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Environmental Justice

indigenious honor

Testimony for CO2 Budget Trading Program Regulation

Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection 12/11/2020


I am a mother, concerned about climate change and the future welfare of my four children. I have lived in economically depressed, former anthracite mining communities in Luzerne County. I now live in a suburb which is witnessing ongoing destruction of land and water from a pipeline which carries hazardous liquid gas through Delaware County. My experiences compelled me to curate an art exhibit for the individuals and communities impacted by fossil fuel infrastructure, and to become a Pennsylvania Master Naturalist, and Climate Reality Project leader.

I want to focus on environmental justice for indigenous people. The land I live on was traditionally inhabited by the "Lenni-Lenape," or “Original People,” who served as stewards of the land and waterways. They have inhabited Pennsylvania, Delaware, New Jersey, and New York for over 10,000 years.

We know that our climate crisis disproportionately impacts indigenous communities, whose sovereignty is deeply connected to the land. Historically the Lenape people have suffered economically and culturally from dispossession of land in all its forms. According to the EPA, there is recognition for “the need to work with...all indigenous peoples to effectively provide for environmental and public health protection.” Yet today, expansion of fossil fuel infrastructures impacts rural, suburban, and urban areas across Pennsylvania.

This direction is in stark contrast to the Lenape knowledge system containing sustainability practices and trusted honorable leadership. The late Nanticoke-Lenape Chief Quiet Thunder called for people to “live gently with Earth.” As chief, it was his duty to look after not only the good of all people, but also to live by their tribal justice system, which worked for the good of all Creation. He said “in the East, we have a deep sense of knowing that Mother Earth is hurting.” There is awareness of “devastating events taking place in Nature that can be directly or indirectly tied to man’s tampering with natural laws.” He called for the acknowledgement of the indigenous voices and traditional beliefs which hold a “sacred obligation to try to heal the Earth” and to ensure that “seven generations of people in the future will benefit from Nature’s gifts.”  I feel we must acknowledge the truth of the harm done to public health and environment by our state’s natural resource extraction industries. Because Pennsylvania is the fourth-largest emitter of greenhouse gases in the nation, we must take responsibility to implement climate solutions to reduce emissions. We have the opportunity to do this in collaboration with other Northeast and Mid-Atlantic states by joining the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI). This initiative will not only restore our state’s constitutional rights to clean air and water, but will pave the way for emerging environmentally and socially conscious 21st century businesses to create clean economies and technologies in Pennsylvania.

Carbon reduction is also in keeping with the EPA’s goal of the “fair treatment and meaningful involvement of all people” in “respect to the development, implementation, and enforcement of environmental laws.” As Chief Quiet Thunder described, “The current destruction of our living world will not stop unless we all take responsibility to maintain Earth’s balance.” He emphasized that “what befalls the Earth falls upon all of us.” In this spirit, I believe carbon reduction is aligned with sacred indigenous obligations protecting all people, and honoring all Creation, to help create a livable, abundant future for generations to come. Again, I ask that you add Pennsylvania to the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative.

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