People can assume control of what our future will look like. Will the collective “we” let it become a grim and joyless feudalism where the corporations control all aspects of the natural world? Or will it be a community-based syndicate of autonomous work collectives who collaborate to create and equally distribute necessities to all members of society in an open and democratic manner? As we engage locally, our relationships deepen and our emotional needs are increasingly met through community-based living. Desire for iPods and movies fade away as we laugh, sing, tell jokes and plant flowers for entertainment instead. Localizing food production is reducing our transportation demands, and improving the air quality to give our lungs a rest. Through mutual aid we can strengthen relationships with neighboring communities and support each other through diversity of organization, learning how to produce our own necessities for survival and to trade equitably with others for the remainder. We are on the verge of a bioregional renaissance in which national government becomes irrelevant as each community decides how to provide for themselves based on features unique to their geographical and cultural landscape. The time is now to gather together, turn the tides against corporations, and save human lives and the natural world.
The Mobilization for Climate Justice (MCJ) is a North American-based network of organizations and activists who have joined together to build a movement that emphasizes non-violent direct action and public education to promote effective and just solutions to the climate crisis. The coalition that is Mobilization for Climate Justice initiated a number of protests around the country related to corporate control over false solutions on climate change. In that way it is an action centered coalition for passionate people to organize their own affinity groups within the whole. Incorporating activists and community members from a highly varied number of environmental and social justice groups, representing a variety of issues, tactics, and interests, we have united through our commitment to seeking meaningful solutions to the crisis of climate change.
Direct actions under the umbrella name of Mobilization for Climate Justice took place all over the country on November 30, 2009. Groups in each city chose their own tactics and focus. The corresponding actions coincided with the ten year anniversary of the Seattle protests of the World Trade Organization and with the opening talks of Copenhagen.
In New York, protestors met at Bank of America to expose the company’s practice of mountaintop removal and oil and gas prospecting, and then marched to the
Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), a top environmental interest group affected by several corporate sponsors. In Chicago, people disrupted business in the financial district for a number of hours through locking down in the street, as well as marched to the Chicago Climate Exchange, the largest and first carbon trading institution in North America, to demand a better solution than carbon trading. Protestors gathered outside of Senator John Kerry’s office in Boston with images of a dying Earth which lead to a die out on the streets where no arrests were made; they also sent an open letter to his office to demand real solutions and real changes to the system.
In the Bay Area in August, hundreds marched on Chevron’s Richmond refinery to demand clean air for local residents, and in December a blockade of Chevron corporate headquarters shut down car traffic and drew attention to Chevron’s role in lobbying against climate change legislation.
Leading up to the direct actions at Chevron there was a West Coast Climate Convergence with educational workshops, group discussions of tactics and strategies, and trainings explaining the history and methods of nonviolent direct action. Participants learned about forming a perimeter around a building, how to engage the police respectfully and firmly, how to lock arms with comrades to form a strong chain, and about general body language in strong resistance. There were legal teams available for each direct action that prepared to communicate with and advocate for arrestees.
Actions can take the form of die-ins, rallies, candlelight vigils, speakouts, poetry slams, bicycle rides, human blockades, and more. Get in touch with an action group near you and join a worldwide movement demanding climate justice now. If there is no group in your area, call together a group of friends, select a company or practice that’s near where you are whose irresponsible behavior is driving the earth mad, and plan an event designed to dramatize their behavior. Props like signs, banners, costumes, and musical instruments all transform, stimulate, and excite the creative faculties of those involved as well as onlookers. Smaller actions are easy to accomplish with one or two people, such as deploying a banner or leafleting at gas stations. Engaging people interpersonally is how we spread the educational materials necessary to garner widespread support. Any action, large or small, is a part of the movement as a whole to raise our voices together for those who are not being heard.
Climate change versus climate justice
The term Climate “Change” implies a naturally occurring process of shifting weather patterns, which is unavoidable and has clearly begun. Climate Justice recognizes that racial and economic prejudice and corporate control are core causes of climate disruption. Corporations have been interfering in scientific discoveries regarding climate change through blackmailing interest groups and attending global discussions, while indigenous peoples are significantly underrepresented by a ratio of 1:4 at the table of international climate negotiations. Thus, any dialogue or movement intending to reverse the increasingly chaotic effects of Earth’s shifting weather patterns must also address the needs of those least responsible for and most affected by climate change.
The shift in the world’s climate is largely brought about by the burning of fossil fuels like petroleum and coal, products that injure and destroy human lives every step of the way from discovery, development, extraction, and consumption. It is for this reason that people must bring the struggle to end ‘climate chaos’ directly to the door of the companies most responsible. It is crucial for concerned folks to coordinate uprisings and stand in solidarity against the world’s biggest polluters if global warming is to be stopped, which includes acting urgently in our local communities to bring about real demands to this crisis.
As people intertwined in the empire, we can look to the injustices and hardships those closest to pollution face as a foreshadowing for our own livelihoods if we choose to allow capitalism’s war on the planet to continue. Strong voices together rebel at the heart of the empire in solidarity with communities around the world and locally that are resisting the imperialism which imperils all life on the planet.
Examining behind Chevron’s closed doors will illustrate why corporate accountability is crucial in the struggle for climate justice. Chevron was the target of MCJ Bay Area protests, but there are many, many more criminal corporations to unveil.
“Here in Richmond, we see the links between human rights and corporate accountability issues in our city as the same struggle as those that are demanding a right to their livelihood in Nigeria. Oil companies need to take responsibility wherever oil is produced and refined,” said a community activist as the Richmond City Council passed a resolution calling for oil companies to disclose payments to foreign governments for oil, gas and mineral rights. Groups such as the West County Toxics Coalition and Communities for a Better Environment have been struggling against industrial pollution caused by Chevron’s Richmond refinery, the state’s single largest climate polluter according to the California Air Resources Board. In 2008 alone it emitted 4.8 million tons of greenhouse gases, which is only the tip of the iceberg if Chevron’s plans to expand the refinery continue. These groups have been battling the company over its controversial expansion plans, holding community hearings and fighting in court, a huge but not insurmountable fight that has already been litigated for over two years and shows no signs of ending soon. A related project is the plan to expand the production of crude oil from Alberta tar sands, which would devastate indigenous land and increase carbon emissions even further. At the recent actions, protesters read and sent open letters to Chevron, to demand a cap on crude oil to prevent the refining of this heavier, dirtier oil.
Chevron worked with and provided funding for the corrupt Nigerian government for years, paying for Nigerian troops to do their dirty work for them. The past 50 years of extraction has produced over $700 billion in revenues shared between the brutal Nigerian regime, Chevron, Exxon Mobil, and Shell. Meanwhile villagers in the Nigerian delta witnessed their fisheries poisoned, drinking water polluted, and an inaccessibility to education and health care. More gas is flared in Nigeria than anywhere else in the world, and principally contributes to pollution-caused sickness in residents. The main response by Delta residents was holding nonviolent demonstrations where they sing songs and read detailed litanies of complaints to the companies that are destroying their livelihoods. Frustrated with the lack of response from Chevron and disgusted by military attacks from ground and sky, which have displaced and killed many of the Delta’s 20 million residents, an armed insurgency has begun to attack and shut down oil production in the area, which resulted in international recognition of the crisis facing the Nigerian Delta. Chevron’s production has plummeted 2/3 in the face of attacks to its oil pipelines, and all eyes are on Chevron’s response. Concerned parties must fight the corporation’s continued presence and encourage infrastructural investment in communities affected by Chevron’s oil operations. Support and solidarity from the global community may be a major determining factor for the fate of this embattled region of the world, and so MCJ West is proud to work with Nigerian peace activists to broaden awareness of the issue.
“Chevron, our climate is not your business!”
In the unresulting aftermath of the deceptive Copenhagen talks, it becomes undoubtedly urgent to tell these corporations ourselves to get their hands off climate change legislation!! In advocating for an end to all oil and natural gas development projects (current and future), which are altering global weather systems at an unprecedented rate, MCJ also vigorously reject false solutions. False solutions include industry-controlled carbon trading and the conversion of agricultural lands to biofuel production. Chevron spent almost $2 million to lobby against a California bill, which would reduce emissions to 1990 levels by 2020; and Chevron spent $12 million to lobby the federal government in 2009, which directly contributed to undermining the ability of nations at Copenhagen to walk away with a fair, equitable, binding agreement to set real carbon emissions reductions.
There will be no wind, solar, “clean coal”, hydro, or biofuel that will magically allow civilization to continue unabated–these are distractions which detract from the real issue that modern-day energy consumption is unsustainable and the first world must develop new–or ancient–relationships with the land and each other in order to create a society that values and rewards compassion, respect, and cooperation. Profiteering corporations are the people who propose these greed driven false solutions. A fundamental change in the system is needed, despite the government’s dismissal of the voice of the global poor and those most affected by the ruling classes’ pollution.
At the end of the Age of Petroleum, the facts are indisputable that reliance on fossil fuels must stop. It is not a question of if, but when and how our society decides to transition to a low-impact lifestyle, or face the perils and consequences of those who have engendered their own cultural annihilation through the overexploitation of resources.
This is a turning point in history where the human race has the opportunity to stand up as an entity and demand the planet back. The shift from an agrarian economy to an industrialized, oil-based economy has made an enormous impact on the biodiversity of our lands, but that does not mean it is too late to protect the habitat we have remaining and encourage it to flourish once more. It is the time to disrupt business as usual for corporations that destroy the Earth and human lives through mining and polluting the world over. Together, concerned peoples must have strength in their convictions because the health of our land is our greatest wealth, as clean water, air, and food for all are universal entitlements, so we the people will have to push back the corporations who wish to dominate every aspect of earthly existence. Through building action-oriented coalitions of diverse people who are united in commitment to meaningful change, we can throw a wrench in the gears of capital and dismantle the systems, which oppress and enslave life, one action after another. The time is now to make the vision in our hearts the future we have in our hands. The earth is on our side, and we only have the whole world to lose.