Environmental Justice Movement Leaders Organize for Climate Solutions at Making Waves: For Peace and Climate Justice in the Pacific
For generations, environmental justice (EJ) communities (lower-income communities and/or communities of color) have shouldered a disproportionate burden of the climate crisis. Many of these communities live near sites where waste is stored and incinerated, industrial warehouses are concentrated, and natural resources are exploited. Research and philanthropic organizations can play a vital role in providing the resources and support the environmental justice movement needs to transform political, economic, and social systems; reclaim power; and scale EJ -centered and led climate solutions at the local, tribal, national, and global levels.
Recognizing this need, the Tishman Environment and Design Center, working with the Social Movements + Innovation Lab, launched the Environmental Justice Disrupt Design Fellowship in 2021, designed in deep consultation with EJ leaders. Addressing the need for a leadership program that engages in a collaborative journey of mutual learning and growth, this two-year experience provides frontline EJ leaders with virtual and in-person retreats, group coaching sessions, and community ideation workshops to scale project prototypes and build power. Twenty groundbreaking leaders have spent the past two years as fellows, working in groups to develop, test, and deploy creative and scalable solutions to promote climate justice, environmental health, and energy democracy.
The fellows’ efforts culminated at Making Waves: For Peace and Climate Justice in the Pacific, held in the Mariana Islands, where EJ leaders shared proven community climate solutions and developed a People’s Declaration of Peace, Unity, and Climate Justice in the Pacific, to be delivered to the 2023 and 2024 United Nations Climate Change Conferences. The declaration, addressed to high-level decision makers, includes several calls to action: Establishing a Peace and Prosperity Zone; Demanding Indigenous Sovereignty, Decolonization, and Cultural Healing, Environmental Health and Ecological Regeneration; and Just Transition, Recovery, and Climate Justice.
“Across the Pacific and worldwide, communities are scaling social and climate innovations to transition away from a polluting and harmful economy after being let down generation after generation and climate disaster after disaster. Thirty years of UN negotiations is too long. Communities are under water now and have solutions to crises today. The Tishman Environment and Design Center supports these communities to lead these solutions forward,” said Angela Mahecha, director of the EJ Disrupt Design Fellowship.
The summit was organized by the Tishman Center in partnership with the Micronesia Climate Change Alliance, a grassroots organization dedicated to creating community-based solutions to the climate crisis throughout Micronesia, and Our Commonwealth 670, a grassroots community group based in the Northern Mariana Islands dedicated to education, research, and awareness about demilitarization of the islands.
EJ fellow Sheila Babauta, a former member of the Northern Mariana Islands House of Representatives, said, “Chamorro Indigenous women from Saipan and Guam, leading the coordination of the summit, feel the urgency more than ever to unite the Mariana Islands for transnational, intergenerational healing and strengthen our collective fight as Indigenous peoples for our rights to sovereignty. We need peace and climate solutions that work and don’t harm our people, the lands, and water. It is time to heal in the Pacific.”
As this cohort puts the final touches on its research and solutions, the Tishman Center is opening applications for the next group of fellows, who will carry forward the first group’s efforts to secure climate justice for communities around the world.