Women for Climate Justice Respond to Signing of the Paris Climate Accord – Earth Day – April 22, 2016

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Members of the WECAN delegation and allies present during the COP21 climate negotiations in Paris, France. Pictured left to right: Casey Camp Horinek (Ponca Nation leader, Indigenous Environmental Network representative, WECAN Special Projects Advisor) and Neema Namadamu (WECAN DR Congo Coordinator)

On December 12, 2015, representatives from 195 countries finalized the Paris Climate Accord, a historic document hailed as the most ambitious ever international plan for action on climate change. Today, Earth Day, April 22, 2016, more than 160 nations are gathered at the United Nations in New York City to officially sign the agreement and initiate domestic ratification processes.

The US and China, collectively responsible for over 40 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions, have released statements vowing to sign the Paris Accord. The Accord will take effect when 55 nations representing at least 55% of global emissions have completed both the official signing and national ratification process.

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On the streets in Paris, France during COP21 highlighting the power of the growing people’s movement for climate justice.

The Women’s Earth and Climate Action Network recognizes the immense effort in the drafting and adoption of this historic document, and is invigorated by the critical global unity displayed in its creation. We celebrate world governments reaching for an aspirational target of no more than 1.5 degree Celsius temperature rise, noting that it was the pressure of civil society that ensured this critical target, and that it will be the power of people that will keep governments feet to the fire as we move forward towards this goal.

We recognize however, that for all of its historic strides, the Paris Accord is wholly insufficient given the urgency and the scale of the environmental and social devastation with which we are faced.

It is an agreement that rests on non-binding commitments, that skirts around historic responsibility, and which relies upon carbon markets and techno-fixes which will ultimately only push the Earth further towards climate crisis through dependence on destructive extractive economies. It is an agreement void of any direct mention of fossil fuels, despite clear scientific data that 84% of remaining fossil fuel reserves must stay in the ground to meet the goals of the Paris Agreement.

In choosing to continue down the path of economic disparity and commodification of nature, our world governments fail to see the stark reality of the climate crisis – a crisis that can only be addressed through confronting and transforming the systemic injustices of our political, social and economic systems from the ground, up.

The change that we seeks requires fundamental respect for human rights, Indigenous rights, women’s rights, rights of Mother Earth, and the rights of all generations to come – and these aspects are all missing from the binding section of the Paris Agreement.

The math of the Accord simply does not add up – we remain on a path towards a 3.2 to 3.7 degree global temperature rise. From where women stand on the frontlines, in the streets, in the homes, in the forests, on the farms, on the edges of the rising seas – we know that this is not a future that we can or will accept.

Today and everyday, we the people must speak up and take action without fail, pushing to ensure that our governments raise the bar and enact much more ambitious national policies, just action plans and strong Paris Agreement commitments.

Simultaneously, we must organize, reclaim our community power, and continue actively building the world that we envision, in resistance to the economic, social, and political institutions that refuse to break with the status quo.

We must continue to bring the voices of women to the forefront, acknowledging that they are at once both the most severely impacted by climate change, and also the key to just climate solutions, community strength and a living, thriving future.

Our work, the work that will define our time and the lives of generations to come, has just begun – and we have only a short window of time for meaningful action. We as a peoples movement must rise up like the immune system of the Earth herself, demanding just, decentralized and democratic systems, fighting false climate solutions, and actively building the world that we seek.

Press and media requests: emily@wecaninternational.org

Also available on the WECAN webpage here.

 

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Direct Action and Non-Violent Civil Disobedience: Tools for Your Advocacy Work 2016 WECAN Training Recap

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Photo by Emily Arasim

On April 5, 2016, Women’s Earth and Climate Action Network allies united for the second in a series of 2016 Education and Advocacy online trainings.

‘Direct Action and Non-Violent Civil Disobedience: Tools for your Advocacy Work’ featured three outstanding women leaders providing an overview of direct action and non-violent civil disobedience as key elements of the global movement for just climate justice and solutions, providing examples of successful actions across the US and the world, and sharing resources, tools and strategies for beginning direct action planning and execution.

Osprey Orielle Lake, Executive Director of the Women’s Earth and Climate Action Network, opened the call with a brief introduction to WECAN’s work, the reasons behind a focus on women, and the critical need for escalating action by diverse U.S women for climate justice. She framed the training as an introductory call, encouraging participants to reach out to the presenters’ respective organizations for in depth, in person trainings, or to contact local groups who have direct action expertise.

“We are here to protect the rights of Mother Earth, the rights of our communities, the rights of women and the rights of future generations, and direct action and non-violent civil disobedience is an absolutely crucial component of this work,” Osprey explained.

As opening inspiration, she provided a recap of the recent International Women’s Day/No Extraction in the Amazon actions taken by women of seven Indigenous Amazonian nationalities in Puyo, Ecuador.

Molly Dorozenski, Media Director at Greenpeace US, took the floor as the first training presenter.

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Molly Dorozenski, Media Director at Greenpeace US

Molly has worked with Greenpeace on public relations and creative and strategic communications for the past eight years, planning and executing comprehensive communications campaigns on climate, the Arctic, and the Gulf Oil Spill, as well as a variety of corporate campaigns that have helped move companies towards more sustainable practices.

Molly’s presentation centered around the question, ‘what would you risk?’ and the personal, moral and political choices involved in the decision to put our bodies on the line to protect the Earth and our communities.

She shared recent photos and thoughts from six Greenpeace women who climbed over 1,000 feet up the side of the highest building in London to send a message to the oil giants of Shell headquarters, and from female activist Faiza Oulahsen, one of the ‘Arctic 30’ jailed in Russia for their action to protect Arctic ecosystem against expanded oil drilling. In reflecting on Faiza’s story, Molly drew specific attention to the extra risks, and incredible power taken on by young women who choose to stand up for their rights, their homes and the future of life on Earth.

Molly also discussed ‘risk’ outside of concerns over arrest and legal charges, honoring the brave women and other leaders who risk their lives and health to stay in their communities amidst severe environmental pollution in order to document, expose and stop harms and injustices.

Other inspirational direct action examples shared by Molly included the #ShellNo Seattle kayak blockade, led by diverse Indigenous leaders and fantastic groups such as the Raging Grannies, and recent action by Greenpeace activists to publically confront and question U.S presidential candidates about their commitment to stop taking dirty money from the fossil fuel industry.

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From PowerPoint by Molly Dorozenski – Photo by Emily Arasim, 2014 People’s Climate March in NYC

Molly ended her presentation with a brief invitation for engagement with the incredible Democracy Awakening actions planned for April in Washington D.C., which focus on getting big money out of politics and protecting voter rights in advance of the upcoming US election.

Sharon Lungo, Executive Director of the Ruckus Society, spoke next.

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Sharon Lungo, Executive Director of the Ruckus Society

Sharon is a founding member of the Indigenous Peoples’ Power Project (IP3) Advisory Board, and has been a trainer with Ruckus Society since 2001 and key member since 2007. Sharon directs all Ruckus Programs, manages the implementation of strategic priorities, and cultivates and grows partnerships with allied organizations and frontline partners. She was a co-convener of the Mobilization for Climate Justice West (2008-2011) and has served on the coordinating committee of the Global Women’s Strike.

Throughout her more than 18 years of political and non violent direct action, she has held an unwavering commitment to racial justice analysis, and has extensive experience working with grassroots frontline communities and big NGO groups alike. She is the daughter of migrant parents from the Pipil nation, Indigenous to Cuzcatlan, El Salvador.

Sharon began by exploring the core tenants of Ruckus Society, a group focusing on building capacities, particularly of directly impacted frontline communities, to plan and implement effective direct action campaigns around climate, environmental racism and a host of other cross-sectional issues.

She then provided an overview of some of the key ways in which direct-action and non-violent civil disobedience can be used to create change, including:

  • Directly stopping a social, political or environmental injustice
  • Asserting our rights despite the consequences
  • Showing willful refusal to participate in an injustice
  • Sounding an alarm, alerting folks to an issue or problem
  • Amplifying People Power
  • Creating a Community based solution

Through her discussion of these main leverage points, Sharon touched on ongoing campaigns to block pipelines across the US and Canada, direct action to halt migrant deportation buses, campaigns to assert Indigenous rights to traditional hunting, farming and fishing grounds, the #BlackLivesMatter movement, and movements to protect urban farms and community spaces from development, among many examples.

One poignant story shared was that of the fight to save the South Central Farm in Los Angeles, an epic struggle that brought concerned residents together to physically resist the bulldozers coming to knock down community garden space which provided for over 350 low income families. In their non-violent civil disobedience to protect the farm, activists highlighted the dire problems facing their community, and also the showed the path towards solutions.

Sharon also shared an important list of key elements of strategic direct action, including:

  • Strategic timing and relevancy to key political moments
  • Reframing the debate
  • Making the invisible visible – overcome the corporate media, reclaim our language and storytelling
  • Hijacking spectacles, big events
  • Creativity
  • Choosing your tone – humor, anger, embarrassment
  • Stacking risk
  • ‘Show don’t tell’ – use powerful visual representations that will resonate far longer than words, and which bring a face to the myriad of injustices we hear about on a daily basis

‘Stacking risk’, which describes the critical step of planning and delegating action roles in a way that is cognizant of varying levels of privilege, risk and oppression, was a concept of particular importance to many on the call, prompting further discussion of this important justice framework.

Sharon pushed training participants to think about how actions can be designed in a way that best highlights the struggles of those on the ground, and which involve action and risk from allies from outside of effected communities without taking away from the local stories that should be at the forefront.

“As a movement, this is something we are still struggling with but really want to get right… how do we do it [direct action] in a way that allows us to express solidarity and take physical risk, to have a really effective action, but to also powerfully and effectively lift up the story of the people, through their own words. Our job is not to tell their stories through direct actions, but rather to have a framework, to have direct actions that have a strong place for impacted and frontline communities to tell their own stories in the context of these actions.”

Sharon closed her presentation by encouraging participants to cultivate long term, just and meaningful partnership with the frontline communities with whom they work, and to involve themselves in further on-the-ground direct-action workshops and training camps through local direct action training collectives, the Ruckus Society, or international groups such as Greenpeace.

Marla Marcum of the Climate Disobedience Center took the floor as the last presenter of the day.

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Marla Marcum of the Climate Disobedience Center

Marla is a United Methodist “committed to supporting people of all faiths and no particular faith to act boldly for justice”. An experienced campaigner, trainer, pastor and leader, Marla has over two decades of social justice organizing experience with faith-based, youth, and grassroots groups. Marla supported the launch of Climate Summer and is a Co-Founder of the Better Future Project and 350 Massachusetts. She has supported, organized, and participated in many direct action and civil disobedience efforts, including the Lobster Boat Blockade and ongoing resistance to Spectra Energy’s West Roxbury Lateral pipeline project.

Marla shared core principles of the Climate Disobedience Center, including the goal of using “creative conflict to break up business-as-usual, forcing attention to the underlying, fatal conflict between global survival and blind adherence to fossil fuel powered mass consumption, and unrestrained economic growth”.

She framed direct action as a way to “unmask” the social and ecologic violence happening all around us, and also bring forth as our capacity to unite and make change. She emphasized that recognizing and engaging in solidarity, unity and action with each other is one of the most powerful ways to overcome fear and despair in the face of climate change.

“We’re convinced that the kind of resilience that we need in the world going forward can be cultivated in doing this type of work together. And also, I am convinced that the best way to cope with the despair over what feels like an impossible challenge that we face everyday, is to take principled action with kindred spirits,” Marla explained, “Sometimes we are working and working on problems that seem intractable, challenges that make it seem like we really don’t have a chance to win, but we know we have to fight. And sometimes, if we just get together and put ourselves in the way, it can shift our own internal sense of power and our own groups sense of hope about what could be done.”

Direct action exampled shared by Marla included diverse actions to stop the Keystone XL pipeline, the Delta 5 oil train blockade, the Lobster Boat Blockade, and ‘Resist the Pipeline’ actions against Spectra Energy.

In her closing comments, she reminded participants that a key part of the work of those involved in direct action must be to tell the real and whole truth, and to demand action that is commensurate with the real crisis we face, not action which bows to that which is “politically feasible” and easy.

The training ended with a series of questions and answers around direct action timing and learning to seize the moment, the importance of continued training, and the importance of building cross-sector, intersectional movements, long term community relationships, and growing ‘cultures of resistance’.

Training Resources:

 

 

Reflecting on the Clean Power Plan: Justice, Next Steps, and the Road to Paris

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On Monday August 3, U.S President Obama and the Environmental Protection Agency released their long anticipated Clean Power Plan. The plan requires U.S. power plants to reduce emissions 32% below 2005 levels by 2030, and calls for tailored state-by-state action to achieve these target. It is the first-ever federal plan to limit carbon pollution and emissions from power plants, and is being heralded as the most serious action on climate change from any US president.

Women’s Earth & Climate Action Network (WECAN International) Executive Director, Osprey Orielle Lake, issued the following statement in response to the final plan:


We thank President Obama for the forward step taken in the release of the Clean Power Plan (CPP), which comes at a critical time for both the U.S. and the entire international community. The U.S. is one of the largest polluters on the planet, and our inaction on climate change has consistently held back global progress in addressing this crisis. We hope that the CPP will send signals and open the doors to stronger emissions reductions and international cooperation at the upcoming COP21 climate negotiations.

It is important that the CPP recognizes the immediate nature of climate change, the historic responsibility of the U.S., and our duty to future generations. The plan touches on the need for a truly just transition, including provisions that encourage states to focus renewable energy investment in low-income communities and communities of color, which continue to bear the brunt of climate impacts and toxic industrial pollution. Critically, the plan mandates that states must demonstrate how they are including these communities in the implementation process, and encourages green job training and support for people currently working in polluting industries.

That said, the Clean Power Plan has serious shortcomings and while historic, it is clear that the rule is inadequate given the science of global warming. Limiting power plant emissions is an important step, but if we are to avert catastrophic climate tipping points the CPP must be followed with bold action to end all new fossil fuel infrastructure projects, more ambitiously encourage 100% renewable energy, and quickly move to keep all fossil fuels in the ground. As the plan’s continued reliance on false solutions such as fracked natural gas, nuclear energy, and cap-and-trade schemes reveals, we cannot merely make changes to our existing energy system, we must boldly uproot and reshape it.

The real work will now fall to communities who will need to be organized and engaged to insure that the CPP is not blocked before it is given a chance, and that state-by-state implementation is done in a just manner. Social movements must be on the frontlines to demand that our states choose local renewable energy solutions instead of pursuing the natural gas and market mechanism loopholes left in the CPP. And we must demand that the administration goes further by stopping all fracking, preventing Arctic drilling, and rejecting tar sands pipelines, while gearing up for a massive just transition to 100% renewable energy.

Read more about the Clean Power Plan:

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

Blog by Emily Arasim, WECAN International Communications Coordinator

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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?”

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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.

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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 Joins 63 Groups Calling On President Obama To Reject Enbridge’s Illegal Alberta Clipper Tar Sands Scheme

WECAN International is one of 63 environmental, Indigenous, and inter-faith groups who sent a letter to President Obama last week, demanding an end to the back-room approval of the Alberta Clipper tar sands pipeline expansion project. In the letter we call for follow-through on mandated environmental reviews and express our serious concerns about threats to land, water, climate action, and Indigenous rights. Check out the press release and letter to the President below.


For Immediate Release: June 18, 2015

Alberta-Clipper-BypassA letter from 63 national, regional, and local groups demands that the tar sands pipeline project be held to the same standard as the proposed Keystone XL

Washington, DC — In a letter sent to President Obama this morning, 63 environmental, tribal, and faith groups called for a full environmental review of the proposed Alberta Clipper tar sands pipeline expansion, expressing serious concerns about the project, which threatens land, water, and climate and tramples on tribal rights.

The groups urged the president to hold the project to the same legally required review process as Keystone XL, and to reverse a decision made by the State Department last year to illegally allow Canadian oil giant Enbridge to use a backdoor scheme to increase the amount of dirty, climate-polluting tar sands flowing through the Great Lakes region.

The full text of the letter and list of signers is below:

June 18, 2015
President Obama
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20500

Subject:  Environmental Review of the Enbridge Alberta Clipper Pipeline Expansion

We applaud your Administration’s commitment to combating climate change. On behalf of our millions of members and supporters, we thank you for ongoing efforts to prioritize what we believe is the most pressing issue of our time. To that end, we also look forward to an imminent rejection of the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline.

At the same time, we are deeply concerned by the State Department’s recent authorization of pipeline company Enbridge’s plan to dramatically increase the amount of tar sands they are importing across the border via their Alberta Clipper and Line 3 pipelines. Enbridge’s plan allows them to blatantly skirt environmental reviews that even the State Department has previously said were necessary.

In 2012, Enbridge announced plans to nearly double the amount of tar sands crude oil it brings across the border on its Alberta Clipper pipeline, from 450,000 bpd to 800,000 bpd. Pumping this increased amount of tar sands crude under higher pressure would increase the risk of a tar sands spill in the Great Lakes region and would jeopardize important regional water resources, including the headwaters of the great Mississippi River. This increased pipeline capacity would also trigger more development of destructive, high-carbon tar sands fuel. Therefore, the State Department correctly determined that it must evaluate these and other environmental impacts before deciding whether to allow Enbridge to expand Alberta Clipper’s flow of tar sands crude into the country.

Alberta Clipper and Line 3 also run directly through the 1855 Treaty Territory where indigenous and tribal members live and work. This territory is used by tribes for hunting, fishing, and gathering.  Native plants, including wild rice, animals, and sites within the territory traditionally have been important to members of native tribes for subsistence, spiritual, medicinal, and other purposes.  The territory is also used for other important tribal spiritual and cultural practices.  Tar sands expansion would put all of these tribal resources at risk.

For the above reasons, the State Department correctly determined that it must evaluate these and other environmental impacts before deciding whether to allow Enbridge to expand Alberta Clipper’s flow of tar sands crude into the country.

Rather than wait for this requisite environmental review and permitting process to run its due course, Enbridge decided it would immediately increase the flow of Alberta Clipper by diverting the oil onto an adjacent pipeline for the actual border-crossing, then diverting the oil back to Alberta Clipper just south of the U.S.-Canada border. Enbridge claimed that the Department’s permit for the adjacent pipeline, Line 3, which was built in 1968 withoutany environmental review, does not contain express language limiting its capacity.

Unfortunately, in early 2014, State Department staff acceded to this scheme following several closed-door meetings with Enbridge.

The Department has both the authority and obligation to reverse this decision. The Department should not be complicit in an interpretation designed to attack its own authority and undermine its review process. Rather, the Department must stand by the environmental review that it indicated was legally obligated when this expansion was first announced, and prevent Enbridge from moving forward until that full review process is complete. Failing to do so would compromise the presidential permitting process, would limit public input and transparency around this process, and would undermine the Administration’s expressed commitment to addressing climate change.

It is the duty of your Administration to decide whether cross-border tar sands pipelines are in the national interest, and you have made clear that you take that duty seriously. The State Department simply cannot allow Enbridge to dictate the outcome based on a back-door scheme to avoid full review. The Alberta Clipper expansion must be held to the same national interest and climate standards as the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline.

We therefore call on the State Department to withdraw its back-room approval of the Alberta Clipper expansion, and complete its ongoing environmental review of the project before allowing any more climate-polluting tar sands crude oil to be imported.

Sincerely yours,

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Cc: U.S. Secretary of State, John F. Kerry

Mother Earth Cries Out & We Must Listen and Act Boldly – Reflecting on Pope Francis’s Encyclical on the Environment

Blog by Osprey Orielle Lake, WECAN International Co-Founder & Executive Director 

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Photo by Emily Arasim

Pope Francis’s new encyclical on the environment, Laudato Si, is a powerful tool for the climate movement, and has created a critical space inviting other world leaders to step up and take bold action to address the root causes of the crisis we face. We must recognize however, that this is not just a tool for the movement, but also a tool of the movement, with statements echoing years of peoples organizing worldwide.

Pope Francis calls not just for climate action, but also for climate justice, recognizing that human poverty and vulnerability is intimately tied to environmental degradation. He espouses an integral ecology that embraces the deep interdependence of the Earth, human society, and the economy. The encyclical is also a call for a fundamental shift in our collective consciousness and understanding of the world and our place in it- requiring movement from a global society of destruction and consumption, to one of care and connection to our collective home, our Mother Earth.

“This sister now cries out to us because of the harm we have inflicted,” Pope Francis writes.

Critically, Francis explains that real change means bringing together three worldviews that have been divided for too long in modern societies: scientific knowledge, spirituality, and Indigenous understanding. He calls for the voices of the world’s Indigenous peoples to be at the center of all climate discussions and actions, recognizing that we have so much to learn from these cultures that have maintained their connection to the land. The Women’s Earth and Climate Action Network could not agree more, as we are advocating for action based on four Guiding Principles: Rights of Women, Rights of Indigenous Peoples, Rights of Nature and Rights of Future Generations.

Pope Francis does not waiver in his criticism of the corporate interests driving environmental degradation, nor the politicians facilitating their destruction. He calls for immediate action to keep fossil fuels in the ground, a bold transition to a clean energy future, and climate solutions free of inappropriate market mechanisms.

The encyclical opens the door further to addressing the urgency of global warming and touches on how this crisis is giving us the opportunity (or perhaps rather forcing us) to entirely redesign our economic systems and ways of living with the Earth and each other.

We humans invented our economy, we built it, and we can build it again in a very new way. In fact, we must if we want to survive and thrive. As we head into the redesign, we need to look at the very DNA of our economic and legal structures regarding nature in order to truly address systemic changes and root injustices.

Many climate justice leaders around the world are working to define a just, new economy, and we see many echoes of the key ingredients they have outlined within Pope Francis’ statements. The new economy must take into account social, gender, Indigenous, economic and environmental justice. It must transition out of the endless material growth paradigm that forms the foundation of the capitalist system, returning to a lifeway that is based on the carrying capacity of the Earth and the laws of Nature. Our new economic and social paradigm must be based on different concepts of wealth, development and well-being, and must take into immediate consideration the health and rights of frontline communities and the worlds most vulnerable peoples.

The Pope’s Laudato Si questions the belief that humans are here to control and dominate life on Earth, and in this we see an important opening for the implementation of the Rights of Nature worldwide. A Rights of Nature legal framework recognizes the Earth’s inherent right to exist and flourish, not as a resource for humans, but as a living entity in and of itself. Activities that harm the ability of ecosystems and natural communities to thrive and naturally restore themselves are thus illegal violations of the Earth’s rights, allowing for a depth and strength of action that decades of conventional environmental protection laws have yet to deliver.

While we applaud the Pope for his leadership and unwavering stance, as a women’s climate justice organization we must pause and stand firm in asserting that there is still much work to be done to address the patriarchal worldview that this encyclical still portrays, evident in the peppering of old paradigm comments on gender and sexuality. The document fails to make the connection that violence against Mother Earth begets violence against women, and that, until there is universal women’s equality and respect for women’s human rights, we will not resolve the existential crisis we now face. Women are the most negatively impacted by climate change and environmental degradation, yet they are key to solutions. Click here to read more in the Women’s Climate Action Agenda.

That said, this is the first time that a global figure of such authority has spoken so openly and directly about the depth of the climate catastrophe, false solutions, root causes, inequities, and systemic change,  and for this we truly commend him. Thank you Pope Francis!