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Gulf South Community Leaders embark on journey to Paris
Hardest hit communities of color in the Gulf South speak boldly and bring solutions to international Climate Talks
In recent years, high profile leaders from President Obama to Pope Francis have identified climate change as one of the most pressing global challenges we face in the 21st century. Community leaders in the Gulf South who have faced severe impacts of hurricanes and oil-drilling disasters, however, have recognized the effects and experienced the devastating displacement of this massive crisis for decades.
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. Community leaders recognize that 2015 is a decisive year for the climate justice movement in the Gulf South and internationally.
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.
“Climate change demands a global effort. We need to come together and work. No one is immune to the impacts – and if we don’t act quickly there won’t be anyone around to act at all … We’re hoping they can get together and cut emissions dramatically,” says Principal Chief Thomas Dardar of the United Houma Nation in South Louisiana. Chief Dardar is one of several Gulf South Rising delegates who received accredited badges to participate in the official U.N. proceedings.
Communities that experience the worst effects often have the most innovative solutions to the crisis. Grassroots movements led by people most affected by climate change and environmental violence have already won major victories including a multi-year campaign led by indigenous groups and allies pressuring President Obama’s administration to reject the Keystone XL pipeline. 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.
In a moment when the world stands with the families who have experienced tragic violence in Paris and in many other countries, the Gulf South Rising delegation hopes to connect with global counterparts who experience environmental and social violence to share the crises that are happening here in the United States. 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 puts frontline communities in the center of this global focal point to deepen 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 indigenous leaders, cultural bearers and artists, educators and entrepreneurs, attorneys, youth organizers active in social justice issues, and the National Climate Justice Chair of the NAACP.
What: Gulf South Rising Delegation following frontline and indigenous leadership to demand action at the COP21 Climate Talks
Who: 33 community leaders from Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and Florida. Delegates are available for interview.
When: November 30 – December 6
Where: Paris, France
About Gulf South Rising: Gulf South Rising (GSR) is a regional movement of coordinated actions and events to highlight the impact of the global climate crisis on the Gulf South region (Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and Florida). Through collaborative events and actions around strategic dates in 2015, GSR demands a just transition away from extractive industries, discriminatory policies and unjust practices that hinder equitable recovery from disaster and impede the development of sustainable communities. This year-long initiative 1) builds regional movement infrastructure; 2) connects and convenes frontline communities around ecological equity and collective healing; 3) advances regional efforts of indigenous tribal and land sovereignty; and 4) shifts the regional narrative from resilience to resistance.