Racial and Gender Justice

New Orleans Montage

Climate Change: Catalyst or Catastrophe? | Vol. 16, No. 2 | Fall 2009 | Credits

Just Climate Policy —Just Racial Policy

Everywhere we turn, the issues and impacts of climate change confront us. One of the most serious environmental threats facing the world today, climate change, has moved from the realm of scientists and environmentalists to the mainstream. Though the media is dominated by images of polar bears, melting glaciers, flooded lands, and arid deserts, there is a human face to this story as well.

Climate change is not only an issue of the environment; it is also an issue of justice and human rights, one that dangerously intersects race and class. This article focuses on the impacts on African Americans living in the United States. But a similar analysis can be made for many similar communities across the world.

In all cases, people of color, indigenous peoples, and low-income communities bear disproportionate burdens from climate change itself, from ill-designed policies to prevent it, and from the side effects of energy systems that cause it.

African American Condition Predicts Outcomes
Widespread economic and environmental impacts tend to have concentrated or amplified effects on African Americans. Over a broad range of policy options, the policies that are best for African Americans are also best for the majority of people living in the United States. An effective policy to address the challenges of global warming cannot be crafted until race and equity are part of the discussion from the outset and an integral part of the solution.

African Americans are 13 percent of the United States population and on average emit nearly 20 percent less greenhouse gases than non-Hispanic whites per capita. Though far less responsible for climate change, African Americans are significantly more vulnerable to its effects than non-Hispanic whites. Health, housing, economic well-being, culture, and social stability are harmed from such manifestations of climate change as storms, foods, and climate variability. African Americans are also more vulnerable to higher energy bills, unemployment, recessions caused by global energy price shocks, and a greater economic burden from military operations designed to protect the flow of oil to the United States.

Storms, Heat Waves, and Health
The six states with the highest African American population are all in the Atlantic hurricane zone and are expected to experience more intense storms resembling Katrina and Rita in the future.[1] Global warming is expected to increase the frequency and intensity of heat waves or extreme heat events.[2] African Americans su?er heat death at 150 to 200 hundred percent of the rate for non-Hispanic whites.[3, 4]

Seventy-one percent of African Americans live in counties in violation of federal air pollution standards, as compared to 57 percent of the white population.[5] Asthma has strong associations with air pollution, and African Americans have a 36 percent higher rate of incidents of asthma than whites. [6]

A 25 percent reduction in greenhouse gases would reduce infant mortality by at least two percent, asthma by at least 16 percent, and mortality from particulates by at least 6,000 deaths per year. [7] Other estimates run as high as 33,000 fewer deaths per year.[8]

Insurance and Relief
In 2006, 20 percent of African Americans had no health insurance, including 14 percent of African American children—nearly twice the rate of non-Hispanic whites.[9] In the absence of insurance, disasters and illness (which will increase with global warming) can be cushioned by income and accumulated wealth. However, the average income of African American households is 57 percent that of non-Hispanic whites, and median wealth is only one-tenth that of non-Hispanic whites.[10]

Racist stereotypes have been shown to reduce aid donations and impede service delivery to African Americans in the wake of hurricanes, floods, fires and other climate-related disasters as compared to non-Hispanic whites in similar circumstances.[11]

Energy Price Shocks
African Americans spend 30 percent more of their income on energy than non-Hispanic whites. Energy price increases have contributed to 70 to 80 percent of recent recessions. The increase in unemployment of African Americans during energy-caused recessions is twice that of non-Hispanic whites, costing the community an average of one percent of income every year.[12] Reducing economic dependence on energy will alleviate the frequency and severity of recessions and the economic disparities they generate.

Cost of Wars for Oil
Oil company profits in excess of the normal rate of pro?t for United States industries cost the average household $611 in 2006 alone and is still rising. The total cost of war in Iraq borne by African Americans will be $29,000 per household if the resulting deficit is financed by tax increases, and $32,000 if the debt is repaid by spending cuts.[13] This is more than three times the median assets of African American households.

A Clean Energy Future Creates More Jobs
Fossil fuel extraction industries employ a far lower proportion of African Americans on average compared to other industries. Conversely, renewable electricity generation employs three to five times as many people as comparable electricity generation from fossil fuels, a higher proportion of whom are African American.

Switching just one percent of total electricity generating capacity per year from conventional to renewable sources would result in an additional 61,000 to 84,000 jobs for African Americans by 2030.[14] A well-designed comprehensive climate plan achieving emission reductions comparable to the Kyoto Protocol would create over 430,000 jobs for African Americans by 2030,15 reducing the African American unemployment rate by 1.8 percentage points and raising the average African American income by three to four percent.[16]

Combat Racism for Health and Efficiency
Racism, both institutionalized and individual, is a driver of sprawl, inefficient housing, and irrational transportation policy.
The senseless and wasteful energy, transportation, and housing policies that drive up energy use and greenhouse gas emissions also damage the physical, environmental and economic health of the African American community. Because racism causes bad climate policy, the two problems cannot be solved separately. Historically and currently, struggles of relatively powerless people to be free from environmental burdens have been catalysts for essential breakthroughs in environmental policy that benefit everyone.

Climate Justice: The Time is Now
Ultimately, accomplishing climate justice will require that new alliances be forged and traditional movements be transformed. Global warming amplifies nearly all existing inequalities and injustices that are already unsustainable become catastrophic. Thus, it is essential to recognize that all justice is climate justice and that the struggle for racial and economic justice is an unavoidable part of the fight to halt global warming. Sound global warming policy is also economic and racial justice policy. Successfully adopting a sound global warming policy will do as much to strengthen the economies of low-income communities and communities of color as any other currently plausible stride toward economic justice.

Domestic reductions in global warming pollution and support for such reductions in developing nations financed by “polluter pays” principles provide the greatest benefit to African Americans, the peoples of Africa, and people across the Global South.

Currently, legislation is being drafted, proposed, and considered without any significant input from the communities most affected. Special interests are represented by powerful lobbies, while traditional environmentalists often fail to engage people of color, indigenous peoples, and low-income communities until after the political playing field has been de?ned and limited to conventional environmental goals.

A strong focus on equity is essential to the success of the environmental cause, but equity issues cannot be adequately addressed by isolating the voices of communities that are disproportionately impacted. Engagement in climate change policy must be moved from the White House and the halls of Congress to social circles, classrooms, kitchens, and congregations.

The time is now for those disproportionately affected to assume leadership in the climate change debate, to speak truth to power, and to assert rights to social, environmental, and economic justice. Taken together, these actions affirm a vital truth that will bring communities together: Climate Justice is Common Justice.

1.    U.S. Census Bureau.“The Black Population: 2000,” Census 2000 Brief, August 2001. http://www.census.gov/prod/2001pubs/c2kbr01-5.pdf
2.    Patz, J., et al. “The Potential Health Impacts of Climate Variability and Change for the United States: Executive Summary of the Report of the Health Sector of the U.S. National Assessment,” Environmental Health Perspectives 108, No. 4 (2000). U.S. Census Bureau, Current Population Survey. http://www.ehponline.org/members/2000/108p367-376patz/108p367.pdf17.
3.    Whitman, S., et al. “Mortality in Chicago Attributed to the July 1995 Heat Wave,” American Journal of Public Health 87, No. 9 (1997): 1515-18; 2001.
4.    McGeehin, M. and Mirabelli, M., “The Potential Impacts of Climate Variability and Change on Temperature-Related Morbidity and Mortality in the United States,” Environmental Health Perspectives 109 (2001): 185-189.
5.    Keating, M. and Davis, F. “Air of Injustice: African Americans and Power Plant Pollution” (Washington, DC: Clear the Air, 2002).
6.    National Center for Health Statistics: National Health Interview Survey, 2004; Chen, J., et al. “Different Slopes for Different Folks: Socioeconomic and Racial/Ethnic Disparities in Asthma and Hay Fever among 173,859 U.S. Men and Women,” Environmental Health Perspectives 110 (2002): 211-21; Mannino, D., et al. “Surveillance for Asthma—United States: 1980-1999,” CDC Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report 51(2002):1-16.
7.    Hoerner, Andrew J. and Robinson, Ni. “A Climate of Change: African Americans, Global Warming, and a Just Climate Policy for the U.S.”(Oakland: Environmental Justice and Climate Change Initiative and Redefining Progress, 2008), 13.
8.    Davis, D. et al., “Short-Term Improvements in Public Health from Global Climate Policies on Fossil-Fuel Combustion: An Interim Report from the Working Group on Public Health and Fossil-Fuel Combustion.” Lancet 350 (1997): 1341-49.
9.    U.S. Census Bureau, “Income, Poverty, and Health Insurance Coverage in the United States: 2006,” Current Population Reports 60-233 (Washington DC: U.S. Government Printing Office, August 2007).
10.    Wolf, Edward N. “Recent Trends in Household Wealth in the United States: Rising Debt and the Middle-Class Squeeze,” Levy Economics Institute of Bard College, Working Paper No. 502 (June 2007). http://www.levy.org/pubs/wp_502.pdf
11.    Hoerner and Robinson, “A Climate of Change,” 14.
12.    Hoerner and Robinson, “A Climate of Change,” 22.
13.    Hoerner and Robinson, “A Climate of Change,” 28.
14.    Hoerner and Robinson, “A Climate of Change,” 30.
15.    Hoerner and Robinson, “A Climate of Change,” 30.
16.    Hoerner and Robinson, “A Climate of Change,” 35.

This article is excerpted from a comprehensive report written by J. Andrew Hoerner and Nia Robinson enitled “A Climate of Change” published by the EJCC Initiative and available in full at their website, www.ejcc.org.

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National Council of Churches Calls for Climate Action

Cassandra Carmichael - Voices for Climate JusticeVoices of Climate JusticeBy Cassandra Carmichael

The impending crisis of global climate change represents a moral failure on our part to be stewards of the Earth and harbingers of justice.

Climate change impacts and poverty are intricately connected. Studies indicate that people in poverty around the world will be the least able to deal with the effects of climate change. Increased drought, flooding, and disease will only exasperate the already dire conditions of those living in poverty.

By 2080, 1.8 billion people could be living in a water-scarce environment. Up to 330 million people could be displaced by flooding and 220-400 million people could be exposed to malaria. By 2020, crop yields will likely decline by 50 percent in Africa, further exacerbating an already dire situation. With increased drought, rising temperatures, and more erratic rainfall, the UN Development Program predicts up to 600 million more people will face malnutrition.

In Ethiopia and Kenya, two of the world’s most drought-prone countries, children age five and under are 36-50 percent more likely to be malnourished if they were born during a drought. In Ethiopia, an additional two million children were malnourished in 2005.

If rain-fed agriculture yields are reduced by 50 percent, 263 million people will be negatively affected. Seventy percent of Africa’s population depends on agriculture for their livelihood. Economists suggest that crop revenues could drop by 90 percent by the year 2100 as a result of climate change.
Global climate change will also be keenly felt by United States communities of color. For instance, asthma will increase and will disproportionately impact African Americans, who are nearly three times as likely to be hospitalized or killed by asthma than whites.

African Americans are also disproportionately impacted by deaths during heat waves and from worsened air pollution. Future heat waves will be most lethal in the inner cities of the northern half of the country, such as New York City, Detroit, Chicago, and Philadelphia, where many African American communities are located.

Unemployment and economic hardship associated with climate change will fall most heavily on the African American community. According to a report from the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation, reducing emissions to 15 percent below 1990 levels would mitigate these adverse health effects of climate change, while concomitantly decreasing air pollution related mortality, saving an estimated 10,000 African American lives per year by 2020.

If we have a commitment to moral vision and justice, the reality of the growing global climate change crisis calls for us to respond with speed, justice, and proper stewardship.

This article was adapted from the National Council of Churches’ Climate and Church report. Carmichael is the eco-justice program director at the National Council of Churches.

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Mililani Trask: Indigenous Views

Mililani B. Trask is a native Hawaiian attorney and expert in international human rights law. She is a founding member of the Indigenous Womens Network and has been a guest lecturer at the University of Hawaii and the International Training Center for Indigenous Peoples, in Greenland. She is one of the primary drafters of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples which passed the UN General Assembly in 2007, and served as the Pacific Indigenous Representative to the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues. She served two four-year terms as Kia Aina (Prime Minister) of Ka Lahui Hawaii, the Sovereign Hawaiian Nation. 

How do you see climate change impacting indigenous island peoples’ subsistence and health?
Indigenous peoples' livelihoods and their cultural survival are being directly threatened. For example, the Pacific island states are experiencing significant increases in the frequency of cyclones and storm surges, which destroy housing, roads, hospitals, and telecommunications systems. They are causing countless deaths and people go missing and are never found. In the past two years, Samoa, Fiji, the Solomon Islands, [and the Philippines] have all declared national disasters. In Fiji, the total sugarcane crop was lost and major damage done to schools and hospitals. The vast majority of people in the Pacific basin live within 1.5 kilometers of the ocean. 

We’ve also seen a corresponding increase in problems of drought. For instance, when we go back to the last significant El Niño event, the drought in Fiji wiped out two-thirds of their crops. Lower rainfall is also one of the problems that occur when you have a severe El Niño. In 1997 and 1998, 40 of the atolls in the Federated States of Micronesia had no drinking water, and the government had to introduce water rationing, requesting that the United States government bring in desalination equipment.

We must also look at the significant impact on the Pacific island fisheries. We know that tuna, a major fish for protein as well as trade in the Pacific, is a pelagic fish that moves based on water temperature. If the temperature becomes warmer, the migration patterns and the migration timing change. Consequently, during the peak migration period, the Samoans are not able to catch tuna for months. This impacts the people’s ability to survive from day to day in the Pacific Islands because, as the Pacific people say, “The ocean is our refrigerator.” And because 70 percent of the world’s tuna catch comes from the Pacific, representing 2.5 billion New Zealand and Australian dollars, it negatively affects the global economy, as well as our health.

Maintaining the fish population requires healthy coral. Coral bleaching was, at one time, limited to a very small area in the Pacific. It is now evident in the Hawaiian archipelago, in Tahiti, French Polynesia, in Palau, and in parts of Melanesia. The corals depend upon a certain algae for survival. When the temperature rises, the algae is prematurely released. And if the temperature remains at a high level, the corals will die. This threatens the lowest rung on the food chain, not just for pelagic fish, but for all of the other edibles that the indigenous peoples of the Pacific rely upon.

With the increase in temperature there has been a major increase in mosquito-borne diseases, such as malaria and dengue fever. Hawaii has seen its only instances of dengue fever in the last few years. How significant is it?

It’s life threatening. In the case of Papua New Guinea, in their Western Highland province, the number of malaria cases reported in the year 2000 was 638. Five years later, there was an 800 percent increase in the number of malaria cases.

We are also seeing some efforts to adapt. Right now in Fiji, there is a major plan underway to try to protect the water resources along the shorelines. The indigenous people are trying to build walls to relocate populations from the coastline areas to the highlands. This is occurring in Fiji, Solomon Islands, Papua, the Marshall Islands, and the Federated States of Micronesia.

Indigenous peoples of the Pacific are trying to do what they can to change their reliance on traditional food crops. In Fiji, there is an effort to look for and cultivate salt-resistant staple crops because of the tidal surges and their impact on soil quality. They are trying to plant mangroves and looking for grasses that can halt erosion and tolerate salt water. But the truth is, their efforts have not been as successful as they had hoped simply because they do not have the financing, or the availability of land. When we talk about moving populations so we can plant mangrove, we are actually taking away land that is badly needed for subsistence agriculture. Even as you move to mitigate the damage, you are losing the ability to be self-sustaining in other ways.

What do you see as the most positive possible outcome of the climate convention in Copenhagen?

Twenty-two percent of the governments in the world that have signed onto the UN Climate Change Convention are actually small island states, including 14 independent Pacific states. They are very strong in holding the line for more responsible emissions standards to be met. However, 22 percent is a minority. I'm concerned that when the votes are called on the final language, they may not have the numbers. However, the wheel is still in spin and many things can happen before the December Copenhagen meeting.

I have to confess that I have a great deal of concern about how positive an impact we can expect. We have already reviewed the report of the G-7 countries for 2009. It's very clear that they have no interest in taking an aggressive approach to climate change. It's very clear that they do not want to set strong and enforceable caps for emissions.
We will have some very strong voices of indigenous leadership there, but I'm concerned that those voices may be drowned out by voices of other indigenous leaders who are being selected to participate, by such organizations as the United Nations Program for Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation in Developing Countries (UN REDD).

We see evidence of it when we look at what occurred in Anchorage, Alaska,* where every effort was made to prevent the real Pacific voices from participating. Instead, the steering committee brought in employees of the United States. The National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Agency in Honolulu sent their entire office as Pacific representatives, but did not provide funding for the real indigenous leaders of the Pacific who have tracked this issue for years to attend. This tells us that a real effort is being made to subvert the true voices of the Pacific.

You refered to the UN REDD. Could you explain briefly what that is and what it does?
The UN REDD was a directional initiative that came out of the Climate Change Convention. The initiative was supposed to provide an incentive to polluting states, mostly the industrialized states of the North, to cut down on their emissions. They were allowed to set targets and balance their continuing practices of pollution by purchasing and trading carbon credits. Another facet of the REDD initiative was that polluting states could reforest areas in the South in an attempt to boost the planet's ability to cope with the carbon emissions with replanted forests.

The REDD initiative has not really been positive because its definition of “forest” is not really about natural forest. Their definition of forest is, “a collection of trees.” This means that all over the world, especially in places like Indonesia, what you are seeing is not the replanting of endemic forest, which indigenous peoples need for cultural survival, but thousands of acres of biofuel cultivation and monocropping. The oil palm plantation phenomenon has resulted in massive human rights violations: indigenous peoples being evicted from their traditional lands so that millions of oil palms can be planted—plants that are foreign to the indigenous cultures, that will not feed them, nor heal them, but will result in their eviction from traditional lands.

One the things that upsets me the most is the built-in bias: north versus south. Rich versus poor. The developed countries versus the underdeveloped countries. This kind of categorization simply doesn't work when you talk about climate change because the Earth is an integrated system. The native forests in the United States, which were primarily on American Indian land, have all been decimated by industrialization. The companies responsible for that overdevelopment in America should be able to rebuild, to work with indigenous native Americans to put back those endemic forests. But under the carbon trading plan, the American companies have to go through Guatemala or Africa to invest in reforestation in order to have the benefit.

What are the climate change implications of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, which was passed in 2007?
From the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People [UNDRIP], it is clear that indigenous peoples' human rights are somewhat different in that they have a right to the integrity of the environment, to live in a cultural way, to access their traditional food staples, to gather their traditional medicines, and to participate freely and in an informed way in the decision-making that is going to impact their lives. All of these rights are clearly defined.  So, when we look at the negative impacts of climate change on indigenous peoples, we have to frame climate issues in terms of human rights violations.

The G-7 states, the larger industrialized states, even some in the Global South, like India and China, are saying that the requirement that they leave fossil fuels and develop renewable energy violates their right to economic development. Well, the truth is that states don't have a human right to economic development. Human rights are for humans, not for political institutions. With the passage of this Declaration we can now clearly define the human rights violations against indigenous peoples.

I am concerned when I see the outcome document of what was billed as the Anchorage Global Summit because it presents two options that are diametrically opposed. You cannot say that anyone has an absolute right of economic development because it is balanced against the rights of others. You may have a human right to pursue economic development, but you cannot pursue it to the extent that it tramples upon and violates the human rights of others. That can no longer be tolerated with the passage of the Declaration. I believe that we will see claims filed with the UN human rights treaty bodies. It’s going to change the complexion of the debate.

* The deliberations of the Anchorage Summit concluded with a resolution proposing two options: 1. The phase-out of fossil fuel development and a moratorium on new fossil fuel developments on or near Indigenous lands and territories. 2. A process that works towards the eventual phase out of fossil fuels, without infringing on the right to development of Indigenous nations.

Sottolin Weng is a freelance writer based in Los Angeles, California.

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War, Climate, and Women

By Maryam Roberts

War, militarism, and climate change are destroying countless communities worldwide and women, particularly women of color in the Global South, are paying the highest price. “It is now more dangerous to be a woman than to be a soldier in modern conflict,” says Major General Patrick Cammaert, a former United Nations peacekeeping operation commander in Africa.[1] And to be a poor woman, even outside the theater of war, is to be at risk for starvation and displacement.

Of the approximately 50 million people displaced from their homelands, about 80 percent are women and children.[2] Of the 1.3 billion people living on less than $1 a day, 70 percent are women. Among the chronically hungry people in the world, 60 percent are women. Climate change will only exacerbate these numbers.
Although rarely responsible for the conflicts or the greenhouse gas emissions creating this global climate crisis, women are the first to feel the impacts—whether through sexual violence at the hands of male soldiers (including women in the military themselves), or displacement (along with children) by war and occupation. Women also are often left alone to head households when their husbands, fathers, and brothers are killed in combat. And the very normalization of militarism and violence in our communities supports domestic violence.

The Cycle of War and Consumption
The resource wars foreseen in the Pentagon’s much ballyhooed study of climate change are already underway in Iraq and Afghanistan.[3] “The U.S. military is the greatest user of oil in the world,” says Gwyn Kirk of Women for Genuine Security. “They’re fighting a war in Iraq so that they can carry on using oil.”
This self-reinforcing cycle of militaristic acquisition and inequitable use of natural resources aggravates green house gas emissions, causing greater climate instability and a further depletion of resources, which in turn leads to more wars of acquisition and even greater climate instability.
Since former President Bush declared the War on Terror eight years ago, military spending and the consequent greenhouse emissions have surpassed all previous levels. In 2000, the United States military spent just under $300 billion; in 2008, it spent over $700 billion.[4]
For 2004, military fuel consumption increased 27 percent over the average annual peacetime usage of 100 million barrels.[5] In just three weeks of combat in Iraq, the Army burned 40 million gallons of fuel—or almost two million gallons per day—an amount equivalent to the combined gasoline consumption of all Allied armies during the four years of World War I.

Women: Most Affected but Least Responsible
During these years of the so-called War on Terror, over 50 percent of the national budget priorities have been given to the military, while education and health care are given just over six percent.[6] One tangible side effect of taking away resources from healthcare and education—industries dominated by women in our society—has been the displacement of women from viable employment.

“The oppression of women is a key piece in the hierarchy of the military,” says Kirk. “It parallels racial hierarchy, and the hierarchy of people abusing the environment. Colonization, militarism, and racism interlock and what links them together is this hierarchy of power, respect, and value.”

In Syria, where more than 1.2 million Iraqi refugees now live as a result of the United States occupation of Iraq, the women and girls who bear the brunt of supporting their families are forced to turn to prostitution to make a living.[7]
In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, the largest climate-spawned disaster to hit the United States, 180,000 people in Louisiana lost their livelihood. Of these, 103,000 were women. Health, education, and hospitality, all women-dominated industries, were hit hardest. Also, households headed by low-income single mothers in New Orleans has dropped from 18,000 in 2005 to 3,000, indicating a significant displacement of these women and their children.[8] Every time war and climate change erode the lives and rights of women, they further damage the fabric of our families, our culture, and our societies.

No Conclusion without Inclusion of Gender Justice
To effectively end the compounded impacts of climate change and militarism on women domestically and globally, it is imperative that we view the issue through a gender and racial justice lens and look to women’s everyday lives for inspiration.

“Justice has a history [of] recognizing that women bring their forces to the table, and they bring their own solutions,” noted Michael Dorsey, assistant professor in Dartmouth College’s Faculty of Science, at the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in Poland last year. “…justice isn’t technical, justice is not in the realm of experts only, it’s in the realm of everyday activities of women on the ground.”[9]

Another delegate to the UNFCCC, climate change activist Rose Mary Enie, who represented Ghana and Cameroon, pointed out that in Africa today, three million people lack access to clean and safe water. Now climate change is adding to their existing problems. Enie was part of the delegation from Gender CC—a network of women from the most impacted areas of the Global South who are working to ensure a gender perspective to climate justice.[10]

“Most of the women in rural communities depend on water from a river or stream,” explained Enie. “With the droughts that are happening in some parts of Africa today, the rivers are [dry]. These women have to walk longer distance[s]. So you can imagine how much time is wasted by these women just [to] get water for cooking… for taking their bath… for washing their clothes. The woman is the caretaker of the home, so you can imagine what impact climate change has made on the woman.”[11]

Obviously, the problem cannot be resolved by focusing on the symptoms—drought and hurricanes, war and displacement—of climate change and militarism. We need to tackle the causes, which require a drastic shift in our patterns of resource consumption. And that cannot happen unless women are given a place at the table and a voice in the proceedings.

Copenhagen 2009 through a Feminist Lens
The United Nations Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen in December 2009 must keep social justice and gender equity at its core. Without consideration of those two issues, any strategies for resistance and survival will be meaningless.

It was a point Sharmind Neelormi of Bangladesh was trying to make at the UNFCCC in Poland, when she said, “We are trying to integrate more intensely the gender aspects of climate change into the policy. We are trying to lobby our parties, our government negotiators, and the UNFCCC process to be much more sensitive on gender issues.”[12]
Gender CC was a step in that direction. As co-founder Ulrike Roehr explains, “We try to provide a space where we [can connect] to each other, and discuss and share all our thoughts, and try to enable people to create a new community and make a shift in communicating [with] each other. Our vision is to have a lively and colorful network.”[13]
Closer to home, in the Bay Area, members of Mobilization for Climate Justice West—a coalition of 35 organizations— which subscribe to the core principles of climate justice. David Solnit, a volunteer organizer says “That means making space for the most impacted folks, domestically and globally, and looking to local and people-based solutions rather than corporate and market-based solutions.”

1.    Worsnip, P. “U.N. categorizes rape as a war tactic.” Reuters. 2008. http://africa.reuters.com/world/news/usnN19485901.html.
2    “The World of Refugee Women at a Glance.” Refugees Magazine. Issue 126. United Nations High Commission for Refugees. 2002. http://www.unhcr.org/
3.    “National Security and the Threat of Climate Change.” Military Advisory Board. The CNA Corporation. 2007.
4.    Sharp, Travis. “Growth in U.S. Defense Spending Over the Last Decade.” Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation. February 26, 2009. http://www.armscontrolcenter.org
5.    Martinot, Steve. “Militarism and Global Warming.” Synthesis/Regeneration. Winter 2007. http://www.greens.org/s-r/42/42-06.html
6.    Hellman, Christopher and Sharp, Travis. “The FY 2009 Pentagon Spending Request—Discretionary.” The Center for Arms Conrol and Non-Proliferation. February 4, 2008. http://www.armscontrolcenter.org/
7.    Zoepf, Katherine. “Desperate Iraqi Refugees Turn to Sex Trade in Syria.” New York Times, May 29, 2007. http://www.nytimes.com/
8.    Ginn, Dana, et al. “Looking Both Ways: Women’s Lives at the Crossroads of Reproductive Justice and Climate Justice.” Asian Communities for Reproductive Justice, 2009, p. 5.
9.    Van Meygaarden, Jacqueline. “Gender Justice in Times of a Changing Climate.” Gender CC, 2008. www.gendercc.net/policy/conferences/cop14.htm
10.    Ibid.
11.    “Women’s Voices on Climate Change.” Gender CC. 2008. http://www.gendercc.net/network/who-we-are/
12.    Van Meygaarden, “Gender Justice.”
13.    Ibid.

Maryam Roberts is the former Peace and Solidarity program director at the Women of Color Resource Center in Oakland, California.

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Lisa Gray Garcia, a.k.a. Tiny—Voices of Climate Justice

Voices of Climate JusticeBy Lisa Gray Garcia, a.k.a. Tiny Lisa Gray Garcia and Tiburcio - Voices for Climate Justice

In the wake of endless corporate media reports on whether or not climate change is real and how many polar ice caps are melting, a 48-page classified report created by Homeland Security was released last year at a special house subcommittee hearing chaired by Representative Anna Eschu on the "security impact of global climate change." This briefing confirmed what many of us poor people already suspected: climate change is likely to result in the ratcheting up of a police state to “control” us, the crowded masses, as we riot for food, water, and land.

It’s no mystery, what will happen to our poor in a future crisis. Look at what’s already happened to low-income communities in the past. From Haiti to New Orleans—in extreme cold, we have frozen to death; in extreme heat and drought, we’ve died of thirst, hunger, and exposure—with no more crops, livestock, or land.

A forecast of the what’s to come can be seen in Sheriff Joe Arpaio’s infamous jail for immigrants. “Poor people have been dying of thirst with no access to water or air conditioning in the heat,” reports Michael Woodard, poverty scholar and Poor News Network correspondent.

In essence, that’s the risk that climate change poses. Poor people can’t just move to higher ground, purchase imported foods, or upgrade their roofing, windows, and foundation to keep from being displaced by the next hurricane.

“We are forced to live in poor neighborhoods near poisonous industries that already are killing us. If you add increased heat and decrease of land to the sick soup—we wont last long in a global warming reality,” says Ingrid De Leon, with Voces de Immigrantes en Resistencia.

The surprising thing is, we already know a lot about how to reorganize our economies for moving from “surviving” to “thriving.” Indigenous and poor people have long known that sharing resources with each other, practicing interdependence, and building real community are the best route to independence.
POOR is an indigenous and poor people-led organization of revolutionary poets, art-makers, multimedia producers, educators, and poverty scholars (as we call ourselves) who see the urgent need to be producing and educating so we can stop being talked about, researched, reported on, criminalized, and legislated against.

We have launched an equity campaign for a project we call “homefulness,” a sweat-equity cohousing model for landless families, which includes a community garden for localizing and producing our own healthy food, and several micro-business projects to build sustainable economic support for all of us. So far we have established a social justice and arts café, a family-friendly project-based school, and a community media teaching and production center.

My mother, Mama Dee as she was called, died from complications of her smog-related asthma and heart condition. As I was growing up she and I talked constantly about how to get away from the poisonous environments where we were forced to live—near power plants, freeways, and factories. In the end, Mama Dee succumbed to the illnesses our poverty caused. But her spirit of resistance lives on in our community and in the mobilizations to work for climate justice across the planet.

Lisa Gray-Garcia a.k.a. Tiny is a de-colonized Taina poverty scholar, the single mother of her son Tiburcio, the daughter of Dee, and coeditor of POOR Magazine.

Climate Change: Catalyst or Catastrophe? | Vol. 16, No. 2 | Fall 2009 | Credits

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