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What's Up?

Yall know we believe that linking the four Rs—reform, resist, re-imagine and re-create—is how our movement creates transformative change. That being said, we also know that there are times in the stages of movement building when it’s necessary for us to collectively focus our work in one R in order to achieve long term wins.

Bill Moyer’s eight stage Movement Action Plan is helpful in conceptualizing the ways various Rs come to the forefront at different times for social moments to achieve their aims. Our climate justice movement is now shifting toward Stage Six: Majority Public Support when we must engage in the “long process of eroding the social, political and economic supports that enable the powerholders to continue their policies.” If we fail to clearly name the ways various public institutions serve powerful elites, our movement dies in Stage Five where activists perceive “the powerholders are too strong, (our) movement has failed and (our) own efforts are futile.”

At this stage, the institutions that we organize to influence through Reform need to be called out for illegitimately shoring up the status quo. So if you’ve been rooted in Reform, it’s time to make common cause with people taking action through Resist, Re-imagine and Re-create strategies which are better at winning hearts and minds.

An example of what this looks like now in North Carolina is recognizing and naming the ways the Utilities Commission and Public Staff are colluding with the monopoly Duke Energy. Rather than politely making comments during their prescribed hearings—whether it’s about the abysmal Carbon Plan or another dangerous maneuver—we need to call out the process itself as inherently undemocratic and incapable of producing the transformative change we envision and desperately need.

Like the children’s story about how powerholders demand we ignore reality and instead believe their false narrative, Duke Energy is the Emperor parading around naked and its plans are the imaginary fine clothing we’re told to admire. It is time to end such delusional thinking; rapacious business as usual will never mitigate climate change to safeguard a livable future. It is time for our Utilities Commission to force Duke Energy to end its indecent and disgraceful behavior and it’s time for us to stop participating in our own demise.

To all our friends and colleagues cleaving to Reform, we’re asking you to consider this question at the center of climate justice: What has your incrementalism done for frontline and fenceline BIPOC communities who are first and worst impacted by your policy compromises?

If your activism does not examine who really benefits and who loses from your tactics, revisit your strategic focus. None of us is winning in the race to slow climate change as long as the polluters are not held to account. Reform strategies do not contribute to our movement when we simply “go along to get along.” Let’s stop kidding ourselves that maintaining access to powerholders is the same as having influence over their decision-making.

Connie Leeper & Jodi Lasseter

NCCJC Co-Directors

It’s certainly true that the “big green” groups — and their boards — remain mostly white.

Only about 1% of environmental grantmaking from 12 of the largest environmental funders went to environmental justice groups. Research by the Solutions Project found that half of philanthropic funding on climate issues goes to 20 national organizations, 90% of which are led by white people, 80% by men.

Rooted in Black, Indigenous and people of color (BIPOC) communities, environmental justice groups have a track record of wins, a deep bench of talent, and earned trust that enables them to mobilize the communities where they live and work.

Those closest to the problem are the ones who can identify solutions. People of color live in communities that are disproportionately affected by environmental problems.

With successful strategies and organizing, BIPOC-led groups have produced transformational action on climate and environmental racism.

BIPOC-led environmental justice groups take an approach that differs from the dominant green-group paradigm because they have been doing the work for decades and have proven that climate action works and it's never too late!

Thank you to Juvencio Rocha Peralta, ED of AMEXICAN, for joining this conversation series on Climate Change and the Latinx Community.

The Energy Democracy Leadership Institute [EDLI] has been a long time in the making, so we’re thrilled to announce that last month, the first cohort of 16 Black and Indigenous leaders from Eastern NC graduated from our new eight month grassroots organizing program. EDLI is a collaborative program between NCCJC and NC WARN that trains emerging leaders to organize for a just and renewable energy future for their communities. Toward that end, EDLI graduates are calling for an end to new fossil fuel projects and forest destruction from wood pellets.

One recent EDLI graduate and Fellow--Chasity Hunt--is a member of the Lumbee Nation who is fighting against many energy injustices threatening her community in Robeson County. For her, EDLI has been a pathway to take on corporate polluters like Duke Energy. In North Carolina, our energy system has been in the hands of electric monopolies like Duke Energy and Dominion for far too long. Chasity is fed up with the way these companies “spit out words like safety and sustainability but continuously fail and harm [our] communities...Indigenous peoples need to stand up in NC against corporations taking and giving nothing back to our communities. Look at coal ash...long term, 20 years down the road, what is [Duke Energy] doing to our community?…Where does the waste go? In our rivers! We are the people of the dark water.”

A world where we have energy democracy means that Black and Indigenous communities don’t have to worry about or fight toxic companies building fossil fuel projects in their neighborhoods. Inspired through EDLI to stand for energy democracy not just in her own region but as part of “a planet-wide movement,” Chasity hopped in her truck last month and drove to Minnesota to join action camps there. She wanted to learn direct action tactics and “see the complete picture; the knowledge of how [other indigenous leaders] organize and take over spaces.”

Led by Indigenous leaders, the action camps aim to stop Enbridge’s LIne 3 pipeline from being put into the ground. Line 3 is a proposed pipeline expansion that would build a whole new corridor to bring tar sands from Canada through lakes, wild rice, waterways and treaty territories; the existing Line 3 is old and corroding and Enbridge just wants to abandon it (currently there are no regulations for abandoned pipelines!) Many Indigenous leaders, including Winona LaDuke, are calling for accountability for companies like Enbridge to clean up their messes and for investing in green jobs and infrastructure that actually serves First Nations.

Chasity offered ground support to make sure the action camps ran smoothly and helped ensure that people were taken care of while participating in daily protests.

Alongside actions to end the construction of Line 3, Chastity took part in the protests around Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women (MMIW) to raise awareness of the multiple harms pipelines bring. Pipeline projects cause a sharp increase in violence against Indigenous women and girls because of the establishment of “man camps” of temporary housing for (mostly male) workers near a pipeline construction site. “Enbridge is trying to sell this pipeline to the people as something good. [We] need jobs but everyone here is out of state,.” said Chasity. It is never about localized energy choice or local permanent jobs or community safety; for the fossil fuel industry, profit is the only consideration. Chasity gained first-hand knowledge about the dangers that these “man camps” pose and how they violate many rules established for the protection of local communities.

Now that Chasity is back home, she is putting all she learned from the Line 3 Indigenous action camps into her next phase of activism as an EDLI Fellow. Over the next 6 months, she will be working to stop the construction of Duke Energy’s new liquified natural gas facility in Lumbee territory. Though the struggle may be difficult, EDLI has given her a strong sense of solidarity and support among frontline leaders from eastern NC: “I was put in all the right circles after I made my stance. I found my circle [in EDLI], I found my people. I need to learn all I can about energy democracy.”

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