We stand with you today, not just as environmental activists, but as residents of Northwest Indiana. We proclaim that a just transition from fossil fuels to renewable energy is the best hope our communities have for both an environmentally and an economically sustainable future. We are taking a stand because we are tired of watching heavy industry poison our environment and decimate our economy in the name of corporate profit.
Northwest Indiana is a focal point for this crisis. From BP’s reckless oil spill into Lake Michigan, we have learned that these industries are not held accountable for their actions and will not change their methods of operation until they are forced to do so. From the lead poisoning of East Chicago, Indiana, we have learned that these industries leave a dark and lethal legacy behind them, which affects us long after their factories have been torn down, and we have seen how the impacts of these industries tend to fall heaviest on communities of color and poorer communities. And when police officers from Northwest Indiana were sent to oppose the water protectors at Standing Rock, we learned how the power of the state is organized to support these industries.
On a global level, 2016 saw the passing of the 400 parts per million carbon dioxide threshold for the first time in 4 million years. Every year, we see continued species extinction, loss of biodiversity, poisoning of communities, and countless acts of environmental injustice. And we recently witnessed the election of a climate change denier, who in turn nominated a longtime adversary of the EPA to head that agency and and the CEO of Exxon Mobil as the Secretary of State. In the wake of these events, it can be difficult to hold to the hope and conviction required to keep our fight against climate change moving forward.
But it is in these time that we must remember the adage, “The power of the people is greater than the people in power!” Recent years also saw incredible organizing and resistance in the face of oppression, from Flint, Michigan to Standing Rock, North Dakota, from Whiting, Indiana to Washington, D.C. We stand with you today to demand a just transition to a renewable energy economy and rejection of any politician who works against this goal.
Communities like Northwest Indiana have been built on these industries, and transitioning away from fossil fuels can be challenging for us. But it can be done. Cleaner, greener, and better paying jobs will be a reality for our region, if we insist that our politicians and industries take responsibility for the damage that has been done to our communities–and if we insist that the profits which have been stolen from these communities by greedy corporations and corrupt politicians be returned to support the transition to renewable energy.
The fossil fuel era is coming to an end, and we will no longer be governed by the greed of the fossil fuel industry. We stand with frontline communities across the world. We stand with Standing Rock! We stand with Flint, Michigan! We stand with Marktown! We stand with East Chicago, Indiana! Will you stand with us?
An earlier draft of this statement was delivered on January 13, 2017 before the Lake County Superior Courthouse in Hammond, IN following the final hearing of the “Whiting 41”.