Over 100 indigenous and climate justice activists staged a protest in San Francisco Tuesday outside a meeting of California Governor Jerry Brown’s Climate and Forest Task Force. Protesters attempted to deliver a letter to Brown and task force members. Democracy Now! was there in the streets.
AMY GOODMAN: Let me go to an action that took place earlier this week here in San Francisco. Hundreds of indigenous and climate activists staged a protest outside a meeting of California Governor Brown’s Climate and Forests Task Force, the protesters attempting to deliver a letter—Eriel, you were a part of this—to Brown and task force members. Democracy Now! was there—Carla Wills and Hany Massoud—right outside the Parc 55 Hotel.
PENNIE OPAL PLANT: My name is Pennie Opal Plant. I live in Richmond, California, just across the Bay, near the Chevron refinery, where my family has been since the 1930s. I’m one of the founding grandmothers of Idle No More SF Bay. And we’re here because of the climate capitalists that are putting forth these plans to make carbon trading a worldwide phenomenon. In this building right here, the Parc 55 Hotel, is where the Governors’ Climate and Forests Task Force is meeting, starting their 3-day meetings today. There are relatives from the Amazon here who have a letter to deliver to the climate capitalists on the inside.
CANDY WHITE: Hi there. My name is Candy White. So, we’re outside of this particular hotel, because this Governors’ Forests Climate Task Force meeting is happening with all these big leaders that recently took a tour of the Muir Woods here in California, and they’re looking at it with dollar signs in their eyes. How much are these trees worth? How much carbon can we get out of these and sell it as a credit to somebody else, so we can continue polluting?
PROTESTER 1: They’re going to send three people, including the secretariat of the GCF, within 10 minutes. They want to have a—we agreed that the talk would happen right here.
PROTESTER 2: We are pained that these programs of forest offsets are being implemented, whatever their names. REDD-plus, offsets—by any name—are being imposed upon us without our free, prior, informed consent, in particular in the state of Pastaza in Ecuador in the Amazon. The Governors’ Climate and Forests Task Force is putting 2.5 million hectares of the Amazon in the carbon market without our consent. We, who are the true owners and guardians of this Amazon, insist that we must read our statement to the governor of California.
TASK FORCE REPRESENTATIVE 1: We would like to invite four representatives into the meeting to read the letter. I would like to say thank you for coming to us in a spirit of cooperation and respect. Climate action is difficult. This is one form of climate action that is extremely important. We are also dialoguing upstairs. I am working with a governor from Ecuador. I am working with members of the Yurok Tribe. I am working with governments—
PROTESTER 3: No free, prior, informed consent when that happened!
TASK FORCE REPRESENTATIVE 1: I am working with governments in Acre.
TASK FORCE REPRESENTATIVE 2: We ask for respect. We were respectful.
PROTESTER 3: No!
TASK FORCE REPRESENTATIVE 1: I am working with indigenous leaders in Acre.
TASK FORCE REPRESENTATIVE 2: We are asking for respect. That’s what we agreed on. Please. Be respectful.
TASK FORCE REPRESENTATIVE 1: This is difficult. We are not as far apart as it seems, and we welcome constructive, respectful dialogue.
PROTESTERS: Let them in! Let them in!
AMY GOODMAN: Special thanks to Democracy Now!’s Carla Wills and Hany Massoud. Our guests are Eriel Deranger and Peter Miller. Eriel Deranger is the founder of the group Indigenous Climate Action in Canada, Alberta, Canada. Peter Miller is with Natural Resources Defense Council. Eriel, you wrote the letter that you were trying to get into this forest meeting.
ERIEL DERANGER: Yes. So, we worked with the Sarayaku, the Huni Kuin, representatives—
AMY GOODMAN: Sarayaku of Ecuador.
ERIEL DERANGER: The Sarayaku of Ecuador, the Huni Kuin of Brazil and representatives from Mexico, as well, as well as representatives from Canada, to come together and draft this letter. And the reason why is we’re seeing governors and so-called climate leaders meeting to talk about commodifying our lands and territories, and commodifying what we call as the sacred. These forests and these ecosystems that they’re looking to create and demarcate as carbon offsets are our homes. And they’re not just our homes. Like I come from Treaty 8 territory, Northern Alberta, Canada, downstream from the tar sands, and I have a vested interest in protecting our forests. And in order to do that, we have to protect the forests of all of our people.
And we really wanted to send a clear message to the governors inside that we cannot commodify the sacred. We cannot commodify the sacred and allow our lands and territories to be put into capitalist markets so that they can be traded to allow other corporations to continue to pollute our skies and destroy our communities’ rights, sovereignty, territories and ecological systems that we have relied on for millennia.
AMY GOODMAN: Peter Miller, if you could respond? And that banner that the people unfurled as Mayor Bloomberg was about to speak—”Climate capitalism is killing my community”—people seeing cap and trade as a part of that.
PETER MILLER: Well, I think the real threat here is climate change, which does threaten everyone, and we need to be as active as possible, doing whatever we can, to reduce the threat of climate change. You know, I welcome active debate on how best to do that. We’re clearly not doing nearly enough, and look forward to working with Eriel and her partners to try and address the urgent threat.
AMY GOODMAN: Now, Eriel, you couldn’t get into that conference because you were outside protesting and weren’t able to get in, but you are going to be addressing the main plenary of GCAS—that’s the Global Climate Action Summit—today. You’ll be on that stage that people protested yesterday, talking about climate change and health.
ERIEL DERANGER: Yeah. So, you know, this is a big thing. It’s not just about challenging these capitalist systems. It’s really addressing the fact that climate change is a serious threat for everybody, and we should be addressing it. But the problem is, is that these structures, these solutions, these false solutions based on capitalism and geoengineering and technology, fails to address the rights of indigenous communities, which has led to a host of serious health concerns for our communities for centuries.
Colonization has created a foundation where our communities are already in disrepair as far as our health, mentally, physically and spiritually. And now we have extractive industries, and now we have corporations trying to buy our lands and territories and our knowledge systems as a way to, you know, address the climate crisis.
We don’t want to be part of these capitalist structures. We were never—we never had to be paid to protect our lands and territories, to preserve our culture and identities, and to protect the sacred. And now we’re being bullied into being a part of these capitalist markets through cap-and-trade systems as a way to address the climate. And it does nothing, again, to address these systems of capitalism, colonialism, that have put our communities in a state of disrepair for centuries.
AMY GOODMAN: Peter Miller?
PETER MILLER: Well, there’s clearly been a long history of exploitation and damage that needs to be addressed and remedied. We do believe that cap and trade, as part of a comprehensive suite of policies, can help us to reduce the threat of climate change. And—
AMY GOODMAN: What do you think, Eriel, could be the major modification of cap and trade, or would you say get rid of it altogether?
ERIEL DERANGER: I think it’s a Ponzi scheme. I mean, I think it’s a scam, because we’re not actually reducing emissions. All we’re doing is we’re trying to move market trends. We’re moving market trends by making companies have to pay another fee in order to continue to pollute. We’re not actually reducing emissions, because these carbon sequestrations and offsets already exist.
AMY GOODMAN: Well, we have a lot to go on this discussion, but we can’t do it here. You mentioned geoengineering, and that’s our next debate, for our next segment. I want to thank both of you for being here, Peter Miller with Natural Resources Defense Council and Eriel Deranger, who is head and founder of Indigenous Climate Action. This is Democracy Now! We’re in San Francisco. Stay with us.