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Labor, Frontline & Youth Voices Call on Biden to Immediately Act to Prevent Climate Catastrophe

StorySeptember 18, 2023
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Image Credit: Laura Bustillos

During the rally at Sunday’s March to End Fossil Fuels in New York City, activists decried President Joe Biden’s continued investment in fossil fuels and his refusal to declare a national emergency over the worsening effects of climate change. Louisiana climate justice activist Roishetta Ozane said Biden is “personally accountable” for climate change-fueled natural disasters, while 16-year-old Fridays for Future organizer Helen Mancini proclaimed, “There is not enough time to put this off another term.” Both emphasized the role of impacted communities — from those living in the shadow of toxic production plants to youth facing the prospect of an increasingly uninhabitable planet — in demanding climate action, a call echoed by Teamsters Local 808’s Chris Silvera, who declared that the fight for climate justice “is a workers’ fight.”

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

ROISHETTA OZANE: I am Roishetta Sibley Ozane. I am the founder, director and CEO of the Vessel Project of Louisiana. I’m also the Gulf fossil finance coordinator for Texas Campaign for the Environment Fund.

I just want to say this is truly amazing, and thank you all so much for coming out, giving up your Sunday to be here, because the time is now. We are all here to say that enough is enough.

The way to right wrongs is to shine a light of truth on them. On August the 9th, 2023, President Joe Biden bold-faced lied and said that he had declared a climate emergency. As we all know, the president has not declared a climate emergency. What he has declared is a way for oil and gas to further exacerbate the climate crisis. What he has done is sit back and allow his spineless Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to continue to approve new LNG facilities in communities of color. What President Biden has done is allow for the Mountain Valley Pipeline to be approved. He has allowed for a bedrock environmental law, NEPA, to be gutted.

Enough is enough with this cowardly president. If President Biden is not going to do the job that we voted him in office to do, we are going to vote him out of office. He likes to hide under agencies like the EPA and FERC and the Department of Transportation, but we know that he has the ultimate power of the pen. If he declares a climate emergency and stops the approval of all new extractive industry, then all of our communities will be better for it.

President Biden, we are holding you personally accountable for the climate-induced disasters that our communities have faced — the record-breaking wildfires in Louisiana and Hawaii, the record-breaking flooding, record-breaking hurricanes year after year after year. You can no longer call these natural disasters, because every one of them makes history. What’s causing these disasters to be so historic is the amount of fossil fuel extractive industries that are surrounding these communities. If you continue to build on wetlands, these storms are going to come further inland, and it’s going to continue to destroy our homes and our families.

Enough is enough, President Biden. It is time for us to have this president, who sits high on a throne and looks down on us and only uses Black, Brown and Indigenous folk for photo ops and his little puppets when he wants a picture — it is time out. We will no longer march to the White House and take pictures with you so you can put it in your repertoire. Come down to our communities and see how we are living.

As a Black woman and as a single mom of six children and a new grandbaby, I understand what it’s like to live on the frontline of climate change. My children have asthma. My sister was diagnosed with cancer. President Biden, how would you like it if it was your family that was dying?

You have heard the words of Sharon Lavigne. She has told you about the folks who are dying in Cancer Alley. You’ve heard the words of John Beard as he talks about the communities in Port Arthur. You’ve heard Jo and Joy Banner talk about our ancestors and how our ancestral lands are being taken over. You’ve heard Maury talk about his farm and how MVP is building this pipeline. But, President Biden, you might not know these people, because to you they’re ordinary folks. But these are frontline leaders who are making a difference, and it’s time that you listen to them.

HELEN MANCINI: I’m Helen. I’m a 16-year-old organizer with Fridays for Future New York City. I started protesting for climate justice when I was 11. The first sign I made was for the 2019 school strike here in New York City. It said, “We deserve a future.” And I’m here today still fighting for that same future. I am just one of the many young people who organized this march and spent their summers building youth turnout. Today young people are here in massive numbers because we are out of time.

In 2020, a record number of us showed up to the polls and put Biden in office. After four years of Trump, we were ready to elect a president who promised to end drilling on federal lands and finally address this climate crisis. Yet, in his two-and-a-half years as president, Biden has gone back on these promises. He greenlit the Willow project. He skipped environmental review to build the devastating Mountain Valley Pipeline. And he approved countless other fracked gas pipelines and projects in Alaska and the Gulf Coast. His refusal to let go of fossil fuels is destroying us.

America’s oil and gas expansion makes up one-third of the entire global expansion planned through 2050. This is what’s pushing us over the 1.5-degree warming threshold that is required to maintain a habitable planet. Because of this, crises are multiplying. This summer alone, New York City’s skies turned orange. Libya is flooded. Maui has burned. And countless people died from heat and extreme weather. This is the world Biden and his peers have left for us, but this is not the world we are going to accept.

This Friday, over a million of us across the globe protested to end fossil fuels. And today there are tens of thousands of us out here with one simple message for Biden: You have the executive authority to end oil and gas expansion and keep these fossil fuels in the ground. In 2024, we will be the most powerful voting bloc in the nation. Young people will be. You need our votes to stay in power. And that’s why we’re demanding you work with us, you declare a climate emergency, you end all drilling right now. You’re going to make new promises, promises that are going to empower young people to turn out in 2024 once again. These promises will transition us to community-based renewable energy, built by green union jobs. There is not enough time to put this off another term, and all of us will keep up the pressure until it’s done. Thank you.

AMY GOODMAN: That was 16-year-old Helen Mancini of Fridays for Future NYC, speaking Sunday at the March to End Fossil Fuels outside the United Nations. During the rally, activists got a labor update about the historic United Auto Workers strike targeting the Big Three automakers. On Sunday, talks resumed between the UAW and General Motors, Ford and Stellantis. This is Chris Silvera of Teamsters Local 808.

CHRIS SILVERA: First of all, let me just say thank you to my IATSE brothers and sisters who are here. This is a union stage. We’re not like them other people. We’ve got to remember SAG and AFTRA and the UAW. Where’s my union brothers and sisters standing up? This is a workers’ fight. It is the poor, it is the working class that suffers with these fossil fuel devils. We have to move on.

And I’m going to tell you something: If you elected 300 more AOCs, if you elected a president that thought like AOC, if you elected a Senate — I’m not talking about Democrats and Republicans; I’m talking about servants of the people. And labor has to be in the vanguard of this struggle, because we have the resources, we have the organization, we have the power to join together with poor communities, with Indigenous communities to say “no” to any more pipelines, “no” because we can live without oil but we can’t live without water. We can live without oil, but we need clean air.

And we are here as labor to stand in solidarity with — let me do the count right quick — woo, look like about 75,000 people. We are here with you. Power belongs to the people. To the people belongs the power. When you go to the polls, don’t vote R, don’t vote D, vote for people like AOC. Power to you.

AMY GOODMAN: That’s Chris Silvera, secretary-treasurer of Teamsters Local 808, addressing Sunday’s March to End Fossil Fuels in New York City, where some 75,000 protesters took to the streets with their message for world leaders coming to the U.N. General Assembly this week, but the banner across the rally stage read, “Biden, end fossil fuels.” It was the largest U.S. climate mobilization in years.

That does it for our show. Special thanks to Laura Bustillos and Messiah Rhodes. Democracy Now! is produced with Renée Feltz, Mike Burke, Deena Guzder, Messiah Rhodes, Nermeen Shaikh, María Taracena, Tami Woronoff, Charina Nadura, Sam Alcoff, Tey-Marie Astudillo, John Hamilton, Robby Karran, Hany Massoud and Sonyi Lopez. Our executive director is Julie Crosby. Special thanks to Becca Staley, Jon Randolph, Paul Powell, Mike Di Filippo, Miguel Nogueira, Hugh Gran, Denis Moynihan. I’m Amy Goodman. Thanks so much for joining us.

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