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