Fight for Your Rights

Every Friday, Atmos editor-in-chief William Defebaugh reflects on the week in climate and culture, sharing stories of insight and inspiration.

words by william defebaugh

photograph by ry shorosky

Text Size

“There are impacts not only to our physical land but also to our culture, languages, and spirituality. For us, as indigenous peoples, the land is where we pray, it is our church. So, when you are destroying our homeland, you are essentially destroying our places of prayer,” says Melina Laboucan-Massimo, leader of a green resistance among indigenous peoples in Canada to halt the expansion of the Trans Mountain Pipeline. Working with the Tiny House Warriors, they have built small homes fitted with solar panels, wood-burning stoves, and composting toilets along the pipeline route to block construction and reclaim native land. As a result, the Canadian Federal Appeals Court has recognized the government’s failure to get support and consent from First Nations communities, and the project is at a standstill—for now.

 

With more direct ties to the land, indigenous communities around the world have found themselves stationed on the frontlines of climate change. As Indonesia looks to move its capitol, indigenous rights advocates are concerned about where—or who—this land will come from. “If this decision is not properly handled, we are basically planting time bombs. Because if there are horizontal conflicts, the victims are not the elites, not the government, but the main victims are the people, either Dayak people or migrants,” Rukka Sombolinggi, the secretary general of the Indigenous Peoples Alliance of the Archipelago, told Mongabay.

 

Elsewhere, indigenous Australians on the islands of the Torres Straight submitted a historic claim at the United Nations saying that, by failing to take measures to reduce carbon emissions, Australia has violated their most fundamental human rights—namely to preserve their culture, which is irrevocably tied to the lands on which they live. The claim is part of a growing movement asserting that governments should be responsible for ensuring a healthy environment for its peoples. (See last week’s newsletter, and the Juliana v. United States case.)

 

The issue of stripping rights came to the forefront of American politics this week when Alabama passed a bill effectively banning abortion. It is the most extreme case in a series of seven states that have restricted the procedure this year, along with Ohio, Kentucky, Georgia, Arkansas, Mississippi, and Utah. Members of the pro-choice movement have taken this as a call to arms to protect Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court’s ruling that granted federal protections for abortion, which may be in jeopardy due to President Trump’s changes on the Supreme Court. “At Planned Parenthood we will do whatever it takes to stop these dangerous bans so that our patients can continue to access the care they need,” said Leana Wen, president of the organization, who has already vowed to file a lawsuit against the Alabama ban. “We’re in the fight of our lives for our patients’ lives and we are ready to fight with everything we have.”

 

Across the pond, a battle of another kind is underway: Glasgow and Edinburgh are going neck-and-neck to become the first U.K. city with net zero carbon emissions. And in London, the Extinction Rebellion is continuing to prove itself a threat, according to the local government, which has issued a stern warning to the environmental advocacy group after its successes in shutting down parts of London. Lorna Greenwood, a spokesperson for the Rebellion, perhaps captured the spirit of this week best: “Our politicians and the police need to understand—the lives of our children are on the line. Eighty-three-year-old grandfathers and heavily pregnant women wouldn’t be breaking the law if they had any other choice. We won’t be going anywhere until our children are safe.”

Africa,Asia,BiodiversityChampions,Circularity,Cities,ClimateArt,ClimatePolitics,ClimateResiliency,Conversations,Culture,DeadWhiteMansClothes,EcoInnovation,Ecosystems,EthicalFashion,Europe,FlourishCollapse,FutureOfFood,GlobalFashion,HumanBody,IndigenousStories,Latitude,Neo-Natural,NewBiology,Newsletter,NorthAmerica,Oceania,Oceans,Perspectives,ResourceExtraction,SouthAmerica,SupplyChains,Travel,Watch,