Climate change, Indigenous activism and the fight for justice

We discuss how to solve the climate crisis with activists Xiuhtezcatl Martinez and Vandana Shiva.

The protest movement calling for action on climate has gained momentum this year with millions taking to the streets across the world demanding that governments do more to fix the crisis.

Swedish teenager Greta Thunberg gained widespread attention for her “you have stolen my childhood” speech at the UN climate action summit in September.

The environmental protest movement Extinction Rebellion launched dramatic protests in the UK and across the world. India’s capital New Delhi made headlines after its pollution levels became so bad that the city announced a public health emergency and closed schools.

The EU meanwhile declared a global “climate and environmental emergency”. The United Nations released multiple reports warning of the dangers of climate change. While in the US, the climate crisis emerged as one of the issues among Democratic presidential hopefuls.

Indigenous Mexican-American activist Xiuhtezcatl Martinez has been campaigning against climate change since he was six years old. He says now, more than ever, Indigenous voices are being recognised.

“Every part of the crisis is directly connected to social justice, to racial justice, to the human rights violations that are happening … and now, more than ever, there is a recognition of the need of indigenous communities’ voices being at the forefront,” Martinez said.

Martinez, along with 20 other activists, is suing the US federal government for climate inaction.

He was also involved in another lawsuit against the fracking industry in Colorado, a case he lost. Despite this, Martinez says he remains positive that “people power” can overcome big money.

“I think the power of people is being recognised as an unstoppable force, both with the mobilisation of bodies on the streets, the mobilisation in our courts, the way that we are taking to the polls,” he said.

Indian environmentalist Vandana Shiva has spent her career taking on multinationals as part of her fight to preserve the planet. Originally trained as a physicist, Shiva has written over 20 books and served as an adviser to NGOs and the Indian government.

She says climate change is the result of irresponsible actors, particularly the fossil fuel industry.

“So, I would say the problem is chemical industrial fossil fuel-based farming, and the solution is ecological biodiverse farming, in the hands of small farmers,” Shiva said.

“I think we have to reduce the infrastructure that was built for the fossil fuel empire. We’ve got to learn how to have better lives with a lower ecological footprint,” she added.

Shiva also says there needs to be a global conservation goal.

“We [do] need a Green New Deal with the earth, remembering that the earth is alive, and we have to work with her laws and processes to protect her species diversity, avoid the sixth mass extinction, and avoid climate catastrophe,” Shiva said.

On this week’s UpFront special, we discuss the fight for climate justice with Xiuhtezcatl Martinez and Vandana Shiva.

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