It Takes Roots
“What other than injustice could be the reason that the displaced citizens of New Orleans cannot be accommodated by the richest nation in the world?”
— Wynton Marsalis, Jazz musician
The storm hurtled across the land, bringing the sea and everything with it. Trees snapped, houses washed away, vehicles became projectiles into second story windows, coconuts became cannon balls smashing bone and wood beams. My great grandmother’s cashew farm splintered in the salt and the wind. This particular storm was called Typhoon Haiyan and it hit the Philippines in November 2013 – the largest storm on Earth ever to make landfall at that time. The Philippines has still not recovered from the impact of Haiyan —or rather its government and the corporations it is beholden to are trying to militarize and privatize it.
This year I was at work and another storm hit me right in the chest. The LA area Exxonmobil refinery a block away from where I grew up had an explosion that registered 1.7 on the Richter scale. A faulty fluid catalytic converter caused the blast and threw an 80,000 pound piece of equipment a hundred feet. Windows blew out and the sky filled with “ash”. I got on the phone and breathed again when I heard my mom’s uninjured voice, my dad was busy outside with a mask, watering the house down so nothing caught on fire—their vegetable garden ruined as sludge gray water loaded with heavy metals oozed over the front yard.
As it stands, the COP21 agreement is brewing another kind of storm for communities on the frontline. World leaders converged to talk about greenhouse gas emissions in the parts per million, keeping up endless growth through a force of green consumers, and making sure polluters and their false promises can come along for the ride without losing any profits. Without long-term vision, accountability, and concrete steps to de-carbonizing all economies, we’re headed towards destruction that neither we nor this planet deserve.
At the end of these talks much is being heralded about the US actually signing on to an agreement despite internal right wing pressure and climate deniers in Congress. There is a lot of talk about state-by-state innovations—including California Governor Jerry Brown pushing offsets agreements with regional partners. These steps are at best helping climate change become a daily conversation. At worst they are pushing for increased privatization, confiscation of Indigenous People’s lands, loss of cultural and biological diversity, and human rights violations. What we need now post-COP is bold action to keep fossil fuels in the ground, reject the fundamentalist ideology of globalization, a commitment to the well being of people over the profiteering of a few, and infrastructure and resource support for locally owned and controlled renewable energy solutions.
Earlier this month, I traveled to Paris as part of the It Takes Roots delegation to build towards just that: a community rooted deeply in place, connected globally through solidarity, and that has the strength and know-how to weather all the storms that are yet to come. We know our communities have been on the cutting edge of true climate resiliency work for generations. We have always been the ones hit first and worst—and we’re still here and will continue to lead the transformative path towards a regenerative economy and a living planet.
Community by community, we’re linking up to show our own solutions. At the Asian and Pacific Environmental Network, (APEN) we build leadership and power in the Asian American & Pacific Islander communities for bold action. Our members stand up to the largest stationary polluter in the state of California, educate legislators and neighbors on climate policy in six languages, and are working on building a living model of a just transition through community-owned solar power.
APEN and the groups who are part of the It Takes Roots delegation are just some of the many grassroots organizations in the US doing the work necessary to change the system, build people power, and save our climate. Amazing solutions are happening all over the world too. In the Philippines—a country of over 7,000 islands and 175 languages in a portion of the Pacific known as “Typhoon Alley”—solutions are sorely needed. Salugpongan International is one network that speaks to the core of climate justice: supporting Indigenous People’s local initiatives to protect rights to the land and culture, of knowledge of place, and of education by the people for the people. A global movement—against war, against warming, for community rooted power—is growing.
The indigenous people of the world deserve to thrive. The people of Richmond, California, deserve to thrive. Your community deserves to thrive. The COP21 process closed without real, durable and lasting commitments that bring us any closer to a cleaner, greener world—much less a more just one. But life goes on after the COP and so does grassroots organizing. So let’s feel our roots, keep an eye on where we can sprout and build the world we do deserve.
But there is unspeakable love:
we use our ten thousand tongues
let the tides loose and truths
be storm surge
in this surrender
to our humanity
–Of Storms and Tears, Aimee Suzara
Shina Robinson is a part of the It Takes Roots Delegation and works with the Asian and Pacific Environmental Network.
In a provocative feature listing all that was hot and all that was not at the Paris COP21, the New Internationalist highlighted It Takes Roots in its hot list for “serving frontline fierceness inside and outside the COP. Slick production values for some very real people.” Read the full list!
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In their COP21 spotlight of the Dec 12 march, the widely watched independent news show Democracy Now! took to the streets of Paris and spotlighted a diverse array of activists and groups who came together for the final march to the Eiffel tower. Watch It Takes Roots delegates spotlighted in their COP21 special, including Sarra Tekola, Derek Mathews and Shawna Foster.
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For decades the incinerator industry has been plaguing environmental justice communities worldwide. Now, rebranded as so-called “waste-to-energy,” this dirty industry is trying to position itself as a source of clean power. The US government, and many others, are using COP 21 to push for incineration as a solution to climate change. However, incinerators create very little energy— and a lot of climate and toxic pollution. To produce the same amount of energy, incinerators release even more carbon dioxide than coal plants. At the same time, the toxic air pollution from these facilities greatly harms local communities.
In the United States, in cities such as Detroit in the state of Michigan, residents suffer from the health and environmental consequences of incineration. Community leaders like Siwatu Salama-Ra of the It Takes Roots delegation became involved in the fight against incineration out of love for her family, community, and city. In Detroit, asthma rates are three times the state average, and many members of Siwatu’s family suffer from this preventable disease. These rates are only exacerbated with every year that the incinerator remains open.
After 23 years of climate negotiations, governments are no closer to meaningful action on climate change.
“GAIA (Global Alliance of Incinerator Alternatives) will not stand for corporations pushing their agenda of greenwashing (false solutions) to combat climate change during these negotiations, the only solution is a zero waste solution” said GAIA delegate Mahyar Sorour from Minnesota Public Interest Research Group.
To call out false solutions such as incineration, It Takes Roots and GAIA delegates protested on Wednesday, December 9th at the Ivry incinerator in Paris. We stood in solidarity with local community organizations – Collectif 3R and Zero Waste France – who are pushing for zero waste alternatives to incineration. The Ivry incinerator and others like it in the Paris region, are responsible for burning the majority of Paris’ waste. In fact, much of the waste currently being generated at COP 21 will be burned in nearby incinerators, leaving local communities to bear the burden of toxic and climate pollution.
In addition to pushing back against false solutions via direct action, GAIA members from around the world demanded that our government leaders and the COP21 delegation confront industry lies and promote community-based solutions.
Some highlights of these demands:
- We highlight the negative health impacts that incinerators impose on host communities and the environmental injustice this represents.
- We welcome the global consensus that carbon based pollution is driving dangerous climate change that cannot be ignored.
- We call for an end to climate finance for incineration.
- We urge all governments to remove the eligibility criteria for biomass burning in all renewable energy credits, benefits and subsidies.
- We call for investment in zero waste solutions to address impending climate threats.
Co-Written by Molly Greenberg from Ironbound Community Corporation and New Jersey Environmental Justice Alliance and Ahmina Maxey from GAIA.
Molly, Ahmina and Siwatu are also It Takes Roots delegates.
To read the full GAIA declaration visit www.no-burn.org?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss.
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“I think for us, Grassroots Global Justice, Indigenous Environmental Network, and the Climate Justice Alliance as grassroots and impacted communities in the United States and Canada, I think our global leaders have failed us, and I think that’s what is clear is that they did not do an ambitious enough negotiation to really save the planet…” noted It Takes Roots delegate and national co-ordinator of Grassroots Global Justice, Cindy Wiesner, in an interview with Telesur News. Read the whole interview.
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In their wrap up analyses of COP21, the New Internationalist shines a light on why despite the dismal failure of the #COP21 agreement, there maybe hope – thanks to a massive people-led mobilization for climate justice that refuses to back off – including It Takes Roots delegation. They write: “Indigenous representatives from the incredible It Takes Roots grassroots delegation opened the Paris demonstrations with a powerful healing ritual. Alongside other Indigenous and frontline representatives they held a series of events and actions throughout the fortnight, including a flotilla of kayaks challenging fossil fuel extraction. Read this inspiring analysis.
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The COP21 Paris Accord failed humanity, and impacted communities must take things into our own hands and push at all levels of government
As impacted communities, we are deeply aware of the imperative of the climate crisis. Our waters are being poisoned from fossil fuel extraction, our livelihoods are threatened by floods and drought, our communities are the hardest hit and the least protected in extreme weather events. The climate crisis is a reality, but the COP21 Paris Accord is not based on that reality.
The atmosphere within the COP21 meeting was one of business instead of saving Mother Earth. World leaders were in deep negotiations not over climate policy, they were in negotiations about commercialization of nature. The result is a Paris Accord that is based on a carbon market that allows developed countries to continue to emit dangerously high levels of greenhouse gasses through shell games, imaginary technofixes, and pollution trading schemes that simultaneously let big polluters to continue polluting and result in land grabs and violations of human rights and the rights of Indigenous Peoples.
When Obama says we are doing out best, it is simply not true. From cap and trade in California, to the carbon trading requirements of the Clean Power Plan, the US came into Paris with a predetermined model based on false solutions and bullied other countries to jump on board. The commitments they made ignore the overwhelming historic responsibility as a leader greenhouse gas emitter, and are far too low to stop the burning of the planet.
The COP21 agreement is a failure, condemning humanity to a slow and painful death. In imposing a market strategy, global leaders, particularly those in the US and Canada, are choosing a course of inaction that is blind to the stark realities of climate crisis.
Our Movements Represent Life
The Paris Accord failed humanity and now we have to take things into our own hands and push at all levels of government. We know that the extraction of fossil fuels must end completely by 2050 to keep the earth from warming more than 1.5 degrees. The Paris Accord will now be moved into implementation at the national, regional, and local levels and we need to be organized to remain vigilant around the demand to keep fossil fuels in the ground, because anything short of that equals destruction.
We join the call for System Change, Not Climate Change because we know that the fundamental driving force behind the climate crisis is capitalism, and the very nature of the extractive economy as a whole. Climate justice is not only about the environment. It is tied to jobs, housing, poverty, migration, food security, gender equality, access to health care. System Change requires fundamental respect for human rights, particularly the rights of Indigenous Peoples, as well as the rights of Mother Earth. System Change requires that we reject the corporate driven, free trade and investment agreements and how that is linked to also harmonizing the trading regimes, and investment regimes, and trees, and nature itself. We are building new alternative economic models based on an internationalist strategy ofJust Transition toward renewable energy, cooperative economies, and community control. We will continue to resist extraction at the local level in all frontline communities.
We had no illusion coming into this COP. We knew that the fossil fuel companies had already hijacked the UNFCCC process. We leave Paris only more aligned, and more committed than ever that our collective power and growing movement is what is forcing the question of extraction into the global arena. We will continue to fight at every level to defend our communities, the earth and future generations. As Franz Fanon wrote, “the magic hands are the hands of the people.”
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On the big day of the march on December 12, Parisians and local activists joined forces with diverse global environmental justice organizations and activists who had converged in Paris for COP21. AJ+ crew followed the march and tracked down some of It Takes Roots’ delegates and live streamed-interviewed them in this hugely popular video. Watch and share this video posted on AJ+ Facebook.
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TruthOut Highlighted It Takes Roots Delegation’s December 10 Human Rights Day Action at the Peace Wall, and spoke to Jihan Gearon, one of our delegates: “…here have also been strongly led by people of color working to center environmental justice issues and calling out environmental racism, especially Indigenous peoples protesting the omission of Indigenous rights from the accord.
A lot of the most pristine, biodiverse places that exist now are because Indigenous people live there; they protect those areas,” said Jihan Gearon, who is Diné, from the Navajo Nation in Arizona. She is the executive director of the Black Mesa Water Coalition, a part of the Indigenous Environmental Network. “And if the UN doesn’t protect us, then those places are just going to go away.” Read the full Article.
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Ananda Lee Tan in CommonDreams: Decrying Draft Deal that ‘Fails Humanity,’ COP21 Protesters Draw Red Line
Even as people led mobilizations stages protest inside the COP-21 summit, and plan to march in the thousands on Saturday, It Takes Roots delegate and organizer with Climate Justice Alliance, Ananda Lee Tan, breaks down the serious issues with the current draft agreement: “”Once again, world leaders have shown they lack the political courage, decency, and integrity to stand up for the needs of the most impacted communities around the world in the biggest ecological crisis of our time.” Read the full article.
In another incisive analysis by Global Justice Now fellow Kevin Smith, It Takes Roots’ delegation got a memorable mention as one of the amazing things happening at COP21 despite the bans on protest and restrictions on freedom to mobilize. Read the full article.
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Global Sisters Report writes of It Takes Roots as “an example of the growing “intersectional” movement uniting grass-roots organizations across peace, social justice, civil/human rights, gender, indigenous, and environmental issues. Its focus is on community-based and community-led solutions to addressing climate change. Read the full article
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Activist art creation at the #COP21 resistance was central to the people-led mobilizations outside Le Bourget. Everyday artivists gather to create art in a warehouse near the Alternatibas’ Global Village. The artspace changes every day. Clotheslines run through the place on exposed ceilings. Plastic tarp covers the floor with slogans that had been printed on cloth and dried. The overarching color is red, because of another organization’s slogan of a red line against climate change – a red line against carbon emissions.
People make tables out of saw horses and plywood. Art is strewn everywhere, with slogans like “Keep it in the Ground” and “Climate change is Climate Violence”.
It Takes Roots’ art table drew a lot of appreciation. One of our members, Arty, developed 10 placards of the things we are fighting: genocide, patriarchy, false solutions, fracking, GMOs, environmental racism, pollution, poverty, Obama, and more.
In the art space, the delegation developed the main messaging: It ta
kes roots to weather the storm. The storm is all the bad ideas at the #COP21. The extreme climate conditions, militarism, war, racism. This is the storm frontline communities weather through roots. We are the roots. We are the representatives of our root communities resisting the storm. We have been called to plant the seeds for the next generation, to stop the #COP21 and all the apparatuses of exploitation. The deep resistance rises up to say: this our planet, for the people; not just for a few.
This gave rise to embodying this powerful metaphor through visuals and song. The first act will be the storm that is blocking the peace; the placards that Arty designed. The second act is our resistance, our struggle and tearing the placards down. Then, the delegation will come out and sow the seeds of a just transition, women leadership, keeping the fossil fuel in the ground, the wisdom of frontline communities being heard and made the law of the land. The final act is a joyous celebration of sunflowers and all our people dancing, chanting, celebrating that we are the ones we have been waiting for.
It was exhilarating to have everyone at the art space for the dress rehearsal. Other artists stopped what they were doing and watched our street theater; they clapped and chanted with us, they wanted to join us. The action is strong in its critique and solution and is deeply inspiring to all who watch it. It is an act of defiance. And speak, and shout we will tomorrow and every day, until the world is at it should be.
Watch A Powerful Video Of the It Takes Roots’ delegation’s Dec 10 Human Rights Day Action @ the Peace Wall in Paris:
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December 10, 2015
Grassroots Groups Say Climate Policies Violate Human Rights
& the Rights of Indigenous People
(Paris, FRANCE) Grassroots leaders from climate-impacted communities in the US rallied at the Paris Peace Wall to denounce the role of the US delegation for a legacy of environmental racism and in undermining the possibility for genuine climate justice coming out of Paris COP21 accord. Over 350 people participated in an action in front of the Peace Wall in Paris, a venue chosen to symbolically challenge the grave and violent implications of the current COP21 Agreement. Massive banners, signs, fierce chanting, singing, and street theatre marked the It Takes Roots delegation-led action for Human Rights Day.
“Here in Paris, as with every COP before now, we see the role of the US in holding back any efforts at real mandatory emissions cuts, and accepting true historic and current responsibility as a leading greenhouse gas emitter. The US has been leading other member states in a strategy of pollution trading that allows big oil to continue to pollute our communities and also threatens the livelihoods of indigenous communities from the Global North to the Global South. The decisions coming out of COP21 will lead to massive violations of human rights and the rights of indigenous peoples,” read Edgar Franx, from the It Takes Roots statement to Obama on Human Rights Day.
“The prosperity of fossil-fueled societies has been built on the backs of historically marginalized communities: Indigenous Peoples, coal miners, fisherfolk, working class communities across the world — all of whom have paid the price of our “cheap fuels” and will suffer the consequences of global climate chaos disproportionately. Solutions that protect the welfare and rights of these communities will prove more durable, more equitable, and safer – for all of us. Indeed, on December 10 Human Rights day, there can be no better demand of COP21 – to be accountable to all people,” noted Dallas Goldtooth, with the Indigenous Environmental Network, and an It Takes Roots delegate.
Representatives from Indigenous, Black, Latino, Asian and Pacific Islander organizations have united under the banner, It Takes Roots to Weather the Storm, representing communities living alongside fracking wells, coal power plants, and oil refineries and already facing the worst impacts of the climate crisis.
Today’s peace action called out the US and other countries of the Global North whose invasive foreign policies have played a large role in the current devastating and vicious refugee crises, conflicts, and resource wars due to land grabs and displacement triggered by neoliberal globalization.
Check out the list of media spokespeople from the It Takes Roots delegation:
Check out updates about our events/actions the delegation participated/co-organized:
Visit Our Flickr Photostream (please credit photos to: It Takes Roots)
Watch a quick video highlight of today’s action by Indigenous Environmental Network
To schedule interviews with our media spokespeople, and to get video clips from today’s action contact:
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It Takes Roots delegate Sarra Tekola shared her disturbing experience of racism from the police while in Paris for COP21. Read the full article.
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Outside the confines of the conference being held in Le Bourget, a Paris suburb, hundreds of activists gathered next to the Peace Wall at the Eiffel Tower to mark International Human Rights Day and draw clear links between human rights and climate justice. The gathering, organized by the It Takes Roots Delegation, consisted of people from indigenous and other communities of color from all over the world. Read the full article.
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One of the first big assemblies of the Climate Action Zone was the Just Transition Assembly put on by the It Takes Roots delegation. Climate leaders got together to talk about the connections between labor and climate, and the importance of local economies in a just transition. Participants were also given the opportunity to talk about the vision and challenges of achieving a just transition in their communities. To learn more about work around a just transition, visit ourpowercampaign.org or ggjalliance.org.
For live coverage of the event via Twitter, visit:
On Wednesday, December 9, nearly 200 grassroots activists converged and marched, chanted, and sang with colorful banners, posters and outside the Vincennes detention center in Paris where several immigrants are illegally detained by the French government.
The Vincennes detention center where grassroots communities gathered is of particular significance, as it was the site of an historic uprising after the death of a Tunisian man while in custody in 2008. This uprising brought national attention to the inhumane treatment of migrants and refugees in detention in Paris.
It Takes Roots delegates organized and participated in this march in solidarity with thousands of impacted refugees and migrants, detained by the French government. Local community leaders and activists working at the intersections of migrant and refugee rights joined our delegation.
This action was in solidarity with refugees fleeing situations of grave conflict, and made vital connections between migrant rights, Indigenous rights, gender equality, and climate change. Check out a few photos from our action today below and visit our photos page for more visual updates.
Key spokespeople at the march highlighted how social and environmental justice are deeply linked, and the largely US delegation expressed their solidarity with migrant rights, especially activists working with immigrant communities along the US-Mexico border, and Indigenous activists, who highlighted how colonialism is not really dead, but alive in new and dangerous ways.
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The It Takes Roots delegates have real, community-based solutions to combat the climate crisis. They have come to Paris to present these solutions and move away from the climate crisis. Here are some memes to highlight the amazing work of these frontline leaders.