Quantcast

'Not Without Us' Follows Climate Activists on the Front Lines

Popular
vimeo.com

By Jessica Wang

The documentary Not Without Us follows seven grassroots activists from around the world as they mobilize around the 2015 UN Climate Talks in Paris and try to push world leaders to enact an agreement with meaningful and binding targets. According to director and San Francisco-based filmmaker Mark Decena, "Climate change is a monumental issue that impacts all of us. But too often, dialogue about the subject is led by politicians and scientists. With this film, we wanted to give voice to the people on the ground, who are trying to effect change from the bottom up."

Decena recently caught up with Cindy Wiesner, one of the activists featured in the film, on the latest in grassroots climate change action after the Trump administration's withdrawal of the U.S. from the Paris agreement. Wiesner is executive director of Grassroots Global Justice Alliance and has been active in the grassroots social justice movement for more than 20 years.


Mark Decena: So a lot has happened since December 2015, or maybe in your eyes nothing has changed. But going into the agreement, what was your top concern about Paris and what major change did you guys wanted to see instituted in that final agreement?

Cindy Wiesner: When the Paris agreement was signed in 2015, we at Grassroots Global Justice Alliance, along with our sister alliances the Indigenous Environmental Network and the Climate Justice Alliance really wanted to make sure that the agreements created mandatory emission cuts and that our big concern was that in the outcome that the agreement really relied on voluntary pledges. And part of that is that where the countries were aiming was not going to meet the targets that scientists have been saying for many years were necessary to avoid climate catastrophe.

MD: And those voluntary pledges that you first mentioned know they were striving for this 2.5-to-2 degrees window, and then they ended up all the pledges ended up with over 3 degrees, which is really frightening. And you called out that they're all voluntary, which means non-binding. And given those concerns, what are your thoughts now that President Trump announced the U.S. is pulling out of it?

CW: I think Trump's reckless decision underscores the key overarching issue with the Paris agreement in the first place, which is that voluntary pledges are not enough. And that it's also very clear that Trump and this administration, from Rex Tillerson being the secretary of state to Rick Perry being the energy cabinet position—you see that his accountability for accountability is to the fossil fuel industry but also to the military industrial complex.

Given his announcement in terms of ongoing war in Afghanistan, it clearly is in contradiction to his commitment to people in Pittsburgh or people in Detroit or people who have been impacted by NAFTA. It's counter to people who are living at the front lines of the climate crisis and I think Trump and his administration really have a clear conflict of interest placing their own dirty energy investments above and profit above the interest of humanity and the planet as a whole.

MD: And not to mention Scott Pruitt.

CW: Yes. And whose pure intention is to destroy and dismantle the EPA.

MD: And I know that that the world is on fire, literally and figuratively, with this new presidency and his administration, but all those things you mention I know you guys see as all connected. And that brings me to the next question which is are there specific actions and advocacies that you guys are focused on at the moment or are you trying to show people that all of these thoughts do connect?

CW: So in terms of the Paris agreement, I think it's just important to name how significant [it is] that at least the current count [that] is more than 370 mayors have pledged to do their part here around meeting the commitments laid out in the Paris agreement. And I think that that is giving us an opportunity a real important opening to push the long-term solutions that we had been talking about. And as Grassroots Global Justice, along with our sister alliances, [we] have formed this bigger formation called It Takes Roots to weather the storm, to grow the resistance. We also know that it's time to both escalate the level of resistance but also really align our movements.

I think that's part of what we're really clear about is that our organizational response has been to strengthen our movement—the grassroots organizing sector uniting with different folks like the movement for black lives, the migrant rights movement—[to] work with a broader cross-section of folks to really counter this right-wing growing backlash. And I think it's not only to defend and protect, but also to figure out where it is we can create openings in this new political moment.

MD: And I guess I want to I want you to clarify, because I think a lot of people are scratching their heads, saying, what does climate change have to do with immigration and war and racism and patriarchy and colonialism? How do you guys connect those dots and invigorate people think about this bigger picture of climate change as well?

CW: Yeah, I think a lot of our work with Grassroots Global Justice comes out of people who have been pioneers in the environmental justice movement, [and who] really have talked about the impact of environmental degradation and toxins and pollution and dumps that have been in a lot of frontline communities—particularly poor and people of color or white working-class communities. I think that for us, we've been seeing it as a holistic point of view. It's not only where you live, but it's where you work; it's where you play and pray.

MD: As a final question, what gives you hope? What keeps you fighting and moving forward?

CW: For me, I think that it's a lot of the young people that have been on the streets. It's all the people that came out spontaneously into the airports and swarmed the airports when the Muslim ban was put into effect. It's the 40,000 people in Boston that march against white supremacy and to counter white supremacy. It's the People's Climate March, where over 200,000 people came together to talk about needing jobs and climate and justice and moving the articulation of the climate movement. It's the Women's March, which had the single largest mobilization of women. I think that is what's giving me life and I think the intentional movement building work that we're doing with It Takes Roots, with Beyond the Moment, with the different organizers from the 100 days of mobilization. It's the people who, despite fear and repression, are still standing up. And I think that's what is giving me giving me courage.

Also I think we're right. And I think that's what we've been saying all along of like we can't see issues as one siloed way. We have to interconnect the issues. We have to pay attention to movement building. We've got to get boots and sandals on the ground and really get our bases mobilized, and I think the planet depends on us to do that.

Speakers featured in Not Without Us, in order of appearance:

  • Payal Parekh, global managing director, 350.org

This interview has been condensed for length. Reposted with permission from our media associate Moyers & Company.

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

"Globally, we're starting to see examples of retailers moving away from plastics and throwaway packaging, but not at the urgency and scale needed to address this crisis." Greenpeace

By Jake Johnson

A Greenpeace report released Tuesday uses a hypothetical "Smart Supermarket" that has done away with environmentally damaging single-use plastics to outline a possible future in which the world's oceans and communities are free of bags, bottles, packaging and other harmful plastic pollutants.

Read More Show Less
Children are forced to wear masks due to the toxic smoke from peat land fires in Indonesia. Aulia Erlangga / CIFOR

By Irene Banos Ruiz

Pediatricians in New Delhi, India, say children's lungs are no longer pink, but black.

Our warming planet is already impacting the health of the world's children and will shape the future of an entire generation if we fail to limit global warming to well below 2 degrees Celsius (35.6°F), the 2019 Lancet Countdown Report on health and climate change shows.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
Private homes surround a 20 inch gas liquids pipeline which is part of the Mariner East II project on Oct. 5, 2017 in Marchwood, Penn. Robert Nickelsberg / Getty Images

The FBI is looking into how the state of Pennsylvania granted permits for a controversial natural gas pipeline as part of a corruption investigation, the AP reports.

Read More Show Less
Three cows who were washed off their North Carolina island by Hurricane Dorian have been found alive after swimming at least two miles. Carolina Wild Ones / Facebook

Three cows who were washed off their North Carolina island by Hurricane Dorian have been found alive after swimming at least two miles, The New York Times reported Wednesday.

Read More Show Less
The Dakota Access pipeline being built in Iowa. Carl Wycoff / CC BY 2.0

The fight between the Standing Rock Sioux and the owners of the Dakota Access Pipeline is back on, as the tribe opposes a pipeline expansion that it argues would increase the risk of an oil spill.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
Scanning electron micrograph of Yersinia pestis, which causes bubonic plague, on proventricular spines of a Xenopsylla cheopis flea. NIAID / Flickr / CC BY 2.0

A middle-aged married couple in China was diagnosed with pneumonic plague, a highly infectious disease similar to bubonic plague, which ravaged Europe in the middle ages, as CNN reported.

Read More Show Less
Milk made from almonds, oats and coconut are among the healthiest alternatives to cow's milk. triocean / iStock / Getty Images Plus

Dairy aisles have exploded with milk and milk alternative options over the past few years, and choosing the healthiest milk isn't just about the fat content.

Whether you're looking beyond cow's milk for health reasons or dietary preferences or simply want to experiment with different options, you may wonder which type of milk is healthiest for you.

Read More Show Less
Greta Thunberg stands aboard the catamaran La Vagabonde as she sets sail to Europe in Hampton, Virginia, on Nov. 13. NICHOLAS KAMM / AFP via Getty Images

Greta Thunberg, the teenage climate activist whose weekly school strikes have spurred global demonstrations, has cut short her tour of the Americas and set sail for Europe to attend COP25 in Madrid next month, as The New York Times reported.

Read More Show Less