Mi Regreso de Paris
Southwest Workers’ Union (SWU) joined over a dozen of national grassroots organizations in a delegation named It Takes Roots To Weather the Storm under our participation with Grassroots Global Justice alliance in Paris of 2015 to go up against the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in their annual Conference of the Parties (COP). The COP serves as a decision-making for global powers like the US, China, India, and other European nations to negotiate on matters of the carbon markets and extractive economy, for examples the regulation of greenhouse gas emissions, cap and trade, and land grab. In other words, this allows big profiteers arrange their schemes of, technology, occupation, and green-washed colonization of natural resources of our Mother Earth.
In the momentum of previous COPs, grassroots movements, and other leaderships have mobilized towards climate justice, in which, we counter the false solutions of the COP with our real solutions for resilience, and community-based efforts towards a just transition and restorative justice for our Mother Earth. We intersect these real solutions with labor, race, gender, food sovereignty, land, housing, migration, and health.
My personal experience in the COP has been very challenging, I have witnessed it Lima, Peru of 2014 and now in Paris. The goal for SWU is to stand in solidarity with indigenous peoples, people of color, and working-class groups who have prioritized their grassroots movement in environmental justice like the Indigenous Environmental Network (IEN), South West Organizing Project (SWOP), People Organizing to Demand Environmental and Economic Justice (PODERSF), Black Mesa Water Coalition (BMWC), Community2Community, Cooperation Jackson, Asian Pacific Environment Network (APEN), Communities for Better Environment (CBE) and many more.
My role as an organizer from San Antonio is to carry the narratives of our community who have been impacted by fracking from the Eagle Ford Shale, the privatization of water by San Antonio Water System, and the pollution by oil refinery Calumet and the military bases who continue to haunt the Southside from the Kelly Air force to Port San Antonio. Paris displayed a movement of international solidarity of bodies who stir up the governments of each region to a system change. When we demand a change for social justice, we are protecting each other and recognize the harmony of our visibility with Mother Earth. You will read material from news media stating the failure of the Paris Accord at COP21, and it is true, however, we knew once inside this belly of the beast, we would encounter an opposition of our narratives by lobbyists, governors, and political presidents who are willing to put our bodies in danger for their capitalistic agenda.
Our victory did resonate in the streets of Paris. I could hear the echo of our presence in Parisian popular sites like the Eiffel Tower and the Wall of Peace, I can recount the our footsteps in front of the Arc de Triomphe when we started our march of 300k people. We made those streets loud! Manifesting our opposition to coal, gas and oil; our opposition of REDD (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and forest Degradation), the use of extreme energy, mining, racial and gender injustice. Our delegation has incredible youth leaders who articulated dialogues to news media and shook an audience of international solidarity to its core.
Diana Lopez from SWU sat down and shared her San Anto experience, her work in the organization and victories against polluting sites; to in a room where only a few from our community can do. It is hard to be able to become visible, however, our It Takes Roots […] delegation aligned to uplift our work. SWU has set a path to speak about workers rights, community resilience through food justice, and youth leadership development; our framework towards an equitable and equal alternative economy continues to challenge the capitalistic and extractive economy. When I witnessed Diana speak of injustices, I felt bigger and more confident of my position to be in Paris. It gave me the push to speak at a workshop called “The Future of Our Movement” to propose social forums or assemblies in which include our barrios to participate and attend major dialogues for an environmental justice and community resilience. It is our communities, our barrios, our campos, our families who are impacted the most due to (global) capitalistic/neoliberal negotiations at COP.
Texas is inside the belly of the beast; we witness a total neglect of land, economy and natural resources. Exploitation of labor, land, water, and energy continue to plague our health. We are witnesses of low-income, minimum wages, high-cost water rates, and extractive resources like fossil fuels, coal, and fracking plus the drought, floods, heavy rain and high temperatures climate change has cause to our region. Another issue we connected in Paris is the injustices seen towards migrants. As a child of migration, this hit me the most. Our delegation participated in an action against Paris’ largest detention center, which has documented the abuse and death of migrants who become political refugees from their region and seek for shelter and safety. Our action counted with a participation of European allies, World March of Womyn, IEN, and other caucuses who are in depth for justice of migrant rights. Here, once again, Diana spoke of her personal experience of being from a migrant family. The sincerity she spoke, made people realize the struggles individuals and families face in their communities due to governments failing to human rights, and land rights.
Finally, on December 10th, our delegation organized and mobilized over 150 people to be part our action in front of the Wall of Peace to call-out the US imperialism. This date is International Human Rights Day; our theme was to connect our grassroots organizing and the international solidarity on human rights. On this date, we had an agenda including speakers on issues of race, gender, indigenous rights, militarization, pollution, migration, etc. We also talked on our opposition of Obama’s new Clean Power Plan, in which is a green-washed clean energy (false) solution. I had the privilege of being the facilitator to this action, and was able to navigate through an agenda filled with many narratives who demand system change and not climate change. It also included youth from SWOP speaking on the intergenerational issues and complexity of race and gender in communities separated by patriarchy and other policies. We were able to receive news media attention from Al-Jazeera+, Democracy Now! Uprising News, Indigenous Uprising, and other outlets that care for grassroots movements.
Again, some might say the summit for the agreements in Paris was a failure but our victory stays strong in our climate justice movement and the return of Diana Lopez, Lucha Lopez, Adela Arellano and me to our San Anto community and share our experience. It is very empowering to share a room with our community to speak and continue to organize on the struggles we face daily. This movement is important because it includes where I live and my family; the fundamental victory is the resilience of my community. We are the ones stirring up for a system change.
The deluge of a democratic deceit, handcuffs…binds and rewinds
Times delicate work of liberation.
- Suzanne Dhaliwal