Grassroots Global Justice Alliance

Many struggles, one movement

In the face of conquest, Palestinians’ existence is resistance

Ashley_Sussiya 3By Ashley Franklin, Labor/Community Strategy Center, Grassroots Global Justice Alliance (GGJ)

Ashley was one of two GGJ members who participated in the Grassroots International Travel for Change delegation to Palestine, from October 27-November 6, 2014. Delegates participated in the olive harvest and learned about the struggle of the Palestinian people for self determination and food sovereignty. Stay tuned for a reportback conference call this winter.

To Exist is To Resist

In the face of conquest, Palestinians’ existence is resistance. This was made evident in the 10 days that I spent with the Grassroots International Delegation in Palestine. Below is an explanation of the Israeli occupation through a compilation of Palestinian experiences and resistance focusing on colonial settlement, land grabs, the use of political prisoners to suppress movements through fear, intimidation and dehumanization.

Land Grabs and the Israeli Occupation

As the Israeli Authorities continue on a quest to build an Israeli state, they have used land theft, demolition expansion, and policies of settler colonialism to uproot entire Palestinian families in the West Bank, steal farmland and usurp water supply. A critical component to the Israeli agenda is to use a barrier wall—“apartheid wall” —that surrounds entire villages, isolates others, or threatens to expel villages from their Israeli resident status. Read more of this post

One Struggle: From Burque to the West Bank and Back

Rodrigo_Mohammed Jboor (UAWC farmer)By Rodrigo Rodriguez, SouthWest Organizing Project (SWOP), Grassroots Global Justice Alliance (GGJ)

Rodrigo was one of two GGJ members who participated in the Grassroots International Travel for Change delegation to Palestine, from October 27-November 6, 2014. Delegates participated in the olive harvest and learned about the struggle of the Palestinian people for self determination and food sovereignty. Stay tuned for a reportback conference call this winter.

The occupied territories of Palestine sit almost 7000 miles away from my home in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

IMaizet is literally half a world away. But in many ways it felt like I never left.

I grew up in the occupied territories of the Rocky Mountain west of the North American continent, in the heart of Aztlan. Much like the occupied territories of Palestine it is an intensely beautiful part of the world with an intensely brutal history. It is a history of colonization, of land grabs, and genocide; but also a history of struggle and resistance.

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People’s Climate Activities were Historic… UN Climate Summit, Not So Much.

by Sha Grogan-Brown, Grassroots Global Justice

Ebulletin-banner-PCMYou probably heard this many times last week, but it’s worth saying again—the People’s Climate March on Sunday September 21, 2014 was a major historic event. It was historic because of the sheer numbers who came out to march (it’s being called the largest climate march in history, with estimates around 400,000 people in the streets of New York City). It was historic because the participants and leaders of the march reflected the voices and bodies of the people on the frontlines of the crisis, who are most impacted by climate change and the economic crisis. It was historic because of the way that the grassroots organizing sector and climate policy organizations came together to collaborate in the planning of the march, and laid the groundwork for strengthened relationships and a broader united movement for climate justice.

In the days following the march, people took action to continue pressuring the United Nations and global leaders to take real community-led action on Climate Change. Read more of this post

While UN Climate Summit Makes False Promises, People’s Climate Justice Summit Brings Community-Led Solutions

by Matt Feinstein, Worcester Roots Project

10580238_10152410161510888_6488408035743214878_nIt takes roots to weather the storm, and these roots stretched across most of Manhattan on Sunday for the People’s Climate March (#PeoplesClimate). They then filled Wall Street with creative action and connected globally though discussions in auditoriums on Monday with the People’s Climate Justice Summit, and today will be holding a People’s Tribunal at the Church Center of the United Nations.

CLICK HERE TO WATCH LIVESTREAM of the People’s Tribunal from 10am-5pm Tuesday Sept 23.

Members of the Climate Justice Alliance (CJA) brought thousands of people to participate in the 400,000 person march on Sunday, and hundreds are staying through Tuesday for the People’s Tribunal, to deliver a message to the United Nations that they are not taking the action frontline communities desperately need.

3rd panelThe Summit kicked off with powerful and clear testimonies of how the UN’s climate “action” is in contrast to what the people want and are building through the #OurPower Campaign. We say yes to climate justice, to indigenous rights, to food sovereignty, to public transportation, to zero waste systems, and to a just transition to the next economy. We see through the UN’s false promises and say no to biofuels, no to big dams, no to GMOs, no to climate-smart agriculture, no to the XL pipeline, and no to REDD (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and forest Degradation) and carbon trading in all its forms.

CLICK HERE to read a statement from over 330 organizations representing over 200 million people around the globe calling for the right kind of Climate Action, which is not the kind the UN is taking.

CLICK HERE for press release and contacts for interviews at the People’s Tribunal

In the opening panel of the People’s Climate Justice Summit, speakers were in consensus about rejecting the financialization of nature, but the question arose: might we need to use pieces of this approach to keep corporations accountable or to protect natural resources? Maureen Santos from Henrich Böll Foundation in Brazil points out that it is possible to give value to parts of nature we want to preserve, but that the real danger lies in the marketization of aspects of nature and making them into tradable assets.

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What does environmental justice have to do with tenant organizing?

by John Tieu: CAAAV Organizing Asian Communities

Jeff Lau of CAAAV takes in the view of the Chevron refinery in Richmond CA. Photo by Ryan Sin

Jeff Lau of CAAAV takes in the view of the Chevron refinery in Richmond CA. Photo by Ryan Sin

The Our Power National Convening kicked off on August 6th, 2014 in Richmond CA, a diverse city that houses the Chevron Richmond refinery. This refinery is also one of the larger greenhouse gas emitting factories in the nation. The city itself is an example of what happens when capitalism’s method of exploiting the working class, extracting their profit, and commodifying our environment reaches a peak. An alarming number of people in Richmond have suffered, and are currently suffering from breathing issues such as asthma due to the city’s harmful air. Crime has been consistently high, and disinvestment in the city is affecting urban space. The refinery itself, which provides jobs to a sizeable amount of the population in Richmond, is also a highly unstable and dangerous work environment.

Our Power participants hold a vigil for Richmond residents impacted by the 2012 Chevron explosions. Photo by Shadia Fayne Wood

Our Power participants hold a vigil for Richmond residents impacted by the 2012 Chevron explosions. Photo by Shadia Fayne Wood

At a community vigil on August 6th, participants of the convening learned about and paid tribute to the victims of an explosion that happened at the refinery two years ago in 2012, sending 15,000 to seek treatment.

The city’s population itself is constantly being reminded of their struggles with bombardments of smoke plumes and advertisements from Chevron citing modernization and expansion as positive changes. I’ve never seen or experienced any neighborhood like it on the east coast. A resident in the city of Richmond seems to have almost every aspect of their life permeated by the Chevron corporation, as it seems to always and constantly be in the collective conscience of the neighborhood. As an intern who did not have any background in environmental studies, did not focus on issues in my own neighborhood that dealt with clean air and energy issues, and did not ever have to live in the shadow of a massive refinery, I wasn’t really sure what to expect. I became involved with CAAAV: Organizing Asian Communities this past summer, and had dealt with multiple issues ranging from organizing tenants in Chinatown, to doorknocking in NYCHA owned complexes, to putting on a screening of Delano Manongs, a film about the Filipino Farm Workers movement. While all somewhat varied in its subject, the projects had no readily apparent connections to the themes of the convening, which were mostly based on environmental and climate justice. Throughout the event I struggled to understand my place, as well as CAAAV’s place in the fight for a just transition into a new economic system, when there hasn’t been a direct connection of organization’s work focused on these issues. It had taken the majority of the conference to understand why Grassroots Global Justice would want to send Jeff (a fellow member) and I here to Richmond… Read more of this post

Next Steps for the Venezuela Social PreCOP and the Margarita Declaration on Climate Change

by Tom BK Goldtooth, Executive Director, Indigenous Environmental Network, and member of the GGJ Coordinating Committee

tomGAs a delegate of GGJ to the International Preparatory Meeting for the Social PreCOP on Climate Change, held on the Isle of Margarita, Venezuela, I was always mindful of the question of how to engage, from a grassroots position, coming from a rural Native community. Additionally, as an Executive Director of the Indigenous Environmental Network (IEN), I have a mandate on climate justice in our work with Native/Indigenous communities directly experiencing the effects of a changing climate, extreme weather events, and with some communities; fighting existing and expansion of fossil fuel development.

The Margarita Declaration on Climate Change, as the outcome document from the Social PreCOP included the recognition of the rights of Indigenous Peoples and the human rights of vulnerable communities and peoples, as a result of climate related impacts. This is consistent with the platforms of GGJ, IEN and the Climate Justice Alliance related to the link of rights and climate change. It is also in line with our demand for “System change not climate change” that requires an end to the global empire of transnational corporations and banks. Many of those corporations and banks have roots in the United States. Only a world that has democratic control over resources that is based on the rights of Indigenous peoples, workers (including migrant workers), women’s rights, the rights of future generations and youth, and that respects people will be able to guarantee economic, social, cultural and environmental-climate justice. As we are beginning to know, systems’ change requires a break from the patriarchal society in order to start looking at a new U.S. and global paradigm, from a property rights regime of ownership, to a paradigm that recognizes the rights of Mother Earth, of Nature. This redefines our relationship to the sacredness of the planet and its ecosystems and all aspects of life.

In Venezuela I witnessed civil society, peasants, small farmers and Indigenous peoples coming together to articulate the concerns with the failure of the world leaders within the United Nations climate negotiations (called Framework Convention on Climate Change-UNFCCC) to reach an international treaty-level agreement for real solutions for mitigating the climate crisis. At the recent Conference of the Parties (COP) of the world leaders in Warsaw, Poland in December 2013, frustrations and distrust lead to the walk out of civil society organizations from the Warsaw climate talks. This raised awareness, and shifted the focus to mobilizing people and to send a clear message: “People and communities around the world are already implementing climate-safe, local energy alternatives, just transition and governments should listen to them and not to polluting corporations.” This is the message of Grassroots Global Justice (GGJ), Climate Justice Alliance (CJA) and Indigenous Environmental Network (IEN). This message was also expressed in the Social PreCOP.

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Post Venezuela Social PreCOP Reflections by Diana Lopez

by Diana Lopez, Southwest Workers Union

Recently I was selected to be part of a delegation attending a preparation meeting for the Social PreCOP scheduled for November in Venezuela. I was part of the Grassroots Global Justice delegation along with Ife Kilimanjaro from East Michigan Environmental Action Council and Tom Goldtooth from Indigenous Environmental Network.10416604_10204340322731837_3030574767626517247_n

Southwest Workers Union’s work within North America, the belly of the beast, is grounded in our struggle for justice for people who by systematic design have more obstacles to overcome. Our members come from all over Latino America but most are native to the US/Mexico border region, which became a border through the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo in 1848. Our ancestors where betrayed, lynched, hunted and slaughtered because they were brown, because they didn’t believe in the racist, oppressive laws that were imposed to keep the white, male landowners in power. The same story can be said throughout the Caribbean and the Americas. And while we hold similar histories we also hold similar solutions and ways of organizing around climate change.

This convergence focused around 5 strategic themes that will collectively construct a new climate agreement. Youth, elders, negotiators, organizers and everyone in between were part of these meetings.

  1. Social impact of climate change
  2. Climate ethics:  Differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities
  3. Social participation in decision making Salón Santiago
  4. Fighting climate change. Direct action for Transformation
  5. North-South responsibilities. Commitments by the North to strengthen action in the South.

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Post Venezuelan Social Pre-COP Reflections by Ife Kilimanjaro

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Photo taken by Ife Kilimanjaro

Submitted by Ife Kilimanjaro, Co-Director of East Michigan Environmental Action Council

Climate change is a geo-physical reality, the evidence of which is captured in numerous geologic  formations around the world. The destabilization of natural climate and ecological systems that we are experiencing today, however, are due to unnatural forces. Specifically, climate disruptions, extreme weather events, global warming and similar events are fueled by conditions put in motion by generations of resource intensive industrial production driven by profit, organized to meet the interests of the capitalist ruling race, class, gender and culture.

Solutions to this global crisis must come from a global community concerned about current and future generations’ ability and capacity to live, work, love and create.  Unfortunately governments do not agree on what to do or who should do it.  Well, to clarify, there is consensus that something must be done; but some world leaders say that those who have been polluting longer have a greater responsibility and should shoulder a higher proportion of the burden to reduce emissions, mitigate impacts of climate change on hard hit nations, etc. Other world leaders, such as those from the Unites States, Europe and her other children, contend that current governments and corporations shouldn’t have to pay for the sins of their forefathers and that the playing field ought to be level. (Although we know this is not the case).

At the heart of this difference are questions of historical responsibility, differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities.  Though I am pretty green on the UN process, it would appear that these issues were raised in the development of the Kyoto Protocol, which was adopted in December 1997.  The Kyoto Protocol is an international agreement between member nations to commit to setting binding emission reduction targets. The principle of common but differentiated responsibilities reflects the recognition that countries with a longer history of industrial development are “…principally responsible for the current high levels of GHG emissions in the atmosphere as a result of more than 150 years of industrial activity…” (Quote source). The Kyoto Protocol places a heavier burden on these countries for reducing emissions now and in the future than those who have more recently begun to follow similar paths of development.

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July 17 2014 2 023 2  GGJ delegate Diana Lopez, Southwest Workers Union, San Antonio, Texas (in the red dress) is helping translate for the Spanish speaking Indigenous Peoples participating in the International Preparatory Meeting for the Social PreCOP on Climate Change, at the Isle of Margarita, Venezuela. This was an Indigenous caucus meeting organized by Tom BK Goldtooth, Indigenous Environmental Network, a member organization of GGJ. The indigenous person participating that came from the furthest distance was Mrinalini Rai, from Nepal. Photo taken by Tom BK Goldtooth

GGJ Delegate Tom BK Goldtooth Presents on Social Participation in Decision Making at the Venezuelan Social Pre-COP

July 17 2014 2 019

Tom BK Goldtooth, GGJ delegate, and Executive Director of the Indigenous Environmental Network was a presenter on the thematic topic on Item III. Social Participation in Decision Making.  This was part of the Mesa process on the second day of the historical International Preparatory Meeting for the Social PreCOP on Climate Change, Isle of Margarita, Venezuela. The description of this thematic topic was: Adequate and effective participation of social movements in the decision making process to face the climate crisis.  The guidelines for the discussion was to discuss the question of effective participation of grassroots organizations, local communities, children and youth, indigenous groups and minorities in decision making to face the climate crisis.  Guidelines included: Different forms of social organization, its characteristics and effective forms of participation; Specialized language as an element of exclusion; Gender, cultural and ethnic diversity and equity; Local, national and global participation; and Recognizing traditional knowledge, experience and wisdom. Tom focused on the topic of Indigenous Peoples and did a 10-minute intervention that started out the process for discussion.

These were the talking points that Tom covered:

  1. Indigenous Peoples, from the North and global South have a political, legal and cultural-spiritual relationship within the countries they come from. It is not just social.
  2. Indigenous are not mere stakeholders, but rights-holders, because they are the original-First Peoples in the countries they come from. Indigenous populations are composed of the existing descendants of the peoples who originally inhabited the territory of a country before the arrival of colonizers from other parts of the world, either by conquest, settlement or other means.
  3. Politically, within climate policy initiatives, Indigenous peoples’ consistently reaffirm their rights to self-determination and to own, control and manage their ancestral lands and territories, waters and other resources.
  4. Indigenous peoples have the right to meaningful participation in decision-making matters which would affect their rights, through representatives chosen by themselves in accordance with their own procedures, as well as to maintain and develop their own indigenous decision-making processes and institutions.
  5. Indigenous peoples have a distinct spiritual and material relationship with their lands and territories. The link to their lands and territories are inextricably linked to their survival and to the preservation and further development of their indigenous knowledge systems and cultures, conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity, and ecosystem management.
  6. In order to participate in climate discussions, Indigenous peoples need popular education and training on the topic of climate change and global warming, including the pros and cons of mitigation and adaptation mechanisms. This especially applies to those living in far remote and rural locations. This education and training includes the crosscutting issues, solutions and risks, such as violations of treaty agreements by the U.S. and Canada; violations to the access and right to water; human rights instruments; just transition; etc;
  7. These popular education materials need to be available in the Indigenous Peoples’ language;
  8. The need to de-mystify the negotiating language of climate change within the UN climate meetings.
  9. Apply the provisions of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, especially related to the standards and principles of Free, Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC). Indigenous peoples’ need to be fully informed on all aspects of climate change as a condition for decision making.
  10. Financial mechanisms need to be increased for Indigenous participation in national, regional and international meetings, seminars, workshops and conventions on climate change and its crosscutting issues.

Submitted by Tom BK Goldtooth, IEN and GGJ delegate

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