Local group of older women hits ground running
The Society of Fearless Grandmothers is still a fledgling group in Santa Barbara, but it has wasted no time in making its presence known.
Since the local chapter was formed last October, members have participated in several actions in Isla Vista, Santa Maria and Santa Barbara.
They have provided public comment at various hearings where climate issues are on the agenda, and in February, they started weekly Fire Drill Friday events, holding rallies at the Santa Barbara County Administration Building across from the Courthouse.
“These events have been reluctantly suspended due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but we are finding creative ways to continue our activism using electronic media and collaboration with other organizations,” said Irene Cooke.
“Instead of protesting on State Street on Earth Day, we created collage messages that were sent to the county Board of Supervisors and to the governor. We have participated in several online events, and we are preparing video presentations to submit for public comment at upcoming public hearings that will be held online.”
The 71-year-old lawyer, who moved to Goleta from Winter Park, Colo., in 2018, to be near her grandson, was instrumental in organizing the group patterned after the Bay Area Society of Fearless Grandmothers.
“We are calm, peaceful, loving, courageous older women who understand that the time to stand up for current and future generations is NOW,” said Ms. Cooke. “Not all members have grandchildren but, in the tradition of indigenous cultures, an elder woman who cares about the next seven generations is considered a Grandmother.”
The local group was formed on the basis of a shared concern for the future of the planet with the focus on climate justice because the planet’s climate emergency presents serious threats to the safety and security of future generations, according to Ms. Cooke.
One of the first items on their agenda was training for older women to prepare them to keep streets safe during actions and events during street closures.
“The training emphasized compassion for all living beings. We have no human enemies. The enemy is the thought forms that created the systems of dominance over each other and the natural world,” she said, adding “There can be no change without demands. We have demanded that Santa Barbara County deny permits for any new fossil fuel projects. We will continue to demand that all responses to the COVID-19 crisis focus on a just transition away from a fossil fuel economy with dramatic systemic change to address climate justice, protecting people and not profit.”
Ms. Cooke is particularly excited about the Stop the Money Pipeline campaign, which targets big banks that fund fossil fuel projects.
“Chase Bank is absolutely the No. 1 funder of fossil fuel projects in the world. It has contributed $196 billion to fossil fuel corporations. I cut up my Chase credit card. Wells Fargo is the second highest funder.”
Collages created by the Santa Barbara group were among those added to a large collage that was projected on a building in New York City across the street from the apartment of Jamie Dimon, chairman and CEO of JP Morgan Chase, the largest of the big four American banks.
“It was 30 feet tall. My message on it was ‘Stop funding climate criminals,’ ” said Ms. Cooke.
The Society of Fearless Grandmothers-Santa Barbara, whose 30 members range in age from 59 to 85, also join in demands for reform to stop the long history of racial violence.
“We recognize that the impacts of climate change disproportionately affect people of color. We can no longer tolerate a planet where anyone’s right to breathe is compromised, whether by police brutality or by pollution,” Ms. Cooke said.
“The reality is that people of color suffer the impact of climate change more than anyone else. You don’t see an oil refinery in Montecito, do you? We learned all these beautiful platitudes about the Constitution, but no one talks about slavery. Our country has to come to grips with this, and people have to be willing to talk openly as much as necessary.”
Ms. Cooke feels that the Society for Fearless Grandmothers can be especially effective because “older women have a certain type of authority, wisdom, strength and compassion based on our life experiences. We are committed to keeping the younger generations safe.
“This includes keeping them safe during nonviolent direct actions. We are committed to being on the frontlines to de-escalate tension and speak calmly to law enforcement. We understand that we take the risk of being harmed, and we are willing to be arrested to safeguard those nonviolently standing behind us.”
For more information about the Society of Fearless Grandmothers-Santa Barbara, visit fearlessgrandmotherssb.org; email firstname.lastname@example.org; or go on Facebook to fearlessgrandmotherssb and on Twitter to FGSantaBarbara.