SAN FRANCISCO -- Two environmentalists from opposite ends of the globe, linked by their common experiences with the ecological degradation and human rights abuses associated with oil production, are joining together to tour American towns and cities as part of a Climate Justice Tour.
The tour comes in the wake of President Bush's widely criticized decision to abandon the Kyoto Protocol on climate change, leaving the U.S. outside the international consensus on the need to reduce the carbon dioxide emissions that are principally responsible for global warming.
Sponsored by CorpWatch, a leading corporate accountability group, the tour will feature Oronto Douglas from Nigeria, and Sarah James, a Gwich'in from Alaska as they visit areas devastated by industrial pollution.
Douglas, the deputy director of Environmental Rights Action, has been a leader in the movement to hold oil corporations accountable for more than 35 years of destruction in Nigeria. James is helping the Gwich'in people resist the Bush administration's effort to open the Artic National Wildlife Refuge.
The Climate Justice Tour will make stops in Atlanta, New Orleans, Baton Rouge, Austin, San Antonio and San Francisco. The international activists will meet with local communities to share strategies and to participate in "toxic tours" of these cities. Douglas and James will also attend the annual meeting of Chevron shareholders in Los Angeles on April 25th. Chevron has been involved in oil exploration in both the Artic and Nigeria, while opposing national and international curbs on global warming gasses.
According to CorpWatch Climate Justice Coordinator Amit Srivastava, the tour is designed to highlight the relationship between global warming and environmental racism, or the tendency to site polluting industries in poor US communities and underdeveloped parts of the world. "When it comes to climate change, the world's poor suffer a double whammy, " stated Srivastava. "There is the immediate impact of living in highly toxic environments and the long term impact of global warming which will disproportionately effect poor communities," he added. Srivastava also announced that a coalition of environmental justice groups have sent a letter to President Bush urging that he reconsider his position on climate change highlighting the particular devastation that global warming would bring to poor communities.
Describing the Niger Delta where 35 million tons of carbon dioxide and 12 million tons of methane are burned a year, Oronto Douglas said: "The rivers are polluted. The water's are fouled. The air is fouled through ceaseless gas flaring. Most of this flaring comes from multinational oil companies, which helps to increase the over carbonization of the atmosphere."
CorpWatch's Srivastava pointed out that the Climate Justice Tour has taken on additional urgency in the wake of the US' abandonment the Kyoto Protocol: "President Bush's extraordinary act has raised the ante for the global community," he said. "It is time for the environmental justice and human rights constituencies to join forces and show President Bush that we will not accept his planet-threatening policies."
Sarah James, who has been tirelessly lobbying against the proposal to open the Artic National Wildlife Refuge to the oil drill points out that traditional cultures like the Gwich'in have few options for adapting in a global warming world: "Unless we reverse these trends, traditional indigenous cultures like our own will disappear," she says, adding "common sense is an endangered species, we have to get back to basic common sense."
The Climate Justice Tour is sponsored by the Asian Pacific Environmental Network, Environmental Justice Resource Center, Indigenous Environmental Network, Southern Organizing Committee for Economic & Social Justice, Southwest Network for Environmental and Economic Justice.
- 100 Climate Justice Initiative