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

Blog by Emily Arasim, WECAN Communications Coordinator

SONY DSC

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.

josefina & osprey

“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.

DSC_0391
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.

DSC_0660

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.

SONY DSC

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.”

DSC_0617

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.

SONY DSC

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.”

DSC_0423

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.

DSC_0437

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.

DSC_0461

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.

DSC_0477

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.

DSC_0484

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.

DSC_0495

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.

DSC_0510

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.

DSC_0520

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.

DSC_0524

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.

DSC_0530

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.

DSC_0535

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.

DSC_0548

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.

DSC_0560

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.

DSC_0593

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.

DSC_0604

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.

DSC_0623

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,

DSC_0642

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.

DSC_0651

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.

SONY DSC

“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.”

SONY DSC

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.

12316469_1197683813593533_2873344065413780351_n

Advertisements

WECAN Latin America Leaders to Facilitate The Andean Walk for the Climate

On November 21, WECAN Latin America & Caribbean regional Coordinator, Kiyomi Nagumo, and longtime ally Carmen Capriles of Reacción Climática will facilitate the Andean Walk for the Climate outside of La Paz, Bolivia. Learn more about the action below, and join the Spanish event page here.

11011599_10153645320935482_6822015024983824345_n

THE ANDEAN WALK FOR THE CLIMATE

PAMAPALARAMA – EX GLACIER WILA MALQUISIÑIANI

Walking for the victims of climate change and calling for climate justice!

Introduction

The Andean Walk for the Climate will take place on Pampalarama; we will invite people to participate and make a call to the governments of the world to make real commitments to the planet and not lead to a climate crisis!

This November 21 we invite you to join walk the climate Pamapalarama, on the slopes of what once was the glacier wila malkisiñani, complex Chacaltaya massif of the Andes mountain range, to visualize the impacts of global warming on our home and our Apus (local name for the mountains, the granfathers). This activity aims to raise awareness among the Bolivian population on the impacts of climate change and is part of a global campaign that tries to appeal to the conscience of the international governments that could boost in Paris take action to reduce greenhouse gases that are accelerating global warming and causing the retreat of glaciers in the world, this march will also perform in other ecosystems of the planet.

Background

This is the fifth time we organized a tour to visit the glaciers that surround La Paz city, aiming to reconnect with nature, observe the impacts of climate change in our immediate surroundings and reflect on our impact.

Pampalarama is a community that use to live thanks to the glacier Chacaltaya the first tropical glacier in disappear in south America during 2009, the community since then had to change their livelihoods, they use to live from their production and a few years ago they started with tourism to have some way of income, we consider this community a perfect example of resilience, but further more we consider this people as climatic victims.

Objectives

From 30 November to 10 December, cop21 will be held in Paris, France where the world governments have already expressed their commitments that are leading us to the climate crisis, regardless that there are already victims of climate change. We denounce and call the attention of the general public about this problem while generating awareness in all of us to combat climate change.

This November we have the opportunity to raise our voices and demand that governments around the world along with global campaigns asking for:

  • The transition to 100% of alternative, environmentally friendly energy environment
  • Care, conservation and protection of our forests and protected areas (Eradication of illegal logging and timber lawful)
  • NO exploration and exploitation of hydrocarbons in our protected areas
  • Keep the hydrocarbons on the ground
  • Systemic Change
  • Poverty reduction and reduction of inequalities
  • Recognition of climate victims
  • Climate justice and gender justice

Participants

The activity will be open to all who wish to participate, we expect a maximum of 200 persons from the city of La Paz and around 30 persons from the community including 7 specialized local guides, among the participants we hope to have people of all ages, especially aging people that will share their experience, we will also hope to have participation from kids from last years of school, we want to have a specific focus on women and we will have indigenous people from the community (highlands) as well as the support of the Uchupiamonas and Moseten Nations (indigenous people from the Amazonian lowlands), we want to have most of the sectors of civil society includes but especially those that are most vulnerable.

This activity will be organized by Reaccion Climatica, WECAN LAC and Women and Mountain with the support of HelpAge International-Bolivia, Casa de los Ningunos, TierrActiva, Community, University for Older Adults, Madidi Jungle, Indigenous Nations of San José de Uchupiamonas and Mosetnen, Espacio Emerge de Ellas, 350-Bolivia and will be part of the Global March for the Climate, the Climate Strike and the Women’s Call for Climate Justice.

For more information, contact wecanlac@gmail.com

Planting Hope in the DR Congo: Women Lead First Ever Reforestation Effort in Itombwe

11996909_1013829115304190_3680079435643495419_n

WECAN-Congo women walking to the tree nursery in Marunde, Itombwe

For almost two years, women in South Kivu Province, Democratic Republic of Congo have been organizing through the Women’s Earth & Climate Action Network (WECAN) Regional program with local partner Synergie des Associations Feminines du Congo (SAFECO) to raise awareness about deforestation, protection of the Itombwe Rainforest, and defending the rights of Indigenous Pygmy Peoples and the local communities living in and around forest areas.

Through an ongoing series of online and on-the-ground trainings with WECAN – the women have built understanding about local and international environmental protection laws, Rights of Nature, the need for women’s leadership, and how care and damages to local ecosystems fits into a worldwide story of climate crisis and hope.

Walking past the Center to the tree planting area

Women walking past the Itombwe Center

The women have come together to share their Traditional Ecologic Knowledge and strategize on how to protect it, exchange information about the medicinal properties of local forest plants, and envision the transformation of the now stripped dry landscape back into the lush forest that remains in bits and pieces across the region.

In recent months the women have moved from analysis to action – beginning to employ solar lights and Improved Cooking Stoves to lessen their demands for fuel wood, and creating and maintaining tree nurseries in Marinade, Itombwe, which now holds over twenty-five varieties of local tree saplings.

Through sessions with WECAN and SAFECO, the women have also formed a local conservation committee, drafted a declaration, and met with government officials, military members, and local NGO’s to share their work and action plans while calling for accountability and support from state actors.

In September 2015 the women hosted the Territory Administrator of Mwenga (akin to a Governor), the Itombwe Sector Chief, the Marunde Village Chief and other local officials at their center in Itombwe.

Administrator Speech at Nursery

Women leaders present their tree nursery to local government officials

The women shared their concerns around illegal deforestation and environmental degradation, presented their Improved Cooking Stoves initiative, and led officials on a tour of their nursery and growing reforestation project. They then united with the officials and military members to hold a tree planting ceremony, which the Administrator celebrated as the first-ever official event to reforest and protect the Earth in the Itombwe Sector of South Kivu Province.

The Administrator spoke of the extreme value of the women’s work and the significance of this new beginning, sharing hopes that one day soon the world would be able to reflect and admire how the people of the region respect the forests of the Congo, one of the largest rainforests in the world, second only to the mighty Amazon.

12003931_1013835485303553_2893651382510146513_n

Planting trees during the ceremony

After the government delegation departed, approximately 40 women gathered to celebrate, discuss the results of the visit, and strategize on next steps to heal the land and address the needs of their communities.

Reflecting on all that has been accomplished thus far by the women forest guardians of Itombwe, Neema Namadamu, the Coordinator of the WECAN DR Congo program, explained,

“The women of WECAN-Congo are determined to change things in our little world of Itombwe, for ourselves and for the rest of the world. We are taking our stewardship seriously. We know that the difference we make not only affects our world, but the rest of our planet. We feel the weight of it all and are doing our part. To our sisters around the world we say: We are TOGETHER!”

Women’s Earth and Climate Action Network Co-Founder and Executive Director, Osprey Orielle Lake and WECAN DR Congo Coordinator/Founder of SAFECO, Neema Namadamu, met up this month to strategize about next steps for protection of the Itombwe forest and the Indigenous peoples of the region.

On October 27th WECAN and SAFECO will lead the next online climate solutions training with women of Itombwe. On December 7th, Neema Namadamu will present her insights, actions plans, and stories of the women forest guardians of the DR Congo at WECAN’s ‘Women Leading Solutions on the Frontlines of Climate Change – Paris‘ event during COP21 climate negotiations.

neema& Osprey

Explore more photos from the September 2015 reforestation ceremony and training below:

Women walking back to Center (1)

Women forest guardians of Itombwe

drcsept4

On the dry plateau above the reforestation site

During Administrator's speech, shot of banner and other tree beds with s...

The women lead a tour of their local tree nursery, which now holds over 25 varieties of sapling

11986990_1013829768637458_6889002631821189348_n

“The thought of making our home a forest again brings great joy.”

11987160_1013829248637510_7664179779758446399_n

Views of the women’s growing tree nursery

Another solider planting tree

A solider plants a tree as part of the ceremony

Feeding soldiers at Center (1)

Neema Namadamu, Director of SAFECO and WECAN DR Congo Coordinator observes soldiers eating lunch at Itombwe center after the ceremony

11998935_1013839438636491_4683619048011871272_n

11998806_1013838978636537_4848044020835134658_n

Neema Namadamu leads a training and reflection session with women after the tree planting ceremony

11998987_1013839905303111_3565084580852689844_n

The WECAN-Congo women gather in front of the Gazebo at the Itombwe Center for a group photo at the end of the day

Blog by Emily Arasim, Women’s Earth & Climate Action Network Communications Coordinator

‘Rights of Nature: Protecting & Defending the Places We Live’ Training Resources

ron

On July 28, 2015 the U.S Women’s Climate Justice Initiative presented the final session in a series of free, online advocacy and education trainings. ‘Rights of Nature & Community Rights: Protecting & Defending the Places We Live’ featured climate women leaders Shannon Biggs of Movement Rights and Osprey Orielle Lake of the Women’s Earth and Climate Action Network.

During the training Shannon and Osprey provided a background on Rights of Nature and the importance of a legal framework that honors Earths living systems rather than treating them as property. They described how Rights of Nature can be used to take immediate, concrete steps to protect our communities and the planet– and also as a tool for furthering deep, long-term shifts in culture, law, policy, and our relationship with the Earth. They shared techniques for asserting community rights and Rights of Nature over supposed corporate ‘rights’, power, and profit, and told stories about communities across the US and the world who are already using local Rights of Nature ordinances to take back their ability to protect the Earth and make decisions about the places they call home.

A collection of resources presented during the training is provided below.

shannon 557194_702172513144668_939071250_n

Resistance & Solutions: Women on the Frontlines Training Recap

Blog by Emily Arasim, WECAN International Communications Coordinator

On July 8 2015, the US Women’s Climate Justice Initiative presented the third in a series of online education and advocacy trainings. ‘Women on the Frontlines of Climate Change: Resistance & Solutions’ featured Kandi Mossett, Casey Camp-Horniek, Jacqui Patterson, and Pennie Opal Plant, four powerful women leaders at the forefront of movements for social and ecologic justice in their communities across the United States.

Screen Shot 2015-08-03 at 4.02.29 PM

Osprey Orielle Lake, co-Founder and Executive Director of the Women’s Earth & Climate Action Network, opened the call with a warm welcome and brief background on key WECAN International principles, including dedication to women’s stories and solutions, and work within a climate justice framework centered on those who experience climate impacts “first and worst”.

“We need to examine the root causes of climate change and carry out deep systemic analysis around racism, sexism, and our economy of consumption as we seek to understand and address the planetary crisis we face,” Osprey reflected.

She described the US Women’s Climate Justice Initiative as one of the ways that WECAN International is seeking to examine these root causes and uplift women’s solutions. We are “weaving together different stories, sectors, struggles and conversations,” and addressing differing needs and privileges across diverse groups of US women, Osprey explained. With a word of thanks, she passed the floor to the first training speaker, Kandi Mossett.

Kandi

“Hello relatives my name is Eagle Woman,” she began, speaking in the language of her people.

Kandi is of Mandan, Hidatsa, and Arikara heritage, and was born and raised in an area known today as the Fort Berthold Reservation in North Dakota. She serves as the Native Energy & Climate Campaign Organizer for the Indigenous Environmental Network.

Click here to read more about Kandi’s work on the WECAN International blog.

Kandi’s home and the surrounding region has become a major extraction hotspot due to the large Bakken shale formation that lies beneath its soil. Expansion of the industry has been rapid and dangerous – destroying the land and bringing pollution, health complications, community conflict, and growing problems with crime and sexual violence.

Screen Shot 2015-07-29 at 11.33.53 PM

Collection of news headlines. Photo via Kandi Mossett powerpoint.

Kandi began with a description of the basic mechanisms of fracking, and then dived into the impacts being felt by the Earth and local communities. Flames from flaring natural gas send a constant stream of pollutants into the air. Prime agricultural and livestock lands have been poisoned. Trucks carrying volatile materials and toxic waste pass through towns 24 hours a day. Community members have been killed by the endless train of semi-truck traffic, and exhaust and dust pollution is exacerbating already severe health impacts. Kandi explained how these trucks dump excess frack-water on back-roads near the reservation, and that even when the waste is ‘properly’ disposed of, it is often simply dumped into plastic-lined earthen pits from which water seeps and wildlife drink.

A one million gallon spill occurred last year and killed everything it touched, compromising the safety of the lake from which Kandi’s community and others draw their drinking water. People have been told to keep off of land that has functioned as community space for decades, and an area that was previously quiet and sparsely populated is now flooded with so many industry lights that it stands out brightly in satellite images.

Kandi discussed some of the long-term and deeply felt social and cultural impacts of the oil boom. One is division within communities where some tribal council members welcome the fossil fuel companies and others speak out and resist.

Many of the biggest issues, she explained, revolve around ‘man camps’ – huge complexes of mobile homes used to house hundreds of men brought in to work on extraction sites. These ‘man camps’ have brought spikes in crime, drug use, and sexual assaults, particularly on Indigenous women and girls.

Kandi and members of her community continue to organize and fight back. They hold educational events, marches, and line roadsides with poster displaying their demands for change. They have had some successes, including stopping the construction of a new waste pit near a vital water source, taking back an important powwow which was sponsored by fossil fuels companies the previous year, and forming a new community group called Fort Berthold POWER, ‘Protectors of Water and Earth Rights’. Other successes have been short-lived, such as when they successfully stopped an oil refinery only to have it built in the neighboring town.

Screen Shot 2015-07-29 at 7.45.47 PM

Photo via Kandi Mossett

During her presentation Kandi stressed the importance of water and the need to defend it from contamination. “Water is life,” she explained, “its no coincidence that when we have babies they are born in water.”

The situation in Fort Berthold and across the Bakken region is life or death for many, but despite this Kandi concluded her presentation with inspiring and hopeful insights. She encouraged training participants to focus on education, taking back power in their communities, and helping others make connections between the concept of climate justice and the injustices experienced in their daily lives.

“We must keep it in the ground and protect the generations to come,” Kandi concluded.

10622796_931876643507586_3823151907636250177_n

Casey Camp speaking at WECAN’s Sept. 2014 event in NYC. Photo by Emily Arasim.

Casey Camp Horneik spoke next. Casey is a long-time Native rights activist, environmentalist, and actress from the Ponca Nation in Oklahoma. She helps maintain the cultural identity of the Ponca Nation as a traditional Drumkeeper, and stands at the forefront of efforts to educate and empower Native and non-Native allies on environmental and civil rights issues in Oklahoma, and at the national and international level.

Like Kandi, Casey began with a greeting in the language of her people. “What an incredible healing time we are all participating in,” she reflected.

She described the “spiderweb” of pipelines crossing her region – including pipelines that stretch to Alberta, Canada, and from both coasts of the U.S. The intensity of fracking in her region has made Oklahoma the new earthquake capital of the US, with the number of 3.0 or greater earthquakes rising from 106 in 2013 to 585 in 2014 – with 400 thus far in 2015. According to Casey, the locations of underground pipelines, fracking injection wells, and recent earthquakes overlap quite closely.

“It’s difficult to talk about the issues in our homelands in a way that can help you understand the devastation that extractive industries have us under.”

In 2004 Casey’s small community of less than 800 people held one funeral per week. They have witnessed massive fish die-offs in poisoned waters and have been told not to eat the fish out of the river. Necessity and hunger have meant that some families have no choice, but the fact is that it is not a choice they should have to make at all.

Casey drew connections between the devastation being wrought by fossil fuel companies and the larger legacy of displacement and persecution of Indigenous communities in her region and across the world.

“We are experiencing a real and active genocidal process here in Oklahoma and we are only one people,” she continued, explaining that the genocidal process fueled by extractive industries takes many forms, including loss of language and spirituality, destruction of sacred sites, economic collapse, social breakdown, and long and short term health impacts.

“Our children are coming onto Earth with poison already in their body,” she lamented.

In explaining the deep impacts felt by her community in Oklahoma and others across the world, Casey also discussed the “normalized oppression” held firmly in place over many Indigenous peoples, and the depression and sense of hopelessness that goes along with it. Frontline communities like Casey’s can feel abandoned in their struggle, and it is time to change that.

Screen Shot 2015-08-02 at 8.27.14 PM

Photo via Casey Camp

“Right now we have the chance to turn this tide where we are participating fully in the healing of ourselves as women, daughters, granddaughters, sisters…We can find a way to make it happen so that our grandchildren can have grandchildren who will live because of what happened in 2015…We aren’t giving them our power any longer – we are recognizing where power really belongs – the true power is Earth,” Casey concluded, passing the floor to Jacqui Patterson.

Jacqui is Director of the NAACP Environmental and Climate Justice Program and Coordinator and co-Founder of Women of Color United. She has worked as a researcher, program manager, coordinator, advocate and activist on issues of women‘s rights, violence against women, HIV&AIDS, racial justice, economic justice, and environmental and climate justice. Some of her publications include “Climate Change is a Civil Rights Issue”, “Gulf Oil Drilling Disaster: Gendered Layers of Impact”, “Disasters, Climate Change Uproot Women of Color”, and “Coal Blooded; Putting Profits Before People” – which can be found in the resources section at the bottom of this article.

1237180_702723393089580_1967172644_n

Jacqui at the 2013 Women’s Earth & Climate Summit. Photo via Lori Waselchuk

Jacqui began her presentation by framing the climate crisis in terms of our “dangerous relationship with excess” – be it food, transport, waste, or energy. She noted disproportionately severe climate impacts on low-income communities, peoples of color, nations of global south, and women, and zoned-in specifically on the skewed placement of coal-fired plants, fracking, mining infrastructure and landfills near communities of color.

Jacqui brought vital social issues to the table, including stories of children living near toxic sites who have become totally dependent on medications to combat asthma and respiratory problems, or who have developed learning disorders due to lead exposure. She tied environmental justice issues to the “school to prison pipeline”, explaining how people living near toxic sites have a 50% lower property value, which translates to under-funded schools because property taxes pay for local education systems. Lack of resources and teachers makes it harder for children to thrive, and children who do not reach a certain learning level by third grade are considered more likely to enter into the criminal justice system. Environmental injustice is thus deeply tied to cycles of poverty, criminality, and discrimination.

During her presentation Jacqui drew attention to the double damages felt by low-income families, Indigenous people, and communities of color who are affected both when industry extracts, pollutes, and dumps directly in their neighborhoods, and again when they find themselves on the frontlines of large climate disasters like hurricanes, droughts, and floods.

Jacqui discussed why we continue to find ourselves in this unjust and unhealthy situation, citing ‘powerbrokers’ including big corporations, courts, banks, think tanks, and academic institutions that are set on “maintaining the status quo of poor policymaking that values profit above people.”

In the face of mighty challenges, it is time for “Resistance, Resilience, Reclamation, and Revolution” she explained, shifting to a discussion of the experiences, solutions, and forward steps that the communities she works with are engaged in.

Screen Shot 2015-08-02 at 8.29.02 PM

Photo via Jacqui Patterson

Jacqui reflected on “women as leaders in this freedom fight,” as she told the story of a woman in North Carolina who began her own ‘citizens investigation’ to document the illnesses being experienced by community members living next to a coal-ash pond. The woman took photos and notes that she began to have to mark with the letter D as friends and neighbors passed away. She too ultimately passed away from illnesses believed to be linked to the nearby contamination.

This story is harrowing and must be honored, however Jacqui also shared some exciting victories. She introduced the story of the Fisk and Crawford coal plant in Chicago, which was successfully shut down by organizers with the Little Village Environmental Justice Organization (LVEJO) and allies. She also touched on the growing movement to recognize corporate overreach, citing movements like Occupy and a citizen survey that found that the influence of money on elections was one of US residents top concerns. This is all part of the fight and the solution.

Screen Shot 2015-08-02 at 8.27.53 PM

‘Stop the 1% from profiting from pollution’ – South Africa. Photo via Jacqui Patterson.

“We need to ensure that we are working together to root out all forms of oppression wherever it is,” Jacqui explained.

She echoed Osprey’s sentiment that we must look at both micro-level, immediate changes and solutions in how we live and our relationship with Nature, families, and communities – as well as at big picture systemic change. Extreme weather events and other climate stresses are having devastating impacts now, which means we must build resilience on a day-to-day basis as we work towards larger transformation. Jacqui called for “reclamation” of the commons, our communities, the energy grid, our food system, the shared economy, and our democracy.

Jacqui ended with a 1967 quote from civil rights freedom fighter Martin Luther King Jr: “One day we must ask the question, ‘Why are there forty million poor people in America?’ And when you begin to ask that question, you are raising questions about the economic system, about a broader distribution of wealth. When you ask that question, you begin to question the capitalistic economy…You begin to ask the question, ‘Why is it that people have to pay water bills in a world that is two-thirds water?’”

pennie

Pennie Opal Plant spoke as the final presenter of the day. Pennie is of Yaqui, Mexican, English, Dutch, Choctaw, Cherokee and Algonquin heritage, and has been an activist for over 30 years working on anti-nuclear, environmental, and indigenous rights campaigns. She is a founding member of Idle No More SF Bay, Movement Rights, and the Bay Area Rights of Nature Alliance, working ceaselessly to address climate change, fossil fuel extraction, and environmental injustice in and around her community.

Pennie began with thanks to her ancestors for making her a strong woman. She recognized all of the incredible efforts to heal the Earth happening in her San Francisco Bay Area community and across the world, but also reminded participants we still have a long way to go to bring awareness about the issues we face to the level we need.

“There is so much work for all of us to do to help people become activated and inspire them to see this beautiful new future that we imagine and people are already putting into place,” Pennie reflected.

“I’ve really realized that we have to call out for the complete end to all new fossil fuel infrastructure. Period… We know that we need to keep it in the ground.”

She explained clearly how continued fossil fuel development is bad for the Earth, bad for the investors who will face stranded assets as we transition, and bad for the communities who very well may continue to be abandoned with the mess to clean up.

Pennie outlined the situation in the Bay Area of California, where they are coping with Chevron, Conoco Phillips66, Tesaro, Shell, and Velaro refineries and a slew of other industrial sites. The latest are the proposed West Pack site, which seeks to bring oil from the tar sands in Alberta and the Bakken oil fields in North Dakota, and the Water Front Industrial Project, a fifty mile construction which will require the dredging of the delta and countless other harms.

In response to the refineries and the deep environmental and social damages they are causing, the idea of the Refinery Corridor Healing Walks was birthed out of a circle of Indigenous Grandmothers and the Idle No More SF Bay community.

Screen Shot 2015-08-03 at 8.50.52 AM

Photo via Pennie Opal Plant

For the second year in a row, this summer organizers took people out on four to nine mile walks between refineries to see the damage and smell the toxins that nearby communities experience everyday. It is action to walk, witness, heal, experience, and unite. Walks are led by Indigenous elders in prayer, and throughout the walk teachers and friends “share our understanding what it means to be alive in this system of life on Mother Earths belly.”

Refinery Corridor Healing Walks will continue next year and all are welcome to participate. Pennie also mentioned allies in Texas who are hoping to start healing walks through a refinery corridor in Huston, discussing her excitement that the idea of healing walks could be expanded and applied in other communities worldwide.

In closing, Pennie provided a brief background of Movement Rights, a new organization that provides organizing and legal support to helps communities assert their rights to self governance, ban corporate harms and take away corporate personhood rights, promote Rights of Nature, and write ordinances to put people over profit in their community.

Screen Shot 2015-08-03 at 8.50.30 AM

Photo via Pennie Opal Plant

Osprey Orielle Lake of WECAN International transitioned the group into a Question & Answer session with comments on the powerful spectrum of emotion felt during the four presentations, from deep grief to hope and inspiration. She opened the floor to training participants and speakers, who explored how allies can support and engage with the community movements highlighted during presentations.

Pennie shared the Refinery Corridor Healing Walks GoFundMe page and invited anyone in the Bay Area to join Idle No More for future actions and events. Kandi encouraged allies to contact North Dakota Senators Heidi Heitkamp and John Holden to push back against fracking in the state, reminding participants that “the water doesn’t stay in one area, the air doesn’t stay in one area, all of our local struggles are connected.”

Casey spoke frankly with participants about the need to get funding and other forms of support directly to the frontline communities whose “blood, sweat, and tears” go towards on-the-ground community organizing and resistance. She asked participants to share ideas on how to raise funds, get frontline communities connected into larger movements, and bring Indigenous leaders to speak to affected communities so that they can better understand the challenges they face and see how others are resisting, protecting the Earth, and uplifting their people.

Osprey closed the training with a deep thanks to everyone for their participation, encouraging them to share what they had discussed during the training far and wide. She also invited participants to share stories of the climate impacts their communities are facing and the solutions they offer as part of the Global Women’s Climate Justice Day of Action, happening September 29, 2015.

“Stories about women, frontline communities, and climate justice are not being told at the level we need them to be and this deeply hinders our movement forward. The more we amplify these stories the more change for climate justice we will see.”

Training Resources

Health & Climate: Changing the Narrative – Training Recap Day Two

Blog by Emily Arasim, WECAN International Communications Coordinator

person-731319_640

On June 25, 2015 the U.S Women’s Climate Justice Initiative held the second day of an online education and advocacy training, ‘Health & Climate Change: What Is At Stake, What Can Be Done?’. A detailed review of day one is available here.

Day two featured four outstanding women leaders, Susan E. Pacheco M.D of the University of Texas, Pandora Thomas of EarthSeed Consulting LLC & the Black Permaculture Network, Angela Monti Fox of The Mothers Project, and Hannah Vogel with Climate Nexus.

Osprey Orielle Lake, co-Founder and Executive Director of the Women’s Earth and Climate Action Network (WECAN International), spoke first, welcoming participants to the call and providing a brief background of WECAN International’s framework and vision for this training and other related work.

According to Osprey, the training call aims to bring together women from diverse groups across the US, acknowledging differing experiences and struggles, and working to build a powerful women’s voice for action on climate change. The training, and WECAN’s work in general, is centered on a climate justice framework, which means dedication to the communities who experience climate and health impacts “first and worst”.

“While we are all exposed to environmental degradation, we must take into consideration that frontline and Indigenous communities bear the biggest brunt of health and climate impacts, and that the only way to change this is through our involvement and action,” Osprey explained.

She noted that genuine action on climate change requires “systemic social and political analysis,” and asserted that women’s voices must be heard if we are to develop effective, long-term solutions. Osprey closed her introduction by inviting all participants to join WECAN International for a Global Women’s Climate Justice Day of Action, happening on September 29. Learn more about the Day of Action here.

susan

Dr. Susan E. Pacheco

Dr. Susan E. Pacheco took the floor as the first training presenter. Dr. Pacheco is an Associate Professor at the University of Texas Health Science Center specializing in pediatric asthma, allergies, and immunology. She is also the founder of the Alliance Of Health Professionals Against Climate Change and the Texas Coalition for Climate Change Awareness, and serves as the health representative for the Climate Science Rapid Response Team. Susan’s presentation, ‘Children in a Changing World: Silent Victims of Climate Change’, focused on climate-related threats to maternal and children’s health.

According to Susan, 88% of the worldwide disease burden falls on children under five years of age. Some of the things that make children especially vulnerable include the fact that they ‘breathe more air and drink more water’, have immature and developing organs, lungs, and nervous systems, are at a stage of rapid change, spend more time outdoors, need more ‘emotional shelter’, and face a lifetime of exposure and climate stress.

Dr. Pacheco discussed air pollution as a health impact stemming directly from fossil fuel use, and touched on a few more subtle health problems with severe impacts on children. Changing climate patterns are causing increased pollen production in plants, which is worsening allergies and causing respiratory problems. Rising temperatures are affecting ozone production, which changes air quality and has increased the prevalence of asthma. 300 million people worldwide suffer from asthma. In U.S 20 million people are afflicted, 7 million of them children.

Echoing calls made during day one of the training, Susan pointed out that very little research has been done on the mental health impacts of climate change, which are thought to include apathy, depression, social stress, and PTSD, to name but a few. As a poignant example, Susan drew attention to the 160,000 children displaced and 15,000 children who did not go to school during the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

Dr. Pacheco also spoke on maternal health, discussing studies connecting women’s exposure to air pollution with autism risk in their children. She highlighted long-term brain damage and developmental issues as effects of exposure to industrial pollutants and fossil fuels during pregnancy, and commented upon pregnant women’s increased vulnerability during heat waves and other extreme weather events.

Susan presented passionately on issues of justice, reminding participants that the burden is not distributed evenly, with socio-economic background determining children’s relative exposure. She spoke to the fact that those who produce the least carbon emissions are the most effected, whether we are discussing differential impacts on children and adults, or between high and low-income communities and countries. According to her presentation, there are more than 700 million children living in the ten countries most vulnerable to climate change.

Critically, Dr. Pacheco explained that re-framing the climate conversation to bring health impacts to the forefront has the potential to inspire meaningful action like perhaps nothing else could.

“The moment that we change our conversation to bring health to the climate change debate our action will change,” she asserted, describing how health discussions can make climate change more relatable and bring an even greater sense of urgency to our response efforts.

pandora

Pandora Thomas

Pandora Thomas spoke next. Pandora is a teacher, writer, designer, speaker and co-Founder of Earthseed Consulting LLC, a holistic consulting firm working to expand opportunities for sustainable living to diverse communities across the U.S. Pandora’s other projects include the Black Permaculture Network and Pathways to Resilience, a program working to engage people exiting the prison system in permaculture concepts and practices.

Pandora spoke with training participants about building community resilience and helping engage people in climate change and health issues by “meeting people where they’re at” and creating relevant, appropriate, and community led projects and initiatives.

“Where we are is very urgent, but ripe full of opportunities,” she began, introducing the West African concept of Sankofa, which translates roughly to ‘we must know from where we came in order to move forward’, used here in reference to the need to build on centuries of wisdom and tradition as we move forward in addressing climate change and its dire health impacts.

Pandora shared a powerful discussion of the disproportionate climate-health impacts felt by African-American communities across the U.S.

Pandora shared research that 71% of African-Americans live in counties that violate federal air pollutions standards. 78% live within 30 miles of coal-fired plant, and they are also more likely to live near landfills or incinerators. African-Americans have a 36% higher rate of asthma and die from this condition at twice the rate as Caucasians Americans. They are also at greater risk of heat-related deaths, (which will increase by at least 90% due to climate change) due in part to the fact that they are more likely to live in inner city areas. African-Americans are also more likely to reside in coastal areas prone to hurricanes, flooding, and sea level rise, and experience food insecurity at a rate 25.7% higher than the national average.

Pandora also drew connections between climate vulnerability, economic insecurity, and crime and violence, presenting the story of the Pathways to Resilience program as an example of how we can tackle the nexus of climate impacts in a constructive way.

In sharing the work of Pathways to Resilience, Pandora introduced the concept of permaculture as a key tool for restoring the health of the planet and people. Permaculture is a design system and way of living based on observing how natural systems work and seeking to emulate these patterns and principles in all that we do. Among many things, permaculture includes ecologic farming, soil and plant stewardship, green building, Earth-centered economics, water conservation and care, reduced consumption, and clean energy– making it a potent tool for build the kind of world we want – one that insures health for people and planet.

Some of Pandora’s other insights for addressing climate and health impacts within a justice framework include “connect to that which gives you strength”, “think of our potential instead of being mired in the problems”, “feed what you want to see grow”, and draw upon and uplift the existing experiences and solutions of frontline communities.

Angela Monti Fox spoke next. Angela is a mental health professional and founder of Mothers Project, an organization established in 2012 in reaction to the expansion of fracking and natural gas exploitation in New York and Pennsylvania.

angela

Angela Monti Fox

“[They are] drilling in everyone’s back yard and creating a public health crisis without the public actually knowing it,” Angela explained, noting that similar stories are repeated across the country, “poisoned water and sick children.”

Angela described how extractive industries and other big polluters are allowed to slide-by, dumping toxins into water and claiming that chemicals are diluted to such small quantities that they cannot affect people. The Mothers Project and countless other groups and communities across the world however, are testifying otherwise.

Angela cited a 1996-2009 study in Colorado which followed pregnant women living near gas wells and found birth defects and a 30% greater chance of these women giving birth to a preterm and/or underweight babies. It is being revealed that this kind of exposure can also result in endocrine disruption and DNA damage, meaning that children could be affected for life.  Angela also noted disruptions of children’s ability to “learn, love, bond”.

Angela and the Mothers Project team wrote and sent a letter to Michelle Obama asking for her support in addressing fracking and its health impacts on children. They received no reply, but continue undaunted in their work to expose and prevent these dangerous health impacts.

“A child centered model would bring the entire fossil fuels industry down in a massive action,” Angela explained, expressing her sentiment, much like Susan’s, that the public would care deeply if they understood the depth of the climate-health crisis. Mothers can and should be at the forefront of the movement to educate and inspire action.

We have the power and the science to shift our energy system, Susan concluded, “do we have the power in the people?”

hannah

Hannah Vogel

Hannah Vogel, an associate with Climate Nexus, spoke as the fourth and final presenter of day two. Hannah presented an overview of an important climate and health report that was released just days before the June 25th training. The ‘Lancet Commission on Health & Climate Change’ frames climate disruption as the most pressing global health risk of the century, while conversely drawing attention to action on climate change as our greatest opportunity to address health problems worldwide, with immediate and long-term benefits.

Hannah touched on a theme highlighted by many presenters over the course of the two-day training –we simply must start paying a lot more attention to what our energy decisions mean for our health. According to Hannah’s overview of the Lancet report, we need to fundamentally shift our energy model and implement an ‘emergency-style’ response to climate change.

Screen-Shot-2015-05-25-at-5-21-31-PM

During the training Q & A session presenters and participants returned to the subject of the Lancet Report to discuss concerns that, while the report makes powerful calls for action to shut-down coal based energy production, it does not make similar statements on fracking and natural gas, two toxic energy sources whose major health impacts were reviewed by Angela Monti Fox and other speakers during training day one. WECAN International will continue to review the Lancet Report and speak out about discrepancies in an otherwise powerful and important document.

Other topics discussed during the Q & A session include; why we need to pay attention to changing consumer behavior and companies visions rather than just policy, the importance of “finding peoples entry points” and framing climate and health discussions in a positive, inclusive way, and how we can create bridges between diverse movements for justice, referring specifically to the devastating Charleston shooting and Black Lives Matter movement.

In reflecting on the two days of ‘Health & Climate Change: What Is At Stake, What Can Be Done?’ training a few key themes become apparent:

  • Children, women and elders are disproportionately vulnerable to health problems stemming from climate impacts.
  • Low-income communities are more likely to be exposed to toxic industrial sites, fossil fuel infrastructure, and extreme weather events.
  • The fossil fuel industry is the root source of much pollution and climate change-related health problems – addressing health impacts thus means working towards 100% renewable energy.
  • Direct action at the local community level is effective and we all have the power and potential to get involved.
  • Re-framing climate change conversations to reflect pervasive health impacts is central to insuring deep, sustained action on climate change.
  • Education is the key – it is up to all of us to raise our voices and get out in our communities to help connect the dots and re-frame the climate change conversation to include critical health impacts.

For information on future WECAN International education and advocacy calls, please click here.

Health & Climate Change Day Two Training Resources

WECAN International at the Coalition Climat 21 Gathering in Paris

climat

For the past three days the Women’s Earth and Climate Action Network (WECAN International) has been on-the-ground in Paris, France participating in a Coalition Climat 21 organizing session with a diverse group of leaders, united for collective action before and during the United Nations COP21 climate negotiations happening in Paris this December.

11407281_943127262417156_4559954373467855438_n

Coalition Climat 21 is composed of over one hundred associations, networks, social and environmental NGO’s, trade unions, youth groups, and grass roots organizers, joined together with the goal of creating a strong civil society voice and popular movement pushing for climate justice and ambitious action during the COP21 negotiations and beyond.

11351157_943567445706471_1982141217689549681_n

Payal Parekh, 350.org Global Director & Osprey Orielle Lake, WECAN International Executive Director.

The June strategy session served as a platform for groups from around the world to share their movements, network with allies, and strengthen plans for events, demonstrations, and other calls to action happening worldwide over the next few months and in Paris during COP21.

11035618_943567455706470_2999320296827470925_n

Jacqueline Patterson, NAACP leader & honored WECAN US Women’s Climate Justice Initiative Steering Committee member with Osprey Orielle Lake, WECAN International Executive Director.

11391268_943127242417158_1425532339981636277_n

While on-the-ground, WECAN International participated in a Women and Gender mobilizing session and had the opportunity to lead a workshop on Rights of Nature and the International Rights of Nature Tribunal which will be happening in Paris in December.

tom

Tom Goldtooth of the Indigenous Environmental Network speaking about Indigenous rights and climate change.

“This year is one of the most critical years for addressing global climate change. If we do not act now, we risk catastrophic impacts that will effect all we hold dear,” explained Osprey Orielle Lake, WECAN International co-Founder and Executive Director, “COP21 will thus likely be the most important UN climate negotiation of our time. The decisions and actions to protect the Earth and next generations laid out by COP21 international agreements will have a profound impact on our global trajectory. The peoples movement to keep fossil fuels in the ground and bring real change is dynamic and strong, and we must demand and work ceaselessly to insure that world governments step up and answer their citizens calls. We all need to look upward to the sun and wind for a just transition, with frontline communities leading the way.”


Blog by Emily Arasim, WECAN International Communications Coordinator

‘We are all Solar Sisters’ – Women for 100% Renewable Energy Training Recap

windrader-659035_640

On June 2 and 4, 2015 the Women’s Earth and Climate Action Network (WECAN International) held the first in a series of online trainings presented as part of the new U.S. Women’s Climate Justice Initiative. Launched with the goal of building a collective voice for U.S. women advocating for climate justice and action in the lead up to COP21 climate negotiations, the 2016 U.S. elections and beyond, these free education and advocacy sessions strive to provide the resources and support needed for women to become effective climate leaders in their communities, and at the national and global scale.

The first training, ‘Women for 100% Renewable Energy- From Installation to Advocacy’ centered on a few key questions including:

  • What policies are most important to advocate for in the transition to 100% renewable energy?
  • What is distributed/decentralized energy and how do we realize it?
  • How do we move to install solar in our own homes and communities, including for low-income women?

‘Women for 100% Renewable Energy’ featured presentations by Angelina Galiteva and Diane Moss of Renewables 100 Policy Institute, Cathleen Monahan of Grid Alternatives, Allison Archambault of EarthSpark International, Lynn Benander of CoOp Power, and Robert Styler of Powur, with an introduction and moderation by WECAN International Executive Director, Osprey Orielle Lake. Full biographies are available here.

WECAN International and Renewables 100 Policy Institute advocating for 100% renewable energy at the Peoples Climate March in New York City, September 2014.

Osprey Orielle Lake opened the June 2nd training with a warm welcome and brief discussion of why women are so central in this stage of the human journey, as we move to address the climate crisis. Focusing in on one very tangible indicator, Osprey explained that in the United States women make approximately 80% of all consumer choices, giving them a powerful ability to direct fossil fuel divestment, clean energy choices and investment, and community-led grassroots transitions.

Osprey also opened the floor to a discussion of a central training topic; what does an equitable transition to renewable energy entail? She explained that a justice framework calls for renewable energy that is accessible to all peoples, that works with respect for Nature’s needs and diversity, and that does not pursue any false solutions, such as large-scale hydropower, nuclear energy, or shale gas.

She also spoke about the concept of a Just Transition and how a fair and sustainable low-carbon economy must care for workers, families and communities currently involved in conventional fuel production, ensuring that they do not bear the brunt of the transition to new ways of producing wealth.

Concluding her introduction, Osprey drew attention to the fact that the U.S represents 5% of the world population, yet produces upwards of 26% of global carbon emissions.

“As one of the world’s biggest carbon polluters, the US has a historic and current responsibility to lead the way to a clean energy future. But simply transitioning to renewables will not solve our problems, we must also dig deeper to address over-consumption and unequal distribution, analyzing how we can live better, not more,” she explained.

angelina

Angelina Galiteva, Renewables 100 Policy Institute

Angelina Galiteva, co-Founder of the Renewables 100 Policy Institute, presented first, providing a big picture look at why we must transition, what progress has already been made, and how women can work to further this transformation.

According to Angelina, we need to focus on 100% renewable energy because it is achievable, because it is an environmental imperative, and because dirty energy lies at the root of all of our problems, from poverty and inequality, to health, war, and climate catastrophe.

“Its very clear that pollution is not free,” Angelina commented, explaining that the fossil fuel industry is the worlds second largest water user, a primary source of water and air contamination, and a creator of huge wealth disparities. The pursuit of 100% renewable energy on the other hand, creates jobs, improves quality of life, mitigates climate change, and can bring energy security and environmental justice.

Angelina provided data to show that there is absolutely no technologic or physical barrier to 100% renewable energy, but rather, only issues of “political and investment will”.

To power the world with solar we need only 0.07% of global land area, and capturing just two minutes of the solar radiation that hits the Earth each day can power the world for a year. Not only could this provide clean and reliable energy, but it could also bring power to the 1-2 billion people who still do not have access to electricity.

“Local action matters,” and is driving the transition, with 8 countries, 55 cities, 58 regions, 9 utilities companies, and 21 nonprofits and educational and public institutions representing more than 52.8 million people already committed to a 100% renewable transition. On a good day, grid power from renewables is reaching more than 40% in California, and we have the demand, knowledge, and community support needed to bring this to fruition in communities across the U.S. and the world.

“We are all solar sisters,” Angelina concluded as she passed the floor to Renewables 100 Policy Institute co-Founder, Diane Moss.

diane

Diane Moss, Renewables 100 Policy Institute

Diane provided further insight into some of the 100% renewable victories already taking place, highlighted key policies to push for, and provided tips for successful organization.

Burlington, Vermont and Greensburg, Kansas have both achieved 100% renewable electricity, and many other U.S counties have firm commitments, including Aspen, Colorado by 2015, Palo Alto, California by 2017, Georgetown, Texas by 2017, East Hampton, New York by 2020, San Diego, California by 2030, and Hawaii by 2045.

According to Diane, some of the important initiatives that U.S. women can advocate for include policies that:

  • set zero net-energy building targets
  • streamline the permitting process for renewable energy installs
  • promote and allow net metering
  • cut direct and indirect subsidies for conventional energy sources
  • educate and train citizens of all ages in clean energy and green job development

Diane explained that the first and most successful 100% renewable campaigns have come from communities that have promoted cooperation between activists, businesses, and the government. She also suggested that, whether at the household or global scale, 100% renewable energy projects be pursued with a set of short, medium, and long-term goals, with plenty of milestones to celebrate along the way.

Cathleen Monahan, Director of the Single-family Affordable Solar Homes (SASH) Program at GRID Alternatives, spoke next.

cathleen

Cathleen Monahan, GRID Alternatives

Cathleen and GRID Alternatives focus on solar accessibility for low-income communities for a few reasons. For one, solar installation can result in an 80% average reduction in monthly electricity bills. Secondly, the homeowners who can least afford clean energy are often the ones living in closest proximity to toxic conventional production.

After discussing the importance of renewables in a social justice context, Cathleen provided a look into some of the technical aspects of solar configuration and installation, including an overview of the parts of a solar energy system, different designs for mounting, options for connection (batteries vs. grid connected), selecting a contractor, financing your project, and tips for where to place your panels, which sizes to use, and system set up in different microclimates.

Cathleen also shared information about GRID Alternative’s Women’s Solar Initiative, which as gotten more than 1,000 women out on job sites to learn about solar energy. More information about opportunities to volunteer on a solar install with a powerful all-female team is available here.

alison

Allison Archambault, Earthspark International

Allison Archambault of Earthspark International opened the second day of training on June 4, joining the call from Haiti. She discussed the three keys to 100% renewable energy; storage, integration, and demand management. The later was of particular importance in her presentation, which busted the myth that supply must equal demand. Rather, Allison explained, in a sustainable renewable energy model, we should work to adjust demand to meet supply. For example, if we know that the grid will be strained in the afternoon on a hot summer day, we can work to pre-cool homes, thus re-distributing demand to function in harmony with the flow of energy production.

By building renewable energy infrastructure in optimal locations, using a mix of complementary technologies, and using smart grids to bring demand into equilibrium with supply, we can create “clean, local, efficient, affordable, reliable energy systems”- the CLEAR choice. Community micro grids were also discussed as key component of a resilient energy system, functioning independently of the bigger grid with on-site generation and storage.

Concluding her presentation, Alison spoke with participants about the idea of shifting from being consumers to ‘prosumers’, and discussed the sense of empowerment and connection that develops when individuals and communities re-claim local power and begin contributing back to a renewable energy grid.

lynn

Lynn Benander, Co-op Power

Lynn Benander of Co-op Power spoke second, presenting the strategy of consumer owned energy cooperatives, as modeled by the Co-op Power network already up and running across New England. Participants in the New England renewable cooperatives come from multiclass and multirace backgrounds, promoting justice and diversity as the first step in sustainability and the clean energy transition.

Using the locally owned coop model, every community can decide what direction they want to take- be it solar, wind, biomass, or geo-thermal- and work to ensure that energy is created and distributed in a just and inclusive way. In bringing power back into the hands of residents, deep and sustained local economic development becomes a real, powerful possibility. According to Lynn, women are playing a key role on every level of community renewable energy development- as purchasers, activists, policymakers, supporters, organizers, and builders.

She also 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.

Lynn ended her presentation with a powerful assertion that the only precedent to the renewable energy movement is the abolition movement, with both striving to address economic injustice and root causes of unequal power and poverty dynamics. In fighting for 100% renewable energy, we are thus furthering the work of the important movements that have come before us.

Robert Styler of Powur spoke with training participants last, expanding upon Lynn’s sentiment that a virtually unprecedented movement is taking place. In his words, “the greatest transfer of wealth in history is happening now, from the fossil fuel industry to clean energy entrepreneurs like you.”

robert

Robert Styler, Powur

“Concentration of power is a disaster,” Robert commented, highlighting how the pursuit of renewable energy gives us an opportunity to reverse this trend by decentralizing both energy production and wealth creation. Despite being up against big obstacles, Robert explained that we are at a tipping point, with even the big banks and head of the Federal Energy Regulation Committee conceding that renewable energy is well on its way to making fossil fuels obsolete.

Robert provided background on the Solar City program which is installing a new solar system in the U.S. every three minutes, and discussed the ways that Powur is working to make financial support accessible for homeowners and organizations leading the renewable energy transition through an ingenious new fundraising system.

Thanking WECAN International and training participants for allowing him to present, Robert expressed his deeply held belief that the shift to a just and healthy world will be one led by women, and supported by men.

During the question and answer segments of the two-day training participants and speakers engaged in discussion about passive solar and the promotion of net-zero energy homes, how to modify the renewable energy tax credit system so that it benefits low-income communities, and the need to address campaign contributions so that big utility and fossil fuel companies cannot continue to push dirty energy. They discussed the need for carbon taxes, the potential of geo-thermal, how to promote renewables in high-density urban centers, and the power of focusing on your own zone of influence while educating others and taking personal steps to further the 100% renewable energy transition.

‘Women for 100% Renewable Energy- From Installation to Advocacy’ was presented by the WECAN International Women’s Climate Justice Initiative (WCJI). More information about future education and advocacy sessions is available on the WECAN International webpage. The next free online training- ‘Health & Climate Change: What Is At Stake, What Can Be Done’ will be held on June 23rd and 25th. To register for WCJI updates and calls to action, please click here.

 Women for 100% Renewable Energy Training Resources:


Blog by Emily Arasim, WECAN International Communications Coordinator & Project Assistant

‘Women, an Unstoppable Force’ – WECAN at the Regional Bay Area Its Time 2015 Network Convening

On May 2nd, Women’s Earth and Climate Action Network (WECAN International) Co-Founder and Executive Director, Osprey Orielle Lake, spoke at the local ‘It’s Time 2015 – A Partnership Summit to Elevate Women’s Leadership’ in San Francisco, California.

Osprey’s speech is presented below in its entirely, in the hope that its powerful message and insights will inspire more women to discover the agency they hold, and to begin applying their diverse skills and interests towards the fight for climate justice and solutions worldwide.

ospreyitstime

Hello dear friends and allies,

I would like to talk with you about two main points today. The first, that the climate crisis is urgent and that we have only a very small window of time to take bold action. The second, that women can and are making a significant difference in changing our current trajectory concerning global warming.

Last September, I was asked to present at a forum in New York about climate change and health impacts. At the forum a panel of scientists were reporting on their research concerning the harmful effects of increasing CO2 emissions on pregnant women and their growing babies.

It was almost too difficult for me to comprehend the fact that as a species, we are literally weighing the very health of our babies against a destructive system that values money above the well-being of the lives of our children and the planet as a whole.

In this moment it became poignantly clear to me, once again, that we have really gone off the cliff, and that we absolutely must stand up to stop this insanity and build a healthy world for our children and all the species of this magnificent Earth.

Right now we are on a trajectory that has made 2015 the hottest year on record, with extreme weather events already leading to hundreds of thousands of deaths worldwide. We have been experiencing a massive drought in California where I live, and water and food shortages are intensifying globally.

If we continue with business as usual, the climate disruptions that we are creating will continue to lead, quite literally, to fatal changes in the very web of life itself.

Meanwhile, as citizens of the United States, we live in country where climate denial still prevails despite the fact that we are looking at the greatest existential crisis that humanity has ever faced. Just yesterday Congress passed a bill to decrease funds for NASA at a time when we need science more than ever.

It is from this landscape that the Women’s Earth and Climate Action Network was born, and what we are seeing across our international network is the power of women rising up to face this challenge in truly remarkable ways.

While women are the most negatively impacted by climate change and environmental degradation, they are also key to solutions. Women are central stakeholders in re-visioning a new way of living with the earth.

WECAN International is working with women in the Democratic Republic of Congo, the Middle East/North African Region, across Latin America, and beyond and the things we are seeing are incredible. Women saving seeds, women developing small-scale solar businesses, women planting trees to heal destroyed lands, women building resistance movements to keep fossil fuels in the ground, protect their territories, and so much more.

This year WECAN is launching a Women’s Climate Justice Initiative here in the United States, and I invite all of you to unite with us. We have started this initiative in recognition of the fact that the US represents approximately 4% of the world’s population, yet we are producing upwards of 25% of the world’s carbon emissions–this tells me we have a real responsibility to act.

There is so much good work we can do together, so here is a sample of what the U.S. initiative includes:

  • A Women for 100% Renewable Energy campaign.
  • Calls to action to advocate with frontline and Indigenous women such as those living in the Bakken oil fields where a huge amount of devastating fracking is happening.
  • Strategizing to ensure we vote in climate leaders in the 2016 election.
  • Wide scale education and advocacy about environmental injustice and frontline communities.

No matter what issues you are involved with, we invite your collaboration because we firmly believe that the root cause of the climate crisis is the unjust nature of current social and economic systems. All of our issues are unequivocally linked.

The old, dominating structures of inequality must go, as exemplified by the fight to end the fossil fuel era.

As some of you may know, this year is a pivotal time, with international U.N. Climate Negotiations happening in Paris in December. There has never been a more crucial moment to send a powerful message to leaders from U.S women, and from women around the world: Enough is enough, it is time to move to immediately begin leaving fossil fuels in the ground and to transition to a clean, just, decentralized, democratized, and sustainable energy future.

We, as women, must continue to stand up to fight for the rights of our communities and nature. As we say at WECAN International: WE CAN act now, WE MUST act now. And we must demand this from our leaders.

Certainly Nature, our Mother Earth, is not waiting for politicians to negotiate. And there is no way that we can argue or buy our way out of the climate crisis or the laws of the natural world.

It is time for us to respect these natural laws, to respect the rights of Mother Earth, and this is something I feel we women understand deep in our bones.

What continues to inspire me is that we have many successful women’s movements to draw upon: the power of the Chipko Movement in India where women saved entire forests, the Suffrage Movement, the Rural Women’s Movement, and the Liberian Women’s Peace Movement to name a few.

When women are united, we have a profound ability to create an unstoppable force, and that is just what we need to face the climate crisis.

As a global network, women are calling for system change, not climate change. We are asking, ‘does it make any sense to try to protect the Earth and heal damaged ecosystems by further subjecting Nature to the very systems, like our current economic structure, that caused the damage in the first place?’

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, and I am certain women can and will lead the way.

—-

Osprey Orielle Lake speaking at the local ‘It’s Time 2015 – A Partnership Summit to Elevate Women’s Leadership’ in San Francisco, California.

Democratic Republic of Congo Climate Women Take On Deforestation & Clean Energy Needs

The second largest rainforest in the world lies cradled in the Congo Basin of Central Africa. It represents more than 60% of the African continents total rainforest area, and holds within it an almost unfathomable diversity of life. However, like many of the Earths most precious places, this center of immense cultural and ecologic importance faces escalating deforestation and threats from pressures including fuel wood collection, timber and coal production, unsustainable agricultural practices, and social and political unrest.

SAM_7723

For more than a year, the Women’s Earth and Climate Action Network International (WECAN International) has been collaborating with women in the Democratic Republic of Congo’s (DRC) South Kivu Province as part of the ‘Women for Forests and Fossil Fuel/Mega Dam/Mining Resistance’ program. Through a series of online trainings and on-the-ground strategy and action sessions, WECAN International and local partner SAFECO are providing an arena to address regional socio-economic need, support women in their role as community leaders, and confront critical environmental issues by building local solutions with a global vision.

drcfeb1

WECAN International and SAFECO led the most recent three-day training in February 2015, bringing together twenty women and seven men from ten different villages around the Itombwe rainforest. The DRC Climate Solutions Training is part of an ongoing program held in the area with the aim of growing the knowledge and capacities of the local, indigenous women to create and enact place-based climate action plans. Building on previous sessions, the February training covered topics including deforestation in the Itombwe forest, forest protection and restoration techniques, and the use of Improved Cooking Stoves as means of reducing pressures on the forest and improving family health and wellbeing.

drcfeb2

During the first session, participants engaged in conversations about the importance of trees and their relationship to climate change, focusing specifically on the immense value of native species and why exploitative practices such as logging are so detrimental to the health of the rainforest, the livelihood of their communities, and the global environment. Crucially, the group discussed and observed how they can work as guardians of the forest and as climate leaders without sacrificing their livelihoods or access to the diverse gifts provided by the land.

In connecting the lives, stories, and experiences of the local women to a larger climate change narrative, the facilitators hoped to help the women see the great power and agency they hold.

decfeb5

Day two was spent visiting a small nursery where women learned techniques for starting and maintaining a tree nursery to contribute to reforestation efforts. Participants planted over 100 trees and discussed how these trees contribute to water purification, soil fertility, carbon sequestration, biodiversity protection, sustainable food production, medicinal plant access, and so much more.

drcfeb3

“From these trees we expect to fight climate change by protecting wild ecosystems, as well as satisfy our needs of fuel wood, medicine, and timber production,” explained training participate Yena Nasoka.

DSCN4045

The third and final day was dedicated to discussions and practicums surrounding the use of Improved Cooking Stoves. Participants learned about the characteristics of the stoves, which facilitate more energy efficient, rapid cooking and reduce the amount of smoke polluting living spaces, lungs, and the surrounding air. Because of their improved efficiency, the stoves require less fuel wood, which can help reduce deforestation rates in a region where the collection of wood for cooking and light pressures the local environment.

During discussions, women expressed excitement about the use the Improved Cooking Stoves for cooking and to contribute to forest conservation, but explained their concerns about not having a substitute for open fires used for light at night. WECAN International and SAFECO have begun the next phase of the program, which includes arranging for small hand-held solar lights to be brought into the region for light at night and for the women to develop their own small businesses selling and maintaining the solar lights.

“I’m excited by WECAN’s holistic approach to bring solar light so we can have light at night and Improved Cooking Stoves. This will work in our region,” reflected one woman, Butunga Nalisa, on the final day.

drcfeb6

Participants in this and previous WECAN trainings have formed a local conservation committee to insure that the progress made during training sessions will continue to grow and take root in their region. Through the committee they aim to share what they have learned with other community members, work to document and denounce deforestation, and create a collective voice to speak out when fellow citizens or local authorities facilitate unauthorized timber and charcoal production.

drcfeb7

Following the February session, the committee of training participants held a meeting with local chiefs, government officials, and the WECAN DRC coordinator to present their suggestions and requests.

Their recommendations for the protection and restoration of community wellbeing and the precious Itombwe rainforest are the following:

  • Implement laws and regulations to prevent forest fires and deforestation by holding guilty groups and individuals accountable for their actions.
  • Provide diverse tree seeds to local people and organizations involved in the process of planting trees.
  • Support and create campaigns to make others aware of the importance of forest protection and tree planting, and to promote the use of Improved Cooking Stoves in all villages.
  • Extend environmental education to community members of all ages.
  • Uplift and implement Traditional Ecological Knowledge.
  • Support local villages in getting cheaper solar panels and solar lamps to charge phones and provide light at night.

The WECAN/SAFECO partnership will work to help the communities surrounding Itombwe bring these recommendations to fruition, and will continue to strive to support, encourage, and strengthen the women leaders forging the way.

For an inside look into the recent Climate Solutions Training in the DRC, check out this short video created by the participants: 

—–

By Emily Arasim, WECAN International Communications Coordinator