Statement by Rev. Laurie Manning, pastor of Skyline Church UCC-Oakland Hills, and UCC Northern California representative for Environmental Justice at the no-coal-in-Oakland press conference outside City Hall Tues, Feb 16, 2016:
We’re all familiar with “the Golden Rule.” It’s a universal principal, an ethic of reciprocity that teaches: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” “Love your neighbor as yourself.” It teaches us to care about our neighbors. Who doesn’t care about the kid down the street, or down the hill breathing dirty air?
As Flint Michigan reminds us, environmental toxins particularly impact poor children of color, globally, & locally. West Oakland has many parallels to Flint. (%90 black & Latino, where residents already experience high rates of poverty and unemployment).
This is a local health issue. The children of West Oakland are already contending with fumes & noise from the Port. We need to ask ourselves, what if it were our own children?
Now the proponents of the coal partnership in Oakland argue that it is bringing a $52 million investment and will bring almost $3 mill in annual property taxes and 2300 jobs.
But at what cost? What cost to the environment: excavating coal in Utah, transporting it here by rail, & shipping it by ocean to be burned in China? What cost to human lives in every step of the coal production process: the health risks to those most vulnerable; the miners in Utah; the residents of West Oakland; and those who breathe the air in China?
I’m so proud of Governor Brown, and his global leadership in environmental justice. Speaking out in Paris, and at Vatican, Governor Brown echoed the global scientific community’s unanimous pleas to leave 90% of fossil fuels in ground. Why would we want to be complicit in prolonging and accelerating this environmental and humanitarian health crisis?
Furthermore, besides the moral argument, there’s an economic argument. It’s a bad investment for Oakland. The demand for coal and the coal industry are rapidly failing. Why would Oakland want to invest, even in the short term, as major coal companies are going bankrupt? As Paul Krugman, Nobel Prize economist, has recently noted, “fossil fuels are the way of past, renewables are way in the future – if we care about the future, we care about switching.”http://www.nytimes.com/2016/02/01/opinion/wind-sun-and-fire.html?_r=0
Finally, there’s the voice of the people. According to the recent Sierra Club survey, 76% of Oakland residents are against coal in the port.
Surely, there are healthier and safer long term sources of jobs and revenue that will benefit all of the people of Oakland.