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Joshua Kahn Russell's Posts


Labor and Climate Justice: 60+ Environmental Justice groups appeal to AFL-CIO on eve of convention

Labor Contingent for Climate Justice at the Richmond Summer Heat Mobilization on Chevron's HQ, Aug 2013 On the eve of the annual AFL-CIO 2013 convention, over 60 environmental justice groups wrote a letter to the Labor Movement about climate change. Its a sort of tough-love letter from the Climate Justice Alliance, with sharp analyses of our shared crisis, opportunities for collaboration, and identification of the historic divisions between Labor and the Environment, ultimately calling for a movement that transcends traditional "issue fights" and sectors. Alliances between traditional labor unions and climate groups have been percolating for years, but our crisis …

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26 DeChristopher supporters arrested

[Ed. note: The following is an on-the-scene report from Peaceful Uprising member and Tim DeChristopher supporter Joshua Kahn Russell.] Yesterday, Tim DeChristopher was sentenced to two years in prison and taken away from the courthouse without goodbyes or the option to self-report. In court, DeChristopher said, “You can put me in prison, but it will not deter my future of civil disobedience and it won’t deter others who are willing to fight to defend a livable future.” Outside the courthouse, hundreds of supporters gathered from Salt Lake City and across the country, singing, chanting, and speaking out as they bore …

Read more: Climate & Energy


Tim DeChristopher sentenced to 2 years in prison, taken immediately into custody

(Cross-posted from Tim DeChristopher was sentenced to 2 years in prison today at the Salt Lake City federal courthouse. He was taken immediately into custody, being denied the typical 3 weeks afforded to put his affairs in order and say goodbye to his friends and family. Federal prosecutors asked for Tim to receive an extra harsh prison sentence in an effort to intimidate the movement that stands with him. They hoped that by condemning him to years behind bars, they would "make an example out of him" and deter all of us from taking meaningful action. But Tim is …

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The Rapture didn’t come, but don’t worry, the world is still boiling

Cross-posted from Beyond the Choir

Church this morning must have been quite awkward for some people. The sermon might have gone something like, “I know we’re all disappointed that the rapture didn’t come, but don’t worry -- its not like it’s the end of the world or anything.” Ha ha.

I was among many progressives making fun of the rapture all day yesterday, but ultimately the joke might be on us. When it comes to global warming and climate chaos, the script is a bit too familiar. According to a recent poll, 44 percent of Americans believe increased severity of natural disasters is evidence of biblical "end times.” That’s nearly half the people in the most powerful country on earth. Thirty-eight percent believe God uses nature to dispense judgment. It’s an important poll that climate-change activists and sensible people everywhere should take seriously.

The #rapture meme picked up remarkably fast. While billboards declaring May 21, 2011 to be Judgment Day have been up for a while , it wasn’t until a couple of days ago that it started getting into the media and many Americans learned that a small fundamentalist sect believed they uncovered the true date of the Beginning of The End. Within a few days over a million people joined multiple “post rapture looting” facebook events, pranks were being played across the country, it was all over the news, and people were cracking jokes on twitter like there’s no tomorrow.

So why did that meme spread so quickly? Unfortunately biblical notions of the coming Apocalypse are not just entrenched in our culture, but are also rearing their ugly heads in our political landscape. And they’re shaping policy. John Shimkus, the Republican Congressman who hoped to chair the House Energy Committee, told reporters this Autumn that we didn’t need to take action to reduce greenhouse gasses because he knows the planet won’t be destroyed. How does he know? God told Noah that it wouldn’t happen again after the Great Flood. Obviously. Shimkus went on to clarify that “The earth will end only when God declares its time to be over.” And its not just Shimkus – the November election saw a wave of new Republican leadership hell-bent on scriptural justifications for inaction on global warming.

In his excellent article Apocalyptic beliefs hasten the end of the world, Jason Mark discusses the depth of biblical explanations used to explain the recent Mississippi river flooding and tornado in Alabama. He cites “two surveys by the Pew Center [that] reveal what climate campaigners are up against. According to a 2010 Pew poll, 41 percent of Americans believe that Jesus will return by 2050. A roughly similar number — 36 percent — disagree that human activity is causing global temperatures to rise.” Jason points out that while causality between these two stats is dubious, worldview clearly plays a significant role in the public’s response to climate science.

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SF to Cancun: Social movements bring hope as COP 16 falters

Thousands of community activists around the world take action to promote Local Solutions to the Climate Crisis

The tone inside the conference center at the U.N. Climate Negotiations in Cancun has been a bit dismal this past week. Yet despite the reduced expectations inside, this morning the international peasant movement La Via Campesina gave us a new injection of hope and vision with a vibrant march of thousands of small farmers, Indigenous peoples and community activists through the streets in Mexico. It kicked off today's international day of action - "1,000 Cancuns" - where grassroots organizations across the world demonstrated local resiliency and real solutions to the climate crisis. 30 coordinated events took place in the U.S. and Canada today, anchored by the Grassroots Global Justice Alliance.

Here in San Francisco, more than a dozen local community organizations joined forces to help convert a Mission District parking lot into a community garden and park with affordable housing units. Click here for photos.

"This action demonstrates a tangible solution to the climate crisis by promoting local food production, challenging our dependence on automobiles and strengthening bonds within the community," explained Teresa Almaguer of People Organizing to Demand Environmental & Economic Rights (PODER) "The climate crisis requires community-based solutions and an end to corporate influence within the UN climate negotiations."

In addition to planting vegetables, participants enjoyed live music, theatrical performances and speakers all focusing on solutions to the climate crisis. A common theme at the event was increasing local food production in the fight against climate change, in contrast to the corporate-driven false solutions being put forth inside the U.N. negotiations.

"Industrial agriculture is one of the top three sources of greenhouse gas emissions," said Michelle Mascarenhas-Swan of Movement Generation. "Agribusiness corporations profit from everything from fertilizer and pesticide sales to control of what goes onto supermarket shelves. The people are left paying the true costs in polluted water, depleted soil, diet-related diseases, and climate disruption. Meanwhile, U.S. agribusiness harms small farmers, farm workers and consumers - in the U.S. and around the world."

Read more: Climate & Energy


Open letter to 1Sky from the grassroots

I was asked to post the letter below, written by grassroots organizations across the United States (Grassroots Global Justice, Movement Generation, Indigenous Environmental Network, Global Alliance for Incineration Alternatives -- full list at the end). We are at a critical moment for reflection on movement strategy. Perspectives from the front-lines are illuminating. - JKR

To the board and staff of 1Sky,

We are grassroots and allied organizations representing racial justice, indigenous rights, economic justice, immigrant rights, youth organizing, and environmental justice communities actively engaged in climate justice organizing. Given the very necessary discussion spurred by your recent public letter (Aug. 8, 2010), we wanted to share with you some of the work we have been doing to protect people and planet, as well as our reflections on a forward-thinking movement strategy. Your honest reflections on the political moment in which we find ourselves, alongside the open invitation to join in this discussion, are heartening.

Organizing a powerful climate justice movement: Like you, we recognize climate disruption as a central issue of our time. With the right set of strategies and coordinated efforts, we can mobilize diverse communities to powerful action. Our organizing strategy for climate justice is to: 1) Organize in, network with, and support communities who have found their frontlines[1] of climate justice; 2) Organize with communities to identify their frontlines of climate justice, and 3) Coalesce these communities towards a common agenda that is manifested from locally defined strategies to state and national policy objectives through to international solidarity agreements.

Community-led climate justice has been winning

In assessing the broader landscape of climate activism, it is critical to recognize that despite the failure of D.C. policy-led campaigns, there have also been significant successes on the part of grassroots climate justice campaigns across the U.S.

Read more: Climate & Energy


Environmentalists say: stop ALL of Arizona's anti-immigrant law

Today, Arizona's "show me your papers" anti-immigrant law SB1070 goes into effect. Across the country, July 29th has been declared a national day of action for Human Rights. Phoenix is ground zero for the collective outrage and protest that this bill has inspired. Here thousands of people are in the streets, many showing their courage by participating in civil disobedience across the city. In particular, downtown Phoenix has been transformed into a temporary “Human Rights Zone” with public promises from communities, businesses, and police to not comply with the law. It is an inspiring moment of solidarity and protest during a very dark time. Don’t let the partial-injunction fool you, most of this law has been allowed to continue, and we all know there are no half-measures when it comes to human rights. The hate and racism we are seeing in Arizona is only the latest, in a long series of escalating demonization of brown communities.

There is one unlikely group that has joined in protest against the anti-immigrant law: Environmentalists.

As I am practicing civil disobedience in Phoenix today, I’m proud to be a part of the new generation of eco-activists who see the forests for the trees (and the people). We believe the fate of our planet intimately depends on how we treat our brothers and sisters, and that standing up for Immigrant Rights is a central element of our task.

These new environmentalists represent a new way of thinking. We’re connecting the dots: an ecosystem is your home. Economy is the management of your home. When you globalize your economy, you globalize your ecosystem. Here’s the frank outcome: the ecological systems that support life on our planet have been pushed to the brink by an economy that trashes natural resources and destroys relationships between peoples across the planet in the process. When you convert forests into paper, mountains into coal, and oceans into oil, you force people off their land and deprive those land-based peoples of the resources they depend on to survive. A key lesson from the Environmental Justice movement is that supporting those communities in protecting their land and their livelihoods is one of the most strategic ways to fight the drivers of climate change. The root cause of environmental degradation and climate change is the root cause of forced migration.

Read more: Politics


How Bolivia celebrates Earth Day

This morning my email inbox was full of advocacy groups commemorating the 40th anniversary of Earth Day. As the ecological systems that support life are reaching their brink, there is certainly a good reason to use this opportunity to shine a spotlight on a range of issues and challenges. But activist organizations aren't alone in commemorating today.

Today I was struck even more by corporations trying to capitalize on Earth Day to green their images. As Becky Tarbotton observed in the Huffington Post, the New York Times summarized the situation well: "So strong was the antibusiness sentiment for the first Earth Day in 1970 that organizers took no money from corporations and held teach-ins 'to challenge corporate and government leaders'... Forty years later, the day has turned into a premier marketing platform for selling a variety of goods and services, like office products, Greek yogurt and eco-dentistry."

[Photo: Diana Pei Wu]

Against this backdrop, World People’s Conference on Climate Change and the Rights of Mother Earth in Cochabamba today is a breath of fresh air.

The Indigenous Environmental Network celebrated today by explaining that "this morning Bolivian President Evo Morales was joined by representatives of 90 governments and several Heads of State to receive the findings of the conference on topics such as a Climate Tribunal, Climate Debt, just finance for mitigation and adaptation, agriculture, and forests. The working group on forests held one of the more hotly contested negotiations of the summit, but with the leadership of Indigenous Peoples, a consensus was reached to reject REDD and call for wide-scale grassroots reforestation programs."

Jason Negrón-Gonzales of Movement Generation elaborated on how they do Earth Day in Cochabamba: "...from now I’ll be talking to my children and 2010 will be remembered as the year that Earth Day took on new meaning. It will be the year that humanity turned a corner in our relationship to Mother Earth and began struggling along a new course...more than politics, the conference in Cochabamba brought to the table humanity’s relationship with Pachamama. This question, raised most pointedly by the Indigenous communities present, was reflected in the project of creating a declaration of Mother Earth Rights, but also went way beyond it. Can we really reach a sustainable relationship with the Earth unless we stop looking at it as something to be conquered or fixed that is outside of us? How would it change our lives and our struggles if we thought, as Leonardo Boff of Brazil said, 'Todo lo que existe merece existir, y todo lo que vive merece vivir (Everything that exists deserves to exist, and everything that lives deserves to live)'? Or if we understood the Earth as a living thing that we are a part of and that, 'La vida es un momento de la tierra, y la vida humana un momento de la vida (Life is a moment of the earth, and the human life is a moment of life)'?”

Read more: Climate & Energy


Pledge to End Mountaintop Removal in 2010

From Nell Greenberg. I have spent the last two years working to end the devastating, unjust practice of mountaintop removal coal mining (MTR). This is a practice that requires dynamiting the tops off of ancient Appalachian Mountains and contaminating families’ drinking water for a tiny tiny amount of our nation’s coal. I don’t live in Appalachia, and I don’t have to face the coal industry’s assaults every day. So why would I devote the last two years to stopping mountaintop removal coal mining? Because I believe that it is all of our responsibilities to stop a practice that is this …

Read more: Climate & Energy


Lisa Jackson’s Reaction To Mountaintop Removal Activist Lock Down At EPA

Wanted to share an update from our recent breaking news about activists locking down at the EPA. This comes to us from Nell Greenberg: At 7:00 am this morning, a dozen brave activists released a 25-foot banner on the lawn of the EPA headquarters in Washington, DC. The message on the banner calls on the EPA to pledge to end mountaintop removal coal mining in 2010. But there’s a catch—the banner and two of its holders are suspended from two freestanding tripods 20-feet above the air, and after seven hours they are still hanging there with no sign of coming …

Read more: Climate & Energy