Flood Wall Street West: March. Sit-in. Shut down the Climate Profiteers.
Northern California is being ravaged by climate chaos. Massive drought-fueled wildfires are torching tens of thousands of acres of land and stretching the state’s firefighting capacity to its breaking point. Just this past month, fires in northern California displaced over 23,000 people, destroyed thousands of structures, caused billions of dollars in damage, led to one at least one fatality and left the landscape a smoking ruin.
But it’s not just wildfires. California’s unprecedented, ongoing drought is devastating the state. Farms in the state’s Central Valley have been put out of business; local economies have been devastated and the state has resorted to historic water rationing.
These aren’t natural disasters. People bear much of the responsibility – specific people and institutions with names and addresses, many of them in the San Francisco Bay Area.
The Bay Area is a playground for corporate criminals that profit off of environmental injustice, economic exploitation and oppression. In the East Bay, five of Big Oil’s refineries spew carbon and other pollutants poisoning our communities and scorching the climate. Further East and South, oil and gas companies populate the skyline of the Central Valley with fracking wells.
Chevron, perpetrator of climate, environmental and human rights crimes across California and the world, sprawling world headquarters is safely nestled in the Bay’s affluent suburb of San Ramon.
To the south, tech giants like Google and Facebook perpetrate a new class warfare in the Bay area through gentrification and rising property rates. Homelessness and working class displacement are on the rise, while resources for essential services dwindle away. Furthermore the movement of Silicon Valley north turning San Francisco into a city devoid of culture and diversity.
In the heart of San Francisco is Wall Street of the West, the largest financial district west of the Mississippi. One of the largest banks in the country, headquartered in the financial district, is Wells Fargo, a predatory lender and financial backer of crushing economic inequality and the prison-industrial complex.
Also headquartered in San Francisco is Bank of the West. Bank of the West, a subsidiary of BNP Paribas, is the poster child of climate profiteering. BNP Paribas directly profits off of massive investments in the coal industry while greenwashing its investments in the climate crisis by bankrolling the climate talks in Paris.
Thriving in the shadow of these corporate behemoths are California’s fearsome movements for justice and environmental sanity. From the General Strike in 1934 to the rise of the Black Panthers and the Free Speech Movement in the sixties to Earth First! and Redwood Summer, Bay Area resistance to environmental injustice, economic exploitation and oppression remains strong.
We’re not alone. A little more than a year ago, thousands of us confronted the global financial system in New York City by sitting in and taking direct action at the heart of Wall Street. Now a year later, as people across the continent are fighting for a living wage, storming the police state declaring that "Black Lives Matter" and confronting fossil fuel infrastructure, we’re taking action to call out those profiting from this crisis in the Bay Area.
Wearing blue to represent the sea that surrounds us, we rise in San Francisco’s Financial District, the Wall Street of the West, flooding the area with our bodies in a massive civil disobedience – a collective act of nonviolent civil disobedience – to confront the system that both causes and profits from the crisis that is threatening humanity.
There’s more to come. Flood Wall St. West is the Bay Area kickoff event for #FloodTheSystem, a sustained, continent-wide campaign of direct action in the leadup to the United Nations climate negotiations in Paris this fall. It is a critique of the systems (capitalism, white supremacy, patriarchy) driving the climate crisis while targeting tangible institutions like Big Oil, Big Coal and the banks that love them profiting from it.
There is no time to waste – our economic system must be transformed. Through the power of people taking collective action we will build a future based on justice and sustainability and stop the climate crisis.
Flood the System doesn't end locally with Flood Wall Street West. You can be part of making upcoming actions happen. The next flood is coming.
Interested in planning a #FloodTheSystem action this fall? Click this link!
Climate Justice Means Real Solidarity
Today we — a group of Seattle climate activists—chained ourselves together to block deportation buses at the Northwest Detention Center. Alongside members of the Trans and/or Womyn’s Action Camp (TWAC) and Northwest Detention Center Resistance, we risked our safety and our liberty by blocking roads and preventing the week’s deportations.
As climate activists we take these risks because we believe the fight for migrant and climate justice are one and the same. We hope these actions inspire others in our movement to imagine a deeper, more engaged solidarity.
Some have asked us why we are taking this action when the climate is at a crisis point. At the most basic level, we believe that people of conscience must care about human suffering, violence and injustice wherever and however it takes place.
Some of us have had friends stolen from their families by the violence of the immigration system; some of us are recent immigrants or children of immigrants; and all of us who are not indigenous have a family history of immigration. Now more than ever the brutality of our militarized borders are on display. The degrading and dehumanizing conditions inside immigrant detention centers are splashed across national headlines. While the world watches hundreds of thousands of people make harrowing crossings into Europe, the brutality of border imperialism is unmistakable. On top of this the Northwest Detention Center, like so many of America’s prisons, is built on a toxic waste site: adding long term health effects to the trauma of detention and deportation.
Fierce passion about one injustice does not diminish our resolve to end others. The same compassion that forces us to defend communities and future generations threatened by climate chaos compels us to act now. If we want to avoid an ugly future, such compassion is not optional.
As the planet heats up, we will see more and more people leaving their homes and crossing borders. Whether the immediate cause is war, drought, famine or something else, climate change will displace millions of people. This is already happening and will continue to worsen even if we transition immediately to clean energy. Today, people are fleeing a conflict in Syria that was dramatically exacerbated by extreme drought and global warming.
The nations that caused this crisis have a basic obligation to welcome migrants with open arms. We must create a world where safety and justice are more important than arbitrary borders. If we can’t find a way to welcome and support migration in a rapidly warming world, dystopia awaits us. In the climate-disrupted world we will inherit a militarized border and abusive gulag system can only grow into an even more violent police state.
If we truly believe in the world changing impacts of global warming we have an obligation to act now for the open and compassionate society we need to build.
People inside and outside the climate movement have criticized it for focusing more on melting glaciers than people. But finally, we’re seeing the blossoming of a climate justice movement that tells another narrative—one that shows the meaning of the science through the lens of people’s lives: the 2,000 dead in this summer’s Karachi heat wave, the devastation of Typhoon Haiyan, the families without water in central California.
It was heartening to see people from so many movements come together in an expression of interconnectedness for the People’s Climate March in New York last year. The Movement for Black Lives has inspired many climate activists to think, talk, and write about racial justice in our fight and to rethink climate disasters like Hurricane Katrina through that lens.
But true solidarity can’t be built by simply inviting everyone to join us in the climate tent. As a movement we have to recognize that the climate crisis is one of many created by colonialism, capitalism, and white supremacy, and we have to be invested in them as well. We need to demonstrate that our movement can respectfully meet allies in struggle on their terms, and that we are ready to take real risks for them. There’s an important discussion about racial and migrant justice happening in the climate movement, but we need action as well as discussion.
This is one step in that journey. We call on other climate activists to make these connections before it’s too late, and start doing the hard work of building the deeper relationships we need to meet our shared crisis and our shared liberation. This is what climate justice means to us.
We cannot be made safe with fences, walls and borders; we can only be safe if we learn how to take care of one another. By strengthening connections and working together, we can navigate the turbulent new world we’ve created with decency, ingenuity, and warmth. Besieged, earth’s climate is quickly turning both fragile and violent, but we don’t have to. Instead, we can and must strengthen what makes us resilient: cooperation, openness, and compassion. Of these, we can always have an abundance—and whatever comes, they will serve us well.
~ Carissa Knipe, Sierra Klingele, Ed Mast, Hannah Madrone and Matthew Horwitz