“When you drive away from Houston’s center, you see nothing but fumes and contaminants going up into the air we breathe on a daily basis. Even at night, the yellow glow of the fumes is magnified. I wonder whether for the children living around these industries the sight of the fumes is so normal that they think that this is how clouds are made. Can you imagine? A cloud factory! Poisonous clouds, hovering over communities where racism, lack of education, and food scarcity are overwhelming. Nobody in their sound mind would say that it’s okay for people to live like this.” – Yvette Arellano, youth organizer, t.e.j.a.s. Texas Environmental Justice Advocacy Services
The Gulf South Rising initiative has educated, trained, and assembled thousands of people throughout 2015 to raise awareness and take action around the effects of climate change and ecological extraction.
The participants of the Gulf South Rising initiative have organized a 33-person delegation from the region (TX, LA, MS, AL, FL) to travel to Paris from November 30-December 6, 2015 to share their unique Gulf South perspective with global communities on the frontlines of climate change.
“As members of the Gulf South Rising delegation, it is our duty to represent the frontline communities of this region. The GSR delegation should go to Paris because it is our responsibility to be the voice of the voiceless. We should stand for the communities of this region that have for generations been systemically marginalized and veiled from the systems of democracy in America. As social movement leaders, we must acknowledge that Paris is a movement building moment, and continue to build our movement’s momentum.” – Troy Robertson, New Orleans native and youth organizer
As the effects of climate change continue to hit peak levels of catastrophe, global leaders have been promising a new climate agreement through the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) Conference Of Parties (COP). This year, the UNFCCC/COP 21 is happening in Paris, France from November 30-December 11, 2015 to negotiate a legally binding agreement on climate change anticipated to be signed by world leaders from 195 countries.
In a moment when the world stands with the families who have experienced tragic violence in Paris and in many other countries, we made a commitment to stand together in the face of uncertainty and insecurity. The Gulf South Rising delegation hopes to connect our shared struggles around environmental violence happening here in the United States with our global counterparts. Delegate Yvette Arellano, a youth organizer from Houston, Texas who organized a major action at the BP headquarters on the 5th anniversary of the Gulf Coast oil disaster says, “When people think about big polluters they often turn their attention to China and India, and turn a blind eye to the problems in their own back yard. In the name of the economy we are willing to let extractive industries run loose. We tacitly accept that “progress” inevitably will require some people to suffer and bear the burden of pollution. How can we prioritize some lives over others? The fight for environmental justice is about basic human rights; this is about everybody having the right to clean air, clean water, education, and food security.”
The climate talks in Paris mark a significant turning point, where the world will be watching and thousands will be taking to the streets to demand that affected communities are heard. Gulf South Rising has organized to put frontline communities in the center of this global focal point to deepen our relationships and alliances to build towards action, campaigns, and movement building efforts in 2016.
“We have a moral and ethical obligation to address climate change. There are real consequences, and there is real suffering. We have an obligation to other human beings, to other species, and to the Earth itself to change our actions so we can minimize, alleviate, and hopefully eliminate the worst of the effects of climate change. We are not motivated by fear; we are motivated by the imperative to do the right thing,” says Mary Gutierrez, an environmental chemist and planner and founder of Earth Ethics based in Florida.
COP 21 is an opportunity to hear the voices of frontline communities bearing the brunt of the climate and economic crisis, and the corporate practices that drive the climate crisis. The Gulf South Rising delegation includes native New Orleanians and Louisianans who have been displaced by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, cultural bearers and artists, educators and entrepreneurs, attorneys, youth organizers active in social justice issues, and the National Climate Justice Chair of the NAACP.
- To offer stories of Gulf South communities around the impacts of climate change to formal and informal spaces at the COP21.
- To capture stories of Global South communities impacted by climate change to Gulf South and to network with other frontline community members from outside the US to find out what is happening in places around the globe.
- To bring back stories from communities of the Global South and lessons learned from attending CoP21 to your Gulf South community.
“So often in conversations around climate change, communities of the Gulf Coast get overlooked, even in the U.S, because there is a misperception that we do not care about climate change or believe it exists. It is important for us, as Gulf South Rising, to be in Paris and show that there are people in the Gulf coast that do care and do want a change. We want our voices heard. We have a responsibility to advocate for and implement changes, we are ready to accept those responsibilities. We are ready for action.” – Mary Gutierrez, delegate and environmental chemist based in Florida.
Follow the delegation on twitter @gulfsouthrising #gulfsouthrising