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COP23: Activists From Puerto Rico to Island Nations Demand Climate Reparations, End to Fossil Fuels

Thousands of people took to the streets Saturday for a march to demand an end to fossil fuel extraction.

At the UN climate summit in Bonn, Germany, Democracy Now! was there when thousands of people took to the streets Saturday for a march to demand an end to fossil fuel extraction, and some also called for climate reparations.


AMY GOODMAN: Meanwhile, on Saturday afternoon here in Bonn, thousands of people took to the streets for a rally and march to demand an end to fossil fuel extraction. These are some of their voices.

CARLOTTA GROHMANN: Hi. My name is Carlotta Grohmann. I am from the Bonn Youth Movement. And we are here today because we think that climate change, that environmental pollution, is not just one cause. It’s not just the carbon emissions. It’s not just coal. It’s everything. It’s nuclear power. It’s the way that we are putting war all over the planet and destroying it. It’s the way that our economic system is working for the profit of few.

KATIA AVILÉS-VÁZQUEZ: My name is Katia Avilés-Vázquez. I came from Puerto Rico to be here in Bonn. Part of the reason I’m here is we, the Caribbean, just got hit with two major-force hurricanes, and we had unusually high activity of hurricanes, particularly part of the effects of increased temperature due to climate change. And while we’re living and struggling through the effects of climate change, the decisions that are causing it are being made here.

And I’m hoping, by being here, we can kind of highlight the struggles that we’re going through, what climate change is doing in the now. This is not something to prepare for in the future. We’re living it, we’re suffering, we’re dying at this moment. We have lost power. We lost communications. We lost potable drinking water. And our economy is collapsing due to that.

So we need just — we need climate reparations. One of the things that we’re demanding, ending the Jones Act, ending the colonial rule and PROMESA. We want to be able to work, trade and heal with our Caribbean sister islands, like they have offered to help, but the US has told them no. And we want to make sure that we transition into renewables, not just rebuilding the Puerto Rico of old that replicates the oppression that led us to being in such vulnerable positions.

AMY GOODMAN: Just as we flew here from the United States, we saw whatever power was restored to San Juan. When we were in San Juan, there was some pockets of electricity, that, once again, San Juan has been plunged into darkness. That’s just in San Juan, which is the most —


AMY GOODMAN: — successful in returning electricity.

KATIA AVILÉS-VÁZQUEZ: Correct. That’s actually been one of the most painful things about being here, is seeing that whatever little progress was made, we set up, a couple steps back. And it’s important to highlight that that was the one line that Whitefish fixed and that Whitefish got that contract because their owner or someone has stocks, that’s a Trump donor. So, again, it highlights the need to — for whatever transition we demand needs to be just, and it needs to correct past oppressions, and it needs to be towards renewable, not just fixing an old and decaying infrastructure.

The other thing that happened while we were here — just today it came out — that FEMA is going to relocate at least 3,000 Puerto Ricans out of Puerto Rico, when we have so much housing that’s available and that’s apt to have humans. They’re moving our people out systematically. And now it’s — the gentrification that was already happening due to Law 2022 is now being officialized by the US government, and that’s just completely unacceptable.

MONICA ATKINS: My name is Monica Atkins, and I am here representing Cooperation Jackson in Mississippi, as well as the Climate Justice Alliance. And I’m here to stand in solidarity with the communities of color, indigenous people, whose land are being polluted, whose waters are being polluted and whose land is being taken over. So we’re just here standing in solidarity and showing support.

CHIEF NINAWA HUNI KUI: [translated] My name is Chief Ninawa. I am from Acre, Brazil, with the Huni Kui people. I came to bring a message from the forest to this climate conference. This message is of life, love, peace and hope. We believe that nature should not be commercialized for big capital. We came here to demand respect for human beings, for the water, for the forest and everything that depends on the forest.

MIRIAN CISNEROS: [translated] My name is Mirian Cisneros. I’m the president of Sarayaku and Kichwa people in the Ecuadorean Amazon. I’m here because the indigenous people around the world are affected by climate change. And we came with a proposal, the Living Forest proposal, to advance this call for the living forest, but also to join forces and gain solidarity from other people, other movements, so that we can unite and be in this fight together.

DARIO KOPPENBERGER: I’m Dario Koppenberger, and I’m from Wiesbaden in Germany. [translated] It’s become evident, from what we’ve seen at the world climate conference that is in progress here, that the climate targets that they had established are not sufficient. At the same time, it is clear that they are not truly willing to carry them out anyway. I believe that there is enough wealth in the world to be able to accommodate both our concerns for the environment as well as job security for workers. In other words, there need not be starvation or unemployment, because there is enough work in the world, and it is more a question of how to spread it around among all. We need the environment. We cannot exist without it. Therefore, the question is simple for me. It is that capitalism lies at the basis of our problems and that we critically need groundbreaking alternatives to it.

AMY GOODMAN: Voices from the streets of Bonn, Germany, here on Saturday.

When we come back, we’ll look at President Trump’s meeting with Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte in Manila and the threats climate change poses to the Philippines and other island nations, like the host of the Bonn summit. It’s called the “Island COP.” We’ll talk with a climate warrior from Fiji. Stay with us.

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