WESPAC Foundation supports Environmental and Food Justice with a separate listserv used for promoting upcoming events and discussion. WESPAC opposes fracking and two of our members have produced a documentary that highlights Indigenous Peoples’ perspectives on fracking: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pdwCKzqVRdQ. We have cultivated an extensive cooperative network of food justice activists around the county who seek to expand access to fresh, local food. We also partner with the Wassaic Community Farm CSA (Community Supported Agriculture): http://wassaiccommunityfarm.com. To get involved or for more information, please contact the office at 914.449.6514 or by email at [email protected]
“Filling Bellies and Expanding Minds at Thomas H. Slater Center”
Building on campaigns to promote and educate on healthy food for those who are unable to access it, local farmers and activists joined WESPAC’s Food Justice Committee in celebrating our community self-reliance at the Thomas H. Slater Center on Thursday evening, February 25th, 2016.
Executive Director of WESPAC Foundation, Nada Khader, introduced Lineage Farmer and founder of Good Food For Hudson, Jon Ronsani, to discuss this food justice project he is building with his partner, Jen Ronsani, and many others. Good Food for Hudson provides 20 weeks of farm fresh vegetables to low-income families in Hudson, New York, on a free and sliding scale basis. Ronsani had just completed his first season of the program and is now setting up a fundraiser to do the same program, adding new foods to his produce. He will introduce fresh farm eggs from Hearty Roots Farm and Camphill Copake’s fresh baked bread. Khader asked everyone to donate money for his campaign, raising more than $500.00 that evening for Good Food for Hudson.
To demonstrate how they grow and supply their produce to those who cannot afford healthy food, Ronsani presented his film, Good Food For Hudson. “We believe that access to good food is a basic human right; it is not a luxury,” said Executive Director of Hawthorne Valley Association, Martin Ping. “We are still actively exploring what role Hawthorne Valley may play in bringing food access into Hudson and the project with Lineage Farm; acting as a fiscal sponsor for Good Food For Hudson seems like a very logical first step.”
Alderwoman for D-2nd Ward Hudson Tiffany Garriga described the limited access to transportation for families to get the necessary nutrition in Hudson: “We have two supermarkets but it’s farther out, entering the next town, so if you don’t have a car or anything and rely on taxi services, it’s hard for you to shop.”
Lord Judah, emcee for the event and manager of music group H.I.P. H.O.P., which stands for Highly Intelligent People Healing Our Planet, then introduced local farmers Jalal Sabur and Doug DeCandia, who have worked together for five years. Judah has also been involved with WESPAC since 2006.
“There’s a sustainability model that people talk about. It’s like builders, weavers and warriors and making sure everyone has a role,” said Sabur. “There’s a group of builders I consider the farmers; the weavers are the organizers that connect the warriors that are the families or people that don’t have access to food, the people in the front line of food or any injustice. Building with folks like Lineage Farms and other farms in the Hudson Valley help see that vision through.”
Sabur is the founder of Victory Bus Project and Freedom Food Alliance. Victory Bus is designed to provide affordable transportation for families in urban areas, such as the Hudson Valley to visit their loved ones in rural prisons and obtain fresh fruits and vegetables.
One public figure who has acted as a mentor to Sabur is political prisoner and former Black Panther, Herman Bell. Bell has been incarcerated for over 42 years. The Alliance, a project inspired by Bell, who is also co-founder of the Victory Bus Project is a group of small rural and urban farmers, activists, artists, community members and other political prisoners who address the issues of food, environmental, prisoner and economic justice.
DeCandia is the Food Growing Program Coordinator of Food Bank for Westchester and manages farms in five local areas: Lincoln Watts School in Yonkers, School for the Deaf in White Plains, Woodfield Cottage Juvenile Correction Center, the Westchester County Jail in Valhalla and the Westchester Land Trust in Bedford Hills. He works with youth, inmates and volunteers, teaching people how to grow fresh, high quality organic produce in places that are experiencing food insecurity. DeCandia and Sabur discussed the importance of nourishing and replenishing the soil with natural organic materials and the impact it has on our environment and personal health.
“Composting is creating earth to grow through recycling plants and other organic material,” said DeCandia. “Our self-reliance is diminished if we don’t have access to the basic needs of providing for ourselves and the community. Land is essential for that access and to our self-reliance and care of the land,” he maintained.
“Composting creates less climate issues,” added Sabur. “Our land is our liberation.”
As part of Black History Month, Sabur mentioned figures like Harriet Tubman and Fannie Lou Hamer who were farmers. Similar to our current local farmers, Tubman grew food for people on the Underground Railroad. Hamer began the Pig Bank with the help of the National Council of Negro Women to improve the diets of people in her community by buying gilts and boars. Later, she founded Freedom Farm Cooperative that would provide the same food and economic independence to local people.
Sabur continues to envision possibilities of justice and sustainability with his new local farm Wild Seed, which is named after a book by Octavia Butler. This farm in Millerton, New York, is for black folk, including women, queers and those who have been impacted with mass incarceration. Currently, Sabur and his partners are making maple syrup. When asked why maple syrup, Sabur replied, “We got it from the indigenous community. The Iroquois taught us how to make it. During slavery, abolitionists used it as a way to boycott sugar plantations.” Sabur has also named the maple syrup “sweet freedom.”
In relation to this discussion, local Chef D’Amour Giovanni Green prepared a healthy dish, along with dessert. Break Bread Not Hearts, the culinary enterprise Green owns in White Plains, prepared a basmati rice stir fry with rainbow bell peppers, purple and green cabbage, chickpeas, black beans, kidney beans, scallion, ginger, and garlic and an apple arugula salad. The stir fry and salad were topped with their signature Apricot Sesame Sauce. The dessert was their signature Dulce D’Armour Chocolate Dank Cookies, a secret recipe.
“The main ingredient in all our dishes is love,” said Green, whose title, Chef D’Amour he said applies to his style of cooking. “Break Bread Not Hearts is a culinary business that is based on supporting our agriculture,” said Green. Green has done catering, birthday parties, cooking classes at New Rochelle Public Library and taught food literacy. Food literacy, Green said is “health, hope and humanity, the notion that food is medicine.” This notion also “supports the food service’s philosophy ‘Cooking Up Community.’”
Musical artists and sisters Grace Galu and Kathleen Kalambay, formerly known as Kala, performed songs for the audience.Galu and Kala performed “Lean on Me” by Bill Withers. As a solo, Galu sung “Green Grass” by Tom Waits and her original song “Fire Light.”
Anthony Jones, 21, a member of WESPAC’s Food Justice Committee said, “I thought it was a great event for a great cause. What Doug and Jalal do and say is very powerful and knowledgeable in terms of growing food. I think we should have more events like this around Westchester County.”
“It was really nice. I liked the energy,” said member of WESPAC’s Food Justice Committee and Environmental Studies professor at Pace University, Tracy Basile. “I met wonderful people while munching on those delicious cookies.”
“It was one of the best events I have attended in years,” said Laurie Evans, another member of WESPAC’s Food Justice Committee. “It was helpful, educational and fun. The food was delicious and the music set the mood. When you are growing healthy food, that is creating the change that we want.”
We’re all feeling good & gathered at our community self reliance celebration with delicious food from Giovanni “Chef D’Amour” with Break Bread not Hearts pic.twitter.com/5XBTr1TCTs
— WESPAC Foundation (@WESPAC_NY) February 26, 2016
by Alice Rothchild
On February 9, 2016, the US Supreme Court in a troubling example of shortsighted hubris halted Obama’s latest climate change resolutions which had emerged from the December Paris Agreement on global warming, thus also threatening commitments made by other top polluters, India and China. While China has now surpassed the US as the number one polluter, the decades of fossil fuel use by the US stills makes us the largest contributor to the climate crisis. The decision to freeze the resolutions which sought to decrease greenhouse gas emissions from coal-fired power plants until legal challenges are resolved, threatens to imperil an already inadequate approach to climate change. The Paris Agreement included what advocates call “false solutions.” These involve technological fixes such as carbon markets, genetically modified seeds, and industrial agriculture. The Agreement also lacked a financial commitment to ameliorate the irreparable harm that has already been done or to support climate refugees in the future.
The repeated failures of international and governmental agencies to effectively deal with the disastrous changes that threaten the entire planet have sparked local indigenous and small farmer activism from Bolivia to Palestine. It is already clear that global warming will disproportionately affect the poorest of the poor who are the least able to cope and the least responsible for the rising temperatures. The activism and discourse around our warming planet is increasingly grounded in a deep understanding of the intimate relationship between food sovereignty, climate justice, and resource rights, as well as the critical role for small farmers, local solutions, and the centrality of human rights and transitional justice.
There is growing evidence that climate change and resource wars lead to major conflict. The Rwandan genocide was preceded by crop failure; the war in Sudan by drought. The Syrian disaster was triggered by one of the worst droughts in Middle East history, five years of crop failures and dead livestock that lead to 1.5 million desperate rural people flocking to the cities where they were met with water shortages and no work. This led to serious political unrest, massive repression by President Bassar al-Assad, and a desperate radicalization of the populace. Hunger and hopelessness are powerful motivators and now the country lies in shambles. Half the Syrian population is displaced, four million people are living in Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq and Egypt, most in heartbreaking poverty, and the European Union is facing a destabilizing refugee crisis that is provoking both the best altruism and the worst xenophobia that countries have to offer. As the US anxiously grapples with the Syrian refugee crisis, it is becoming more evident that we are all in this together.
So how does this relate to Palestine? Palestine is faced with a double challenge, global and local. Due to climate change, the average rainfall is decreasing and the Jordan River will soon run dry. The Gazan aquifer is so over-utilized and salinated, experts have been saying that there will be no drinkable water for 1.9 million people by 2016 which is, after all, now. These same people are also crippled by a crushing economic siege and an environment poisoned by toxic munitions. At the same time, the Israeli occupation of the West Bank is characterized by water confiscation and contamination. The Israeli government refuses to allow Palestinians to drill wells or build dams and repeatedly destroys water and waste treatment infrastructure, massively uproots olive trees, and bulldozes farm lands, sometimes for settlements or the separation wall or bypass roads and sometimes, just because.
Israel’s state owned water company, Mekorot, diverts 90% of the water in the West Bank aquifers to Israel and then brags about Israeli water innovation and independence. Israeli per capita water use is four to five times greater than Palestinians. Their access, which is controlled by Israel, is below the minimum standard set by the World Health Organization. Gazans have also endured repeated assaults to civilians and infrastructure and environmentally catastrophic attacks. They are thwarted by severe limitations on fishing as well as the contamination of the Mediterranean by untreated raw sewage due to the bombing of the treatment plants and the harsh restrictions on imports of reconstruction materials. There are increasing reports of hopeless, angry young men traumatized by repeated wars and the loss of a viable future, now turning from Hamas who has failed them to ISIL. Desperation breeds radicalization. Jewish settlements in the West Bank also include massive industrial zones that ignore Israeli environmental regulations, often dumping toxic waste into Palestinian farms and water sources. The industries also profit from poorly paid and poorly protected Palestinian workers.
Several years ago there was much talk from Netanyahu of an economic peace in Palestine. Just like a purely big business, economic focus will not successfully address climate change, a strengthening of markets and investment will not bring tranquility to Palestine. The much trumpeted economic development of the West Bank goes nowhere without addressing the brutal facts of occupation.
Palestinians understand this. The Union of Agricultural Work Committees (UAWC) talks of their defense of land and water for Palestinian farmers as partly resistance to Israeli occupation and partly fighting climate change. They help farmers rebuild after Israeli attacks, build gray water infrastructure, cisterns for irrigation, and hydroponic sprouting units, and have developed the most far reaching seed bank in the region. The seed banks preserve the local seed biodiversity and the independence and steadfastness of the farmers; this is a struggle for food sovereignty as well as a resistance economy. As Abu Saif from UAWC states, “There’s no national sovereignty without seed sovereignty.”[i] Local seed banks challenge the powerful seed companies that rely on a system of genetically modified and hybridized seeds that is grounded in industrial practices based on petroleum.
In addition the UAWC supports women’s empowerment and indigenous human rights with their focus on sustainable agriculture through locally based agroecology, challenging the impact of occupation and the racist policies that privilege the Jewish settler with a green lawn and swimming pool over the thirsty Palestinian living in the valley below. At the same time the focus on small farmers and local markets reduces global greenhouse emissions and more reliably meets the food needs of the population. Hiba Al-Jibeihi of UAWC notes, “We all as humans fight for food sovereignty, climate justice and gender justice…Climate change’s effects on Palestinians are double because the Israeli occupation takes our resources, including land and water. Climate justice means resource rights, land justice, gender justice, food sovereignty and peace.”[ii]
It is very easy to feel overwhelmed by the steady rise of temperatures, sea levels, and the fierce and wild weather changes that are becoming common place as climate change deniers, global corporations, and national governments block any meaningful progress towards stopping global warming and fossil fuel based economies. But there is clearly much to be done on the local as well as international levels and the climate changes are becoming harder and harder to deny. Likewise, when it comes to Palestine, there is growing awareness of the evils of the occupation, the horrors of each Gaza invasion, and the interconnections between the mushrooming settler movement, the use of water as a weapon to subdue and control the Palestinian population, and the importance of local solutions as well as international support.
In the US, groups like Grassroots International, an organization mobilizing resources from progressive US donors, look to the climate justice movement in Palestine as a source of information and inspiration. “They are advancing a powerful vision of climate justice, by developing sustainable livelihoods, protecting the environment and fighting against the Israeli occupation, all at the same time. As the just transition movement grows in the US, calling for a transition from the extractive, exploitative economy to resilient, thriving communities, stronger solidarity with Palestine’s climate justice movement will be key to achieving that vision.”[iii] Activists are also drawing links between the growing boycott, divestment, sanction movement against Israel and the call for divestment from fossil fuels and the industries that extract and deliver them.
Perhaps we should take heart that boycotting products made in the Israeli settlements, challenging the massive Israeli blue and green washing propaganda machine, and supporting activists replanting olive saplings on the ancient terraces where they have been uprooted, not only supports the struggle against Israeli occupation. This activism also contributes to climate justice and the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions at the most local and intimate level.
Notes.[i] http://www.grassrootsonline.org/news/articles/planting-seeds-sovereignty-palestine [ii] http://www.grassrootsonline.org/news/blog/road-climate-justice-goes-through-palestine [iii] Personal communication, Chung-Wha Hong, executive director, Grassroots International
100% Renewables Now NYS
Written by Mark Dunlea
Jan. 14, 2016
Hundreds of climate change activists rallied in front of the state Capitol on Wednesday, then flooded the hallways to make sure legislative and political leaders understand that more is needed to be done on climate as they flocked to the Governor’s state of the state address. (Video from TU; photos here and also here. )
Media reports estimated that 250 people participated, which would apparently be the single largest “climate change” event at the Capitol to date (though obviously the anti-fracking folks had several larger events). Hopefully this record will be surpassed several times in the coming months, particularly at an Earth Day Lobby Day.
While the call for 100% renewable energy as soon as possible (e.g., 2030) had been highlighted in the media and publicity leading up to the rally, the need for the Governor to halt the massive buildout of the fossil fuel infrastructure (pipelines, power plants, oil bomb trains, storage facilities, compressor stations) was most visible at the event, especially in the hallways of the concourse.
The third pillar of the State of the Climate event was the need for a Just Transition, to provide both jobs and a voice to those most impacted by climate change. This was addressed by Matt Ryan of ALIGN, who discussed the new Renew NY campaign, and Howie Hawkins of the Green Party who laid out the Green New Deal. The Climate event also had posters linking the fight for climate justice with the Fight for $15 minimum wage; the latter issue brought thousands to the concourse.
While the Governor sought to suppress first amendment rights by sheltering his guests behind a massive blue curtain and penning protestors away from the convention center, climate change activists lined the crossroads area and the hallways from the LOB and Capitol to make sure our message was heard.
One speaker attracting media attention was actor James Cromwell, who was arrested a few week ago protesting the proposed CPV power plant in Orange County. Watch a video (six minutes) of his remarks with fellow activist Pramilla Malick. (Listen to WAMC / NPR interview before the rally, 23 minutes.)
Former Albany City Council member Dominick Calsolaro and a member of PAUSE (People of Albany United for Safe Energy) kicked off the rally talking about the fight to halt the oil bomb trains centered on the Port of Albany. Julia Caro of Citizen Action also addressed the issue.
Sandra Steingraber of We are Seneca Lake – one of the heroes of the anti-fracking fight – spoke out about hundreds have been arrested protesting the proposed gas storage facility at Seneca. A busload of local protestors (video) came to the event and then delivered a thousand statements to the Governor’s office.
Fighting gas pipelines was addressed by many speakers, starting with Becky Meier of Stop NY Fracked Gas Pipeline. People were excited to hear that Attorney General Eric Schneiderman (who walked by us later) will be filing formal objections with FERC to the Constitution Pipeline beginning to clear cut trees before receiving the critical Water Quality Certificate from Albany.
Protestors also urged NYC Comptroller Scott Stringer to divest the city pension fund from all fossil fuels (not just coal) when he walked through as the rally organizers were setting up. During the rally Assemblymember Felix Ortiz discussed the state divestment bill he is sponsoring with Senator Liz Krueger.
We got extensive media play / radio interviews prior to the rally. A statewide radio report here. Covered on Capitol Pressroom and radio stations in Poughkeepsie, Binghamton, NYC and Syracuse.
In his State of the State, the Governor mentioned climate change four times and stressed the need for more action (though he felt short of what President Obama said the night before in the SOU). Much of his remarks repeated positions re renewable energy that he had announced in recent months; activists had hoped that he would go beyond his initial call for 50% renewables for electricity by 2030. While he said again that this would be a mandate, he did not say that he would pass legislation – or that he would require a comprehensive climate action plan detailing the timeline, steps and benchmarks for meeting the goals. Politico highlighted that the details of his renewable energy activities are still missing. (A new USA today poll shows that young voters by 80-to-10% support 100% renewable energy by 2030.)
The big news is that he committed to phasing out coal plants in four years – though still apparently providing hundreds of millions in annual subsidies to the coal plants. This was a big win for the Beyond Coal campaign of Sierra Club. The Governor did not mention his proposal to also provide subsidies to upstate nuclear plants
There unfortunately was no commitment to jumpstart the state’s offshore wind program. Advocates want the state to commit to purchase 5000 MW of OSW by 2025 and 10,000 MW by 2030. And no mention of the need to stop his drive to build out natural gas and the fossil fuel infrastructure.
Advocates had also wanted to hear that the Governor’s budget – which he released at the same time – would invest in building out recharging stations for electric vehicles (though the travel distance for such vehicles is increasing rapidly).
The proposed budget does include $32.5 million in new funding in the Environmental Protection Fund for climate change mitigation and adaptation, to provide funding for adaptive infrastructure, greenhouse gas management, and resiliency planning programs.
It also includes $15 million in funding for the Clean Energy Workforce Opportunity Program. In order to educate the next generation of clean energy workers, this fund will expand clean technology and renewable energy programs offered by SUNY. In partnership with clean energy businesses located on or near SUNY campuses, (It is believed that Gov. Spitzer made a similar proposal but unclear about its status / implementation.) Advocates may seek to increase the funding level for jobs in the adopted budget but it is a positive step to highlight the need for increased job training for the renewable energy industry.
The Renew NYS campaign is developing a comprehensive package re such investments.
What the Governor said: “the problem of climate change is finally being recognized by most world leaders, anyway. Here in New York we have already been actively working to address it. Now, New York State has a business and an environmental opportunity. Let’s become the international capital for clean and green energy products. We have already attracted some of the largest solar manufacturers on the planet to New York State. We’ve already attracted some of the biggest research and development firms on the planet to New York. I now propose a $15 million Clean Energy Opportunity Training Program so SUNY and our community colleges can train the workers with solar technology and installation.
“I believe this is the economy of tomorrow and while we’re developing the business plan, we can also employ it in the state of New York. I propose installing solar in over 150,000 homes and businesses and converting SUNY facilities to renewable energy by the year 2020. We can do it and we should.
“My friends, this is the path for the future to ensure that the planet has a future — let New York lead the way once again on this important topic.”
Take a look at this article written by Tamar Haspel entitled “10 things we should do to fix our broken food system”. Haspels lays out a comprehensive list of the major problems with our food system and ways in which we can implement better societal practices to improve the efficacy and quality of our food system. Take a look here!
“When I was a kid, one of my favorite books was the Dr. Seuss classic “If I Ran the Zoo,” in which young Gerald McGrew decides he wants none of the humdrum lions and tigers and bears. Instead, he’ll fly to Ka-Troo and bring back an It-Kutch, a Preep and a Proo. My fondness for that book-length Seussian fantasy of control was an early indication that I like being in charge — which could explain why I am a freelancer and an atheist.
As a nod to Dr. Seuss, I wanted to write my “If I Ran the Food System” column in anapestic tetrameter, but nothing rhymes with “crop-neutral insurance,” so I had to stick to prose.
Over the past couple of years, I’ve gotten ideas about food from a lot of people who grow it, regulate it, supply it, cook it, study it and just think about it. And the list of potential improvements, from farm to table, is long. But making the changes necessary to fix the problems in both our agriculture (pollution, greenhouse gases, soil erosion) and in our diets (too few vegetables, too many calories) requires a fundamental shift in attitude. We all have to pay attention to things that haven’t been on our radar. And so, although there are many smart suggestions floating around, I’m focusing on 10 that have a ripple effect: changes that, with luck, will beget other changes that, ultimately, can change the zeitgeist.
Because some problems began decades ago, with government incentives that rewarded production of just a few commodity crops, I’ll begin with what government can do and follow with ideas for manufacturers, consumers and farmers…”
A huge thank you to Francesca Kabemba, WESPAC’s Executive Assistant, for compiling this annual report 2015. The WESPAC staff and board would like to thank all friends and donors for keeping the lights on at WESPAC and for all your support in so many ways. We have much work to do together in 2016. Please click the link under the photo for our annual report. annual report 2015
Interview with Naomi Klein is now online: https://www.