[Editor’s Note: Indigenous peoples, communities of color, and working-class white communities are among the hardest hit by the floods, heat waves, storms, droughts, and other results of climate change.  At the same time they experience disproportionate rates of unemployment and poverty.  Now leaders from those communities are launching the “Our Power Campaign: Communities United for a Just Transition.”  They are making concrete proposals to create jobs for hard-hit communities by transitioning from dirty energy to clean community power, zero waste, food sovereignty, public transit, housing for all, and restoration of ecosystems and watersheds.  And they are starting to fight for that transition in carefully selected “hot spots” — starting with Black Mesa, Arizona; Richmond, California; and Detroit Michigan.  Here’s an account of their first pubic venture.]

Communities Unite Around A “˜Just Transition’ Away from Dirty Energy with Historic Training Camp

Central Arizona~This week, Navajo community members of the Black Mesa Water Coalition will host a skills sharing and strategy camp for communities impacted by coal and other dirty energy. This camp marks the first of many convergences of indigenous peoples, communities of color, and working-class white communities building a powerful movement to take on climate change while fostering a new economy.  The groups are uniting in a new national campaign launching this week called the Our Power Campaign: Communities United for a Just Transition.

Through the Our Power Campaign, communities are organizing to transition off of dirty energy to foster clean community power, zero waste, food sovereignty, public transit, housing for all, and restoration of ecosystems and watersheds.

“We can create quality jobs by retooling the infrastructure in our regions,” said Bill Gallegos, Executive Director of Communities for a Better Environment and Climate Justice Alliance (CJA) Steering Committee member. “We need to divest from dirty energy and the “˜greed economy’ and invest in a transition to local living economies and community resilience. This camp is about learning the skills and forging the strategies we need to bring this transition home.”

“We can have power without pollution and energy without injustice,” said Jihan Gearon, Executive Director of Black Mesa Water Coalition and CJA Steering Committee member. “Navajo people and Navajo lands have been moving central Arizona’s water and providing much of central Arizona and Southern California’s energy for 50 years. Renewable energy provides a new way forward to bring economic and health benefits to the Navajo people while cutting greenhouse gas emissions at the source.”

The backdrop for the camp is one of the communities creating a “˜just transition’.   Navajo Generating Station, which is run by the Salt River Project and Peabody Coal’s Kayenta Mine, has depleted the Navajo Aquifer, severely impacted the land base, and adversely affected community health. Generating electricity from coal also pumps greenhouse gases into the atmosphere contributing to climate change which the Navajo Nation is already suffering the effects of.

The Black Mesa Water Coalition is proposing Navajo-owned utility scale solar projects and fostering local, sustainable land-based economies.  According to their studies, there is enough old mine lands and good sun on the Navajo Nation to generate over 6,000 megawatts of solar power in the years to come. That would be thousands of jobs and hundreds of millions of dollars into the regional economy each year, billions of dollars during construction.

At the groundbreaking training camp, communities along coal’s chain of destruction from the Southwest, Appalachia, the Midwest, and beyond will come together to learn from and exchange with the Black Mesa community. Activities include:

·      June 14- sharing stories of struggles and victories in communities impacted by dirty energy
·      June 15- workshops on topics such as direct action and land-based resilience
·      June 16-17- sessions for communities to strategize together to win shifts away from dirty energy towards local living economies

The Our Power Campaign is launching in three communities impacted by dirty energy– Black Mesa, Arizona; Richmond, California; and Detroit Michigan –and will expand to communities across the country over the coming years. With nearly 40 organizations, CJA’s members are rooted in Indigenous, African American, Latino, Asian Pacific Islander, and working-class white communities throughout the United States. Together, they apply the power of deep grassroots organizing, direct action, coalition building, civic engagement, policy advocacy, and a variety of communications tools to win local, regional, statewide, and national shifts.

“This is a historic opportunity to unite working-class communities and communities of color across the nation who bear the brunt of the climate and economic crisis,” said Ife Kilimanjaro, Co-Director of the East Michigan Environmental Action Council in Detroit and CJA Steering Committee member. “Together, we are building a movement that is demonstrating and winning a shift away from dirty energy through investment in the root cause solutions we all need.”

For More information, contact:  Michelle Mascarenhas-Swan (415) 359-7324 (will forward to on-site phone); [email protected] Angela Angel (510) 759-3177; www.ourpowercampaign.org