OAKLAND, Calif. — Under the slogan, “Defend the earth. Show up, stand up,” on November 21st, an estimated fifteen hundred people took to the streets of Oakland to march for Climate justice. As a widely spread press release for the event, from the NorCalclimatemob.net website, noted, “a coalition of over 100 labor, environmental, faith, and social justice groups” marched and held a rally to demand “a legally binding global agreement to implement rapid, effective and just responses to climate change at the 2015 UN Conference of Parties in Paris.”
The press release refers to the upcoming 21st Conference of the Parties 2015, happening this year in Paris, also being called COP21. It is an annual conference that has been happening since 1995. The first, which took place in Berlin, worked under the UN Framework on Climate Change (UNFCCC). As the Conference of Parties website explains, “this convention set out a framework for action aimed at stabilizing atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases (GHGs) to avoid “dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system.” This year’s conference will, for the first time in over 20 years of UN negotiations, “aim to achieve a legally binding and universal agreement on climate, with the aim of keeping global warming below 2°C.” The always large conference is expected to attract up to 50,000 participants. This will include 25,000 official delegates from government, intergovernmental organizations, UN agencies, and others.
The crises of climate change has been dominating the media for some time now. Despite the scientific evidence showing the damage the crises of global warming is having on our environment, debates continue from those who deny the existence of climate change, and also the road forward in handling the ongoing issue.
Many detractors happen to be in the Republican party, like Congressman Steve Scalise, R La.,, s claiming, “The Obama administration needs to finally abandon their radical climate change agenda that is killing jobs and increasing costs for American families.” And Congresswoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers, a Republican in Washington State, attacked one of the main political spokespeople for combating climate change, Nobel-winner and former Vice President, Al Gore, by saying, “We believe Al Gore deserves an ‘F’ in science and an ‘A’ in creative writing.”
But protesters put a sense of urgency on talking about global warming and climate change, explaining, “Northern Californians, like millions of people worldwide, are mobilizing to confront the crises of climate change. Collectively these voices are saying that anything less than a binding, just agreement that lowers emissions in a way that matches the requirements that scientists have laid out is unacceptable. Time’s up. From Oakland to Paris: global climate change demands global solidarity and immediate action
“Northern California is already suffering from multiple impacts of climate change, including a years-long drought, extensive wildfires, unpredictable flash floods, and more extreme weather events”
As author of “This Changes Everything,” Naomi Klein has stated: “We can reinvent a different future.”
The Oakland march began at Lake Merritt Amphitheatre where supporters gathered at 10:30 a.m., marched the streets of downtown Oakland, ending at the Frank Ogawa/Oscar Grant Plaza. Chants that rang out through the streets included, “Carbon Tax Me,” “Planet over profits,” “Let’s go beyond fossil fuels,” and “Chevron/Shell get off, our land is not for profit.” Once at the plaza representatives from various labor unions and other organizations spoke on climate justice.
Martina Cole, the executive treasure for National Nurses United, explained how many of her fellow nurses see the aftermath of the climate crises in their hospitals every day. Cole said the increase of “asthma rates, cancers, and the like from pollutions,” shows that climate change is also a health crises. Cole went on to say that the “current for profit healthcare leaves people uncovered against this climate chaos,” and that we need to “move away form an economy based on fossil fuels.” Cole also emphasized the role that labor has to play in environmental justice, pointing out that, “it is a myth that labor has to be against the environment. It doesn’t have to be that way.”
Youth and students were also significant supporters at the rally. Claire Tacherra-Morrison, of UC Berkeley’s Fossil Free Cal, stated, “People’s lives are already drastically affected by climate change here in the Bay Area and around the world. As university students, we have the opportunity to use our privilege to demand change…Students are working to end the UC system’s investment in fossil fuel companies because this toxic industry is destroying the future we are being educated for.”
Many who attended the march and rally were hopeful that something significant would come from the upcoming summit in Paris. Josie Camacho, Executive Secretary-Treasurer of the Alameda Labor Council, summarized, “The climate crisis affects more than California-it affects our nation and the world’s many poor and working families who are now being disproportionately affected… The actions we take today will determine the world our children and grandchildren will live in tomorrow.”