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Climate justice and Indigenous activist Siqiñiq Maupin of Sovereign Inupiat for a Living Arctic joins a protest against fossil fuels in front of the White House in Washington, D.C. on October 13, 2021. (Photo: Eman Mohammed/Survival Media Agency)

90 More Arrested as Victims of Climate Chaos Descend on White House

"People are dying rapidly," said one campaigner battling a proposed petrochemical complex in a polluted region of Louisiana. "President Biden… you are letting us down."

Jessica Corbett

Another 90 people were arrested outside the White House on Wednesday as residents and supporters of communities on the frontlines of climate chaos joined a week of action ramping up pressure on President Joe Biden to deliver on his campaign promises.

"How much longer will the future of our communities be on the shoulders of citizens without the backing of our elected officials?"

Nearly 300 people have been arrested over the past three days, according to organizers of the #PeopleVsFossilFuels, who are calling on the president to block all new fossil fuel projects and declare a climate emergency.

The theme of Wednesday's protest was "climate chaos is happening now." People from Alaska, California, Louisiana, North Carolina, and Texas shared how fossil fuel development and extreme weather exacerbated by rising temperatures are affecting their communities.

Among them was Sharon Lavigne, a recipient of the Goldman Environmental Prize who founded RISE St. James, a group fighting against the proposed Formosa Plastics petrochemical complex in an area of Louisiana called "Cancer Alley" due to decades of industrial pollution.

"I want to tell our President Joe Biden, you campaigned on Cancer Alley. That's where I live. People are dying rapidly. People are dying of cancer and other ailments," Lavigne said. "President Biden, I sent you a video to tell you about our community. I've asked you to come to see where we live, to come and visit us and get a whiff of all the chemicals that we're breathing."

"You promised that you would do something for Death Alley," she continued, addressing Biden directly. "We haven't seen anything yet. We want to hold you to what you said to us in your campaign. We voted for you and this is the way you treat us? You are letting us down by not even coming to see about us."

Mario Atencio with Diné CARE, which works to protect the environment of the Navajo Nation, drew attention to Biden's failure to stop the fossil fuel industry's exploitation of public lands and waters, despite campaign promises to do so.

"The Navajo communities in the Greater Chaco landscape cannot wait for the Biden administration to act to stop oil and gas fracking leases," Atencio said of a region in northwestern New Mexico. "The lack of action to stop drilling on public lands has had serious impacts on the community health of the Navajo people who live near oil and gas wells."

"According to a community Health Impact Assessment done by the local Navajo communities, the toxic chemicals released by the oil and gas wells are impacting the health of the children," he noted. "This is the consequence of the inaction: The little ones are being hurt because Biden can't fulfill something he promised. We can't wait. Our communities are being hurt. We need the leases stopped."

Kevin Cramer, a resident of Wilmington, Delaware and co-founder of the Black-led Palm Collective, which works to end systemic racism in Washington, D.C., pointed to increasingly devastating hurricanes, which scientists have connected to the climate emergency.

"Biden has the power and we are asking him to choose us over fossil fuel corporations."

"When these hurricanes came and they hit the East Coast and the Gulf, and it rained on the East Coast for hours, people were left behind. My 71-year-old grandmother was left with 19 feet of water around her," Cramer said. "If you're poor and Black and can't afford flood insurance, how are you supposed to repair? I almost lost my grandmother and my community because Joe Biden doesn't care about us."

Jane Kleeb, founder of Bold Alliance, asked, "How much longer will the future of our communities be on the shoulders of citizens without the backing of our elected officials?"

"The farmers, ranchers and Tribal Nations should not have to fight for over a decade to protect the land and water," said Kleeb, whose group battled the now-canceled Keystone XL pipeline. "This should be everyone's fight—including President Biden."

"We need to stop pretending we can tackle the climate crisis while still building fossil fuel pipelines," she added. "Biden has the power and we are asking him to choose us over fossil fuel corporations."

Indigenous and climate justice activists are planning two more days of protests outside the White House. On Thursday they will tell Biden that "we need real solutions, not false promises," followed by a youth-led action on Friday—aligned with weekly demonstrations spearheaded by young people worldwide.

The demonstrations come as scientists and other experts continue to warn about the need to immediately phase out fossil fuels and transform global agriculture, energy, and transportation sectors to ensure a habitable future planet—messages that have mounted as world leaders prepare for COP 26, a United Nations climate summit scheduled for the end of October.

"The world's hugely encouraging clean energy momentum is running up against the stubborn incumbency of fossil fuels in our energy systems," Fatih Birol, executive director of the International Energy Agency, said Wednesday. "Governments need to resolve this at COP 26 by giving a clear and unmistakable signal that they are committed to rapidly scaling up the clean and resilient technologies of the future."

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