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The question is, where do we go from here? (Photo: Paulanne Egelhof/flickr/cc)

Three Life-or-Death Reasons Why Climate, Food, and Native American Activists Need to Keep Working Together

Ronnie Cummins

On Tuesday,  January 24, Donald Trump signed presidential memorandums to revive the controversial Keystone XL and Dakota Access oil pipelines—two major dirty oil and fracking pipelines halted by the Obama administration after massive resistance from indigenous, climate and other public interest groups, including food activists. As indigenous leader Winona LaDuke pointed out (article link below) Trump’s push to revive these climate and environmentally destructive pipelines amount to nothing less than a “Declaration of War.” Within 24 hours of Trump’s dirty energy decree, thousands of people across the country took to the streets in protest, while hundreds of thousands more expressed their opposition and anger on social media.

Several months ago, just before Thanksgiving, my national organization, the Organic Consumers Association raised $40,000 from our members to provide organic food and other support to the Standing Rock protests. Many from our staff and volunteer network traveled to Standing Rock or participated in local picket lines and protests. Tens of thousands signed our petitions. Literally several million more people from other organizations did the same, inspired by the courage, determination, and moral clarity of the indigenous people. For the first time in recent history, a critical mass of Native American, environmental, food, justice, student, and other organizations successfully worked together, linking issues (water, food, climate, and native sovereignty) and constituencies, gradually winning over the hearts and minds of a large segment of the body politic.

"We not only need a Brand New Congress, but a brand new government, all the way from City Hall to our statehouses, to Washington, D.C."

But obviously all of our efforts have not been enough to get the major political parties, the Democrats and the Republicans, the banks, and the mass media to come to their senses and stop the fossil fuel industry from trampling on public opinion, the environment, and indigenous rights. Standing Up for Standing Rock has not yet deterred the Trump Administration, the climate criminals, the Army Corps of Engineers, and their cronies, from their hell-bent march toward environmental and climate catastrophe. The profits of the one-percent have once again trumped public health, the environment, climate stability, and the constitutional treaty rights and self-determination of Native people.

The question is, where do we go from here? Last week I talked about the #ConsumerRevolution 2017-2020 and #PoliticalRevolution we need to begin organizing. But before we move beyond single-issue thinking and organizing, before we connect the dots between issues and constituencies so we can have a united and more powerful Movement capable of putting an end to business as usual, let’s review a few fundamental, indeed life-or-death, points.

(1) We cannot save human civilization from fast-approaching and catastrophic global warming, sea level rise, dangerous weather extremes (drought and flooding), water shortages, soil depletion, crop failures, ocean acidification, mass starvation, mass migration, and endless strife and war, without both moving rapidly toward both zero fossil fuel emissions, cancelling all future pipelines and leaving all fossil fuels in the ground; and, at the same time transferring billions of tons of excess carbon from the atmosphere, through enhanced plant photosynthesis, into our degraded agricultural soils, forests, and wetlands. In other words we’ve got to move beyond, not just greenhouse gas-belching cars, buildings, utilities, and manufacturing; but away from industrial agriculture, deforestation, pesticides, GMOs, factory farms, and junk food to a new Regenerative food, farming and land use system.

As the world’s leading climate scientist, Dr. James, recently explained:  “If rapid phasedown of fossil fuel emissions begins soon, most of the necessary CO2 extraction can take place via improved agricultural and forestry practices, including reforestation and steps to improve soil fertility and increasing its carbon content.”

In other words, the climate movement and the Regenerative Agriculture and forestry movements need to work together–not only to achieve zero fossil fuel emissions, but also to draw down or sequester enough excess CO2 from the atmosphere into our soils and forests to restabilize our climate and regenerate our soils, forests, rainfall, and water cycles.

(2) There will be no organic food, nor any food whatsoever, on a burnt, drowned, or dead planet. We are fast approaching the “point of no return” whereby global warming, melting of the polar ice sheets, and the destruction of tropical and temperate rainforests morph into runaway global warming.

Our “Common Home,” to use the terminology of Pope Francis, is on fire, burning up the forests; melting the glaciers, tundra, and polar icecaps; spreading disease and pestilence; precipitating killer storms, droughts, and downpours. As croplands wither and small farms die, as water sources dry up and topsoil blows away, poverty, crime, and violence intensify—from Mexico to the Middle East.

In order to avoid catastrophic runaway global warming and climate chaos, in order to safeguard a livable habitat for our children and grandchildren, we must quickly convert our coal, oil, gas and nuclear-powered economies to solar, wind, and other renewables. In the “overdeveloped” industrial societies we must drastically reduce our per capita consumption of energy (whereby the average American consumes twice as much energy as a European, and many times more than a resident of China or India.) We will need to slash our fossil fuel emissions, in every country, in every region, by 90-100% over the next 25-35 years. This is what is commonly referred to as “zero emissions,” and represents the consensus reached by the nations of the world at the Paris Climate Summit in 2015. But given the fact that we’ve already burned through enough fossil fuel to destroy human civilization we must go beyond zero emissions.

"Corporate and elite control of our government, media, economy, police, and military is on the verge of morphing into what can only be described as 21st Century fascism."

It is in fact a lot easier to blame the oil, coal, fracking, and tar sand corporations for burning up the planet and disrupting our delicate climate equilibrium rather than blaming our own everyday consumer habits. U.S and global urban consumers are not just burning up fossil fuels in our cars and in our homes and appliances. Most of our citizens are still lining up to buy energy-intensive, chemical-intensive, highly processed “convenience” foods and factory-farmed meat, dairy, and poultry that are not only bad for our health and cruel to animals, but major, albeit largely unrecognized driving forces for global warming. And, while consumers continue to “cook the planet” rather than “cook organic,” the majority of U.S., European, Brazilian, and Japanese farmers (i.e. “modern” chemical farmers all over the world) continue to use the destructive chemical and mechanical weapons of soil and climate destruction sold to them by Monsanto and the other industrial agriculture chemical-seed-fertilizer-animal drug-farm equipment corporations.

We must go beyond zero or near-zero emissions, as Dr. Hansen explains, and “net sequester” or draw down several hundred billion tons of excess carbon from the atmosphere before mid-century. Otherwise we will pass the point of no return, whereby powerful feedback mechanisms will detonate an irreversible temperature explosion that will put an end to us all. The good news is that millions of 21st century regenerative farmers, ranchers, and agro-foresters are presently demonstrating that we can turn things around. We can carry out the Great Transition or draw down that we need to reverse global warming through the qualitatively enhanced photosynthesis of regenerative/organic food, farming, and land use, as well as the sustainable utilization of biomass energy and biochar production. As the Paris Climate Summit French 4/1000 Initiative lays out: humans can and must start to draw down as much carbon (approximately 10 billion tons) from the atmosphere every year as we are currently emitting, and continue this great draw down for the next 25 years.

(3) The food movement, the Native American movement, the climate movement, the economic justice movement, the women’s movement, and others must do more than just petition, boycott, protest, speak out, or even carry out acts of mass civil disobedience. We are approaching the point of no return; not only with global warming, but also with the degeneration of our political system and our body politic. Corporate and elite control of our government, media, economy, police, and military is on the verge of morphing into what can only be described as 21st Century fascism.

We not only need a Brand New Congress, but a brand new government, all the way from City Hall to our statehouses, to Washington, DC. The U.S. has approximately 500,000 elected and appointed public officials from the local to the federal level. Approximately 90% of these politicians are currently behaving, not as servants of the people and the common good, but as servants of the one percent who provide them with campaign donations, bribes, and “financial opportunities” once they leave office. As part of Our Revolution we must identify, expose, and throw these bums out, replacing the political Establishment with our own candidates and elected officials, or else we and our children and grandchildren will perish. The American and global crisis is terminal. We are approaching the boiling point. But we still have time to turn things around. We must break down the walls that divide us, unite our issues, constituencies, and communities as never before… and organize, organize, organize.

Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.
Ronnie Cummins

Ronnie Cummins

Ronnie Cummins is a veteran activist, author, and organizer. He is the International Director of the Organic Consumers Association and its Mexico affiliate, Via Organica.

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