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
It seems a bit unrealistic that I am really in another part of the world doing climate justice work. Daniel Ilario and I have the honor and privilege to represent Idle No More SF Bay, refinery communities in the San Francisco Bay Area, environmental justice groups in California, and the Indigenous delegates here at the UN climate talks UNFCCC in Bonn, Germany.
The Climate Talks occur for two weeks. Dallas Goldtooth and Kandi Mossett from the Indigenous Environmental Network were in Bonn during the first week of the Climate Talks and Daniel and I arrived as they left. We are members of the Indigenous delegation.
I arrived hours after California Governor Jerry Brown was hosting a public event called “Pledge to America” where he was promoting his carbon cap and trade program. Delegations from It Takes Roots, Grassroots Global Justice Alliance, Climate Justice Alliance, Indigenous Environmental Network, SustainUS and others from the United States teamed up to disrupt Brown’s event. The action began with Daniel Ilario standing up to begin a mic check on the Governor. Those who disrupted Brown’s event wanted the world to know that his plan is a false solution toward ensuring a safe climate and to diminish his claim as a “climate leader”. You may have seen the media reports where Brown said, “Let’s put you in the ground.” This action received media attention around the world. It was a good moment for all the delegations involved.
Later in the evening, Climate Action Network hosted one of the largest social gatherings on the UNFCCC agenda. Many young indigenous activists were disappointed that Indigenous rights, issues and voices have been eliminated regarding climate control. While champagne flowed inside the gathering, Maori women from Aotearoa and I maintained a demonstration outside of the event to bring attention to Indigenous issues. As Indigenous women we are outraged that the Paris Agreement does not include our right of consent regarding corporate take-over of our lands and is a violation to the rights of Mother Earth. We demand to be seen and heard.
It has been a rollercoaster to keep up with the intense load of information everywhere I go here in Bonn. I am thankful for the Indigenous Environmental Network and It Takes Roots for accepting Daniel and me to be members for their delegations. My knowledge base about climate change, environmental justice and control by governments has dramatically increased. I am looking forward to continuing to learn and share with others my experiences here when I return to Richmond, California.