Global Women Leaders Raise Voices at ‘Women Leading Solutions on the Frontlines of Climate Change'

Photo by Emily Arasim, 2014

“As governments meet tomorrow at the UN Climate Summit, women worldwide are joining in solidarity to speak out against policies and activities that not only threaten the climate and their communities but the very future of all life as we know it,” began WECAN International Co-Founder and Executive Director, Osprey Orielle Lake, welcoming the tightly packed crowd to ‘Women Leading Solutions on the Frontlines of Climate Change’, held at the U.N. Church Center in New York City this past Monday, September 22nd 2014.

“We need system change,” she continued, “Women are standing for our Mother Earth, women are standing for future generations, women are standing to protect the web of life and front line communities.”

Photo by Emily Arasim, 2014

The event, held as part of the mobilization surrounding the People’s Climate March, Climate Week NYC and the U.N. Climate Leadership Summit, served as a forum for global women to share why and how they are standing and leading the movement for climate justice and equitable solutions to the climate crisis.

First Nations acapella group Ulali opened the event with their song ‘Idle No More’, so powerful in its words and rhythms that goosebumps and tears overcame many of those gathered. Blending poignant lyrics on taking action and the coming “human awakening” with traditional drumming and singing techniques, the song set the stage for a compelling event.

Photo by Emily Arasim, 2014

Sally Ranney, co-Founder of WECAN International, introduced the organization further and congratulated everyone present for participation in the People’s Climate March the previous day, urging that, “we have to move now with a lot of solidarity, a united voice”. Her speech highlighted biodiversity protection and unity with frontline communities, two themes which reverberated throughout the panel discussion.

Crystal Lameman of the Beaver Lake Cree Nation, Treaty 6 Alberta Canada, and Sierra Club Canada opened the panel with an impassioned speech reflecting her experiences living in “ground-zero” of the tar sands.

Photo by Emily Arasim, 2014

Crystal spoke of dire levels of soil, water, and air pollution engulfing her home, explaining that more than 84% of her people traditional land has been leased to oil companies without community consent, making them “economic hostages” on their own homelands. However Crystal also spoke of hope, “this is an everyone movement. If you are living, breathing, walking, this fight belongs to you too… we are here, and we are not going anywhere.”

Taking the audience on a journey from the tar sands of Alberta to the oil fields tearing at the Amazon rainforest, Patricia Gualinga, Kichwa leader of Sarayaku, Ecuador spoke next. Her speech focused on her communities fight to protect their cultural and ecologic heritage from the expansive fossil fuel and mining projects being pushed under a false development paradigm.

Clean air and water, organic foods, and the ability to walk barefoot without fear of contamination is true wealth, Patricia explained, with poverty emerging only from destruction of the Earth.

Photo by Emily Arasim, 2014

In reaction to the exploitation of nature and indigenous communities the women of her region marched hundreds of miles in October 2013 f