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The Red Deal: Indigenous action to save our Earth

By The Red Nation - ROAR Magazine, April 25, 2021

Colonialism has deprived Indigenous people, and all people who are affected by it, of the means to develop according to our needs, principles and values. It begins with the land. We have been made “Indians” only because we have the most precious commodity to the settler states: land. Vigilante, cop and soldier often stand between us, our connections to the land and justice. “Land back” strikes fear in the heart of the settler. But as we show here, it’s the soundest environmental policy for a planet teetering on the brink of total ecological collapse. The path forward is simple: it’s decolonization or extinction. And that starts with land back.

In 2019, the mainstream environmental movement — largely dominated by middle- and upper-class liberals of the Global North — adopted as its symbolic leader a teenage Swedish girl who crossed the Atlantic in a boat to the Americas. But we have our own heroes. Water protectors at Standing Rock ushered in a new era of militant land defense. They are the bellwethers of our generation. The Year of the Water Protector, 2016, was also the hottest year on record and sparked a different kind of climate justice movement.

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, herself a water protector, began her successful bid for Congress while in the prayer camps at Standing Rock. With Senator Ed Markey, she proposed a Green New Deal in 2019. Standing Rock, however, was part of a constellation of Indigenous-led uprisings across North America and the US-occupied Pacific: Dooda Desert Rock (2006), Unist’ot’en Camp (2010), Keystone XL (2011), Idle No More (2012), Trans Mountain (2013), Enbridge Line 3 (2014), Protect Mauna Kea (2014), Save Oak Flat (2015), Nihígaal Bee Iiná (2015), Bayou Bridge (2017), O’odham Anti-Border Collective (2019), Kumeyaay Defense Against the Wall (2020), and 1492 Land Back Lane (2020), among many more.

Each movement rises against colonial and corporate extractive projects. But what’s often downplayed is the revolutionary potency of what Indigenous resistance stands for: caretaking and creating just relations between human and other-than-human worlds on a planet thoroughly devastated by capitalism. The image of the water protector and the slogan “Water is Life!” are catalysts of this generation’s climate justice movement. Both are political positions grounded in decolonization—a project that isn’t exclusively about the Indigenous. Anyone who walked through the gates of prayer camps at Standing Rock, regardless of whether they were Indigenous or not, became a water protector. Each carried the embers of that revolutionary potential back to their home communities.

Water protectors were on the frontlines of distributing mutual aid to communities in need throughout the pandemic. Water protectors were in the streets of Seattle, Portland, Minneapolis, Albuquerque and many other cities in the summer of 2020 as police stations burned and monuments to genocide collapsed. The state responds to water protectors — those who care for and defend life — with an endless barrage of batons, felonies, shackles and chemical weapons. If they weren’t before, our eyes are now open: the police and the military, driven by settler and imperialist rage, are holding back the climate justice movement.

Letter to Contra Costa County, California on Just Transition from Fossil Fuels

By staff - Sunflower Alliance, November 20, 2020

Just weeks after Contra Costa County’s Board of Supervisors declared a climate emergency, a diverse group of environmental, labor, and public health advocates sent a letter to the Board calling for a planned and equitable transition away from fossil fuels to a clean energy economy, in what many are calling a “just transition” that supports refinery workers and frontline communities.

“We applaud your recent Declaration of a Climate Emergency in Contra Costa County, which underlines the need to ‘plan for a ‘just transition’ away from a fossil-fuel dependent economy.’  In furtherance of this goal, we seek your immediate action to ensure just transitions for workers and communities threatened with sudden abandonment by refineries located in the County.  We believe climate protection must go hand in hand with environmental and economic justice,”  reads the letter’s opening paragraph.  See the full letter here.

The letter highlights concerns over recent news regarding changes to traditional refinery operations in Contra Costa County—including Marathon’s announcement of a permanent end to crude oil processing at its Martinez refinery, and Phillips 66’s notice of an impending partial closure of its San Francisco Refinery facilities in Rodeo, Franklin Canyon, and Arroyo Grande.

Both companies have proposed changes that would significantly decrease the production of non-petroleum fuels, which will involve shuttering large portions of the refinery.  Neither company has identified plans for full cleanups of their industrial sites, nor have they made adequate commitments to support the wages, health care, or pensions of workers whose jobs are threatened by these changes.

“The large oil companies who have for so long made their profits in Contra Costa County’s local communities ought to be the ones to pay the steep cost associated with their departure,”  the letter states.

The letter also identifies how the communities facing shuttered refinery operations are ultimately at risk for future prospects for environmentally healthy and economically sustainable development.

Why “Good Liberals” Won’t Save the Climate

By Scott Parkin - CounterPunch, October 24, 2018

“Shallow understanding from people of good will is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will. Lukewarm acceptance is much more bewildering than outright rejection.”
–Martin Luther King Jr.

Groundbreaking “Carbon Pricing Report” Released by Indigenous Environmental Network and Climate Justice Alliance at COP 23

By Jade Begay - Common Dreams, November 16, 2017

WASHINGTON - While city, state, and national leaders gather at the UN Climate Talks to launch and implement platforms and agendas that promote carbon trading, carbon offsets, and REDD+, the Indigenous Environmental Network and the Climate Justice Alliance take a bold stance to reject and challenge these so-called innovative solutions by releasing the “Carbon Pricing Report: A Critical Perspective for Community Resistance.”

This report provides in-depth context to why carbon market systems will not mitigate climate change, will not advance adaptation strategies, will not serve the most vulnerable communities facing climate change impacts and only protect the fossil fuel industry and corporations from taking real climate action.

Furthermore, the publication is the first of its kind to be released in the United States and will help frontline communities and grassroots organizations articulate crucial points to challenge carbon markets and climate change. It is a tool in building a carbon market grassroots resistance.

On Wednesday November 15, Tom Goldtooth, co-author of the report, and members from communities who are impacted first and worst by climate change spoke at the UN Climate Change Talks to challenge nations, cities, and businesses who are promoting carbon markets as they violate Indigenous Rights and make way for more fossil fuel extraction near Indigenous, Black, and Brown communities

Key points of Carbon Pricing Report:

  • Carbon trading, carbon offsets and REDD+ are fraudulent climate mitigation mechanisms that help corporations and governments to continue extracting and burning fossil fuels.
  • Revenues distributed to communities from carbon trading or carbon pricing never compensate for the destruction wrought by the extraction and pollution process required to obtain that revenue.
  • The injustices, racism and colonialism of carbon pricing schemes have worldwide effects that require international resistance.

This publication will help communities and organizations articulate crucial points to resist carbon pricing and climate change.

**Digital Version of Carbon Report**

The following is a statement from the co-authors of the report:

"The linking of carbon markets across the United States and the World is a tool that fossil-fuel companies have shaped and built to continue to extract and dump on frontline communities.  Carbon pricing is a slap on the wrist, a reward really.  History shows that, it does not have the ability to move us away from oil addiction, or reach our targets for climate justice. The only true way to reach our goals of 1.5C is to stop the fossil fuel machine at source, to provide stricter regulations, and to hold polluters accountable for their legacy of pollution.  We need this Just Transition to survive! This report demonstrates through a historical and international lens the mounting threats these markets have wreaked on frontline communities across the world.  It is a call to action for community resistance and resilience." -- Angela Adrar, Executive Director of the Climate Justice Alliance.

"Our Indigenous Peoples and people of color climate justice alliances saw a need to put together a publication that demystifies the carbon market regimes constantly being pushed upon our communities by environmental and climate organizations. Under the rubric of carbon pricing, these cap-and-trade, carbon offsets, carbon tax systems are false solutions that do not cut emissions at source, create toxic hot spots, and result in land grabs and violations of human rights and rights of Indigenous peoples in the forest regions of developing countries. People have a right to know the truth about these national and global initiatives that are nothing but the financialization of nature, the privatization of Mother Earth.” -- Tom Goldtooth, Executive Director of the Indigenous Environmental Network

Jerry Brown tells indigenous protesters in Bonn, ‘Let’s put you in the ground’

By Dan Bacher - CounterPunch, November 17, 2017

Governor Jerry Brown doesn’t always deal with critics of his controversial environmental policies well — and that was the case again on Saturday, November 11, when he spoke at the UN Climate Conference in Bonn, Germany.

Californians, including indigenous water protectors and those on the frontlines of climate change, disrupted California Governor Jerry Brown’s speech at the “American’s Pledge” event at the UN climate talks to confront his strong support of fossil fuels in his state.

The banner-carrying protesters yelled, “Keep it in the ground” and other chants, referring to the governor’s strong support of fracking, both offshore and on land in California, and cap-and-trade policies that could prove catastrophic to the Huni Kui People of Acre, Brazil and other indigenous communities around the globe.

“I wish we have could have no pollution, but we have to have our automobiles,” said Brown as the activists began disrupting his talk.

“In the ground, I agree with you,” Brown said. “In the ground. Let’s put you in the ground so we can get on with the show here.”

“This is very California. Thanks for bringing the diversity of dissent here,” the visibly disturbed Brown continued.

A video of Brown’s reaction to the protest is available here.

This is not the first time that Brown has employed harsh words to blast his opponents. On July 25 of this year, Brown blasted critics of his oil industry-written cap-and-trade bill, AB 398, for practicing “forms of political terrorism that are conspiring to undermine the American system of governance” in an interview with David Greene of NPR (National Public Radio).

Governor Brown, portrayed as “a green governor,” “climate hero,” and “resistance to Trump” by the mainstream media and corporate “environmental” NGOs, has come to the climate talks to promote California as a global model of “climate leadership” at a time when increasing number of Californians are fed up with his pro-Big Oil and pro-Big Ag environmental policies

“Refinery Town” points the way forward to protect communities and defend rights

By Garrett Brown - The Pump Handle, January 16, 2017

Let’s just say there was a working class community – of various skin colors – which was dominated for a century by a giant corporation who ran the town with bought-and-paid-for politicians, and whose operations regularly poisoned the community, threatened the health and safety of its workforce, and periodically blew up, sending thousands to the hospital. How could they even begin to protect the health of their families and community, and exercise their democratic right to a local government that put the needs of the vast majority ahead of corporate profits?

The answer to that question can be found in a book that went on sale today: Refinery Town; Big Oil, Big Money, and the remaking of an American City by labor journalist Steve Early. The portrait of Richmond, California, a city of 110,000 people in the San Francisco Bay Area, and the decade-long political organizing and campaigns by the Richmond Progressive Alliance (RPA), contains many lessons that will be very useful to keep in mind as a new political regime takes power this week as well.

Richmond was a classic “company town” after Standard Oil of California (now Chevron) set up its oil refinery – then the third largest in the country – across the Bay from San Francisco in 1905. For several decades the oil company had a desk in City Hall to make it easy for the politicians its funding and support helped elect to be aware of Chevron’s opinion on city issues. Chevron’s oil tanker-sized political influence trailed in its wake conservative Black community leaders (Richmond was a majority African-American city and now is roughly one-third Black, one-third white and one-third Asian), as well as the unions representing firefighters and police, and the local building trades unions whose motto frequently has been “jobs at all costs.”

Starting at the dawn of the 21st century this began to change with the rise of RPA, initiated by political and labor movement veterans from back East who went on to make deep connections in Black, white and Asian neighborhoods in the city. Year-around activities, a lot of shoe leather, and patient, face-to-face campaigning resulted in electing and re-electing a Green Party mayor (Gayle McLaughlin), electing numerous City Councilors, defeating well-funded efforts to build a casino on coastal land, and hard-ball negotiations with Chevron for community benefits to accompany a major renovation of the 100-year-old refinery. In the November 2016 elections, the RPA succeeded in electing a majority in the seven-member City Council and passing the first rent-control law in California for more than two decades.

All of this was achieved over the opposition of Chevron – which outspent the RPA by as much as 20-to-1 in several election cycles in direct and indirect support of its favored candidates – and despite all the ups and downs of community organizing and the internal political/personality disputes that occur everywhere.

CalPERS, CalSTRS, UC Invested in Dakota Access Pipeline Despite Pledges of Sustainability

By Darwin Bond-Graham - East Bay Express, December20, 2016

Last Monday, two-dozen activists chanted, sang, and drummed outside Wells Fargo' San Francisco headquarters to demand the bank stop financing the Dakota Access Pipeline. Wells Fargo has drawn criticism for its central role in raising funds for the pipeline's construction. But banks aren't the only Bay Area institutions that stand to profit if the pipeline is completed.

The University of California and the state's two largest public pension systems, CalPERS and CalSTRS, are also invested in Energy Transfer Partners and the oil company Sunoco, which recently merged with ETP in a deal worth $20 billion. ETP and Sunoco are the companies building the Dakota pipeline.

According to the UC's most recent annual report for its employee-retirement system, it has $3.1 million invested in Energy Transfer Partners bonds.

CalPERS, the state's giant public-employee retirement system, has invested $57 million in Energy Transfer Partners. The retirement system also owns Sunoco bonds worth $1.8 million.

And the California State Teachers Retirement System, or CalSTRS, owns $34 million in Energy Transfer Partners bonds and another $12.8 million in Sunoco bonds.

"By buying these corporate bonds they're betting on the success of the pipeline," said Janet Cox of Fossil Free California, a group that advocates divesting from fossil fuels.

Teachers, students, and public employees have rallied for years to divest retirement funds and endowments from oil, gas, and coal. Results have been slow and mixed.

Toronto Teach-In Poses Climate Justice Alternative

By John Riddell - East End Against Line 9, June 6, 2016

The People's Climate Plan Teach-in, held in Toronto June 4,[1] took great strides forward in presenting a forceful alternative to the inadequate and deceptive climate action proposals of Canada's federal government. In the opening session, five leading climate activists presented a coherent, unified climate justice strategy, proposing effective action to save the world from climate disaster interlocked with practical measures to assist working people and the poor who are the first victims of global warming. Displayed in the meeting, held in the University of Toronto, were the banners: “Pipelines = Climate Change”; “Stop Line 9”; and (in French) “Leave Fossil Fuels in the Ground.”

After lunch, the more than 100 participants split up into training groups of half a dozen to develop skills for effective intervention in the “public consultation” meetings the Trudeau government proposes to hold over the coming three months.

People's Climate Plan

The proposed framework for this intervention is the People's Climate Plan (PCP),[2] a simple structure of three principles (or “pillars”) to guide those taking part in such gatherings.

“We've been to three of these consultations, and we know how they're organized,” PCP activists explained. “Government facilitators divide participants into small groups and then give each group a topic designed to force discussion into a channel favourable to government policy. “For example, they ask ‘How can we combine economic growth with emissions reductions?’ – implying that tar sands expansion is part of the bargain. If you accept the question on their terms, you've already lost the argument.”

If environmentalists argue at cross purposes or try to make too many different points, their voices can be sidelined and ignored. Those speaking for climate justice need to unite around a common focus and strategy. The PCP proposes three principles to assure this focus:

  • Science: keep fossil fuel reserves in the ground.
  • Economics: a rapid transition to a clean energy economy.
  • Justice: for Indigenous peoples, workers affected by the transition, and victims of climate change.

When government facilitators pose inappropriate themes, the PCP spokespersons suggested that we use an “ABC” approach:

  • A: Acknowledge the question posed by the organizers.
  • B: Bridge over to the question you wish to address, which should be aligned with one of the three PCP principles.
  • C: Provide Context to sustain your view, preferably with a personal anecdote or insight that illustrates why you care so much about the issue.

Achieving this degree of focus may seem a tall order for environmental and social activists. Often we use discussion periods to express a broad and seemingly chaotic range of personal viewpoints. We rightly prize our diversity. Yet when entering a discussion structured by a government with quite alien goals, PCP activists suggested, we must harmonize and unify our approaches.

We Are Mother Earth’s Red Line: Frontline Communities Lead the Climate Justice Fight Beyond the Paris Agreement

By staff - It Takes Roots to Weather the Storm - January 2016

The Paris Climate Agreement of December 2015 is a dangerous distraction that threatens all of us. Marked by the heavy influence of the fossil fuel industry, the deal reached at the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) never mentions the need to curb extractive energy, and sets goals far below those needed to avert a global catastrophe. The agreement signed by 196 countries does acknowledge the global urgency of the climate crisis, and reflects the strength of the climate movement. But the accord ignores the roots of the crisis, and the very people who have the experience and determination to solve it.

Around the world, negotiators use the term “red line” to signify a figurative point of no return or a limit past which safety can no longer be guaranteed. Our communities, whose very survival is most directly impacted by climate change, have become a living red line. We have been facing the reality of the climate crisis for decades. Our air and water are being poisoned by fossil fuel extraction, our livelihoods are threatened by floods and drought, our communities are the hardest hit and the least protected in extreme weather events—and our demands for our survival and for the rights of future generations are pushing local, national, and global leaders towards real solutions to the climate crisis.

We brought these demands to the UNFCCC 21st Conference of Parties (COP21) as members of the delegation called “It Takes Roots to Weather the Storm.” Grassroots Global Justice Alliance (GGJ), the Indigenous Environmental Network (IEN), and the Climate Justice Alliance (CJA) organized the delegation, which included leaders and organizers from more than 100 US and Canadian grassroots and Indigenous groups. We helped to mobilize the thousands of people who took to the streets of Paris during the COP21, despite a ban on public protest—and amplified the pressure that Indigenous Peoples, civil society, and grassroots movements have built throughout the 21 years of UN climate talks.

The Paris Agreement coming out of the COP21 allows emissions from fossil fuels to continue at levels that endanger life on the planet, demonstrating just how strongly world leaders are tied to the fossil fuel industry and policies of economic globalization. The emphasis within the UNFCCC process on the strategies of carbon markets consisting of offsets and pollution trading created an atmosphere within the COP21 of business more than regulation. The result is a Paris Agreement that lets developed countries continue to emit dangerously high levels of greenhouse gasses; relies on imaginary technofixes and pollution cap-and-trade schemes that allow big polluters to continue polluting at the source, and results in land grabs and violations of human rights and the rights of Indigenous Peoples. Our analysis of the Paris Agreement echoes critiques from social movements around the world, led by those most impacted by both climate disruption and the false promises that governments and corporate interests promote in its wake.

“Frontline communities” are the peoples living directly alongside fossil-fuel pollution and extraction—overwhelmingly Indigenous Peoples, Black, Latino, Asian and Pacific Islander peoples in working class, poor, and peasant communities in the US and around the world. In climate disruption and extreme weather events, we are hit first and worst.

We are Mother Earth’s red line. We don’t have the luxury of settling for industry or politicians’ hype or half measures. We know it takes roots to weather the storm and that’s why we are building a people’s climate movement rooted in our communities. We are the frontlines of the solution: keeping fossil fuels in the ground and transforming the economy with innovative, community-led solutions.

March for jobs, justice and the climate launched in Toronto

By Megan Devlin - Rabble.ca, May 22, 2015

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.

It was chilly in the shadow of the TD building at King and Bay Thursday morning as about 40 members of a coalition of grassroots organizations raised their red placards at the launch for the March for Jobs, Justice and the Climate.

The march will happen July 5 -- on the eve of the Pan American Climate Summit of the Americas -- but it was clear that the movement has already gained support.

The launch criticized the fossil fuel industry's power and called for a justice-based transition to a clean-energy-based economy.

"We're ready for the next economy," Naomi Klein said in her address. "Canadians are clearly getting tired of the fossil fuel roller coaster."

The march is a collaboration among a range of stakeholder groups including 350.org, Idle No More, No One is Illegal, GreenPeace, oil divestment activists from the University of Toronto and Canada's largest private sector union, Unifor, which represents many of Alberta's energy workers.  

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