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What if Climate Justice were on the ballot?

November 7, 2022

I was happy this morning to cast my vote for Proposal 3, which will, “Establish new individual right to reproductive freedom, including right to make and carry out all decisions about pregnancy, such as prenatal care, childbirth, postpartum care, contraception, sterilization, abortion, miscarriage management, and infertility.”

I felt satisfied with coming for Prop 3, because it was a form of direct democracy. If Prop 3 passes, it will be enacted. Period. End of story. It won’t be left up to the legislature to try to maybe make reproductive freedom possible, it will make reproductive freedom a reality in Michigan.

Too bad there are not more ballot initiatives that we could vote for, like guaranteeing that everyone will earn enough money to take care of housing, health care, food, transportation and educational needs. Too bad there was not a ballot initiative to defund and abolish the police, despite the fact that the largest protest movement in US history – from 2020 to the present – has been demanding that. Too bad there wasn’t a ballot initiative to pay reparations to Black people. Too bad there wasn’t a ballot initiative that would end Settler Colonialism, give land back to indigenous nations and pay reparations for the centuries of harm done. Too bad that Climate Justice was not on the ballot, especially since the future of ecosystems, human and non-human species is at risk of surviving.

Imagine what it would look like in Michigan if Climate Justice was on the ballot. In some ways its too broad, since Climate justice encompasses so many things, such as the extraction and use of fossil fuels, the urgent need for real/all encompassing mass transit, the dismantling of the US Military Industrial Complex, and the end of Capitalism. Therefore, maybe we would have to narrow down said ballot initiative, to focus specifically on ending Line 5. Oh wait…..Governor Whitmer said she would do that. To be fair, Whitmer did impose an end date for the use of Line 5 in 2021, but Enbridge ignored it and got judges to say the state couldn’t do that. 

So what would a ballot initiative that would end Line 5 look like. Here is my idea, but others should come up with their own.

My idea is in 5 parts:

  • Immediately stop all use of the existing Line 5 pipeline.
  • Prevent any future pipelines to be constructed, even if it is guaranteed to be safe, like the one Enbridge is proposing under Lake Michigan.
  • Give all the land that Line 5 currently sits on and return that land to Indigenous people.
  • Have Enbridge pay reparations for all the harm that Line 5 has done – particularly to the perpetuation of the extraction and burning of fossil fuels.
  • Earmark the reparations money that Enbridge will pay specifically for a high-speed rail system in Michigan.

Now, the reason that such a ballot initiative for Climate Justice or the End of Line 5 has not been put on the ballot, is primarily because the two major political parties in Michigan would never endorse such a project. Neither the Republicans nor the Democrats would endorse such a ballot initiative, simply because both parties are too entrenched in the systems of fossil fuel extraction, the system of capitalism, the role of lobbyists and the benefits of maintaining systems of power and oppression.

This means that the only effective way to end Line 5, will be through an autonomous, social movement, particularly if it is lead by Indigenous people. I say this, because the Indigenous-led resistance to oil pipelines in the US and Canada, has already proven to be the most effective strategy. In August of 2021, the Indigenous Environmental Network and Oil Change International, published an excellent report entitled, Indigenous Resistance Against Carbon. 

The summary of the report states: 

In this report, we demonstrate the tangible impact these Indigenous campaigns of resistance have had in the fight against fossil fuel expansion across what is currently called Canada and the United States of America. More specifically, we quantify the metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e) emissions that have either been stopped or delayed in the past decade due to the brave actions of Indigenous land defenders. Adding up the total, Indigenous resistance has stopped or delayed greenhouse gas pollution equivalent to at least one-quarter of annual U.S. and Canadian emissions.

Direct Action is always more effective that voting, especially in a representative democracy.

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