FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
BAY AREA/CALIFORNIA MEDIA Contact:
Steven Low, Communications Coordinator
Communities for a Better Environment (CBE)
+1 (510) 978-8000
Historic People’s Climate Summit
in Shadow of Chevron’s Richmond Oil Refinery:
People on the frontlines—hit hardest and first by climate disruption—will convene
from across the country in the Bay Area’s ‘Toxic Oil Alley’ this August
to hammer out their own solutions to the crisis
Richmond, California | July 29, 2014 – Nearly 300 leaders in a growing grassroots movement called the Our Power Campaign (www.ourpowercampaign.org) will converge on Richmond, CA from August 6th to 9th. Under the umbrella of the national Climate Justice Alliance (CJA), indigenous peoples, people of color, and working-class white communities are creating interconnected local strategies for an equitable ‘just transition’ away from an economy based on extraction and exploitation. This gathering will build toward the United Nations Climate Summit in New York City on September 23, where Our Power communities are determined to make their voices heard.
“Why us? We live every day on the frontlines of the climate crisis – with illnesses and the danger of explosions – and on the frontline of the economic crisis – when we can’t keep money and jobs in our city,“ explained Mey Saechao, an Asian Pacific Environmental Network (APEN) member who lives on the border of Richmond and San Pablo. “These crises are equally dangerous and connected. I am happy to be a part of this new journey so my children and grandchildren can live a better and healthier life.”
Twenty miles north of San Francisco in the Bay Area’s notorious ‘Toxic Oil Alley,’ Richmond is home to a 112-year-old, 3,000 acre Chevron Oil Refinery, one of the largest stationary greenhouse gas emitters in the state. This refinery is the greatest offender in a growing web of destruction that includes crude oil transported past residential neighborhoods by pipeline and rail. For generations, county public health officials have reported some of the state’s highest rates of pollution-related diseases and deaths.
Community leaders in the Richmond Environmental Justice Coalition (REJC) are determined to flip the script by building their own “local, living economy”. “We have the expertise and people power to create a sustainable future,” pointed out Stephanie Hervey of REJC member BMOER (Black Mobilization Organization Education Richmond). “We won’t wait, we are moving ahead and making “the switch” to a path where policymakers and corporations will soon follow.”
Reflecting on the upcoming UN Climate Summit, Michelle Mascarenhas-Swan, Co-Director of the Climate Justice Alliance (CJA), added, “Carbon credits and high-level summits don’t really do anything to address the root causes of this crisis. Climate change and economic exploitation are human-made problems; the solutions will grow from the grassroots, not the stratosphere.”
This year’s Our Power National Convening – themed Power without Pollution! Communities United for a Just Transition’ – (http://www.ourpowercampaign.org/convenings/richmond2014) will kick off with a public vigil on August 6th commemorating the devastating 2012 Chevron refinery explosion and fire that sent 15,000 Contra Costa County residents to the hospital. It was the second such explosion in five years, punctuated by yet another (“smaller”) fire just two weeks ago on July 16, 2014.
Over the following three days, organizers and residents from frontline communities nationwide will decide together what a just transition to linked, local, living economies looks like in practice for their hometowns. This vision is rooted in hopes for clean renewable local energy, zero waste, meaningful and healthy jobs, local food systems, effective public transit and affordable housing, and citizen-centered democracy.
The convening will wrap up on Saturday, August 9, with a lively Day of Action (http://www.ourpowercampaign.org/dayofaction2014) open to all, celebrating and lending hands to Richmond residents’ own solutions, from urban gardens to rainwater collection, a bike clinic, a traveling health clinic for HIV testing, solar array workshops… ending with a fully solar-powered live concert.
This convening is co-hosted by the Richmond Environmental Justice Coalition (REJC) and the national Climate Justice Alliance (CJA)
About the Our Power Campaign
The Our Power Campaign is a national movement of communities determined to replace the old polluting, extractive, exploitative economy with an alternative vision for local, living economies that sustain residents’ livelihoods and well-being. In its first phase, the campaign has launched in Black Mesa, Arizona, Richmond, California, and Detroit Michigan; three pilots in ‘frontline’ communities heavily impacted by dirty energy and the economic crisis.
This campaign will expand to communities across the country over the coming years in order to accomplish two goals: (1) End the era of extreme energy. fossil fuels, nuclear power, waste and biomass incineration, landfill gas, mega-hydro, and agrofuels pose extreme risks to human and ecosystem health, community resilience, economic equity and climate stability. (2) Implement a just transition to local living economies in which 10 million good, green, and family-supporting jobs are created for unemployed, and underemployed people, as well as workers formerly employed by extreme energy industries.
The ongoing work to build local living economies centers around zero waste; regional food systems; public transportation; clean community energy; efficient, affordable, and durable housing; ecosystem restoration and stewardship. Community resilience in this climate crisis also means claiming our co-opted democratic structures and protecting our land, water and food sovereignty. This finds expression in everything from worker cooperatives to ancestral and resident water rights, land reform, seed banks, and more.
About the national campaign co-host: Climate Justice Alliance (CJA)
The Our Power Campaign emerges from the nearly 40 organizations that make up the Climate Justice Alliance (http://www.ourpowercampaign.org/cja). CJA members are rooted in Indigenous, African American, Latino, Asian Pacific Islander, and working-class white communities throughout the United States. Together, they apply the power of deep grassroots organizing, direct action, coalition building, civic engagement, policy advocacy, and a variety of communications tools to win local, regional, statewide, and national shifts.
About the Richmond campaign co-host: The Richmond Environmental Justice Coalition (REJC)
The REJC is working to create jobs that foster healthy communities by building up the local economy through clean community power, local food systems, worker cooperatives and strengthened housing rights, while addressing pollution, health, and safety issues. The REJC is composed of: Asian Pacific Environmental Network (APEN), Communities for a Better Environment (CBE), California Nurses Association (CNA), Richmond Progressive Alliance (RPA), 350 Bay Area, Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment (ACCE), and Urban Tilth.
More Resources & Background Info
- Richmond background and political context: http://www.ourpowercampaign.org/convenings/richmond2014/
- More details about Richmond’s environmental issues and grassroots activism:
- Related coverage:
- KALW 91.7 City Visions radio show about Our Power Campaign on Monday, 7/28
- CBE Senior Scientist, Greg Karras on KPFA’s show, Up Front: dirty oil 101
- Lawsuit Filed Over Fracked Oil Trains In The Bay Area, KPIX Channel 5