Yesterday there was a #Klimaatalarm protest in Leiden also. It was organised by the Leiden Climate Crisis Coalition, an action platform with Fridays For Future, Extinction Rebellion (XR), #Leidenvoor14 and the FNV union. The third speech was by Chihiro Geuzebroek.
My mother learned about climate change as a little girl in school. I grew up knowing failing politics are a threat to humanity. I am speaking today as a person who has been part of climate justice grassroots activism for over a decade.
The reason it took me a while to become an activist was that I was socialized into a society that doesn’t respect activists… or climate… or women of color… or Indigenous people… the state does not care about stopping the violence that is required to appropriate wealth from other peoples lands… to live in commodified cities.
It took me a while before I could find enough connection to feel strong enough to fight the system in daylight… on the street… in film production… in movement building… in facing Shell CEO Ben van Beurden and tell him to his face: “We will not die quietly”.
I want to acknowledge all of your activist journeys… maybe you read for many years books about how capitalism is destroying peoples and places… maybe you are the green sheep of the family making each family dinner “ongezellig” because you bring up an injustice that is standardized in our toxic society.
But we need more out of the closet committed activists! Activism is not only what you see here today: a street protest, but it is year round, building from the bottom up, people power of solidarity to powershift out of systemic injustice. The system put us on a path of extinction. It requires all skills to hack that system and rewire it towards healing. We need to dismantle the lullaby lie that “it has to get worse before it gets better”. It has been getting worse for hundreds of years and the result is mass extinction – not regeneration. The time to rise against eco-genocide is always right now. So join us.. shy people… listening out there inwardly nodding… but not taking action… join us in our collective fight for climate justice! Sign up with a group today. Share contacts with one person. Connect.
I also have a note for environmental organizations out there: we need more green groups that are as angry about white supremacy as they are about politics of ecocide. How else will the movement connect with the intergenerational grassroots leadership of earth defenders the ones with vision and processes for climate justice are found amongst the colonized people around the world. They have historical understanding of politics of eco-genocide. Eco-genocide… In Dutch or in English we do not have a word for these connected traumas of mass destruction. In Swahili there is the word Maangamizi … it refers to the genocides on the African continent… referring to the death that colonization brought to people and places.
In many Indigenous cultures the fight for climate justice is framed as the mission to “heal all our relations”. We see however the frames that are used in many whitestream climate actions and see our leadership and historical struggles and insights erased or tokenized.
What frames am I talking about?
– The frame that our struggle is about “saving the future” without a theory of change how we may “heal from historical eco-social wounds that got us on a path of collapse, disease and extinction”. This future-frame often erases the demand for reparations… the demand for land back… the demands for centering TEC: Traditional Ecological Knowledge… Often demands are scaled down to an energy transition to wind and solar… But let’s note that ‘till today these turbines and panels are still depending on environmental destruction and exploitation and mining for rare earth minerals in Congo or China or metals in Peru… with huge human rights violations. We see the same system built on extraction and disposability of others’ lives maybe with less emissions. We need more shutdowns and fullfillment of climate debt owed by nation states enriched by colonial practices.
– Another problematic frame is the frame of innocence… bordering on ignorance … concerning violence that maintains the fossil fuel industry. I say this because the majority of the climate movement was silent about the military invasion of France aided by the Netherlands in Mali in recent years… that was by and large motivated for colonial capitalist interest of uranium in the region… or the quickly forgotten colonial invasion in Iraq that killed over a million people … where fossil fuel companies including Shell were at the table already in 2000 in the US to discuss their interests in the region.
The climate movement seems to forget too often the words of Ken Saro Wiwa. Ken Saro Wiwa was a writer and earth defender in Ogoniland in Nigeria. Before he was executed he wrote about the ecological warfare Shell waged on the farmers and fishermen of the oil rich Ogoniland.
Unfortunately we have been living in a world of actual ecological warfare for a long time. Indigenous people… Abya Yala, Asia, Russia, Oceania, in Africa… have been the ones experiencing… stolen land, stolen resources, stolen labor, stolen lives, destroyed environments… while citizens in Europe and in big cities around the world have been socialized to ignore the violence… to produce their breakfast, their clothes, their computers, the construction of roads.. We are educated into forgetfulness and numbness around deforestation and the wars / trade wars it required to build commodified societies.
Last year I was making an exposition on People Powered Movement versus Shell – about a century of resistance against the biggest company in the Netherlands. The people that first build movement against Shell were people who didn’t know about climate change but they knew their house was on fire.
Shell colonialism brought racism, stolen water resources, dispossessed farmers, heavy pollution – Shell had to dispossess the commons before it could promise crumbs of the privatized profit pie with jobs. It is essential that climate activists learn from colonized people who even when they were made dependent on toxic jobs still had the courage to fight for justice collectively.
We need to learn from Indonesian workers strikes in 1940’s and 50’s after Indonesia had declared independence but the Dutch had waged illegal war killing around 3.000 people in five days to re-colonize oil rich Palembang on Sumatra… The Dutch killed around 100.000 Indonesian people so the Dutch could keep on exploiting the environment for profit. USA Standard Oil thought a free Indonesia would be more profitable for them. We need to study warfare to understand what fossil fuel power we are bringing to justice for accountability.
We need to learn from huge solidarity organizing to sabotage shell gas stations when Shell was supporting the apartheid regime in South Africa – Shell keeping the Apartheid tanks fueled.
We need to learn from Curaçao where workers in the Shell refinery rose up against exploitation after mass lay offs… and people were hired back by subcontractors of Shell for half their salary. Their uprising against colonial exploitation even brought down the government.
Disconnecting from these struggles doesn’t make it more simple. It makes us more weak and divided. If we would learn from these struggles… workers struggles, farmers struggles, Indigenous struggles … our movement would be more strategic, informed and more united against toxic power … and not get stuck in conversations limited to energy transition from one extractive model of diesel cars… to electric cars which requires new sacrifice zones where life is dumped on, exploited and destroyed…
What encouragement can I give you in these challenging times to shift power?
1. D.I.T. – Do It Together. Join an organization. It doesn’t have to be perfect but it has to be committed to actual climate justice… find strength in the relational tissue you are building. It is called people power.
2. Connect with your lineage of struggle . We live in a state of constant overwhelm by injustice. Knowing your ancestors in struggles… people who paved the way for you to contribute the next bit of justice and healing. Your lineage in struggle can keep you rooted… grounded in a bigger perspective.
3. Don’t think or act inside the box … the box is a coffin… we need more compassionate courageous civil disobedience activism. Conformists to colonial capitalist politics bring us into ever escalating processes of extinction. We need to color outside the box with creativity, courage and collectivity… so here is where anti-oppression practices are crucial so environmental protection doesn’t get co opted to get fortress conservation at the expense of Indigenous people, refugees or Others deemed disposable by the old system.
I want to close with the words of Assata Shakur. She said: “The rulers of this country have always considered their property more important than our lives.” We should know what that means for the struggle to both protect our environment and our humanity.
Asata Shakur states
“It is our duty to fight for our freedom
It is our duty to win.
We must love each other and support each other.
We have nothing to lose but our chains.”
Please raise your voice… and repeat after me:
“It is our duty to fight for our freedom.
It is our duty to win.
We must love each other and support each other.
We have nothing to lose but politics of mass extinction.”