WHEREAS, degradation of the environment goes hand-in-hand with the degradation of sustainable and healthy lives, to take care of the environment means to take care of and care for people, and whereas a disconnection from the land, our ecological environment, is also a reflection of our disconnection from one another –
Resolution On The Environment And The “Justice” System
Sustainability and labor – is becoming more dominant in the discourse on climate change and sustainable living globally. As climate change events occur more frequently and with more ferociousness, there are more reasons to define and make policy to support climate change and climate justice. When communities crumbled under super storms in Red Hook
and the Ninth Ward
in New Orleans in the near past, the working class, working poor and unemployed were hardest hit with the least resources and insurance to recover in place.
The historical distribution of wealth in both regions led to the vulnerability and mass displacement, and permanent dismantling of communities along with the heritage that locals, their families and their ancestors created over generations.
“The largely middle class environmental movement and corporate backed politicians have shown little sensitivity to the interests of labor as they proposed public policy responses to climate change. Many have been quick to advocate carbon reduction programs, but slow to offer up any ideas about what will happen to the workers and communities affected.” - Tim Costello and the Labor Network for Sustainability
As working class communities like The Ninth Ward and Red Hook experience displacement that demands a more just response to climate disasters, so too must organized labor demand a just transition from a fossil fuel dominated economy to a clean and green driven economy. New labor organizations are emerging from deep within traditional unions and creating alliances to design and advocate for a just labor transition as well as climate justice for residents of areas impacted by climate change weather disasters and the ongoing gradual impacts. You can learn more about this in the Women's Economic Agenda Project Fact sheet on Climate Justice
that states, “This is known as the Climate Gap—climate change does not affect everyone equally: the wealthiest have more resources to protect themselves from the negative impacts of climate change, while those who have been historically disenfranchised, such as women, the poor, and people of color are affected the most because they are the “least able to anticipate, cope with, resist and recover from the worst effects of climate change.”
The international Robin Hood Tax
, promoted by Nurses unions
in Las Vegas recently, is a viable national revenue resource to ensure that both climate justice and a just labor transition can be put in place as part of the nation’s response to Climate Change.
The Robin Hood Tax will inhibit computer-generated manipulations of the global stock market as each trade and sale is taxed. As workers align nationally and globally to demand fair taxation and as we increase resistance against below-living wages at corporate empires like Wal-Mart that eliminate full time work with health benefits and retirement benefits, we must also take up the cause of climate change justice and a just labor transition to a green and clean fuel driven economy
for a just society to emerge. Quincy is historically and currently a Union town - with union representation at the local Sierra Pacific Mill, energy and communication workers, local state and federal government employees, and Quincy residents who commute to other areas for employment in the trades and other industries. Union workers who have fought in the past and continue to fight for just wages, work conditions, and equal rights are a major factor in sustaining the economy of Quincy and Plumas County.
Climate Change and justice is linked to labor and sustainability – we’re all in this together. You can follow me on Twitter @EnvironmntArts
Some people like numbers, others like paintings and stories. For a long
time, the towers of academia, science, and commerce have seemed amused by relatively simple prophecies of a tipping point put forth by American Indians. Quite simply common knowledge, as many of us had been educated to believe, could know no problem that modern science supported and driven by economic giants couldn’t solve.
Fast forward, and we are there looking over our shoulders wondering how did we get here so fast – the tipping point is here. And with new practices for energy production growing such as fracking and more off shore oil production, we are even more in need of solutions from academia, science and commerce.
There is one expert that this triad, academia, science and commerce have downplayed, and that’s our own individual capacity for change, adaptation and ingenuity. The best renewable resource we have is in our own
hands. If we use them to unplug, reduce usage and adopt lifestyle changes that circumvent as much energy consumption as possible.
Last weekend I watched the video of David MacKay, as he tours the basic mathematics
that show limitations on our sustainable energy options and explains how he took a stand in his own home to reduce energy for running his household. Interestingly, he didn’t need a smart meter.
The demand for energy, in California has had an impact on the “natural environment” through extraction of a renewable energy - water. The hydroelectric system well known in Plumas County as PG&E’s Five Steps of Power on the Feather River was developed over the past fifty or so years. The land called Big Meadows with a number of villages now under Lake Almanor was once alive and vibrant with the sounds and daily activities of Maidu families, who were pushed aside for profits, and so 8 million Californians could use inexpensive electricity at their will and leisure. As the people of Monte Belo Dam
in Brazil are fighting hydro dam construction in their village sites, we, who have heard the history of the Maidu and the hydro system in Plumas County know this is a process which while creating wealth and prosperity for some, will leave indigenous people without justice and
suffering for many years to come. The environment will be irreparably changed with unknown consequences, just as the Plumas Forest and Upper Feather River watershed is the subject of an experiment still in process.
Where are the Maidu villages, the salmon and the eels?
The history of Lake Almanor started with the Red River Lumber Company, which obtained the land when Maidu people are reported to have signed over their land allotments to the Indian agent at Greenville, all within a few days, many signed with an X. The Indian Agent signed his name as the witness. After Red River Lumber Company was done with the clear cutting on Big Meadows, the land was then transferred to The Great Western Power Company, which later became PG&E. Great Western Power started the transition of the former Maidu homeland at Big Meadows into Lake Almanor, and the hydro system now on the Feather River and its tributaries.
Today, the PG&E Company is divesting parcels of excess land as part of its bankruptcy, including
the Humbug Valley
, or Tasmam Koyom, which it never did end up using for power generation. There are over 2,000 acres that are many miles off of the pavement, with a trout fishery that is sought out by serious anglers. It’s also the homeland to Beverly Ogle, Maidu Elder, and her family, whose Maidu ancestors were residents of a village in the valley and are buried there. Ogle has resided there intermittently through the years of PG&E and ranch owners. She is the Vice Chairman of the Maidu Summit Consortium, which has submitted a proposal for these excess lands. She and others in the Summit have been working for many years on proposals and dialogues with PG&E, and the Pacific Stewardship Council
to make a bid on their homeland.
The social and environmental justice elements in their proposal for Humbug are well documented, ironic, and inescapable. Still, even with the price the Maidu have paid for California to prosper due to cheap energy and other extracted spoils of the Upper Feather River Watershed for the past century and a half, people have been too quick to revert to stereotypes and slurs, asserting the Maidu want to build a casino, as was put forth by a number of people commenting on an article in the New York Times.
The land will be perpetually placed in a land conservation trust, which prohibits future development. Maidu Elder, Lorena Gorbet
has worked for the past 35 years in endeavors, many unpaid, to seek justice for the Maidu people in many areas, including land repatriation and environmental justice. She spoke with me last month and shared these words (click on her name) about her interest in having the Humbug Valley put back into the hands of the Maidu people, through the Maidu Summit Consortium. The Summit, as it’s known, is working on Humbug Valley projects and strengthening its organization this spring and summer, so it can be ready to assume fee title ownership of this land. It’s a start I hope to a new era of repatriation of lands back to the Maidu people after a century and half of enduring, quietly, and painfully what no people should ever have had to experience.
My hope going forward as we explore what sustainability means is that we, who have chosen Plumas County as our home, are inclusive, and weigh the true costs of progress, and lean towards self-control and life style changes over the control and oppression of others, and are aware that even renewable energy has costs to the environment and people, and can involve extraction of resources other than fossil fuels. We have been dependent on extraction of resources of all kinds to make California, and Plumas County what it is.
Now it’s time to think deeper, look at what energy is in our own hands, and address deeper land and energy ethics through our way of being. Green = Ethics X Energy Squared.
As we celebrate the Earth, its rarity, our vulnerability and dependence on its bounty, and its grandeur, the question of how we will live in this world naturally arises. Are you ready? We could start by looking at what sustainability means. A few of my friends thought about this and had these comments:
"Sustainability means that it operates on a positive deficit. All that goes in, comes out. natural methods. Keep fish in a pond, recycle their poopy water into plant beds, plants are given needed nutrients without supplements, plants feed bugs, bugs feed fish. Closed loop, but ongoing and without outside intervention other than basic necessity care. It's late, does that make sense?" (Nice in Singapore)
"I think the word means to be able to keep one going on things of need, not wants, to be able to keep your family going with even your positive words… learning everyday about Earth and how to care for it better and know that it will care for you, also to recycle whatever you can, much like my grandparents did teach me, use old things and make new things, my mother was taught that as a child. And she teaches me now still, mending, sewing, using all old clothes for SOMETHING...I like that idea. Just create, be resourceful and share your extra things you can give, even a SMILE is wealth and that for sure can keep you going for another day." (Denise in Quincy)
"To me it means to continue whatever, long past the time I will have left this Earth." (Myrtle in Indian Valley)
Focusing on small changes in our homes in combination with our workplaces, schools, local governments and institutions, will move us towards sustainability. This gentle way of approaching sustainability requires abandoning the "ready, aim, fire" approach to problem solving. That is the same old one where typically we aim outside of our own sphere of influence, expecting the heavy lifting will be done by someone else somewhere else.
We, the editorial we, could instead start looking within at the ntaure of our daily habits and consumption — taking a deep and long look inward to acquire an understanding of the current condition at hand as a prerequisite for creating our own regenerative processes. This requires a subtle, yet critical shift in focus from improving global outcomes to first honing the personal process by which those loftier outcomes can be achieved.
Sustainability comes in the quiet moments, when we make small personal choices, some in the voting booth, some in our kitchens, and some in what we choose together. Do I choose local organic greens over produce grown with petrochemicals, or local eggs over factory farm eggs, or the footpath, and a bicycle over a car? With each small choice, one at a time, we are moving another step closer towards a more equitable, just and sustainable way of life.
In Quincy, we are wealthy in community, and have a diversity of creative neighbors, many of whom are, or have been, also looking around and saying to themselves, what can I do, right here, in my home, in my livlihood, and in the community. Today I want to change the course I am on towards one where I replenish more than I diminish, where I lift up more than I oppress. Moving in that direction together, the process calls for joyful, cooperative living and inclusion, and doing life in ways that may be unfamiliar at first.
This is the town that spawned an unlikely forestry collaborative, the Quincy Library Group
, to overcome what seemed like irreconcilable differences, and in the 1980s convinced the United States Forest Service to invoke a moratorium
on herbicides, such as 2-4-D on all National Forests for 10 years. We know how to work hard and we know how to have a good time. Quincy has become home of the world class High Sierra Music Festival
, two theatres, unique cafes, a growing cooperative and local agricultural movement, and businesses that are or choose local producers everyday. Even though we have our differences of opinions, we have been proven to be a force to be reckoned with here, when we put our hearts, minds and matters together.
We are called to first address our inner landscape, in order to influence the exterior plane, and conceive step by step, and minute by minute, how we each will choose to live, rather than taking the old ready, aim, fire approach. That reminds me of this quote that I will signoff with now. When asked what advice she had for young activists, elder Grace Lee Boggs
, a founder of the Boggs Center
, said “Do visionary organizing. Turn your back on protest organizing and recognize how that leads you more and more to defensive operations, whereas visionary organizing gives you the opportunity to encourage the creative capacity in people and it’s very fulfilling.”