By Pennie Opal Plant, Co-founder of Movement Rights and Idle No More SF Bay
This virus is teaching us and reminding us that to survive we must include the collective WE in what we think and what we do. When we look at graphs like this one which went viral online from New Zealand, we see how Covid-19 spreads when people are not considering anyone but themselves and stubbornly put thousands more lives at risk.
We are at a crossroads. One path leads to destruction. The other is living together in harmony with nature. Please watch this ancient Hopi Prophecy, Two Paths—Destruction or Survival interpreted by Hopi religious elders Thomas Banyacya and Grandfather David Monongye.
The Hopeful Global News about flattening the COVID curve:
Countries which were successful in reducing infections followed very different paths than countries where the pandemic is currently in full swing. In South Korea, a country which has flattened the curve of the pandemic within their borders, officials immediately began testing citizens who were sick. Those who tested positive were quarantined and treated which took them out of the cycle of infecting potentially hundreds, even thousands, of other people. As of March 24, 2020, this is the most successful country at keeping its people safe.
Some Hard Truths Here at Home:
Conversely, in countries like the United States, where the main concern by many powerful elected officials is the economy, the stock market and corporate success, there was zero assistance from the federal government for residents at the beginning of 2020. There were very few tests available for the great majority of the US population during the first quarter of the year which has led to more than 1,000 deaths as of today, and sadly that number will increase (see Worldometer for US and global figures updated daily). There are still not enough tests available in the United States, not enough ventilators, not enough hospital beds, not enough protective gear for health workers who are most at risk ,and not enough N-95 masks, gloves, antibacterial wipes and sprays for people in one of the wealthiest countries in the world, the United States. There was no assistance for the most vulnerable during most of the first quarter of the pandemic, including those in prisons and ICE Detention centers, those who have no homes, the working poor and unemployed. Most elected officials did not consider the most vulnerable.
The current Administration of the United States has failed its people miserably. The President of the United States gave misleading and false information during the first three months of the year and is still doing so in an attempt to keep the economy afloat. Some Senators and Congressional Representatives are doing the same. Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick suggests that, “the elderly should die to save economy from coronavirus.” One wonders if that includes the elderly members of Congress and the President?
As of today, 18 states, including California, Washington and Oregon, and many countries including most of Europe, have issued quarantines/stay-at-home orders of their citizens in some fashion or another. Health experts have stated that this is the best way to contain the pandemic, yet the President of the United States has not issued a country-wide quarantine/stay-at-home order. This will lead to thousands of additional deaths in this country.
Why have so many elected officials, especially state governors, in the United States not issued shelter-in-place orders when it is clear that this is the only way to stem the pandemic. Could capitalism, the stock market and corporations have something to do with that? When the President of the United States, a wealthy businessman himself, and many members of Congress are urging citizens to consider making themselves vulnerable to becoming infected by going to church on Easter on Sunday, April 12th in order to “help the economy”, it begs the question: what are the nation’s priorities if not to make the wealthy wealthier? As Forbes contributor Erik Sherman wrote in his article, Letting People Die To ‘Save’ The Economy Is A Losing Idea, “the people suggesting that are generally not thinking that they’ll have to bear it. And the target of what to save isn’t America—which is its people—but economic and power interests that overwhelmingly belong to just a few. It wouldn’t be the first time.”
The View From our Family Home as we Shelter in Place
As global emissions have become reduced the air has become cleaner and people are noticing. Wildlife around the world has been seen wandering deserted city streets. My own family lives near a freeway and the Chevron Refinery in the San Francisco Bay Area and my husband and I suffer from respiratory issues as a result, but when the traffic dramatically reduced and the refinery has recently not been flaring toxins in our air, neither of us has had the respiratory problems that have become normal.
Our world has slowed down and we are entering the second week of the shelter-in-place order. I am a small, retail business owner as well as a co-founder of several organizations focused on ensuring a safe, sustainable, healthy future for coming generations. I opened my current business in 1991 and my business has successfully endured many economic ups and downs. I closed my business shortly before the shelter-in-place order in California was issued. I was concerned for my co-workers’ health and the health of my customers. It was the right thing to do even though I knew it is possible that I may lose my business of 29 years due to no income and bills that still have to be paid.
During the first week of the shelter-in-place, I felt like my shoulders were boulders. I spent most of every day on a very difficult application for a Small Business Administration (SBA), Financial Disaster loan, watching SBA webinars, and speaking with SBA officials. The loan application is grueling. I was scrambling to find resources to make it through the crisis. It was so stressful that I decided I needed a day off, and during that day off I realized something: this unhealthy system keeps us so busy that many of use have no idea what is really happening in our world. We believe we need to rush everywhere, must complete and take care of this or that, because we are seduced into the mainstream concept of “I” and not the big “WE” that humanity functioned under for over 99% of our existence. The fierce individualism that is imposed on us as children is not natural. It is a way of creating consumers for a system that doesn’t care about us – which is so obvious to so many now during this health crisis. And, I relaxed upon realizing that I had fallen onto the colonizer’s trap of hurry, hurry, hurry. I decided to slow down.
I am also an Indigenous grandmother who traveled around the world after selling a small retail business in 1988. I was in my thirties. The first year I traveled alone and spent six months camping by myself and visiting Aboriginal communities in the Outback of Australia among other places. I knew that in order to follow what I call “my instructions”, which are messages from my unseen helpers, I needed to shift out of the time frame of the Gregorian calendar that binds us to the over-scheduled, work oriented, mainstream calendar, to what I call “natural time”. This took me several months in the beginning of my trip, and before I was in Australia. I knew I had shifted out of mainstream time when I woke up without the stressful feeling of “what am I supposed to do today?”
Time to Decolonize: Everything we do is about WE now
Many Indigenous people around the world still operate in natural time and there are stories, including my own, which tell of people living many hours or days away who, without a phone or radio or other modern method of communicating, know a guest is on their way, a relative or friend needs help, when it is important to go somewhere. It is a profoundly different way of being. It is natural and it falls within the natural laws of Mother Earth which has her own way of managing time, a way of experiencing time that is very different than what we are forced to live with in most of our lives today.
The great majority of people living in this time have been colonized by a capitalist system which is geared to make wealthy people wealthier. We have been duped into thinking that this is the way life is supposed to be and there is no other way. We have been conned into the idea that anyone can “pull him/herself up the economic ladder by his/her bootstraps.” This is false. Yes, there are a few, mostly white men, who have been successful at creating great wealth for themselves. But, how important is that in a time of a world-wide pandemic with over 20,000 deaths as of today and this crisis not even close to be over? Is the wealth of one person more important than the health of millions?
If there is a silver lining that the pandemic is giving humanity, it is the gift of seeing that the system of capitalism is one that emphasizes the individual, especially wealthy individuals over the well-being of the many. It is the gift of seeing that this system prioritizes the economy over the health of all of the people, which leads to the lack of health care and concern for each one of us. Another silver lining to the pandemic is the slow down of industry, leading to cleaner air, water and soil, and a growing awareness that we all truly need one another.
This is an aspect of decolonizing our societal structures, our communities and ourselves. We, the big WE, are obligated now to refuse to obey the destructive system that is destroying our health and our world in order to serve a system that does not serve the big WE. Nature herself is demanding that we shift our way of thinking of our place within the sacred system of life and pay attention to the natural laws of Mother Earth.
There are many Indigenous prophesies about this time we are living in which many of us call the “purification times”. We can see that this virus, as horrible and deadly as it is, has gifted us with purer clean skies and water in a short period of time. Imagine what the water, sky, and Earth herself would be like if we demanded an end to everything that is destroying our own and our non-human relatives’ ability to live as we are meant to…recognizing that we are a tiny aspect of this beautiful system of life? We can begin by acknowledging that we are meant to consider the WE in all that we do. We are at a time when we must live with consideration of any action that could negatively impact the next seven generations and decide to choose a safe, healthier path. Imagine this awareness and commitment to the “WE” being the culture and law in every land…what a beautiful world we would create for ourselves and our children’s, children’s great, great, great, great grandchildren.
Imagination is a powerful tool. Everything that humanity has created that we now know harms the sacred system of life began as an idea in someone’s imagination. Perhaps they didn’t know their invention would be become so harmful that it would destroy what we need to simply exist, but it did and it was.
By Pennie Opal Plant, co-founder of Movement Rights along with Shannon Biggs and Idle No More SF Bay along with Alison Ehara-Brown, both of whom assisted in helping write this piece. Pennie is Yaqui and Mexican on her mother’s side, and undocumented Cherokee, Choctaw and European on her father’s side. She has worked for over 40 years on ensuring the sacred system of life continues in a safe, sustainable, healthy way for future generations.
By Pennie Opal Plant, co-founder Movement Rights and Idle No More SF Bay
The recent Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) invasion of Wet’suwet’en territory is directly related to First Nation’s sovereignty, as well as proposals to dredge San Pablo Bay (the northeast end of San Francisco Bay) and the Phillips 66 wharf expansion in California. The Wet’suwet’en are a sovereign nation whose territory is unceded and upon which a treaty was never signed with the Canadian government.
Currently, the Wet’suwet’en are being invaded by the RCMP in effort to enforce a Canadian court injunction that would enable the construction of the Coastal Gaslink pipeline (natural gas) through their territory. Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs have long opposed the project. The route of the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion (which was owned by Kinder Morgan and sold to Canada for $4.5 billion) has plans to go through Secwepemc territory, who are also opposed to that pipeline. This is a violation of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and the Free Prior Informed Consent therein.
“A United Nations committee working to end racism is urging Canada to immediately stop the construction of three major resource projects in B.C. until it obtains approval from affected First Nations.” The three major resource projects include the Coastal Gas Link and Trans Mountain pipelines.
The hashtag #AllEyesOnWetsuweten is also important for Californians who love the San Francisco Bay and are concerned about pollution, refinery emissions and the climate crisis, as tankers of tar sands crude may be headed our way. If Canada is successful at invading Wet’suwet’en territory and building the Coastal Gas Link pipeline, it paves the way for the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion through unceded Secwepemc territory (both nations are located within Canadian British Columbia). The Trans Mountain pipeline expansion would nearly triple existing pipeline output from 300,000 barrels a day to 890,000 barrels a day of tar sands (or oil sands), the most toxic and destructive fossil fuel ever extracted.
Trump has instructed the US Army Corps of Engineers to dredge San Pablo Bay to allow over 130 additional tar sands filled tankers into the Bay every year. These oil tankers are much larger than the current oil tankers and would enter through the Golden Gate Bridge to the Phillips 66 Refinery in Rodeo. Phillips 66 plans on filing a permit for a wharf expansion in order to receive these monster oil tankers.
Tar sands oil has a higher sulfur content than conventional crude. In 2012, the Chevron Refinery in Richmond, California didn’t maintain a pipe that had weakened to the thickness of a dime from sulfur erosion. Chevron workers were instructed to patch this weakness repeatedly which resulted in an explosion that sent 15,000 residents to hospitals with respiratory issues. Many local residents understand that while Chevron invests a tiny fraction of its profits into the community, it also doesn’t care enough about residents to ensure the plant is vigilantly maintained.
There have been four oil spills in the San Francisco Bay recently. When tar sands oil spills in water it is impossible to completely clean up. The large tar sands oil spill in a tributary of the Kalamazoo River in 2010 has never been completely cleaned. Imagine a huge tar sands filled oil tanker having a spill in the Bay. It would damage life in and above the water. How does one clean a bird covered in sticky, toxic tar sands? It isn’t possible.
Tar sands oil is extracted in Alberta Canada in an area that is 54,054 square miles. According to the National Geographic, “In most of Alberta, the bitumen is buried so deep that wells must be drilled to extract it, and steam injected to mobilize it, at great energy cost. But north of Fort McMurray the bitumen layer is shallow enough that it can be strip mined in huge open pits. The tailing ponds that hold the “produced water” from mining tar sands are so large they can be seen from space and are some of the biggest human structures made on Earth. They contain heavy metals and toxins from the bitumen separation process.” And, they have leaked into the Athabascan River which used to be pristine.
These “ponds” are so poisonous that any animal or bird that comes into contact with the water immediately dies. Because of this there are huge speakers around the ponds that periodically make loud booming sounds to keep animals away, but this isn’t always successful. There are people employed whose only job is to deal with the dead birds and animals. In 2013, the tailing ponds covered 30 square miles. This area has increased since then.
The areas where the tar sands are extracted was part of the largest boreal forest left in the world. The fossil fuel corporations essentially move into an area to be strip mined and remove the life on the land. The home of trees, shrubs, medicine plants, birds, deer and other animals in this system of life are gone and in their place are toxins. The impacts on people and water are devastating with toxic spills into the rivers, rare forms of cancers, auto-immune diseases and miscarriages.
It is well known that carbon emissions are creating climate change and nations must reduce their emissions to ensure that there is a safe, sustainable world. What is less well known is that the world has used up most of the carbon budget to stay under 1.5 degrees of global temperature rise. The world’s nations have used up 91% of the budget that would keep the climate habitable. Moving beyond 100% of greenhouse gas release would lead to a catastrophic climate crisis that would dramatically impact the ability to live on Earth. The world’s nations only have 9% more allowable emissions to keep the climate safe.
Given these hard facts, Indigenous water protectors and land defenders like the Wet’suwet’en and the Secwepemc are not only protecting their territories, but are also providing an example to the rest of us on the importance of keeping fossil fuels in the ground. Resources spent on fossil fuel infrastructure from mining to transport to refining to the new plastics plants being built, is money that is not going toward real climate solutions like moving toward zero emissions.
It is vital that we pay attention to First Nations’ resistance to fossil fuel pipelines, like the Wet’suwet’en. Their struggles and resistance are our struggle and we must resist to ensure a safe, sustainable world for ourselves and the next seven generations. Local groups in the Bay Area working to prevent dredging the Bay and Phillips’ 66 intention to permit a wharf expansion include Idle No More SF Bay, Communities for a Better Environment, Protect the Bay Coalition, and Sunflower Alliance. It is time for all of us to rise for the future we want and not the one that the fossil fuel industry is leading us toward.
Donate to stop the Pipeline! The Tiny House Warriors: Our Land is Home is a part of a mission to stop the Trans Mountain pipeline from crossing unceded Secwepemc Territory. Ten tiny houses will be built and placed strategically along the 518 km Trans Mountain pipeline route to assert Secwepemc Law and jurisdiction and block access to this pipeline.
Pennie Opal Plant is an Indigenous woman living near the Chevron Refinery in Richmond, California. She is co-founder of Movement Rights, Idle No More SF Bay and The Society of Fearless Grandmothers.
Save the Bay & Delta from the Army Corps of Engineers Dredging --Pennie Opal Plane and Shoshana Wechsler--
The Army Corps of Engineers, at the request of Trump, plans to dredge a deeper channel through San Francisco Bay and into the Delta to enable oil tankers to move greater amounts of crude, including Alberta tar/oil sands to and from Bay Area refineries. Dredging will unearth toxins from the fossil fuel, corporate agriculture and other industries that have settled on the bottom of the Bay and Delta. Additionally, dredging will also increase refinery production, impact the salinity of the Bay and Delta and have devastating impacts on life in the waters, including the threatened Delta smelt which is hovering on extinction and is an anchor species.
Idle No More SF Bay, The Indigenous Women of the Americas Defending Mother Earth Treaty sisters and the Brasil Solidarity Network are joining forces for a powerful action. We will be there to confront the harms that President Jaír Bolsonaro is committing against indigenous people at risk and the Amazon on June 21, 2019 in front of the Brasilian Consulate in San Francisco, CA at 9am. Come with your friends, your voices and your signs, although we also have many signs and banners to share.
On January 1, 2019 Jair Bolsonaro took his place as Brasil’s new President. Bolsonaro was elected on a racist, homophobic, radically Christian, right-wing platform. On his first day in office, President Jair Bolsonaro issued MP870 which dismantled FUNAI, the agency responsible for the Brasilian state’s Indigenous policy, transferring it from the Ministry of Justice to the newly created Ministry of Women, Family, and Human Rights, commanded by Minister Damares Alves, a conservative, Evangelical preacher.
Damares Alves’ Atini foundation was the primary suspect of an Indigenous sex trafficking and pedophilia scandal in Brasil. “In 2016, the federal police asked the National Indian Foundation (FUNAI) for information on alleged cases of “sexual exploitation and trafficking in Indians”. (naaju.com 1) FUNAI is the organization dismantled by President Jair Bolsonaro on his first day in office. Therefore, the investigation against Alves was terminated.
This same measure (MP870) removes Indigenous land demarcation (determining the borders of indigenous territories) from FUNAI and handed it to the Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Supply (MAPA) under the command of Luiz Antonio Nabhan Garcia, the former leader of Uniao Democratica Ruralista (who formerly swore to stop indigenous and peasant land demarcation). The Uniao Democratica Ruralista, a right wing association supported by corporate Big Agriculture, are one of the last remnants of the fascist dictatorship. Bolsonaro gave MAPA the power to remove ancestral territory from Brasil’s Indigenous Peoples to make a profit via cattle, soy, extractivism and sugarcane production (to name a few).
Due to ongoing resistance by indigenous peoples and their allies around the world, the Brasilian Congress and Senate voted to return land demarcation from the Ministry of Agriculture to FUNAI, while simultaneously partly reinstating FUNAI (for now). Bolsonaro’s government also tried to eliminate the Indigenous health care System (SESAI), but it was temporarily blocked due to Brasilian and international pressure. These wins reveal that solidarity that supports indigenous movements has the capacity to make tangible changes in the lives of those who protect our water, our forests, and the biodiversity we need to survive.
Brasil Solidarity Network has been organizing regular actions at the San Francisco Brasilian Consulate since January, 2019. On June 21st, we will be collaborating with Idle No More SF Bay and the Bay Area signatories of the Indigenous Women of the Americas Defending Mother Earth Treaty for their summer solstice action! We will be gathering in front of the Brasilian Consulate (300 Montgomery St, SF) starting at 9am to stand with Indigenous Peoples in Brasil. We will be painting a street mural, have music, and singing together!. Please join us and invite ten of your friends!!
Brasil Solidarity Networks goal is to have a chapter in every major city where there is a Brasilian Consulate, conducting actions every month during the same series of days. We believe in the power of consistent resistance. Our vision is to make enough noise that the Brasilian government is forced to respect the rights of indigenous peoples and Mother Earth.
“Mobilização dos povos Pataxó, Tupinambá e Pataxó Hã-Hã-Hãe contra a municipalização da saúde indígena, em Brasília. TIAGO MIOTTO CIMI”
Sign To Oppose Brasils new president Jair Bolsonaro's decimation of Indigenous Rights and The Amazon
Indigenous people and allies across the Americas are strongly opposing Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro movements to eliminate the rights of indigenous people and commit genocide, while opening up the Amazon to corporate interests.
1- Bolsonaro has plans to close the Environment Ministry, which is mandated to protect the environment, and instead fold it into the Agriculture Ministry, which tends to favor the interests of those who would convert forests into farmland. Converting forests into farmland (deforestation) raises multiple issues: 1. It's cutting down precious trees in the Amazon. 2. This territory is more often than not indigenous territory. 3. Cutting down trees emits a LOT of carbon. At the rate that Brazil already emits carbon as the 6th largest country of carbon emissions, it will be impossible for the world to stay in the limits of the Paris Agreement. This land that is being demarcated for agribusiness is indigenous territory, and once it is broken up it will be near impossible to reassign boundaries, with respect to the people it has belonged to for thousands of years.
2. Within hours of swearing in Bolsonaro broke up FUNAI. FUNAI was designated for overseeing initiatives for indigenous people. Eliminating protections to indigenous people, including uncontacted tribes, is genocide. This means over 900,000 people, over 274 individual languages, and over 305 tribes.
3- Bolsonaro has stated plans to identify rights activists as terrorists. This includes allies as well as indigenous peoples standing up for their sovereign rights in territory that has been theirs for as long as the Amazon has had guardians. Brazil is currently considered the deadliest country for environmental activists.
4- Bolsonaro is openly racist against black people, and indigenous people. Saying both '"It's a shame that the Brazilian cavalry wasn't as efficient as the Americans, who exterminated their Indians" and that "They don't do anything. I don't think they're even good for procreation any more" referring to the descendants of the African slaves.
5- Bolsonaro supports militarizing the government towards a fascist dictatorship. He is a firm supporter of violent torture and claims that the people of Brazil also are.
We must stand together now. We must speak out loudly, firmly and very clearly to state that we stand in direct opposition to Jair Bolsonaro. We know what it is like to live in a country run by someone who doesn't care for human rights, nor environmental rights. The world is watching. Indigenous peoples and allies, stand in solidarity with the people of Brazil. We stand for the Amazon, we stand for indigenous rights, we stand for human rights, we stand against violence, we stand for the safe future of human existence.
Please join us at an action at the Brazilian Consulate in San Francisco on Friday, January 18th at 10 am where we will deliver a letter stating what we stand for and against. If you feel moved to join on this letter please sign below and your name, as well as this petition, will be added to the signatures collected. If you have felt horrified and outraged and moved to scream and do something, please come stand with us. This is not only for our planet but for our relatives in the south, and all their rights to exist as they always have.
At the new moon ceremony on Thu/Dec 6th, we said we would re-post the links to the recent climate reports and the news articles about the reports. There are many links below for you to take a look at. It is important to not let the information move you into being depressed. It's just information about what is happening, what will happen and, most importantly, how we can help prevent the worst from happening. That beautiful future is right in front of us, waiting for our human family to come back into alignment with the natural laws of our beautiful Mama Earth. Keep that in mind, ok? #RespondRiseResistRepeat
UN IPCC Report October 2018
HIGHLY RECOMMEND THIS ONE:
U.S. Fourth National Climate Assessment Report, Nov 2018:
New News This Week:
Women in Brasil Defending our Sacred Waters – Stories from the Alternative World Water Forum (FAMA) --Daniel Ilario--
So much gratitude to Grassroots Global Justice Alliance (GGJ) and the Indigenous Environmental Network (IEN) for allowing me the opportunity to attend two separate but related water forums that occurred in Brasilia, Brasil. Governments, corporations, and large NGOs converge every three years to discuss various ways to manage, control and, exploit our water at The World Water Forum. Companies who actively privatize water globally, like Nestle and Coca Cola, sponsored this conference. This convention does not allow much space for those on the ground struggling to defend the water in their communities. To fill this void, a variety of social movements from across Brasil and the world organized the Alternative World Water Forum (FAMA). Their message to the world: water cannot be treated as a privately owned commodity; water is a human right and a common good of and for the people. At this gathering of people from different backgrounds, including indigenous peoples, fishermen, union members, people affected by dams, people without land, people without homes, and many fearless women shared their powerful accounts of resistance protecting our sacred waters.
I had the honor to meet an indigenous warrior named Alessandra Munduruku of the Amazonian Munduruku tribe who lives along the Tapajós River in the Brazilian state of Pará. She spoke about her people who bravely confront the many powerful and violent private interests that actively kill their river and people with dozens of dam projects, illegal mining, illegal logging, railways through their territory, and soy production contaminating the water. During her speech at FAMA, Alessandra powerfully underscored the necessity to protect water: “We need to preserve our river. We need to preserve our water. Because it is not just the poor who drink water. It is not just the rich who drink water. It is not just the Indian who drinks water. The whole world needs water. The water is sacred; the water is our mother who protects us and gives us life.” Water unites us. All the struggles represented at the forum (and in the world) are connected through water. We are protecting the same life giving substance that sustains all of our families and non-human relatives.
I participated in a panel called International Conflicts Involving the Water organized by the Movement of People Affected by Dams (MAB - Movimento dos Atingidos por Barragens). Andreia Neiva, an MAB militant, described her local fight against large farming companies who steal massive amounts of water in a city called Correntina in the Brazilian state of Bahia. Those who oppose big agriculture interests are met with extreme violence. Bounties are put on their leaders’ heads leading to their unsolved murders. In the face of such repression, they continue fighting back, and occupied a large farm 1,000 people strong. Speaking about this action, she said, “The fight that happened in Correntina must be replicated in all territories. Enough of the people being patient. Our patience has run out…We need concrete confrontations. They only fear the people organized. They do not fear anything else…they are killing us every day. Enough of waiting for our death doing nothing.” Life on earth is under attack. We can no longer wait for corrupt governments to act. It is up to each and every one of us to organize our communities and stand up in the face of danger so our relatives yet to come have a livable planet.
During this panel, I shared our struggle to protect the water and air from the ever expanding fossil fuel industry. Five refineries constantly spew pollution along the San Francisco Bay Area coast. Governor Jerry Brown recently extended a cap and trade scheme in California that gives these oil processing facilities the green light to expand production and infrastructure, and prohibits local governments from setting limits on carbon emitted. Phillips 66, a refinery in Rodeo, California, is currently attempting to expand their wharf terminal to import more tar sands crude from Alberta, Canada. This expansion seeks to double the number of oil tanker ships entering their port. Tar sands, the dirtiest and most dangerous crude oil, presents an extraordinary threat to our air and our water. Drinking water sources and agriculture are poisoned in First Nation territories downstream from tar sands strip mines. The pipelines to the coast put even more waterways at risk. When (not if) a spill occurs during ocean transport along the Pacific Coast to the Bay Area, it will be impossible to clean up due to the heavy bitumen (a component of tar sands) that sinks to the bottom of the water column. Refining more tar sands increases particulate matter in the air leading to increased death rates to those living on the front lines in sacrifice communities near the facility. For these reasons, members of Idle No More SF Bay, along with many allies, organize to defeat this expansion. Our local experience of corporate controlled government putting water and lives at risk to benefit a small number of wealthy people and corporations is similar to what is seen all over Latin America.
Nestle, an infamous multinational corporation that uses corrupt governments to take control of water sources to sell bottled water, was the target of a direct action on Tuesday, March 20th, 2018. A group of 600 Rural Landless Women (MST - Movimento dos Trabalhadores Rurais Sem Terra) connected to FAMA tore down the front gates and occupied the Nestle headquarters in Minas Gerais. They denounced the corporate takeover of public water facilitated by Brasil’s coup government led by President Michel Temer. MST’s director, Maria Gomes de Oliveira, sent this message: "Imagine you are being forced to buy all the water to quench your thirst during the day. No one can handle that. This is what the companies gathered at this moment in that [World Water] Forum want.” If multinational corporations like Nestle and Coca Cola succeed in their plans, only the wealthy will have the luxury to drink clean water.
A theme appears across these various struggles: multinational corporations, using corrupted governments, exploit every last natural resource with no regard for the systems that sustain life itself. So women all over Latin America and the world are standing up to violent private interests. Warriors put their lives on the line every day. These examples of resistance, massive direct action, and occupation can replicate in all of our communities to protect our water and future. If fossil fuel corporations, who threaten our water and climate, make any attempt to expand infrastructure and production, they must be met with continued direct action until their projects are eliminated. We must keep fossil fuels in the ground. Everything we love is at stake. Our children and grandchildren are depending on us to do everything in our power so the beautiful gift of life we see today continues for generations to come.
To read FAMA’s final declaration, follow this link
There was no better sendoff to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change than the art build and Thunderbird Woman action in front of the Wells Fargo head quarters with Isaac Murdoch and Christi Belecourt organized by David Solnit and Idle No More SF Bay. The love and positive energy propelled us into the Convention of Parties 23, which was the most intense week of my life. With very little sleep, we helped plan multiple actions in just a few days, were part of on the spot interviews, and participated in press conferences. Taking part in the It Takes Roots delegation was hands down the most rewarding experience in my life.
photo credit: Indigenous Rising Media
The night I arrived in Bonn, Germany, I was asked to speak out at the Jerry Brown event the next morning. I accepted and wrote the following statement that our group shouted during Brown’s speech: “Northern California refineries expand pollution. Carbon trading, a false solution. Keep it in the ground. We are here to shut it down.” We highlighted Cap and Trade because it is a distraction from the real solution of reducing fossil fuel extraction. It is a fraudulent scheme that puts a cap on carbon emissions, but allows polluters to buy carbon offsets so they can exceed these caps. Refiners are using Brown’s Cap and Trade Legislation to increase their production (e.g. Phillips 66 refinery intends to expand their bay terminal to import 100,000 more barrels of crude per day).
We spoke up for people that live near refineries in the Bay Area who already deal with elevated rates of asthma and cancer. Governor Jerry Brown responded to our demands with, “Let’s put you in the ground so we can get on with the show.” His threat of violence illustrates that our government representatives, funded by the extraction companies, are willing to put our lives at risk to protect the profits of the oil and gas industry.
photo credit: Indigenous Rising Media
Chief Ninawa also interrupted Brown’s speech right after our group. Ninawa is the leader of the Huni Kui, 13,000 indigenous people in 12 territories in a state called Acre in Brasil. He stood up in his traditional clothing, and proclaimed: “The Carbon trading of California is a false solution for the planet. The indigenous people are the solution. Nature is not commercial. Respect Mother Nature. No to fracking. No to offsets. Live the good life.”
Ninawa understands that his struggle in Brasil is connected with our fight in California. California has been pushing the state of Acre to adopt carbon-offset programs under the guise of helping them protect their ancient forests. In reality, these programs threaten indigenous sovereignty. Through offsetting, people have lost their right to use the land to make their homes, hunt, fish, and other traditional practices. Furthermore, the push for carbon trading in Brasil has turned leaders against each other due to the amount of money being offered. Ninawa also understands that accepting this dirty money implicates his people in the system that impacts people (like those living in the Refinery Corridor in the Bay Area) and poisons the air and water at the source.
Connecting our struggles around the world and standing up side by side against the extraction industry is one of the many powerful outcomes of this past week. I am extremely thankful for the It Takes Roots delegation and the Indigenous Environmental Network for giving us the amazing opportunity to be a part of the delegation and willingness to teach us so much. Every single person in the delegation inspires me so much. I carry this knowledge and energy home with me to help create the sustainable future we need for life to continue.
photo credits: Indigenous Rising Media