Our director Jim Shultz was among many people interviewed during Democracy Now!’s three-hour broadcast, live from the People’s Climate March in NYC on September 21st. The video clip and transcript are reproduced here with kind permission from Democracy Now!
AMY GOODMAN: Well, I want to thank you for being with us, Eileen Flanagan of Earth Quaker Action Team, as her T-shirt says. And I now see Jim Shultz behind us, Jim Shultz, who, when we were covering the U.N. climate summit—well, actually it wasn’t U.N., it was the People’s Summit in Cochabamba, Bolivia. Jim Shultz’s center was right there. So I guess you’ve come up, Jim, from Bolivia, from The Democracy Center there. Talk about why this march is so important.
JIM SHULTZ: Hope. You know, I think this is a crisis and a movement unlike any other, because when you work on issues of war and peace, when you work on issues of famine or disease, we know historically what the off switch looks like. We don’t know what the off switch looks like on climate change. We don’t know if there is one. And I think before we even get into strategy and action and policy and politics, people need to have hope. And I think—
AMY GOODMAN: I want to say “Rising Tides, Rising Rents” is walking by us right now. That’s the huge banner. And people are holding oversized umbrellas that say, “Displace DREAMers,” “Displace People of Color,” “Displace Island Nations,” “Displace Public Housing,” “Tax Wall Street,” “End Climate Change.” I didn’t mean to interrupt, but as the protest comes by, we’re talking about over 100,000 people. I see in the distance there are birds flying, papier-mâché birds. We’ll talk about that when we get to them. But talk about how you in Bolivia connect to this.
JIM SHULTZ: Well, you know, I think New York and Cochabamba are acupuncture points in the planet at this point, because this is obviously a very far way from Tiquipaya, you know, where I live, with dirt roads and cows. But, you know, today is the equinox. Today is one of the two days of the year in which the hemispheres of the planet line up and all have the same length of day and night. And I think that’s symbolic, because this is a planetary crisis. You have Bolivians here. You have indigenous Bolivians here. And I think when people—and there’s an event in Cochabamba today, as well as in other places in the world. So I think it’s about our interconnection, and it’s about the interconnection of citizens taking action. And I think it’s going to juice our batteries up, and that’s what we need everywhere.
AMY GOODMAN: You know, Jim, in Bolivia, in Ecuador, indigenous people have come here to speak out. At first they felt their new presidents would change things in a big way—for example, President Correa in Ecuador taking on Texaco and now Chevron. But then they found that those presidents that they saw as their savior are now taking them on—for example, drilling in the Yasuní area and in other places. Talk about what’s happening with President Morales in Bolivia.
JIM SHULTZ: Well, if you listen to the Bolivians—I was on a panel with a group of indigenous women leaders yesterday—what they’re here to talk about isn’t even climate change. They’re here to talk about issues like mining and the contamination of their water. You know, we were in Oruru a few months ago doing workshops with these communities. I think what it says is that the draw of wealth under the ground, whether it’s fossil fuels globally or whether it’s silver and gold and tin and the rest of it in a place like Bolivia, is so powerful that even these progressive governments have adopted a model of, look, if there’s wealth under the ground, yank it out and use the money. And that, I think, is the message that I hear that Latin Americans that are here saying—from Bolivia, from Ecuador, from Peru, that that’s the messages they want to get out. And I think the message for the people here in the North is we have to connect those two issues, because, in some respects, people in Latin America don’t have the luxury of front-line battles on climate change. They have the front-line battles in their backyard on issues like mining and contamination. And we need to draw the dots, connect the dots between those two. That’s the connection between the North and the South on these issues.
AMY GOODMAN: Now, the next U.N. climate summit—and Democracy Now! will be there—is in Lima, Peru. The significance of it being once again in Latin America, as was Cancún, though last year was in Warsaw, Poland?
JIM SHULTZ: Well, if you think about what New York represents, New York is the return to big-scale, international climate activism since the disappointment of Copenhagen. So you’ve got New York, Lima, and then you have Paris at the end of next year, which is the deadline for a U.N. agreement. Americans, or North Americans, really, are going to dominate New York. Europeans are going to dominate Paris. Lima is where Latin America has to have its voice. And that voice needs to not only be in Lima, it needs to carry forward to Paris, because the way that—you know this. We’ve been together in Bolivia. People in a place like Bolivia, they don’t see the world in the same way. Their concerns are different. The way they think about things is different. And that voice is fundamental that it doesn’t get lost, and Lima is the place where that has to happen, which is why it’s so great that Democracy Now! is coming to Lima, because it’s so easy for that voice to get lost.
AMY GOODMAN: In a moment, we’re going to hear from Nydia Velázquez. She is the congressmember from New York, born in Puerto Rico, talking about the connections between climate change and immigration. Maybe we can end with that with you, Jim Shultz.
JIM SHULTZ: Well, you know, when you look at the news from the United States and you see all of the issues about the kids coming from Central America and the fact that, you know, there are people in this country who want to make sure that door stays locked, I think it is a preview of coming attractions of what affluent countries are looking at, here and in Europe especially, if we have a mass exodus of climate refugees. You are not going to keep people from trying to move where their families and their kids have a shot. And so I think that’s the teaching moment. That’s the lesson here. There is an absolute connection. I think what we’re seeing on the border right now is a preview of coming attractions. If life becomes unsustainable and dangerous for people’s kids, they are going to come to the southern border. And we need to think about what the implications of that are.
AMY GOODMAN: When do you head back to Cochabamba?
JIM SHULTZ: I’m going to head back at the end of next week.
AMY GOODMAN: And will you be participating in the Flood Wall Street action?
JIM SHULTZ: I’m going to be there on Monday.