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As We Migrate to Venezuela: The Pre-COP and Environmental and Economic Justice in the US

Joaquín Sánchez | July 15, 2014


The US is not a homogenous society. The new majority in the US is descended from the poor indigenous migrants of the Americas, and enslaved Africans who were forced to the US by the country’s elitist capitalist economy. The US economy mines Latin America not only for natural resources, but also for the human labor needed to maintain a society structured on the endless consumption of resources. This cultural and human mining, along with the US Government’s inaction to create immigration laws based in humanity, is the root cause of the violence along the US/Mexico border, especially as more of our brothers and sisters from the South leave their families in search of economic opportunities in the US.

We migrate from the US to Venezuela because a fundamental principle in the environmental and economic justice movement is: “We Speak for Ourselves”. We come as a delegation from the Environmental Justice and Health Alliance for Chemical Policy Reform to let our brothers and sisters in the South know we DO NOT separate human life from the environment the way they are separated by the environmentalism controlled by NGO’s and foundations. We know that the immigration crisis we experience in the US is interconnected to the climate crisis and the preventable environmental injustices caused by our country’s economic growth. And we do not accept this fatal reality imposed by our government. 

We migrate to Venezuela because the US is the number one emitter in the world, and the US is historically and currently responsible for the impacts of the US Government’s inaction to protect low-income people and people of color from the oil, chemical, and fossil fuel industries in the US.  A new report, Who’s in Danger? Race, Poverty, and Chemical Disasters, highlights the disproportionate impacts of the chemical industry in the United States on poor and low-income people of color communities in some of the most densely populated regions, such as Chicago, Los Angeles, and Houston, TX, and some of the poorest states in the US: like New Mexico or Louisiana.  The report also highlights the ongoing efforts of the grassroots environmental and economic justice movement led by low-income people and people of color to hold local governments, industry, and the US government accountable for the poisoning of our communities. We continue to call on our government to transition the dirty energy sector to safer alternatives.

The environmental and economic justice movement in the US has relationships to the communities and progressive governments of Latin America extending back to as early as the revolutionary times and struggles for independence of countries like México and Cuba. In New Mexico for instance, a US state along the US/Mexico border, “Tierra o Muerte”, “La Tierra No Se Vende, Se Trabaja y Se Defiende”, and “La Agua es Sagrada” are guiding social principles carried on since before New Mexico was a part of the US. States like New Mexico, and other environmental justice communities in the US, play a significant role in demonstrating how the people of the US, and the struggles of third-world peoples in the US, are similar to the struggles for justice by the peoples and the progressive governments in Latin America. We can work together to counter the anti-Venezuelan and anti-Latin American rhetoric put forward by the US media and government that is detrimental to all our existence.

The capitalist economy of the US needs communities where breathing clean air and drinking clean water is not possible in order for the private jets and the bottled spring water shipped over from Europe to exist for the Kim Kardashians of the country. At the same time, poor and low-income people and people of color in the US, affiliate organizations of the Environmental Justice and Health Alliance, and the environmental and economic justice movement in the US, are catalysts for transitioning the US, one community at a time, from toxic chemicals and fossil fuels, and creating regenerative, local-economies that put mother earth and her children first.

We migrate to Venezuela to set the record straight with our neighboring governments and our brothers and sisters in the local-global struggles for justice in the South. The political interests of the US in diplomatic spaces like the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change only represent the interests of the 1% of the US. We are present at the Pre-COP in Venezuela because WE, the new majority, those of us who are the grandchildren of poor indigenous migrants and enslaved Africans, SPEAK FOR OURSELVES, and stand shoulder to shoulder when we say: “Cambiamos el sistema, no el clima.” We thank the people of Venezuela for creating a political space that is otherwise suppressed by the US government, and we will continue to organize and build upon our intergenerational movement, aligning ourselves with a global grassroots movement that protects mother earth through environmental and economic justice, for all.

Final precop

Claudia Salerno, Lead Climate Negotiator for Venezuela looks on at closing plenary.


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