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