Why a Farmworker’s Daughter Interrupted Governor Brown at the Global Climate Action SummitI marched with 30,000 others at the Rise for Climate, Jobs & Justice march in San Francisco on Sept 8, 2018

Three weeks ago I was one of 8 youth who stood up to interrupt Governor Jerry Brown during his closing remarks at his Global Climate Action Summit. I know some of us were taught in school that it’s rude to interrupt. I would argue that governments and corporations selling our future away behind closed doors for profit is much more rude.

Since coming into office, Jerry Brown has allowed over 20,000 new oil and gas drilling permits, the vast majority in low-income communities of color like mine. And he has the nerve to tell us he is doing everything he can to stop climate change? If Governor Brown doesn’t slow oil production, higher temperatures could cause 6,000 to 11,000 more deaths annually in California alone. I will not allow our communities to continue to be a part of this statistic. That is why I stood to speak up at his summit and that is why I will continue to stand.

It is a disservice to remain silent when you are a witness to the lies and schemes of those in power. We were hoping that Governor Brown would announce a plan for California to phase out fossil fuel extraction, but he did not. We waited until the last hour. That’s when we had no other choice but to stand up and speak out for Mother Earth and our futures. As I stood up my heart was beating fast, knowing that my voice would carry not only my message but the message of millions of people in California and around the world who are already suffering the impacts of climate change. I had no other option.

Youth Intervene With Song at Governor Brown's Climate Summit

YOUTH RISE UP SINGING: As the Global Climate Action Summit came to a close, California and frontline youth made sure to have the last word. We call on Governor Brown to stand with #CommunitiesNotCorporations and #KeepItIntheGround. It's #BrownsLastChance

Posted by SustainUS on Saturday, September 15, 2018

YOUTH RISE UP SINGING: As the Global Climate Action Summit came to a close, California and frontline youth made sure to have  the last word. We call on Governor Brown to stand with #CommunitiesNotCorporations and #KeepItIntheGround. 
It's #BrownsLastChance

If my generation is to have any chance at a future in this state, if our farmworker and native communities are to remain healthy and safe, if Californians living right next to oil and gas drilling are to ever breathe freely again, we need Governor Brown to do more. Governor Brown, you boast that the fate of humanity rests on his climate policies, but why haven’t you taken one single action to slow oil and gas drilling?
Governor Brown, we are past the point of being polite and asking nicely. We are demanding that you announce an end to new fossil fuel projects in California and that you commit to an equitable and planned transition away from fossil fuels to a clean energy economy, before you leave office.

I am the daughter of a farmworker and a descendant of the original peoples of this continent who have tended to these lands for thousands of years. My people are corn people, we carry the seeds of our ancestors and in order for us to be who Creator meant for us to be we must ensure that our lands, air and waters are protected. My elders teach me time and time again that it is our duty to protect. Right now in California it is the indigenous communities and farmworker communities that are paying the price of oil and gas pollution with their lives. In Kern County children go to school surrounded by oil wells. In northern California our Winnemem Wintu relatives have lost their sacred sites and salmon runs to the Shasta Dam and the wildfires. The small farmworker town of Kettleman City still doesn’t have clean drinking water, all while they see millions of gallons of water flowing past their community to be used for water intensive oil and gas projects in southern California. This simply cannot continue.

I refuse to accept this reality and that is why I stood up, spoke out and sang the Women’s Warrior Song in front of world leaders and corporate CEOs. Governor Brown you have done much to lead on addressing the climate crisis, signing a recent bill to transition our state to 100% clean electricity by 2045. However, you have missed the entire other half of the climate change puzzle — oil and gas production. We aren’t going to let you forget that.
If you want to get a real perspective on climate change in California, ask a farmworker. My mother migrated to California from Michoacán, Mexico in her early 20’s and followed the harvest north up to Southern Oregon in the Latgawa Valley which is where me and my three siblings were born. My mother knows the location of just about every you-pick and wild tree in the region.

My mom never hesitated to bring us with her to work. “Para que aprendan como su madre se gana la vida” (so you can learn how your mother earns her living), she would tell us. Whether it was picking grapes, blueberries, strawberries, or waking up at 2:00 am to light the orchard heaters to prevent the pear blossoms from freezing, mom always tracked weather changes, cloud patterns, and temperature fluctuations. It determined whether we’d go to work, plant, or harvest.
My mother has been noticing for decades that each year plants are blooming sooner; that the rain was not arriving when it was needed; that each year she was having to plant her seeds sooner and sooner. No one knows the land, waters, and seasons more than someone who spends the majority of their life tending to them and defending them.
Farmworkers are among the most vulnerable to warmer temperatures from climate change. In 2016 the men in my family were out of work because the wildfires had gobbled up the lands where they were contracted to conduct a massive tree planting restoration project. In Kettleman City, farmworker communities regularly go to work at 3:00 am to avoid the deadly midday temperatures.

Chevron’s oil field in Kern County, California. Credit Jim Wilson/The New York Times

I am a Community Organizer & Youth Program Coordinator with Greenaction and I have been a part of a movement of young people that has been urging Jerry Brown to address oil and gas drilling for over a year. Dozens of us sat-in outside his Sacramento office in August to demand action. Six were arrested after he refused to meet with us. Pressure mounted at GCAS two weeks ago, when hundreds of people, led by Indigenous leaders from around the world, gathered outside the conference to call on Jerry Brown to address California’s oil and gas extraction problem. We weren’t invited inside, but found a way to make sure our questions were heard loud and clear:

Jerry Brown, how many more fracking wells will you approve before we can no longer drink our water? My grandchildren are asking.

Jerry Brown, how many farmworkers have to die from heat stroke before you take bold action to stop oil and gas drilling? My family and other farmworker communities are asking.

Jerry Brown, how many young people have to be arrested at your office until you realize that everything and everyone we love is at stake? Our generation is asking.

The stakes of Brown’s choice could not be higher. We don’t have to imagine a world ravaged by climate change, it’s already here. Our homes are burning in fires and washing away in floods. Soot from forest fires regularly pierces our lungs, requiring us to wear gas masks in daily life. We carry the harms of contaminated water in our bodies. Those of us who are indigenous youth, youth of color and low-income youth worldwide are being hit first and worst by Jerry Brown’s failure to lead California off fossil fuel production.The real climate leadership comes from indigenous women, like Chief Caleen Sisk of the Winnemem Wintu tribe (center)

In order for me to grow the seeds my ancestors have left me I need the rivers to have salmon and that means you need to keep our waters in the rivers and out of your fracking projects. That means you have to keep the oil in the ground so that my seeds can thrive in clean and fertile soils.

My prayer today is for you Jerry Brown:

That you will think of the next seven generations and announce a plan to wield all the power of our state to phase California off of oil and gas before you leave office.

Jerry Brown, this is your last chance. Will you stand with the people of California or Big Oil?

Frontline communities from all over the world standing together in solidarity outside of the Global Climate Action Summit.

Written by Niria Alicia, 26, following her interruption at the Global Climate Action Summit in San Francisco with seven other California youth leaders in the #BrownsLastChance Campaign, an unprecedented coalition of over 800 public interest organizations and backed by Nobel Laureates, hundreds of elected officials and world-renowned climate scientists calling on Governor Jerry Brown to stop new oil and gas drilling in California.