My Environmental Activism Journey and The People's Climate March 2017
BY: Christine Shahin/Ambassador Blogger
Early one morning 28 years ago, as my eldest child and I were readying to deliver the morning news paper, the headlines stated that our small rural central NY community was sited to host a regional garbage landfill and incinerator. This event launched our community to organize to stop this from happening; it also catapulted me into a life of environmental activism beyond my community. I became involved on various boards of directors, committees, task forces regionally, nationally and internationally, like being an official delegate to the World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD) Johannesburg South Africa 2002.
Eighteen years ago, as National Environmental Associate for the New York Public Interest Research Group (NYPIRG), I was the point person on Climate Change issues organizing for New York State; other issues that included: factory fishing, safe cosmetics, pollution reduction, and renewable energy.
This coming Saturday, April 29th is the People’s Climate March (PCM) in Washington D.C., which promises to be a powerful day of collective action to “protect our planet”, other ways of saying this: conservation, being mindful of the environment, Creation Care, nurturing current, and future generations.
Our waterways, our communities, and our climate are under serious threat for decades through many administrations, promising to pay more attention to these needs. That means it is up to us to raise our voices to our government to cooperate with other countries in their efforts to shift away from a mindless, heartless economy to one based on justice and renewal.
Exciting guest speakers will be featured at this weekend PCM including Indigenous leaders and those on the front lines of the environmental movement. The march will surround the White House where stories and solutions will be shared; sister actions in other states across the country are also planned.
The first People’s Climate March was September 21, 2014, in New York City. It was a large-scale activist event advocating global action to implement adaptation strategies for climate change, with a series of companion actions worldwide. There was an estimated 311,000 participants in the New York City event, the largest climate change march in history, a response to, not a protest against, the U.N. Climate Summit of world leaders in New York City two days later. PCM was endorsed by “over 1,500 organizations, including many international and national unions, religions, schools and community, and environmental justice organizations.”
Environmental Justice, according to Wikipedia “…emerged as a concept in the United States in the early 1980’s. The term has two distinct uses: the first, and more common usage, describes a social movement that focuses on the fair distribution of environmental benefits and burdens, while the other is an interdisciplinary body of social science literature that includes theories of the environment and justice, environmental laws and their implementations, environmental policy and planning and governance for development and sustainability, and political ecology”.
The most prominent action highlighting environmental justice/environmental racism, is the Stand with Standing Rock movement. We witnessed North American Indigenous Peoples coming together because of their culture (social rather than monetary) and ethnicity are disenfranchised economically. In addition, they are disenfranchised through militarized force bearing a disproportional burden of impact from pollution and natural resources theft from their land. The similarities of oppression between Standing Rock and Palestine became evident with the over use of militarized force to achieve a corporate agenda. As a result, many Arab Americans, and in particular Palestinians, have built coalitions with the North American Indigenous Peoples.
As the relationship between war and resource procurement becomes more translucent, we are better able to witness the strategy of “ism” preying on religious differences as a method to divide and conquer. All wars are resource wars.
The Middle East is also dealing with environmental justice/equity issues as a November 2010 Reuters report titled The Arab World Among Most Vulnerable to Climate Change indicated that “While the region (ME) as a whole has contributed relatively little to historic greenhouse gas emissions, it is among the most vulnerable to climate change, and emissions are surging.”
Taking this into consideration The Lebanon Climate Act was launched in June 2016, the first of its kind in MENA countries. Its aim is to support economic growth addressing climate change challenges, through a low-carbon economy that also creates benefit for society. More than 120 companies from the private sector and civil society in Lebanon have joined the initiative since its inception.
Our natural resources in a very real way are in fact money in the bank; although, there is no overdraft protection for them while our lives literally depend on natural resources. For this reason, we are not just “protecting the planet”, but also our selves. Theologically, we are taught “we are one”; we see the thread of this wisdom by doing to others as we do to ourselves .
The People’s Climate March is the place to be this Saturday in D.C.; Arab America Contributing Writer, Daniel Gil will be there sharing his pictures and interviews, something I look forward to reading!
Resources for you to explore
This Changes Everything documentary by Naomi Klein
Survival Media Agency founded by Shadia Fayne Wood (my daughter)
Privileged Goods by Jack P. Manno
The Trade Off Myth: Fact and Fiction About Jobs and the Environment by Eban Goodstein