Climate Resistance Escalates Against the Fossil Fuel Empire

resistDear Movement,

Escalation begins now.

Last December at the climate talks in Paris, over 200 nations agreed upon a weak and ineffective plan to address climate change. Governments stripped away language addressing the rights of indigenous peoples to their land. They removed reparations for the Global South. And, worse yet, the agreement emerged lacking real mechanisms to halt runaway climate chaos. All with the high praise of U.S. liberal politicians and large environmental organizations.

This week, Shell Oil reported it was responsible for another devastating 90,000 gallon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. Pipelines and export terminal projects continue to move forward despite green climate friendly rhetoric from our elected leaders. Coal mines and coal plants continue to operate in many parts of the world. Indigenous and frontline communities continue to carry the burden of climate change from the Alberta tar sands to the rainforests of Indonesia.

Globally, environmental and social justice movements have reacted with escalations against the fossil fuel sector, the banks that fund them and the politicians that love them. In every part of the world, a climate resistance has taken action to stop the industry and the dire impacts it has on communities and eco-systems.

For the past week, the escalation has come at the fossil fuel empire with people powered action. In Philadelphia, climate justice activists joined with a local community fighting a new oil refinery. In Sacramento, CA, farm workers from the ground zero for California’s fracking industry, Kern County, sat in at Gov. Jerry Brown’s office.

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Photo via Trip Jennings

Today, from the seaways and railways of Washington state to the streets of Los Angeles to the frack-filled landscape of Colorado to the Port of Albany, NY to Kinder Morgan’s tar sands terminal in Burnaby BC, mass direct action is spreading across the continent targeting Big Oil, Big Gas and Big Coal.

Tomorrow more action will happen in the Midwest, Washington D.C. and beyond It is critical that we continue to escalate.

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Thanks for all you do.

In struggle and solidarity, Rising Tide North America

Colorado Rising Tide: Mountain Strong in the Face of Climate Crisis & Injustice

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Hundreds rally on a frack well site in Weld County, CO.

Colorado Rising Tide: Mountain Strong in the Face of Climate Crisis & Injustice

When the “once-a-millennium” flood that hit Colorado in 2013 subsided, it took lives and wreaked devastation for weeks on our communities. The secondary destruction was heaviest around Castle Rock and Pueblo, the two cities in the state with the largest numbers of non-white communities.  We as a community cared for the wealthy, white communities like Estes Park and Lyons where the devastation was the most costly, but didn’t at all consider what it means to be downstream in a non-white community.  There was, and still, no urgency towards the needs of communities of color when climate disruption events occur, and that’s only one part of the oppressive nature of climate change.

Beyond floods, Coloradans experience unparalleled wildfires, drought and more. The communities that face hardship most often aren’t the stories we read about in the news. Pine beetle impacts on pine forests are an important story about climate change–but so is the tragedy of people who are forced to drink water contaminated by fracking byproducts, like those who were left out in the cold when the downstream flood waste from 1,300 fracking wells impacted their water supplies in 2013. We need to take a hard look at what we are fighting for and who we are leaving behind. Here and abroad, we as a global society have failed large swaths of Black, Brown and Indigenous community members and continue to by not considering and addressing the direct and acute impacts of climate disruption experienced “first and worst” by these communities.

In Paris at the COP21 this past December, governments slowly and methodically stripped away language addressing imperative issues such as the rights of indigenous peoples to their land. And, worse yet, an agreement emerged bereft of it enforceable, legally binding language or accountability measures.  A similar scenario is occurring in Colorado right now with, for instance, the Supreme Court overruling people’s rights to regulate fracking within their communities. The oil and gas extraction industry are running amok in our governments and the gardens of our homes with impunity.

One of the Colorado climate movement’s central failures is that we have not addressed what strength looks like when fighting an onslaught of fossil fuel extraction activities that threaten lives. We haven’t made the connection here that when we declare ourselves as Strong (Colorado Strong, and so on) after a catastrophic climate disruption, we are in fact declaring ourselves as resilient to climate change. But, are we doing the work that makes us resilient? Are we building that resilience among the most vulnerable around us? Are we sharing resources and fostering a culture of diversity? And are we comprehending the notion that diversity is not simply a function of numbers, but also that of equally and mutually distributed power?

Mountain Strong individuals are on the front lines fighting fossil fuel extraction proactively and unequivocally. This fight is necessary because the lack of accountability for the harm the industry’s mess leaves behind is worth fighting for; we, especially communities of color, including Indigenous communities, are struggling for our lives and the right to maintain legacies that existed long before “nations” like the United States even existed. This fight steers us towards getting ourselves into a place like Germany where recently wind power created so much that they had to pay residents to power their homes and not the other way around. Being Mountain Strong means being focused on genuine, effective action and solutions to climate crises that arise and that starts with Colorado leading and keeping fossil fuels in the ground. And being Mountain Strong also means leading by listening, especially to the people, communities, and struggles that have existed and persevered long before the first environmental non-profit was pondered.

We have what it takes to stop the worst impacts of the climate crisis in our state, to protect Colorado homes and communities–particularly communities of color, and to be a national leader in solutions and innovation. We can meet this challenge. We can be Mountain Strong in a way that is inclusive, affable and fierce simultaneously. But for this to occur in a way that is efficacious we must allow for more seats at the table, and we must accept and burn into our collective consciousness that as long as the most vulnerable communities, people of color, especially women, rightfully believe that they are not only fighting the fossil fuel system but also the system that is supposed to be fighting that system, our movement will remain bifurcated, ineffective and a dream deferred.

Colorado Rising Tide is the Denver, CO chapter of Rising Tide North America. Rising Tide North America is an all-volunteer grassroots organizing in Canada, the U.S., and Mexico who confronts the root causes of climate change with protests and events. You can find out more about Colorado Rising Tide here.

Getting Serious About Keeping Fossil Fuels in the Ground Means Getting Serious About a Just Transition

picketGetting Serious About Keeping Fossil Fuels in the Ground Means Getting Serious About a Just Transition

Reposted from Counterpunch 

As the climate crisis continues to deepen and as it becomes less and less plausible that current efforts to curb global warming will even come close to preventing our earth from crossing the 2 degree Celsius ‘red line,’ the climate movement has shifted towards a bolder vision for climate action. Virtually every pole of the climate movement has evolved towards a set of bolder, more urgent demands and the mantra ‘keep it in the ground’ has begun to dominate the discussion about fossil fuel extraction and use.

While this bold position certainly reflects the urgency of the threat of climate change, the immediacy of the demand presents a new set of challenges for the climate movement.  What happens to the millions of working families who are currently depending on incomes from jobs in and related to the fossil fuel industry? And what happens to communities whose economies rely on income from the fossil fuel industry and the low income workers as revenue dries up and energy costs rise?

According recent data from the BLS, 761,000 workers are employed in the extraction and mining sector and 116,700 workers are employed in the refining and processing sector in the United States alone. Each one of those direct fossil fuel industry jobs supports as many as 7 related jobs—from delivery drivers, equipment manufacturers, to the clerks at the mini-mart across the street from the power plant that workers stop into on their way to work.  In total, it is fair to say that more than 6 million workers rely on the fossil fuel industry for their livelihoods in the US alone.

If we are going to keep fossil fuels in the ground, what happens to those 6 million working families?

Most climate justice organizations have adopted some messaging around a call for ‘just transition’ for workers and communities that are impacted by a shift away from fossil fuels in their public platforms. But it’s not clear what this ‘just transition’ would actually look like or how it materially amounts to anything more than just a messaging point.

For many, the concept of a just transition evokes images of workers walking off of their jobs in coal mines and oil refineries and walking into a factory right next door building wind turbines or solar panels. Anyone with even a passing familiarity with work in industrial manufacturing knows that vision is a fantasy.

Setting aside the most important factor—those ‘green energy jobs’ simply don’t exist in the numbers needed to transition the number of workers currently depending on work in the fossil fuel industry—the skills fossil fuel industry workers have spent decades honing are often not immediately transferable to other industries, the wind and solar jobs that do exist are not generally in close proximity to where energy workers (and their families) live, Further, these jobs generally pay a fraction of the wages and benefits that the largely unionized fossil fuel workforce currently experiences.

The challenges of an abrupt transition away from fossil fuels will extend beyond just the workers who rely on incomes in the fossil fuel industry. As workers look to find new jobs, oil refinery and coal mining communities will find themselves struggling to provide basic services to residents as the primary sources of revenue dry up. While many in the climate movement envision a future where energy from renewables is available at the same cost–if not cheaper than–energy from fossil fuels, the transition will almost certainly be accompanied by at least a temporary spike in energy costs. Even a small spike in energy costs could spell serious trouble for low wage workers already living on the economic edge.

If the climate movement is going to get serious about keeping fossil fuels in the ground, the movement needs to get serious about cultivating a real vision for a just transition.  If we’re going to see coal-fired power plants and oil refineries and chemical plants shut down we need to have a real vision about what the future looks like for those workers, their families and their communities.

Anyone who has been involved in, or even around a plant closure or a mass layoff knows how disruptive and violent that transition can be.  There are too many a 40-something refinery workers forced to leave their job of 25 years with skills that aren’t directly transferable to other industries only to find themselves in poverty-level service sector jobs. There are too many factory towns turned into ghost towns as all of the families evacuated after the primary employer shut down and left town.  There are too many good people who’ve lost their jobs and couldn’t find ways to support their families that began to believe that suicide is the only way out.

The concept of a ‘just transition’ isn’t new. It was popularized in the 1980’s by Oil, Chemical and Atomic Workers (OCAW) leader Tony Mazzocchi. As Mazzocchi navigated a challenging time as a leader in an energy union during the rapid growth of the modern environmental and antinuclear movements in the United States he argued that workers who were displaced as a result of shifting energy sources deserved support in transitioning to new jobs. His initial proposal was for a Superfund for Workers, arguingthere is a Superfund for dirt. There ought to be one for workers.”

The idea that workers who are displaced as a result of public policy isn’t radical and it’s not a novelty.  Under the Trade Act of 1974 (and subsequent amendments) workers who are displaced as a result of trade are eligible for two years of unemployment compensation and two years of job training benefits. Even that falls far short in offering a smooth transition–particularly in communities experiencing concentrated unemployment caused by a plant closure impacting hundreds or even thousands of workers. Meanwhile, workers who are displaced as a result of environmental regulations are only statutorily entitled to 26 weeks of unemployment compensation.

Over the past three decades the concept of a just transition has gained popularity-if not specificity. The 2013 International Labor Organization passed its “Resolution concerning sustainable development, decent work and green jobs.” The resolution called for a just transition for workers whose jobs are eliminated as a result of environmental policy but appropriately noted that, “there is no ‘one-size-fits-all.’ Policies and programmes need to be designed in line with the specific conditions of countries, including their stage of development, economic sectors and sizes of enterprises”

Although most of the discussion about just transitions center on financial assistance and job training opportunities for workers who have already lost their jobs, some of the most important questions in articulating a vision for a just transition relate to how, when, and even if jobs should be eliminated. It seems relatively intuitive that shutting down an oil refinery would reduce carbon emissions but it is not always that straightforward.

Without addressing demand for fossil fuels and building alternatives to scale, shutting down oil refineries in the United States would likely have little impact on global carbon emissions. As refineries close in the United States, crude oil is increasingly being exported to new mega-refineries like the new Reliance Industries 1.24 million barrel per day refinery in India only to be refined and shipped back for sale in gas stations around the country. These refineries operate with fewer environmental or safety regulations than those in the United States and the carbon emissions generated by floating crude oil halfway around the world and shipping refined products back could even mean an even greater carbon footprint. If the climate movement is serious about cultivating a just transition, we need to make sure that we’re actually reducing carbon emissions and not just pushing jobs and refineries out of our own backyards and into other communities.

Climate change and its catastrophic impacts on our communities and planet are, without a doubt, the most pressing issues facing our world today. We need mass education, we mass mobilization, and we need mass resistance to build a real social movement to slow the devastating effects of climate change. But we also need to have a real, serious conversation about what a just transition looks like in our economy.

There are a myriad of proposals floating for serious just transition programs, from Mazzocchi’s Superfund for Workers which would provide four years of pay and training, to the expansion of TAA benefits to energy workers, to Senator Sanders’ proposed Clean Energy Worker Just Transition Act. It is not clear exactly what a just transition program for energy workers could or should look like, but if the climate movement really wants to keep fossil fuels in the ground it’s time to get serious about answering these questions.

A real just transition certainly doesn’t mean telling the millions of families who depend on jobs in and related to the fossil fuel industry that they need to ‘just transition’ to low-wage service sector jobs or to the handful of low-paying jobs in the wind or solar industries. If we’re going to stop—or even slow—climate change we all need to transition together.

Patrick Young is a Pittsburgh, PA based organizer and activist with deep ties in the industrial labor and climate justice movement.  Patrick can be reached at patrickjamesyoung@gmail.com.

Rising Tide North America Statement of Solidarity With The Delta Five

San Francisco, CA– Rising Tide North America released this statement in response to the conclusion of the trial for the five climate activists charged for blockading an oil train in 2014 in Everett, WA:RisingTideSeaSept

“Rising Tide North America stands in solidarity with our friends and allies Abby Brockway, Patrick Mazza, Michael Lapointe, Jackie Minchew, and Liz Spoerri, ( the Delta Five), who had a decision rendered today by a Washington court on two counts. The Delta Five successfully blockaded a mile long oil train in the BNSF Delta railyard in Everett,WA for over eight hours in September, 2014.

“The first count of trespass, they were found “guilty.” On the second count of obstructing an oil train, they were found “not guilty.” The “necessity defense” which had been the cornerstone of their defense was thrown out by Judge Anthony Howard at the end of the trial when the judge instructed the jury to not consider whether the Delta Five acted out of necessity to stop climate change.

“We applaud their courageous action and for building a strong community response to the catastrophic climate change being perpetuated by Big Oil’s doomsday economy.

“The Delta Five’s action threatened Big Oil millions of dollars in lost profit.  One BNSF Railroad official said “One train can be millions in revenue. “When you have a backup on a system, this impacts yard activity, the ports are impacted from ships, then you have passenger and commuter (traffic) in the corridor. It’s a time-sensitive, very busy terminal area. We can’t tolerate it. They can voice their opinion, but we don’t want them on our property. We’re trying to conduct our business.” Corporations and the government don’t want a climate movement willing to take such risks to stop such abhorrent destruction costing them untold profits.

“Our democracy is broken. Our voices are not heard. Corporations own politicians in Washington D.C. and state capitols across the country making it impossible for ordinary people to have a voice on crucial issues such as global warming. Large environmental groups are also compromised as they pander to politicians and seek funding from corporate donors.  The Delta Five’s action is an example of a powerful and courageous direct action that is needed in our society.

“As we watch social justice and environmental uprisings across North America from ongoing fights against oil and gas infrastructure in places like Utah and Rhode Island to Black Lives Matter actions across the United States to the Indigenous resistance happening in response to fossil fuel infrastructure in Ontario and British Colombia, the actions and words of ordinary people are beginning to be heard more and more. The trial of the Delta Five only further pierces the veil our elected and corporate leaders have over the general public. The power in the Delta Five’s direct action and their willingness to go to trial, and possibly jail, to advance the climate movement gives us hope.

“Our fight is only beginning.”

Thanks for all your support.
Donate to the Delta 5 at www.Delta5.org