Gratitude for the Power of Collective Actions

“A failure.” 

“The most exclusionary climate summit ever.” 

“A Greenwash Festival.” 

“A source of great shame because COP26 will be the whitest and most privileged ever, with thousands who intended to travel from poorer countries excluded.” 

These are just a few of the many critiques of COP26

Amidst the heaviness and disappointment following COP 26, Fossil Free California (FFCA) pauses to share our gratitude for collective actions that recently took place in northern California. We hope the following summaries and links are a source of inspiration for you as well.

It all can feel tremendously heavy when global leaders choose not to take needed action. But the absurdity of the well-publicized COP26 charade is helping to grow the number of people getting engaged in the climate justice movement.

On October 22, FFCA was honored to be a part of the youth and Indigenous led March for Stolen Lives and Stolen Futures that began at the CalSTRS headquarters in Sacramento. This short ABC 10 News clip highlights some of the action. In this episode of “A Rude Awakening” with Sabrina Jacobs, three young people share about the specific demands of the march. If you were not able to attend, you can still take online action at this link.

The action inspired new relationships between Sacramento and Bay Area organizations: a total of thirty organizations co-sponsored the march. 

Together we demanded: 

1.Governor Newsom must STOP new fossil fuel permits, DROP existing oil drilling, and ROLL out 2,500 ft. health and safety buffers. 

The day before the march, Governor Newsom announced his proposal for a statewide 3,200-foot buffer zone to separate homes, schools, hospitals and other populated areas from oil and gas wells. We do not find it a coincidence that he made this long overdue announcement the day before the action and we give thanks to CA Youth vs Big Oil’s years of focus on this campaign. 

2.The California Democratic Party must vote no to accepting money from fossil fuel companies and law enforcement. 

The State Democratic Party voted to postpone the vote until February 2022 by creating a committee to review the issue. Members of the Sunrise Movement demonstrated outside the party headquarters through torrential rain for hours, and provided testimony for the need for the party to vote to not accept fossil fuel and law enforcement contributions. 

3.CalSTRS, the teachers’ pension fund, must divest $6 billion from fossil fuel companies.

As you may know, FFCA started attending CalSTRS board meetings eight years ago. Three and a half years ago, students with Youth vs Apocalypse, Warriors for Justice, and Earth Guardians Bay Area started skipping school to attend CalSTRS board meetings and organize in their communities. Their advocacy, clarity, and sacrifice has tremendously strengthened the campaign for CalSTRS to divest and FFCA is continuously thankful and humbled by every single one of them. 

Some of the same students who have provided multiple public comments at CalSTRS board meetings also performed a skit on 10/22 with puppets of Board Chair Harry Keiley, Vice Chair Sharon Hendricks and a Youth Warrior.  The day launched the start of the puppets’ tour around the state where they’ll hear from frontline communities to bring to life the many aspects of destruction CalSTRS is financing.

Many thanks to David Solnit for making all three puppets and to Indigenous artist Jackie Fawn (Yurok/Washoe/Surigaonon) for designing the Youth Warrior. 

You can follow and share the puppets’ travels on Instagram @DivestCalSTRS. The voice of the youth and all frontline communities must be centered and heard in our work. Please reach out if you would like ‘Harry Keiley’ and ‘Sharon Hendricks’ to visit your area to elevate how CalSTRS’ fossil fuel investment is impacting your community.

On October 29, active and retired teachers joined a massive mural project in San Francisco as part of the Global Day of Action to Defund Climate Chaos and Fossil Fuels. FFCA helped teachers from CTA Divest and CFT Divest paint this 12 foot circle mural which was just one of 19 circle murals that formed our collective message.

Below is an excerpt from the Street Murals to Glasgow article (linked above) which was written by David Solnit, the same incredible artist that made the CalSTRS puppets and was a lead organizer bringing together all the organizations to creatively surround Blackrock’s headquarters. 

On the eve of the Glasgow Climate Talks, wildfire survivors, Indigenous communities and Northern California community groups came together to paint the streets, send a message to Glasgow, and lay a creative siege to the biggest investor in climate chaos—BlackRock.

Our demand screen-printed and hand-colored on cloth signs was, “BlackRock, Banks & Biden, Stop Setting Our World on Fire.”  Blackrock was surrounded on two sides by two blocks of street mural painted by 20 groups and hundreds of people, their front door was blockaded and chained shut by Extinction Rebellion: SF Bay Area and friends, a giant banner was hung off the adjacent three story Salesforce Transit Center, and hundreds of students with Youth Vs. Apocalypse skipped school to march and drum around Blackrock and through San Francisco’s Financial District–aka “Wall St West.”

Street Murals to Glasgow: “Defund Climate Chaos!”
Photo: Lewis Bernier

The giant center image painted in the intersection by NDNCollective artist-organizer Cy Wagoner and team was designed by Jackie Fawn, who writes, “”This illustration is of an earth warrior protecting a seedling as the fires rise up from climate change and begin to consume the forests.  I was inspired by what’s happening in California and all the old growth ancestral redwoods we’ve lost. As a new mom, I want my baby to be able to see the ancestor trees and be able to live in a world where she and her generation can thrive.”

May these, and all collective actions for climate justice, have more ripple effects than any of us ever dreamed possible!