Approximately 100 people filled Isla Vista Theater on Saturday night to attend the final installment of the Many Faces of the Environment, a conference focused on promoting discussion concerning environmental injustice.
The all-day conference, which coincided with the People’s March for Economic Justice, held morning workshops and hosted speakers in the evening to address the connection between social and economic issues and the environment.
The five-hour evening session featured keynote speakers LeVonne Stone and Julia Butterfly Hill, as well as a panel discussion with members of activist groups.
Stone, executive director of the Fort Ord Environmental Justice Network, said the goal of the evening was to realize the ways human rights and environmental justice are related.
“The struggle is not ending. We have to make sure the generations to come know what we’re fighting for. We are our brother’s keepers. We have to look out for each other, no matter what race or creed. … We can either work together or perish,” she said.
Stone said her family, along with 200 other families, were evacuated from their apartments on the California Fort Ord army base in 1994 due to pollution.
“The government doesn’t understand that they polluted our community. … They disbanded our restoration advisory board because we asked hard questions, like ‘Why are we being polluted? What about the landfill? Where do we fit in? Do you want us to disappear?’ ” she said. “I don’t want to be one of those people who just falls through the cracks. … We have to understand what’s going on and keep up the struggle, get educated. Some responsibility has to be taken by our government – they work for us.”
Hill, founder of the Circle of Life Foundation, lived in a redwood tree named “Luna” in Humbolt County for more than two years to protest logging. Hill said it is important for everyone to realize the power they have in themselves to change the world.
“I’m trying to show the world that not only can we make a difference, we do. People ask me, ‘How did you choose the Luna tree sit, Julia?’ I didn’t choose the Luna tree sit; it chose me. I realized that if I walked away my inaction was just as bad as the Pacific Lumbar Corporation’s action,” she said.
Hill said the lesson her 738-day tree sit taught her was the power of unconditional love.
“The hardest part was that I was sitting in an active logging plan – it was like watching my friends and family die. The chainsaws echoed in my dreams at night,” she said. “I learned the power of love through finding a way to deal with what I was going through. Nature gives to us unconditionally everyday. Eventually nature will not be able to, and it will be because we made it unable to do so.”
In order to help the environment, it is important to learn the impact of one’s actions and join efforts together, Hill said.
“There’s no such thing as inaction or nonaction, because it has an impact. Don’t give your power to the corporations or the government. Bring your own mug, bring your own bags to the grocery store, bring your own container to put leftovers in,” she said. “Think globally, stay involved and don’t shut up. You need to decide whether you can make a difference. … The same forces that are killing and suppressing the communities are the same people that are killing and suppressing the Mother Earth. We have to reach out and work together.”