During this past week, Jihan Gearon spoke to engaged audiences at Siena College, Brown University and Direct Action for Rights and Equality in Providence, Rhode Island. Jihan spoke about economic development v. cultural destruction, clean coal, carbon markets, carbon capture and sequestration and their affects upon Indigenous Peoples.
She described how Indigenous People are disproportionately affected by climate change in three distinct ways.
Indigenous communities are already affected by climate change because of their connection to the land. Communities in the Arctic and Pacific Islands are being forced to move because their land is either melting or sinking under water. Climate change is already happening there.
30% of fossil fuels in the United States are found on Native American reservations; the causes of climate change, specifically, are the burning and mining of fossil fuels, deforestation and coal mining. Thus, Native American communities are economically dependent on the destruction of their land and culture.
Lastly, the solutions to climate change proposed in the ACESA bill include: clean coal, carbon capture and sequestration, and nuclear, are only business-friendly measures which only encourage more fossil fuel extraction. The bill does almost nothing to keep coal and oil in the ground and to reduce our consumption and reliance on unsustainable fossil fuel energy.
She urged the audiences to question the carbon market, not only for its role preventing real and just solutions to the climate crisis, but because it provides no good examples for the protection of land and its inhabitants.
Jihan illuminated audiences with her expansion of the definition of the green economy. For example, 56% of all un-electrified homes are on the Navajo reservation. She stated that is necessary to bring in aspects of justice and analyze who really benefits from the transition from a fossil-fuel based economy to a renewable energy economy. There is $17 trillion worth of wind energy potential on Native American reservations. She believes there needs to be a just-transition for those who have been most affected by the fossil fuel economy.
Jihan’s final message was this: we can’t buy our way out of climate change. Consumption is the problem. How can we make our communities benefit from the green economy? These are the questions we need to start asking.
Any step towards decentralization and localization is a step in the right direction.