The Fourth Demand
By Janet Weil, XRPDX Media Working Group
We demand a just transition that prioritizes the most vulnerable people and indigenous sovereignty; establishes reparations and remediation led by and for Black people, Indigenous people, people of color and poor communities for years of environmental injustice, establishes legal rights for ecosystems to thrive and regenerate in perpetuity, and repairs the effects of ongoing ecocide to prevent extinction of human and all species, in order to maintain a livable, just planet for all.
“And where do we go from here? Which is the way that’s clear?” David Essex’s 1973 hit song has been rolling around in my mind since Portland (and the United States) exploded into long-overdue protests of police brutality and extrajudicial killings of Black Americans. In the catalyzing case of George Floyd, the killing occurred in broad daylight, on camera, with observers and the victim himself crying for mercy.
The reckoning with racial injustice in a time of pandemic has filled our bridges and parks and streets, flooded TVs and social media accounts, splashed graffiti over huge institutional buildings, and elevated the faces and names of victims of murder-by-cop in a huge “People’s Mural” covering the glass walls of the Apple store downtown. And as a very weird 4th of July approaches, some Americans are facing our violent history and present moment, trying to decide what kind of country we will have in the future.
This Black-led movement has many demands but one above all: justice. Recent events have proved the urgent validity of Extinction Rebellion US’s 4th Demand, the one added to the original three demands by Extinction Rebellion in Britain. The demand for “just transition” is really a set of demands. Here are a few comments; please click on links for context and more information.
Indigenous sovereignty — This principle is why we at XRPDX read a land acknowledgement at every meeting – to remember the peoples who originally, and some still today, live(d) in the lands we now call Portland and Multnomah County. Sovereignty of Native peoples in the Pacific Northwest remains contested, relating to issues of control of land, refusal of LNG facilities on the coast, and much more.
Reparations and remediation led by and for Black people — The Movement for Black Lives as well as other Black-led organizations have long presented this as a demand and remediation of the horrific environmental injustices inflicted on majority Black communities is an inseparable part of that.
Poor communities — People in both urban and rural low-income communities experience higher levels of air and water pollution, lack of green spaces and climate-moderating trees, and less accessible public transit. They contribute much less to the climate crisis than the rich, and feel the impacts first and worst.
Establishes legal rights for ecosystems — The legal rights of natural systems are asserted by legal and philosophical theories that include the inherent right of living systems to go on living and thriving, and the practical concern that all human life depends on those ecosystems.)
Repairs the effects of ongoing ecocide — Related to the above point, the crimes against the natural world, defined by the late great attorney Polly Higgins as “ecocide” and sent to the United Nations Law Commission in 2010, must be repaired, not simply despaired of.)
To prevent extinction of human and all species — This is the heart of the Extinction Rebellion international network -- our willingness to name the ultimate threat to life on Earth, and our rebellion against mass suffering and death.
The way forward is not mapped out. It is struggled over, here in the Rose City and everywhere. Extinction Rebellion calls for nothing less than the transformation of all our human systems – economic, political, social – to support life itself. Not to support our often-unexamined assumptions of “that’s just the way it is.” How we get to that livable, just planet is NOT clear… yet.