5 Indigenous Women Healing the Climate Crisis
As Hurricane Florence approached the Carolinas and as wildfires continued to burn in the Pacific Northwest - extreme weather and natural disasters exacerbated by warmer temperatures, Governor Jerry Brown of California was set to host the Global Climate Action Summit (GCAS) in San Francisco. While Gov. Brown and his corporate allies convened to celebrate so-called bold climate action by governments and corporations, Indigenous Peoples of the North and South were also uniting in San Francisco to challenge the GCAS and the false climate solutions being promoted and advocated inside the conference.
The false solutions I am speaking of are mechanisms known as carbon pricing, carbon trading, carbon taxes, carbon offsets, and REDD+ (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation). These “solutions”, utilized by oil industry, corporations and governments, allow these entities to promote that they are mitigating climate change, when in fact, they are merely buying and trading their way out of polluting and causing global warming:
“Carbon trading allows polluters to buy and sell permits to pollute instead of cutting air pollution at source. These permits to pollute are called “carbon credits” and are traded like stocks and bonds. Carbon trading privatizes the air that we breathe. It turns the atmosphere into the private property of polluters.”
So why are Indigenous Peoples epsecially concerned about these false solutions? For one, they do not stop pollution and extraction, which causes global warming, at the source. This means an oil company such as Chevron, Shell Oil, or TransCanada, can continue to extract oil, contaminate the land and water, continue to build refineries that poison communities, continue to build pipelines, bringing violence into our communities, because they are buying carbon credits to “offset” their emissions. Secondly, forests within Indigenous, Native and Tribal territories are being used by the carbon market system to help these corrupt industries buy their way out of contributing to climate change. From the Yurok Tribe in California, to the White Mountain Apache Tribe in New Mexico and as far down to the Amazon forest in Ecuador and Brazil, industries and governments are privatizing forests to create “forest offsets”, which again are credits to avoid cutting emissions at the source. Third, these market based solutions to climate change are merely a continuation of capitalism and colonization. Capitalism and colonization are what has created the climate crisis and we cannot expect that those very systems will solve the crisis. Furthermore, these mechanisms being proposed to Indigenous communities are creating division and distraction pulling us further away from investing in and learning about real climate solutions, like renewable and regenerative energy, food sovereignty, and the just transition.
So while, Governor Jerry Brown, Michael Bloomberg, and Mayors and Governors from across the world gathered in this trade show to capitalize off of the climate crisis rather than to heal it, hundreds of Indigenous Peoples led by Indigenous women convened in San Francisco at the same time to lift up Indigenous and place based solutions. Here are 5 Indigenous women, who organized in San Francisco during the GCAS to protect their communities, the land, water and the climate:
Isabella Zizi of Idle No More SF Bay, “California has been dealing with one of our toughest droughts that has now caused us to be in flames to this day, our agricultural communities have been contaminated with fracked water and this has all happened under our governor Jerry Brown. We are calling for a shift in the policy decisions that Jerry has created especially when it comes to permitting new oil and gas wells here in California and phase out of the dependency of fossil fuels. Indigenous people have been at the forefront of environmental racism along side with people of color and other marginalized communities since the beginning of time. We have been in unison with our Mother Earth, and it is time to act upon the judgement of the original people of this land.”
Learn more about Isabella’s story here.
Eriel Tchekwie Deranger, is a mother of two and a proud Denesuline Indigenous women and member of the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation. Deranger is the Executive Director and co-founder of Indigenous Climate Action (ICA). Prior to her work with ICA, Deranger spent 6 years working for her First Nation to build out one of the largest intersectional and powerful keep in the ground campaigns on the planet - the international Indigenous Tar Sands campaign challenging the expansion of Alberta’s Tar Sands, one of the world’s dirtiest fossil fuels.
Watch Eriel slay this debate on Cap and Trade on Democracy Now!
Pennie Opal Plant of Idle No More SF Bay:
“These market-based approaches like cap and trade, REDD and REDD+ (which California is a global leader in), carbon taxes and now geo-engineering -a risky new techno-fix due to be tested in and near Indigenous lands for the first time ever in the US- seriously harm our communities. From increasing health problems like miscarriages, autoimmune diseases and cancers, the poor, Indigenous and Black and Brown neighborhoods and lands are still being treated as sacrifice zones. Whether it be through inadequate resources and infrastructure to deal with extreme weather or toxic waste and pollution in our backyards that energy companies could easily clean up, we pay the price. And for what?
To mitigate climate change, we must once and for all stop stealing from Mother Earth by refusing to extract, which in turn emits dangerous levels of greenhouse gas into the atmosphere. Companies, states and nations should no longer be able to pay to pollute as California Governor Jerry Brown’s upcoming Global Climate Action Summit (GCAS) will promote. These subsidies and corporate schemes can no longer be substituted for what we already know needs to be done: transition away from extractive energy models to regenerative ones.”
Miriam Cisneros , President of the Sarayaku: "Sarayaku has fought off oil companies for 35 years. We have expelled companies from our territory, taken our legal case to the Inter-American Court and won. So this experience has well positioned us to present our Living Forest Proposal to the world. We, indigenous peoples, fight for our existence, not our extermination. We want our rights to be respected! Our proposal, The Living Forest (Kawsak Sacha), is a collective and unified effort of our people- men, women, children and elders- responding to the voice of the forest. Our proposal is not only for Sarayaku, but for all humanity and all life on the planet. We've had to travel long distances from our territory, leaving our children and way of life, to bring forth a message and proposal for life to the world. We are all responsible for creating and sharing consciousness with our children and future generations. This is what we must do to survive. But we don't just want to survive and exist; we want to thrive."
Kim Smith, Co-Editor, Indigenous Goddess Gang:
"Natural Resources are extracted from our lands, contaminated on our lands, left on our land. Toxic developments were and are pushed by corporations, states and the federal government without free prior and informed consent from indigenous people and violate nature’s law.
The Diné Nation and people are not protected within the states of the union. Diné land, resources, and lives are enmeshed within the colonial agendas of federal and state powers. Diné Bikéyah is treated as a colony for the economic benefit of New Mexico & the greater Southwest. We demand a seat at the table! The policies created around the fossil fuel capitalism and colonialism are just old as the rotting power plant. We suffer from the destruction it has brought to our land, water, air and livehood and we demand a Just Transition. We have the opportunity as a sovereign nation to lead the way for renewable."