Three Life-or-Death Reasons Why Climate, Food, and Native American Activists Need to Keep Working Together

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Author: Ronnie Cummins | Published: February 1, 2017 

On Tuesday,  January 24, Donald Trump signed presidential memorandums to revive the controversial Keystone XL and Dakota Access oil pipelines—two major dirty oil and fracking pipelines halted by the Obama administration after massive resistance from indigenous, climate and other public interest groups, including food activists. As indigenous leader Winona LaDuke pointed out (article link below) Trump’s push to revive these climate and environmentally destructive pipelines amount to nothing less than a “Declaration of War.” Within 24 hours of Trump’s dirty energy decree, thousands of people across the country took to the streets in protest, while hundreds of thousands more expressed their opposition and anger on social media.

Several months ago, just before Thanksgiving, my national organization, the Organic Consumers Association raised $40,000 from our members to provide organic food and other support to the Standing Rock protests. Many from our staff and volunteer network traveled to Standing Rock or participated in local picket lines and protests. Tens of thousands signed our petitions. Literally several million more people from other organizations did the same, inspired by the courage, determination, and moral clarity of the indigenous people. For the first time in recent history, a critical mass of Native American, environmental, food, justice, student, and other organizations successfully worked together, linking issues (water, food, climate, and native sovereignty) and constituencies, gradually winning over the hearts and minds of a large segment of the body politic.

But obviously all of our efforts have not been enough to get the major political parties, the Democrats and the Republicans, the banks, and the mass media to come to their senses and stop the fossil fuel industry from trampling on public opinion, the environment, and indigenous rights. Standing Up for Standing Rock has not yet deterred the Trump Administration, the climate criminals, the Army Corps of Engineers, and their cronies, from their hell-bent march toward environmental and climate catastrophe. The profits of the one-percent have once again trumped public health, the environment, climate stability, and the constitutional treaty rights and self-determination of Native people.

The question is, where do we go from here? Last week I talked about the #ConsumerRevolution 2017-2020 and #PoliticalRevolution we need to begin organizing. But before we move beyond single-issue thinking and organizing, before we connect the dots between issues and constituencies so we can have a united and more powerful Movement capable of putting an end to business as usual, let’s review a few fundamental, indeed life-or-death, points.

(1) We cannot save human civilization from fast-approaching and catastrophic global warming, sea level rise, dangerous weather extremes (drought and flooding), water shortages, soil depletion, crop failures, ocean acidification, mass starvation, mass migration, and endless strife and war, without both moving rapidly toward both zero fossil fuel emissions, cancelling all future pipelines and leaving all fossil fuels in the ground; and, at the same time transferring billions of tons of excess carbon from the atmosphere, through enhanced plant photosynthesis, into our degraded agricultural soils, forests, and wetlands. In other words we’ve got to move beyond, not just greenhouse gas-belching cars, buildings, utilities, and manufacturing; but away from industrial agriculture, deforestation, pesticides, GMOs, factory farms, and junk food to a new Regenerative food, farming and land use system.

As the world’s leading climate scientist, Dr. James, recently explained:  “If rapid phasedown of fossil fuel emissions begins soon, most of the necessary CO2 extraction can take place via improved agricultural and forestry practices, including reforestation and steps to improve soil fertility and increasing its carbon content.”

In other words, the climate movement and the Regenerative Agriculture and forestry movements need to work together–not only to achieve zero fossil fuel emissions, but also to draw down or sequester enough excess CO2 from the atmosphere into our soils and forests to restabilize our climate and regenerate our soils, forests, rainfall, and water cycles.

(2) There will be no organic food, nor any food whatsoever, on a burnt, drowned, or dead planet. We are fast approaching the “point of no return” whereby global warming, melting of the polar ice sheets, and the destruction of tropical and temperate rainforests morph into runaway global warming.


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