Climate justice takes center stage in shoe strike
Saturdays in beautiful, sunny Santa Barbara are perfect days to do all types of things around the area, but for these grandmother’s, this particular Saturday was the perfect one to bring attention to an important issue — climate justice.
“It’s fabulous, it is just fabulous,” Irene Cooke told the News-Press.
Ms. Cooke is one of the members of the Society of Fearless Grandmothers Santa Barbara. On Saturday, the group, in collaboration with 350SB and the Greta Thunberg Fridays for Future international organization, held a shoe strike outside the County’s Administration Building.
There, the society set up more than 500 pairs of shoes, which represented people that organizer’s say would have been there physically protesting had it not been for COVID-19.
The Society of Fearless Grandmothers had four demands during their protest: asking for local government officials to deny any new permits for fossil fuel projects; focus responses to the COVID-19 crisis on a just transition from the fossil fuel economy; protect people and the environment — not corporate profit; and end systemic oppression to stop the long history of racial and economic injustice.
“I think there is a real demand in our community for people to stand up for climate justice. A recent poll shows that three out of four voters are concerned about the trucking proposal that’s being put forward,” Ms. Cooke said.
“Things like that are why we want to make sure that people pay attention to those issues and tell our elected officials that we need projects that reduce greenhouse gases in our community and that projects that are going to increase the greenhouse gas emissions.”
With the demonstration set up at noon, people walking down East Anapamu Street were able to get a first-hand look at the shoes, as well as signs explaining what the strike stood for.
One passerby, Alison Brainard, a longtime Santa Barbara resident, said she was happy to see the attention being brought to such an important issue.
“I think this is fantastic. We need to be cognizant of climate control, and especially in our area. When they’re looking to do fracking, they’re looking to harm the environment. We should focus on other areas rather than destroying our environment,” Ms. Brainard said.
She added that she was also proud to see the society leading the cause.
“It’s just saying that they want a better world for their children and grandchildren, and we want it as well, but I absolutely admire their tenacity and their being able to put something like this together, because it just shows the people this represents people,” Ms. Brainard said.
While the event did focus on the issue of climate control, Ms. Cooke also made it clear that climate justice is also about calling attention to the issues of systemic oppression and racial injustice that exists throughout the country.
“If you take a hard look at this, it’s all related. All of these issues are related,” Ms. Cooke said.
“There’s a great quote from Hop Hopkins, the director of strategic partnerships at the Sierra Club, who says you can’t have climate change without sacrifice zones, you can’t have sacrifice zones without disposable people and you can’t have disposable people without racism… I think that really explains why we are talking about the intersection of racism and the climate activism movement.
“Climate issues are not purely ecological and environmental, it also has to do with racial and economic injustice and I think people are starting to realize that.”
Catherine Gautier, a professor in the geology department at UCSB, is also a member of the society.
On Saturday, she wanted to make it clear that this issue remains a serious one.
“This is very serious business and it’s an emergency that everybody has to realize, and work towards,” Ms. Gautier said.
“We have to do things together collectively and we have to vote for the right people, but we also have to start nonviolent actions that will not only get people to become aware of what’s happening. It’s a serious emergency and we are doing that, and we are not the only one, it’s being done everywhere in the world once a month.”
Fellow society member Ann Shaw agreed with Ms. Gautier, and added that the urgency for people to see these issues is important as well.
“We have to change it quickly. Climate scientists give us 10 years but I’m not even sure that it’s that long. The longer we wait, the harder the job gets so we need to start acting now,” Ms. Shaw said.
Both Ms. Shaw and Ms. Gautier were also incredibly passionate about the work they are doing for the society, as well as all future generations.
“A grandmother has lived through all kinds of experiences and has perhaps a better idea of what’s important going forward. I know for myself, I want my grandchildren and all the grandchildren and future generations to have the same advantages I had, and one of those is to have a planet that you can explore and enjoy,” Ms. Shaw said.
“I think it also shows that we are not doing this for ourselves, we’re doing it for society for children for the future. So we may not be alive in many years, but you will be alive and our grandchildren and others, so we are supporting them. We have some responsibility to work on what has happened,” Ms. Gautier said.
Ms. Shaw added that an important thing people can do is to keep themselves informed by reading local news and holding local politicians accountable.
In fact, one of the goals of Saturday’s event was to show local officials how serious the community feels about climate issues.
“I hope that the elected officials understand that that’s what people are saying. It’s not just, ‘Oh I’m going to throw away my shoes.’ They’re donating these shoes to stand in their place, to make a statement about climate justice and to me, just having those donated shoes before we even start to display them, is really powerful,” Ms. Cooke said.
The demonstrations will be held on the last Saturday of each month outside the county admin building.
Ms. Cooke said that with constant donations, as well as new ways to get the word out to the community, future events may alter moving forward.
“You’ll have to stay tuned,” Ms. Cooke said with a laugh. “We are in discussions to see what next month will look like so we are excited.”