New York, NY– The Climate Convergence Conference September 19-20th underscored the need for massive system change in response to climate change, a phenomenon which is beginning to effect the lives of hundreds of millions of people around the globe, including here in the United States.
The kick-off event was anti-oppression training at St. Peter’s Church in which participants reflected on recognizing the symptoms of internalized and institutional oppressions, symptoms which increasingly include social manifestations.
At the Opening Plenary, a panel of progressive leaders led by Dr. Jill Stein, President of the Green Party, USA spoke out on the realities of climate change, in particular its connections with ecological exploitation and rising carbon dioxide emissions around the planet.
Time and again, listeners in the audience heard this soul-searching question:
What are you going to be doing to fight Climate Change?
Panel Participants Provided an Array of Possibilities
According to Dr. Jill Stein, the current corporate leaders delight in “keeping us in division,” so it is time to envision a new paradigm, beyond the neoliberal capitalist agenda with its false solutions, and towards a worker inspired movement.
The climate crisis intensifies all of these struggles for justice and gives us all new urgency for unified action, because we can’t solve the climate crisis on its own. It needs to be a part of a vast system change; and we need to be the movement to make that system change happen.
According to Indigenous Rising, which includes indigenous delegates from across North and South America, this is a matter of survival as transnational corporations sacrifice the sacred natural resources upon which indigenous people have depended, in order to extract natural gas and fossil fuels from the tar sands.
Josephine, a Great Lakes Anishabaabewe spirit-walker and grandmother, emphasized,
It is our responsibility to care for our Mother Earth…So hopefully we can ask the corporations what are you going to do about this, what are you going to do about it?
Anne Petermann of Global Justice Ecology Project (GJEP) provided the audience a critical timeline of where we are now based on GJEP’s activist involvement at United Nations (UN) Climate Summits over the past decade.
Beatings and arrests, and being charged as terrorists by UN police have hardened their positions. Not only has the UN has been “co-opted by corporations” but “2012 and 2013 showed emissions rapidly rising despite [the] Kyoto [Agreement].”
We will not be able to stop climate change unless we can stop the neoliberalism supported by these corporations.
Peruvian and NYC-based Felipe Coronel rapped a cynical “Point of No Return”-theme beat saying:
People ruining the planet not going to be the people who fix it.
Erica Violet Lee, a 23-year-old Nehiyaw (Plains Cree) student at the University of Saskatchewan, is a youth activist with Idle No More, an indigenous movement calling on the Canadian government to honor their treaty agreements granting land and water rights.
The roots of her perspective stem from eco-feminism, and the idea that we need to be appreciative of other world views; instead it appears that we are increasingly becoming “forcibly silenced” as “environmental genocide” occurs at a maddening pace in the form of the Canadian oil sands.
For panelist Nastaran Mohit with the New York State Nurses Association, the connection of growing greenhouse gases with more violent hurricanes is the nexus of her experience volunteering after Hurricane Sandy destroyed the Rockaways.
She was instrumental as a labor organizer in Occupy Sandy, and for the past five years, has served at Rockaways medical clinic. Her meme on climate change:
“What did you do to help?”
She opined that two years later, NYC still has no system to do anything better, but in fact has been closing hospitals, causing remaining hospitals to become overwhelmed.
For panelist Oscar Olivero Foronda from Bolivia, water and water wars has shaped his consciousness of critical climate change. Whether it is Cochabamba, where he led protests against water privatization, or Detroit, Michigan, lack of access to water provides the impetus for organizing and mobilizing.
“Sometimes we hear beautiful speeches…but the reality in that country is different.”
His focal question is:
“What can we do such that transnational corporations stop pillaging the earth? Stop pillaging the farmers?”
Olivero’s perspective is that the call to change is not an abstraction, rather it is a reality, and it should be centered here in North America, because change is a shared responsibility, and this is the American people’s biggest challenge.
The Opening Plenary closed with a beautiful “Unite 4 Planet Justice” and “People Over Profit” light show. People left the sanctuary filled with optimism and anticipation for tomorrow’s workshops.