Site Description – SD

Project Title: Watching The Watchmen: Social Media’s Influence On Environmental Awareness In The Wake Of The Keystone Pipeline

I am Stephen Dalina, a Master’s student in World History at Rutgers-Newark. While I primarily write about Europe, I have a deep interest in writing about current events that influence our lives and individual experiences. The Keystone Pipeline is something I was exposed to through television/cable news, as well as the massive coverage it received through social media. My vision for this paper is to uncover and analyze the phenomenon of social media and its effect on awareness of this specific environmental injustice.

The Keystone Pipeline was, and still currently is, an environmental and social disaster. It was a proposed system of oil pipelines, originally commissioned in 2010. Three out of its four phases have been completed, with the 4th phase currently in political limbo. The pipeline was fought throughout all phases by protesters, with celebrities making appearances in protest throughout its construction. They did this through live streaming protest events and holding concerts on the grounds on or near the pipeline. Native American organizations rallied to protest the pipeline due to the pipeline intruding on their land and concerns about the pipe leaking (which later came true). Keystone is a system of pipelines that travel through the Midwest state starting with North Dakota and ending in Texas. Its construction and its current state is an environmental atrocity.

The questions I hope to answer in this paper focus on the cultural significance of the pipeline and the attention it received in American society as a result of social media.   How did social media act as a conduit for the initial protests to increase environmental awareness? What impact did celebrities who spoke out against the pipeline using social media as a platform have on national awareness?  How did Leonardo DiCaprio’s social media posts, for example, influence Americans? And, did these instances of social media protect have other impacts on policy beyond the pipeline? The most important question is “Was social media effective in creating support for natives protesting the pipeline?”

My project will look into media coverage of the Keystone Pipeline and gauge how effective social media and mass media were at creating meaningful support for the protesting natives. The mass scale coverage and righteous outrage was able to stop phase 4 from being implemented. Social media made it harder to justify corruption when it exposed in the moment it happened. It also allowed millions of Americans, especially those outside the geographic region, to see the corruption, as social media sites do not discriminate on who can access them. By looking at the engagement of native american created content shared by celebrities it can be help measure how effective the celebrates were at creating support for the natives.

In a world with social media, the construction of and subsequent protests against the Keystone Pipeline created greater awareness of environmental justice in both in the United States and abroad. My paper will explore the erasure on Native American’s voices through the politics and media surrounding the Dakota Access and Keystone pipelines. These are important questions to research and expand upon, as social media is still a new and evolving medium, with American society trying to explain, adapt to, and regulate it. Academic research is needed to analyze the positive impact social media can have on influencing people and policy in the United States and around the globe.

Tags: Oil, Erasure, Indigenous, Protest, Media