how to cash in on climate change.

I guess why I’ve had such a hard time writing about this is because I may not know the names of the few white men who own these companies and will make billions off of weapons and burning fossil fuels, but I know who will die because of them.

It’s the Douglas students. A gun took away the future of 17 students and every day we burn fossil fuels, we’re allowing the future of every student who survived to be put at risk because of catastrophic climate change.

I’ve had a hard time writing this because I know people like me who went to Douglas and lived in an affluent area like Parkland have mostly been shielded from violence by our privilege. It’s not something the indigenous youth who led the fight to stop the Dakota Access Pipeline can say.