Brown Can't Be a Climate Leader While Discounting the Poor and Communities of Color by Pennie Opal Plant - Climate Justice Alliance

Climate change poses a serious threat to humanity’s survival and all living creatures that we share the planet with. While it may be that California achieved its self-imposed greenhouse gas emission goals ahead of 2020, this does not signify that we are on track to impeding climate change or the unrelenting impact it has on our communities.  

As an Indigenous woman from the Golden State’s refinery corridor, I see everyday how the policies held up as “solutions” to the crisis are actually devastating our people and environment. 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.  

That’s why I will be joining thousands of other Indigenous, community and climate justice organizers from around the US and the world at the It Takes Roots Solidarity to Solutions Week September 8-14th that will run parallel to the GCAS, to spotlight our local and environmentally sound place-based solutions. All over our lands, those most affected by climate disasters have created sustainable and scalable economic and social development models for their communities, which should be valued and invested in.  If California wants to be an environmental and progressive leader, our elected leaders must align their words with their actions.

Pennie Opal Plant, Idle No More SF Bay (member of the Indigenous Environmental Network)                                                                                                                                     

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