On Sunday, Earthworkers marched with frontline delegations from the Gulf Coast, Appalachia, Ohio River Valley, Permian Basin, and New Mexico through the streets of New York City to demand President Joe Biden take bold action to end fossil fuels.
The March to End Fossil Fuels, which was led by a global Indigenous delegation and turned out more than 75,000 people, happened before world leaders traveled to New York City amid growing pressure for nations to commit to phasing out fossil fuels at the United Nations Climate Ambition Summit.
On this front, the United States is NOT leading. President Biden declined a seat at the summit’s table after learning he would be prohibited from speaking due to his failure to demonstrate sufficient movement toward fossil fuel phaseout, renewable energy targets, and climate finance. Instead of championing climate justice as he said he would, President Biden has expanded oil and gas drilling, production, and exports across the county.
anaïs peterson, petrochemicals campaigner at Earthworks, marched with residents of Appalachia and the Ohio River Valley who carried two large banners through the streets of New York City that said, “Appalachia ≠ Sacrifice Zone” and “Fracking –> Cracking –> Plastic, Protect the OH Valley, We deserve better.” The delegation included residents from the Unity Council for the East Palestine Train Derailment who are demanding justice for their communities in the aftermath of the Norfolk Southern train derailment. Hilary and Zsuzsa, impacted East Palestine organizers, also still need support replacing the chemical contaminated items in their home. There was also a group of leaders fighting the Mountain Valley Pipeline (MVP) in the frontline delegation and they encourage folks to join them. This mobilization was powerful and communities across Appalachia need and deserve the same energy on the ground at our fights.
Kendra Pinto led the banner alongside Cheyenne Antonio, Greater Chaco Coalition Coordinator, Samuel Sage, Greater Chaco Coalition Board President in her role with Diné C.A.R.E and as a frontline activist (Kendra is also Earthworks Four Corners Indigenous Field Advocate). The message to Biden was clear: Honor Chaco as promised by keeping the 20 year moratorium on any further oil & gas leasing within a 10-mile buffer of Chaco Culture National Historical Park.
Angel Ulloa of the Permian-Gulf Coast Coalition poses with Naomi Klein, an award-winning journalist, syndicated columnist and author of the bestselling books The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism. “Seeing the sea of 75,000 people when we only expected about 10,000 was incredibly emotional. I’m excited for what’s to come next,” said Ulloa.
Christa Mancias, the Tribal secretary of the Carrizo Comecrudo Tribe of South Texas, leads a delegation of frontline leaders and residents from the Texas Gulf Coast during the march. Mancias and the tribe are fighting plans to build gas export terminals on land they consider sacred at the mouth of the Rio Grande that are being fast-tracked without consultation of the tribe.
Sharon Lavigne, founder of Rise St. James and recipient of the 2021 Goldman Environmental Prize, speaks to a crowd before the march started, saying, “Every new lease, every new plastic plant, every day that he refuses to end fossil fuels, President Biden is continuing to poison my family in my community.” Photo by Emma Cassidy, Survival Media Agency.
Dominic Chacón leads a delegation of seven people from the El Paso and Odessa regions of Texas on Sunday, highlighting the issues communities face because of the Permian Basin, currently the largest shale field in the U.S., known as a “climate bomb.” Dangerous amounts of methane in the Permian Basin are being released into the air, constantly causing harm to the environment, workers, New Mexico, the Gulf Coast and ultimately — the global climate. Sharon Wilson, a former Earthworker who was there with the group Oilfield Witness, said, “The U.S. must lead with swift action – not just words – to end the carnage that starts with a hole in the ground causing death and suffering to oilfield workers and frontline communities and extending to people all across the globe.”
Roishetta Sibley Ozane, founder of The Vessel Project of Louisiana, was one of the speakers to address thousands of people in the crowd hours after marching. During her speech, Ozane called out President Biden for ignoring the people that voted him into office. “President Biden, we are holding you personally accountable for the climate-induced disasters that our communities have faced,” she said.
Ethan Buckner, one of the organizers of the march and Senior Manager of Energy Infrastructure at Earthworks, ended the march by performing his debut single, “Eyes on the Prize.” Buckner dedicated the song to Joye Braun, a dedicated pipeline fighter and water protector who passed away last year.
It’s not too late for Biden to reverse course.
He must take real action to end fossil fuels by stopping new fossil fuel projects, phasing out oil and gas drilling on our public lands and waters, and declaring a climate emergency to turbo-charge a just clean energy future.
What do we want? Climate justice. When do we want it? NOW.