Grassroots movements are protecting our oceans

Originally shared on 17 January 2024.

Over the last century, oceans have been the canary in the coal mine for the climate crisis, with acidity rising by 26% and wreaking havoc on biodiversity up and down the food chain.

Fish constitute over half of the animal protein consumed in many coastal and small island countries. Fisheries are collapsing due to overfishing and rising ocean temperatures..

Decades of pollution, mining, drilling, and destructive tourist practices are harming coastal communities’ food sources and livelihoods. 

Grassroots Action

Coastal ecosystems such as mangroves, seagrasses, and tidal marshes are critical carbon sinks for sequestering and drawing down carbon. CLIMA Fund members are supporting grassroots groups across the globe that are advancing people-centered approaches to ocean protection. Here are a few examples:

Over 400 Suva residents took to the streets in protest against Japan’s Fukushima nuclear wastewater disposal into the Pacific Ocean. Joining ongoing regional protests in Asia, the US, and the Pacific, many called out Japan’s plans as an act of crime against humanity. Image courtesy: Pacific Network on Globalization.

The Pacific Network on Globalization (PANG), alongside its allies, contributed to the ratification of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons in July 2020 by the Fiji Parliamentary Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defense. PANG and the Social Empowerment Educational Programme are also campaigning for local governance and control over oceans. The campaign includes calling for a ban on sea-bed mining for military and commercial purposes. Sea-bed mining is a growing threat to oceans, and local communities’ human and economic rights. 

Health of the Mother Earth Foundation (HOMEF)’s report on the Blue Economy shares how a conceptual model is used to entrench extractive approaches to ecosystem management. These ecosystems include inland water bodies as well as the oceans. Out of the fifty-four countries in Africa, thirty-eight are coastal states. The entire continent is surrounded by water, and about 90 percent of imports and exports are done by sea. Read now.

HOMEF and the South Durban Community Environmental Alliance (SDCEA)’s campaign Fish Not Oil supports fisherfolk resisting seismic testing and oil and gas exploration. They are calling on the South African government to hold polluting corporations accountable, implement stricter regulations, and promote equitable fishing rights for all South Africans.

Amadiba Crisis Committee leader Nonhle Mbuthuma addresses a protest meeting on a beach along the Eastern Cape Wild Coast. Image courtesy: Lucas Ledwaba / Mukurukuru Media.

Climate justice activists in South Africa secured a significant win against the oil giant Shell in December 2021. Shell had planned to look for oil and gas in the oceans that shore up on Kwa-Zulu Natal’s Wild Coast. These plans were halted as the courts sided with impacted communities and activists over the multinational corporation. Amadiba Crisis Committee, SDCEA, and Abahlali baseMjondolo were all active in the struggle, mobilizing their respective communities to shut Shell down. Shell’s tests would have been devastating to the whales and marine life in the ocean and the people who culturally, spiritually, and materially live interdependently with the waters.

Imagine Water Works distributed $100,000 directly to public health workers impacted by Hurricane Ida. In acknowledgment of the fact that those who are most often pushed to the margins are also most impacted by natural disasters, IWW prioritized LGBTQ and BIPOC individuals for this fund. Learn more: Public Health Workers Fund for Hurricane Ida Recovery.

Imagine Water Works is reimagining the future through art, science, and human connection. Some of the group’s current projects include The Trans Clippers Project, the Mutual Aid Response Network, an “Anonymous Storm Prep Q&A” on Instagram, The Queer/Trans Guide to Hurricane Season, Working With Water: An Art/Science Symposium, The Little Library of Water, and Watermark: A Monthly Water and Climate News Briefing.

Imagine Water Works has worked with groups from neighborhood associations to scientists, and small business owners to government agencies to create various resources for its community and develop hazard mitigation plans in Louisiana and across the U.S.

Looking back:

In January, we released Soil to Sky: Climate Solutions That Transform, which connects the dots between specific stories of change and global impact, demonstrating how grassroots movements are already forging a more ecologically and socially just global future. Four years after the release of our widely cited report Soil to Sky: Climate Solutions That Work, this edition provides further evidence that grassroots movements are best positioned to shift the global food and energy sectors from the dominant extractive models to regenerative ones. We also released a new video about our work prepared by gabriela sánchez and Fernão Spadotto.

A few partner spotlights from 2023

Olena Shevchenko was featured by Time Magazine as Woman of the Year! Since Russia invaded Ukraine last year, Olena has continued to fight to protect the most vulnerable people in Ukraine by providing essential items to women, those with disabilities, and transgender people, like first aid kits and hormones.

Based in Haiti’s Central Plateau, Mouvman Peyizan Papaye (MPP) / Peasant Movement of Papaye has been working at the intersection of agrarian and environmental issues since 1973. MPP and the communities it works with have planted more than 30 million trees, including 30,000 trees in 2020 despite limitations imposed by the pandemic. These trees regenerate the land, provide a buffer against weather extremes, and are sources of fruit, fiber, and fodder. MPP recently celebrated its 50th anniversary and was awarded the annual Food Sovereignty Prize in October 2023 for its work in reclaiming Haiti’s independence from global food imports.

In a major victory for peasant movements everywhere, the Kenyan High Court barred the government from importing or distributing GMOs, until a case by the Kenyan Peasants League (KPL) is decided. Over decades of hard work, KPL and other movement partners across Africa have been advancing solutions that fight for the dignity of African farmers. They work to protect their crops and livelihoods, ensure safety measures for their communities, and challenge unjust global food systems. 

La Via Campesina celebrated 30 years of globalizing peasant struggle and solidarity. Thirty organizations established the movement and the movement has grown to include 182 member organizations and over 200 million rural workers. LVC is now the world’s largest social movement, its work articulated with the slogan “globalize the struggle, globalize hope.” LVC has been pivotal in supporting peasant emancipatory struggles at local, state, and international levels and in recognizing peasants’ rights through the UN declaration on the rights of peasants and other people working in rural areas.

CLIMA Member Updates 

  1. CLIMA member Urgent Action Fund for Women’s Human Rights has changed its name: it is now Urgent Action Fund for Feminist Activism! UAF wanted a more inclusive name that aligns with its values and the current context and scope of its work. Learn more.
  2. CLIMA member Grassroots International celebrated 40 years of accompanying grassroots movements and struggles! GRI has a new Co-Executive Director structure, as former Director of Grantmaking and Advocacy Sara Mersha joins current Executive Director Chung-Wha Hong in leading the organization. Learn more.
  3. CLIMA member Global Greengrants Fund celebrated the first anniversary of the Disability Rights and Climate Justice (DRCJ) Advisory Board, an initiative that stands at the crossroads of two pressing global issues—disability rights and climate justice, in July 2023. Learn more. GGF, along with Global Alliance for Green and Gender Action (GAGGA) and SAGE Fund launched “Women on the Frontlines of Extractivism: How funders can support women environmental defenders,” a new report that aims to expose how natural resource extraction both fuels and reinforces structural violence, with particular attention to the impacts on women and girls.
  4. Thousand Currents visited partners in Fiji and Brazil, and published new research, Foregrounding Social Movement Voices: Popular Organizing and Philanthropic Funding in Asia and the Pacific, analyzing the complex relationship between popular organizations and institutional funding in Asia and the Pacific.
  5. The CLIMA Fund and members joined over a thousand funders in signing the Philanthropy Open Letter for Humanity and Justice in Palestine and Israel demanding an immediate ceasefire. Read the full letter:

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