Thousands Rise for Community-Led Solutions to Climate Justice

Climate Justice
Thousands Rise for Community-Led Solutions to Climate Justice

San Francisco, September 8th-14th 2018

By Anamika Jain

From September 8th-14th, 2018, over 1000 members from the four It Takes Roots alliances (Right To The City, Climate Justice Alliance, Indigenous Environmental Network, Grassroots Global Justice) convened in San Francisco, California, for the historic “Solidarity to Solutions Summit” (#Sol2Sol). Our total RTC delegation included participation from 19 member organizations and 113 total delegates.

It Takes Roots is a multiracial, multicultural, multi-generatioxnal alliance of alliances representing over 200 organizations and affiliates in over 50 states, provinces, territories and Native lands in the U.S. and Canada, and is led by women, gender nonconforming people, people of color, and Indigenous Peoples.

“We believe that real solutions will come from below, from working class Black, Brown, and other Indigenous communities and not from the corporate and economic elite whose interests are tied to the system, and It Takes Roots is exactly that: building power from the grassroots.” – Leticia Arce, Causa Justa :: Just Cause

The summit aimed to oppose the climate capitalism and false market-based solutions promoted by the Global Climate Action Summit (GCAS). GCAS was organized by California governor Jerry Brown in opposition to Trump’s approach to climate change and decimation of the Paris Agreement. Its goal was to promote Brown’s “climate leadership” on a global stage. However Jerry Brown’s incentives to oil and other polluting companies, promotion of fossil fuel production and market-based approach to climate policy and solutions ultimately promotes the same corporate agenda as these forces of climate denial. Frontline communities are bearing the most severe and immediate brunt of climate disasters, and market-driven approaches are only exacerbating the crisis.

It Takes Roots Members gathered in the face of this greenwashed event to lift up frontline communities’ real community-based and community-led solutions through a week of actions, prayer, workshopping and peer-to-peer learning. This intervention was critical to challenging neoliberal and corporate led solutions to climate change that threaten to further exploit and destroy indigenous land, black, latinx, asian working class communities and to commodify land, water, and the sky at the expense of people. In deep solidarity with indigenous and people of color led climate forces, this moment was important for advancing a long-term intervention challenging for-profit solutions to the climate crisis and centering the leadership of our historic base.

“We see that a direct consequence of global climate change is the uprooting of frontline communities from their homes, customs and cultures. We need to model strategies that root us in our homes, in the places that we care about, so that the struggle for climate justice is also grounded in the culture and customs that we bring to the struggle.” – Davin Cardenas, North Bay Organizing Project

At Right To The City, we recognize that the fight for land and housing is linked to the fight for climate justice. Climate disasters displace and leave homeless the most vulnerable: low income and communities of color, communities that have been historically marginalized and disenfranchised. We know that the fight for indigenous, black and queer liberation is deeply rooted in being able to stay on their land, but climate change – rising water levels, dryer or wetter land, hotter or colder temperatures – is fueling land speculation that is harming vulnerable communities with threats of displacement and gentrification. The list of threats goes on.

By joining hands with other alliances under the banner of “It Takes Roots,” we acknowledge that the fight for climate justice is an intersectional one that requires indigenous, black, people of color, women, queer and gender non-conforming liberation and leadership. Led by frontline communities, we are fighting for more than just climate justice. We stand together to build a united front that prioritizes people over profit.

#Sol2Sol represented an historic opportunity to bring the joint memberships of ITR alliances together to deepen solidarity, understanding and preparedness of our base for the current moment and to build alignment across multiple grassroots social movements. Sol2Sol aimed to deepen buy-in and investment in It Takes Roots efforts to build a united front vehicle that can harness the leadership.

“Sol2Sol is about sharpening and building alignment across communities, sectors and movement with indigenous nations; women and gender-non-conforming folks in leadership. We are building collective solidarity and building a resistance that is visionary and oppositional, and HUGE. We are here this week to interrupt the climate capitalists and their false solutions.” – Alma Blackwell, Causa Justa :: Just Cause

It Takes Roots members gathered this second week of September to develop place-based solutions that serve to simultaneously decarbonize, detoxify, demilitarize and democratize our economy through critical interventions for indigenous and black land rights, food sovereignty, ecosystem restoration, just transition, worker rights, housing rights, and racial and gender justice.

#Sol2Sol, was anchored by local groups, including RTC groups Causa Justa :: Just Cause and the North Bay Organizing Project. These groups were integral in shaping and planning this entire event, helped ground members in indigenous ceremony and prayer, hosted tours to show members real effects of climate capitalism in the local Bay Area and much more.

The week of activity began on September 8th with the “Rise for Climate, Jobs and Justice” march hosted by the People’s Climate Movement, where we lead a powerful It Takes Roots contingent. The march brought almost 30,000 people engaged in many forms of justice out to the streets of San Francisco to demand real and lasting climate justice for the people and for the earth. It served as the first mass mobilization in the week of activity to send a clear message to the leaders at GCAS: we need to put people over profit.

“Many low-income communities of color have suffered years of polluted water, soil, air, and are often the first and most impacted by climate crisis. And after all the environmental neglect, we are being displaced as our communities get sold off to exploitative investment. To win healthy and dignified homes for all we need to address how climate crisis degrades and exploits our communities and to win climate justice we need to win community control of land.” Carla De Paz, East LA Community Corporation

We welcomed the morning of the 9th at the intertribal indigenous prayer and teach-in at the West Berkeley Shellmound, an ancient ceremonial site of the Lisjan Ohlone people. We gathered together in prayer, heard songs and learnt about the struggle to protect the sacred site. The West Berkeley Shellmound is the oldest inhabited area in the Bay Area and served as a shellmound/funerary site for the Ohlone people. Developers are now fighting to build a 5-story building for shops, apartments and an underground parking garage on that land. Organized by the Indigenous People Organizing for Change (IPOC), our members showed up in solidarity to oppose this monstrous development on such a sacred and ancient site.

Members then split up to attend different tours around the Bay Area to learn about the work of local groups. Lead by our local host organizations, folks were introduced to a variety of justice struggles from local Just Transition and Just Recovery work in the North Bay, to land and food sovereignty struggles in Chinatown, to anti-militarization and environmental-racism justice fights in Bayview and Hunter’s point. Many members also attended workshops at Hummingbird Farms, run by local group PODER.

The day closed with the 37th Indigenous Women of the Americas Defending Mother Earth Treaty New Moon Ceremony at Cupid’s Span, San Francisco. Members gathered to participate in prayers for the water and prayers for guidance in our work together as defenders and protectors of Mother Earth.

On September 10th, members gathered outside the Governor’s Task Force on Climate and Forests meeting building, Parc 55 Hotel, for a non-violent direct action against climate change profiteers. Indigenous allies from across the world delivered an open letter to Governor Jerry Brown and his Governors’ Climate and Forest Task Force at their annual meeting, to reject their market based climate solutions. Organized alongside Idle No More SF Bay, Diablo Rising Tide, the Ruckus Society, and Brown’s Last Chance, the action was a powerful demonstration that our frontline communities – low income and communities of color, indigenous peoples and native nations – will not stand for the perverse greenwashing of Governor Jerry Brown’s summit.

It Takes Roots members then made their way to St Mary’s Cathedral for the ITR Member Encuentro. The goals of the Encuentro were for members to become more familiar with each other’s work and to understand the political alignment of each of our alliances under the “It Takes Roots” banner. The Encuentro was a highly engaging success with theatrical representations of each alliance, presentations from alliance leaders, and a “World Cafe” that allowed for deeper discussion between different members and a plethora of peer-to-peer learning.

“Reclaiming public lands is part of building climate resilience, especially in a city where gentrification is such a crisis and our community fabric has been torn. Here in San Francisco, what’s being commodified and extracted is land.” – Antonio Díaz, director of People Organized to Demand Economic and Environmental Rights

The Sol2Sol summit, open to the public, began the morning of September 11th with indigenous grounding and prayer at La Raza Park in the Mission district of San Francisco. The day unfolded with panels in which we heard from climate justice activists lifting up their interconnected struggles locally and internationally, themed workshops where activists representing a wide range of justice issues were able to share their knowledge and work, and performances which spoke to the importance of culture and art in our spaces. Many local allies shared space with us on this day, imparting their knowledge and experiences and learning from our members representing all parts of the country. Our international and indigenous delegates took the stage for the final panel, discussing with each other their struggles for climate justice and affirming a global need to take action.

In anticipation of our final direct action of the week, members spent September 12th at the art build making action art, banners, blockades and more, and attending non-violent direct action trainings, organizing a flash mob, theatre performances and practicing batucada drum routines. Members also received critical safety training on de-escalation tactics, marshalling, communications with authorities like the police etc. The excitement in the air was tangible and the energy was high for the next day.

“We come from an area recently impacted by wildfires linked to climate change and believe Just Transition is critical. As we look ahead to the future, we know that we must be unified with frontline communities in order to create real solutions. We convened with our global climate justice comrades in San Francisco to demand that climate profiteers do the right thing and divest from extractive means of generating economy that destroy our Mother and make our communities sick.” – Tre Vasquez, North Bay Organizing Project

The morning of September 13th was a roaring success. ITR members and affinity groups gathered at Jessie Square and marched to the entrance of the Global Climate Action Summit at the Moscone Convention Center with their banners, chants, flags and demands. There was a flash mob, a theatre performance, a batucada drum routine, and several speakers from frontline communities who shared their experiences for all to listen. Members of frontline communities used their bodies to successfully blockade the entrance and prevent climate profiteers from entering the GCAS building. Two were arrested and later released. Almost a thousand people in total showed up for the action, singing, chanting and drumming the whole way.

The singing and chanting was heard from inside the Moscone Convention Center, where 9 It Takes Roots delegates were present. These delegates, including Dawn Phillips and Malcolm Torrejon Chu from Right To The City, disrupted Michael Bloomberg’s speech by unfurling a banner in the front of the stage that read “Capitalism Kills Communities” and chanting, “Our air is not for sale! Our land is not for sale! Our water is not for sale!” They were escorted out by the police, but not charged. (link to the video?) Bloomberg released a stunningly inaccurate statement comparing the protesters to right-wing border wall advocates.

Throughout the week, our messaging was loud and clear; our frontline communities were not going to back down from fighting for the earth and its most vulnerable peoples. It Takes Roots members provided an incredibly powerful alternative community-based narrative for climate justice throughout the week. They were able to build with members from different groups and alliances, to share and support across struggles, and to build unity on the intersectional fight for climate justice.

For more information about the week, some of our favorite coverage includes the San Francisco Chronicle article on our first action at the Governor’s Task Force on Climate Change and Forests and the Democracy Now coverage all week long which on Friday highlighted our action inside and outside the GCAS along with a debate on carbon trading and geoengineering.