If there’s one good thing Donald Trump has done for the American people since becoming president it’s igniting what our friends across the pond call the loyal opposition. Starting with the day after he was sworn in, Washington, D.C. has been the epicenter for major marches against his policies that threaten to rend the fabric of our nation and our environment.
Next up is a nice follow-up to the recently held March for Science, what has become known as the Climate March on April 29, when 250 marches will take place worldwide. With its roots in the Peoples Climate Movement (PCM) begun in 2014 in New York City, the movement has morphed into the March for Climate, Jobs and Justice, melding the three objectives into a single protest. Thousands have already signed up to participate in Washington, D.C., in what has become an ongoing battle in concert with the March of Science against the Trump administration’s efforts to rollback 50 years of progress on these issues.
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According to PCM, the movement is comprised of “a broad-based ground-breaking coalition of hundreds of faith-based, labor unions, indigenous, civil rights and environmental justice groups based around the country working together to build bold solutions that tackle climate change, rooted in economic and racial justice.” PCM’s National Coordinator, Paul Getsos, characterized the movement as one against “…an administration that favors corporate profits over clean air and water, [and] puts our country, our communities and our people at great risk.”
Predicated on Trump’s March 28 Executive Order entitled “Promoting Energy Independence and Economic Growth” that would, in Trump’s words, “…lift the restrictions on American energy, and allow this wealth to pour into our communities,” PCM seeks to “push the Trump administration and Congress to do their jobs – protect our planet, our communities and transition to a renewable energy future.” Marchers want to spotlight the disproportionate impact of climate on vulnerable populations – the poor, disenfranchised, and indigenous communities around the world, according to Adrienne L. Hollis, Director of Federal Policy, WE ACT for Environmental Justice.
Trump provoked this reaction because his Executive Order directs departments and agencies to bulldoze the Clean Power Plan (CPP), an Obama legacy that recognizes climate change as impacting social justice. With its key objective to reduce carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions by 32 percent by improving generating efficiency of existing electricity plants that burn fossil fuels, substituting lower CO2 fuel emitters and renewables for coal over 20 years, it was hardly aggressive. But it was irritating for Trump who seeks to revive coal in an America that has gotten used to – and prefers – clean air and water.
Vien Truong, National Director, Green For All, sums it up. “… Trump is determined to protect the fossil fuel industry, no matter the cost…..By cutting carbon pollution from power plants, [the CPP] aims to spark innovation, drive investment and energy efficiency to create jobs and save families money.” Those sentiments are shared by other activists.
Elizabeth Yeampierre, UPROSE, executive director stated, “…we stand defiant in the face of these orders and are prepared to hold the line. We will meet these violent policies with a deeper commitment to a Just Transition away from fossil fuels, toward renewable energy, local resiliency, and a regenerative economy worthy of leaving our children.”
Indigenous community organizers are equally alarmed. Cindy Wiesner, National Coordinator, Grassroots Global Justice Alliance, charged that, “The Trump administration continues to demonstrate their value of profit over people, of corporations over the environment, and of greed over a sustainable future. We know that the impacts of climate change fall most directly on indigenous people and communities of color. These frontline communities are leading movements around the world toward Just transition and sustainable energy. Pruitt and this administration are trying to drag us back to dirty coal, an industry that not only destroyed land and water and burned the planet, but also plummeted deeply in global markets. Now is the time to build an economy for our future, not tie ourselves to the dying past.”
Tom Goldtooth, Executive Director, Indigenous Environmental Network, added, “As Indigenous Peoples, we still understand our responsibility as guardians and the need to take action as defenders of the Earth. Indigenous Peoples will not stand idle as we tell the world the Earth is the source of life to be protected, not merely a resource to be exploited and abused.”
Canadian Melina Laboucan-Massimo of Indigenous Climate Action sees the need to protest extractive industries’ violence against the land, and to link climate change and the struggles in indigenous tribes globally. “We need to protect Mother Earth. We have rising sea waters on all continents. We know that what happens to the tar sands has international impacts. So, it’s important to have voices from all nations walk in solidarity and work with one another.”
Jordan Marie Daniel, Co-Chair of Rising Hearts, goes even further, seeing the need to “reinvest in our youth and their futures, and [place] people higher plane than profit” by putting our money where our hearts are. “It’s time to divest from banks that profit from human suffering, and reinvest in our own communities… around the world. “If we are related, we must take care of each other. And as the mother who takes care of us is suffering, so will we all,” she believes.
So where do the jobs and justice come in? Judith LeBlanc of Native Organizing, connects the dots. “In Indian country we can’t deal with climate crisis without dealing with crisis of long term unemployment. We know what’s happening with Mother Earth. We know that we can create jobs with green jobs….” Justice derives from doing both.
Nevertheless, Trump and his Environmental Protection (EPA) Secretary Scott Pruitt, as well as many Republicans are staunch climate deniers. And they certainly don’t see the connection between the climate, jobs and justice. Leaders of the March, Indian country, and a mass of participation from those equally minded stand ready to convince them otherwise on Saturday.