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VOICES: Fight fossil fuels, support a healthy environment

Getting ‘back to normal’ is not a desirable goal for many people — back to polluted, unhealthy environments, wages that cannot sustain, prejudices and lack of opportunities that stifle one’s humanity. Returning to ‘business as usual’ is a pathway to an uninhabitable planet in the not-too-distant future, as evidenced by the current acceleration of species extinction, environmental refugees, climate chaos and worsening social inequality.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change is regarded as the most reliable and comprehensive source of scientific climate-change information. According to the IPCC, we have less than 10 years to make urgent and unprecedented changes to reach a modest target, which is affordable and feasible. But it will require significant policy and systems change. The IPCC makes clear that climate change is already happening. The cost of not responding appropriately will be economically debilitating and moral bankruptcy.

All sustainable pathways require the end of fossil fuels, as well as land use, technological and system changes. Reforestation is essential to all of them as are shifts to electric transportation systems and greater adoption of carbon-capture technology. Our house is on fire, and people are stepping up in community-led movements everywhere to create the political will needed to address this emergency.

Build Back Fossil Free is one such movement, championed by large and small organizations across the country, and have youth, indigenous people, women and people of color at the forefront. The goals, similar to many of those in The Green New Deal and The Poor People’s Campaign, are to avert further climate devastation while helping people recover from the pandemic as well as address systemic inequalities and racism. The focus of the campaign is on what President Biden can do in his first 100 days in office. Here is what is being asked:

1. Protect and invest in the Black, indigenous, brown and working-class communities that have borne the brunt of fossil-fuel pollution and climate disaster;

2. Reject new fossil projects, eliminate giveaways to oil, gas and coal corporations, and end the era of fossil-fuel production;

3. Launch a national climate mobilization to Build Back Fossil Free, delivering jobs, justice and opportunity for all with job guarantees.

See the BBFF website for specifics under each of these actions.

What Biden has done thus far:

• Through executive order, established the White House Environmental Justice Council, with recommendations to direct 40% of “overall benefits” of certain federal investments towards disadvantaged communities;

• Halted oil and gas leasing on federal lands and launched a “comprehensive review” of the entire fossil-fuel-leasing and permitting program, and revoked permits for the Keystone XL pipeline. He has directed Office of Management and Budget and other agencies to eliminate fossil-fuel subsidies from future budget requests to Congress;

• Created a new Interagency Working Group on Coal and Power Plant Communities and Economic Revitalization and the White House Office of Domestic Climate Policy;

• Directed agency heads to make a plan to reach 100% carbon-free electricity by 2035 and signed an executive order for the U.S. to re-enter the Paris Agreement, along with other measures to address the climate crisis and other injustices.

Still, much more needs to be done given the environmental and social crisis we are facing. BBFF is demanding rapid and broad-reaching action. Specific action activists are now rallying, running (a 100-mile run by indigenous people to deliver petitions), marching and calling for the revoking of permits for Line 3, Dakota Access Pipeline, and other major fossil-fuel projects.

On Kaua‘i, we need to look at our carbon-intensive tourism industry. Kaua‘i’s dependency on tourism has been questioned then kicked down the road for decades. Now the pandemic, as well of the reality of the climate crisis, is forcing us to examine it with new urgency.


Laurel Brier is involved with the Kaua‘i Climate Action Coalition, previously known as Apollo Kaua‘i. The KCAC meets the third Monday of the month at 5 p.m. For more information, email KCAC joins with Surfrider and Zero Waste Kauai to offer a monthly educational series on the climate crisis and related topics the second Wednesday of the month on Zoom and the ZWK Facebook Live page.
Source: The Garden Island

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