The best of EcoWatch, right in your inbox. Sign up for our email newsletter!
Climate Defenders Mobilizing for 3rd People’s Climate March
By Alison Cagle
Call it the "People's Climate March, Part III." On Saturday, Sept. 8, thousands of people are expected to converge on the streets of San Francisco to demand that government leaders commit to ending all new fossil fuel projects and accelerating the move toward renewable energy. The march is part of a global campaign calling for environmental justice and a "just transition" to renewable energy that protects workers and frontline communities. Satellite events will happen across the U.S. and around the world, including Indonesia, Turkey, Nigeria and the United Kingdom, among other places.
"We're making sure that politicians see what diverse climate leadership must look like, to successfully serve the entire population of people who are actually affected by climate change," Antonio Díaz, organizational director for People Organizing to Demand Environmental and Economic Justice (PODER), said at an Aug. 8 press conference announcing the upcoming march. Representatives from labor unions, environmental justice groups, faith alliances, and immigrant rights organizations gathered in front of San Francisco's Ferry Building to deliver an unequivocal message: Climate justice cannot wait for a new administration in Washington, DC. Climate-related disasters are becoming the new normal, they said, and political solutions for adapting to them must include the protecting the communities most affected by disasters.
In comparison to previous Peoples Climate Marches in 2014 and 2017, a heightened sense of urgency surrounds the upcoming mobilization. The first People's Climate March took place in New York City in September 2014, on the eve of the United Nations General Assembly meetings, and marked something of a coming out party for the global climate justice movement: There were demonstrations in 162 countries, and the presence of some 400,000 people on the streets of Manhattan blew away organizers' expectations. The following year was full of heady expectations. Pope Francis published his landmark encyclical on the moral obligation of protecting communities from climate change, "Laudato Si" (Latin for "Praised Be," from a prayer by the pope's namesake, the patron saint of ecology). In December 2015, leaders from around the world signed the Paris climate agreement, a historic pledge to coordinate efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. "It was an exciting time for all of us," said Nana Firman, director of Muslim Outreach at GreenFaith, which has participated in all three marches, "to see leaders and communities around the world put their voices together [to say] that this is not just a political issue, but a moral and ethical issue."
By 2017, the political landscape had shifted—and not for the best. Newly inaugurated President Trump had signed an executive order rescinding the moratorium on coal mining on federal lands, and then-Environmental Protection Agency administrator Scott Pruitt was busy systematically trying to dismantle environmental protections at an alarming rate. On Trump's 100th day in office, tens of thousands of demonstrators united in Washington, DC for the second Peoples Climate March, to send a message to the White House and congressional leaders that any attempts to retreat from action on climate would meet stiff resistance.
Next month's march will take place under even more difficult circumstances. Even as global climate change is becoming impossible to ignore, Trump administration officials continue to deny basic climate science while enacting policies that are blatantly influenced by fossil fuel interests. The situation is grim for environmental protection: the White House has announced its intention to abandon the Paris climate agreement, the acting EPA administrator is a former coal industry lobbyist, and the Interior Secretary has opened millions of of acres of public land for oil and gas extraction.
The upcoming march is a direct response to California Gov. Jerry Brown's highly anticipated Global Climate Action Summit, which begins in San Francisco on Sept. 12 and will draw government officials, civil society representatives, and business executives from around the world. (Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, a major donor to the Sierra Club, is one of the co-chairs of the summit.) The march is part hello-welcome and part political challenge as protest organizers call on Gove Brown to prohibit any new oil and gas extraction and fossil fuel infrastructure in California. Organizers are asking the outgoing governor to "set a global precedent" by phasing out oil and gas production and moving toward "a fair and equitable transition that protects workers [and] communities." Many of the environmental justice groups organizing the march have long been opposed to other Brown environmental policies such as California's greenhouse gas cap-and-trade program, which they say allows industry handouts on emissions permits while harming communities of color.
"Governor Brown's summit is a continuation of the market-based schemes that actually result in increased local pollution and emissions," said Gladys Limon, executive director of California Environmental Justice Alliance (CEJA). "While they purport to address the collective problems of climate change and reduce emissions in the aggregate, they continue the unconscionable practice of using [frontline communities] as sacrifices."
A key demand of the September march is for governments to create climate resilience strategies that protect frontline communities located in areas that can be disproportionately affected by climate change and yet are often without resources to rebuild after unprecedented natural disasters. Annie Dobbs-Kramer, organizer for voter engagement at North Bay Organizing Project, was shocked by the connection between limited disaster relief and communities of color, low income, and immigrant families during the Northern California wildfires of 2017. "It was really apparent how climate change-related disasters create climate refugees," Dobbs-Kramer said. "The same people who get systematically exploited on a daily basis [become] even more so during climate disasters. It was appalling to see that." Families with English as a second language had little way of knowing where to obtain basic necessities, or how to find evacuee centers; low income residents were dependent on dwindling financial services, often from nonprofit organizations instead of municipal disaster funds. "[Climate change] is crystallizing the separation between the haves and have-nots," Dobbs-Kramer said.
March organizers argue that climate policies that make concessions to fossil fuel industries in the interest of long-term gains are ultimately ineffective, if the communities who are most exposed to climate change suffer in the short-term. "We will be … in solidarity with communities across the state and around the world," said Limon of CEJA, "to challenge and expose the flawed solutions that elected officials and industry have developed. Instead we will raise our voices for community-led solutions."
The organizers of the march have a blunt message for elected officials: "See you in the streets."
Reposted with permission from our media associate SIERRA Magazine.
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
‘Companies Should Not Be Allowed to Use Hazardous Ingredients in Products People Use’: Michelle Pfeiffer Speaks Up for Safer Cosmetics
The beauty products we put on our skin can have important consequences for our health. Just this March, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) warned that some Claire's cosmetics had tested positive for asbestos. But the FDA could only issue a warning, not a recall, because current law does not empower the agency to do so.
Michelle Pfeiffer wants to change that.
The actress and Environmental Working Group (EWG) board member was spotted on Capitol Hill Thursday lobbying lawmakers on behalf of a bill that would increase oversight of the cosmetics industry, The Washington Post reported.
By Julia Conley
Scientists at the United Nations' intergovernmental body focusing on biodiversity sounded alarms earlier this month with its report on the looming potential extinction of one million species — but few heard their calls, according to a German newspaper report.
The climate crisis is a major concern for American voters with nearly 40 percent reporting the issue will help determine how they cast their ballots in the upcoming 2020 presidential election, according to a report compiled by the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication.
Of more than 1,000 registered voters surveyed on global warming, climate and energy policies, as well as personal and collective action, 38 percent said that a candidate's position on climate change is "very important" when it comes to determining who will win their vote. Overall, democratic candidates are under more pressure to provide green solutions as part of their campaign promises with 64 percent of Democrat voters saying they prioritize the issue compared with just 34 percent of Independents and 12 percent of Republicans.
President Donald Trump has agreed to sign a $19.1 billion disaster relief bill that will help Americans still recovering from the flooding, hurricanes and wildfires that have devastated parts of the country in the past two years. Senate Republicans said they struck a deal with the president to approve the measure, despite the fact that it did not include the funding he wanted for the U.S.-Mexican border, CNN reported.
"The U.S. Senate has just approved a 19 Billion Dollar Disaster Relief Bill, with my total approval. Great!" the president tweeted Thursday.