You are here

Where do we go from here?

By Colin Miller - Speech given at the People's Climate Rally in Oakland, California, September 21, 2014

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are not the official position of the IWW (or even the IWW’s EUC) and do not necessarily represent the views of anyone but the author’s.

Colin Miller is Coordinator, Clean Energy & Jobs Oakland Campaign of the Oakland Climate Action Coalition and Program Manager of Bay Localize, a local organization struggling in the case of climate justice.

Why are we here today? Why are over 100,000 people marching in New York, in the greatest climate march in human history? Why are millions of people, marching, rallying and demonstrating in over 200 actions around the world today?

On Tuesday, the United Nations will come together for a one-day summit on climate change, and we are demanding climate justice.

Regardless of how the UN responds to our demands, we are here in solidarity with struggles from the local to the global, recognizing our interconnectedness.

From Frisco to Ferguson, from the fence lines of the Chevron refineries in Richmond, to the front lines of the tar sands in Alberta, Canada, we are here for justice and we are here for peace.

We are here because we love our children, as we love our Mother Earth, and all of her creatures, all our relations, from the smallest insect, to the greatest of towering Sequoia redwood trees. We are here because we are not going to allow all that we love to be destroyed in the name of profit - not without a fight.

We are here for the fight of our lives, and in a fight for our very lives - for the lives of our children, and for our children's children's children - for the next seven generations.

We are facing the greatest threat that humanity has ever faced - literally threatening our own extinction. In fact, the ecological and climate crisis is the greatest social justice struggle of our time, and it touches every facet of our lives.

This moment in history requires unprecedented courage.

First, we must have the courage to see honestly and clearly, the situation we are in today.
Second, we must have the courage to speak truth to power, and to envision the world that we want to live in and that we want to leave for future generations.

Finally, we must have the courage to ACT - to heed the call of the Climate Justice Alliance's Our Power Campaign, by walking the path of a Just Transition together: away from an extractive economy based on fossil fuels, and towards local, living, loving economies.

We must have the COURAGE TO SEE:

Globally, this summer was the hottest summer on record.  In California, we face the worst drought in five hundred years.

While science tells us that climate change is caused by excessive emissions of greenhouse gases, such as methane and carbon dioxide, these polluting emissions are just the consequence and the symptoms, not the root cause of the ecological crisis that is threatening the very future of life on Earth.

Just as the title of Naomi Klein's new book implies, "This Changes Everything: Capitalism Versus the Climate," it is the economic system - the globally destructive, extractive economic system that puts short-term profits before people and planet - that is the true root cause of this unfolding disaster.

Let us take a step back to rethink what we mean when we say, "The Economy." As our friends at Movement Generation remind us, the meaning of the root word of Eco is Home, while "Nomy" means Management. So if the world is our Home, the crisis  we are experiencing now is the global mismanagement of home, of our Mother Earth.

We must Have the Courage to Speak the Truth

Nationwide, low-income communities of color face vastly greater exposure to the toxic and lethal byproducts of our current economic system, while largely being shut out from the economic benefits of that system. Here at home, the Alameda County Public Health Department has found that an African American child born in West Oakland will die, on average, 15 years before a Caucasian child living in the City's most affluent area - the Oakland hills. With climate change, East and West Oakland are facing flooding caused by sea level rise and risk of displacement, as we saw in New Orleans following Hurricane Katrina nearly a decade ago.

We must have the courage to speak the truth that the Pentagon is the greatest polluter of greenhouse gases on the planet, the worst climate criminal of them all. As the U.S. prepares for yet another military invasion in the Middle East in the name of protecting "our" national interests and our so-called "national security," the U.S. Military Industrial Complex is directly upholding this extractive economy, maintaining our society's addiction to oil and keeping profits flowing into the coffers of the most powerful corporations on Earth.

We hear about massive solar farms in the desert, the proposed geo-engineering of the oceans to drastically reduce carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, industrially grown "organic" vegetables on sale at Walmart, nuclear energy; the list goes on and on.

We must have the courage to name these as FALSE SOLUTIONS, offered by the economic elite.

Understanding this, we must now have the Courage to Act in Alignment with our Values

Our movements for justice and sustainability have Real Solutions that are rooted in our communities.

From the Fair Food Program of the Coalition of Immokalee Workers in Florida and the worker-owned cooperative businesses of Cooperation Jackson, in Mississippi, from the Pamoja Solar Cooperative in Richmond, to PODER's Mutual Aid Cooperatives in the Mission District of San Francisco, we are putting the pieces together to build Solidarity Economies.

Solidarity Economies are based not on exploitation and extraction, but rather on principles of Cooperation, Mutuality, Equity, Democracy and Sustainability.

There are many examples of this shift towards solidarity economies in action.

The Divestment Movement, from students to faith groups, is getting our universities, our cities and other institutions to divest from Fossil Fuels, and to Re-Invest in Resilient, Community-based Economies that honor our cultures as they respect the Earth.

As individuals, we can put solar panels on our own roofs, but this alone is not enough. Just as in cloudy Germany, on one day this summer the nation sourced three-quarters of their energy from wind and solar power, much of it on rooftops, so too can we generate 100% of our own local, clean energy here in our community.

As the Oakland Climate Action Coalition's Clean Energy & Jobs Oakland Campaign is calling for, our communities can choose to build just, sustainable, local sources of renewable energy, and we can own it ourselves.  Alameda County recently voted unanimously to move forward with Community Choice energy - We can support them in doing so the right way - by creating hundreds of unionized, family-sustaining jobs. In so doing, we can also create apprenticeship and training programs, to employ low-income communities of color and people with barriers to employment, especially formerly incarcerated people...

As Earth Peoples, we must remember our ancestral wisdom, and restore balance to our planet by taking back through democratic governance the sacred elements of air, earth, water and fire that have been privatized, commoditized, and re-sold back to us by corporations for profit.

It's not enough for some communities to enjoy the benefits of solar panels on our homes, of affordable, healthy, organic local foods, of clean air and safe drinking water, affordable housing and accessible public transit. We all deserve to live in equitable and resilient communities - and we have a right to.

As the great civil rights leader Fannie Lou Hamer said, "Nobody's free until everybody's free."

Each of our social movements has accomplished tremendous things on their own right: movements for labor rights, for economic justice, for civil rights, for racial justice, for environmental justice, for queer rights, for women's liberation, for immigration rights, for prison abolition, for peace.

Yet now we know that unless we all stand together, in true solidarity with one another, we face an uncertain and terrifying future.

As our friends working for housing justice at Causa Justa Just Cause remind us, La Unión Hace la Fuerza - Unity is Strength.

Union labor leaders are marching in New York and rallying in Oakland today, because they recognize that the corporations that are exploiting workers and busting unions, are the very same corporations that are poisoning our communities and destroying the life support systems of our Mother Earth, upon which our very lives depend.

In New York, the Labor Movement is marching shoulder to shoulder with environmental justice communities, indigenous leaders, and environmentalists.

Here in Oakland, the Alameda Labor Council has endorsed this Peoples Climate Rally. I see the California Nurses Association is out today in force!

Last week, I visited the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 595 that built a state-of-the-art Zero Net Energy Center in San Leandro that is a sustainable model for future construction in California - all because union members voluntarily withheld money from their paychecks to help build it.

People on the front lines of this crisis - native communities, low-income communities, and communities of color -- are rising up everywhere and organizing for just and resilient communities.

Native youth from around California recently refused to leave the Capitol in Sacramento until the government shut down the Klamath and Trinity river Dams that are literally killing those rivers, and the salmon that are central to their cultural survival and identity as native peoples.

Here in Oakland, the Recycling Workers Campaign of the ILWU Local 6 recently celebrated a victory where workers organized for the City to pass a living wage ordinance to support dignified working conditions for our brothers and sisters on the front lines of the real solutions to this crisis.

We celebrate these victories today, and too many more to name.

The change that we are seeking in the world begins with ourselves. Mahatma Gandhi reminds us that we must be the change we wish to see in the world. But it does not end there - our individual contributions must be channeled into coordinated and strategic collective action.

Together, we are cultivating the courage to see, the courage to speak, and the courage to act.

And as our mentor Rafael Jesús González reminds us, we were never kicked out of the garden of Eden. We have only royally messed it up. Our task now is not only to fight and transform the institutions that exploit our labor and that destroy the Earth - we must begin to heal.

We need fierce healers as well as warriors.

Since we're here in California, we're going to do the Unity Clap, a tradition dating back to the early days of the United Farm Workers movement. It was a way that Raza/Latino and Filipino farm workers could express solidarity with one another, no matter what language they spoke. It starts off slow, and speeds up. Let's do it together now.

The Fine Print I:

Disclaimer: The views expressed on this site are not the official position of the IWW (or even the IWW’s EUC) unless otherwise indicated and do not necessarily represent the views of anyone but the author’s, nor should it be assumed that any of these authors automatically support the IWW or endorse any of its positions.

Further: the inclusion of a link on our site (other than the link to the main IWW site) does not imply endorsement by or an alliance with the IWW. These sites have been chosen by our members due to their perceived relevance to the IWW EUC and are included here for informational purposes only. If you have any suggestions or comments on any of the links included (or not included) above, please contact us.

The Fine Print II:

Fair Use Notice: The material on this site is provided for educational and informational purposes. It may contain copyrighted material the use of which has not always been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. It is being made available in an effort to advance the understanding of scientific, environmental, economic, social justice and human rights issues etc.

It is believed that this constitutes a 'fair use' of any such copyrighted material as provided for in section 107 of the US Copyright Law. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, the material on this site is distributed without profit to those who have an interest in using the included information for research and educational purposes. If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond 'fair use', you must obtain permission from the copyright owner. The information on this site does not constitute legal or technical advice.