Climate Changes Everything

Climate Changes Everything Rally, Santa Cruz, November 22, 2015

Organized by Santa Cruz Climate Action Network

 Rick Flores reads speech by Valentin Lopez, 11-22-15

Greeting from Chairman Valentin Lopez, Amah Mutsun Tribal Band:

On behalf of the Amah Mutsun Tribal Band we'd like to welcome you to the traditional tribal territory of the Awaswas and to this Climate Change Rally. Our creation story tells us that Creator very specifically selected our Awaswas ancestors to live on these lands of Santa Cruz and to steward them so they provided for our four-legged, finned, winged and plant kin. For thousands of years and over 800 generations our ancestors cared for these lands. They did not scar the land with tilling, build monuments to themselves or to idols, or extract resources from deep within Mother Earth. Rather our ancestors lived in a way that would be sustainable for all future generations.

When the Europeans arrived, first the Spanish and Catholic missions, they immediately began to destroy our environment. They brought their cattle, sheep, pigs and horses, they brought their European grazing grasses, and they hunted and killed the bears, elk and deer so they would not compete with their destructive ranching operations. The Spanish soldiers and Priests also tried to destroy the indigenous knowledge of how to live in a traditional and sustainable way. During the Mexican period, 1823 - 1848, the destruction of our landscapes continued as the Mexican government gave large land grants so these ranching operations could expand. Next came the American period; the Americans attempted to exterminate all Indians while they destroyed Mother Earth in their search for gold, silver and other resources. The Americans indiscriminately cut down the forests and extracted materials from deep within Mother Earth so they could build their homes, factories, and highways. They also drained natural lakes that were needed to sustain wildlife and they built dams to divert water. These dams created huge profits for many farmers while at the same time they destroyed the habitat for fish and wildlife. Under the American period the air and water was polluted and now our future generations are threatened. All of this environmental destruction occurred in less than 250 years. When one looks at the California landscape today, approximately 96 percent of what you see is non-native. Native plants and wildlife are nearly extinct.

Today this rally will present issues related to climate change and what we need to do to heal Mother Earth. Our Tribe believes that for Mother Earth to survive, we must return to the ways of our ancestors. Our ancestors understood that we must live in a sustainable way. It is for this reason they managed the land so as to provide for and protect the next seven generations. All decisions regarding our food, energy, habitat, etc. must be for the good of the next seven generations. If our actions or decision are not good for the next seven generations then we shouldn't do them. Another important concept of traditional Native American practice is to develop careful relationship with all living things. All people must develop relationships with our four-legged, winged, finned and leaf kin. They are our relatives we must love and protect them. The same is true for the water, air, wind, fog, etc., they are also our relatives and we must consider and do what's good for them every day. Finally, we must have a strong relationship with Creator. We can only heal Mother Earth with the love of our Creator. We must pray every day, hold our sacred ceremonies and learn to talk and listen to Creator.

We thank you for attending this Climate Change Rally, we must all learn from each other. Ho!

UCSC Students

Presentations by UCSC Students for Fossil Free UC (Sam Weinstein, Cormac Martinez del Rio, and Margaux Schindler)

Sam Weinstein:

When it gets here, people say. We’ll act when. What will we do when ocean levels rise and when we have serious droughts and extreme weather patterns? There is no when anymore. When is now. It’s a tormenting reality as a young person, only having just entered adulthood, to be thrust into a breaking world. We are on a collision course with environmental disaster, and from the damage we’ve already done to the climate, we’ve committed to a two degree rise in global average temperature. We have irreversibly hurt our home! --pause-- Change has to be made and the only way to make it happen is to work from the bottom up. Youth today wants to be part of something. We feel the sense of urgency, because as inheritors of this world wehave the responsibility to care of it. We, the UCSC students, Santa Cruz residents, Californians, US citizens, members of humankind, have to take the power now. It’s our duty to question the authority, and make the world what we need: a sustainable world and a just world. --pause-- I speak now to members of my generation. Do we want to raise our children in a broken world? No. We can’t! I want my kids to see the forests of Santa Cruz, the beaches of Santa Cruz before the oceans flood our beloved city. By show of hands, who agrees with me? Do we want this for the next generation? Hell no!! But the reality is simple: if we do not act, we will be the generation who let the world die. We will be the generation that let the world die.--pause--

As I’ve said the time to act is now. Our representatives over in Paris will make decisions that will directly affect the lives of everyone here, and for the whole planet. But regardless of the outcome, we’re all making a difference just by being out here and vocalizing our passions for this issue. So on behalf of young Santa Cruz students and this generation of doers, I thank you for doing your part.

Cormac Martinez del Rio:

And we have to do our part, because others refuse to. UCSC’s administration advertises with the slogan: “UCSC, the original authority on questioning authority,” which is a little funny, because really, they don’t want any dissonance on campus. That being said, as fossil fuel divestment campaigners, we like to own that motto. Among other things, questioning authority is what we do. Our campaign challenges the authority that runs the UC, which, for those who don’t know, is a governing body of very wealthy individuals called the regents. The regents refuse to pull out their investments in fossil fuels because of a miniscule financial risk. But what about the risk of not taking a stance against the fossil fuel industry? It is clear that the industry intends to continue business as usual,  externalizing the harmful costs of their operation while posturing as a friend of the people. It needs to be known that Exxon was doing climate change research in the 80s, and when they found evidence that their business would had disastrous effects for all of the world’s communities, they looked the other way. And even worse: they helped to spread doubt about climate change. By divesting, the UC would reject the authority of this reckless industry.

So what authority are we questioning by marching today? Is it the authority of the fossil fuel industry? Is it the kind of authority that is afraid to take small financial risks when so much more is at stake? Or maybe it’s the disproportionate authority held by developed countries like the United States in UN negotiations? And what about the authority of long accepted free market norms, which demonizes the regulation that is a necessary component of the solution that we need?

In California, we have seen the face of climate change. We understand that we can’t wait any longer. The wonderful people who organized this march and marches all over the world had an ambitious vision, and the Santa Cruz community made that vision possible because we are ready for change! I demand that when world leaders gather in Paris, they develop a plan that is as equally ambitious. A plan that allows communities to have control over their own energy sources. A plan that is inclusive, just, and mandates swift action. Thank you.

Margaux Schindler:

So bear with me as I bring this all into context here, divestment is a tactic used to morally bankrupt the top 200 fossil fuel companies. By pulling out the $3 billion the UC has invested in these companies we show the world that our institution will no longer be hypocritical in its core statement. We are for a just sustainable environment, and will not profit off of industries destroying the world we love. And even though we all know this is a solution, the youth of Fossil Free UC continues to get locked out of rooms of decision makers. This past week, after being promised a chance to present to the big investors of the University of California, we were once again barred out of the room. Through a myriad of lies, our voices were once again being silenced. I began thinking about what I would have said, and what I am going to say in that big investing room with those big investors, and I thought about this recurring theme of risk. They want to measure down to the percent tracking error what is the risk of pulling out of fossil fuels? What impact will this have on their precious portfolio. This is when I realized, we are fundamentally different, because fuck their portfolio. For me risk should be measured by the amount of children born with health deficiencies because of the extractive industry they were born near. Risk should be measured by CO2 in the air, by the longevity of this planet if we do not keep fuel in ground. Risk should be measured by the inherent intersections between our environmental activism and social justice tenets. By the lives of people who are most affected and have the least access to change their situation. That is the real risk we need to measure, especially when there is less than 0.5% of a chance that we might lose money or gain money. Today we are here as a collective of diverse peoples, coming together with a singular statement, for the regents, for the United Nations, and most importantly for our leaders here in the United States: we won’t stand for climate injustice any more. Injustice is not an investment that we can afford to make any longer. Thank you for standing with us here today!

TJ Demos, Speaking at Climate Changes Everything

T.J. Demos, Santa Cruz Climate Action Network Speech

After the recent terror attacks in Paris—which were horrible and tragic and beyond belief but also all too familiar—the French authorities are planning to curtail grassroots protest and activism in Paris at COP21 owing to security concerns, in what they’re calling an expanded state of emergency.

While those concerns are real and understandable in the face of the arbitrariness and desperation of the recent violence—with allied nations expressing sympathy and enacting their own militarized and securitized responses to this brutal guerilla attack in the heart of Europe—it’s crucial to point out that we know what this cycle represents.

With calls for immediate military reprisals, more bombing in Iraq and Syria, joined even by the prospect of US and EU-directed ground invasions, we need to say that this war machine, if unleashed, will lead only to more death, desperation, impoverishment, and lawlessness—and it will lead to more violence directed at the West in turn.

Not only is war not the answer—war presents a state of emergency that is even greater than what happened in Paris—the state of emergency that is climate breakdown. We know that a multi-year drought during 2006-2010 contributed to the discontent in Syria, which has driven urbanization and impoverishment under Bashar al-Assad, and contributed to the civil war. We know that no less than the US Pentagon calls climate change a “threat multiplier,” making conflicts around the world only worse and more intense because of environmental stress. We know that Isis has itself benefited from this situation of governmental breakdown, taken over oil wells in Iraq and Syria, and has used the money to buy weaponry from its fossil fuel business. And we know that climate change is the larger condition of this violence.

It’s this state of emergency that must be opposed—the state of emergency of the West’s fossil-fuel obsessed capitalist economy going to war against Isis’s petro-Islamic militarism, with all parties pledged to a death spiral of oil consuming, climate-destroying violence.

That’s what we’re here to resist.

In the face of governments attempting to shut down popular demands for a just transition to a post-carbon future—one of renewable energy, economic equality, and political inclusion of those historically excluded from the political process—we say: we will not tolerate repressive climate governance, in France or in the US, that surrenders decision-making to multinational corporations. We demand placing climate chaos in relation to military violence, in relation to the closing-down of free speech, in relation to political inequality, in relation to degrowth imperatives, in relation to rights of nature, and in relation to #BlackLivesMatter globally. We demand a just future!

Summer GrayUC President's Postdoctoral Fellow at UC Santa Cruz, planning to be in Paris for the COP21 Conference:

What I'm about to say about COP21 is going to sound very negative. But, bear with me. There's hope at the end. I promise.

First, I want to take us back to 2013 when COP19 opened in Warsaw. I was there, and it was against the backdrop of a typhoon that had recently devastated the Philippines. Yeb Saño, the chief delegate from the Philippines took the podium on the opening day of the conference, and no one – including myself – was braced for the impact of his heartfelt message. Some of you may remember the stirring speech, where he said: “the climate crisis is madness.” Saño went on to state that despite significant gains that have been made since the COP process was born, delegates have failed to fulfill the ultimate objective of the Convention. “It is the nineteenth COP,” he noted, “but we might as well stop counting.”

I don't have time to get into the history and mechanics of the COP process, so I encourage everyone to read Brian Tokar's recent article “Is the Paris Climate Conference Designed to Fail?”. In it, he asks us to remember Copenhagen (COP15) and its outcome: no binding obligations on countries or corporations to reduce emissions and a vague call for countries to put forth voluntary pledges and to informally assess themselves five years later. It was a devastating blow for climate activists, who had invested real hope in the outcome of Copenhagen. Yet it was presented as a success by conference officials.

Last year, I sat down with Mohamed Nasheed, the former president of the the Maldives, and he told me of his disappointment with Copenhagen. He said that the talks were conducted very similar to trade negotiations, like “an endless talking shop” rather than an urgent and radical attempt to mitigate climate change. Nations were trying to find the lowest common denominator. Nasheed's former Minister of the Environment, Mohamed Aslam, told me that the process needs to change: “It’s not the usual democratic process that you and I know of,” he explained. “[It's] a process where a single country can block the whole thing ... like a never-ending story.” Aslam was pretty clear that for the COP to work, “the majority should be allowed to decide, and minority should accept that decision.”

It should thus come as no surprise that whatever treaty emerges from Paris will not be enough. It will endorse the voluntary submissions of nations that will fail to add up to a scenario that will keep the world below 2 degrees Celsius (assuming 2 degrees is even a wise marker – scientists argue that 2 degrees is far from a safe level of climate disruption). On top of everything, the the treaty will not be legally binding. That's why Grist writer Clayton Aldern jokingly calls COP21 a “High-Stakes Dinner Party.” He predicts that officials will try to spin the outcome as a success, but reminds us that “Diplomacy isn't real climate action – because how does any treaty matter if no one does what it says?”.

Luckily, activists are onto the madness of the COP. I saw it at COP19 in Warsaw, where the corporate influence was painfully obvious. The logos of fossil fuel companies were branded on the conference swag and a coal summit took place nearby the conference. The executive secretary of the COP was a keynote speaker at that coal summit. This enraged and united a diverse coalition of civil society actors who decided to walk out of COP19 on the closing days of the conference. They pinned signs on their shirts that read: “Polluters Talk, We Walk.”

That's why activists with their eyes set on Paris are asking for civil disobedience and for a collective delegitimization of the COP. Some are even asking delegates to “Say No to the COP” (see John Foran). Their dream? To “wash away the world governments’ greenwash with images of creative resistance, [so that] no one believes that a bad deal is a good deal anymore, [and] everyone sees it for what it is – the ultimate false solution” (The Laboratory of Insurrectionary Imagination).

This will be challenging for activists in Paris now, who face police repression. But not impossible. That is why we need to amp up our demonstrations at home. We cannot expect elites to take action. It is the actions we take, as individuals and communities that will generate the world we want to see.

Susi Moser (Independant consultant on Climate Change and Social Change):

I am so grateful you all are here today: out marching for a safe climate and for a livable future for all of us, rather than stay home, shop, watch a movie, or just hang out by yourself.

Your choice to be here and show to your friends, your family, your community, your state and nation that you care for more than your individual, immediate desires, that you care for each other, here and the world over, that you care for our and other species, is the most important thing you could have done today. The most important thing you can do for the rest of your lives!

We need every one of us! And now that the civil action in Paris has been cancelled for security reasons, it is all the more important that we show outrage at 20 years of political foot-dragging that will cause irreparable and widespread harm. That we show commitment to action even if our way to express it has been curtailed. That we show resolve in the face of pervasive greed and self-interest, in the face of deception and evasion, in the face of hard-ship that is sure to come.

In my work I don't just study climate change. I study how people change, ultimately, how we humans will make the profound transformative shifts we will have to make to get to a carbon free, sustainable future.

And there is one thing you should know: the most profound influence on what we do in our daily lives is not the invisible hand of the market. It is not the incessant chatter in the media. It is not the more or less visible power of a government telling you what to do.

Rather, psychologically speaking, the most important influence on what we do is each other. Our friends, family and peers, our trusted mentors and the people we look up to – whether we know it or not – have the greatest influence on what we talk about, what we think is important, and ultimately, on what we do.

Make no mistake. THAT is why it matters that we showed up here today. Because together, we find ourselves strengthened in our commitment; because we see that we are not alone; because we are sending a sign to all those watching that the social norm, the political tide is shifting. The more of us show up, the louder is the message we send to Sacramento, to Washington, to Paris.

And of course we need more of us. Every day, the number of those us saying "No!" to the status quo must grow. This is why I carry a tote bag that says "ONE MORE."

It is a phrase that comes from a Marge Piercy poem called "The Low Road." It must become our rallying cry when the forces of denial, the forces of resistance to change, even the forces of fundamentalist violence by whatever means and creed – in their desperate fight against the change toward a clean energy future – become ever louder and more oppressive.


*Opening image credit: Climate Mobilization Project Rally, Santa Cruz,, photo by Richard Nolthenius, June 15, 2015