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Major Victories for Climate Movement, But Global Chaos Grows: Roundtable with Leaders on What’s Next

StoryOctober 20, 2017
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After a summer of extreme weather around the world, we host a roundtable discussion with environmental leaders on next steps: Lindsey Allen, executive director of the Rainforest Action Network; Dallas Goldtooth, an organizer with the Indigenous Environmental Network; and May Boeve, executive director of 350 Action, the political arm of the climate organization 350.org.

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This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: We’re broadcasting from the Community Media Center of Marin, here in San Rafael, California. Today is Community Media Day, which celebrates community media centers like this one around the country, so we are proud to broadcast from here to 1,400 public television and radio stations around the United States and around the world.

We end today’s show with a roundtable discussion on what the environmental movement is focusing on now. We’re joined by three guests. Lindsey Allen is executive director of the Rainforest Action Network. Dallas Goldtooth is an organizer with the Indigenous Environmental Network. And May Boeve is executive director of 350 Action, the political arm of the climate organization 350.org.

We welcome you all to Democracy Now! May, I want to begin with you, because your family is from Sonoma. Talk about how you’ve been affected and what 350.org is doing right now.

MAY BOEVE: Well, thank you, Amy. And it’s really nice to be here with this group this morning. And Sonoma is the place I love most in the world, and I honestly didn’t think this kind of thing was ever going to happen there. And I think about climate disasters a lot. But I’m very happy that my family is safe. But they and a lot of other people in Sonoma, Santa Rosa and Napa have joined the growing community of people around the world who are living through the worst impacts of climate change. And we knew this would happen. We saw this coming. But our political system has been far too slow to respond. And again, I’m just very grateful that my family is OK, but I—my heart really goes out to this place and this people, who shaped who I am.

AMY GOODMAN: And so, what is 350.org doing about climate change? What is the message? You just sent out an email a day or two ago, an urgent plea and demand.

MAY BOEVE: Well, the good news is, we know how to stop this problem. And we’ve known it for a long time, that this thing that’s standing in the way of action on climate change isn’t that we don’t know what the solution is. We actually do know what the solution is, and we know exactly who’s standing in the way, which is the fossil fuel sector. But community groups, on the ground, all over the world, have been effective at stopping coal projects, at stopping pipelines, at getting their communities to go 100 percent renewable energy. And we just need more of it. And that’s what we’re focused on across our global network. And we believe that this is what we need to do. We just have to do it quickly, because the impacts are happening in a cascade of speed.

AMY GOODMAN: Lindsey Allen, you just celebrated another year of Rainforest Action Network. Talk about what your group is doing, how it started and what it’s focused on now, Rainforest Action Network.

LINDSEY ALLEN: Yes. We started 30 years ago looking at how we could ensure that consumers were having less of a negative impact on rainforests, even if they were removed and they weren’t directly located there. So we found that Bank of America—excuse me, that Burger King was leading to deforestation in the Amazon rainforest. People started showing up and protesting Burger King. They canceled—

AMY GOODMAN: Why Burger King?

LINDSEY ALLEN: Burger King was one of the companies—when we followed the money, when we followed the products, we knew that beef from the Amazon rainforest was going into hamburgers. And so, people started protesting outside of Burger King.

AMY GOODMAN: And so, because the cattle in the rainforest—

LINDSEY ALLEN: Exactly. The cattle in the rainforest, in order to have areas to graze, they were clearing and burning rainforest. And the Amazon, as we know, it’s the lungs of the Earth, so there’s no reason to do that. That created our model, where we really challenged the role that companies are having on environment, on communities.

And now what we’re really looking at is drawing the connection—we work at this intersection between human rights, climate change and deforestation, because it’s all connected. We know that deforestation leads to climate change. We know that forests can help us buffer against increased emissions that are coming from the burning of fossil fuels. And we also know that the burning and clearing of forests makes climate change worse.

So, we continue to follow the money. We have found that big banks are willing to finance 6 degrees of climate change. And we need them to be on a 1.5-degree trajectory for the world. So what we’re seeing is, all around the world, people are going to banks and saying this is unacceptable. Just for the past couple years, we’ve been working with Friends of the Earth France and with a local group in the Gulf called Save the Rio Grande Valley from LNG. And they’re working to stop the more than 60 liquefied natural gas export terminals that would allow fracked gas to make its way out of the U.S. into global markets, to make climate change worse, to make community health worse where fracking is happening. When we partnered with them, we said, “Who are the banks that are financing these massive projects?” And we found that one of them was the largest bank in France, BNP Paribas.

So, actually, the morning that I woke last week to, you know, hearing all the alerts—”Stay indoors, the smoke is terrible because of the fires around here”—I also got an alert that said BNP was committing to the strongest fossil fuel policy we’ve seen from a big bank. They have cut ties with tar sands oil. They’ve cut ties with coal mining and coal power, with fracking and with the very fracked gas export terminals that we’ve been working on with partners in the Gulf Coast.

AMY GOODMAN: Explain what BNP is.

LINDSEY ALLEN: BNP is the second-largest bank in Europe. It’s called BNP Paribas. Locally, if you’re familiar with Bank of the West, it’s connected. BNP Paribas is their parent company. They’re actually the eighth-largest bank in the world.

AMY GOODMAN: Dallas Goldtooth, you’re with the Indigenous Environmental Network. You spent a lot of time in the last year at Standing Rock. As this year—at this moment, we are seeing the largest number of hurricanes ever in recorded history in this country. I think the number is up to 10. The last one named was Ophelia, which hurtled the furthest east in the Atlantic than we’d ever seen, and hit Ireland. You were participating in the protests a year ago, warning about the catastrophic effects of climate change. You were participating in those protests at Standing Rock, North Dakota, where indigenous people and their non-Native allies are continuing to go to court for their protests.

DALLAS GOLDTOOTH: It’s absurd that we’re facing this time of extreme climate chaos—you have fires, you have the hurricanes, you have flooding—all across this world, and yet mainstream society, mainstream news is not making the connection between these extreme events and climate change. I think for those of us in many of the communities that the Indigenous Environmental Network works with, who are on the front lines of these fights, realize the extreme dangers of climate change because it’s literally threatening the lives of a lot of indigenous people, forest-dependent peoples, ocean-dependent peoples.

And it’s time for us to really wake up and really make some significant changes, that some of the other organizations here have talked about and the work the IEN does. And, you know, indigenous peoples have often been at the forefront of these struggles, not only just to protect the environment and protect the land, but to protect our right to have a sacred relationship with Mother Earth itself and to protect our right to self-determination. And, you know, whether you’re talking about the hurricanes in the Gulf Coast or you’re talking about sea level rise up in Alaska or you’re even talking about pipelines or even the fires here in Northern California, it’s oftentimes indigenous peoples in those communities, in those areas, who are also carrying a significant amount of weight.

AMY GOODMAN: Talk about the land we’re on right now.

DALLAS GOLDTOOTH: Yeah, we’re—so, right now, we’re in Marin, in Marin County. This is traditional Pomo and Miwok Territory lands, and Ohlone Tribes, as well. And just north of us, in Santa Rosa, California, which just got decimated by a massive fire, the Kashia Pomo Tribe is in that area. And a lot of tribal members themselves have been displaced from their own lands and their own territories because of fires.

You know, it’s connected to people that are in the Gulf Coast who got hit by the hurricanes down, whether in Texas or in Louisiana, you know, feeling that same—those same emotions and that same tragic—the loss, and really saying, “This has to stop, but we don’t know how to do it.” And I think that that’s where the organizations that we work with and the communities I work with, that are really raising the alarms about climate change, are essential. And I think that, you know, it goes without saying that oftentimes it’s indigenous peoples and communities of color that carry the brunt of a lot of this climate chaos in a very unfair way.

AMY GOODMAN: When Hurricane Harvey had devastated Houston—this was September 6th—and Irma was hurtling toward the United States, already devastating parts of the Caribbean, President Trump went to Mandan, North Dakota, to give a speech. He stood in front of an oil refinery. He was down the road where hundreds of indigenous people had been jailed at the Mandan jail and gone through the Mandan courthouse. And he talked about—well, he basically boasted about pulling the U.S. out of the climate accord, and he talked about how proud he was that they greenlighted the Dakota Access pipeline and the Keystone XL pipeline. Where do the indigenous people who are going to court today stand in Mandan?

DALLAS GOLDTOOTH: Well, you know, what we saw in Standing Rock was the largest mobilization of indigenous resistance in living memory for a lot of our communities in North America. And, you know, we became, at some point, the camps—the Oceti Sakowin Camps and the Sacred Stone Camps—at one point, we were the sixth-largest city in North Dakota. And that’s amazing to see the allyship in the people that came. And to this date, there have been over 700 arrests, including—I know that you were also a part of that, the arrests, as well.

AMY GOODMAN: A year ago this week, the charges were dropped—

DALLAS GOLDTOOTH: Yeah.

AMY GOODMAN: —as the Democracy Now! team went there on Labor Day to cover the protest, and I was arrested for our team filming.

DALLAS GOLDTOOTH: And I think that what we’re seeing right now is, just yesterday, there was a really absurd conviction that happened, where, actually, they had to pull—there are so many cases happening right in North Dakota, that they’re actually pulling judges out of retirement to handle some of the caseload. And one of the judges, just yesterday, convicted two of our water protectors to some time in jail, even though the state, the prosecutors, asked for them not to be convicted. So, we’re seeing an unfair court system in place in North Dakota that is persecuting water protectors, whose only reason for being there is to protect water and to protect indigenous communities’ right to self-determine what happens to their lands and communities and bodies. And it’s really absurd that we’re in that position now. And it makes sense, because it’s kind of this trickle down. If you have a tyrant in the White House who is blind, and who is willingly blind, to the effects of climate change and the effects that the fossil fuel industry has on the land, it’s going to trickle down.

AMY GOODMAN: You’re all involved in these bank protests. And I’m wondering, May, very quickly, in these last seconds we have left, where you’re focusing now?

MAY BOEVE: In the banks work, we’re still focused on fossil fuel divestment. We’ve seen $5 trillion in assets under management made fossil-free. We just had a huge divestment announcement from the Catholic Church, in a series of institutions, including where Pope Francis is from. So, the momentum is enormous. And the financial sector is very sensitive to this kind of pressure, so that’s what I’m really glad we’re working together on.

AMY GOODMAN: And the evidence of that, Lindsey?

LINDSEY ALLEN: Yeah, we’re going after JPMorgan Chase. We know that they are the number one financier of the most extreme fossil fuels. Every year, we do a report card. Many big banks are decreasing their investments in fossil fuels, and they’re increasing.

AMY GOODMAN: Dallas? Five seconds.

DALLAS GOLDTOOTH: And folks can be a part of this divestment campaign. On Monday, actually, there’s going to Divest the Globe. They can go to MazaskaTalks.org. You can check out IEN Earth’s website for more information. But we’re going a massive global divestment campaign that’s ongoing.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, we’re going to leave it there. I want to thank you all for being with us. Lindsey Allen, executive director of Rainforest Action Network; Dallas Goldtooth, organizer with Indigenous Environmental Network; and May Boeve, executive director of 350 Action.

And that does it for our show. We broadcasted from San Rafael, California. I’ll be speaking at Marin Center at the Bioneeers Conference tomorrow, 9:30 and 4:30. Today, Juan González speaks at noon at Princeton University.

Special thanks to our crew here at the Community Media Center of Marin: Damion Brown, Michael Eisenmenger, Jill Lessard, Megan Loretz, Ginger Souders-Mason.

The original content of this program is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License. Please attribute legal copies of this work to democracynow.org. Some of the work(s) that this program incorporates, however, may be separately licensed. For further information or additional permissions, contact us.

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