WECAN & Women For Climate Justice On The Ground NYC/DC April 2017

Blog & photos by Emily Arasim, WECAN Communications Coordinator

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A handful of WECAN event attendees, allies and outstanding speakers to the ‘Indigenous Women Protecting Earth, Rights & Communities’ forum stand together in solidarity outside of the United Nations in New York City following the event – Photo via Julie Bridham

The oceans are rising and so are the women of the world! Over the course of April 2017, representatives and allies of the Women’s Earth and Climate Action Network (WECAN International) took action on the ground in New York City and Washington DC in parallel to the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, and as part of the People’s Climate March for Jobs, Justice and Climate. Explore the blog to learn more about events, forums and actions, and to access photos and videos, including full program livestreams from ‘Women Leading Solutions on the Frontlines of Climate Change – DC’ and ‘Indigenous Women Protecting Earth, Rights and Communities’.

Indigenous Women Protecting Earth, Rights & Communities –  New York City

“To understand the human rights violations that happened in Standing Rock, you have to understand that those violations did not occur in a vacuum, those violations stems and flow from a historic legacy of genocide, of colonization, of oppression, of land disposition….It is about more than human rights. What I think Indigenous women are articulating is an indigenous women’s liberation theology, to define and create a sacred nation…that we are all related. And part of our ability to do that is to challenge global capitalism.” -Michelle Cook (Diné; human rights lawyer and founding member of the of the Water Protector Legal Collective at Standing Rock, USA)

Photo by Emily Arasim/WECAN

Michelle Cook speaks during the event – Photo by Emily Arasim/WECAN

 Indigenous women around the world are impacted first and worst by the effects of environmental destruction and a rapidly changing climate, this disproportionate impact the result of a dangerous intersection of colonialism, racism and patriarchy. However despite all odds and against great challenges, it is these very same Indigenous women who are rising up, challenging the status quo, holding a vision, and taking action to build the vital solutions needed for a just and livable future for everyone.

During the April 26, 2017 New York City WECAN forum – ‘Indigenous Women Protecting Earth, Rights and Communities’ – we were honored to hear the stories, struggles and solutions of incredible women leaders from across North America and around the world, who shared stories of Indigenous, women’s and human rights violations in their homelands; discussed resistance efforts from Standing Rock to the Amazon; and shared vital thoughts on Indigenous rights, sovereignty and solutions for a just future for all people’s.

We extend the deepest thanks to event supporters, ClimateMama and MADRE, and to all outstanding speakers – Casey Camp Horinek (Ponca; Ponca Nation Council Woman, WECAN Advisory Council Member, USA); Lucy Mulenkei (Maasai; Executive Director of the Indigenous Information Network, Kenya); Kandi Mossett (Mandan, Hidatsa, Arikara; Lead Organizer on the Extreme Energy & Just Transition Campaign with the Indigenous Environmental Network, USA); Gloria Ushigua (Sapara; President of the Association of Sapara Women, Ecuador); Betty Lyons (Onondaga; President and Executive Director of the American Indian Law Alliance, USA); Michelle Cook (Diné; human rights lawyer and founding member of the of the Water Protector Legal Collective at Standing Rock, USA); Heather Milton Lightening (Pasqua First Nation, Cree, Anishinabe, Blackfoot and Dakota; Indigenous Tar Sands Campaigner with Polaris Institute, Canada); Alina Saba (Limbu; Nepal Policy Center, Nepal); and special guest Brenda White Bull (Standing Rock Sioux People’s).

Click here to watch and share the full event livestream of ‘Indigenous Women Protecting Earth, Rights & Communities(Part 1; Part 2; Part 3)

Click here to read event coverage via IPS Inter Press Service – Indigenous Women: The Frontline Protectors of the Environment

Click here to explore the full event photo album

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Brenda White Bull of the Standing Rock Sioux People’s shares a special message with the audience – while supported by panel members (left to right) – Betty Lyons, Casey Camp Horinek, Kandi Mossett and Michelle Cook – Photo by Emily Arasim/WECAN

 People’s Climate March for Jobs, Justice and Climate – Washington DC

Photo by Emily Arasim/WECAN International

WECAN and allies marching as Women for Climate Justice outside the White House during the People’s Climate March in Washington DC – Photo by Emily Arasim/WECAN 

On April 29, 2017 – the Women’s Earth and Climate Action Network (WECAN) joined more than 200,000 people on the streets of Washington D.C. – standing with a diverse coalition of women’s groups, climate justice organization and allies to march as a #Women4ClimateJustice Contingent. In advance of the march, WECAN worked to co-organize the Women for Climate Justice Contingent, including through contribution to a Contingent Toolkit prepared to provide resources, graphics and background analysis for allies marching in their local sister marches.

The People’s March for Climate Justice was organized to take place on the 100th day of the U.S Trump Administration’s term in office. With this in mind, #Women4ClimateJustice raised our voices to send a clear message to the Trump Administration and global leaders that, as women who stand on the frontlines of climate change across the U.S. and across the world, we are gravely concerned about the impacts of climate change, and the implications of a U.S. Administration that promotes climate skepticism, advancement of fossil fuels, an extractive economy, environmental racism, and bigotry and inequitable treatment of women and girls. As part of this work, we are dedicated to changing narratives outside of and within the climate movement, to ensure women are visibized, heard and supported in telling their stories and building climate solutions.

We want our children and all future generations to live in a healthy, just and thriving world – and as we made clear the the People’s Climate March and through our daily struggles – we will rise ceaselessly to bring this world to fruition.

Click here to explore a full photo album of #Women4ClimateJustice at the People’s Climate March

Click here to hear from WECAN ally, Autumn Harry, on why she marched as part of the People’s Climate March.

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Young women lead the way at the front of the People’s Climate March – Photo by Emily Arasim/WECAN International

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Ally Autumn Harry (Pyramid Lake Paiute) with WECAN’s Executive Director, Osprey Orielle Lake, during the People’s Climate March – Photo by Emily Arasim/WECAN 

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WECAN ally Gloria Ushiga of the Association of Sapara Women, Ecuador – alongside WECAN’s Communications Coordinator

Women Leading Solutions on the Frontlines of Climate Change – Washington DC

“We have to apply strategies so that frontline voices are uplifted, so that they are not co-opted, so they’re not replaced, invisibilized…we believe in changing root causes, we understand that climate crisis is not just a crisis of carbon, it’s actually rooted in a much deeper, toxic, polluting origin that affects our communities the worst…and so we do everything to figure out how to do a just transition, how to move away from this extractive economic system that extracts, that abuses labour, that focuses on colonialism and a corporate mindset, that reduces us to consumers..and that is what we have to fix. I think if you focus on climate, that will help us survive, if you focus on people, that will help us win – that will help us return to a regenerative economy where people matter, where women are valued for all they contribute to the world.” – Angela Adrar (Executive Director, Our Power Campaign)

Photo by Emily Arasim/WECAN International

Panelists (left to right) Cherri Foytlin (Indigenous leader, State Director, Bold Louisiana); Pennie Opal Plant (Indigenous leader, Founding Member, Idle No More SF Bay, Co-Founder Movement Rights); Rhonda Hamilton (Ward 6 Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner and Buzzard Point Community Leader); Faith Gemmill (Neets’aii Gwich’in, Pit River and Wintu; Executive Director, Redoil); Leila Salazar Lopez (Executive Director, Amazon Watch) – Photo by Emily Arasim/WECAN International

Immediately following the People’s Climate March in Washington DC, WECAN held a dynamic evening forum, ‘Women Leading Solutions on the Frontlines of Climate Change – DC’ – during which diverse women leaders from across the US spoke out against environmental and social injustice and presented the diverse array of visions and strategies with which they are working to shape a healthy and equitable world for all. Included in the discussion was resistance efforts from Standing Rock to the Amazon; Indigenous rights, environmental racism and frontline communities; the intersection of gender and environment; and women’s leadership and calls for action within a climate justice framework.

Outstanding forum speakers included – Angela Adrar (Our Power Campaign); Tara Houska (Honor the Earth); May Boeve (350.org ); Rhonda Hamilton (Ward 6 Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner); Cherri Foytlin (Bold Louisiana); Pennie Opal Plant (Idle No More SF Bay and Movement Rights ); Leila Salazar Lopez (Amazon Watch); Faith Gemmill (Redoil); Sally Coxe (Bonobo Conservation Initiative); Victoria Barrett (Our Children’s Trust); and Osprey Orielle Lake (Women’s Earth and Climate Action Network) – with special guest Tokata Iron Eyes (13 year old leader of the Standing Rock Sioux Peoples).

Click here to watch and share the full event livestream of ‘Women Leading Solutions on the Frontlines of Climate Change – DC’

Click here to read event coverage via Huffington Post – Who Are The Women Leading the Fight Against Climate Change?

Click here to explore the full event photo album

“My generations is about protecting ourselves from the negligence of those in power…it is about being radical and about breaking down borders together. We don’t want any more of the same, we’ve seen the status quo and we are pretty over it. We are prepared to be unapologietically unconventional, basically. We may be tasked with facing another earth, but honestly, my generation is like no other generation before us…[this is] why I believe that, despite the world we are living in, we will be okay…young people haven’t given up and we’ve only become stronger. We see the seas levels rising around us, and we’ve determined that in order to save all we hold dear, we can only rise with them.” – Victoria Barrett (Youth Plaintiff with Our Children’s Trust)

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Panelists (left to right) – Angela Adrar (Executive Director, Our Power Campaign); May Boeve (Executive Director, 350.org); Tara Houska (Anishinaabe Peoples, tribal attorney, National Campaigns Director of Honor the Earth, former advisor on Native American affairs to Bernie Sanders); Sally Coxe (President & Co-Founder,Bonobo Conservation Initiative); and Victoria Barrett (Youth Plaintiff, Our Children’s Trust)

Solidarity With Our Allies

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Indigenous women leaders Kandi Mossett (Indigenous Environmental Network) and Casey Camp Horinek (Ponca Nation Council-Woman and WECAN Advisory Council Member) outside of the Citi shareholders meeting with organizers and supporters of the divestment action – Photo by Emily Arasim/WECAN International

While on the ground in New York City and Washington D.C. – the Women’s Earth and Climate Action Network was very fortunate to spend time acting in support and solidarity with many diverse allies taking action as part of the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, at the People’s Climate March, and as a part of other actions and events planned to uplift the voices, struggles and solutions of women, Indigenous peoples and communities on the frontlines of climate change.

Photo by Emily Arasim/WECAN International

Women leaders and organizers from New York City lead chants in the rain during a Standing Rock and tar sands pipeline divestment action during the Citi bank shareholders meeting – Photo by Emily Arasim/WECAN International

On April 25th, WECAN took action in solidarity during an Indigenous-led direct action in New York City, where Indigenous leaders and allies advocated outside and inside of the Citi Bank shareholders meeting to demand divestment from the Dakota Access, Keystone XL, TransCanada, Kinder Morgan, Enbridge and other dangerous fossil fuel developments supported by the bank.

Click here to hear from Kandi Mossett (Indigenous Environmental Network) and Casey Camp Horinek (Ponca Nation Council-Woman and WECAN Advisory Council Member) as they share reflections after the action.

In Washington DC, WECAN was present in support of the Indigenous Women’s Press Conference, held by our allies at the Indigenous Environmental Network outside of the White House the day before the People’s Climate March.

“I am here to say money is not power – power is in here [the heart] – and it is within all of us… and you can take my body but my babies are right behind me and we will not stop. We will not lay down. We will not let you take from us anymore….Never before has it been more obvious that silence is consent, and I will not be silent. I will not consent to the rape of Mother Earth any longer. I will not be silent to the loss of our resources, I will not be silent to water in my living room or my children’s home. I will not be silent as oil hits our shores. I will not be silent as our dolphins and turtles die. The time for silence is over.” – Cherri Foytlin, Indigenous Leader and State Director of Bold Louisiana

Click here to watch the impassioned speeches of Cherri Foytlin (Bold Louisiana) and Melina Laboucan Massimo (Lubicon Solar, Indigenous Climate Action) during the press conference.

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Melina Laboucan Massimo, Lubicon Cree First Nation leader with Lubicon Solar and Indigenous Climate Action speaks out during an Indigenous Women’s Press Conferences organized by the Indigenous Environmental Network outside the White House the day before the People’s Climate March in Washington DC – Photo by Emily Arasim/WECAN International

Following the Indigenous Women’s Press Conference, WECAN united with our allies of the #ItTakesRoots Delegation for a powerful action outside of the US Capitol Building, where a diverse coalition of leaders raised their voices and took action to make clear that the diverse people’s movements are drawing a physical ‘red line’ in defense of all we hold dear, as we work together to connect and strengthen our struggles for climate, racial, economic, Indigenous and gender justice.

Click here to watch and share footage of #BlackLivesMatter leaders calling for racial justice, gender justice and climate justice during the #EarthsRedLine action.

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Members of the #ItTakesRoots Delegation, including WECAN allies Kandi Mossett (Indigenous Environmental Network) and Cherri Foytlin (Bold Louisiana) stand in non-violent direct action as part of the #EarthsRedLine action outside the US Capitol building in Washington DC – Photo by Emily Arasim/WECAN International

In the early morning preceding the People’s Climate March, WECAN team members joined Indigenous leaders for a sunrise water ceremony, as well as for a signing of the Indigenous Women of the Americas Defending Mother Earth Treaty. This vital and first-of-its-kind document, composed by and for Indigenous women of the world, unites women of North and South America in defense of the Earth and their communities, and includes a vital call to educate community and take action in your local region at coordinated times every month – learn more here.

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Leaders and signers to the Indigenous Women of the Americas Defending Mother Earth Treaty gather before the People’s Climate March. Pictured here (left to right) – Gloria Ushigua, Pennie Opal Plant, Faith Gemmill, Cherri Foytlin and her daughters.

 In the face of escalating climate crisis and a climate denying US government, people around the world are rising to make clear that we refuse to accept the continued degradation of the Earth and our diverse communities. Without fail, it is the women who are standing at the front of these movements for justice – with fierce and ceaseless love, care and strength.

The Women’s Earth and Climate Action Network sends immense gratitude to everyone who joined us to speak out, strategize, take action and learn with us during events and actions in New York City and Washington DC. Please click here to donate in support of the Women’s Earth and Climate Action Network’s (WECAN International) ongoing work for people and planet.

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Bringing Power to the People: Women for 100% Renewable Energy, 2016 WECAN Training Recap

Blog by Emily Arasim, WECAN International Communications Coordinator

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Wahleah Johns (Black Mesa Water Coalition), Diane Moss (Renewables 100 Policy Institute) and Lynn Benander (Co-op Power) – ‘Women for 100% Renewable Energy: From Installation to Advocacy’ 2016 speakers

In early May 2016, allies from across the US and the world united for ‘Women for 100% Renewable Energy: From Installation to Advocacy’, an open online training presented by the Women’s Earth and Climate Action Network U.S. Women’s Climate Justice Initiative.

Osprey Orielle Lake, Executive Director of the Women’s Earth and Climate Action Network, opened the training with an overview of topics including women’s leadership in movements to end fossil fuel extraction and grow renewable energy, renewable energy within a climate justice framework, and the vital the concept of ‘just transition’.

According to Osprey, climate justice in the context of renewable energy means clean energy solutions that are safe and accessible to all people; that respect natures needs and diversity; that do not involve the pursuit of false solutions such as fracking and large scale hydro-dams; that do not involve the displacement of Indigenous people or local communities; and which give attention and resources first and foremost to frontline communities and those who have been historically sacrificed to dirty energy industries.

She explained that the ‘Just Transition’ to renewables must at its heart incorporate care for workers, families and communities currently involved in fossil fuel production, and be based upon models of decentralization and genuine democracy, with renewable systems planned, owned and benefiting local residents. For WECAN International, a Just Transition also means those with women at the forefront at all stages of planning and implementation.

Focusing in on the U.S., Osprey explained that women direct over 80% of all purchases – one of many potential sources of power to move the country, and the world as a whole, towards clean energy and democratic local economies.

“Power to the people is a very literal phrase,” Osprey explained, “we, and the incredible women you will hear from today, are challenging the status quo, taking back power in our communities, and providing for ourselves the clean power that will allow us to sustain present and future generations, and Earth herself.”

She also reminded all on the call that as less than 5% of the world population, the U.S. is responsible for over 27% of global climate change causing emissions. As women with immense power to effect change, Osprey explained, it is thus the collective and individual responsibility of U.S. women to take action for a just transition to renewable energy, and also pursue systemic change and deep solutions which address overconsumption and deeply unequal distribution – working together to “live better not more”. We must simultaneously transition to clean energy while seriously decreasing over-consumption and unsustainable lifestyles.

Diane Moss took the floor as the first guest speaker. 

Diane is a co-founder of the Renewables 100 Policy Institute and founder of Dima-Media, which specializes in sustainability-related projects, companies and campaigns. Diane is also an independent energy strategies consultant, and has worked with several non-profit organizations, including Friends of the Earth and Heinrich Boell Foundation, as well as various clean tech companies. She has served as US policy advisor to World Future Council, as environmental deputy to United States Congress-member Jane Harman, and as an intern to the Costa Rican Ambassador to UNESCO in Paris. Diane studied at Harvard and New York University, and completed a thesis program in political science in Paris.

Diane began with a bold statement, whose truth is becoming more apparent everyday: It is not a question of if we transition to renewable energy, but of when, how, and with whom leading the way and profiting?

She highlighted 2014/2015 as a “watershed” year for action and ambition for renewable energy, bringing the topic “from pipe-dream to main stream”, with groups as varied as large corporations, neighborhood groups, state governments, and international institutions such as the G7, UNESCO and United Nations beginning to discuss encourage and move towards implementation of 100% renewable energy targets.

According to recent reports, resources and maps by the Renewables 100 Policy Institute and allies, more than 8 countries, 55 cities, 61 regions, 9 utilities, and 10 nonprofits/educational/public representing over 54.9 million people have committed to going 100% renewable in at least one sector in coming years and decades.

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Image from Diane Moss 2016 PowerPoint

Diane discussed Vermont and Hawaii as two powerful examples of citizens ability to effect change and push for a just transitions in the U.S., and highlighted the vital fact that it is rarely political representatives that introduce renewable energy, but rather it is by the will and drive of strong local leaders that renewable energy gets on the table and is actualized.

Diane shared six basic tools available to advance renewable energy, including:

  • 100% renewable energy targets with implementation plans, procurement requirements, milestones (to be set within schools, neighborhoods, cities, place of worship and at other scales, big and small)
  • Renewable portfolio standards (state policies that set targets for how much renewable energy the local or regional utilities must have in their procurement – ex. Hawaii with the goal of a 100% renewable portfolio standard by 2045)
  • Community local choice programs
  • Net zero energy building targets and codes
  • Net metering (get credits for the renewable power you generate; major driver for rooftop solar but under attack by utility companies in some states)
  • Federal tax credits (great tool, but with problems in current form, which gives greatest benefit to those with high incomes)

She ended by stressing the importance of an integrated and holistic view as we seek to change policies, making clear that energy cannot be separated from other critical issues including food, water, consumption and daily decisions to pollute or protect the planet. 

Wahleah Johns, Solar Project Manager with the Black Mesa Water Coalition (BMWC), spoke next. Wahleah comes from the Dine (Navajo) Nation and the community of Forest Lake, one of many atop Black Mesa in what is now north-east Arizona, USA, Turtle Island. She is a founding member of the Black Mesa Water Coalition, and it’s longest standing staff member. In her several years at BMWC she has taken on various roles, helping lead groundbreaking legislative victories for groundwater protection, green jobs, and environmental justice across the Dine Nation, Arizona and the U.S. Southwest. Wahleah is also a member of the Navajo Green Economy Coalition, working to educate the local community and lobby at the federal, state and tribal levels on behalf of maintaining balance with nature and building self-sustaining Indigenous communities.

In her current role as BMWC’s Black Mesa Solar Project Coordinator, Wahleah is working out of the Bay Area, California to gain organizational expertise and support for transitioning Black Mesa’s reclaimed mining lands into solar farms.

Wahleah began her presentation with a background on the Dine (Navajo) Nation and it’s dark history with uranium, coal and other toxic mining.

There are more than 300,000 people living across the Dine Nation, which stretches some 27,000 square miles across what are now the U.S. states of New Mexico and Arizona. Wahleahs community of Forest Lake sits next to one of the largest coal mine strips in the country, touted for providing “affordable power” for the region. However, as Wahleah’s powerful presentation highlighted, the devastation wrought on the Earth and Dine communities like Forest Lake make clear that this power is not “affordable”, nor excusable.

Most of the energy created through exploitation of Dine lands is sent to power nearby cities in Arizona and California – while over 32% of Dine homes lack access to electricity and 38% go without running water. The Navajo Generating Station (not owned by the Dine people, despite the name) processes toxic coal to power the Central Arizona Project (CAP) water canals, which carry water across the dry state to booming cities, luxury residences and unsustainable agricultural areas.

Mining companies are adding insult to injury by sucking up billions of gallons of water from the pristine ice age Navajo Aquifer, the lifeline of the parched desert region. Wahleah reported that over 3.3 million gallons of water are used everyday by Peabody coal for operations on Dine lands, drying up sacred water springs, wells and rivers vital to cultural, spiritual, economic and physical survival.

The environmental racism and disregard for Indigenous rights and wellbeing is brutally apparent.

In 2006, Black Mesa Water Coalition and regional allies pressured tribal leaders to demand the end of the use of Peabody Coal’s slurry lines, citing dire threats and impacts on fresh water sources. Since initial struggles and victories, Wahleah and her colleagues have been spearheading growing discussions and action groups to figure out what it really means to shut down coal and uranium mines, generating stations and pipelines in communities that have been polluted and made dependent on extraction for decades.

BMWC, under the leadership of Wahleah and the outstanding climate woman, Jihan Gearon, is resisting new mining and infrastructure, and researching ways to repurpose brown and leach fields, with the goal of reclaiming a sizable portion of the 14 thousand acres of mined land for use in new solar projects. Arizona has 300+ days of sunshine a year, with seemingly endless renewable potential.

Among many goals, the Black Mesa Solar Project aims to replace the dirty Navajo Generating Station coal used to power the CAP with solar energy, owned by and benefiting Dine communities.

Wahleah and colleagues are learning how to deal with old infrastructure, roads and toxic dumping, and moving forward with an off grid solar install (like the amazing Lubicon Solar project in the middle of the Canadian Tar Sands), thus forging a path for the Dine people to have access to and lead the just next system that climate activists around the world are calling forth.

Groups and individuals across the Navajo nation are beginning to collaborate, collect recommendations and build action plans of how to move forward collectively and as a tribal nation, shedding a toxic legacy and seeking out a new path based on sustainable living and Indigenous sovereignty.

In starting solar power projects on reclaimed lands, held in community hands – Wahleah and other Dine leaders and community members are building hope and directly challenging the unsustainable status quo that has exploited their people for generations

As they build the transition on Dine lands, Wahleah and colleagues are drawing upon their rich culture and the knowledge and vision of their ancestors, building solar and passive energy homes in the style of traditional Dine hogans, and translating renewable energy resources and technical information into the Dine language.

Wahleah discussed renewable energy and the Just Transition as a way to enliven spiritual and cultural connection, touching on work to reach out to children, youth, adults and elders by connecting renewable energy information with traditional knowledge and storytelling about the sun and Dine thought on relationship to light and the sacred directions. According to Wahleah, Dine stories recount that the sun has always helped their people overcome challenges.

Wahleah ended by explaining that a Just Transition remands reciprocity and justice for those, such as the Dine (Navajo) Nation, who have had their lives, water, health and cultural and spiritual connection to their homelands denigrated by decades of fossil fuel extraction. She reminded participants that while much attention is given to exploitation and horror abroad, within the wealthy Northern Nation, Indigenous communities have also been and continue to be sacrificed to bring luxury, comfort, and energy those with institutionalized power and privilege.

Within this context, it is clear that the movement for renewables and just climate change solutions must be diverse and open, and shaped by Indigenous peoples, low-income communities and marginalized people of all forms.

“100% renewable energy really resonates with Indigenous communities – it means the ability to control our own destiny, to build self reliance and sovereignty – this is what clean energy can provide is it is done right,” Wahleah explained.

She emphasized that the team working on Black Mesa is still finding their way everyday, learning lessons for themselves and all communities on the frontlines struggling against extraction and the legacy of colonialism. She reflected on the many invaluable allies who have helped her and Black Mesa make model business plans, and grow their understanding of markets and potential for creating an effective renewable system.

“We do this work for future generations, for the health of our communities, and because of our deep understanding of our connection to everything, “ Wahleah reflected in her closing comments.

Her work, and that of Black Mesa Water Coalition as a whole, is part of a long line of Indigenous rights, environmental racism and anti-extraction work led by courageous Dine leaders over the decades.

Lynn Benander took the floor as the final presenter of the day.

Lynn Benander, CEO and President of Co-op Power, works tirelessly to build community ownership of renewable energy resources in New England and New York, USA. She has worked for many years to support the development of consumer, producer, worker-owned and other locally-controlled businesses that meet basic needs for energy, food, and shelter. Ms. Benander has raised more than $25 million in development grants, renewable energy grants, and financing for business development. She lives in Shelburne Falls, Massachusetts and serves on numerous cooperative and community boards and on her town’s energy and finance committees.

Lynn shared the story of Co-op Power as a powerful example of what is possible when a “multi-race, multi-class movement” unites to build locally owned and operated renewable energy systems.

Co-op Power is a consumer-owned sustainable energy cooperative, which operated within a network of co-ops that together support 22 ‘Green Enterprises’, 200 ‘Good Green Jobs’ and a growing group of over 7,000 people across Massachusetts and Vermont.

Using the locally owned co-op model, every community involved with Co-op Power decides what approach and type of renewables they wish to use, and then works collectively to ensure that energy is created and distributed in a just and inclusive way. According to Lynn, women are playing a key role on every level of community renewable energy development, as project catalysts, investors, activists, policymakers, supporters, organizers, and builders.

Through their diverse network, Co-op Power members are learning how to reclaim their power and take back the commons through green job and installation training, environmentally sustainable renewable choices, just and open renewable financing options, and local planning, installation and benefit.

The transition to renewables is about the “power of the people to build local, living economies,” Lynn explained, stressing that truly effective systems must be firmly grounded and supportive of local resilience and sovereignty.

During her presentation, Lynn decried the current U.S. renewables tax incentive structure, which supports wealthy investors more than local communities, families and small scale projects, and stressed the need for new enabling legislation to make renewable energy accessible to all.

Despite the gap in policy support in much of the U.S., grassroots urban and rural solar projects are popping up in inspired communities across the country, from the rooftops of low-income housing units in New York City, to the tops of greenhouses in California and beyond.

In closing, Lynn drew attention to the Energy Democracy Movement and one of its key leaders, Denise Fairchild, and shared the Co-op Power ‘5 Years to Energy Freedom’ plan, which asks people to pledge to reduce energy consumption by 50%, and then work towards using renewables to supply the other half of their energy needs.

‘Women for 100% Renewable Energy: From Installation to Advocacy’ concluded with a Question and Answer session exploring topics including the sourcing of renewable, fairly traded materials for clean energy technology; the developing US solar market; energy efficiency; what reciprocity for frontline community looks like in action; and questions about the effectiveness of working inside the system versus outside the system (using tools such as non-violent civil disobedience) in pursuit of timely action to #KeepItInTheGround and transition to renewables.

Learn more about past and upcoming US Women’s Climate Justice Initiative Trainings here.

Training Resources

 

Uplifting Rights of Nature to Protect Our Living Earth: 2016 WECAN Training Recap

Blog by Emily Arasim, WECAN Communications Coordinator

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Living forests of the Ecuadorian Amazon – Photo by Emily Arasim

For just and effective climate change solutions, we must transform dominant economic, legal, social, political and cultural frameworks surrounding our relationship with each other and the living Earth.

On April 25, 2016, activists, educators, students, mothers and many other diverse allies joined together to explore this vital concept via an open online training, ‘Rights of Nature: Protecting and Defending the Places We Live’, presented by the Women’s Earth and Climate Action Network (WECAN) International.

Over the course of the training, presenters Shannon Biggs (Movement Rights) and Osprey Orielle Lake (WECAN) shared the paradigm-shifting work of Rights of Nature, and explained how it is already being used around the US and the world to challenge legal systems based on exploitation of the Earth, and instead usher in a new set of frameworks based upon the inherent rights and natural laws of Mother Earth.

Osprey Orielle Lake began the training by presenting an overview of the dynamic international Rights of Nature movement.

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WECAN presents at a Rights of Nature press conference in Paris during the UN 2015 COP21 Climate Negotiations. Pictured left to right: Tom Goldtooth (Indigenous Environmental Network), Osprey Orielle Lake (WECAN) and Pablo Solon (Fundación Solón) – Photo by Emily Arasim

Osprey is the Founder and Executive Director of the Women’s Earth and Climate Action Network, working internationally with grassroots and Indigenous leaders, policymakers and scientists to mobilize women for climate justice, resilient communities, systemic change, and a just transition to a clean energy future. Osprey serves as co-Chair of International Advocacy for the Global Alliance for the Rights of Nature and as a member of the Bay Area Alliance for the Rights of Nature, acting as a judge and secretariat at numerous Rights of Nature Tribunals and events in recent years. She is the author of the award-winning book, ‘Uprisings for the Earth: Reconnecting Culture with Nature’.

For Osprey and WECAN International, encountering Rights of Nature was a breakthrough, defining moment which allowed the organization to begin to address climate change at the deep systemic level that crisis of this magnitude demands – a level that confronts and calls for changes in our entire way of being, from the personal to the political.

“Rights of Nature is a revolutionary and evolutionary concept – which at the heart, at a very deep level, can address the dysfunctional economic and legal frameworks that are currently destroying people and planet,” Osprey began.

“After decades of environmental protection laws, which have had some notable successes, we can see that modern legal frameworks overwhelmingly fail to prevent the threats of climate change, degradation of our ecosystems and the growing displacement of humans and other species. So to live sustainably, we really need to change the very DNA of our legal frameworks,” she continued.

Osprey explained that the vast majority of modern legal frameworks treat nature as property, meaning that life giving forests, mountains, rivers and lakes can be sold, consumed and devastated under the protection of trade, property rights and commerce laws.

Because the Earth is treated as property, it has no legal standing of it’s own, rendering violations and harms to the Earth invisible in the modern ‘justice’ system.

“Yes we have environmental laws, but who is writing them? Yes we have regulation, but they are just giving limits to pollution, not attempting to halt it.”

“It is clear that we cannot solve this crisis by further subjecting the Earth to the very same system and worldview that caused this crisis,” she explained, outlining how capitalism and extractive modern economies inherently and by their very nature rely upon this legalized ownership of the Earth.

According to Osprey, the consequences of dominant legal frameworks reach deeper than just empowerment of destructive economics and failure to protect the growing threats of climate change.

“In adhering to current structures of law, we are furthering a dangerous human relationship with the natural world, and a vision of exploitation that cannot be allowed to continue. It all comes from, and continues to support this old paradigm, based in patriarchy and colonialism. A paradigm of ‘dominion over’ – dominion over women, dominion over the Earth, and dominion over Indigenous cultures. This is why at WECAN our four founding principles are the Rights of Women, the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, the Rights of Nature and the Rights of Future Generations. ”

“Just as we recognize that it is wrong for men to consider women property, we really need to have an entirely different legal configuration that recognizes that Earth’s living systems are not the property of humans,” she continued.

Osprey went on to share inspiring news – action to challenge dominant systems of law and usher in a vision of rights and respect for the living Earth is not just theoretical, but rather is being put into action by a growing body of organizations, communities and countries.

Countries like Bolivia and Ecuador have adopted Rights of Nature measures within their national constitutions (albeit with serious problems in implementation). In New Zealand, a river has been giving legal rights and standing. Across the US and beyond, communities are passing local Rights of Nature ordinances to stop fracking, GMO’s, corporate theft of water and much more.

“Rights of Nature is a tool to directly stop corporate activities by raising human and Earth rights above those of the corporations,” Osprey emphasized, “We can change our laws, and we have the right to do that.”

With this strong vision, Rights of Nature thus emerges as a tool to challenge extractive industries, corrupt trade deals, carbon trading and false climate solutions, while also opening a door for personal and collective return to a life affirming relationship with the Earth.

“There is a real need to also change our fundamental personal values and what we uphold as meaningful in our lives…In this sense the development and implementation of Rights of Nature is best understood as a deep and necessary shift in our human understanding of our tie to Earth, as well as a change in legal and economic structures. It is about changing our values, our laws and our culture at the same time.”

In closing her presentation, Osprey highlighted a parallel and deeply interconnected movement from Indigenous leaders of South America.

“‘Sumak Kawsi’ or ‘Buen Vivir’, ‘good living’ has been described by Indigenous allies in many ways, including living in ecological and economic balance; harmony in relationships; personal and collective growth appropriate to local conditions; good health; living well in community, including the larger ecologic community; and a worldview centered on a “living cosmos that we are part and particle of.”

Sumak Kawsi is a worldview poised to helping bring life and actualization to the critical ideas encompassed within Rights of Nature.

Another avenue through which Rights of Nature are being put into action is International Rights of Nature Tribunals, a growing body of events in which expert judges and witnesses try diverse cases of Earth rights violations to demonstrate how Rights of Nature could be implemented, and the incredible momentum and results that can be engendered by their use. Osprey closed with a short video on the recent Tribunal in Paris during COP21 climate negotiations.

As the enchanting final words of Casey Camp Horinek (Ponca Nation) closed the video, Shannon Biggs took the floor.

Shannon Biggs is the Co-Founder and Director of Movement Rights, an organization born in 2015 out of 12 years of work with Global Exchange, where she served as Director of Development before beginning the Community and Nature’s Rights Program.

Shannon is a leading international speaker, author and activist on the growing movement for Rights of Nature, and is the co-author of two books and many reports, including ‘Building the Green Economy: Success Stories from the Grass Roots’ and ‘The Rights of Nature’. She is a lecturer of weekend ‘Democracy Schools’ that explore the rights-based framework for change, and leads Rights of Nature trainings around the country and world.

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Shannon Biggs presents on fracking as a violation of the Rights of Nature at the International Rights of Nature Tribunal in Paris during COP21

Shannon began her presentation my framing two critical questions – ‘What would it look like to live in a world in which the Rights of Nature are upheld?’ and more importantly, ‘How do we get there?’.

Shannon’s reply to the second question was short and powerful; “System change starts where you live.”

Through Movement Rights and other allied organizations, Shannon is working to build towards system change by “shifting law and culture”.

Her works sits at the intersection of Rights of Nature and community rights, focused on helping communities take back power in their locale by writing new laws that recognize their right to protect the Earth and determine what happens in their community, effectively placing their rights and Earth Rights over the supposed ‘rights’ of corporations.

“We are told that things like fracking, or dams or water withdrawals or the many other things that makes our homes sacrifice zones, we are told that we don’t have the ability to say no to say to those things,” Shannon explained.

“…but the kind of rights we are talking about are not gifts from governments, the kind of rights we are talking about are inalienable – the right to clean water, clean air… We cannot give these away and this is not something the government can grant us.”

“So our work is about changing the rules. If the law is standing in the way of us protecting our children, protecting our families, protecting Nature – then it is time to change the law and change where decisions are made.”

“Imagine, for example, what would it look like for the Gulf coast if the ecosystem had rights in a court of law to sure BP for full restoration? How quickly would we have changed how deep sea drilling is done, or if it is done at all?” she questioned.

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Shannon Biggs and Osprey Orielle Lake pictured in front of open hydraulic fracking flares in North Dakota, USA – Photo by Emily Arasim

Shannon framed law as “how we use power to make real a worldview”. Currently, law is empowering a worldview based on patriarchy, rights and dominion over the Earth and endless material growth, but this need not be the case. In challenging and changing law, we break down structures of power and dangerous worldviews.

“History shows us again and again that culture changes law, and law in turn broadly changes culture,” Shannon explained, drawing attention to Right of Nature as a continuation of the trajectory of past peoples movement for rights, including movements to abolish slavery and fight for women’s rights.

Shannon also spoke deeply to the centrality of Indigenous rights and leadership within the context of Rights of Nature.

“This is a time for Indigenous leadership. This is about learning from the original instructions… and this is what we need most desperately – how do we begin to restore our relationship with the Earth – in our mind states, laws and cultures?” she reflected.

“Indigenous people are standing up at this time, all around the world, to showcase how to protect the Earth. They are the defenders and protectors of the most biodiverse places on Earth, and from them we have so much to learn about how to live in balance. As part of Rights of Nature we must support global communities to make sure that Indigenous lands stay in Indigenous hands.”

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Casey Camp Horinek (Ponca, Oklahoma) and Gloria Ushigua Santi (Sapara, Ecuador) standing in mutual solidarity in Paris for the COP 21 (in front of their respective portraits by Mona Caron. Photo via Movement Rights.

Shannon closed by sharing the case of Tamaqua Borough, Pennsylvania, USA, the first global community to enact a local Rights of Nature ordinance.

In the face of attempts to fill a nearby mine site with contaminated sludge, citizens organized successfully to create a local law declaring the right of the ecosystem to be free from further contamination. Since this 2006 victory, the movement has spread quickly.

“What started as a ripple in the pond in Tamaqua Borough went to Ecuador, to Bolivia, to New Zealand, to India and it also came back to countless small communities who began asking ‘how can we do that here?’.”

Shannon noted that most Tamaqua Borough residents did not necessarily see themselves as environmental defenders, or as beings spiritually connected to the Earth, but rather saw Rights of Nature as a practical and effective tool for community, home and land protection.

“This is very important to consider as we explore how this movement can grow and spread. We must meet and start where people are.”

Nonetheless, Shannon explained that recognizing Rights of Nature and the legal standing of the Earth does ultimately means taking responsibility for our personal stewardship, recognizing that we are part and parcel of the Earth, and involving ourselves in organizing and action to defend and ensure that her rights are effectively and justly upheld once recognized.

Shannon closed by sharing information about the Bay Area ‘What Would The Delta Say? Rights of Tribunal’, held in April 2016 in the San Francisco Bay Area.

The Tribunal was used as a stage to discuss and try corporate and state actors seeking to build tunnels to take water from Northern to Southern California to spur development and continued fracking and oil drilling.

“Through the Tribunal we want to give a voice to the Delta ecosystem. It is an opportunity for the fish to speak, for the marshes to speak, for us to truly look at how this affects the people and ecosystems of the Delta. It is an opportunity to pursue environmental justice and to envision a world in which rights were upheld.”

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Mobilizing to protect the Bay Area Delta. Photo via Movement Rights.

In closing the training, Osprey framed Rights of Nature as a powerful tool to take back power in our communities, reassert our democracy, and challenge corrupt ‘1%’ governance structures facilitating environmental and social abuses around the world.

The training ended with a fascinating Questions and Answer session in which participants delved into topics including the applicability of Rights of Nature to movements to protect seeds, farmers rights, and stop GMOs; connection between Rights of Nature and work to defend and support land defenders; Rights of Nature as an element of preparations and community capacity developments for Treaty negotiations of Indigenous peoples in US, Canada and beyond; problems with commodification of the Earth and assigning monetary value to ecosystem functions; and reflections on identity, “deep and ancient reciprocal relationship” and our sacred interconnection with the Earth.

More information about this and other recent WECAN US Women’s Climate Justice Initiative Education and Advocacy trainings available here.

Rights of Nature Training Resources (shared by presenters and training participants):

 

 

Women In Defense Of Territories, From Their Bodies – Mujeres En Defense De Territorios Desde Sus Cuerpos

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Women land and community defenders of the Ecuadorian Amazon stand for justice and an end to oil extraction during an International Women’s Day March – March 8, 2016 – Photo by Emily Arasim

English – WOMEN IN DEFENSE OF TERRITORIES, FROM THEIR BODIES

Throughout memory and history, women have always fought shoulder to shoulder, weaving movements, building roads and reducing inequalities

By Kiyomi Nagumo, WECAN Coordinator for the Latin America/Caribbean Region

National commitments made under the Paris Agreement, aiming to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases and avoid climate crisis, focus on providing mechanisms for adaptation and mitigation, and work to quantify losses and damages. Structures of global governance have the same focus, hoping that participating countries will meet their goals and objective.

Global activists however, are demanding systemic change, a transition of our energy models and above all, an end to exploitation of natural resources and intensive production systems, all with focus on gender equity and equality, inter-generational justice, respect for Indigenous territories, Indigenous rights, human rights, and a guarantee of access to participation and climate justice for all.

Despite all this – countries like Honduras, Ecuador, Bolivia, Brazil and Peru have opened their development policies in favor transnational corporations under the structure of overexploitation of natural resources and the opening of its tropical forests for exploration and extraction of hydrocarbons, construction of mega energy projects, etc. These energy policies pollute, emit high levels of greenhouse gases, and critically violate fundamental rights of Indigenous peoples and rights of women and their communities, causing environmental disasters, generating environmental violence and deeply affecting Mother Earth.

It is these same women who are violated that come to fight for respect for themselves and their territories – seeking equality and the reduction of inequalities, and working to create real governance regarding the management and conservation of natural resources located in their territories. They are the ones who have come repeatedly to the defense of water, forests, and the biodiversity of their lands, ecosystems, communities and peoples.

From the core of their bodies, out from under the social and familial roles ascribed to them by a patriarchal system, women have raised their voices, have mobilized, organized, revealed and fought, but they still too often remain violated, silenced, intimidated, arrested, raped and murdered.

So to talk about a systemic change necessitates self-questioning and questioning of others; if these development policies disguise themselves as global governance and exert themselves above local territories and rights – how will they affect and violate women and their environment?

Español – MUJERES, EN DEFENSA DE LOS TERRITORIOS DESDE SUS CUERPOS

Desde la memoria y la historia, las mujeres siempre han luchado hombro a hombro, tejiendo movimiento, construyendo caminos, disminuyendo desigualdades

Por Kiyomi Nagumo –  Cordinadora Regional Latino America y el Caribe

Los compromisos nacionales adquiridos bajo el acuerdo de París, con el objetivo de disminuir las emisiones de los gases de efecto invernadero y evitar una crisis climática, enfocadas aportando con mecanismos de adaptación y mitigación, así como cuantificar las perdidas y daños. La gobernanza global, se centra en estos mismos con la esperanza de cumplir las metas y objetivos adquiridos por los países participantes.

Activistas del mundo reclaman un cambio sistémico, una transición de los modelos energéticos y sobre todo, evitar la sobre explotación de los recursos naturales y sistemas productivos intensivos; enfocados en la equidad e igualdad de genero y generacional, respeto a los territorios indígenas, derechos humanos e indígenas y sobre todo garantizar el acceso a la participación y justicia climática.

Países como Honduras, Ecuador, Bolivia, Brasil y Perú han abierto sus políticas de desarrollo en favor a empresas transnacionales bajo la estructura de sobre aprovechamiento de sus recursos naturales y la apertura de sus selvas tropicales para la exploración y extracción de hidrocarburos, construcción de mega proyectos energéticos, etc. Estas políticas energéticas contaminantes y altamente emisoras de gases de efecto invernadero, violan derechos fundamentales sobre todo de indígenas, derechos de las mujeres y sus comunidades, ocasionando desastres ambientales, generando violencia ambiental y afectando a la madre tierra.

Son las mismas mujeres, las que salen a la lucha por el respeto de ellas y sus territorios buscando la igualdad, la disminución de inequidades, y conseguir una verdadera gobernanza sobre el manejo y conservación de los recursos naturales ubicados en sus territorios. Son quienes han salido a la defensa del agua, los bosques, y la biodiversidad de sus tierras, ecosistemas, comunidades y sus pueblos.

Desde sus cuerpos, con las cargas sociales y familiares de un sistema patriarcal, que les son atribuidas como roles, las mujeres han levantado sus voces, se han movilizado, organizado, revelado y luchado, pero aun así siguen siendo vulneradas, acalladas, amedrentadas, arrestadas, violentadas y asesinadas.

Entonces, para hablar de un cambio sistémico es necesario auto-cuestionarse y cuestionar; sí las políticas de desarrollo se disfrazan de gobernanza global y estas se sobreponen a la territorialidad, a los derechos, y cómo éstas afectan y vulneran a las mujeres y a su entorno.

WECAN Announces International Women’s Day Delegation in Solidarity with Sápara and Kichwa Women Allies

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Sapara and Kichwa women leaders with allies in New York City during the United Nations General Assembly, September 2015 – Photo by Emily Arasim 

From WECAN’s urgent petition: ‘No Extraction In The Amazon! Women of Ecuadorian Amazon and International Allies Reject Oil Concessions, Stand For Rights of the Earth and Communities’ (Click here to add your signature today!)

In late January, the government of Ecuador signed a contract with Chinese corporation Andes Petroleum, handing over rights for oil exploration and extraction in two controversial Amazonian blocks which overlap the traditional territory of the Sápara and Kichwa peoples of the Ecuadorian Amazon. The Sápara indigenous people are a small, threatened group of only 300, which have official recognition by UNESCO as an “Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity”.

Concession plans open up almost a million acres in the center of Ecuador’s road-less southeastern Amazon, where Indigenous communities have successfully prevented extraction for decades. The concession means large swaths of deforestation and irreversible devastation of the forest’s magnificent ecological, social and cultural diversity.

The implications of this contract for the rights and health of local communities and ecosystems, as well as for climate disruption at a global scale, cannot be overstated. Approximately 20 percent of the carbon dioxide produced from burning fossil fuels is absorbed by tropical forests around the world, and this is just one of many critical ecologic functions. Consequently, protecting the Amazon rainforest, the largest of the world’s tropical forests, must be central to environmental and economic policies.

Within this context, Indigenous peoples and their rights must be respected and protected because it is their intimate relationship with their forests and their courageous ongoing struggles to defend their territories that has and will continue to bring about the highest protection of the Amazon rainforest.

The government of Ecuador and China have signed these most recent oil contracts just a month after pledging at the UN COP21 climate negotiations in Paris to take action along with 195 countries to keep global warming below 2.0 degree Celsius. Scientists have stated that we must keep 80% of global fossil fuel reserves in the ground to avoid climate catastrophe. Oil extraction in the Amazon will contribute to the negation of the Paris Agreement and the demands of science.

Additionally, the Ecuadorian government claims to have consulted the Sápara in accordance with Article 57 of the constitution, which requires Free, Prior, and Informed Consultation (FPIC). However, rather than consult the communities, as Ecuador’s constitution requires, and obtain their consent, which is required under international law, the government has wager a campaign to divide the Sápara. Despite the government’s false claims of community approval and attempts to create its own Sápara federation, the only legitimate federation of th Sápara does not recognize any agreement for access to Sápara territory.

The Sápara people and the Kichwa of Sarayaku have denounced the new contracts as a violation of their fundamental rights, and have made clear their intentions to keep resisting extraction and protecting their rainforest.

In solidarity, WECAN denounces and calls for cancelation of the new oil contract for Block 79 and 83 in the Ecuadorian Amazon; demands action by the government of Ecuador to heed the calls of the Sápara and Kichwa to immediately halt all further exploration and extraction in the Amazon; and calls for international action to expose the rights violations in Ecuador. WECAN also calls for alternative options to be explored by the Ecuadorian government and international community to address oil extraction caused by economic pressures.

Additionally, WECAN expresses urgent concern about the violence against Indigenous women working to protect their territories and their families and cultures.

Click here to read and sign the full petition, including poignant declarations directly from the Indigenous women Earth defenders of the Ecuadorian Amazon.

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Oil extraction in the Northern Ecuadorian Amazon – Photo by Emily Arasim

Action and Delegation Details

As part of an ongoing response to current events in Ecuador (detailed in our petition), the Women’s Earth and Climate Action Network (WECAN) International, in collaboration with Amazon Watch, is organizing a Delegation to Ecuador for this year’s International Women’s Day on March 8, 2016.

We will join our Amazonian women allies at forums, marches and press conferences, uniting in solidarity to denounce to the dire threats facing the living systems of the Amazon and it’s Indigenous communities as a result of the Ecuadorian governments new oil contract with Andes Petroleum.

In particular, the WECAN delegation will stand with and work to bring light to the stories, struggles and solutions of the Sápara and Kichwa women, who continue to put their bodies on the line to defend the rights of their communities and the health and wellbeing of the planet for generations to come.

The Women’s Earth and Climate Action Network delegation will consist of Osprey Orielle Lake (WECAN Executive Director), Casey Camp Horinek (Ponca Nation leader, WECAN Special Projects Advisor, Representative of the Indigenous Women of the Americas: Defenders of Mother Earth Treaty Compact 2015, signed between Indigenous women of the US and Canada, and women of the Sapara and Kichwa people of Ecuador) and Emily Arasim (WECAN Media and Communications). WECAN is very honored that Casey Camp Horinek will be joining us to share her critical leadership and knowledge and to continue to build a powerful link between Indigenous women of the North and South.

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Gloria Ushigua, President of the Association of Sapara Women, speaks on the situation in her homeland at the International Rights of Nature Tribunal in Paris, France, December 2015 – Photo by Emily Arasim

The delegation will commence on March 6/7 in Quito, Ecuador where WECAN will host strategy sessions before departure to Puyo, east-central Ecuador.

On March 8, International Women’s Day, the Delegation, in solidarity with Indigenous Sápara women and the Kichwa of Sarayaku, will help organize and participate in a direct action, march, press conference and forum in Puyo, working to bring international attention to the grave and intertwined social and ecological threats posed by expanding oil extraction in the Amazon, with particular focus on the dual violations against Indigenous women, and their powerful resistance and solutions building.

On March 9, the WECAN Delegation and several of the Indigenous women leaders will travel back to Quito to hold a press conference with the assistance of local allies, highlighting the movement of women coming to Ecuador for International Women’s Day in solidarity with the Sapara and Kichwa women, and making it known that the world’s eyes are on Ecuador to cancel recent oil contracts in recognition of the Rights of the Indigenous communities of the Amazon, the Rights of Nature, and the vital importance of protecting the Rainforest as a climate change mitigation imperative.

Through WECAN outreach, United Nations representatives have been made aware of and invited to participate in the Ecuador Delegation. Regardless of their attendance, they will be petitioned to write letters in support of the Kichwa and Sapara women, for presentation in Ecuador by the Delegation. WECAN International will additionally compose and send letters to international leaders calling for support and intervention.

WECAN is also engaged in conversations with allies about alternative solutions to addressing Ecuador’s pressure to drill for oil.

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Rainforests of the Ecuadorian Amazon – Photo by Emily Arasim

WECAN is asking global women and allies to circulate blogs/statements/news resources, add their name to the signature campaign, plan/participate in global solidarity events, and/or share photos/message of solidarity on social media. WECAN will be hosting a  network-wide call in advance of the delegation, to further inform and engage global women allies to take action.

In the Bay Area, California, WECAN US Women’s Climate Justice Initiative Steering Committee member, Pennie Opal Plant of Movement Rights and Idle No More SF Bay Area, will organize and lead a parallel action on March 8th.

Throughout the time on-the-ground in Ecuador, WECAN will conduct video and print interviews with Sapara and Kichwa women and document the marches and actions taking place in Puyo. Videos and interviews will be published and shared internationally following the delegation, and will potentially be incorporated into a larger documentary on women and climate struggles and solutions.

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Please contact WECAN Communications Coordinator, Emily, at emily@wecaninternational.org with questions, comments and media requests.

WECAN Middle East/North Africa Announces Renewable Energy and Women’s Climate Justice Trainings

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The Women’s Earth and Climate Action Network (WECAN) International is thrilled to announce the next phase of our Regional Climate Solutions Program in the Middle East/North Africa (MENA) Region.

On the evening of March 28th, 30th and April 1, 2016 – women across the MENA region are invited to join WECAN and local coordinators, Fadoua Brour and Imene Hadjer Bouchair, for an online training focused on building a MENA ‘Women and Communities for 100% Renewables and Climate Justice Project’, and engaging in in-depth analysis on local and global climate justice movement building in the lead up to the U.N COP22 climate talks, to be held in Morocco in 2016.

The training aims to build the MENA region movement of women for climate justice and solutions in advance of COP22; strengthen competencies and equip participants with new skills and knowledge around the theme of climate change, climate education and media; provide systemic analysis of the root causes of climate change and real on-the-ground solutions, renewable energy and other related topics; strengthen local collaboration to implement sustainable activities in the field of climate change across the Middle East/North Africa; and take next steps in developing women led, on-the-ground local climate initiatives into 2016.

The training presents an excellent opportunity for networking with other women and organizational leaders from across the region, and for local women to be connected to the global women’s movement for climate justice.

WHEN: March 28th, 30th & April 1, 2016 from 7:00pm to 9:30pm GMT

HOW: This training will be held on Zoom, a free program similar to Skype. You can join the training by calling in via phone, or using your computer or smartphone internet connection.

  • Join by computer/internet connection:
  1. Click here to download Zoom before the call
  2. Click here to join the call
  • OR join by phone
  1. Click here to find the dial-in number for your country
  2. At the time of the call, dial your country number and enter the meeting code below

Meeting ID: 415 415 2016

We encourage all interested participants to SAVE THE DATE and confirm their participation by March 10.

To confirm your participation and receive more detailed training information, please email WECAN MENA Coordinators Imene at <imene.h.bouchair@gmail.com> or Fadoua Brour <fadoua.alci@gmail.com>

Women for Climate Justice Call for Rejection of New Oil Contracts in Ecuadorian Amazon

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The Ecuadorian government has just signed a contract with Chinese corporation Andes Petroleum, handing over rights for oil exploration and extraction in two controversial Amazonian blocks which overlap the traditional territory of the Sápara and Kichwa peoples.

Concession plans open up almost a million acres in the center of Ecuador’s roadless southeastern Amazon, where indigenous communities have successfully prevented extraction for over two decades. The concession means large swaths of deforestation and irreversible devastation of the forest’s magnificent social and cultural diversity. In light of the fact that global rainforests, of which the Amazon is the largest, absorb upwards of 20% of fossil fuel emission – the implications of this contract for global climate disruption cannot be overstated.

The Sápara and the Kichwa of Sarayaku have denounced the new contract as a violation of their fundamental rights, and have made clear their intentions to keep resisting extraction and protecting the Living Forest.

WECAN reaffirms our unyielding commitment of support and collaboration with the Sápara and Kichwa peoples of the Ecuadorian Amazon. In particular, we stand with and wish to draw attention to the stories, struggles and solutions of the Sápara and Kichwa women, who continue to put their bodies on the line to defend the rights of their communities and the health and wellbeing of the planet for generations to come.

We are here in solidarity and in defense of the forests, peoples and lifeways that have lived in harmony with the Amazon for millennia. We demand that this latest oil concession be revoked, and that the Ecuadorian government heed the calls of the Sápara and Kichwa people to move immediately towards an end to extraction in the Amazon.

Click here to sign an urgent statement to Minister Poveda, hosted on the webpage of our partners at Amazon Watch.

For Earth & Future Generations: Women Leading Solutions on the Frontlines of Climate Change, Paris

Blog by Emily Arasim, WECAN Communications Coordinator

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On December 7, 2015, women from around the world united at ‘Women Leading Solutions on the Frontlines of Climate Change – Paris’, a Women’s Earth and Climate Action Network event held in parallel to United Nations COP21 climate negotiations.

In holding with tradition, WECAN began the event by honoring the peoples of the land on which event presenters and participants stood. Osprey Orielle Lake, Women’s Earth and Climate Action Network Executive Director, presented a gift and opened the floor to Josefina Skerk, Vice-President of the Sami Parliament of Sweden, who offered a traditional Sami welcome on behalf of the Indigenous peoples of Europe.

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“We are all bound to each other, and we are all bound to Nature,” Josefina reflected, “As Indigenous peoples, the bond that we have to Nature is that of a family member, it is someone that does not have to be vocal for you to understand them. And right now our family member, our mother, our Nature is screaming. But thanks to people like you and me who are speaking out, taking action and working together to build strong alliances against this exploitation, there is hope. We are becoming joined in a beautiful weave.”

Sally Ranney, co-Founder of the Women’s Earth and Climate Action Network took the floor, sharing thoughts on consumerism, personal responsibility, and the imperative of changing our cultural narratives.

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Sally Ranney (Women’s Earth & Climate Action Network)

“We are experiencing a wake up call, both internally, for our internal journeys and decision making protocol, and for our global decision making protocol. Climate change asks us to look really deeply at what are values are, and these are the kind of discussion that aren’t happening inside COP21,” Sally explained, handing the mike back to WECAN co-Founder and Executive Director, Osprey Orielle Lake for a critical analysis and foundation for subsequent panels and presentation.

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Osprey Orielle Lake (Women’s Earth & Climate Action Network)

“It is not a time to be timid, we are not in a rehearsal but rather in a truly a transformative moment,” Osprey began, noting that COP21 discussions and emissions cuts happening simultaneously just outside of Paris remained absolutely insufficient, “There is no later date – the time is irrefutable now, so we are calling for radical change and I want to bring that forward today,”

“There needs to be an understanding that there is a systemic link between the climate crisis, our economic model, and the ongoing exploitation and disempowerment of women,” she continued, outlining why women are impacted first and worst by climate change, but more importantly, why women are key to climate justice and global peace making.

“To address systemic problems, women are advocating for and implementing models of collective ownership of the plants, the forests – they are working to localize their economies… they are already demonstrating alternative plans and policies, small scale solutions with very large impacts.”

“There is something else that women are bringing to the conversation that really cannot be left out as we face massive loss of life, species extinction, and the increasing threats of climate change, and that is our emotional and spiritual intelligence. Healing our seeming disconnect to Mother Earth is a solution, and women’s voices are central to this.”

Osprey drew attention to the critical leadership of Indigenous women across the globe – framing their struggles and solutions as one of the most critical untold stories of the climate crisis.

“We are Mother Earth’s immune system – standing up together to protect and defend and heal her. Through our collective networks, we are calling for system change, not climate change. We need climate justice, and we need to have the courage to change everything about how we are living with each other and the Earth,” Osprey concluded, bringing the first group of outstanding women leaders to the stage for the ‘Women Speak from the Frontlines of Climate Change’ panel.

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Pictured right to left: Kandi Mossett, Josefina Skerk, Eriel Deranger and Thilmeeza Hussain

Kandi Mossett (Mandan, Hidatsa, Arikara), Climate and Energy Campaign Organizer with the Indigenous Environmental Network of North Dakota, Turtle Island, USA spoke first – sharing immensely powerful words on what is happening in her homeland, and on the connections between capitalism, colonization, and violations of women and the Earth.

“This is COP21 – they have been doing this for 21 years… the truth is that women and Indigenous peoples have the answers, if you would just listen to us and stop telling us what is best for us. You cannot expect to take and take and take and never give back.”

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Kandi Mossett (Indigenous Environmental Network)

“Without balance we will destroy ourselves, and I think that is why women are leading the movement… women have always played a central role in the balance of life and livelihoods…look at the COP21 and what you’ll see is primarily a room full of older white males in suits making decisions on our behalf. My two and a half year old daughter is at home and has no idea about the decisions they are making for her, we must think about the next generation and the seventh generation. ”

Kandi’s spoke on her experiences in North Dakota, where fracking has exploded and brought dire environmental threats and a host of social injustice to her communities’ doorstep. She looked to the roots of escalating pollution, cancer, violent crime, drug use, and sexual assaults and sex trafficking – which all lie in the rapidly expanding toxic industry.

“We need to use the gifts that shine down on us almost everyday from the sun, the wind that blows in our face… So my message to the leaders that are listening, if they are listening, is to use your common sense. Get away from these ideas of greed and power – because when they are sitting around in a torn up world and everything around them is polluted, they will not be able to drink their oil and they will not be able to eat their money.”

Josefina Skerk, Vice President of the Sami Parliament in Sweden, took the floor again to share more on her peoples, lands and the stark climate impacts being felt there.

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Josefina Skerk (Sami Parliment)

Josefina explained that a two-degree temperature increase in most regions results in an eight degree rise in the far North, and that the traditional life and livelihood of the her people is already directly threatened and changing rapidly due to fragile ice and warming ecosystems. The Sami have persevered through intense discrimination and forced sterilization as recently as the 1970’s and 80’s – but now climate change is bringing new threats to their very existence itself.

“We are not strawberry jam, a wise Sami women once said…we do not want to be preserved,” Josefina stated to a resounding applause and calls of solidarity from the audience and fellow presenters.

“However through global work and though connecting with Indigenous people and others – through raising our voices – we are truly finding a way forward. There are demonstrations, there are protests and what we see is leaders taking their place, and they are normally Sami women from our society,”

“I do not know where the men are,” she laughed, “but I do know that women are fighting back and I see the strength of this. Raising our voices is immensely effective.”

Eriel Deranger, Communications Manager of the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation, Treaty 8 Territory in Northern Alberta, Canada spoke next, bringing critical light to the importance of Indigenous peoples and Indigenous women’s climate solutions.

“Despite centuries of colonization and attempted assimilation, we have persevered and we have survived. Now, in 2015, it is time to abandon patriarchal and colonial ideologies… we have always been here, we have not been discovered. … we cannot move forward to a just and balanced society if we do not unpack these systems of patriarchy and colonization that have brought us to where we are today.”

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Eriel Deranger (Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation)

Eriel continued, “We are seeing a merging of movement, and it is imperative. The environmental movement, the Indigenous rights movement, they are coming together because we have a common goal – the protection and preservation of the lands, of Mother Earth, of the places that have given us life and bred cultures that have persevered… I have no intention of stepping down – I will stand up to every government so that my children know who they are, so that my children can go back to the Delta and eat the fish and caribou and moose and know who they are. Without the strong voices of the women on the frontlines of climate change, without the strong voices of Indigenous women on the frontlines – we would not have a hope, so I want to pay homage to the strong women, all the strong women, I raise my hands up to you.”

Eriel passed the floor to Thilmeeza Hussain, Founder of Voice of Women, Maldives, who offered a jolting testimony based in her experience as a woman of a highly climate vulnerable small island nation.

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Thilmeeza Hussain (Voice of Women Maldives)

“We need to look beyond the negotiations, beyond the text – we need to put a human face on what is going on – we need to understand what is really at stake. Lives are at stake, we are loosing lives, people are dying – that is what is at stake… how many lives are we willing to sacrifice before we act on climate change? How many dead bodies should we serve on a gold platter to these oil corporations before we can satisfy their greed and move away from fossil fuels towards renewable energy?”

Thilmeeza continued, “as mothers, as women, as sisters – as responsible citizens of this world – we cannot afford to watch our children be killed by climate change, we need to look beyond Paris and insure our governments are held accountable for the promises made here… we need to take strength from each other and move forward, we cannot afford to look back.”

Patricia Gualinga, Indigenous Kichwa leader of Sarayaku, Ecuador took the stage as the afternoon’s first keynote speaker. Patricia spoke on the struggle and victory of her people, who have campaigned and successfully prevented oil extraction in their territories in the Ecuadorian Amazon.

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Patricia Gualinga (Sarayaku, Ecuador) with translation by Leila Salazar-López (Amazon Watch)

“Our people, our women are determined that there will be no oil extraction in our territory, there will be no mining or industrial development. For this reason, we can say that we are already combatting climate change,”

Patricia spoke to the role of women in this vital work, to the need for strengthened global solidarity, and on the Kawsak Sacha ‘Living Forests’ proposal, her communities integral plan for a just and sustainable future. She framed the global climate crisis as fundamentally rooted in Western thought’s division of the material from the spiritual, and its loss of vision surrounding the profound interconnection of humans and the Earth.

“There is much worry about regarding what the governments are doing [inside COP21]… in many ways it pains me, they are so isolated – have you noticed how they drive in blacked out cars, how they hold meetings in these very cold sites that are so cut off from contact with reality? They have imprisoned themselves in their own heads in some ways, and they are the ones making decisions about the planet. We need to be very worried – if they are generating laws that don’t include us, with which we have never agreed, then we do not have any reason to obey them. If they are going to destroy the planet, it is our responsibility to resist them.”

Patricia continued with words of hope and unity;

“Now is not the time to see social classes, or colors or different languages – now is the time to transform ourselves, it is time to see each other as brothers and sisters. It is the time to understand and the time to change…. This is not a matter for Indigenous peoples, this is not a matter for just those who are out on the front fighting every day against oil concessions in our territories. This is an issue for everyone – respect Indigenous rights, respect the integrity of our lives, of future generations. In this we are all united, and if we are just one more everyday, then we can generate change,”

After concluding the translation from Spanish, Leila Salazar-López, Executive Director of Amazon Watch, provided closing comments contextualizing why it is imperative that we work with communities like Sarayaku to protect the Amazon, and sharing the newly released document, ‘Keep It In The Ground: A Declaration for the Health of Mother Earth‘.

Fleur Newman, Programme Officer and UNFCCC Gender Focal Point representing the UNFCCC Secretariat, spoke next after having listened to the first panel.

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Fleur Newman (UNFCCC Secretariat)

Fleur presented an overview of her role within the UNFCCC, and the various programs and mechanisms around women and climate change that she helps facilitate, including the UN System Wide Plan on Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment. She shared words of support and encouragement with the women leaders, helping bring the formal COP21 process together with the frontline and grassroots women leaders present at the event.

Following Fleurs remarks, presenters of the second panel, ‘Women’s Strategic Analysis, Policy and Advocacy for Systemic Change and Climate Justice’ took the stage. 

Titilope Akosa of Centre for 21st Century Issues, Nigeria and representative of the UNFCCC Women and Gender Constituency opened the panel with an in-depth analysis on the status of gender equity in the Paris climate accord and the work of the Women and Gender Constituency inside of COP21.

She presented the ten point Women and Gender Constituencies COP21 Key Demands document, and outlined the Constituencies struggles and ceaseless work to retain gender responsive language in the Paris accord.

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Titilope Akosa (Centre for 21st Century Issues & the UNFCCC Women and Gender Constituency)

“We have made it clear that this agreement, the global agreement on climate change will not be complete without women…you cannot write off half of humanity, it is not possible. If gender is not referenced and if the aspiration of women is not included, if the aspirations of the women on the frontlines are not included in this global agreement, then a whole half of humanity is excluded,”

“We do not want a polluted future, we do not want a future that is used up before our children come to life,” Titilope continued, “We are women, we are the ones that create, we are the ones that bring forth life and this is why we must stand strong for the people and planet. And this is why I am here, I come all the way from Nigeria in Africa – I said that I cannot sit down and allow this to go on, and allow these leaders to gamble with the future. If I have to talk to my children, the ones yet unborn, I will be happy and grateful to tell that when it was time to act, I was there, I stood for their future and I am proud to say that I am a warrior on this land and I am ready to fight to the end. We will not give up on our beautiful planet.”

Mary Louise Malig, Campaigns Coordinator and Research Associate with the Global Forest Coalition in the Philippines spoke next, shedding light on connections between climate change, agribusiness and global industrial trade, and presenting small-scale agro-ecological farming as a critical, tangible and immediate climate solution.

She discussed how the WTO and trade agreements like the hotly debated Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) effectively block the progress made through negotiations such as COP and other local and national initiatives, using its fierce, legally binding power to enforce trade sanctions that benefit very few over the health and wellbeing of people and planet.

Mary Lou shared the example of Ontario, Canada, where a tariff program to encourage local renewables was shut down by a WTO dispute claiming they were unfairly favoring local workers and processes – both vital to just climate solutions.

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Mary Louise Malig (Global Forest Coalition)

“It has to be the system that is changed. We cannot win a battle where we just fight inside this arena. We have to connect our struggles – we have to connect the struggles against deforestation, the struggle against free trade, the struggle for real solutions to climate change. We have to connect them all together and really fight to change the system and bring peoples solutions up to the front.”

Mary Lou passed the floor to Jacqueline Patterson, Director of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) Environmental & Climate Justice Program, who shared a presentation called ‘Resistance, Resilience, Reclamation and Revolution’.

Jacqui spoke to the effects of environmental discrimination and industrial pollution on communities in the US, and called out false solutions such as natural gas, which are only deepening the climate crisis and violating rights, particularly those of frontline communities, low-income families, and peoples of color.

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Jaqcui Patterson (NAACP Environmental & Climate Justice Program)

“We must address the disparity between who is making decisions and who is most impacted,” Jacqui explained, simultaneously referencing her experience with the post Hurricane Katrina reconstruction and the concurrent COP21 climate negotiations.

She shared stories of successful, tragic and ongoing struggles of women and community leaders documenting pollution related health impacts in their communities and taking direct action to shut down toxic industries and build alternatives – and expanded Mary Lou’s insights on the intersectionality of our people’s movements.

“Not only are we pushing for clean energy, but we are also working to insure that there are economic justice measures in these policies,” Jacqui explained, emphasizing that things like women in renewable energy, accessible and sovereign food systems, immigrant rights and justice, and racial justice are all connected and essential elements of the just transition we so desperately need.

Angelina Galiteva, Founder of the Renewables 100 Policy Institute in the USA closed the second panel with compelling comments on energy policy derived from years of work inside the industry and outside as an advocate, activist and mother.

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Angelina Galiteva (Renewables 100 Policy Institute)

“We are moving forward and we are going to transition the system to 100% renewable energy. Why? Because we have the technology, because it is possible,”

She shared poignant reflections on the role of women in the coming clean energy revolutions, “climate change is a man-made problem, women are the solution.”

Neema Namadamu, Director of SAFECO and Coordinator of the WECAN Democratic Republic of Congo program opened the third and final panel.

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Neema Namadamu (SAFECO & WECAN DR Congo)

Neema framed her work in the context of the Congo rainforest, the second largest rainforest in the world and cradle of more than 60% of Africa’s forest area. She expressed solidarity with the global Indigenous women who had already shared their stories, and urged collective global action to care for the vital ecosystems of the Congo.

“Open your eyes, look to Africa…we must invest in Africa planting trees again, so you can have oxygen – after that we can negotiate everything else we need to negotiate.”

Aleta Baun, conservationist and activist of West Timor, Indonesia took the mike next, speaking on her communities successful resistance to mining, and the ways in which they took positive direct action to conserve the forest and build sustainable local economies around textile weaving in the aftermath of the mobilization against mining.

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Aleta Baun (activist of West Timor, Indonesia)

“In our worldwide land is flesh, water is blood, forest are hair and stone is like our bones… We plant trees to heal the water that was once destroyed by mining companies. We discuss how to build women’s strength, especially though weaving so that we can have economic strength and this will protect us from being uprooted again.”

Aleta passed the floor to Natalie Isaacs, CEO and co-Founder of 1 Million Women, Australia, who addressed themes of overconsumption and lifestyle choice amongst women in wealthy nations.

“Individual action, action of households, action of communities and all of us acting together actually makes a big difference,” Natalie began, reflecting on her personal transformation from an unengaged corporate leader, to a catalyst of women and girls for healthy lives and climate justice.

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Natalie Isaacs (1 Million Women)

“In all our discussions, inside the COP21 climate negotiations – behavior change and how we live our lives is actually the elephant in the room, it is not being talked about…1 Million Women has a big task, we are trying to change the way people in a developed country like Australia live – but luckily we all know that women and girls are incredible change agents,”

Nino Gamisonia, Projects Coordinator with the Rural Communities Development Agency of Abkhazia, Georgia spoke next, providing insights on renewable energy and solar water heater programs in her country, and their benefits for the environment and rural communities.

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Nino Gamisonia (Rural Communities Development Agency)

She highlighted how women are disproportionately impacted by dirty energy and the burning of wood as fuel, and detailed how women’s engagement in solar water programs has generated a profound and critical sense of empowerment amongst those involved.

Naomi Ages, Climate Liability Project Lead with Greenpeace USA closed the third and panel of the day with thoughts on risk, bravery and action on climate change. Drawing on stories of activists who put their bodies on the line for climate justice, Naomi asked each person in the room to reflect on the level of commitment and action that they are willing and able to make in order to contribute to critical climate solutions.

“This is a call to action – choose your version of courage and do the thing for you that really contributes and combats climate change.”

Mary Robinson, President of the Mary Robinson Foundation-Climate Justice, current UNFCCC Climate Change Envoy and former President of Ireland, took the stage to present her thoughts on the climate negotiations and women’s leadership in climate change solutions at COP21 and beyond.

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Mary Robinson (Mary Robinson Foundation – Climate Justice)

Mary acknowledged great strides by COP21 government representatives to address the needs of most vulnerable nations and recognize the imperative of human rights and gender equality – however also spoke to a sense of stagnation and repetition within climate negotiations and the struggles to retain gender responsive, just and concrete language within the accord.

“But we’re back again with a real sense that this will be a very important agreement. It wont be a great agreement, but it will hopefully be ambitious enough to help us to realize that on the 1st of January of 2016, we are in a new era,”

“We really need the power and knowledge of women leaders at all levels, it is so important for the future. Indeed, if we had more women’s leadership, I do not think we would be where we are now…women’s participation is an enabler of climate justice,” Mary attested, discussing her foundation’s new report, ‘Women’s Participation – An Enabler of Climate Justice’.

“There really is no longer a divide between the sustainable development goals and the France climate agreement, we bring them together in January. And I really do think that women are at the forefront of what happens after that. Why? Because it’s women that change behavior, its women who influence change – starting in the family, starting in the community, starting by assisting in the schools and having young people encouraged to think about their futures in a way that is sustainable. And it is every little step in all of that…we are going to need transformative change throughout the world, and women in every community would be on the frontlines … in the beginning of next year comes a new surge of energy and commitment to start implementing what this year has brought us at the global level, but we know that it is at the local level that things will really make a difference,”

“In a way, we are privileged to be at this moment when we can in fact bend the curve and get back on track towards a safe world. We are not there, and we will not be there the day after Paris, but we will be heading in the right direction. And we will put gender equality issues on the frontlines, because we know we are sacrificing our children, in my case my grandchildren, to a much more dangerous and catastrophic world, and we cannot have that. … We are ready to take the leadership, to give the changes to make sure that there is no going back and that we have a world of sustainability with our Mother Earth, our beautiful Mother Earth, who we must cherish more, who we must reinvigorate in the degraded areas. Take back the deforested areas and have Mother Earth breathe freely as she has for centuries upon centuries until we started to interfere with her. And it is women who have to be at the forefront of that.”

Following Mary Robinson’s keynote, members of the Global Alliance for the Rights of Nature provided a brief recap and analysis of the International Rights of Nature Tribunal, held over two days in Paris the previous week.

Osprey Orielle Lake, Executive Director of the Women’s Earth and Climate Action Network and Co-Chair of International Advocacy for the Global Alliance provided an introduction,

“What we’re really seeing, and as we heard from so many of our speakers, is that the way that we are interacting with Mother Earth is not working and part of that is also based upon our legal system that treats Nature as property.… we have to change this system, so the Rights of Nature movement is really looking at the DNA of our legal frameworks and saying NO, Mother Earth has rights, rivers have the right to flow, all the systems of life have the right to grow and thrive and be healthy, and we as human being have to have new laws that allow us to live in good harmony with Mother Earth,”

Osprey continued, “What we are saying through these Tribunals is that we have the right to create laws that work for the people and for the plant, we are not asking for permission. Humans invented our governance structures, humans invented our economies, that means that we can reinvent them again and take back our power as people,”

Shannon Biggs of Movement Rights in the USA shared her insights;

“As long as we continue the story of separation, that Nature is owned by humans, that we are separate from Nature – we are never going to be able to move forward. So the Rights of Nature Tribunal has been a very powerful place, especially when put head to head with the COP, to ask, ‘what would it look like in a world where we recognized the inherent rights of ecosystems to live, to thrive, to regenerate…Imagine if we acted like rights matter, as if our human rights came and were derived from the rights of ecosystems, from nature, from creation – what would it look like to be in that world?”

“We heard not just from experts, but from people who are living this everyday on the ground, defenders of the Earth, people who are living under these conditions. We are really showcasing the world as it could be, because the one thing that I think was critical for the Tribunal was to see that the way the COP process is operating isn’t the way it has to be,” Shannon continued, “We are looking at two very different power structures –we are looking at the power of corporations running the world one way, and we are looking at the power of people taking ownership and responsibility and connection for their communities and saying ‘we can work together, there is a way forward’ – we can together actually commit to our relationship and break the cycle of separation from Nature, we can live as one. We can put forward new laws and really showcase how to make this shift.”

Natalia Greene of CEDENMA (Coordinadora Ecuatoriana para la Defensa de la Naturaleza y del Ambiente) and Fundacion Pachamama in Ecuador provided more background on the Tribunal and on implementation of Rights of Nature in her country.

“People are thirsty to have these places to voice new ideas, to voice their suffering and the hurt to Mother Earth,” Natalia explained, “Rights of Nature is not theoretical, it is happening in Ecuador, it is happening in the US and in more communities and more places if people start to understand that we cannot work without Mother Earth…. If we want to have peace on the Earth, we must have peace with the Earth.”

Closing the Rights of Nature report back, Osprey called to the stage a group of outstanding Indigenous women leaders from across North and South America to share their stories, struggles and solutions for climate justice as part of a presentation of the Indigenous Women of the America’s: Defenders of Mother Earth Treaty Compact.

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Casey Camp Horinek (Ponca Nation)

Casey Camp Horinek, Ponca Nation elder and representative of the Indigenous Environmental Network, Turtle Island, USA opened and guided the subsequent series of thought-provoking, hard-hitting and heartfelt presentations.

“There is much we want to share, but we want to share first and foremost is our love of you and Mother Earth….it is very simple my relatives, if our [Indigenous] rights are upheld, we know how to save you. So together we have a path to walk.”

Casey spoke on the connections between the conditions experiences by her family– relocation, persecution, boarding schools, and labor camps – and the modern environmental genocide and crisis with which we are all faced, and which Indigenous peoples feel directly and disproportionately.

“The struggle for us is not one issue, it is a totality of all the issues – it is whether or not humanity will continue on this Earth, do we get that honor? Do we deserve that honor? My mother, my relatives felt that we do, they felt that we simply need to align ourselves with the natural laws.”

Faith Gemmill, Pit River/Wintu and Neets’aii Gwich’in Athabascan woman from above the Arctic Circle in Alaska, USA addressed the room next, speaking first in her traditional language. For over 30 years Faith and her community have been protecting the Arctic National Wildlife Refugee, one of the last stretches of Arctic Alaskan coast still free from oil extraction.

The land that Faith and her community defend is the land of the threatened polar bear, hundreds of species of nesting birds, fish and caribou, an animal deeply sacred to her people.

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Faith Gemmill (Pit River/Wintu and Neets’aii Gwich’in Athabasca)

“Our elders knew about climate change, they prophesized it. And they said, ‘tell them that we are not standing here for ourselves, we are standing for them [the animals], for their children’. And it is our belief that if this place is ever accessed, it will begins a cycle of destruction of humanity…All of our prophecies are all connected, in the South, in the North and across the world, Indigenous prophecies all say the same thing – there is a path destruction, but there is also a path of life, and we have a choice as humanity – and right now we are at that place where we make that choice.”

“We have to think about our children – what are we going to leave them? We have to change the consciousness of the leaders of the world, that’s what we have to do, that is our responsibility. And I have hope because my people said, if we do it in a good way, we are going to be successful – I believe in us and that is why I am standing here today…I think if we all keep holding our ground, if we all keep defending our territories, protecting these spaces – if we keep it in the ground, we can make it, we are going to win.”

Eriel Deranger of the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation, Canada and Kandi Mossett, Mandan, Hidatsa, Arikara woman of North Dakota, USA spoke again briefly, sharing messages of solidarity and encouraging everyone in the room to stay engaged with the issues and stories presented, including through donations to the women and organization putting their all into speaking out and driving forward momentum for a just world for all.

“We have to take back the power in our communities because no one else is going to do it for us,” Kandi concluded.

Ena Santi, women’s leader of the Kichwa community of Sarayakyu, Ecuador spoke next on behalf of the women of the South.

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Ena Santi (Sarayaku, Ecuador)

“I am feeling so much emotion to be here and hear the voices of all my sisters gathered here today….we as women are treated so badly so much of the time insulted, violated, treated poorly – physically and physiologically,” Ena began.

“But even with all of these obstacles that we are experiencing in our Indigenous communities, us women are fighting, we are continuing ahead. To save our Mother Earth we have confronted the military, the police – and when this happened I carried on my back my baby of just 2 months,”

“In this way we can save our Mother Earth, because within Mother Earth exists all of humanity… Us women fight for our grandchildren, for our children, for the children that will come in the future – it is for them that we fight. Human beings are not eternal, in whatever moment we will go to rest.”

“So us together, sisters that are here now, united, we women must together put forth a strong effort to save our Mother Earth, because pure air still exists in the Amazon of Ecuador. We must keep this in our hearts…. As women on our Earth, in my land where I live in Sarayaku in Ecuador, we will fight until the very end. We will not allow oil, mining, wood companies to enter. We will fight, not with guns, but with thought, in a peaceful way,”

Mirian Cisneros of Sarayaku also shared words,

“We have flown from very far away, like the eagles… we have a prophecy that Sarayaku is called the ‘pueblo de medio dia’ – the people of the noon time. That when all our neighbors had been contaminated, that we would be that community that would be there until the end defending the Earth. We take on this great responsibility as mothers, as wives, as givers of health, food and the security of future generations…. And so we are here, to ask for solidarity, for an alliance between all sisters and brothers of the world to defend our only Earth, the one that has been left to us by our ancestors, by our grandparents,”

Mirian then called on the whole room to join hands and speak together with her, ‘Pachamama estamos contigo’ – ‘Mother Earth, we are with you’.

Monique Verdin, a Houma woman of the Mississippi river delta in South Louisiana, USA spoke next,

“We have lost our land, they cut down our forest, we have waste pits in our back yard and we are loosing land at one of the fastest rates on the planet next to the Maldives,” Monique began,

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Monique Verdin (Houma)

“I came to Paris not knowing what I’d find, and I found these amazing women who are standing up, and I am going home with inspiration…. we cannot be silenced any longer…even though our men are afraid to say anything, even though they are the ones witnessing the land going and know why, they are also being paid by the oil and gas companies and that’s how they feed their babies. They’ve told us that we don’t have any other economic source, but they are wrong.”

Pennie Opal Plant (Yaqui, Mexican, English, Choctaw, Cherokee and European) of Movement Rights, USA took the floor next, providing a beautiful and vital overview, and reading sections of the ‘Indigenous Women of the Americas: Defenders of Mother Earth Treaty Compact’, which can be read in full here.

“By this time next year I imagine that there will be millions of women around the world shutting it down…so I want to ask you, whose with us?” Pennie asked, the whole room rising and raising their fists alongside her.

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Pennie Opal Plant (Movement Rights)

Casey Camp Horinek took the floor to close the presentation,

“I want to take this moment to remind us, what is real power? Is it what is in COP’s? Is it Obama? Or, or, realign your thinking, realign your thoughts so that we all go forward with the seventh generation philosophy, each and everyone of us. To think about the seven generations that came before us, and what they went though to arrive at this point, to bring us into life. What about the seven generations to come? If every step you make is thinking about those coming in the seventh generation, then thank you. If not, then switch it up, right now… Realign your thoughts, what is real power?”

Osprey Orielle Lake of WECAN closed the event with brief words before an end of event group action.

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“We need to reconnect with our original instructions, we need to reconnect with Mother Earth. We have these incredible women and Indigenous peoples who are generously, kindly offering knowledge and information to us, so lets have really big hearts and respect and dedication to what they are offering us. The Women’s Earth and Climate Action Network is first and foremost dedicated to frontline communities in countries all over the world … we the people have power, we the people are making change, this, right here, is where real change is coming from.”

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From right to left: Patricia Gualinga, Neema Namadamu, Mirian Cisneros and Ena Santi – women of Ecuador and DR Congo united

The event will be commemorated and continued through the planting of a French olive tree near Paris – a symbol of hope, peace, growth and resistance into the future.

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Women for Climate Justice Respond to COP21 Paris Climate Agreement

SONY DSCAfter two weeks on the ground in Paris working inside and outside of COP21 climate negotiations – the Women’s Earth and Climate Action Network has released the following statement in response to the adoption of the final Paris climate accord:

“The Women’s Earth and Climate Action Network delegation has just returned from an intense, inspiring and moving two weeks on the ground in Paris during COP21 climate negotiations. We come home with hope derived from the epic efforts of the climate justice movement, and with a deepened sense of the great work ahead.

In Paris, world governments from 195 nations signed onto an unprecedented global climate agreement. WECAN acknowledges the groundbreaking effort, which sends critical signals around the end of the fossil fuel era – however we must be very real about what the agreement is not.

Countries have agreed to aim for a temperature rise below the 2 degree level and included 1.5 degrees as an aspirational target, however thus far there are not nearly sufficient carbon emission reduction commitments, legal and financial mechanisms and resources needed to achieve this. Due to the level of urgency for the most vulnerable communities, we find this type of vague commitment simply unacceptable – we are talking about life and death circumstances for frontline communities.

Our goal during COP21, alongside many allies, was to advocate for climate justice and systemic change. Important strides were made – however it is clear that the Paris accord fails to address the root causes of the climate crisis and the structures of injustice that perpetuate it.

The operative text of the Agreement fails to uphold Indigenous rights and human rights – and allows major polluters to continue to skirt around their historic responsibilities. Gender equality is upheld in some sections of the Agreement, but not nearly enough considering the impacts of climate change that are already being experienced by women worldwide and the leadership role and solutions that women are already implementing. Governments are not held to leaving 80% of fossil fuel reserves in the ground, despite clear messages from scientists that this is what must happen.

We cannot continue business as usual, nor promote and implement the false solutions (carbon offsets, carbon-trading, geo-engineering, nuclear) that the agreement perpetuates. Instead, we must put people and planet first and now demand that our governments really rise to their claimed 1.5 goal with genuine and just solutions.

The good news coming out of Paris is that people around the world are standing up boldly and calling forth the healthy, just future that we are envisioning together. The climate justice movement made an impact in pushing governments to act more ambitiously then they would have and has been vibrantly displayed in Paris, with major actions on the streets with tens of thousands of people, hundreds of events, assemblies, concerts and educational workshops all focused on just climate solutions. People’s movements are where power and hope lies as we move forward. And move forward we will!

We return home more dedicated than ever to care for our Mother Earth, all generations and all species.” – Osprey Orielle Lake, Women’s Earth and Climate Action Network Executive Director

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The Women and Gender Constituency, with whom WECAN stands in solidarity, has also released a powerful reaction, copied below. Click here to view the original text on the Women and Gender Constituency webpage.

A Reality Check on the Paris Agreement from the Women and Gender Constituency (WGC)

12 December 2015

As the Women and Gender Constituency we came to this process asking one question: what is the purpose of a global climate agreement if not to save people and the planet?

We see that the world wants hope, that we want to congratulate ourselves for moving forward with this process, but leaders, we are here for a reality check. This agreement fundamentally does not address the needs of the most vulnerable countries, communities and people of the world. It fails to address the structures of injustice and inequality which have caused the climate crisis and hold the historical polluters sufficiently to account.

We know that climate change is the greatest threat to rights in our time, and we know that women often bear the brunt of these impacts. We have made progress under this Convention in understanding and responding to the gendered impacts of climate change in the last few years. We believe that operational language on gender equality, alongside other fundamental rights, in Article 2, defining the purpose of the agreement, would have gone far to ensure that all forthcoming climate actions take into account the rights, needs and perspectives of women and men and encourage women’s full and equal participation in decision-making. This was the moment to set the right path, the just path for climate action.

Critical issues like clear emission reductions without offsetting and misleading market approaches; ensuring the quality of technologies which should be safe and socially and environmentally sound; the quality of and a goal for scaling up adequate and predictable, largely public finance; the responsibilities of developed countries to take the lead, the responsibility to protect people’s rights and our ecosystems, have been either surgically removed throughout the text or lack specificity. That we are not protecting food security but instead are protecting food production – and the business interests that have lobbied hard in our home countries – is a clear indication that only certain segments of our population are meant to be served by this agreement.

Governments maintained their commitment to corporations over people and signaled opportunities for profit to be made from crisis.

We know we need to stay below 1.5 degrees for a chance at survival, and we recognize the importance of seeing this goal in the final Paris Agreement. But seeing this goal on paper is not enough. We demand it in actions as the proof of the full commitment to that goal, not a vague aspiration. If not significantly ramped up, countries’ collective emissions plans lead us to the prospect of a 3.2 – 3.7 degree rise.

Furthermore, the Paris Agreement served to undermine the concept of international solidarity – a founding principle of the UN that requires differentiation amongst states in a way that should lead to redistribution and shared prosperity.

It is clear that in Paris we have not found the political will to make the Paris Agreement the platform the world truly needs to tackle this urgent challenge.

We will not be silenced from telling the truth to power, to highlight the lack of ambition and injustice in this agreement.

We will never give up on our beautiful planet. We will never give up on our demand for climate justice.

This agreement has failed to embrace and respond to this moment for urgent and just transitions, but we have not. We have used this space of international policy-making to raise our voices and embolden our movements.

Together, we will continue to challenge injustice for the protection of the people and the planet: Another world is possible!

Women for Climate Justice Celebrate KXL Victory & Look To The Future

For Immediate Release

Media Contact: Emily Arasim, emily@wecaninternational.org, +1 (505) 920-0153

SAN FRANCISCO (Nov. 9, 2015) – Last week US President Obama rejected the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline once and for all. The following is a statement from Osprey Orielle Lake, Executive Director of the Women’s Earth and Climate Action Network (WECAN International):

“After a seven-year fight and a deal that was claimed ‘done’, US President Obama has rejected the KXL Pipeline – a project that would have locked in devastating emissions and tipped us closer towards climate chaos. We commend President Obama for taking decisive action, and are hopeful that this momentum will continue forward into COP21 climate talks later this month.

As we celebrate this great victory – we remember the terrific efforts of all those who made this happen and the dedicated and fearless grassroots activism and organizing that has grown ceaselessly across this continent in the defense of all we hold dear. The sheros and heroes of this victory are our Indigenous sisters and brothers and the frontline communities who have been at the forefront from the very start.

As a network of women for climate justice, we are filled with hope and energy as we move forward into the next phase in this fight for justice for people and planet.  Stopping KXL is huge – but we see it as another step in our sustained campaign with all our allies to demand that world governments keep 80% of fossil fuels in the ground and immediately begin an earnest transition to a 100% renewable energy future.”

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Click here to view more photos of WECAN and allies participation and organizing in the fight against Keystone.