CJ in the USA: Root-cause remedies, rights, reparations and representation

Grassroots organizers around the world and across the United States are cultivating living visions of resilience in the rich soil of community. Urban and rural, South and North, organized acts of resistance and resilience represent the frontline struggles that are manifesting materially and culturally what we need in order to defeat the three pronged evil of ecological disruption, economic impoverishment and imperial expansion caused by resource intensive, globalized industrial production, consumption and waste.

We cannot afford to underestimate the demands of the epic transition in which we find ourselves. Mother Earth’s ability to nurture all the life she has created is in jeopardy; and we alone are the errant children who have brought this on. We are rapidly facing the erasure of our diverse cultures that cradle the evolved wisdom of how to live in right relationship to each other and the world. We must protect and promote cultural and biological diversity – it is our best and only defense.

How our communities navigate this transition and what the future holds are not pre-determined and will be a function of how well we wrest power from the reactionary right-wing and the business-as-usual crowd. The struggle is not simply one over competing policy proposals, but between competing visions of the world in which we will live. The struggle is between a culture of hording and a culture of sharing; between globalized exploitation and localized democracies; between the Chain of the Market, and the Web of Life.

We believe that we can all live a good life if we live in a good way; which means we must live in just and fair relationship with each other and within healthy, interdependent ecosystems. An Ecosystem is a “basin of relations” between all the living and non-living aspects of a place – it is what makes up home. An ecosystem can be as small as a ripple in a pond or as large as the whole planet. Economy is how we navigate, mediate and manage those relations. The current globalized economy is nothing less than a total mismanagement of our home.

Living a good life in a good way can only happen by first recognizing that the root causes of the daily economic, environmental and social inequity that plague communities worldwide are also compromising the metabolism of Mother Earth; and that all real solutions must address both the economic and ecological crisis. This recognition is what defines the Climate Justice Movement.

In this moment, we must be unafraid to articulate what we really need, to fight for it at all levels of governance and to build it on the ground in our communities; regardless of whether it is considered by some to be “politically realistic.” The current landscape of what is portrayed as politically realistic in most state, federal and international arenas is mined with deadly false solutions to both the ecological and economic crisis. If we buy the lie that we must settle for less in the name of expediency, we will never achieve social and ecological justice. Our demands are in fact the only realistic solution to the ecological crisis we face.

With this vision and analysis in mind, representatives of grassroots base-building organizations working in racial, economic and environmental justice organizing came together in May 2010. Participants at this gathering cohered a straightforward platform for action towards Climate Justice, led by grassroots, community based forces on the frontlines of the root causes, false solutions and impacts of climate disruption. We offer this framework as the foundation for our analysis of Climate Justice.

We believe that the key principles that define the real solutions to the ecological and economic crisis are:

1) Root Cause Remedies: Real solutions require that we go to the source of the problem. Resource intensive industrial production, globalized at scale, and driven by the imperative of maximum profit to endless growth, is the engine of the crisis. The antidote requires place-based, smaller-scale economies, anchored in communities that are linked to one another through healthy and sustainable systems of exchanges.

2) Rights: Real solutions recognize and honor individual and collective rights, including, but not limited to, the sovereign rights of Indigenous Peoples, the right to food, water and energy sovereignty; the right to control our own labor, the Rights of Mother Earth, the right of women to have complete control of their bodies- and of the reproduction of our species; the right to home and the right to movement; and the rights of individuals and communities to live free of political, cultural, economic, physical and environmental subordination. These rights require an end to environmental racism and a recognition of the right to self-determination for oppressed peoples within the United States.

3) Reparations: Real solutions understand the need for reparations – to repair our relations. This must include making amends for historic responsibilities for the crises we face, from over-consumption of ‘atmospheric space’ by the Western Industrialized counties to the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade. We must repair our relations in the present, by restoring back to the Web of Life that which has been subordinated to the Chain of the Market- from water and air to seeds and labor and life itself. We must set ourselves up for a future that embraces reflective and responsive relationships to place.

4) Representation: Real solutions ensure that people will have directly democratic control over the decisions that affect their daily lives and that those who have been most victimized by the systems which got us here must lead the way to solutions. This is not only because justice demands it, but because those of us whose lands, livelihoods and cultures have been compromised, hold the evolved knowledge of place- the stories and cultures- that we all need to survive and thrive.

These four principles have led us to the following first steps as a platform for action.

1. Phase out All Industrial Pollution of Air, Water, Land and Life, and Stop False Solutions to the Climate and Energy Crisis:

We must eliminate the sources of climate disruption. It is not enough to simply curb emissions at different sources; which are also sources of pollution and impoverishment that disproportionately impact poor communities of color and Indigenous Peoples. We should start with an immediate and permanent moratorium on new exploration and exploitation of all fossil fuels. We know enough now to not be looking or mining for more. We must then begin the rapid replacement of fossil fuels with local, renewable, closed loop energy systems. We will not accept destructive, industrial energy systems that continue to harm communities and destroy Mother Earth. We cannot sell out our air and forest, wetlands and rivers or the communities that depend on them in the name of “curbing carbon” through carbon markets or offsets. There is no room in a sustainable future for so-called clean coal, nuclear, biomass, agro-fuels, incineration, landfill gas, mega-dams, or other techno-fixes such as synthetic biology or geo-engineering.

2. Decentralized and Democratic Control over energy, food, water, land, and air. We must shift from a globalized capitalist industrial economy to local living participatory economies that function at the appropriate scale to serve the goal of well-being for all. We reclaim and enact our right to foster resilient communities that will weather the ecological and economic transition through local, renewable energy and food production; and labor in our own interests.

3. Global Framework for a Just Transition Now: We recognize that to move from where we are to where we need to be requires coordinated action. A democratically negotiated, transparent and legally binding agreement amongst workers and frontline communities that facilitates trans-national, national, sub-national and local action in line with what is materially required to ensure equity in the transition will include the following principles: historic responsibility of corporations and industrial countries; historical, ecological debt obligation from the corporations to communities, rich countries to poor countries and from rich to poor within countries; real solutions that do not depend on carbon trading, offsets, resource intensive technologies, industrial expansion, geo-engineering or the commodification of soil, air, water, labor and life.

For more information: movementgeneration.org and ienearth.org.