Trump vs. California vs. Climate

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In early September, JA staff participated in a series of interesting events in San Francisco. The Governor of the state of California, Jerry Brown was hosting the interestingly-named Global Climate Action Summit (GCAS) from 12-14 September, 2018.

Of course, the world knows that the US politics is dominated by the toxic and racist Trump and his nonsensical claim that climate change is a Chinese hoax. But what is happening in California, known to be a progressive state in the conservative US? When Trump was elected as US President in November 2016, the California Governor Brown opposed him and came out in support of climate action. So that sounds good, right? So is California a climate leader?

The answer unfortunately is no. It is very important to oppose Trump and his vile nonsense. But just opposing Trump is a very low bar to set, and that is what Gov Brown did with his GCAS event. Friends of the Earth US explains perfectly: “Governor Brown talks a good game on climate change. But despite all the talk, oil and gas remains a very big business in California, putting local communities at risk and accelerating global climate chaos … true climate leadership requires more than promises and press conferences that denounce Trump. California promotes itself as a global climate leader – but Big Oil is aggressively turning to processing some of the planet’s dirtiest crude oil at refineries in the state, putting local communities, coastal waterways and the global climate in jeopardy.”

Essentially Governor Brown and Big Oil in California are using the Trump idiocy to make their market mechanisms look like ‘climate action’ and to normalize their false solutions.

US justice-based movements, such as Grassroots Global Justice Alliance, joined with others including Friends of the Earth US to see through this charade. They created the ‘Brown’s Last Chance campaign. They understood that GCAS was a giant green-washing moment and climate action needs to be deeper and call for system change. They demanded that Gov Brown stop any new oil and gas permits and that he announce a phase out of existing fossil fuel production.

The fight against California REDD continues

Now, the plot thickens. This is not just about oil and gas, but California is also pushing false solutions. It would be the kinds of oil refineries mentioned above which would use the REDD (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation) credits from Chiapas and Acre and other potential sub-national partner jurisdictions to supposedly “offset” their greenhouse gas emissions pollution under the California cap-and-trade program as it is envisioned to expand in the near future.

So JA joined indigenous peoples from Brazil to California to Canada, demanding that California stop their dangerous REDD scheme. We protested outside the fancy Parc 55 hotel where Gov Brown was planning his REDD scheme. Chief Ninawa from the Huni Kui tribe in Brazil went inside to deliver our statement to the Governor and his team. “No REDD!” – we chanted outside.

‘Rise for Climate’ march

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To show people power, we often need to come to the streets. The California activists organised a big march called the ‘Rise for Climate’ march. It was led by local indigenous and frontline communities with a strong foundation in grassroots environmental justice organizing. We mobilized to stop dirty energy everywhere, and to say no to dangerous distractions like carbon trading, which will do nothing to stop the climate catastrophe. We marched alongside communities devastated by wildfires barely 55 miles (90 kms) away from San Francisco, and Puerto Rican movements whose entire island was devastated by hurricanes just a year ago.

The demands of the march were strong, stating:

We demand Real Climate Leadership, which requires:

  • Environmental, racial, and economic justice for all
  • No new fossil fuel development and a managed decline of existing fossil fuel production
  • A just transition to 100% renewable energy that protects workers, Indigenous peoples and frontline communities — both in these extractive industries and more broadly — and ensures family-sustaining jobs with the right to unionize, that are safe for people and the planet
  • Just and equitable resiliency and recovery efforts led by the communities most impacted;

Over 30,000 people came to the streets in this amazing march which shut down the streets of downtown San Francisco.

Sol2sol Alternative Summit

We need to oppose the wrong actions our governments are pushing. But we also need to show our own peoples’ solutions. The California activists organised the amazing alternative summit called Sol2Sol, which stands for ‘Solidarity to Solutions’, to spotlight frontline community solutions. JA participated and we spoke about our work in Mozambique.

Sky Protectors

A new movement is emerging called ‘Sky Protectors’. We are activists who have always defended the land, the water, and now we are being called on to defend the sky too. Geo-engineering is a dangerous phenomena that refers to the deliberate, large-scale technological manipulations of the Earth’s atmosphere, oceans and soils with the stated aim of weakening some of the symptoms of climate change.

Geo-engineering is risky, unsafe with scary implications, it would change rainfall patterns and other weather phenomena in a way that we don’t even understand yet. That’s why we need to stop it and protect the sky. JA! joined a meeting in San Francisco where we learnt about some geo-engineering projects that are already planned and we strategized on how to oppose them. Currently, projects are being planned in North America, South America and Asia, but these dangerous projects can come to our continent of Africa at any time.

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One type of project wants to put sulphates into the stratosphere, with the aim to reduce the amount of sunlight hitting the earth. This will completely change rain and wind patterns, it is predicted to disrupt the Asian monsoon and increase droughts in Africa and Asia. Also, given the current geo-politics and inequities between and among countries, can you imagine a powerful corporation or country controlling the thermostat of the world? They could hold us all hostage to their whims. This would be the militarization of the sky and we need to defend our sky from this. This is not a plot from a sci-fi movie; there is a real Stratospheric Aerosol Injection experiment planned in Arizona state of US called Scopex.

Another crazy idea is called Ocean Fertilization, where the idea is to throw iron filings into the ocean to capture atmospheric CO2. Can you imagine what this will do to the marine life and the fisherfolk who depend on the ocean? Again, this is not a made up story; a project called Oceanos is being planned off the coasts of Chile, Peru and Canada.

Want to hear one more awful idea? In the most sensitive ecosystem of the Arctic, in Alaska, a project called Ice 911 is being planned. The idea is to throw glass microbeads on top of the ice and in the sea in Alaska to absorb CO2. In our meeting, we were joined by Native American people from Alaska who were angry at this project and vowed to oppose it in their territories.

Geo-engineering is dangerous and risky. But worse, it tries to perpetuate the false belief that climate change can be stopped with techno-fixes. It deliberately ignores the fact that the climate crisis and the other inter-related crises we are facing are a result of today’s unjust economic, social and political systems. The unsustainable manner in which we produce, distribute and consume things are devastating our ecology and our people. That’s what needs to be changed. Only system change will stop climate change.

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