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

Washington, D.C.-(ENEWSPF)-  Nearly 300 leaders in a growing grassroots movement called the Our Power Campaign (www.ourpowercampaign.org) will converge on Richmond, CA fromAugust 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”.

Community leaders in the Richmond Environmental Justice Coalition (REJC) are determined to flip the script by building their own “local, living economy”. 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).

The Climate Justice Alliance (CJA) is a collaborative of over 35 community-based and movement support organizations uniting frontline communities to forge a scalable, and socio-economically just transition away from unsustainable energy towards local living economies to address the root causes of climate change.

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