Gulf Coast Gathering Brings Together Advocates, Fights “False Climate Promises”

Gulf Coast Sunset: Still Free. Panama City Beach, Florida” by Phil’s 1stPix is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0.

Over a thousand people joined together from Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Florida, and Puerto Rico on Saturday, June 4 for the Gulf Gathering for Climate Justice and Joy in Baton Rouge to hear stories from communities fighting against the oil and gas industry as well as take part in workshops centered around identifying strategies to curb climate change.

“It’s been incredibly powerful to see people from all over the Gulf South sharing their stories and learning about our shared struggles,” said Logan Burke, one of the event coordinators and the executive director of The Alliance for Affordable Energy. “We’re learning from our friends and neighbors and have really started to build a foundation to mobilize and make something different.”

The Gulf Gathering started with Native and African drumming and a blessing by members of the Houma Nation. Dancing continued until the end of the event and was emceed by DJ Cano Cangrejo.

The focus of The Gulf Gathering was “false climate promises,” which refers to technologies that may not be helping the environment as well as major oil and gas industries originally promised. This includes carbon capturing, blue hydrogen, and biomass. 

“These are marketed as opportunities that can lower emissions,” said Angelle Bradford, a Sierra Club grassroots volunteer organizer. “But basically, carbon capture proposes the recapture of emission that that particular plant produces but they are not required to hold on to those emissions for a lifetime. It’s only a couple of years.”

This creates a net increase worldwide of emission still, Bradford said, since the emission is only theoretically being lowered in that one plant.

In the past, these technologies were considered tools to help mitigate the climate crises. However, it has been discovered that what it takes to maintain and invest in new infrastructure instead simply continues to extract the resources and burn more carbon.

In the end, it is not sustainable. Bradford also wanted for everyone to be able to imagine a world that was not as heavily involved with these “false solutions” as well.

“In this warming climate, we cannot afford to rely on that,” Bradford said.

Bradford wants to ensure that there are fortified systems in place so that if disasters do occur communities would have the opportunities to rebuild in ways that provide them with resources to both land and water. 

“It would be changes that are aware of the changing climate,” Bradford said. “We could totally build out our academic industry, our wind and solar and go 100% renewable.”

Attendees, which included organizers and executives of nonprofits as well as those who want to advocate and do more around climate change and justice themselves, were able to enjoy workshops on offshore energy as well as a discussion on climate change led by Devon Turner, the executive director of Grow Dat Youth Farm. General Honore spoke as well as Rise St. James’s Sharon Lavigne and College Pichon Battle, who is from the Gulf Coast Center for Law and Policy. 

“That’s what we’re building toward: this multi-generational, intercultural, diverse-economic background movement that includes everybody so that folks realize that what we do is not something that is inaccessible or just a hobby that we’re good at,” Bradford said. “It’s something that absolutely everyone in this state and this Gulf Coast can do.” 

Community session options included discussions around the topic of planning a sustainable future, protecting the world through poetry, resistance through dance, climate in a global context, relation to food, protecting communities from false promises, and finding joy within the narrative.

Burke said that within a lot of the session members were learning from one another and growing together.

“People really connect with one another, especially with things that are shared,” Burke said. “Some of the folks in Florida were talking about a challenge they were having with a natural gas company in Florida, and that very same company is extracting in Louisiana and Texas. None of the advocates knew that the same company was using the same tactics. So learning from one another and building that network and an understanding of how these corporations work across state lines was powerful.”

According to Burke each of the break out session tents were filled to capacity.

“I think more than anything it was a chance to refortify ourselves in this work in the climate movement,” Bradford said. “We’re being reminded of how do we stop these bad projects but make sure people have a just and fully supported transition into industries that are actually sustainable and to maintain their livelihoods and culture.”

Everyone was able to enjoy food and music from the region throughout the gathering, celebrating culture and demonstrating how taking action can be joyful as well.

“What’s powerful about bringing all these people together is that we’re doing it in Baton Rouge,” Bradford said. “I think it’s so necessary for the city that has so many people that have been oppressed by oil and gas to start to feel the energy and the possibilities of a 100% renewable future and of climate justice and joy. I think the energy that we’re bringing is something unique to the city.”

Burke said that the event was not geared toward protest but instead toward celebration of the Gulf Coast.

“It was geared toward anybody that cares about the culture of the Gulf South, anybody that’s interested in protecting those things and celebrating those things that it made it accessible for people that necessarily do this for a living,” Burke said. “I think that was a transformative way to expand the tent if you will to more people that would have been turned off by the idea or felt unsafe by the idea of a protest to see themselves in a movement and to connect their experiences to the region and the country while doing so in an atmosphere of celebration, I think was really revolutionary.”

The event was coordinated by the Gulf South for a Green New Deal, a regional coalition that is made up of more than 300 organizations across the region. The group is focused on advancing long-existing work toward climate, racial, and economic justice.

“There are so many things that people in our region are struggling with, ranging from economic injustice to the extreme weather injustice that are happening due to climate change as well as the various industrial expansions that are happening across the region,” Burke said. “To have people together for the first time was incredibly powerful…We are all connected and in this together.”

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