Archive for the 'Climate Justice' Category

Life at the End of the Line — Drawing the Line on Tar Sands in Houston’s East End

“My son died from cancer. He was only 26,” he said as his eyes quivered and filled with tears.

I struggled to complete the community health survey that brought me to this man’s humble front porch next door to a menacing, industrial car-crushing facility. This summer, as I knocked on dozens of his neighbor’s doors I heard similar heart-breaking stories of illness, asthma, and poverty.

One long-time resident I spoke with summed up the popular sentiment for relocation: “I’m just trying to save up enough money to move my family the hell out of here.”

These are just a few of the voices from the “End of the Line” – those living in the community of Manchester, on Houston’s toxic East End – one of the communities at the terminus of the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline.

Today as thousands gather in over 200 actions across the country for a national day of action to “Draw the Line” on Keystone XL and tar sands it seems like an appropriate moment to reflect on these stories and ask: Can our movements better support these communities already bearing the disproportionate burden of tar sands refining and environmental injustice?

The People at Both Ends of the Pipeline

The story of tar sands resistance goes far back beyond Obama, long before 1,253 folks like myself were arrested at the White House for protesting the pipeline, or really even before Keystone XL was anything but an industry pipe dream. Decades ago the struggle began by First Nations leaders in modern-day Canada and their commitment to maintain their ancestral homelands from what they term the “slow industrial genocide” of tar sands extraction that is poisoning their loved ones and turning their boreal paradise into a tortured wasteland.

What do the communities living with the worst impacts at both ends of this pipeline have in common? They are both communities of color.

Valero refinery in the Manchester community on Houston's East End.

Continue reading ‘Life at the End of the Line — Drawing the Line on Tar Sands in Houston’s East End’

Climate Crisis: Radical Action or a New Battlefront in the War on Nature?

Climate change is happening, but geoengineering schemes are not the solutions we need

by Rachel Smolker and Almuth Ernsting
(cross-posted from Common Dreams)

Will declaring a ‘climate emergency’ help to finally prompt radical action to address climate change?  A growing number of campaigners as well as scientists think so and hope that a major wakeup call about unfolding climate disasters will spur governments and people into action.

The planet needs a break from humanity's assault, not a new 'war' on nature in the form of geoengineering schemes.

The planet needs a break from humanity’s assault, not a new ‘war’ on nature in the form of geoengineering schemes.

Whether a lack of scary-enough facts about climate change has been holding back real action is questionable.  After all, it requires a fair amount of psychological denial to not be alarmed by the escalating heat waves, droughts, floods and destructive mega storms. Continue reading ‘Climate Crisis: Radical Action or a New Battlefront in the War on Nature?’

At Greenpeace Action Camp, a vision of the movement we want

Hi All,

Here’s a crosspost of a blog by Dave Pomerantz at Greenpeace on last week’s Action Camp. I hope to see increasing discussion of a more collective movement!

John

Title: At Greenpeace Action Camp, a vision of the movement we want

Activists and trainers from Greenpeace's Coastal Canyons Action Camp

For a long time, corporations and governments have used the tried and true tactic of divide and conquer: they’ve tried to convince us that the immigrant rights struggle is different from the worker rights struggle, which is different from the climate justice struggle, to name just a few of the efforts to make the world a more sustainable place.

Of course, those divisions are false and self-serving: all of those struggles are linked by both cause and effect. The corporations, institutions and systems that caused environmental destruction by prioritizing the wealth of the few over the health of the many are the exact same ones that have trampled the rights of workers, immigrants, and the poor. And environmental crises like climate change promise to hit immigrant and poor communities the hardest.

Last week, Greenpeace hosted an Action Camp in Southern California for 160 activists where we focused intently on pushing back against those false divisions.

Continue reading ‘At Greenpeace Action Camp, a vision of the movement we want’

Enbridge Greeted With Vocal Opposition at BC Hearings

This week, the Joint Review Panel has been holding hearings in Victoria about the Enbridge Northern Gateway Pipeline. Just today, the Dogwood Initiative tweeted:

Final speaker of the day makes it official! 141 OPPOSED – in favour, ZERO at the #yyj #Enbridge #JRP hearings #bcpoli

Earlier in the week, several news outlets (written coverage here and TV coverage here) reported heavy police presence and “armed guards” at the hearings, where the public is supposed to be able to express their opinions on the pipeline which is planned to carry over 500,000 barrels of tar sands per day from Alberta to the Pacific Coast where it will be exported. Organizers with Social Coast organized events outside of the hearings and criticized the undemocratic nature of the hearings. “They are public hearings, are they not?” asked Eric Nordal of Social Coast. The format of the hearings taking place this month and next in Victoria, Vancouver, and Kelowna are having a different format than previous hearings on the same pipeline. People who have registered to speak are asked to speak to the panel one at a time, while others wait in a separate observation room. A few months ago, there were also updates as to what people were allowed to speak about, prohibiting people to address issues such as climate change.

The following is a release sent out by Rising Tide-Vancouver, Coast Salish Territories. A long list of endorsers indicates the broad-based opposition to Enbridge, and other pipelines that would bring fossil fuels to the coast and across unceded Inidgenous territories.

Media Release-January 7th, 2013

Enbridge Panel to be Greeted with Loud Demonstration
Diverse list of grassroots groups demand consent not consultation

When the Enbridge pipeline joint Environmental Assessment and Energy Board hearings open in Vancouver on January 14th they will be greeted by community members determined to make their opposition heard on the streets and inside the hearing room. A large, noise demonstration will march through downtown Vancouver in full support of the self-determination of Indigenous communities, and their rights to say no to oil and gas pipelines across their territories.

The Harper government has gutted Canada’s already weak environmental laws, giving cabinet the final say on pipeline projects and making the Joint Review Panel hearings merely a public relations (consultation) exercise. This undemocratic change attempts to remove the rights of communities to say no to big oil corporations. Continue reading ‘Enbridge Greeted With Vocal Opposition at BC Hearings’

Youth Call Out Fossil Fuel Companies & Obama Leadership Failure at Doha Climate Talks

This post was written by SustainUS delegate Anirudh Sridhar and cross-posted on youthclimate.org

Youth call out fossil fuel industry corruption at Doha climate negotiations. Credit: Kyle Gracey/SustainUS

Youth call out fossil fuel industry corruption at Doha climate negotiations. Credit: Kyle Gracey/SustainUS

When Hitchcock’s first black bird landed on the frame of the playing ground, it seemed individual, particular. There was no need to derive a common theory about the bird in the larger scheme of things as a harbinger of anything significant. By the time the children looked out the window again, 4 more birds had arrived. Soon, the sky had become dark with the descent of an avian blanket of hundreds of birds. As delegates entered the U.N convention center at Doha for the second week of the COP 18 in Doha, they saw the first bird perched atop the escalators.

SustainUS, a youth led organization, along with Taiwan Youth Climate Coalition and Canadian Youth Climate Coalition gathered around the entrance of the convention center and stood disenchanted and disenfranchised from the process, with a somber gloom. They held black cancerous spots that had been clogging the arteries of the negotiations, speaking about the chronic and acute influence of the fossil fuel industry on the levers of global climate change policy.

Mike Sandmel, the media chair of SustainUS and co-organizer of the event stated that “we hear a lot of stories about countries being painted as evil actors as if they were monolithic. Often, even in the choke points of the climate negotiations, there is a huge internal struggle for the environmental soul of the country. The fossil fuel industries control the strings of the country’s fate because of their financial influence and this event is to bring it out in the open.” As the delegates went past the signs that read “Fossil fuel industry groups spent upwards of $376 million on TV ads to influence 2012 elections in the US.” and “Preventing the tragedies of a  2°C temperature rise means staying within a carbon budget of 565 gigatons”, their minds were arrested as their bodies glided limply past. There were a few skeptical voices heard as one delegate from India remarked “Do these people not know that half the world’s population doesn’t have electricity?” Mostly, as the delegations passed, they documented the event in film while the media rushed onto the scene to get the individual perspectives.

Democracy Now interviewed Chi Tung-Hsien, a Taiwanese youth, and he said “Hurricane Sandy has recently shaken Americans awake from a deep sleep about the disastrous effects of climate change. In Taiwan, Sandy is the norm. With mudslides, a food crisis that is likely to lead the country into famine and constant threat of the rising oceans on their island, they live at the constant mercy of climate change.” Continue reading ‘Youth Call Out Fossil Fuel Companies & Obama Leadership Failure at Doha Climate Talks’

Doha Climate Talks: First Farce, then Tragedy

The lead-up to COP18 which started in Doha, Qatar this week, would have been farcical, if not for the tragic reminder from Hurricane Sandy that climate change is deadly, and is already upon us.

But for a moment, let’s appreciate the ironies:

Rio+20, “The Future We Want,” summit in June of this year was declared a failure on almost all counts. The tepid commitments, all voluntary, sound exactly like the future fossil fuel industries want. But in Doha, under the mandate of the UNFCCC, parties will agree on issues like finance, carbon markets, and REDD+.

Protester in Rio, June 2012.

Sounds reasonable? Think twice- COP18 is in Qatar, an OPEC nation with some of the highest emissions per capita that has been barely involved in climate negotiations. International campaigners Avaaz posted, “having one of the OPEC leaders in charge of climate talks is like asking Dracula to look after a blood bank.”

At least we can turn to our “climate leaders,” like the EU. Turns out the debt crisis has our European friends a little distracted from their climate commitments. Spain, Germany, Italy, the U.K. and France have all cut aid to renewables.

Well there are some “easy” issues to resolve in Doha, like fund transfers from wealthy countries to developing countries for mitigation and adaptation, right? But the farce continues- just in time for the conference to start, an international report finds that most wealthy countries are falling embarrassingly short of their commitments thus far for fund transfers. So much for the easy stuff.

Okay, at least they off-set their emissions! 25k metric tons of carbon was “eliminated” in the CDM carbon market to off-set 10,000 participants traveling to Doha. Yet this comes amidst mounting evidence that the carbon markets are broken, with the value of credits in the CDM plunging 93% in two years, and the EU system failing to reduce emissions. (I’ll spare the gory details of CDM’s social injustice.)

Yet, somehow in the fracas, carbon speculators are optimistic for Doha. Unlike the negotiators, they’ve figured out they can still make a handsome profit even if emissions don’t drop. In the rush to appease and appeal to business interests, negotiators have bought into a “Green Economy” narrative, where climate solutions are reduced to financial and technological fixes. REDD+, CDM, and other carbon offsets allow industrialized countries to avoid shifting their economies off fossil fuels, and speculators in new carbon markets reap the rewards.

The Doha skyline.

The choice of some climate justice groups to skip the trip to Doha is looking better and better.

So is the COP system broken? Can we expect anything out of Doha? With Sandy barely behind us, and more storms on the horizon, a meaningful U.N. process may feel like our last hope. However most major decisions are mapped out in preparatory meetings, such as those in Bonn and Bangkok this year.  While the presence of critical voices is important, so far the COPs have proven to leave out indigenous peoples, youth, and others most impacted by climate change.  We can’t count on negotiators to broker our future with fossil fuel corporations.

The recent position paper from Focus on the Global South offers a critique and an alternative: “The capitalist system is seeking to get out of this economic crisis through a process of reconfiguration that implies a new process of exploitation of humans and nature… …To confront the interests and power of corporations, our struggle must have as starting point the daily life of the people affected by climate change and not the UNFCCC negotiations.”

Around the world, more and more people are connecting the dots and challenging the root causes of climate change and false solutions. From the Tar Sands Blockade in Texas, to First Nations in British Columbia, to indigenous communities impacted by REDD+ in Mexico, people are taking a stand for their communities and ecology. As Hurricane Sandy showed, if we aren’t already, we all may soon be on the frontlines of climate change.

As Focus on the Global South writes, “A ‘one size fits all’ model like neoliberalism or centralized bureaucratic socialism is not the answer. Instead, diversity should be expected and encouraged, as it is in nature.” Real solutions come from the grassroots.

ACTION ALERT: Stop the tar sands at their source, Say NO to Shell

ImageUntil October 1st you can make a written submission or sign up to make a presentation submission to the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency about the Shell Jackpine Mine Expansion. Visit stopshellnow.com to find out more or visit this page directly to make your submission. It is easy. It won’t take you long. You can do it now!

On October 23rd, for the first time ever, two First Nations—the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation and the Mikisew Cree–will be filing a constitutional challenge against a tar sands mining project. Shell wants to expand the Jackpine Mine, adding 100,000 barrels of bitumen production per day to the existing 200,000 barrels per day. That would be enough to fuel both the Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline (525,000bpd) and the Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain pipeline (currently 300,000 and proposed to expand to over 700,000bpd), with plenty to spare. To learn more about these tar sands pipelines, visit www.canadians.org/pipelines

Pipelines are a recipe for disaster and mean fear of fractures and spills that would impact sensitive ecosystems, wildlife, and water systems and rivers that provide communities with water and food. With spills may also come the forced evacuation of communities, but also negligence of community health. People have reported burning eyes and headaches when there have been leaks. But when opposing these pipelines, it is crucial that we not only think about the destruction that happens along the pipeline route, but also the destruction that is happening at the point of extraction and downstream from these mines. Downstream communities have been plagued with rare cancers, increased autoimmune diseases and cardiovascular disease. There has also been increasing diabetes as people can no longer eat and live off traditional foods because water, fish, and moose have been poisoned by tar sands contamination.

Last Friday, several women from tar sands impacted communities shared their personal stories at the event She Speaks: Indigenous Women Speak Up Against the Tar Sands. One of the speakers, Melina Laboucon-Massimo of the Lubicon Cree First Nation spoke about the community impacts of last year’s Rainbow pipeline rupture and the company’s negligent response and has also produced a photo essay.

This fall, the Council of Canadians will be holding a No Pipelines, No Tankers Speaking Tour in which we talk about the pipelines proposed to bring fossil fuels to BC’s coast for export and corporate profit. We will be talking about the fights against three pipelines in BC—the Northern Gateway, Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain, and the Pacific Trails Pipeline—and the much needed solidarity in fighting all of the pipelines. For more information about the pipelines tour, visit http://www.canadians.org/pipelines

This blog was also posted on http://www.canadians.org

Gender Gap in Youth Green Jobs

Right now, a lot of youth are fighting to stop the tar sands. A lot more are just trying to find a job. Last year, Michael Davidson and I wrote about our work to try to understand if green jobs could be youth jobs. The results were pretty good — young people were underrepresented in green job creation in the U.S., but not by much.

This year, we tried to see if the situation had changed. Turns out not much – U.S. youth probably are still getting fewer green jobs compared to other age groups and compared to how many jobs we have in the economy overall. So, pretty good news. And if investing in clean energy and climate change-fighting solutions will create more jobs than business as usual, or  more fossil fuel investments — and the green jobs research says it will — then that will probably mean more jobs for youth. Green jobs will be youth jobs.

Gender Differences in U.S. Youth Green Jobs

Young women have not benefited from green job creation as much as young men.Source: Muro, Mark, Jonathan Rothwell, and Devashree Saha. 2011. Sizing the Clean Economy. Washington: Brookings Institution. Available at http://www.brookings.edu/~/media/Series/resources/0713_clean_economy.pdf. Accessed October 1, 2011.Source: 2012. Table 15. Employed persons by detailed occupation, sex, and age, Annual Average 2011. Washington: Bureau of Labor Statistics. Unpublished work tables from the Current Population Survey. Received March 1, 2012.
Brookings data sums to more than 100% due to rounding.

But then we asked — which youth will have those green jobs? And here things don’t look so great.

We got pretty good data for male/female breakdown within youth jobs (at least for ages 16-24, and without data on transgender youth). When we matched this gender data up with the green jobs and youth data, we got this table. The categories are from a cool Brookings Institute clean energy jobs report, but don’t worry too much about them. Instead, check out the gold boxes at the bottom right.

In the overall economy, young men and women are almost even in how many of us have jobs — we’re 6.4% of all jobs in the economy for dudes, and 6.0% for girls (putting it together, youth have 12.4% of all jobs in the economy, compared to 10.9% of the clean energy economy).

But in the clean energy economy (at least as of 2011), male youth have about 7.5% of all the jobs, while female youth only have 3.5%. This is basically the same trend I found for all age groups in past research – men outnumber women for direct green jobs. I also found disparities across races and ethnicities, but there isn’t good data on this for just youth, so more work is need to understand where else youth green job creation might be unequal.

The good news is what we’ve said before – if investing in green jobs creates more jobs overall, this will probably mean more jobs in total for both genders. But, for now at least, men will benefit comparatively more.

Can we change this? Probably. But so far, we haven’t even been talking about the issue. Now that we know the situation, we can start figuring out solutions to help make sure green jobs are green jobs for all.

Want much more detail? Dive into the full report (don’t worry, it’s only 17 pages, and most of those are tables).

In Ohio, the People Push Back on Fracking

Tired of waiting for their leaders to ban the destructive drilling practice, citizens passed their own resolution—and took over the Statehouse to make it heard.

Originally published in Yes! Magazine

Last week an estimated 1,000 people took over the Statehouse in Columbus, Ohio to protest the destructive practice of hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking.” Joined by others from neighboring states facing similar issues, this “People’s Assembly” rallied and marched to the Capitol building—without a permit—to decide how they, the people, could end the practice in their state.

Jamie Frederick was one of them. She had been told by doctors that it was safe to drink her well water, despite the presence of gas wells surrounding her home. She later discovered the water was contaminated with chemicals used in the fracking process. As a result, she says, she has lost her gall bladder and can’t risk having children because of fatal health risks and potential birth defects.

“If there had been solar panels and wind turbines surrounding my home instead of gas wells, I never would have gotten sick, and I would be called ‘Mom’,” she told the crowd. These days, she said, her mouth bleeds and it’s difficult to talk: “I am losing my voice more all the time. But I seem to have found it today.”

As the Assembly convened, the rotunda, filled to capacity, thundered with stomping, clapping, and chanting that was hushed when families shared experiences of being devastated by the side effects of fracking, as Frederick was. Some had been invited to testify at the Statehouse in the past, only to find empty rooms and legislators who, they felt, did not respect their concerns.

These stories had been shared throughout the lead-up to the action, with three full days committed to workshops, trainings, and cross-movement strategy sessions. Teri Blanton, of Appalachia, connected fracking to another highly destructive extraction process she has been fighting in her own neighborhood: mountaintop coal removal. “They’re trying to do to you what they’ve done to us,” she said. “‘Regulation’ just gives them permission to do it. If you think regulation works, take a look at the West Virginia strip mining.”

The Ohio Assembly ended with the passage of a “people’s legislation” to ban fracking. Though no actual law backs this resolution, it signifies a commitment by many in the state to oppose further development of fracking wells.

This July will see thousands more mobilize in Washington, D.C. for the Don’t Stop the Frack Attack rally. Grassroots communities across New York State are already speaking out against Governor Andrew Cuomo’s attempt to turn the Southern Tier of New York into a sacrifice zone for fracking. This creative, nonviolent action bubbling across the United States may turn out to be the most powerful way of halting extreme energy development at the expense of both people and the planet.

Celebrate Earth Day with the 4 Rs: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, Resist

Dear Diary,

Today I went to Dundas Square, one of the busiest intersections in Toronto to join Rhytms of Resistance-Toronto,“a political samba-inspired band that plays for environmental and social justice.” The band was raising awareness about some of the tar sands pipelines that will threaten forests, waterways, fish habitat, and communities along and near the pipelines. What a way to spend Earth Day, eh?

ImageThey were also letting people know how to plug into the resistance against the pipelines! The band’s groupies, who I gladly joined, were letting people know about a rally happening at the Enbridge Annual General Meeting in Toronto on May 9th. I learned about the Yinka Dene Alliance, one of the leading groups of First Nations opposing the Enbridge Northern Gateway oil pipeline, who will be in Toronto on May 8th and 9th to say “No” to the proposed pipeline.

Members of the YDA are traveling from BC to Toronto for the Enbridge AGM and they will be stopping in Edmonton, Saskatoon, and Winnipeg along the way. Once I am done writing this diary entry, I am going to invite all my friends in those cities. It is Earth Day after all—great excuse to spread the word on how to resist environmentally destructive projects.

I am so glad that so many people are piping up (pun intended) about these pipelines. These pipelines would contaminate water, fish sources, and human health. Communities would be put at risk for the profit of a few greedy oil and gas corporations. Diary, that just isn’t fair!

I mentioned the Northern Gateway Pipeline, which would bring dirty tar sands to the west coast of British Columbia for export; but I still haven’t mentioned the tankers that would come to collect that oil. They would have to travel through ecologically sensitive areas and through waters which are known to be rough because of the high winds and waves. Do we really want to repeat some of the horrible oil spills which have destroyed fishing communities and continue to impact human health and livelihoods? This sounds just too risky!

There is also another pipeline which would bring liquefied natural gas (LNG) to Kitimat as well: the Pacific Trails Pipeline. This LNG would be primarily from shale gas development in northeastern BC. This type of gas development involves injecting water and unidentified chemicals into underground shale rock formations at very high pressures in order to extract natural gas below the surface. This process uses up tons of water, while also contaminating groundwater and local drinking water.

But those aren’t the only pipelines blazing through British Columbia. Kinder Morgan is trying to increase the amount of tar sands crude that would be transported through the Trans Mountain Pipeline, a pipeline which brings tar sands to southwestern BC.  There has been local opposition to the pipeline expansion which would require twinning the pipeline and putting communities at significant risk.

Looking east, there is the Trailbreaker project which would bring tar sands across the Prairies, Great Lakes, Ontario, Quebec, and finally to the coast of Maine, USA. The pipeline has faced growing opposition from communities across the route. And rightfully so. In 2010, an Enbridge pipeline leak put over a million gallons of oil into the Kalamazoo River which flows into the Great Lakes. Enbridge may be okay with polluting the largest group of freshwater lakes on the planet, but I won’t sit by and just watch it happen.

And I am not the only one!

This Earth Day, there were over 10 communities that took action specifically against pipelines, tankers, and tar sands expansion. In Montreal, Quebec there was a march so huge that “more than two hours after it began, a large crowd was still waiting to begin at the starting point.” Right on!

Diary, I am so inspired that I am going to explore more ways to take collective action against environmentally destructive operations.

Happy Earth Day, -maryam


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