Seena Chhan and Abe Vargas are Providence high school students and board members of the Environmental Justice League of Rhode Island (EJLRI).They will be traveling to Paris with EJLRI Executive Director Dania Flores Heagney for the United Nations’ Conference of Parties 21 (UNFCCC COP21) from December 3rd -13th, where they will be joining more than 100 other delegates from dozens of climate impacted communities as part of the “It Takes Roots to Weather the Storm” delegation.
The It Takes Roots delegation is a broad alliance of leaders and organizers from US and Canadian grassroots and indigenous communities on the front lines of the climate crisis. It joins together three powerful international alliances: Grassroots Global Justice Alliance (GGJ), the Indigenous Environmental Network (IEN), and the Climate Justice Alliance (CJA). The delegation is calling for a global climate agreement based real solutions, while speaking out against the proposed agreement, saying it falls far short of what is needed to avoid a global catastrophe. Inadequate action and false solutions will result in extreme consequences for the planet that will have notably disproportionate impact on the peoples of the Global South, as well as working class communities, communities of color, and indigenous and marginalized peoples living on the frontlines of the escalating climate crisis.
A major climate change issue for Rhode Island is the expanding use and dependence on natural gas produced by fracking, which is worse for the climate than coal or oil due to the potent nature of methane as a greenhouse gas. EJLRI is fighting National Grid’s proposed liquefied natural gas (LNG) production facility in the Port of Providence, and drawing attention to the environmental racism of having so many hazardous fossil fuel and petrochemical facilities concentrated in a low income community of color. Throughout the Global South and in many part of the US, frontline communities are already facing the devastating impacts of governmental climate inaction, from concentrated pollution to the impacts of heat waves, floods and droughts. “We need to mobilize and show to the whole world that we are not taking it anymore, that it is time for a change and the change has to be at the core of the system”, said EJLRI Executive Director Dania Flores Heagney.
Climate justice is about ending the systems of oppression that caused climate change, and centering the leadership of those who are most impacted especially youth of color. “We’re always told that we are the next generation of leaders but we are not given the opportunity and guidance to grow, learn and shine. It’s like they are saying, you are the next generation of leaders but it’s not your turn yet”, said Seena Chhan, EJLRI Youth Organizer and Board Member.
As a youth oriented organization, EJLRI is bringing intergenerational youth delegates to COP21 to represent frontline communities in New England. As the birthplace of industrial revolution, in the region today people are dealing with asthma epidemics, expansion of natural gas, and rising seas in a low lying ocean state with many old contaminated sites from industrial revolution, which are now in floodplains in urban communities of color. “This is why youth being a part of this big opportunity is so important to us because we are helping pave the path for youth to grow and shine, whether it’s locally, nationally or internationally”, said Abe Vargas, EJLRI Youth Organizer and Board Member.
EJLRI is a small nonprofit that has been promoting environmental justice in Rhode Island through advocacy, education, networking, organizing, and research for the past 8 years. EJLRI’s mission is to promote safe and healthy environments for ALL by building power, leadership and action in the communities most affected by environmental burdens. The organization depends on the support of the community. By donating to help send members to the delegation in Paris, people will be supporting the continuation of this work to build our communities and give us the opportunity to develop our youth to become the leaders that they rightfully are.
Donations for the trip to Paris can be made here.
[From an EJLRI press release]