Women for Soils: Healthy Soils, Restorative Small-Scale Farming and Carbon Sequestration 2017 Training Summary

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Training presenters (left to right) – Precious Phiri, Diana Donlon, Elizabeth Mpofuand Calla Rose Ostrander

Since the rise of industrial agriculture, global food production has become one of the top sources of fossil fuel emissions, biodiversity loss, habitat erosion, pollution and subsequent climate change impacts. However while chemical agriculture pushes us towards climate crisis – small-scale, agro-ecologic farmers are standing up to remind us that healthy soil, diverse seeds and strong farming communities are in fact an essential solution to cool the planet and feed the world in a just and sustainable manner.

As La Via Campesina points out, “policies for sustainable agriculture on a small-scale can not only reduce emissions from industrial agriculture, but can in fact contribute to carbon sequestration in the soil, and through the preservation of native forests and biodiversity.”

In countries around the world, women, who produce 60-80% of all food in developing nations, and 50% of food globally, are rising to protect their soil, seeds, lands and livelihoods.

During the June 2017 WECAN online Education and Advocacy training, ‘Women for Soils: Healthy Soils, Restorative Small-Scale Farming and Carbon Sequestration’ diverse speakers and participants from around the world united to explore topics including women farmers, agro-ecology, peasant farming, and carbon sequestration as part of the solution to the climate crisis, while highlighting farmers’ rights, food sovereignty and ecosystem integrity.

Calla Rose Ostrander, an independent advisor and agent for individuals and organizations committed to balancing the Earth’s carbon cycle, spoke as the first training presenter, sharing background on her engagement with leaders in California and the Western United States to return carbon to the soil through the way we grow, make and dispose of our food, fuel, fiber and flora.

Calla has worked with the California Carbon Campaign, and the the Climate Change Projects Manager for the City & County of San Francisco, where she created and managed the San Francisco Carbon Fund, internal agency sustainability reporting, and lead the update to the community wide Climate Action Strategy under mayors Gavin Newsom and Edwin Lee. She has also  co-authored of the City of Aspen’s first Climate Action and Adaptation Plans and was a Communications Fellow for Rocky Mountain Institute.

Diana Donlon, the Center for Food Safety‘s Food and Climate Campaign Director, spoke next, sharing her experiences from her  work leading Soil Solutions – CFS’s program, communicating the critical importance of rebuilding soil health for food security, fresh water availability, and climate stability. Soil Solutions to Climate Problems, a four-minute film she produced, was screened in the Blue Zone at the 2015 UN Climate Conference in Paris. Diana has worked for a variety of family foundations supporting youth and sustainable agriculture programs, and holds a Bachelor’s degree in History from UC Berkeley, a Master’s in Education from Harvard University and served in the Peace Corps in Morocco.

For ideas from the Soil Solutions team on how anyone and everyone can engage in restoring the soil beneath their feet as a key climate solution – visit their resource webpage here. For a powerful look into the work of one womens farming co-op in Morocco, watch and share Soil Solutions new video here.

Precious Phiri, a representative for the Africa Centre for Holistic Management (ACHM) Hub in Zimbabwe, and with Regeneration International, spoke as the third presenter. Precious has vast training experience working with rural villages in the Hwange Communal Lands region that are implementing restorative grazing programs using Holistic Land and Livestock Management (HLLM). These trainings help rural communities in Africa to reduce poverty, rebuild soils, and restore food and water security for people, livestock and wildlife. Holistic Land and Livestock Management has been successfully used on different landscapes in Africa and many parts of the world.

Precious was born and raised in one of the communities now implementing HLLM, and has been involved as a great influence in helping communities restore land and water, while feeding themselves. She holds a BSc degree in Geography and Geographic Information Systems from the University of Fort Hare (South Africa) and an Executive Diploma in Business Leadership (EDBL) with the Zimbabwe Institute of Management

Scheduled speaker Elizabeth Mpofu, General Coordinator of La Via Campesina, and incredible women leader and farmer from Zimbabwe, was unable to join the call, however we were honored to have the opportunity to hear from her colleague, Terran Giacomini.

Terran is a graduate student at the University of Toronto studying the commons and food and energy sovereignty. Terran is an associate member of Canada’s National Farmers Union, which is a member organization of La Via Campesina, as well as a member on La Via Campesina‘s Climate Justice Collective.  In her presentation she shared thoughts on the importance of Indigenous, peasant-led and local farming in protecting the global climate, and our diverse communities. Click here to explore more resources from La Via Campesinas work with women.

All allies are encouraged to learn more about the fantastic work done by these women and the organizations that they represent via their respective webpages.

Click here for information on the final session of this years WECAN Education and Advocacy Training Series, ‘Rights of Nature: Protecting and Defending the Places We Live’, to be presented on July 12, 2017.

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Reclaiming Our Democracy: Resistance and Renewal

2017 WECAN Education & Advocacy Training Recap Blog

Compiled By Emily Arasim, WECAN Communications Coordinator

With remarkable diversity and great strength, women are standing to lead movements to protect people and planet, calling for systemic change and justice on the issues that we know are inseparable – from gender justice to Indigenous rights, from racial justice to immigrant rights, from climate change to economic inequality.

This moment in history demands that we unite across borders and experiences, and take our collective efforts to another level as we work towards a healthy and just planet in the face of oppressive and dangerous political landscapes. Strategic planning, action and solidarity is needed at every turn.

In this context, the Women’s Earth and Climate Action Network convened a May 2017 online Education and Advocacy training, ‘Reclaiming Our Democracy: Resistance and Renewal’, featuring powerful women leaders who shared pointed analysis and thoughts on how best to organize and pursue grassroots-driven systemic change; make a difference in local and national politics; and much, much more. The training focused on context, processes and examples in the United States, but welcomed the participation of global community members.

Osprey Orielle Lake, Executive Director of the Women’s Earth and Climate Action Network, opened the training with a brief contextualization of the first months of the presidency of the Trump Administration, during which we have seen brazen pushes for pipelines; the resurrection of previously defeated and outdated extraction projects and methods; the attempted dismantling of the US Environmental Protection Agency; the appointment of and collaboration with climate deniers and fossil fuel executives; and the violation of international norms and efforts to address the climate crisis. At the same time, the administration has attacked immigrant rights, workers rights, LGBTQ rights and women’s rights – amongst others.

However as Osprey explained, we are also witnessing the unfolding of a very exciting new chapter of resistance, action and global calls for justice.

“What is really apparent in this insanity is that across the country we are seeing people come together, and this is why we are having this call together today… there is a collective driving force and understanding that we need to stand together for the very future of life on Earth.”

Critically, many of these movements for justice are not just rising to say ‘no’ to violent systems of oppression – but are also offering a bold ‘YES’, as they build solutions and re-vision a healthy world.

Within this upsurge of action, the “power in women rising” has been central, including through the recent Women’s March on Washington, now considered the largest ever march in US history. And indeed, Osprey emphasized, women can and must be at the forefront of the movements to reclaim our power, re-build just economic and political systems, and protect and heal our communities and the Earth – as they are threatened on many levels by the policies and ideology of the Trump Administration. In the realm of climate change, it is women who experience disproportionate impact, be it through the spread infectious disease, food and water insecurity, or structural violence in the aftermath of climate disasters.

In this context, Osprey welcomed training speakers to share their thoughts on how and why women must take back our power; take action for new models of leadership, political participation, collective ownership, and local solutions; and address patriarchy, racism, capitalism as we fight to reclaim democracy and create a viable future for people and planet.

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Training speakers (left to right) – Cindy Wiesner, A’shanti Gholar & Liz Van Cleave

Cindy Wiesner, National Coordinator of Grassroots Global Justice Alliance (GGJA) and Co-Chair of the Climate Justice Alliance (CJA) and the Our Power Campaign, spoke first.

Cindy has been active in the grassroots social justice movement for over 20 years, working previously with groups such as Men Overcoming Violence Everywhere, Mujeres Unidas y Activas, Miami Workers Center and the US Social Forum National Planning Committee. She currently represents GGJA on the International Council of the World Social Forum, amongst other roles. Cindy is originally from Los Angeles and is of Salvadoran, Colombian and German descent and is Queer.

Grounding her presentation in her experiences as a Latina, lesbian, daughter of a domestic worker, and member of a family and community that has confronted a long history of impacts, oppression and resistance, Cindy reflected how in some ways, we are indeed living in unordinary times – however in many other ways, we are simply experiencing the latest and most intense manifestation of deep, systemic injustices that have been playing out globally for far too long.

Providing an inspirational example of how we can reclaim community power and protect people and planet – Cindy shared the work of the Global Grassroots Justice Alliance (GGJA), Climate Justice Alliance and #ItTakesRoots campaign, which focus on “movement convergence” and long term capacity and relationship building between frontline communities to support each other around sites of local struggle, and during key national and international mobilizations, which has most recently included direct actions, rallies and education in 25 cities around Trump’s inauguration, the People’s Climate March and May Day.

Drawing their strength from their intersectional focus – the movements that Cindy works within all see and act upon the vital connection between the struggles to address climate change, neoliberal capitalism, war and militarization, patriarchy, racism and fascism.

“Together, we can face the dangers ahead of us and really build the conditions for our collective liberation,” Cindy explained.

To do it, however, we have to ask and answer some serious questions, which Cindy put forth to the audience including – “What it really means to dare to have hope in this political moment?” and “How do we shift fear into power building, combatting that sense of isolation, mobilizing members, supporting and strengthening each other and our collective power?”.

In closing, Cindy discussed “visionary opposition” – and the need to take action on all fronts, including immediate response mobilization and community defense; policy and advocacy to open political space; and hopeful positive visioning and active daily work for a just transition. She also re-asserted her faith in grassroots, ground-up work as the key to reclaiming democracy and protecting the Earth – explaining that litigation and policy have limits and need major resources – which ultimately means that they cannot be successful without people’s movements. The movements must lead, so that the politicians and lawyers can follow or be left behind.

A’shanti F. Gholar, Political Director for Emerge America, spoke next. For 15 years, A’shanti has been a grassroots organizer and activist for women, communities of color, and progressive causes. Prior to her work with Emerge America, A’shanti served as the National Deputy Director of Community Engagement and Director of African American Engagement for the Democratic National Committee, and has also served as the Manager of National Partnerships for United Way Worldwide, as a political appointee in the Obama Administration at the U.S. Department of Labor, and as the Director of Public Engagement for the 2012 Democratic National Convention Committee in Charlotte, NC.

During her presentation, A’shanti shared vital background on the current status of women in electoral politics, and why and how women across the US must stand up and step up to fill the gap.

According to her data, women are 51% of the US population but hold only 1/3 of 500,000 elected official positions across the country. For women of color, the discrepancy is even more vast and troubling. Critically, she explained then when they do run, women are just as likely to get elected as men – the trouble however, is that women are less likely to seek office to begin with.

On average, women have to be asked 7+ times (even more for women of color) to run for office before she will consider it, due to worries over qualifications, appearance and responsibilities that most men do not entertain. What all this really means, A’shanti explained, is that we all need to be challenging, encouraging and supporting our female friends and colleagues.

“I am asking you today to run for office – so now you can never again say that no one has ever asked you to run to office….Take the lead – please. You are never going to feel truly prepared, and that is fine.”

A’shanti shared key resources and pieces of advice for women interested in stepping into office, including taking in-depth time to map out and build relationships with the key activists, educators, funders and community leaders with whom you can ally; and “owning” your strengths and our flaws to become the most powerful, authentic and capable candidate for your community.

Liz Van Cleve, an environmental media and outreach communications professional and volunteer with the Indivisible Project, took the floor as the final presenter of the training, sharing the story of the Indivisible Project, which began in December 2016 as a grassroots, volunteer driven, public Google Document of strategies to effectively challenge the Trump Administration through engagement with members of Congress.

The guide, compiled by Liz and other former Congressional staffers as they reflected on lessons learned during their stints working in Washington D.C., has been downloaded over 2 million times since December 2016, and used by 6,000+ community driven Indivisible groups to hold actions and engage in powerful advocacy to effect local and national political outcomes.

One Indivisible guide tactic that has garnered attention and traction is the use of town halls, as a part of which local groups organize community meetings and invite their congressional representatives, who most often fail to show up for their community obligations, providing local advocacy groups with a powerful opening to exert pressure and call out the injustices being perpetrated by elected officials who are following the Trump Administration agenda to the detriment of the health and wellbeing of their constituents. [Click here for an excellent read about women mobilizing Indivisible groups in the Southern US].

“Be methodological, be vulnerable, be prepared,” Liz implored, sharing tactics from the guide including best practices for holding face-to-face meetings with representatives; getting the attention of the media; and harnessing tools to tell your own story as you speak out to disrupt business as usual and demand action by political representatives.

Bringing the training to a close, Osprey Orielle Lake of WECAN thanked participants and speakers, and emphasized once again that the best and only way to take back our power is to work intersectionally across communities and across strategies as we engage in politics through strong citizen advocacy or pursuing elected office; build and join grassroots direct action; and support visionary leadership and positive solutions building.

Click here for more information about other past and future Women’s Earth and Climate Action Network (WECAN International) Education and Advocacy Trainings.

Outraged Yet Undeterred In Our Fight For Climate Justice – Women’s Earth & Climate Action Network Responds to US Withdrawal from Paris Climate Accord

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June 2, 2017

Following the announcement by Donald Trump regarding his decision to withdraw the United States from the Paris Climate Accord, the Women’s Earth and Climate Action Network (WECAN) International expresses our outrage and disapproval, and commits to ever-stronger resistance, solidarity, and action across communities, issues, and borders as we rise with allies globally to protect and defend our lands, waters, climate, and children’s futures.

Our thoughts today are with frontline communities who bare the brunt of accelerating climate impacts. We stand in solidarity with our allies from the Amazon, to the Arctic, to the shores of Pacific Island Nations and countless places in between, as we continue to organize ceaselessly to end extraction of fossil fuels and the destruction of the planet for profit and power.

With seven years of engagement with the UNFCCC, WECAN maintains a strong critique of the Paris Agreement, which dangerously lacks a climate justice framework; fails to directly mention fossil fuels despite scientists telling us that 80% of all reserves must remain in the ground; promotes false solutions based on continued commodification of the Earth; and omits operative language on Indigenous and nature rights, and a full gender analysis. However despite these failures, the Paris Agreement remains an unprecedented and remarkable accomplishment in international negotiations, in recognizing that the climate crisis is real, urgent, and that governments must respond in an immediate and meaningful manner.

Trump’s decision to remove the US is self-serving, reckless, unjust and immoral – and stands in glaring opposition to the wishes of the US population, the majority of whom support US involvement in the Paris Climate Accord. It is a move that is illogical, un-strategic and deeply damaging in the diplomatic, political, economical and ecological arenas – with far reaching repercussions for international relations and global climatic health.

The Administration’s reasoning that withdrawal was needed to protect US jobs and economy from an overly demanding accord is simply false, and rather than see a strengthening in either of these spheres, we are likely to see the world forge ahead towards renewable energy and sustainable economies, while the US chokes on the stagnant and poisonous air of its oil-baron driven policies.  

In choosing to continue down the path of economic disparity, corporate greed, environmental racism and commodification of nature, the Trump administration fails to see the stark reality of the climate crisis – a crisis that can only be addressed through confronting and transforming the systemic injustices of our political, social and economic systems from the bottom up.

Fundamentally, the withdrawal is an act of violence against not only citizens of the United States – but against all of humanity and life on Earth. In particular, it is an act of violence against Indigenous people’s, communities of color, low-income and frontline communities, and nations of the Global South, who face direct hardship and life threatening circumstances everyday from mounting climate impacts. Women worldwide, and most especially from these impacted communities, will also bear the brunt of the Trump Administrations regressive choices, as they experience first and worse the effects of spreading infectious disease, food and water insecurity and extreme weather, amongst other impacts.

The Women’s Earth and Climate Action Network finds this wholly unacceptable. In failing to deliver on already dangerously low commitments that the Paris Climate Accord calls for, the current US Administration is bucking its historic responsibility to act, and instead is showing its true face to the world in an ultimate demonstration of its perverse willingness to put profit and corporate privilege over the very lives and futures of people and planet.

However, in this reprehensible moment, the voices of peoples movements, civil society, forward thinking businesses and governments are rising louder than ever to reject climate change denial and attempts to stagnate progress on a climate agreement which, while insufficient and flawed, represents the culmination of decades of work and an unprecedented hope for committed global action on climate.

Leaders of the global movement for climate justice understand that true changes come from the grassroots up – and that it has always been, and will ultimately always be, about concerted local action and local solutions-building to topple structures of oppression and injustice to re-build a livable world for all. Trump has pulled the US out of the Paris Accord, however he will never be able to prevent the continued growth and blossoming of the stunning diversity of solutions and resistance strategies already in motion and growing stronger everyday.

Today and everyday, we the people must speak up and take action without fail. We must continue to organize, claim our community power, and actively build the world that we envision, in resistance to institutions that refuse to break with neoliberal economic agendas and worldviews based on extraction and domination.

If we are to surmount the great challenges we face, we must double down on our efforts to support the leadership of women and frontline communities, collaborate across borders, and creatively build forward with renewed urgency as we take action on all fronts – in the streets, the courtrooms, the forests, the halls of government, the classrooms and the fields.

As the histories shared with us by our Indigenous allies and allies of the Global South make clear, the United States  has reneged on countless treaties and agreements. It is up to us to  be discerning, wise and strong in our action to simultaneously fight back and denounce this dangerous decision, while also turning our energy forward towards the positive solutions that cannot and will not ever be broken by the Trump Administration’s acts of violence and ignorance.

Our work, the work that will define our time and the lives of generations to come, is calling to us now. We as a people’s movement must rise up like the immune system of the Earth herself to demand just, decentralized and democratic systems, to actively build the world that we seek – and to respect and love our magnificent, life-giving planet.

Please join us in action: PARTICIPATE  in our upcoming Women for Climate Justice TrainingsWATCH our call to action videoLEARN about our work in the world.

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Women’s Earth and Climate Action Network representatives in action in Paris during COP21 alongside allies from the Ecuadorian Amazon – Photo via Emily Arasim/WECAN International