One year after the passage of the Inflation Reduction Act, which Big Green groups hailed as a 'climate justice bill,' the truth is surfacing that this legislation is lining the pockets of the fossil fuel industry to the detriment of frontline, especially Black and Indigenous, communities. Clearing the FOG speaks to Anthony Rogers-Wright, a national racial and climate justice advocate, about the ways Joe Biden and the Democrats are failing to address the climate crisis and Big Green groups are turning away from climate justice to embrace Green Capitalism. Rogers-Wright also describes better alternatives to the Big Greens and where people can focus their efforts effectively to struggle for a just and livable future.
For the last decade, climate justice organizers have seen the Sierra Club as a critical lever for moving a climate agenda that centers equity and just transition. It has the largest grassroots base outside of labor, the most substantial infrastructure of any national green group in the US, and roots in a movement that at times was not afraid to go toe-to-toe with large corporations or development-oriented pro-business government entities. But beginning in May, the organization accelerated a restructuring process that included layoffs of the entire equity and environmental justice teams and of senior staffers, several Black women and other women of color among them.
I am from a disappearing nation. My country, Bangladesh, is one of several at risk of becoming submerged partially or completely by rising sea levels caused by climate change in the coming decades. 75 percent of the country lies below sea level. Bangladesh, a tropical country on top of a low-lying delta, is no stranger to flooding, especially during monsoon season. But the extent to which this flooding has taken place in recent years is unprecedented. Flooding in Sylhet and other northeastern districts of Bangladesh between May and June of 2022 displaced an estimated 15 million people – approximately 9 percent of the country – and toppled hundreds of villages in 2022 alone.
Italian oil major Eni is facing the country’s first climate lawsuit, with environmental groups alleging the company used “greenwashing” to push for more fossil fuels despite knowing of the risks posed by burning its products since 1970. Greenpeace Italy and Italian advocacy group ReCommon aim to build on a similar case targeting Anglo-Dutch oil major Royal Dutch Shell in the Netherlands to force Eni to slash its carbon emissions by 45 percent by 2030. While Eni is among the world’s largest oil companies, the company’s role in climate change has so far undergone scant scrutiny.
On May 6, voters in El Paso, TX will decide on Prop K, the Climate Charter amendment that would pave the way for a Green New Deal in this metropolitan area of 985,000 residents, 81% of whom are Latinx. The Prop K campaign has placed environmental racism and local control over powerful corporate interests squarely before the public. It grows out of decades of organizing and resistance in El Paso and the frontera communities—from El Paso and Doña Ana Counties to Ciudad Juarez in Chihuahua, Mexico. Eddie Wong interviewed Crystal Moran and Mike Siegel for Convergence. Moran is a local Chicanx, Indigenous community organizer working in environmental, immigration, and social justice.
Climate concerns motivated a Montana judge to cancel the air quality permit for a controversial natural gas power plant. The 175-megawatt NorthWestern Energy plant would have emitted more than 23 million tons of greenhouse gases over its 30-year or more lifespan — the equivalent of adding 167,327 new cars to the roads each year — something that the Montana Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) did not fully consider when it issued the permit, Montana 13th Judicial District Court Judge Michael Moses ruled Thursday. “DEQ’s failure to analyze this issue violated the clear and unambiguous language of MEPA [the Montana Environmental Policy Act],” Moses wrote.
Earth first! is, has been, and will continue to be a think tank and proving ground of direct action in defense of the earth and those who reside here. At 43 years old, earth first! may seem like an institution, but in reality it is still created every day by those of us who show up to resist ecocide. If you show up, you’re at the table. There’s no way to sell you on earth first!, cuz earth first! is not for sale. So come to the gathering! Say your piece, make it yours, and let’s fight the bastards together. You don’t have to be an earth first!er to come to an ef! gathering – the fight for the earth is intimately intertwined with struggles against white supremacy, patriarchy, settler colonialism and all forces which oppose collective liberation.
I used to think trauma was something that only applied to people exposed to extreme situations like war, genocide, abuse or crime. Yet, living on planet Earth pretty much guarantees you some trauma. Trauma comes from the Greek “traumat,” which means “wound.” It is an emotional wounding that results from experiencing or witnessing a highly stressful, horrifying event or series of events where one feels a lack of control, powerlessness and threat of injury or death. This sounds disturbingly similar to what humans are increasingly living through with climate change.
A pair of climate cases from opposite sides of the country appear to be the closest yet to holding fossil fuel companies accountable in court. Lawsuits filed by Honolulu, Hawaii, and by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts have both overcome initial procedural hurdles and are advancing in state courts, despite dogged attempts by lawyers for the fossil fuel firms to punt the cases into federal courts where they hoped to find an easier path to dismissal. And the two cases have each taken a big leap forward in state courts with judges denying fossil fuel defendants’ requests to dismiss the litigation. Earlier this year, a Hawaii state court judge issued several rulings denying oil companies’ motions to dismiss Honolulu’s case, originally filed in March 2020. In a press release, the Honolulu City Council explained, “with these favorable rulings [Honolulu’s] case is now set to become the first in the country to move into a trial phase and begin the all-important process of discovery, where the oil companies must begin opening up files to show what they knew.”
On September 24, 2022, more than 30,000 people occupied the main roads of downtown Seoul, South Korea, for the nation’s largest climate justice march. The sheer turnout of people from all walks of life and the participation by a wide range of advocacy groups were a testament to the impact of climate change on every aspect of life: human rights, women’s rights, religion, food insecurity, and labor rights. For many of these advocacy movements in Seoul, recent crises like COVID-19 have brought home the urgent need to address the climate crisis. Opening with a rally in Namdaemun Plaza at 3 p.m., the two-hour march occupied four out of six lanes of Seoul’s main Sejong-daero Boulevard. Standing on moving flatbed trucks, people spoke about the intersectionality of the climate crisis and other issues, including labor insecurity, housing instability, and social discrimination.
Even as the floodwaters have receded, the people of Pakistan are still trying to grapple with the death and devastation the floods have left in their wake. The floods that swept across the country between June and September have killed more than 1,700 people, injured more than 12,800, and displaced millions as of November 18. The scale of the destruction in Pakistan was still making itself apparent as the world headed to the United Nations climate conference COP27 in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt, in November. Pakistan was one of two countries invited to co-chair the summit. It also served as chair of the Group of 77 (G77) and China for 2022, playing a critical role in ensuring that the establishment of a loss and damage fund was finally on the summit’s agenda, after decades of resistance by the Global North.
Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt - The UNFCCC Conference of the Parties concluded its 27th session in the early hours of Sunday, November 20, 2022 with the adoption of the Sharm El-Sheikh Implementation Plan. Despite the extended COP, Parties failed to take adequate steps and action to address climate change. The most glaring omission in the Plan is a failure of the Parties to cut fossil fuel emissions at the source and there were only vague references towards achieving the Paris Agreement temperature goal of 1.5 degrees Celsius. False solutions such as REDD+, carbon markets, carbon offsets, climate-smart agriculture, climate geoengineering technologies, and nature-based solutions were focal points at COP27. Additionally, climate finance, adaptation and mitigation as well as loss and damage were at the forefront of negotiations at this year’s session.
The brother El Hajj Malik El Shabazz (aka Malcolm X) once explained, “If you’re not careful, the newspapers will have you hating the people who are being oppressed and loving the people who are doing the oppressing.” The tale of two narratives associated with the recent signing into law of the so-called Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) accentuates his words at a critical moment. Communities on the frontlines of the climate crisis find themselves entrapped in a cycle of climate cataclysms and cumulative pollution derived from legacy and systemic environmental racism and classism. While attending a meeting in Bogota, Colombia with the newly elected Vice President, Francia Marquez, one of her advisors expressed to me that she was questioning why the demographics of those celebrating passage of a bill purported to address the climate crisis don’t match the demographics of those most impacted by the crisis?
We live in a world that is on track for a global temperature rise of 3.2 degrees celsius, at least. We know that rich countries bear the biggest responsibility for the carbon in the atmosphere that is leading to this ecological catastrophe. We also know that the burden of the crisis is falling disproportionately on people living in the poorest countries in the global south who contributed least to the problem. Grappling with this reality, climate movements across the global North are increasingly putting justice at the heart of their fight for a sustainable world. This narrative, reflected in a term like ‘ecological debt’ has amongst others made climate movements to call for climate adaptation and reparations programs in the south paid primarily by the north.
New momentum is buzzing through the North American labor movement, driven by the same age group which, across party affiliations and the urban-rural divide, has expressed majority-to-outsize support for advancing a climate policy overhaul with economic justice at its core. After ticking up slightly in 2020, the overall union membership rate in the United States fell back to where it’s been hovering the past few years, in 2021. But in spite of the stagnancy of other age groups, union membership among workers between 25 and 34 years old was on the rise, climbing from 8.8 percent in 2019 to a still-modest 9.4 percent in 2021. That bump does not account for the surge in union drives over the past eight months — including in the midst of this writing — many of which have been led by young workers.