Contact: Anthony Rogers-Wright 631-402-7855 [email protected] Olivia Burlingame 301-613-4767 [email protected]
The United States has elected a new president. Climate Justice Alliance applauds the perseverance of voters despite continued attempts to intimidate, swindle, and otherwise suppress the votes of Black, Brown, Asian and Indigenous peoples who, ultimately, were the decisive difference in the election’s outcome. As Michelle Martinez, Interim Executive Director of CJA member Michigan Environmental Justice Coalition, points out, “Environmental justice communities from Detroit, to Flint, to the Upper Peninsula voted in droves; the grueling efforts of grassroots organizers who were relentless, resilient and remarkable made this possible.” She added, “But our communities didn’t just vote against something, they also voted for a climate justice future, and they will keep working to center frontline communities and press the incoming administration to do the same; our lives must be seen as important as our votes.”
CJA celebrates the election of the first woman, the first African American and the first Indian American to the executive branch of government. It’s fitting that she attended a historically black college and university, Howard, as, similar to frontline communities and the grassroots organizations accountable to them, we are proof that despite being underfunded and too often undermined, this does not prevent us from producing transformative and effective, yet understated, solutions. Alternatives for Community and Environment Executive Director, Dwaign Tyndale, expanded on the historic nature of the election: “The Black people, ‘who’ve always had [the president-elect’s] back’ are expecting big things back from him. It’s not about quid pro quo as much as it is cui bono. We firmly believe that when the most marginalized benefit, we all do. This has always been a major paradigm of the Black Radical Tradition.”
The incoming administration must refer to these frontline solutions, beginning with strengthening Tribal sovereignty and moving towards greater recognition and support of their inherent self-governance. Tom BK Goldtooth, Executive Director of the Indigenous Environmental Network and a member of the Steering Committee of CJA, expanded on this point, “Even with the change of executive power, the US is a settler-state that has always exploited the land, its people and resources. We will be a driving force for systemic change in the relationship between Native Nations, Tribal grassroots and this federal government. We must see the full recognition and enforcement of our treaty rights, the return of our traditional lands, and to obtain a Presidential executive action requiring federal agencies to secure the Free, Prior, and Informed Consent of Native Nations confronted with significant federal actions affecting their lands, livelihoods and culture.”
There cannot be climate justice without racial justice and its link to white supremacy and patriarchal concepts that quantifies the “Mother” Earth’s cycles and functions such as carbon. If we have less than eight years to effectively address and dismantle climate change, there’s even less time to confront and eviscerate white supremacy. The fact that 70 million people voted to maintain the current status quo, like the climate crisis, cannot be taken lightly or for granted. The nation remains dangerously divided and white supremacy was not rejected, it was momentarily averted by only four million votes and the resolve of Black, Brown and Indigenous peoples.
The length of this moment for change depends on the resolve of our momentum. Neither four years, nor centuries of oppression, subjugation, and dehumanization simply disappear with one election cycle. The resolve of our momentum will be measured by the immediate decisions we make to address our greatest challenges at once.
CJA applauds Vice President-elect Harris for recognizing that Black, Brown, Indigenous and Asian women paved the way for this moment. In that regard, while the road to climate justice is long, it too has been paved by decades of frontline wisdom, from the 1991 Principles of Environmental Justice, to the 1996 Jemez Principles for Environmental Justice, to the 2020 People’s Orientation to a Regenerative Economy. These principles and solution oriented policies are available to the incoming administration and all people in an effort to get the “climate crisis under control” as pledged by the president-elect during his victory speech.
CJA Executive Director, Angela Mahecha Adrar, has no doubts that frontline solutions offer the best solutions to meet the interlinked crises of our time at scale. She offered, “The tenets of Just Transition, Energy Democracy and Food Sovereignty, of climate justice altogether are galvanizing principles.” She continued, “Our solutions have always been about bringing people together through right relationship with land, that leads to right relationship with each other.”
The president-elect must live up to his commitments to disadvantaged and marginalized communities who delivered for him in the midst of a pandemic, climate fueled storms, and perpetual intimidation. This means ending the trend of solely deferring to white-led environmental groups above frontline communities experiencing the impacts of climate change directly, first, and worse. Like our solutions, we speak for ourselves. We demand a Just Transition from COVID-19, climate and economic calamity. Our communities must have as much access to the people’s government as anyone else.
Adrar spoke to this point, “Scaling up and scaling out our solutions will mutually heal people and the planet. It’s critical that the communities and organizations who developed and organize around these solutions have seats at the table. Our members invite the president-elect to listen to and hear our communities while also avoiding offerings of false mechanisms that are nothing more than illusions of climate action.” She concluded, “There’s no more time for platitudes or empty promises, the frontlines will continue doing the work and partner with everyone ready to get to work.”