How time flies.
It is hard to believe it has already been ten years since Hurricane Katrina made devastating landfall on the Gulf Coast. When Katrina hit and devastated the region, New Orleans’ poorly maintained levees broke and flooded the city. The privileged few were able to flee the disaster while thousands more were left in flooded streets and on the rooftops of their homes.
As soon as the storm hit, my friend, mentor and longtime organizing comrade scott crow traveled to New Orleans to rescue a friend who’d lost contact during the storm. Out of that rescue mission emerged the largest anarchist-inspired organization in recent U.S. history—Common Ground Relief Effort. When the "state" collapsed and was unable to provide relief, scott, former Black Panther Malik Rahim, and others from the informal network of radicals and anarchists that had emerged from the anti-corporate globalization and anti-war movements stepped in to provide solidarity for those impacted by the horrible storm and its after effects.
Common Ground established emergency food banks, medical clinics, free schools, they gutted mold-covered homes and advocated for residents even as the government (i.e. the New Orleans police, the Department of Homeland Security, the National Guard, private contractors like Blackwater, etc.) tried to impede their efforts with violence and intimidation. Common Ground responded not by telling these people what they needed to do, but by knocking on doors and asking the community what they needed. More than 10,000 volunteers went through its doors into the streets of New Orleans in solidarity.
This happened under some of the worst conditions imaginable. Violence, chaos, white racists driving through black neighborhoods shooting people.
scott would later reflect on his experience in post-Katrina New Orleans:
I was terrified, tired, shell shocked already from seeing death and destruction. I had no idea it would get worse in the coming days with police and vigilante violence. I also had no idea that others would also have similar dreams and we would begin a process of creating something meaningful as a vehicle to support people in reshaping their worlds in their terms, or at the least helping them to survive.
Hurricane Katrina was a critical time in the development of climate justice. It was an environmental and human disaster, but also became an occasion to offer no compromise solutions to the power and influence that carbon spewing corporations hold over our lives. It was a series of events that gave birth to new energy around climate and social justice.
Climate justice has always been the intersection of issues related to climate change (fossil fuel extraction, fossil fuel infrastructure, fossil fuel combustion, extreme weather, super-storms, etc.) and socio-economic justice issues. It is more often than not that those most impacted by industry and climate change are traditionally marginalized communities (i.e. poor communities, communities of color and rural white communities.)
Elizabeth C. Yeampierre of Uprose described climate justice in a recent article:
As descendants of slavery and colonization, our communities have lived and continue to live at the intersection of all these challenges. Both have a long history rooted in the extraction and abuse of our labor and later the extraction and abuse of our resources. Both involve people who are the descendants of historical trauma and are now faced with the catastrophe of a changing climate.
Looking at it globally, Naomi Klein said:
Climate justice is the understanding that we will not be able to stop climate change if we don’t change the neo-liberal, corporate-based economy which stops us from achieving sustainable societies. The historical responsibility for the vast majority of greenhouse gas emissions lies with the industrialized countries of the Global North. The production and consumption habits of countries like the United States continue to threaten the survival of humanity and biodiversity globally. It is imperative that the North urgently shifts to a low carbon economy.
In the streets of cities like New York, St. Louis and Seattle, the waterways of Bellingham Bay and the Willamette river, the hills and hollers of Appalachia, the eastern plateau of Utah, those backcountry roads where blockades, tree-sits and bold organizing stop business as usual climate justice is also about fighting back against Corporate America. A new generation of environmentalists not only defends the forests and the wild places, but also the communities against the politics and economics of climate destruction.
In central Appalachia, in the summer of 2005, mountain defenders launched the latest phase of fossil fuel resistance with a strong commitment to climate justice. That summer, grassroots environmentalists from around the country partnered with fed-up residents of West Virginia, Kentucky, Tennessee and Virginia to push back on marauding coal operators and complicit politicians with grassroots organizing and non-violent direct action in a campaign called Mountain Justice.
Mountaintop removal coal mining had ravaged the region since the 1960s. It has destroyed over 500 mountains, buried thousands of miles of Appalachian streams and rivers with debris from the practice, and polluted and poisoned communities with exploding mountains and waste from mining operations.
Mountain Justice and local community organizations like Coal River Mountain Watch, Keepers of the Mountain and Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition transformed the little known practice of mountaintop removal into a national issue as campaigns emerged against Wall Street, the Environmental Protection Agency, Congress and the coal industry. Their model included everything from community water testing to advocating for wind farms along ridge lines to impeding work on mine sites with their bodies. The coal industry often struck back with legal, illegal and violent means. Ultimately, the campaigns against mountaintop removal still continue.
Sparked by natural and man-made disasters in the Gulf and campaigns against mountaintop removal, the climate movements continued to build momentum through the Bush years and into the era of Obama. In 2011, after many years of fierce organizing by First Nations in Alberta and landowners in Middle America, the Keystone XL pipeline was elevated into an international political issue. During that time another climate justice campaign brought together conservative land owners and radical environmentalists to fight the southern leg of the Keystone XL pipeline in deep East Texas.
In the summer of 2012, the Tar Sands Blockade launched action after action on Canadian oil giant TransCanada’s clear-cutting operations up and down the pipeline route. They launched an 80+ day tree-sit that impeded Keystone construction. Police responded with pepper-spray and Tasers against peaceful protestors. Prosecutors responded with elevated felony charges. TransCanada also filed lawsuits, aka Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation (SLAPP), against individuals and organizations to impede the progress of the campaign.
The Tar Sands Blockade captured the attention of the world as pressure built against Obama to reject the northern leg of Keystone XL. The group coined the term “Blockadia” which has since been popularized in Naomi Klein’s book, This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. The Climate.
As the campaign progressed, the Tar Sands Blockade then also began to support community organizing in the east end of Houston and other parts of the Gulf. Many blockaders moved to Houston and other parts of the Gulf Coast to work with community groups like Bridge the Gulf, Texas Environmental Justice Advocacy Services (TEJAS) and Mobile Environmental Justice Action Coalition.
Climate Justice in Action
In the past ten years, since Hurricane Katrina, the emergence of Mountain Justice and the Tar Sands Blockade, the BP oil spill and the escalating climate crisis, we’ve seen a flowering of both climate justice and fossil fuel resistance. Frustrated with the endless political gridlock in Washington D.C. and overwhelming amounts of financial and political capital that Big Oil and Big Coal wield over the political system the climate justice movement has moved more and more into challenging fossil fuels and injustice with people power.
Lately, few days go by without bold action and civil disobedience disrupting oil, gas or coal operations in North America. Most recently, street heat has escalated into a mass movement to stop oil drilling in the Arctic. The Pacific Northwest has mobilized to stop Royal Dutch Shell Oil’s operations in the Arctic. With a window of time that the company can drill in the Chukchi Sea, the climate justice movement has mobilized in mass to prevent them from making it with hundreds of kayaktivists and high flying aerial blockades.
On the issue of hydraulic fracturing (also known as fracking) for natural gas extraction, dozens of groups have begun waves of action against pipelines, export terminals and the practice itself. From New England to the Chesapeake Bay to Dallas-Fort Worth area to numerous western states, the anti-fracking movement regularly battles the dirty practice while building connections with rural and suburban populations not typically found in activist circles.
With Keystone on an indeterminate hold, and even facing the possibility of rejection, the oil industry has moved to expand with its infrastructure with a number of other pipeline projects. As those projects multiply, so does the climate justice movement’s effort to stop them. In Michigan, the Michigan Coalition against Tar Sands has taken a number of bold actions to stop the Enbridge pipeline. In Vancouver, the Unist’ot’en continue to hold off a number of oil pipeline projects threatening to go through their traditional lands. This week, over 20 Midwestern youth were arrested while locked to John Kerry’s Georgetown home as a part of “Midwest Unrest” in protest of the expansion of Enbridge’s Alberta Clipper pipeline.
The Gulf Coast has remained a case study in climate injustice. Not only does the region suffer from Big Oil’s pollution and some of the worst impacts of climate change, but issues of structural racism and poverty continue to oppress people in the Gulf. Earlier this year, Gulf South Rising formed to coordinate efforts to shift power structures in the five states impacted by the reckless behavior of the oil industry. The coalition has planned a dozen actions to commemorate the anniversary of Hurricane Katrina.
The climate justice movement has evolved in the past ten years and is a spreading quickly and effectively. But people working together in great numbers, being bold and courageous and accepting no compromise remains the decisive piece to counter the political and economic systems which wreak havoc on our communities. Furthermore, dreaming big and leading with our hearts against CEOs and politicians has made the great difference.
Writing recently, scott crow reflected:
Bad governments and the non-profit industrial complex will never build the total liberation that these communities want or need, and we, those who build from below, can only do so much with so little. Our hearts are big and our commitments are unwavering despite all this. There was beauty in the devastation. From the open hearts of people helping people only because it mattered at that moment to the flowers that pushed up through the concrete. The facts are that thousands upon thousands who took great risk with what they had-whether it was a little or, a lot- to help, support and make the lives around them better beyond the immediate disaster despite government warnings or roadblocks.
On a final note, along with scott, many other friends of mine, too numerous to name, but including Kerul, Lisa, Brian, Nick, Kim and many others, were part of Common Ground. I’ve met most of them through years of climate, anti-fossil fuel and direct action organizing along the highways and byways of North America. Their efforts were heroic and moving.
Their work in the post-Katrina Gulf Coast remains an inspiration for building this climate justice movement.
RAN is reflecting on climate justice this month as part of Change the Course, a project that crowdsources a vision of a just and climate-stable 2050 and brainstorms strategies to get there. Over the last nine months, we’ve been listening to the best ideas for how we win on climate, and the emerging vision of the future is one where communities stand together to fight for climate justice. We’d love for you to be part of Change the Course. Add your vision!
“With the support of good people and the resilience of brave people, it seems like anything can be accomplished. Sustain the Nine.”
— the late Pamela Dashiell, climate justice leader based in New Orleans’ Lower Ninth Ward
With the tenth anniversary of Hurricane Katrina around the corner — August 29th — I’ve been thinking about justice. What do environmental justice, and climate justice, mean to me? Who are my environmental justice and climate justice (s)heroes?
When I think about justice, I think about communities living on the front lines. People living on the Gulf Coast from New Orleans to Miami. People living near industrial facilities — mines, refineries, and power plants. Too many of these people are sick. They are physically ill with diseases like asthma, COPD, cancer, reproductive and neurological challenges. As weather patterns drastically change, these sick people are also bearing the brunt of climate disasters.
From those suffering from the recent flooding in Houston, to the farm workers in California’s drought-hit Central Valley, to the families still living with the horror of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita — these people face injustice every day. They live in the shadows of large industry and are excluded from political debates.
These are people that are directly impacted by the horrors of corporate greed and climate change. On top of the life challenges that everyone faces — finding a decent place to live and putting food on the table — they also carry the burden of possibly having to evacuate their home and/or a higher incidence of suffering from long-term disease. And they have fewer resources for support.
The odds are against these communities. However, in the wake of disaster and sickness, some leaders rise above the odds.
When I think of climate justice (s)heroes, I think first of a powerful ally I was lucky enough to work with, whom we’ve now sadly lost: Pam Dashiell. Just after Hurricane Katrina, Pam returned to New Orleans and fought for the right to bring people home — to have people rebuild in the Lower Ninth Ward, one of the city’s hardest hit areas, even though many in power wanted to condemn it.
Pam founded the Lower 9th Ward Center for Sustainable Engagement and Development (CSED), which helped returning residents get building materials and trained them to construct more sustainable and energy-efficient houses. Pam’s tenacity and influence grew quickly. She was involved in White House meetings about rebuilding the Lower Ninth Ward and collaborated with Brad Pitt on the Make it Right project. Pitt raised funds to build 100 green certified homes in the Lower Ninth Ward with regular community input.
I met Pam through her work with the Louisiana Bucket Brigade. Pam had an uncanny awareness about the racial and environmental injustices in the Ninth Ward and had put her whole self into changing them.
Pam passed in December 2009 at age 61. Pam was one person that had a strong impact on her community. In the midst of devastation, this woman rose above the destruction and the politics and continued the work for justice.
Ahead of the tenth anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, I think about climate justice leaders, like Pam, that I have had the opportunity to meet and stand beside in their struggles — our struggles. Despite their own personal suffering, many of these leaders were able to rise to the occasion, relentlessly driving forward in pursuit of something bigger. Knowing their community deserved better.
They were ordinary people, that were able to do something extraordinary. When reflecting, it is in these moments, often filled with sadness, anger, rage and fear, that I remember that to stand in solidarity means to stand strong with climate justice communities. In reflecting on lessons from leaders, like Pam, it reminds me that I have a duty and responsibility to support communities in need.
These communities are on the front lines of climate injustice, and they should be at the forefront of the environmental and social justice movements. When we are able to support children to breathe freely, find renewable jobs for low income communities and to stop industrial waste from being released into the air, land and water, then we have started to do our job as a movement.
This month, climate justice is the focus of Change the Course, a project that crowdsources a vision of a just and climate-stable 2050 and brainstorms strategies to get there. Since last fall, we’ve been listening to the best ideas for how we win on climate. The emerging vision is one in which communities on the front lines lead the movements that fight for an equitable and sustainable future. We’d love for you to be part of Change the Course. Add your vision!
Banner image: FEMA
The view is breath-taking and strangely beautiful as we reach the edge of the giant open cast coal mine. The surrounding landscape has turned from fertile cabbage fields to a gaping wound in the ground with no signs of life. In that moment as hundreds of my fellow activists dressed in white boiler suits storm down the slopes towards the giant machines carving out the mine, I know we are achieving something great. We’re shutting down one of the biggest coal mines on Earth.
Last weekend I took time off work to blockade a giant coal mine along with more than 1500 other activists from 45 countries to deal a blow to the corporate fossil fuel industry and push for the change that the UN climate negotiations are failing to bring.
The Garzweiler lignite coal mine in the Rhineland in Germany is an astonishing sight: a full 17 kilometres of utter destruction. Surrounded by a strange mix of massive coal-fired power plants, eight-lane motorways and wind turbines the mine is emblematic of everything that’s wrong with the way we produce and consume energy.
The giant diggers (the biggest land machines on earth) extracting tons and tons of coal every hour are not driven by a demand for energy to heat our houses or power our computers. The driving force of this mine is an economic system that forces us to exploit any resource no matter the costs to create more growth and more profits for corporations. No matter how many windmills we build, it will keep going. And even if we all divest our pensions from fossil fuels, it won’t prevent the diggers from eating up the surrounding landscape and towns.
It is already obvious that the UN climate negotiations in Paris this December (COP21) are not going to do anything to challenge the systemic issues behind climate change. While the world leaders gather to negotiate a new deal for the climate, the diggers in Germany will be unhindered in extracting coal. And when the politicians and the media circus leave Paris, the mine will continue to expand till there is no more coal left.
Scientists have made it abundantly clear that we need to leave 80% of known coal reserves in the ground. If our governments will not make this happen, we have to take matters into our own hands.
That is why a thousand of us broke and drifted through dozens of police lines and suffered pepper spray, hits from batons and ultimately mass arrests breaking into the mine and blocking it for a whole day. Running for several miles through the mine chased by police and security is probably one of the scariest things I’ve ever experienced. But seeing the police lining up in full riot gear to protect one of the most destructive projects on our planet made it all too clear that our governments are fully committed to protecting the fossil fuel industry, not only politically and financially, but also physically. There are very little signs of them bringing in the transition we need to stop climate change and create energy that works for people instead of for corporate profits.
The Ende Gelände (Here and no further) mass action was not just a blow to the already struggling fossil fuel industry, it was a massive display of people power for the movement against dirty corporate energy. As political processes like the COP in Paris are failing to bring results, we need to come together as a movement to develop alternatives from below.
The climate negotiations in Paris will not be the “moment of truth” or the potential final solution to our problems, as some organisations would have us believe. Rather we will go to Paris this December to mark another milestone for the movement to reclaim the control of our energy system and bring an end to the profit-driven economy.
The protest in Germany was not just a group of seasoned activists of campaigners. For most people I spoke to this was their first act of civil disobedience. In Paris we have the chance to grow our movement bigger and continue building a new energy system that does not destroy the climate and meets our needs, not the needs of big business.
Want to join Global Justice Now in Paris for COP21? Find out more here.
Last month, Bank of America published its 2014 Corporate Social Responsibility Report, which addressed the bank’s financing policies and practices in detail. This blog post looks back on the bank’s release of its updated coal policy in May, and looks at the strengths and weaknesses of the policy update and what it means for the banking sector’s financing of coal more broadly.
Bank of America’s new coal policy is both groundbreaking and imperfect. It acknowledges that the bank has a responsibility not only to finance the transition to low-carbon energy but also to cut financing for high-carbon energy sources. The policy goes well beyond comparable policies at the bank’s U.S. peers by committing to a broad cutback to BofA’s lending for coal mining both in the U.S. and internationally. However, this commitment lacks public-facing detail in terms of targets and deadlines, and fails to address the bank’s continued exposure to coal-fired power production. In spite of these flaws, Bank of America’s updated coal policy represents a clear step away from financing coal and a bold challenge to the bank’s peers in the months leading up to the Paris climate conference.
- Statement of responsibility for addressing the climate impacts of BofA’s financing – Bank of America’s updated coal policy states that the bank “has a responsibility to help mitigate climate change by leveraging our scale and resources to accelerate the transition from a high-carbon to a low-carbon society, and from high-carbon to low-carbon sources of energy.” This symbolic statement of responsibility is commendable, as it acknowledges that the bank considers addressing climate change to be an obligation and not just an optional initiative.
- Commitment to reduce financing for coal mining companies worldwide– The new policy commits the bank to “continue to reduce our credit exposure to coal extraction companies” and specifies that this commitment is global in scope. RAN will be monitoring Bank of America’s involvement with transactions with coal mining companies to verify that it is following through on this commitment.
- Specific commitment to cut financing for producers of mountaintop removal coal – In addition to making a global commitment to cut exposure to coal mining, the policy specifically states that the bank will be cutting its exposure to companies that engage in mountaintop removal coal mining. RAN will also be tracking the bank’s follow-through on reducing its exposure to coal companies with mountaintop removal mining operations.
- Additional environmental and human rights criteria for legacy coal mining transactions – The policy includes additional human rights, regulatory compliance, and environmental due diligence criteria to guide the bank’s assessment of any future transactions with its legacy coal portfolio.
- Lack of transparent deadlines and ambiguity about transaction types covered by the commitment – The policy does not include a clear timeline or deadlines for how the bank will proceed with its transition away from financing coal mining. Furthermore, the policy refers to the bank’s “credit exposure” and does not publicly specify how this commitment will apply to other corporate banking transactions other than loans, such as bond or equity issuance. However, RAN expects that BofA’s bond and equity underwriting exposure to coal producers will decline in tandem with its lending exposure to these companies, and we will be monitoring these transactions going forward.
- Continued support for coal-fired power generation – Although BofA’s policy is bold on coal mining, it does not address coal-fired power generation financing. The policy’s discussion of coal-fired power focuses on monitoring and reporting on emissions from the bank’s electric power financing portfolio, which falls well short of the urgent need to phase out not only coal mining but coal power generation as well. Moreover, the policy includes a worrying endorsement of carbon capture and storage technology, which, if widely-adopted, would further entrench coal-based power production.
- Need for a comprehensive approach to human rights and environmental due diligence – The bank’s disclosure of human rights, governance, and environmental due diligence commitments for its legacy coal finance portfolio is welcome. However, these issues are relevant not just to coal mining companies but to companies in other sectors as well. Therefore, Bank of America should disclose details of its human rights and environmental transaction screening processes for corporate clients in all high-risk sectors.
The Bottom Line:
With the window for avoiding the worst climate change emissions scenarios rapidly closing, 2015 will be a critical year for the climate. As the Paris climate summit approaches, the banking sector must act decisively to stop financing the production and burning of a fuel that is incompatible with a livable planet. Bank of America’s new coal policy is a major step in this direction. And with Crédit Agricole, Europe’s third largest bank adopting a similar policy later this spring, pressure is building on the rest of the industry to cut ties to coal. This summer and fall, RAN and over 75 other organizations are calling on global banks to meet and surpass Bank of America’s policy by committing to the Paris Pledge and ending financing for coal mining and coal-fired power production. The challenge to other U.S. banks is clear: It’s past time to stop financing coal.
Coal Finance Case Study: Putting Communities and a World Heritage Site at Risk for a New Power Plant
As part of RAN's work to call on banks to commit to the Paris Pledge and end financing for coal and coal-fired power prior to the Paris climate summit this year, we'll be highlighting case studies of destructive coal projects around the world. This case study, authored by Greig Aitken from BankTrack highlights the Rampal coal plant planned for Bangladesh, which would have devastating impacts on communities, a World Heritage-listed mangrove forest, and the climate. Just last month, three of France’s largest banks (BNP Paribas, Crédit Agricole, and Société Génerale) committed to refrain from financing the project.
Bangladesh is extremely vulnerable to climate change. When powerful storm surges hit this low lying country, the world’s largest mangrove forest, the Sundarbans, provides a natural barrier which protects hundreds of thousands of lives. But this could change if a joint venture between India’s National Thermal Power Company (NTPC) and the state-owned Bangladesh Power Development Board (BPDB) moves forward with Rampal, a proposed 1,320 megawatt coal power plant. Construction of the Rampal plant’s associated infrastructure has already been built, jeopardizing the livelihoods of 500,000 inhabitants. Displacement of local residents has taken place in highly irregular circumstances, leading to allegations of human rights violations, including forcible displacement of local communities. Displacement has also disproportionately impacted the Hindu minority community in the region. Bangladeshis from all walks of life have banded together to oppose the project, culminating in 20,000 joining a five-day, 400 kilometer “Long March” from the capital city Dhaka to Rampal to protest the plant. This action and the human rights violations already taking place are the subject of a 2014 documentary film, Long Live Sundarban.
The Sundarbans received UNESCO World Heritage site status in 1997. According to independent environmental assessments, the project would have a range of disastrous and irreversible impacts on the richly biodiverse Sundarbans. In June 2014, UNESCO published a State of Conservation report on Sundarbans, expressing concern about the Rampal project. While there has been no formal acknowledgement to date of international investor interest in the project, it is estimated that the joint Bangladeshi-Indian venture may be seeking up to $1.2 billion in additional financing for the project. However, the project has become so controversial that Norway’s pension fund withdrew investments from all of NTPC in March 2015 after the country’s Council of Ethics recommended excluding Rampal from the fund’s portfolio.
“What Does ______ Have to Do with Rainforests?!”
This week, RAN posted a message of support on Facebook about the courageous civil disobedience by Bree Newsome in South Carolina. And, as a testament to the social justice leanings of our community, our post was met with predominant support.
However, there was also the de rigeur Internet Indignance.
“Why is an environmental group talking about ____?” “What does this have to do with rainforests?!!” “You no longer have my support!” We always expect these responses.
Yet when we touch on issues involving race in the United States, those responses always seem a little louder. And a lot uglier.
Systems Change: It’s What We Do
Of course, Rainforest Action Network is no stranger to civil disobedience or controversy. For 30 years, one of RAN’s core advocacy strategies has been to challenge corporate power and systems of injustice through peaceful direct action. Draping banners on skyscrapers, activists locking down in corporate headquarters, street blockades -- bringing intense public pressure onto the worst of the worst offenders has proven very effective over the years. And while we are most widely associated with environmental advocacy, our work over the past three decades has always been focused against corrupted institutional forces that are responsible for the climate change crisis and rampant human rights violations.
Quite frankly that’s why I work here. Because we as an organization take a macro view of problems in the world and find the levers of change we can grab and, with the weight of justice as our advantage, shift systems.
For us here at RAN, social justice has never been an “extra.” It’s fundamental. It’s a “Yes, and..”.
Yes we work on the rainforest, and climate change, and the financial systems that fuel destruction, and natural places and their inhabitants around the globe. And… a huge factor in those fights is the systemic disregard for laborer rights -- that’s an intentional part of the profit margin for corporations destroying rainforests. And… the theft of traditional lands and displacement of Indigenous peoples is treated as a given, otherwise how could market demand be satisfied? And… forced labor is an allowable risk for massive, global brands, as long as there’s plausible deniability and a murky supply chain that provides cover for makers of chips and ice cream and kids snacks.
These are our fights, too. These are the human rights issues that are fundamental to our work at RAN. They are non-negotiable. They are deal breakers. If corporations that we target do not acknowledge and address these issues, we continue to campaign and shine a light on their actions until they do.
What does racism have to do with your work?
With that as our history and the baseline of our programmatic commitment, we naturally reach out to support those who are fighting systems of injustice here in the United States. And institutional racism is the most entrenched system of oppression and inequality in U.S. history. Here is a good breakdown from Colorlines about the multiple layers of racism in the United States today:
Whether it be another attempt to force a pipeline across a First Nation’s community without consent or the stark reality that in the US “sacrifice zones” disproportionately impact communities of color <link >. These are just two examples of a long list of ways in which a system that is built on multiple layers of racism plays itself out with a negative and deadly impact at the intersections of the environment and humans rights.
I could try to explain how individual acts of civil disobedience can create a larger, ripple effect, but in context Bree Newsome is the best person to explain:
“We discussed it and decided to remove the flag immediately, both as an act of civil disobedience and as a demonstration of the power people have when we work together. Achieving this would require many roles, including someone who must volunteer to scale the pole and remove the flag. It was decided that this role should go to a black woman and that a white man should be the one to help her over the fence as a sign that our alliance transcended both racial and gender divides. We made this decision because for us, this is not simply about a flag, but rather it is about abolishing the spirit of hatred and oppression in all its forms.
I removed the flag not only in defiance of those who enslaved my ancestors in the southern United States, but also in defiance of the oppression that continues against black people globally in 2015, including the ongoing ethnic cleansing in the Dominican Republic. I did it in solidarity with the South African students who toppled a statue of the white supremacist, colonialist Cecil Rhodes. I did it for all the fierce black women on the front lines of the movement and for all the little black girls who are watching us. I did it because I am free.
To all those who might label me an “outside agitator,” I say to you that humanitarianism has no borders. I am a global citizen. My prayers are with the poor, the afflicted and the oppressed everywhere in the world, as Christ instructs. If this act of disobedience can also serve as a symbol to other peoples’ struggles against oppression or as a symbol of victory over fear and hate, then I know all the more that I did the right thing”
So whether it be Bree scaling the flag pole, sit-ins in federal buildings, or blocking the arctic drilling rigs in Seattle, it is all linked. It as part of a theory of systems change. A collective effort to change from a system of oppression, othering, and extraction to a system of justice, inclusion, and equity.
For people and planet,
Brad A Schenck - @BradASchenck
Digital Engagement Director
Today, we’re launching a new project to envision a climate-stable future — and brainstorm the strategies to make that vision a reality.
Today, the climate movement is full of unprecedented energy and momentum. Together, we’re marching in the streets and working to shift our institutions away from fossil fuels. We’re fighting coal exports, fracking, oil trains, and dirty energy in our communities. And, of course, we’re ready to engage in civil disobedience to stop the Keystone XL pipeline if and when that time comes.
All of these fights are indispensable to shifting our society off carbon and creating the renewable energy economy. But, with so much of our attention focused on fighting short-term battles, it can be hard to find the time to ask one very important question: is what we’re doing enough—is it enough to change the course of history and prevent the worst? And how can we know if it’s enough, unless we start from a shared vision of what’s necessary and work backwards from it?
Our opponents in the fossil fuel industry have a vision for the future they want to see: a future where oceans and emissions rise unchecked, where extreme energy practices encroach on our communities, and where the worst impacts of climate change are shouldered by those least able to bear them.
But what’s our vision? From our perspective, building a shared vision of what we want to achieve is a necessary and pivotal step toward making that vision a reality. That’s why we’re launching Change the Course: People-Powered Strategies for a Stable Climate. Change the Course is an invitation to dig deep and think hard about what it would actually take to stabilize the climate and create a just transition to a post-carbon future.
Together, we’ll crowd-source a detailed vision of what a sustainable and just future would look like — and brainstorm the strategies and tactics that will get us there.
So ask yourself: what would it actually take to stabilize the climate and create a more just future? What specific things are in your vision of a just and climate-stable future?
The fossil fuel industry and their political allies are pushing us towards climate catastrophe, but a mass social movement can still change the course and chart a new direction toward a just and stable future. The great social movements of history all dared to dream of a completely remade world, despite the prevailing wisdom that things would never change. Now it’s the climate movement’s turn.
After years of pressure on Bank of America, they just announced a new coal mining policy: “Our new policy … reflects our decision to continue to reduce our credit exposure over time to the coal mining sector globally.”1
Translation: Bank of America is dumping coal mining!
This is a huge moment. Bank of America has gone from being the top bankroller of coal to having the strongest global coal mining policy of any major global bank. It’s the result of years of hard-hitting campaigning by RAN, our many front-line allies — and by you and all of RAN’s supporters in this fight. So, thank you for everything you’ve done.
Now, we have to hold Bank of America to its word by rigorously monitoring their implementation of this policy. And second, we have to push other banks to meet or exceed Bank of America’s coal mining policy. There are just a few short years left to meet the challenge of climate change. We need to build on this victory to stop the coal industry using big banks as ATMs.
I’m posting this from the Bank of America shareholder meeting in Charlotte, NC, where I came to hear today’s announcement in person. RAN has been at this meeting every year since 2011 to make the case that the bank should divest from coal mining. I'm thinking about the many allies whom we have stood here with throughout this campaign. Allies like Paul Corbit Brown, whose stunning photographs and eloquent advocacy have made it impossible for Bank of America to ignore the destruction that mountaintop removal coal mining has done to his home state of West Virginia. Allies like Pat Moore, who was so outraged by Bank of America funding the coal-fired power plants in her community, while her granddaughter suffered through asthma attacks, that she led a civil disobedience action here in Charlotte. I’m thrilled to share this moment with them.
When we started this campaign in 2011, most banks were basing their wafer-thin “climate commitments” around efficient lightbulbs in their branches and green-certified headquarters. Other banks felt that modest investments in renewable energy allowed them to ignore their huge investments in fossil fuels. After four years of hard work, Bank of America's coal mining policy represents a sea change: it acknowledges that they're responsible for the fossil fuels that they bankroll. This is a huge paradigm shift.
When we first approached Bank of America about instituting a responsible coal policy, they told us they were “diametrically opposed to our position on coal”. They said they aspired to be “number one in every sector” — including the fossil fuel sector. We took on Bank of America because they were the hardest target: they were the most resistant to stopping doing business as usual.
Today, with Bank of America’s new coal policy, we’ve reached a huge milestone. Now we have to make sure they’re as good as their word. Will you help us do that by chipping in today?
This new policy is the strongest to date of any global private-sector bank — but it can’t be the only one. Across the financial sector, we don’t need big banks to change the lightbulbs at their corporate headquarters, we need them to stop bankrolling fossil fuels that are killing the climate. Coal, oil and gas need to be left in the ground.
We’re going to push other banks to own up to the climate consequences of their financing decisions, and meet or exceed Bank of America’s policy. Time is running out to stop catastrophic climate change. We can’t meet the challenge of our era unless the big banks profiting from fossil fuels drop their support. Along with our allies — and supporters like you — we’ll build on today’s success to turn this into a truly sector-wide change.
But we can’t do it without you. Support that work today!
P.S. To celebrate the hard work of our allies and supporters in this fight, we’ve put together a timeline of key moments in the years-long campaign against Bank of America. Check it out!
1. “BREAKING: Bank of America dumps coal mining in sweeping new policy”, Rainforest Action Network, http://www.ran.org/breaking_bank_of_america_dumps_coal_mining_in_sweeping_new_policy
This post was last updated on May 20th, 2015.
Bank of America has gone from being the top bankroller of coal to having the strongest global coal mining policy of any major global bank. That's the result of years of hard-hitting campaigning by Rainforest Action Network (RAN), our many front-line allies — and by you and all of RAN's supporters in this fight. So, thank you for everything you've done! Here's a snapshot of the past four years.
RAN warns six banks, including Bank of America, that we are preparing to launch a campaign, by serving "On Notice" orders to "Cease and Desist" their financing of coal.
We announce our Bank of America campaign with a "Billionaires for Coal" protest at a San Francisco branch of the bank.
In an advocacy meeting, Bank of America tells RAN that they are "diametrically opposed" to our position on coal.
RAN teams up with Reverend Billy and Occupy Wall Street to lead a protest to a Bank of America branch at Zuccotti Park in New York. The People's Mic says:
We can imagine a world where people's health and communities come before corporate profits. Right now the country's biggest banks are trashing our economy, trashing our communities' health, and fueling our climate crisis. And Bank of America is the worst of the worst. It is the ATM of the companies that are bankrolling the coal industry and they are standing in the way of our future.
Over 60,000 customers close their Bank of America accounts during our "Move Your Money" initiative. We launch a banner action at Bank of America headquarters in Charlotte, NC.
All 85 Bank of America ATMs in San Francisco are transformed into Truth Machines, inspiring similar actions in cities across the United States.
RAN re-brands Charlotte's Bank of America Stadium as "Bank of Coal Stadium".
Huge coalition calls on Bank of America at their shareholder meeting to put people and planet before profits. Over 1,000 protest outside shareholder meeting and over 100 are inside the meeting.
Bank of America makes an environmental commitment that falls far short of truly solving the problem. Charlotte citizens dump 500 pounds of coal on Bank of America's environmental commitment in response.
Direct action in Charlotte: four simultaneous lockdowns at Bank of America branches. Nine people arrested, including grandmothers Pat Moore (below, right) and Beth Henry.
In the space of three days, students disrupt Bank of America recruitment at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, North Carolina State University, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Boston College, and the University of California, Berkeley.
Bank of America's Annual General Meeting is dominated by approximately 30 frontline community members, medical professionals, students, and faith leaders. They all call on Bank of America to stop funding coal.
Student bank recruitment protests spread to over 70 campuses nationwide.
RAN circulates shareholder sign-on letter, begins engaging major Bank of America shareholders in support of proxy resolution calling for bank to measure and report on climate risks from lending.
A shareholder resolution calling for bank to measure and report on climate risks from lending receives 24% shareholder support.
This post was last updated on May 20th, 2015.
Did you know today is Earth Day?
Did you know that because you’ve been swamped with “Go Green” commercials?
Is your TV and Facebook suddenly filled with polar bears and pollution stats?
That’s not what Earth Day is about.
Earth Day was born out of action -- not slogans.
Through the vision of anti-war and environmental activists, Earth Day sprang to life in 1970 across colleges and universities, primary and secondary schools, and countless communities across the country. On that day, more than 20 million people took action and took the streets to support the planet.
Earth Day is about saying enough is enough. We must take meaningful action now.
So today I’m asking you to join us in our most important actions to preserve our forests, protect our climate and defend the human rights of frontline communities.
- Tell Ralph Lauren it’s time get deforestation and human rights abuses out of fashion.
- Urge President Obama to end coal, oil and gas [giveaways?] leases on our public lands and waters.
- After two years, it’s time for PepsiCo to finally eliminate Conflict Palm Oil from its snack foods.
- Demand the U.S. Export-Import Bank’s Commitment to Not Destroy the Great Barrier Reef through Coal Financing.
- Support the movement for the U.S. Department of Agriculture to adopt dietary guidelines that prioritize the environment.
- Call on the the world’s biggest palm oil traders to enforce an immediate moratorium on the clearance of rainforests and peatlands in the Leuser Ecosystem.
Please Join Us and take action today.
Because from now on, Earth Day is Every Day.
For people and planet,
Brad A Schenck - @BradASchenck
Digital Engagement Director