Illustration by Don Button, DesignButton.com.
As world leaders prepare for the potentially historic UN Climate Talks in Paris, Bay Area activists are preparing for their own gathering this Saturday, November 21. The NorCal Climate Mobilization will call on governments to take “dramatic and rapid” action to protect the climate. The Oakland march and rally will be part of a worldwide series of demonstrations aimed at pressuring negotiators to ramp up their commitments on climate.
“We don’t expect [governments] to make adequate pledges without mass public pressure,” said rally organizer Steve Nadel of the Sunflower Alliance, which is part of the coalition of environmental and labor groups that initiated the mobilization. “Given the events in Paris, it now looks like the government there is going to ban demonstrations before and after the meeting,” he added, referring to the recent terrorist attacks. “That means it’s even more important for people outside France to be pressuring them to make the right decisions.”
Pressure is needed, Nadel said, because the level of heat-trapping gases in the atmosphere has continued to rise despite the harmful effects of climate change already evident — drought, wildfires, superstorms, and more. “The UN conference that’s going on at the end of November is called COP [Council of Parties] 21. That means it’s 21 years since they first tried to come to an agreement on climate change in Kyoto. We’re running out of time. It’s increasingly urgent to take stronger action before we put too much carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.”
In defiance of the conservative jobs-versus-environment mantra, the labor councils of San Francisco, Alameda, and Contra Costa counties have endorsed the event. In a letter sent to Alameda County union members, labor council executive director Josie Comacho urged them and their families to participate. “Our nation and world's many poor and working families are disproportionately affected by climate change,” she wrote. “Unions must join with community and environmental activists to stop a world catastrophe.”
Another leader of the effort is Andres Soto, a lifelong Richmond resident and organizer with Communities for a Better Environment. He’s been fighting pollution from the Richmond Chevron refinery for years. “The Chevron refinery is the single largest greenhouse-gas emitting facility in California,” he said, “and thus a leading contributor to the degradation of the planet.” Besides demanding stronger action from governments, Soto said, “we’re doing our part locally by fighting oil trains and new refinery projects and demanding that the Bay Area Air Quality Management District impose some serious limits on refinery emissions.”
More than 100 organizations are sponsoring or have endorsed the demonstration and many dozens of volunteers have been working to publicize it by put up billboards in BART stations and buses and handing out fliers during rush hour. “Even the weather is going to align with us,” Nadel said. “We’re expecting a very large mobilization.”
Participants will gather in the morning at the Lake Merritt Amphitheater at the end of 11th Street. At noon, they’re schedule to march to Frank Ogawa Plaza for an afternoon including music, speakers, information tables, food vendors, and children’s activities.
The organizations participating in the mobilization have endorsed four key demands:
• A global agreement to implement dramatic and rapid reduction in global warming pollution
• A world united to repair the ravages of climate change
• A world with an economy that works for people and the planet
• A demilitarized world with peace and social justice for everyone; where Black Lives Matter; with justice and respect for immigrants and migrants; where good jobs, clean air and water, and healthy communities belong to all.