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Climate Change

Transforming a Movement (1991

Dana AlstonReprinted from Race, Poverty & the Environment (RP&E) 1992.

By Dana Alston 

Rarely do people get the opportunity to participate in historic events. But each of the 300 African, Latino, Native and Asian Americans from all 50 states who gathered for the first National People of Color Environmental Leadership Summit in late October must have left with a sense that the atmosphere in which environmental issues are debated and resolved is changed for good. And for the better.

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Communities Unite to Fight Coal in Oakland

Protest at Oakland City Council hearing on coal. ©2015 Eric  K. Arnold

By Eric K. Arnold

Big money, shady dealings, controversial politics, and a unified coalition of local grassroots activists and nationally-known environmental organizations: Oakland’s fight against the construction of a coal export terminal has all the trappings of the kind of movie Hollywood used to make in the post-Vietnam War era, when it still had a moral center. But this is no mere fictional account because real human lives and the survival of a disadvantaged community lie in the balance.

Rebecca Solnit on Climate Change

Solnit finds hope in uncertainty. (Courtesy of Jude Mooney Photography)

Interview by Dayton Martindale

"Six years ago, the climate movement decided to stop the Keystone pipeline. As David Roberts at Vox has said, it was not just about changing one pipeline but changing the culture. Watching that process take place up close is boring. There were bad meetings and demonstrations that aren’t always triumphs.

But then you pull back and, oh my God, six years later, we defeated the northern stretch of the pipeline and we’re in a completely different place with the climate movement."

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Connecting Struggles Across Issues and Borders

The roots of the environmental justice movement lie in an archetypical struggle between low-income communities of color and industrial polluters—refineries, incinerators, landfills, and dirty ports, to name a few. In the last few years, leaders of this movement have worked ardently to infuse an environmental politic into racial and economic justice campaigns and to underscore local control of common resources and community-based solutions to social and ecological ills.[1]

Now the fruits of this labor are becoming evident. What was seen as isolated pockets of noxious industrial impacts are now being viewed as symptoms of larger phenomena that create other social inequities. People are connecting the impacts of toxic industry to other injustices, such as forced migration and poverty jobs, and coming together to address these multiple crises.   

On a hot July afternoon in Detroit last summer, over 300 movement organizers from across the United States gathered to plot a course for ecological justice as part of the U.S. Social Forum. “We come from environmental justice communities who have been on the frontlines of the effects of polluting industries like waste incineration. But [we] also come from economic justice struggles... and immigrant [communities that] understand the connection between land and life,” said Michelle Mascarenhas-Swan, strategy initiatives director for Movement Generation based in Oakland, California.

People, Power, Policy

Coalition Challenges California to Legislate Climate Equity

By Kay Cuajunco, Photos by Brooke Anderson

On August 25th, community leaders from across the state converged on the steps of the Capitol to demand climate policies that benefit and protect low-income communities and communities of color. In commemoration of the 10th Anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, residents from some of the state’s most pollution-impacted communities stood in solidarity with frontline communities across the nation, urging their legislators to pass policies to transition away from dirty fossil fuels and ensure another Katrina doesn’t happen again.

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