UPCOMING EVENTS CALENDAR BY DANCEWATER
06/20/16 PRESS CONFERENCE ON ICE DEPORTATION IN ASHEVILLE
We are holding a press conference on Monday, June 20th at 10 AM on the steps of the Federal Building (151 Patton Avenue). See below all events for more information (at the end of this email) on this case and how you can act to help. This has been organized by a Raid Response Team here in Asheville/Western NC and CiMA - companeros inmigrantes de las montanas en accion.
06/20/16 UNITED 2 RESTORE DEMOCRACY
The June 20 meeting will be at the North Asheville Library on Merrimon Avenue with HB2 as the topic. United to Restore Democracy (Asheville) is a local non-partisan citizens group that has organized as a result of the destructive Citizens United decision, to reclaim the liberties and privileges guaranteed in the U.S. Constitution for real, living, breathing people. Our group is part of a larger State and National movement to educate, empower, and bring awareness to the issues related to corporate constitutional rights, the corruptive influence of money in politics, and the impact that it has on local, state, and national communities. This month we will be exploring the devastating HB2, also known as "the bathroom bill." This North Carolina law has gotten a great deal of national press. This bill has many of us, as North Carolinians, embarrassed and ashamed. Unfortunately, there is much more than gender-dictated bathroom law in this bill. We will be going over the basics of reading a bill, the details of HB2, how HB2 relates to corporate constitutional right, state preemption, Dillon's rule, the legally interesting clash between federal preemption and this law, and some ideas of what "we the people" can do about it. If you know any city council representatives or county board members, this might be an interesting meeting to invite them to attend. Location is the North Asheville Library at 1030 Merrimon Avenue in Asheville. Time is 7 PM. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact Diana at firstname.lastname@example.org or 828-275-0680.
06/20/16 CONVERTING A GOLF COURSE BACK TO NATURE IN FLAT ROCK
When a local golf course was going out of business, the Village of Flat Rock stepped up to acquire the 66-acre property. Three years later more than 1,500 trees have been planted, 20 bird boxes installed, three owl boxes, honey bee hive in place, and over 4,000 sq. feet of pollinator gardens planted. Event will include a nature hike through pollinator gardens and through The Park, as time allows. Time is 10 AM to noon, and location is The Park at Flat Rock, 34 Highland Golf Drive in Flat Rock. Suitable for all ages, no charge. Email Fred Roane, Park Naturalist, to preregister at email@example.com.
06/20/16 MUDDY WATER WATCH TRAINING
Come learn how you can help prevent sediment from entering the river. Have you ever seen sediment or dirt running off of a construction site? Unfortunately, this is a common occurrence, and all this sediment will eventually end up in our waterways, polluting aquatic habitats and ecosystems. This class will teach you the proper way construction sites are supposed to mitigate for their disturbance on the land, and what to do if you find something different. Time is 4 to 7 PM and location is Marshall Public Library at 11 N. Main Street in Marshall. Contact Anna at 828-258-8737 or firstname.lastname@example.org for more information including how to register.
06/21/16 POLLINATION CELEBRATION KEYNOTE ADDRESS
Presented by the NC Arboretum and Asheville & Hendersonville affiliates of Bee City USA. Time is 5:30 to 8: 30 PM. Landscape designer, photographer, and acclaimed author of “Pollinators of Native Plants”, Heather Holm, will give two presentations about creating pollinator-friendly gardens with using native flowers, shrubs, and trees. First one is at 6 PM and is titled “Gardening for Bees, Butterflies & Beneficial Insects “ (Presentation 1). Most insects have a positive impact in our landscapes. Native plants can be selected to attract specific bees, butterflies and beneficial insects including predatory and parasitic wasps, beetles, flies, true bugs, and lacewings. Learn how these flower-visiting insects provide vital pollination services and also help keep problem insect populations in balance. The life cycles, diversity, and nesting habitats of various insect species will be covered along with examples of native plants for different site conditions. At 7:30 PM the second presentation will be “Selecting Native Trees and Shrubs that Support Pollinators” (Presentation 2). While most trees are wind-pollinated, the ones that are insect-pollinated provide important forage for pollinators, especially in early spring. Learn about which canopy trees, small trees, and shrubs are insect-pollinated and the types of pollinators each plant attracts. Factors influencing pollinator visitation including flower structure, flower resources, flowering phenology, and the plant community where the woody plant occurs will also be discussed. Location is the North Carolina Arboretum, 100 Frederick Law Olmsted Way in Asheville. This is for all ages. There is free tickets and free parking, if preregistered. $5 suggested donation at the door. Preregister for free tickets for Presentation 1 and Presentation 2. Because seating is limited, even Arboretum members should pre-register. Non-NC Arboretum members who have not preregistered will be charged $12 for parking. For more information, go to http://www.hendersonvillenc.gov/pollinator-week-events.
06/21/16 JUST ECONOMICS MEETING
The 3rd Tuesday of every other month is our regular meeting at 6:30 at the United Way on South French Broad. We will have dinner…feel free to bring a dish to share if you would like and are able. We will discuss general Just Economics topics and then divide into committees: Policy Advocacy, Certification, and Education and Outreach. Everyone is welcome! For more information, contact email@example.com.
06/21/16 SHOWING UP FOR RACIAL JUSTICE COALITION BUILDING
This is a coalition building session which is held at Kairos West Community Center at 742 Haywood Road in west Asheville. Free. Time is 7 PM.
06/21/16 SHOWING UP FOR RACIAL JUSTICE MEETING
Showing up for Racial Justice (SURJ) is a national network of groups educating and organizing white people to act as part of a multi-racial majority for racial justice. Asheville SURJ hosts a weekly discussion group on risk-taking, accountability, mutual interest and how to call more white people into racial justice work. Anyone with a passion for working with white people on racial justice is welcome! Time is 10 AM and location is Firestorm Cafe & Books at 610 Haywood Road in west Asheville. Contact Firestorm at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
06/21/16 WNC 4 PEACE MEETING
This meeting will be at Atlanta Bread on Merrimon in Asheville at 6 PM. Contact Craig at email@example.com for more information.
06/21/16 BUNCOMBE COUNTY COMMISSIONERS MEETING
We need as many people as possible to show up in Moms/Everytown T-shirts to the Buncombe County Commissioners meeting on Tuesday, June 21 at 4:30 PM, held at 200 College Street, Suite 326 to oppose Fryar's proposal to divert $500,000 dollars of taxpayer money from the Art Museum to pay for a shooting range in Buncombe County. This is an obscenity at any time, but especially given that we are barely a week out from the mass shooting in Orlando. This is from Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense.
06/22/16 HENDERSONVILLE POLLINATOR WEEK NATURE WALK
Lewis Creek Nature Preserve is an 8-acre conservation property protected and managed by the Carolina Mountain Land Conservancy. Our resident ecologist Bob Gale will lead a leisurely hike along the trail, interpreting the plant life, wildflowers, and value of pollinators on this property. The visit includes a boardwalk which overlooks an example of the remaining rare Southern Appalachian Bog ecosystems. Bob and MountainTrue have special expertise in managing these bogs and in addressing their threats, including non-native invasive plants. Join us and celebrate the important work of pollinators in our area! This event is part of Hendersonville Bee City’s Pollinator Week. Time is 3 to 6 PM and location is the Edneyville Community Center parking lot, where they will shuttle to the trailhead a short distance away.
Directions: From I-26, take Exit 49A towards Bat Cave. Follow US64 approx. 5 miles then turn right onto Ida Rogers Drive. Proceed up the hill and park is on the left. Free. Contact Bob at 828-258-8737 or firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
06/23/16 AMERICA’S FIRST FOREST
Join us for an evening of land conservation, Asheville history, and fellowship as we celebrate the 25th Anniversary of the Conservation Trust for North Carolina, on Thursday, June 23, 2016. At 7:15 PM we will meet at the Fine Arts Theatre, where we will screen “America’s First Forest: Carl Schenck & the Asheville Experiment”. The film is produced by the Forest History Society in cooperation with Bonesteel Films. The film tells the story of how Carl Schenck realized Frederick Law Olmsted’s vision of introducing forestry to America.Immediately following this 55-minute film, we’ll have a question and answer session with producer Paul Bonesteel. Tickets are $20 per person and may be purchased in advance at the theatre (36 Biltmore Avenue) or online. For questions, please contact Rebecca Hankins at (919) 828-4199 ext. 17 or email@example.com.
06/23/16 BENEFIT FOR EQUALITY NC
Proceeds from this comedy show, “Stand Up for Equality (And Show Tunes)” by Jim David benefit Equality NC. Cost is $25. Time is 7:30 PM and location is Asheville Community Theatre at 35 E. Walnut Street in Asheville. Call 254-1320 for more information.
06/24/16 WNC PHYSICIANS FOR SOCIAL RESPONSIBILITY MEETING
Physicians, health personnel and everyone; all are welcomed at our monthly meetings held on the third Friday of each month. Bring a brown bag lunch around noon. This will be held at The First Congregational United Church of Christ, Room E205, at 20 Oak Street (just off College St. in downtown Asheville). Time is noon to 2 PM. Meeting starts at 12:30. Parking is available behind the church. Enter the church or ring doorbell at the glass doors on Oak Street. For more information contact Dr. Terry Clark, Chair, 633-0892 or Dr. Lew Patrie, 299-1242.
06/24/16 JUST PEACE FOR ISRAEL/PALESTINE MEETING
This meeting will be at 6 PM at Brooks-Howell Home at 266 Merrimon Avenue in Asheville. Meet in the media room. We will watch “Occupation of the American Mind” then discuss how to use this powerful up-to-date documentation of the Israeli government’s contracted PR specialists marketing the hasbara (propaganda) that controls almost all of US media’s representation of the situation. This is open to anyone who would like to see the documentary. Contact Suchi at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
06/24/16 DISCUSSION ON THE DIRECTION OF THE STATE OF NC
Think NC First - a discussion about the roadmap. Concerned about the direction of North Carolina? Do you think our state needs a new agenda? Be a part of the discussion about sound ideas for North Carolina. Think NC First Invites You to Join: Ken Brame, Sierra Club Political Chair and Brownie Newman, Vice-Chair Buncombe County Commission for a discussion about Roadmap 2025, a project offering ideas for a new direction. Focused, effective action can strengthen our civic institutions, build crucial infrastructure and make North Carolina a more inviting place to live and work. It is recommended that you park in the Rankin parking deck. Event is free and open to the public. Time is 8:30 to 10 AM and location is The Collider at 1 Haywood Street, Suite 401 in Asheville. For questions regarding the event, contact: email@example.com.
06/26/16 WNC CHAPTER OF ACLU ANNUAL MEETING
The western North Carolina chapter of the ACLU of North Carolina will hold its annual membership Celebration Sunday, June 26, in Asheville. ACLU legal director Chris Brook will update the gathering on “In the Courts and at the Statehouse,” covering civil liberties issues North Carolina faces, including voting rights and HB2. This year’s Evan Mahaney Champion of Liberty Award will be given posthumously to Isaac Coleman, whose recent death ended a lifetime of commitment to the causes of human rights and equal justice. The ACLU Celebration will be held at The Altamont Theater, 18 Church Street, at 3 PM. All ACLU members and supporters, and all friends of Isaac Coleman, are invited and welcome. For more information, contact Curry at firstname.lastname@example.org.
06/28/16 OCCUPY WNC GENERAL ASSEMBLY
Occupy WNC: Corporations Ain't People! Working Group. Open General Assembly every 2nd & 4th Tuesdays from 7 - 8:30 PM at The Sneak E Squirrel's Community Room at 1315 W Main Street in Sylva, NC. More information at (828)351.1524.
06/28/16 TALK ABOUT PEACE BUILDING SKILLS
“Completely Connected” - a free talk on the award- winning book about peace building skills, at Unity of the Blue Ridge, 2041 Old Fanning Bridge Road. Time is 6:30-8 PM. Contact Cathy at email@example.com for more information.
06/029/16 INTERNATIONAL RESCUE COMMITTEE MEETING
The public is invited to attend the June 29 community feedback session at 7 PM at the Unitarian Universalist Congregation at 1 Edwin Place in Asheville. J.D. McCrary, who is leading the IRC site visit team, will be there to hear from the community. He will answer questions and concerns about resettlement and hear from us as to why we think Asheville would be a good resettlement site. If you decide to come to this meeting, please let Bobby King know at least a week in advance so that we can ensure adequate space and seating.For questions or to reserve a spot, contact Bobby King at firstname.lastname@example.org. [The International Rescue Committee website has this to say: “The United States has a long tradition of offering refuge to those fleeing persecution and war.” No mention of our even longer history of causing war and persecution that creates these refugees in the first place. Also, here are some folks on their Board of Directors and Overseers: Madeleine K. Albright, Henry Kissinger, Condoleezza Rice, Colin Powell, and David Miliband is president and CEO. Visit their website. -dancewater]
07/05/16 ASHEVILLE TRANSIT COMMITTEE MEETING
Meeting is from 3:30 to 5 PM and location is the first floor Conference Room at Asheville City Hall.
07/09/16 CITIZENS CLIMATE LOBBY MEETING
Citizens Climate Lobby meets the second Saturday of each month at Kairos West Community Center, 742 Haywood Road in west Asheville. We are advocating for a Carbon Fee & Dividend, which would impose a fee on fossil fuels at point entry; this fee will be refunded to individuals and families. There is bipartisan support in Congress as this will create jobs and help grow the economy, boosting renewables. Time is 12:30 to 3 PM. For more information, contact email@example.com.
Veterans for Peace have a weekly vigil at 4:30 PM at Pack Square, Vance Monument
Showing Up for Racial Justice is from noon to 2 PM at Firestorm Cafe and Books at 610 Haywood Road in west Asheville. Educating and organizing white people for racial justice. Free.
Orientation session for Asheville Timebank. 4 PM at Firestorm Cafe & Books at 610 Haywood Road in west Asheville. Email firstname.lastname@example.org for information and to register.
Haywood Peace Vigilers have a weekly vigil at 4 PM at Haywood County Courthouse in Waynesville
French Broad Riverkeeper has a paddle-n-plant to prevent sediment erosion most Wednesdays and Saturdays. Registration required at email@example.com.
Political Prisoners Letter Writing at Firestorm Cafe & Books at 6 PM on first Thursday of the month. Materials provided.
Women in Black have a weekly vigil at noon at the City Hall in Hendersonville
Women in Black have a monthly vigil at 5 PM at Vance Monument in Asheville (first Friday only)
Transylvanians for Peace and WNC Physicians for Social Responsibility have a weekly vigil at noon in front of the courthouse in Brevard. Call 884-3435 to confirm.
French Broad Riverkeeper has a paddle-n-plant to prevent sediment erosion most Wednesdays and Saturdays. Registration required at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Youth OUTright meeting from 4 to 6 PM at First Congregational United Church of Christ at 20 Oak Street in Asheville. Ages 14 - 23 only.
ACTIONS AND READINGS
Let Them Drown: The Violence of Othering in a Warming World
By Naomi Klein, The London Review of Books
02 June 16
Edward Said was no tree-hugger. Descended from traders, artisans and professionals, he once described himself as ‘an extreme case of an urban Palestinian whose relationship to the land is basically metaphorical’.[*] In After the Last Sky, his meditation on the photographs of Jean Mohr, he explored the most intimate aspects of Palestinian lives, from hospitality to sports to home décor. The tiniest detail – the placing of a picture frame, the defiant posture of a child – provoked a torrent of insight from Said. Yet when confronted with images of Palestinian farmers – tending their flocks, working the fields – the specificity suddenly evaporated. Which crops were being cultivated? What was the state of the soil? The availability of water? Nothing was forthcoming. ‘I continue to perceive a population of poor, suffering, occasionally colourful peasants, unchanging and collective,’ Said confessed. This perception was ‘mythic’, he acknowledged – yet it remained.
If farming was another world for Said, those who devoted their lives to matters like air and water pollution appear to have inhabited another planet. Speaking to his colleague Rob Nixon, he once described environmentalism as ‘the indulgence of spoiled tree-huggers who lack a proper cause’. But the environmental challenges of the Middle East are impossible to ignore for anyone immersed, as Said was, in its geopolitics. This is a region intensely vulnerable to heat and water stress, to sea-level rise and to desertification. A recent paper in Nature Climate Change predicts that, unless we radically lower emissions and lower them fast, large parts of the Middle East will likely ‘experience temperature levels that are intolerable to humans’ by the end of this century. And that’s about as blunt as climate scientists get. Yet environmental issues in the region still tend to be treated as afterthoughts, or luxury causes. The reason is not ignorance, or indifference. It’s just bandwidth. Climate change is a grave threat but the most frightening impacts are in the medium term. And in the short term, there are always far more pressing threats to contend with: military occupation, air assault, systemic discrimination, embargo. Nothing can compete with that – nor should it attempt to try.
There are other reasons why environmentalism might have looked like a bourgeois playground to Said. The Israeli state has long coated its nation-building project in a green veneer – it was a key part of the Zionist ‘back to the land’ pioneer ethos. And in this context trees, specifically, have been among the most potent weapons of land grabbing and occupation. It’s not only the countless olive and pistachio trees that have been uprooted to make way for settlements and Israeli-only roads. It’s also the sprawling pine and eucalyptus forests that have been planted over those orchards, as well as over Palestinian villages, most notoriously by the Jewish National Fund, which, under its slogan ‘Turning the Desert Green’, boasts of having planted 250 million trees in Israel since 1901, many of them non-native to the region. In publicity materials, the JNF bills itself as just another green NGO, concerned with forest and water management, parks and recreation. It also happens to be the largest private landowner in the state of Israel, and despite a number of complicated legal challenges, it still refuses to lease or sell land to non-Jews.
I grew up in a Jewish community where every occasion – births and deaths, Mother’s Day, bar mitzvahs – was marked with the proud purchase of a JNF tree in the person’s honour. It wasn’t until adulthood that I began to understand that those feel-good faraway conifers, certificates for which papered the walls of my Montreal elementary school, were not benign – not just something to plant and later hug. In fact these trees are among the most glaring symbols of Israel’s system of official discrimination – the one that must be dismantled if peaceful co-existence is to become possible.
The JNF is an extreme and recent example of what some call ‘green colonialism’. But the phenomenon is hardly new, nor is it unique to Israel. There is a long and painful history in the Americas of beautiful pieces of wilderness being turned into conservation parks – and then that designation being used to prevent Indigenous people from accessing their ancestral territories to hunt and fish, or simply to live. It has happened again and again. A contemporary version of this phenomenon is the carbon offset. Indigenous people from Brazil to Uganda are finding that some of the most aggressive land grabbing is being done by conservation organisations. A forest is suddenly rebranded a carbon offset and is put off-limits to its traditional inhabitants. As a result, the carbon offset market has created a whole new class of ‘green’ human rights abuses, with farmers and Indigenous people being physically attacked by park rangers or private security when they try to access these lands. Said’s comment about tree-huggers should be seen in this context.
And there is more. In the last year of Said’s life, Israel’s so-called ‘separation barrier’ was going up, seizing huge swathes of the West Bank, cutting Palestinian workers off from their jobs, farmers from their fields, patients from hospitals – and brutally dividing families. There was no shortage of reasons to oppose the wall on human rights grounds. Yet at the time, some of the loudest dissenting voices among Israeli Jews were not focused on any of that. Yehudit Naot, Israel’s then environment minister, was more worried about a report informing her that ‘The separation fence … is harmful to the landscape, the flora and fauna, the ecological corridors and the drainage of the creeks.’ ‘I certainly don’t want to stop or delay the building of the fence,’ she said, but ‘I am disturbed by the environmental damage involved.’ As the Palestinian activist Omar Barghouti later observed, Naot’s ‘ministry and the National Parks Protection Authority mounted diligent rescue efforts to save an affected reserve of irises by moving it to an alternative reserve. They’ve also created tiny passages [through the wall] for animals.’
Perhaps this puts the cynicism about the green movement in context. People do tend to get cynical when their lives are treated as less important than flowers and reptiles. And yet there is so much of Said’s intellectual legacy that both illuminates and clarifies the underlying causes of the global ecological crisis, so much that points to ways we might respond that are far more inclusive than current campaign models: ways that don’t ask suffering people to shelve their concerns about war, poverty and systemic racism and first ‘save the world’ – but instead demonstrate how all these crises are interconnected, and how the solutions could be too. In short, Said may have had no time for tree-huggers, but tree-huggers must urgently make time for Said – and for a great many other anti-imperialist, postcolonial thinkers – because without that knowledge, there is no way to understand how we ended up in this dangerous place, or to grasp the transformations required to get us out. So what follows are some thoughts – by no means complete – about what we can learn from reading Said in a warming world.
He was and remains among our most achingly eloquent theorists of exile and homesickness – but Said’s homesickness, he always made clear, was for a home that had been so radically altered that it no longer really existed. His position was complex: he fiercely defended the right to return, but never claimed that home was fixed. What mattered was the principle of respect for all human rights equally and the need for restorative justice to inform our actions and policies. This perspective is deeply relevant in our time of eroding coastlines, of nations disappearing beneath rising seas, of the coral reefs that sustain entire cultures being bleached white, of a balmy Arctic. This is because the state of longing for a radically altered homeland – a home that may not even exist any longer – is something that is being rapidly, and tragically, globalised. In March, two major peer-reviewed studies warned that sea-level rise could happen significantly faster than previously believed. One of the authors of the first study was James Hansen – perhaps the most respected climate scientist in the world. He warned that, on our current emissions trajectory, we face the ‘loss of all coastal cities, most of the world’s large cities and all their history’ – and not in thousands of years from now but as soon as this century. If we don’t demand radical change we are headed for a whole world of people searching for a home that no longer exists.
Said helps us imagine what that might look like as well. He helped to popularise the Arabic word sumud (‘to stay put, to hold on’): that steadfast refusal to leave one’s land despite the most desperate eviction attempts and even when surrounded by continuous danger. It’s a word most associated with places like Hebron and Gaza, but it could be applied equally today to residents of coastal Louisiana who have raised their homes up on stilts so that they don’t have to evacuate, or to Pacific Islanders whose slogan is ‘We are not drowning. We are fighting.’ In countries like the Marshall Islands and Fiji and Tuvalu, they know that so much sea-level rise is inevitable that their countries likely have no future. But they refuse just to concern themselves with the logistics of relocation, and wouldn’t even if there were safer countries willing to open their borders – a very big if, since climate refugees aren’t currently recognised under international law. Instead they are actively resisting: blockading Australian coal ships with traditional outrigger canoes, disrupting international climate negotiations with their inconvenient presence, demanding far more aggressive climate action. If there is anything worth celebrating in the Paris Agreement signed in April – and sadly, there isn’t enough – it has come about because of this kind of principled action: climate sumud.
But this only scratches of the surface of what we can learn from reading Said in a warming world. He was, of course, a giant in the study of ‘othering’ – what is described in Orientalism as ‘disregarding, essentialising, denuding the humanity of another culture, people or geographical region’. And once the other has been firmly established, the ground is softened for any transgression: violent expulsion, land theft, occupation, invasion. Because the whole point of othering is that the other doesn’t have the same rights, the same humanity, as those making the distinction. What does this have to do with climate change? Perhaps everything.
We have dangerously warmed our world already, and our governments still refuse to take the actions necessary to halt the trend. There was a time when many had the right to claim ignorance. But for the past three decades, since the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change was created and climate negotiations began, this refusal to lower emissions has been accompanied with full awareness of the dangers. And this kind of recklessness would have been functionally impossible without institutional racism, even if only latent. It would have been impossible without Orientalism, without all the potent tools on offer that allow the powerful to discount the lives of the less powerful. These tools – of ranking the relative value of humans – are what allow the writing off of entire nations and ancient cultures. And they are what allowed for the digging up of all that carbon to begin with.
Fossil fuels aren’t the sole driver of climate change – there is industrial agriculture, and deforestation – but they are the biggest. And the thing about fossil fuels is that they are so inherently dirty and toxic that they require sacrificial people and places: people whose lungs and bodies can be sacrificed to work in the coal mines, people whose lands and water can be sacrificed to open-pit mining and oil spills. As recently as the 1970s, scientists advising the US government openly referred to certain parts of the country being designated ‘national sacrifice areas’. Think of the mountains of Appalachia, blasted off for coal mining – because so-called ‘mountain top removal’ coal mining is cheaper than digging holes underground. There must be theories of othering to justify sacrificing an entire geography – theories about the people who lived there being so poor and backward that their lives and culture don’t deserve protection. After all, if you are a ‘hillbilly’, who cares about your hills? Turning all that coal into electricity required another layer of othering too: this time for the urban neighbourhoods next door to the power plants and refineries. In North America, these are overwhelmingly communities of colour, black and Latino, forced to carry the toxic burden of our collective addiction to fossil fuels, with markedly higher rates of respiratory illnesses and cancers. It was in fights against this kind of ‘environmental racism’ that the climate justice movement was born.
Fossil fuel sacrifice zones dot the globe. Take the Niger Delta, poisoned with an Exxon Valdez-worth of spilled oil every year, a process Ken Saro-Wiwa, before he was murdered by his government, called ‘ecological genocide’. The executions of community leaders, he said, were ‘all for Shell’. In my country, Canada, the decision to dig up the Alberta tar sands – a particularly heavy form of oil – has required the shredding of treaties with First Nations, treaties signed with the British Crown that guaranteed Indigenous peoples the right to continue to hunt, fish and live traditionally on their ancestral lands. It required it because these rights are meaningless when the land is desecrated, when the rivers are polluted and the moose and fish are riddled with tumours. And it gets worse: Fort McMurray – the town at the centre of the tar sands boom, where many of the workers live and where much of the money is spent – is currently in an infernal blaze. It’s that hot and that dry. And this has something to do with what is being mined there.
Even without such dramatic events, this kind of resource extraction is a form of violence, because it does so much damage to the land and water that it brings about the end of a way of life, a death of cultures that are inseparable from the land. Severing Indigenous people’s connection to their culture used to be state policy in Canada – imposed through the forcible removal of Indigenous children from their families to boarding schools where their language and cultural practices were banned, and where physical and sexual abuse were rampant. A recent truth and reconciliation report called it ‘cultural genocide’. The trauma associated with these layers of forced separation – from land, from culture, from family – is directly linked to the epidemic of despair ravaging so many First Nations communities today. On a single Saturday night in April, in the community of Attawapiskat – population 2000 – 11 people tried to take their own lives. Meanwhile, DeBeers runs a diamond mine on the community’s traditional territory; like all extractive projects, it had promised hope and opportunity. ‘Why don’t the people just leave?’, the politicians and pundits ask. But many do. And that departure is linked, in part, to the thousands of Indigenous women in Canada who have been murdered or gone missing, often in big cities. Press reports rarely make the connection between violence against women and violence against the land – often to extract fossil fuels – but it exists. Every new government comes to power promising a new era of respect for Indigenous rights. They don’t deliver, because Indigenous rights, as defined by the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People, include the right to refuse extractive projects – even when those projects fuel national economic growth. And that’s a problem because growth is our religion, our way of life. So even Canada’s hunky and charming new prime minister is bound and determined to build new tar sands pipelines, against the express wishes of Indigenous communities who don’t want to risk their water, or participate in the further destabilising of the climate.
Fossil fuels require sacrifice zones: they always have. And you can’t have a system built on sacrificial places and sacrificial people unless intellectual theories that justify their sacrifice exist and persist: from Manifest Destiny to Terra Nullius to Orientalism, from backward hillbillies to backward Indians. We often hear climate change blamed on ‘human nature’, on the inherent greed and short-sightedness of our species. Or we are told we have altered the earth so much and on such a planetary scale that we are now living in the Anthropocene – the age of humans. These ways of explaining our current circumstances have a very specific, if unspoken meaning: that humans are a single type, that human nature can be essentialised to the traits that created this crisis. In this way, the systems that certain humans created, and other humans powerfully resisted, are completely let off the hook. Capitalism, colonialism, patriarchy – those sorts of system. Diagnoses like this erase the very existence of human systems that organised life differently: systems that insist that humans must think seven generations in the future; must be not only good citizens but also good ancestors; must take no more than they need and give back to the land in order to protect and augment the cycles of regeneration. These systems existed and still exist, but they are erased every time we say that the climate crisis is a crisis of ‘human nature’ and that we are living in the ‘age of man’. And they come under very real attack when megaprojects are built, like the Gualcarque hydroelectric dams in Honduras, a project which, among other things, took the life of the land defender Berta Cáceres, who was assassinated in March.
Some people insist that it doesn’t have to be this bad. We can clean up resource extraction, we don’t need to do it the way it’s been done in Honduras and the Niger Delta and the Alberta tar sands. Except that we are running out of cheap and easy ways to get at fossil fuels, which is why we have seen the rise of fracking and tar sands extraction in the first place. This, in turn, is starting to challenge the original Faustian pact of the industrial age: that the heaviest risks would be outsourced, offloaded, onto the other – the periphery abroad and inside our own nations. It’s something that is becoming less and less possible. Fracking is threatening some of the most picturesque parts of Britain as the sacrifice zone expands, swallowing up all kinds of places that imagined themselves safe. So this isn’t just about gasping at how ugly the tar sands are. It’s about acknowledging that there is no clean, safe, non-toxic way to run an economy powered by fossil fuels. There never was.
There is an avalanche of evidence that there is no peaceful way either. The trouble is structural. Fossil fuels, unlike renewable forms of energy such as wind and solar, are not widely distributed but highly concentrated in very specific locations, and those locations have a bad habit of being in other people’s countries. Particularly that most potent and precious of fossil fuels: oil. This is why the project of Orientalism, of othering Arab and Muslim people, has been the silent partner of our oil dependence from the start – and inextricable, therefore, from the blowback that is climate change. If nations and peoples are regarded as other – exotic, primitive, bloodthirsty, as Said documented in the 1970s – it is far easier to wage wars and stage coups when they get the crazy idea that they should control their own oil in their own interests. In 1953 it was the British-US collaboration to overthrow the democratically elected government of Muhammad Mossadegh after he nationalised the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company (now BP). In 2003, exactly fifty years later, it was another UK-US co-production – the illegal invasion and occupation of Iraq. The reverberations from each intervention continue to jolt our world, as do the reverberations from the successful burning of all that oil. The Middle East is now squeezed in the pincer of violence caused by fossil fuels, on the one hand, and the impact of burning those fossil fuels on the other.
In his latest book, The Conflict Shoreline, the Israeli architect Eyal Weizman has a groundbreaking take on how these forces are intersecting.[†] The main way we’ve understood the border of the desert in the Middle East and North Africa, he explains, is the so-called ‘aridity line’, areas where there is on average 200 millimetres of rainfall a year, which has been considered the minimum for growing cereal crops on a large scale without irrigation. These meteorological boundaries aren’t fixed: they have fluctuated for various reasons, whether it was Israel’s attempts to ‘green the desert’ pushing them in one direction or cyclical drought expanding the desert in the other. And now, with climate change, intensifying drought can have all kinds of impacts along this line. Weizman points out that the Syrian border city of Daraa falls directly on the aridity line. Daraa is where Syria’s deepest drought on record brought huge numbers of displaced farmers in the years leading up to the outbreak of Syria’s civil war, and it’s where the Syrian uprising broke out in 2011. Drought wasn’t the only factor in bringing tensions to a head. But the fact that 1.5 million people were internally displaced in Syria as a result of the drought clearly played a role. The connection between water and heat stress and conflict is a recurring, intensifying pattern all along the aridity line: all along it you see places marked by drought, water scarcity, scorching temperatures and military conflict – from Libya to Palestine, to some of the bloodiest battlefields in Afghanistan and Pakistan.
But Weizman also discovered what he calls an ‘astounding coincidence’. When you map the targets of Western drone strikes onto the region, you see that ‘many of these attacks – from South Waziristan through northern Yemen, Somalia, Mali, Iraq, Gaza and Libya – are directly on or close to the 200 mm aridity line.’ The red dots on the map above represent some of the areas where strikes have been concentrated. To me this is the most striking attempt yet to visualise the brutal landscape of the climate crisis. All this was foreshadowed a decade ago in a US military report. ‘The Middle East,’ it observed, ‘has always been associated with two natural resources, oil (because of its abundance) and water (because of its scarcity).’ True enough. And now certain patterns have become quite clear: first, Western fighter jets followed that abundance of oil; now, Western drones are closely shadowing the lack of water, as drought exacerbates conflict.
Just as bombs follow oil, and drones follow drought, so boats follow both: boats filled with refugees fleeing homes on the aridity line ravaged by war and drought. And the same capacity for dehumanising the other that justified the bombs and drones is now being trained on these migrants, casting their need for security as a threat to ours, their desperate flight as some sort of invading army. Tactics refined on the West Bank and in other occupation zones are now making their way to North America and Europe. In selling his wall on the border with Mexico, Donald Trump likes to say: ‘Ask Israel, the wall works.’ Camps are bulldozed in Calais, thousands of people drown in the Mediterranean, and the Australian government detains survivors of wars and despotic regimes in camps on the remote islands of Nauru and Manus. Conditions are so desperate on Nauru that last month an Iranian migrant died after setting himself on fire to try to draw the world’s attention. Another migrant – a 21-year-old woman from Somalia – set herself on fire a few days later. Malcolm Turnbull, the prime minister, warns that Australians ‘cannot be misty-eyed about this’ and ‘have to be very clear and determined in our national purpose’. It’s worth bearing Nauru in mind the next time a columnist in a Murdoch paper declares, as Katie Hopkins did last year, that it’s time for Britain ‘to get Australian. Bring on the gunships, force migrants back to their shores and burn the boats.’ In another bit of symbolism Nauru is one of the Pacific Islands very vulnerable to sea-level rise. Its residents, after seeing their homes turned into prisons for others, will very possibly have to migrate themselves. Tomorrow’s climate refugees have been recruited into service as today’s prison guards.
We need to understand that what is happening on Nauru, and what is happening to it, are expressions of the same logic. A culture that places so little value on black and brown lives that it is willing to let human beings disappear beneath the waves, or set themselves on fire in detention centres, will also be willing to let the countries where black and brown people live disappear beneath the waves, or desiccate in the arid heat. When that happens, theories of human hierarchy – that we must take care of our own first – will be marshalled to rationalise these monstrous decisions. We are making this rationalisation already, if only implicitly. Although climate change will ultimately be an existential threat to all of humanity, in the short term we know that it does discriminate, hitting the poor first and worst, whether they are abandoned on the rooftops of New Orleans during Hurricane Katrina or whether they are among the 36 million who according to the UN are facing hunger due to drought in Southern and East Africa.
This is an emergency, a present emergency, not a future one, but we aren’t acting like it. The Paris Agreement commits to keeping warming below 2°c. It’s a target that is beyond reckless. When it was unveiled in Copenhagen in 2009, the African delegates called it ‘a death sentence’. The slogan of several low-lying island nations is ‘1.5 to stay alive’. At the last minute, a clause was added to the Paris Agreement that says countries will pursue ‘efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5°c’. Not only is this non-binding but it is a lie: we are making no such efforts. The governments that made this promise are now pushing for more fracking and more tar sands development – which are utterly incompatible with 2°c, let alone 1.5°c. This is happening because the wealthiest people in the wealthiest countries in the world think they are going to be OK, that someone else is going to eat the biggest risks, that even when climate change turns up on their doorstep, they will be taken care of.
When they’re wrong things get even uglier. We had a vivid glimpse into that future when the floodwaters rose in England last December and January, inundating 16,000 homes. These communities weren’t only dealing with the wettest December on record. They were also coping with the fact that the government has waged a relentless attack on the public agencies, and the local councils, that are on the front lines of flood defence. So understandably, there were many who wanted to change the subject away from that failure. Why, they asked, is Britain spending so much money on refugees and foreign aid when it should be taking care of its own? ‘Never mind foreign aid,’ we read in the Daily Mail. ‘What about national aid?’ ‘Why,’ a Telegraph editorial demanded, ‘should British taxpayers continue to pay for flood defences abroad when the money is needed here?’ I don’t know – maybe because Britain invented the coal-burning steam engine and has been burning fossil fuels on an industrial scale longer than any nation on Earth? But I digress. The point is that this could have been a moment to understand that we are all affected by climate change, and must take action together and in solidarity with one another. It wasn’t, because climate change isn’t just about things getting hotter and wetter: under our current economic and political model, it’s about things getting meaner and uglier.
The most important lesson to take from all this is that there is no way to confront the climate crisis as a technocratic problem, in isolation. It must be seen in the context of austerity and privatisation, of colonialism and militarism, and of the various systems of othering needed to sustain them all. The connections and intersections between them are glaring, and yet so often resistance to them is highly compartmentalised. The anti-austerity people rarely talk about climate change, the climate change people rarely talk about war or occupation. We rarely make the connection between the guns that take black lives on the streets of US cities and in police custody and the much larger forces that annihilate so many black lives on arid land and in precarious boats around the world.
Overcoming these disconnections – strengthening the threads tying together our various issues and movements – is, I would argue, the most pressing task of anyone concerned with social and economic justice. It is the only way to build a counterpower sufficiently robust to win against the forces protecting the highly profitable but increasingly untenable status quo. Climate change acts as an accelerant to many of our social ills – inequality, wars, racism – but it can also be an accelerant for the opposite, for the forces working for economic and social justice and against militarism. Indeed the climate crisis – by presenting our species with an existential threat and putting us on a firm and unyielding science-based deadline – might just be the catalyst we need to knit together a great many powerful movements, bound together by a belief in the inherent worth and value of all people and united by a rejection of the sacrifice zone mentality, whether it applies to peoples or places. We face so many overlapping and intersecting crises that we can’t afford to fix them one at a time. We need integrated solutions, solutions that radically bring down emissions, while creating huge numbers of good, unionised jobs and delivering meaningful justice to those who have been most abused and excluded under the current extractive economy.
Said died the year Iraq was invaded, living to see its libraries and museums looted, its oil ministry faithfully guarded. Amid these outrages, he found hope in the global anti-war movement, as well as in new forms of grassroots communication opened up by technology; he noted ‘the existence of alternative communities across the globe, informed by alternative news sources, and keenly aware of the environmental, human rights and libertarian impulses that bind us together in this tiny planet’. His vision even had a place for tree-huggers. I was reminded of those words recently while I was reading up on England’s floods. Amid all the scapegoating and finger-pointing, I came across a post by a man called Liam Cox. He was upset by the way some in the media were using the disaster to rev up anti-foreigner sentiment, and he said so:
I live in Hebden Bridge, Yorkshire, one of the worst affected areas hit by the floods. It’s shit, everything has gotten really wet. However … I’m alive. I’m safe. My family are safe. We don’t live in fear. I’m free. There aren’t bullets flying about. There aren’t bombs going off. I’m not being forced to flee my home and I’m not being shunned by the richest country in the world or criticised by its residents.
All you morons vomiting your xenophobia … about how money should only be spent ‘on our own’ need to look at yourselves closely in the mirror. I request you ask yourselves a very important question … Am I a decent and honourable human being? Because home isn’t just the UK, home is everywhere on this planet.
I think that makes for a very fine last word.
June 15, 2016
We are urging you to speak and act on behalf of Elmer Reynoso-Reynoso, and make the difference in whether Elmer’s son, Christopher, will grow up with his father in the home. Please strongly consider the following actions:
*Participate in a press conference that is being held by CIMA on Monday, June 20, at 10am, on the steps of the Federal Building, 151 Patton Avenue, 28801.
*Call and send a letter to US Representative Mark Meadows, urging him to intervene on Elmer’s behalf, for him to be released from ICE custody and to stop his deportation.
*Call and send a letter to ICE and DHS and urge them to release Elmer and stop his deportation.
Information about Elmer’s case:
Elmer was detained by ICE officials on June 1, 2016 at 8am as he drove away from the Buncombe County home he shares with his two-month old US citizen son and other family members. His requests to see his son were denied, and he is now being held in Irwin Detention Center in Georgia. Elmer arrived in the United States from Guatemala in 2014 at the age of 16, feeling domestic violence at the hands of his father, as well as gang violence in his area. He is one of thousands of unaccompanied youth who fled violence in Central America in 2014, who ICE is now targeting. Elmer is greatly needed by his family here in our county. He is the father of a 2 month old US citizen son, and works to provide for his partner and their son. He also supports his mother and two younger brothers. Elmer was a student at Erwin High School and is involved in his church and other community organizations.
Congressional members, elected officials and school administrators are able to intervene in the following ways:
1) Highlight the failure of the agency to comply with their own policies and practices
ICE is “committed to only removing individuals who pose a real threat to public safety and national safety.” Elmer poses no threat to Buncombe County or the United States, and has no criminal record.
ICE has committed to focusing resources on high priority cases, and has created guidelines to indicate who would be a low priority. Elmer meets the following low priority criteria: He has a partner who is nursing. He is the father of a 2 month old US citizen son, of whom he is the only financial support. He has a younger US citizen sibling, who he financially supports. He entered the US as an adolescent. He is fearful for his life if forced to return to his home country of Guatemala due to gangviolence and extreme domestic abuse at the hands of his father. He has no criminal history, and no previous immigration history.
2) Highlight the constituent’s contributions to their community. He has compelling ties to local non-profit organizations and his church, both of whom are willing to issue letters on his behalf
3) Highlight the negative impact this case has on your office
For law enforcement agencies, these kinds of detentions and deportations continue to create mistrust and fear of local law enforcement, limiting local agencies’ ability to serve and protect immigrant communities
For elected officials in political office, these deportations and intimidation of the immigrant community are a deterrent from civic engagement of the immigrant community, and ultimately limit city council, county commissioners, and statewide representatives’ ability to interface with and represent the immigrant community
For school administrators, these deportations create a climate of fear that impacts childrens’ and families’ emotional wellbeing and academic achievement, and creates a climate of fear that discourages families from engaging in the school system, as well as increases student drop-out rates.
When communicating with the public and to ICE/DHS, messaging could include:
“DHS and ICE should consider family connections, community ties, and the hardship of deportation on his US citizen son, and weigh these against the single negative factor of him missing an immigration court date, which was due to his lack of financial resources and transportation. We urge ICE to decide to keep his family together, which ultimately promotes public safety in our community more than his deportation. We know that single family households face higher rates of poverty, higher barriers to academic achievement for his son, and high risk of trauma due to the forced absence of a parent in the home.
DHS and ICE are failing to follow through with their own commitments to focus resources on those that pose a safety threat to our community, and is ignoring the rights of his US citizen infant son, his connections to his community, and the impact that his deportation has on my public office/institution.”
For more information, consult the following resources:
Deportation Defense, A guide for members of congress and other elected officials
Immigrant and Refugee Children, A Guide for Educators and School Support Staff
Contact information for calls, emails, and letters of support:
Rep. Mark Meadows (202) 225-6401
Richard Rocha, ICE Headquarters ERO (202) 407-5142
Director Johnson, DHS (202) 282-8204
Via: Carlos Guevara, Senior Advisor DHS Carlos.email@example.com
Director Johnson, DHS
Via: Deputy Director Mayorkas ANMS2@hq.dhs.gov
We anticipate your support and participation in the press conference on Monday, as well as in communicating with Rep. Mark Meadows and DHS/ICE.
Marisol Jiménez CIMA, Volunteer
Contact the following Congressman to act on Elmer’s behalf:
◦ Mark Meadows - (202) 225-6401
◦ Luis Gutierrez - (202) 225-8203
◦ G.K. Butterfield - (202) 225-3101
◦ Alma Adams - (202) 225- 1510
◦ David Price - (202) 225-1784
“I am calling to ask for Elmer Reynoso-Reynoso (A# 202-078-018) to be released from ICE custody and for ICE to use discretion on his case. He is currently being detained at Irwin Detention Center in GA. Elmer does not pose a threat to national security and deserves to be reunited with his family and his 2 month old US citizen son.”