On December 8th I attended a “high-level” event at a posh hotel in Paris showcasing the Governor’s Climate and Forests Task Force (GCF) (interesting name) and their so-called innovative substantial actions they are taking. Jerry Brown was scheduled to make the opening remarks organized by the GCF in conjunction with the Earth Innovation Institute, the Nature Conservancy, Environmental Defense Fund, Forest Trends, USAID and others to “highlight innovative substantial action to reduce deforestation and promote low-emission land use and rural development.” Governor Brown is trying to implement REDD policies in California.
What is REDD, and Why is it Bad?
REDD stands for Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and forest Degradation, BUT what it should really be called is Reaping profits from Evictions, land grabs, Deforestation, and Destruction of Biodiversity. REDD does absolutely NOTHING to reduce greenhouse gas emissions at the source- it only allows for carbon trading, which is not ethical. REDD may even result in the biggest land grab of the last 500 years.
Folks are told false solutions like REDD address climate change and are good for the people. This is 100% false. Behind the back of the people of California, Governor Brown pushes for a policy that grabs land, clear-cuts forests, destroys biodiversity, abuses Mother Earth, pimps Father Sky, and threatens the cultural survival of indigenous peoples. This policy, which Governor Brown so proudly seeks to implement in California, privatizes the air we breathe, commodifies the clouds, and allows corporations to buy and sell the atmosphere. It corrupts the sacred.
REDD is bad for the climate because it allows climate criminals like Shell and Chevron off the hook. REDD gives companies like these a legal and official way to call themselves green. This is harmful to the climate, and to the heart of communities. REDD is bad for the environment because it includes clear-cutting, logging, and tree plantations that kill biodiversity. REDD is bad for Californians because polluters expand sources of pollution and cause more asthma, more cancer, more sickness, and more death. REDD is bad for human rights. REDD-type projects are already resulting in massive land grabs, violent evictions, forced relocation, and carbon slavery of indigenous people. One clear example of this is in Guaraqueçaba, Brazil, where Chevron has a REDD project with the Nature Conservancy, which has a private army that shoots at people for entering their own forest to use their own resources. REDD projects also turn the forests into a militarized zone – with remote sensors, drones, etc to monitor the sites.
Jerry Brown Makes Me Frown
I did not attend this event to sit and listen to my Governor preach lies. Along with dozens of other Grassroots Global Justice Alliance members and It Takes Roots Delegates, we took a stand to voice our cries for justice. After Jerry Brown was done speaking, we chanted “No REDD,” and “REDD means more dead.” Although, we were outnumbered in a room full of people who tried to silence us with their claps for the Governor of California. I, along with others, started to yell out reasons why we do not accept REDD. The responses we got were heartbreaking. We were told to shut up & listen, we were told we were being rude, we were told to remain silent. One man even had the audacity to tell one of our delegates, “I hope you have hemorrhoids for the rest of your life!” Regardless, we continued our pleas for justice by raising our voices and by making sure we were heard.
Expecting to be kicked out, we planned to have folks on the outside too. To our surprise, not a single person was escorted out. In situations like these, it is very likely that elected officials allowed us to stay to make us seem like the bad ones. By allowing us to stay, they are able to claim legitimacy. They are able to say, “We let them speak, we listened, they are just crazy activists.” This is what the media covers, but in reality, we are just trying to breathe.
Indigenous peoples, environmental justice organizations, and human rights advocates requested a meeting with Governor Brown to explain our local and global concerns, but none of our requests have been acknowledged. This is nothing new. Before making my way to Paris, my community held a rally pleading for Governor Brown to meet with us- he refused to meet with folks from East Yard Communities for Environmental Justice and Communities For A Better Environment to address issues in Los Angeles like Exide Technologies contaminating thousands of homes – he said he did not have time, but he did have the time to come to the Bicycle Casino in the city of Bell (Los Angeles) to accept campaign money.
Over a century ago, Chief Seattle, a Dkhw’Duw’Absh chief, asked, “How can you buy and sell the sky?” Well, that is exactly what Governor Jerry Brown is seeking to be done. I want Jerry Brown to know that our lungs are simply not for sale. Our negotiators have blinders on- scientists have said we need to address the climate, Indigenous Peoples have known this for years, and even though I am 19 and need to be in school right now, I am in Paris having to tell our elected officials how to use their common sense.