As part of the national Keep it in the Ground campaign, the “No New Leases” action on March 23rd at the New Orleans Superdome represented an historic moment in the environmental movement here on the Gulf coast.
Hundreds of protesters from Louisiana, Texas, Mississippi, Alabama, Florida and Georgia arrived in New Orleans on the morning of March 23rd to defend the waters and eco-life of the Gulf of Mexico. Gulf coast communities joined national and global partners to say no to the continued exploitation of the Gulf as a “sacrifice zone” for fossil fuel development.
At stake was 43 million new acres of federally controlled ocean for fossil fuel development, an area the size of the entire state of Louisiana and half of Mississippi, and the 8th largest carbon source remaining on the planet.
National partners 350.org, Rainforest Action Network, Indigena, Rising Tide and the Center for Biological Diversity joined local groups, Louisiana Bucket Brigade, 350LA, the New Orleans Healing Center and indigenous leaders Cherrie Foytlin and Monique Verdin to organize a week of workshops, water ceremonies, films, workshops, trainings and a huge art build thanks to the Radical Arts and Healing Collective.
Although the protest did not stop the auction, it sent a clear message that the days of burning dirty fossil fuels are coming to an end. Indigenous leaders and spokespeople from frontline communities of color like Houston’s Hilton Kelley spoke about the rampant sickness, air pollution and poisoned water that are dumped on poor communities that are standing up and demanding “shut it down!”
If the U.S. has any hope of meeting the terms of December’s Paris Agreement on climate change, drilling for new oil in the Gulf moves us in the opposite direction. Just six years after the ongoing devastation caused by the BP oil spill, new drilling in the Gulf is a guaranteed bad ending.
To the argument that we need jobs from the fossil fuel industry, Louisiana climate activist, Cherri Foytlin, responds that oil workers are being laid off by the hundreds. Instead we could be employing thousands of workers to repair the 27,000 abandoned oil wells in the Gulf, cleaning up what the oil companies are supposed to be doing themselves.
Foytlin declares the fossil fuel industry as a “carousel of death that we must get off.” We can make the Gulf 100% renewable if we choose to invest in that. And, as the banner says, “To Change Everything We Need Everyone.”
For more information about Keep it in the Ground actions in the Gulf, you can reach 350VT’s K.C. Whiteley at email@example.com
Thank you all for your solidarity with the Gulf.
For photos and coverage of the No New Leases Action: