2017 has been a challenging year for the environment and human rights. Complete with a seemingly unending series of natural disasters, and a record number of murders of environmental defenders, it’s safe to say that the year has not been without obstacle.
Worldwide the urgency of the climate crisis became more apparent as international efforts to take action were stunted. And notably, the reality that climate change unfairly impacts those least at fault took center stage.
Yet, even faced with an ongoing series of challenges, global grassroots leaders celebrated a number of victories. These victories are worth noting on their own, but when referenced together demonstrate the power of a global environmental justice movement developing to stand up against social and environmental injustices.
Read on for five success stories from the past year that give us hope when looking to the new year ahead.
MONGOLIA: These Mongolian Herders Took on a Mine and Won
After four years of intense negotiations, local herder organizations in the Gobi Desert of Mongolia took on a major mining company and won. The herders won a landmark agreement with the operators of one of the world’s largest copper mines, protecting their way of life, their environment, their health, and their animals. Find out how multiple grants from Global Greengrants Fund helped power the victory.
CANADA: Grassy Narrows Celebrates Canadian Government’s Commitment to Mercury Cleanup
For 40 years, the Canadian First Nations people have been demanding action from the government to clean up mercury spilled into the soil and river from a paper plant just upstream from Grassy Narrows. 90 percent of the people in Grassy Narrows have shown symptoms of mercury poisoning as a result of the contamination. Since 2001, Global Greengrants has supported Grassy Narrows First Nation with 13 grants to call attention to the contamination and demand action, and now the government is stepping up to the challenge. Read more about this first step towards cleanup and resolution.
GLOBAL: The Catholic Church Divests $5 Trillion from Fossil Fuels
In April 2017, spanning five continents, an international coalition of Catholic institutions divested from polluting fossil fuels. The Global Catholic Climate movement made the announcement October 3, marking the largest joint declaration of divestment by Catholic organizations to date. The total amount divested totals upwards of $5 trillion. Global Greengrants Fund has supported multiple projects in which grassroots groups call for Catholic institutions to divest and support a carbon-neutral economy.
CHILE: Iron, Sand, and the Sweet Taste of Victory
After a long process of citizen organizing and empowerment, the Maule Mataquito Defense and Conservation Group learned that their efforts to protect the sand dunes and wetlands in Putú, Chile had been successful. The dunes and wetlands were officially designated a nature sanctuary in October 2017, saving them from the threat of iron mining in the region. Learn more about the organization’s efforts that led to this sweet victory.
UGANDA: Women Lead a Water Project to Save People’s Lives
Most people in Gomba, Uganda, don’t have access to clean water. About 50 kids under 5 years old die every month from diarrhea and typhoid. The women of the Uganda Women’s Water Initiative recognized the problem, and in June 2014, they used a $2,500 grant to build 12 bio-sand water filters in schools to purify kids’ drinking water. Flash forward: The water filters have been installed, and local women say their kids no longer suffer from diarrhea. School absenteeism has reduced by nearly two-thirds, and kids’ families are able to save the money they used to spend in hospitals to pay school fees and feed their kids a balanced diet. Watch this video and meet the women who made this possible.
These five stories shine a light on the path ahead. Right now, it looks bright, but we need to your help to make that a reality, and have more success stories to share in the year to come. Together, we are where change takes root.