I was selected as one of thirteen US youth delegates to join the COP 22 climate talks in Morocco this year and hopefully gain a deeper understanding of where the global discourse is on moving towards climate justice. Aware of the controversy that surrounds the COP gatherings -being that they are funded by corporations that perpetuate what have been widely accepted as the causes of climate change- and aware of my privilege as a US citizen, I was eager to join the local climate conversations happening amongst Moroccan grassroots organizers. Myself and three other delegates left early morning on a two hour drive to the coastal city of Safi where we attended the “Systems Change, Not Climate Change Conference”. Minutes after arriving, we left the hotel and embarked on a toxic tour through Safi’s industrial zone where we were given a brief history about the impacts that industrial corporations have had on the Moroccan peoples, water, fish and regional economy. What I saw and what I learned was all too familiar to the struggles back home.

Water pollution. Threatened fish populations. Displaced people. Destruction of traditional fishing communities and cultures. Destruction of the environment in the name of big agriculture. “Is this California?”, I thought to myself,  No, this is happening to the peoples of Safi in Morocco, who are an entire ocean away, on the continent of Africa but are being impacted by the same forces that are causing my people and the environment the similar aches. My perspective of the water struggles issues in California have been largely informed by my work with the Winnemem Wintu and Ohlone indigenous peoples of California and their struggle to protect their sacred sites, their lifeways, their salmon and the water. The tour exposed me to an almost identical scenario of our struggle back home, except it is happening to a different people but it’s being caused by the same means. I highlight the parallels I identified below;

Tunnels; in California our fresh water is being threatened by the proposal of the twin tunnels to divert freshwater from the bay-delta estuary, one of the largest estuaries on the west coast, diversions for big Ag. Pictured here is a giant tunnel attached to the Phosphate factory spouting thousands of gallons per minute, open air, into the ocean and it’s full of toxic chemicals that are responsible for the declining fish populations. Do you see that tan color in the water?! That’s contaminated water from the factory that is producing phosphate for big Ag.


Destruction of culture: Safi used to have 120 fish factories that employed over 600 migrant woman, now only 24 factories are open. The people from Safi have traditionally relied on fishing for food, for work, and for cultural purposes. More than 55,000 people have lost their livelihoods as a result of this horror.

I looked down at the polluted water as I stood on the cliff and I saw my #run4salmon shawl. I thought about the Winnemem Wintu tribe and all the hearts that joined our prayer for the waters and the fish back home. I closed my eyes I drifted back into that prayerful journey and called in that strength. I heard the voice of my elders come into my heart whispering, “This is the same struggle and we are all in this together, all sides”. Our waters are under attack but we are standing, and we are standing together from all over the world. #stopthetunnels In California, #nonestle and #nolngOregon, #nodapl in #standingrock #waterislife #salmonwillrun #nodamcanhold#goodthingscoming #strongerthanthestruggle the real #cop22#SystemsChangeNotClimateChange!


Niria Garcia

About Niria Garcia

Niria Alicia is a Xicana storyteller, scholar and organizer whose activism and advocacy work is rooted in her spirituality and undying love for her community and for the environment. Born to Cilviana, a migrant farmworker from Michoacan, and Francisco, a former northwest tree planter from Chihuahua Mexico, she is the second of four children. A first-generation student, Niria graduated Phi Beta Kappa with Cum Laude honors from the University of Oregon with B.A’s in Environmental Studies, Latin American Studies and a minor in Non-profit Administration. Her research focused on women-led grassroots environmental and social justice movements in the U.S. and Latin America. As an undergraduate she was a part of MEChA, NASU, and co-directed the Raza Unida Youth Conference and the Coalition Against Environmental Racism. Niria has traveled, studied and worked in Brazil, Dominican Republic, Mexico, Belize, Guatemala, and Costa Rica participating in social justice delegations, teaching, translating, conducting research, and running student programs building aqueducts, grey water treatment systems and contributing to reforestation efforts. As a writer she has contributed to several environmental blogs, local newspapers and magazines and has written about the effects that pesticides, pipelines and climate change have on marginalized communities. Following up her communications internship with Earthjustice she continues to work with them on their Endangered Salmon Campaign. She is also currently working with the Winnemem Wintu tribe and a coalition of indigenous leaders and activists on the Run 4 Salmon campaign aimed to bring awareness about policies affecting our waters, our fish and indigenous lifeways.

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