Archive for the 'Impacted Communities' Category

The Climate Movement Needs to Stop ‘Winning’

Cross posted from Huffington Post — Guest post by Maya Lemon from Nacogdoches, Texas

As a child my favorite chore was hand-pumping water from the thirty-foot well on our family homestead. The pump was shiny black and the water ice-cold. Then my father was diagnosed with leukemia, a cancer linked to chemicals used in oil and gas production. It’s been nine years since I drank that water.

I am from an impacted community in East Texas, home to oil and gas industry, on the southern route of the Keystone XL (KXL) tar sands pipeline. My involvement in the climate movement is motivated by the reality my community faces.

Nacogdoches, Texas lies along the southern path of KXL and cannot escape tar sands. From Cushing, Oklahoma down to Beaumont, Texas pipe is buried in the ground and scheduled to go online by the end of the year. We are waiting for the shoe to drop, for tar sands oil to flow through the pipe, for the bend of welded metal to respond to the heat and corrosion of bitumen. We are waiting for an event over which we have little control, despite its potentially disastrous impact on our lives.

Within this experience lies the insight I have to offer the climate movement. My experience is limited by the fact I am a young, white woman from an unconditionally supportive family. Incomplete as it is, however, my perspective is the best thing I can offer. And so, I ask that the climate movement stops talking about “winning.”

maya meme

My community will not “win” on climate and this idea delegitimizes the extraction industry impacts we already face. I have lived alongside the reality of petroleum extraction my whole life. A pipeline runs down our driveway. I have been woken in the middle of the night by fracking fumes that burned my eyes and nose and made me feel sick. The construction of KXL south near my home has ignited new concerns about the health and safety of my family and community. In communities like mine impacts run deep and come from all sides.

I will never “win” on climate. Tanks containing benzene on my family’s property display plastic signs warning against cancer and requiring the use of a respirator. There are three active gas well sites within a two-minute walk from my front door. Scanning the land I am from it is impossible to imagine a scenario where I have not been exposed to the same chemicals that may have caused or contributed to my father’s cancer.

Last fall the direct action campaign Tar Sands Blockade (TSB) brought national attention to my community. Folks in TSB put their lives and livelihoods on the line to stop construction and raise awareness. I am glad they came to stand with my community but this also marked a loss. National climate groups celebrated Obama’s decision to delay the northern segment of KXL, intentionally overlooking that this supposed “win” was paired with an endorsement to fast track the southern arm of KXL, connecting a preexisting tar sands pipeline that ended in Oklahoma to refining communities and shipping ports in Texas. There was no delay for us–pipe was being put in the ground. In search of a “win,” the people of KXL south were written off as a loss.

Like cancer taking over the body, the oil and gas industry is too entangled in the organs of my community for a simple “win-lose” dichotomy. The industry employs us, pays for community festivals, and improves our roads. They also contaminate our water, deny us access to our land, and take away our sense of agency. Extraction industries have impacted our land, bodies, and minds in ways that can’t be erased or won.

Checking a thesaurus suggests further complications of a “winning” framework. Synonyms to “win” include “come in first” and “conquer.” In communities with an intersecting history of oppression “winning” doesn’t seem to be the most appropriate message. Utilizing ideas of “coming in first” and “conquering” among individuals living a legacy of racism, classism, and colonialism seems intrinsically problematic. Environmental Justice leaders ask instead that we “lift up” impacted communities. Will our movement be one that “conquers” or “lifts up?” Continue reading ‘The Climate Movement Needs to Stop ‘Winning’’

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’

Divest M&M’s: How to De-Fund Big Coal on March 28

3rr36oWith campus, congregation, and city divestment campaigns taking off across the country, there’s never been so much momentum to de-fund the fossil fuel companies destroying the planet.  As Bill McKibben has so convincingly argued, we need to cut off fossil fuel giants’ money if we’re going to keep from passing disastrous climate tipping points.  

It’s with this inspiring backdrop that activists in Montana are calling for a day of action targeting the finances of one of Big Coal’s most destructive projects.  If you’re running a campus divestment campaign, and can spare a little of that energy to stop one of the planet’s worst carbon bombs – or if you’re not yet part of the divestment movement, and want a way to get involved – you can help.

Sign up to participate in the March 28th day of action

Here’s the background: In 2011, billionaire Forrest Mars Jr. of Mars Inc. (think M&M’s) bought a stake in the Tongue River Railroad (TRR) project in Montana.  Like the Keystone XL pipeline, the TRR threatens to open up huge reserves of buried carbon to development.  Instead of oil though, it would transport coal from Montana’s Tongue River Valley, a largely undeveloped region in the Powder River Basin.

There’s currently no mining in Montana’s Tongue River Valley.  The TRR would change that, by making huge areas accessible to the coal industry.  Most coal from the area would be exported, fueling a new generation of coal-fired power plants overseas.  Trains passing through towns in Montana, Idaho, Oregon, and Washington would expose communities to toxic coal dust and diesel fumes.

Protect communities from dirty coal by registering a local action

How did Forrest Mars get involved?  He owns a ranch in the Tongue River Valley that originally would have been bisected by the TRR.  For years Mars opposed the railroad, until he bought a share in it and used his influence to re-route it around his land.  Now Forrest Mars is one of three investors in the TRR, along with Arch Coal and Berkshire Hathaway.  He’s using a fortune largely built by selling kids candy to finance a project that will destroy those kids’ future.

That’s where we come in.  On March 28th, in communities across the country, volunteer activists will visit stores that sell Mars products, to re-label candy packages with removable stickers that let shoppers know what their purchase may be paying for.  Here’s what it looks like:

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You can help by holding a stickering action in your community.  By targeting the Mars brand, and convincing Mars Inc that it’s bad business to be associated with coal, we can pressure Forrest Mars to drop his investment in the Tongue River Railroad.  It’s the first step toward getting the money out of coal in the Powder River Basin.

Ready to take action?  Read more about how to hold a successful stickering action, or sign up to hold an action in your community right now!

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.

Montanans Support Action Against Coal, During Week of Climate Solidarity

Cross-posted from the Coal Export Action

On Wednesday, over 30 people gathered in Helena, Montana’s Constitution Park to support the venerable US tradition of civil disobedience.  Immediately before an omnibus court hearing for the 23 people arrested during last August’s peaceful protests against coal exports at the Montana Capitol, the group gathered with signs reading “Support the Coal Export Action 23,” and “No More Coal Exports.”

The rally in support of the Coal Export Action also coincided with an international week of climate solidarity, initiated by organizers of the Tar Sands Blockade in East Texas.  It’s a good time to be organizing; as the Tar Sands Blockade puts it, “The aftershock of Sandy is still being felt on the East Coast, it’s the hottest year on record, and families most affected by climate change are increasingly bearing the brunt of dirty extraction.”

Residents of Helena, Missoula, Bozeman, and other Montana communities met at Constitution Park at noon, one hour before the court hearing.  Speakers at the rally included Lowell Chandler of the Blue Skies Campaign, Linda Kenoyer of the Livingston-based Montana Women For, and Corey Bressler a college junior who was one of the youngest people arrested at the Coal Export Action.

“I came to Helena, to my own statehouse and got arrested because it looks to me like there is no more time for writing reasoned letters to the editor or having meetings with the politicians,” said Linda Kenoyer, describing why she participated in last summer’s civil disobedience.  “The time has come to put my body on the line, to risk my safety and clean record if that’s what it takes to get someone’s attention.”

At the court hearing itself, sixteen of the peaceful protesters appeared in person or called in to request a jury trial.  If granted, the trial will be a chance to argue a necessity defense: the idea that acts of civil disobedience are legally justified when used as a last resort to stop catastrophic climate chaos.

If we argue a necessity defense successfully, it will set a great precedent for civil disobedience.  At the very least, this court case is an opportunity to highlight issues surrounding coal exports in a way no one in Montana has tried before.  We’re lucky to have a great legal team working with us for minimal pay, but they do need some compensation and there are other legal costs.  If you have the means, please help us take coal exports to court by donating to the Coal Export Action Legal Defense Fund.

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

Coal Export Action Ignites Movement in Montana

The last few days in Montana must have made Big Coal very, very nervous.

First, around 100 people gathered outside the Montana Capitol on August 13th to protest state decision makers’ support for coal export projects, which would see Montana become an international coal colony so Big Coal can profit while coal trains and mines expose our communities to poisons.  We then stormed into the Capitol building itself, dropping off letters for State Land Board members Governor Brian Schweitzer and Secretary of State Linda McCulloch.

Then, over the course of a week, 23 activists (myself included) were arrested at the State Capitol protesting coal exports, in one of the largest acts of nonviolent civil disobedience Montana has seen in recent years.  As far as anyone I’ve talked to has been able to tell, it’s the biggest climate-related civil disobedience the state has seen, period.

Partly because of increased attention generated by last week’s protests, journalists uncovered the news that Arch Coal last month submitted its application to build the Otter Creek Coal Mine – one of the largest mines in North America.  Apparently hoping to avoid public scrutiny, Arch submitted its application in July without even a press release.  Last week the application, along with our protest, made front page news in the Great Falls Tribune, not what Arch wanted.

These are just the highlights from an amazing week.  During the Coal Export Action in Helena, people concerned about coal exports marched to the office of the state Department of Environmental Quality, staged a die-in outside US Bank (one of Arch Coal’s funders), picketed outside the Montana Coal Council office, and held a series of teach-ins on coal-related issues in the middle of the Capitol rotunda.

Governor Schweitzer was apparently so scared of us that he posted highway patrol officers outside his office doors, to block the entrance.  But he needn’t have worried; the Coal Export Action was entirely peaceful, with both police and protesters behaving peacefully and respectfully toward those around them.

If media attention is at least part of the measure of a successful action, the Coal Export Action was very successful.  The protests received coverage in every major Montana newspaper, as well as local TV and radio outlets.  We even scored national coverage in USA Today.  But while media coverage of the coal exports issue is important, the real measure of our success will be the degree to which it helps build a winning movement against coal exports. Continue reading ‘Coal Export Action Ignites Movement in Montana’

Climate SOS: It’s Our Time to Act!

This is a guest post by Monica Christoffels, cross-posted from Coalexportaction.org

Our Climate Summer of Solidarity (ClimateSOS) is off to a great start!

Yesterday the Coal Export Action team watched as our friends from Frack ActionStop the Frack Attack andRAMPS (Radical Action for Mountain People’s Survival) took action against fracking and mountaintop removal, respectively. We were inspired to see that about 50 people were able to shut down one of the largest mining sites on the East Coast (as covered here in the Huffington Post!); and that as many as 5,000 stormed the streets of NYC and DC, the latter rally stopping at the offices of America’s Natural Gas Alliance and the American Petroleum Institute, to send a strong message of opposition to the industry.

We were also overjoyed to see our allies at the Tar Sands Blockade in Texas begin training for their massive nonviolent direct action against the Keystone XL Pipeline, which will take place later this summer. The Blockadelive-tweeted its training, and even sent out a message of support to West Virginia, DC and NYC.

(Photo credit: Tar Sands Blockade on Facebook)

The movement literally grew before our eyes; we couldn’t be more proud to be a part of it. Now it’s our turn to take action.

This Tuesday, July 31, Coal Export Action will kick off a social media blast day to amp up the volume on our actions to stop coal mining in Otter Creek next month.

We hope a surge in tweets and Facebook posts will alert people to the action, increase support (both in donations and new participants) and, most importantly, send a strong message to Arch Coal and the Montana State Lands Board that we’re ready to act on behalf of Otter Creek, the state of Montana and our global community.

Make sure you follow us on Twitter and like us on Facebook – we’ll be blasting our tweets and posts from those accounts on Tuesday. We’ll hope you join us online as we continue on the road to Coal Export Action this August!

Divestment listening tour connects students and anti-coal activists

by Will Lawrence and Kate Aronoff, re-posted courtesy of Waging Nonviolence

Picture courtesy of We Are Powershift.

Students from Swarthmore and Earlham College will be traveling to Appalachia this week as part of the Divest Coal Frontlines Listening Tour, which is the latest effort in a broader campaign calling on all colleges and universities to divest from the largest and most destructive U.S.-based fossil fuel companies. Arriving in West Virginia in time for the Mountain Mobilization — a regional gathering July 25 through August 1 that will culminate in direct action on a proposed mine site — the tour is meant to facilitate collaboration by connecting the divestment campaigns with groups that have been organizing against mountaintop removal coal mining in Appalachia for the past several decades.

Mountaintop removal (MTR) is just what it sounds like — a process in which the tops of mountains are exploded to reveal the coal seams underneath. Anti-coal activist and lifelong West Virginia resident Larry Gibson describes the practice as “raising the dead, while burying the living.” This method is less labor-intensive, and thus more profitable to mining companies, than underground mining. In regions where it is practiced, MTR results in poisoned water, deadly health impacts and economically devastated communities.

Engagement with environmental issues is nothing new for many colleges. Student-led initiatives have driven down institutional energy consumption in the past 10 years, placed wind turbines on campuses and taken coal-fired power plants off of them. While these efforts continue, students across the country are turning to divestment as a new means to confront the coal, oil and gas industries. Campaigns are currently being waged at SwarthmoreEarlhamUNC-Chapel HillUniversity of Illinois-Urbana-ChampaignCornell and Colby, with another six campuses planning to join in the fall.

In forming relationships with organizations on the frontlines of the struggle against MTR, students hope to more effectively act in solidarity with these groups and weave divestment, both symbolically and materially, into an ecology of resistance against the fossil fuel industry. Although it may be just a small part of the ongoing movement for climate justice, college divestment campaigns add a new element of strategy to the work being done to combat climate change.

By asking for divestment, students implicate universities in the destructive practices of the global economy, calling into question their positions as actors in an increasingly myopic financial industry. Like the corporations they invest in, university finance managers look for returns on a quarterly, not long-term basis. Such thinking paints coal, oil and natural gas as sound investments based on solid short-term financial returns, while failing to consider their negative long-term returns: poisoned watersheds, toxic ecosystems and devastated communities.

Divestment also carries a symbolic weight that challenges us to reconsider fossil fuel extraction and climate change as human rights issues. For many, the word divestment brings to mind the mass movement to divest from South African apartheid in the 1970s and 80s. More recently, divestment campaigns have drawn attention to human rights crises in Sudan and Palestine, as well asworkplaces in the U.S. Calling for divestment from fossil fuels inevitably highlights these connections, and creates an opening to talk about the ways that climate change disproportionately affects poor communities, women and communities of color. Furthermore, it places the blame for the economic violence of climate change squarely on the companies that fuel it, rather than on those consumers who can’t afford to “buy green.” Continue reading ‘Divestment listening tour connects students and anti-coal activists’


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