What is the Climate Emergency Resolution and Why Does it Matter in Fort Collins?

As residents of Fort Collins and surrounding areas, we all need to show up at the Fort Collins city council meeting on Tuesday, August 20 at 5pm for the rally and 6pm for public comment to show our support for passing the Climate Emergency Resolution, which we hope will inspire other communities to get more active in the face of climate chaos. Here’s the address: City Hall West, 300 LaPorte Ave. Fort Collins, CO 80521.

The evidence is overwhelming that, despite the fact that Fort Collins has an ambitious Climate Action Plan, the national and global preparation for climate breakdown is inadequate.

Photo courtesy of Janie Stein

By declaring a climate emergency, City Council will signal the urgency of creating the political will to …

• Mitigate the effects of climate chaos.

• Halt the loss of wildlife populations.

• Include indigenous and underrepresented populations’ voices in climate action planning.

• Educate the public about the climate emergency.

• Initiate a Climate Emergency Mobilization and a Just Transition effort worldwide.

• Confirm the City’s existing climate goals for 2030 and 2050, and establish review of those goals to ensure that they remain in alignment with the best available science.

• Quickly transition to a just, sustainable, fossil-free society.

View the proposed resolution here.

Who is Proposing this Resolution, and Why?

The Fort Collins Sustainability Group (FCSG) has been involved since 2005 in supporting the City’s Climate Action Planning process and urging the city both to meet and improve upon its climate goals.

Extinction Rebellion Fort Collins (XRFC) formed only a few months ago as a chapter of the worldwide XR movement, and they asked FCSG for help in working with the City Council to pass a Climate Emergency Resolution. 

The collaboration has been powerful. Combining their like-minded passion with FCSG’s skills and XR’s actions, the two groups worked with the Fort Collins City Council to create a Climate Emergency Resolution. The final step in the process is for City Council to actually pass the resolution on Aug. 20.

It hasn’t been easy to get this far, and it still isn’t a sure thing. Each step of the way, we must educate. We must show our political representatives how important it is to stay focused on climate solutions for the healthy future of our children and the planet. And the best way to do that is by showing up and speaking out. 

FCSG’s vision has always been that by setting an example of how to successfully reduce greenhouse gas emissions, our community would encourage other cities, states, and national governments to do the same in order to address the climate crisis.

While FCSG still holds on to that vision, we need to acknowledge that so far our efforts – and the efforts of other cities, states, and national governments that have established greenhouse gas emissions reduction goals and are making progress toward meeting them – have not been successful.  Global greenhouse gas emissions have been rising ever since 2005, and just last year, the U.S.’s greenhouse gas emissions began rising again after a period of decline.

Both the FCSG and XRFC believe that Fort Collins – together with other cities that have been leaders in addressing the climate crisis – has a special responsibility to declare a climate emergency.  Those who have been talking the talk and walking the walk – for decades now – need to issue a powerful call to others – including our federal government – to do their part.  We can’t solve the climate crisis by ourselves.

That’s why the FCSG and XRFC tare joining together to push for approval of the Climate Emergency Resolution at the August 20 city council meeting.

Photo courtesy of Extinction Rebellion Facebook Page

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Reflections on local jail politics and moving forward

By: The Fort Collins Homeless Coalition & Fuerza Latina

The Fort Collins Homeless Coalition and Fuerza Latina (amongst many other community allies) have been working alongside each other in a campaign to stop the first phase of the expansion of the Larimer County Jail. I won’t be rehashing the details or providing any updates here. Rather than being an informative piece this post is one small way for us to process, express, and hopefully provide space for others in the community to reflect on their own complicity and activism around violence, incarceration and community accountability. This is important because our work doesn’t end here, but instead we are taking the time to discuss lessons learned and steps moving forward in building a grassroots movement against mass incarceration and criminalization.

Artwork by Sarah Farahat

If we look at the role of the police and of who is being criminalized and put in our jail, we see there’s been a consistency- to target vulnerable people. The definition of vulnerable has some variation over time and space, and we can see greater intensities in certain times and places, and lesser in others (for example the criminalization and violence against homeless folks in Fort Collins is greater during the summer season).

We know, we have felt, lived through this reality. No jail, no reform, no protective custody, no apology from the city is going to make jails safe(r) for us. The walls—the system—wants us to forget about them as they go through.

Police Violence & Incarceration isn’t just happening with the jail

Police departments—or what they like to call themselves now—”law enforcement organizations”, over time, have gotten greater and greater power to participate in many aspects of social life that other state agencies used to take care of.

In other words, police have internalized the mission of social welfare organizations- as was evident by the talking points of our Sheriff at last Tuesday’s vote and during the panel put on by the County. And the difference between what they do, and what these other state agencies do, or have done, is that they demand a certain kind of self-policing or unmatched deputy status in order for people to qualify for meager social goods and benefits.

At the same time, agencies whose mission has never been about policing and punishment—let’s say the United States Department of Education, or to take it to the local level, any number of service agencies/ charities in Fort Collins (for example both Outreach Fort Collins, Homeward Alliance have police/sheriff on their board) have internalized the mission of policing in order to allocate the scarce resources that they have between the so-called deserving and the undeserving. There are countless examples of this, but one poignant one that we like to use as an example is the United States Department of Education has a SWAT team. Why would they have a SWAT team? To legitimize what they do in the eyes of the completely delegitimized, and yet still large, set of agencies whose work is supposed to be social welfare, social benefits, and dare we say, safety.

Sketch by Juan Gomez

This principle of targeting vulnerable people, that undergirds our local jail and police system is also the consistency that is underlying the prison industrial complex. And we see this same justification- of national security or in the name of “safety” and “freedom” where we continue to wage war, put people in cages, separate families, and destroy our planet.

So, as we reflect, we’ve connected the trends and dominant voices which control our county government to national trends towards incarceration and police entrenchment in social services, and the ways in which these impact people in nuanced yet predictable ways when looking at historical trends of colonial, state violence.

In the name of Safety

How we define safety is almost as twisted as how we define freedom in this country. It has only ever been what White America has decided it should be. The only way towards safety is to live into it together. To show up to dismantle the systems that are making us unsafe, sick and vulnerable and create the conditions where everyone can thrive. 

We are more that the limitations of whiteness. We are more than our worst mistakes and our biggest fears. And we are more than this moment. As one of our teachers Carlos Saavedra always says before dropping some gems, Let’s take a deep breathe.

In pursuing your highest ambitions, don’t let your personal safety diminish the safety of your neighbors and community members. In wielding the power that is deservedly yours, don’t permit it to enslave other people in the community who hold less power then you. Let your might and your power emanate from that place in you that is nurturing and caring- FOR ALL.

The late Mark Fisher once famously said that its easier to imagine the end of the world than it is to imagine the end of capitalism. The same could be said for jails: it is easier to imagine the end of the world than it is to imagine a world without jails. (And yet the modern jail/prison/detention system, as it currently exists in the U.S., is a fairly recent invention). At this historical juncture prisons have become thoroughly naturalized. Imagining and working toward a world without them- which is the project of prison abolition- not only requires us to fundamentally rethink the role of the state in society, but also to work towards transforming how we relate to everyone else in our life- what we seek and how we go about it.

There are is another type of community space, that like a rainbow, is going to look different for everyone, depending on where you’re at, but for us all is based off of care, trust, love and accountability. Will you follow us there, to the place where the breathing walls quietly exhale a freedom song?

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Acknowledging the Land and Its Indigenous Peoples

By: Jovan Lovato

Colorado State University recently unveiled a university-wide statement to acknowledge the Indigenous peoples of this land. The statement is to be read at all major university events, and, indeed, I have heard it many times over in the past year. It was drafted by a group including people from CSU’s Native American Cultural Center (NACC), administration, and others from across the campus community. It is difficult to communicate the level to which I value the introduction of this acknowledgement and how painful it is to experience when it is not taken seriously. In the hopes of preventing the abuse of the statement, I want to offer my insight on the experience of land acknowledgement.

My ethnicity was always a big mystery growing up in Fort Collins. I don’t have enough fingers and toes to show how many times I’ve been asked “What’s your ethnicity?” “Where are you from?” or “Are you Mexican?” Ironically, the more I was asked these questions, the more difficult it became for me to answer. There is a rather complicated history behind my families’ cultures and identities. Every time I was asked, I had to confront a series of other unanswered questions inherited from generations of colonization and Americanization. It is simply not possible to communicate all that’s encompassed in my mind, heart, and soul when the expected response is limited to one or two words.

When I first read the university-wide land acknowledgement, I thought to myself “Oh, I’m reading about myself!” Like the land, I need to be acknowledged in all my complicated history. Like the land, people (myself included) have forgotten who I am and need reminding. Like the land, I was Mexicana once, and I am Indigenous always.

So, the land acknowledgement has become an important personal and political experience in recognizing and being recognized.

This is not to say that land acknowledgement is not, in fact, about the land or that it’s specifically about me. Displacement of the Ute, Cheyenne, and Arapaho out of Colorado and onto new lands, presumed ownership of land, and “development” of the land should be at the center of this discussion. The land and the people are undeniably connected, however, and, as an Indigenous person, I believe that land acknowledgement is almost just as much about me as it is about all my relations.

For these same reasons, I am deeply troubled and hurt by people who do not seem consider acknowledgement of the land a serious experience. It is not my intention to provide a list of people, organizations, or departments here who I feel have stumbled in their efforts to acknowledge the land and it’s original stewards, but I will provide a few examples. On more than one occasion, I’ve listened as people as paused awkwardly before audibly struggling to pronounce Ute (sometimes coming out like “oot” or “ootay”). It reminds me of when people pause before incorrectly pronouncing my name. I’ve listened as people have read the two paragraphs as quickly as they possibly could as to get to the next item on their program agenda. The message here is clear: “this isn’t really important…”

These actions do have consequences. They are internalized by people like me who are repeatedly taught that our Indigenous histories are unimportant, by non-Native people who don’t think it’s relevant to think about how they came to occupy these lands, by people in positions of power who think that by reading a few paragraphs they have fulfilled their responsibilities to Indigenous peoples and are dismissed from any further action.

Acknowledgement is the fist, easiest, and smallest step in a long and difficult process of decolonization in academia. For that reason, it is arguably one of the most important. We must take it seriously, speak intentionally, and listen carefully. After that, we must continue to act in accordance with the seriousness and urgency necessary to complete the decolonization process. If we are so dismissive of the first step, the second becomes unthinkable.

To conclude, I want to offer a few suggestions. These are for people who are doing an acknowledgement (on or off campus) and who will be listening to one.

  1. Be prepared. If it has been written for you, read it beforehand! If you have access to it before you attend and event, read it beforehand! Make sure you know the names of the Tribes you’re about to speak.
  2. Be relevant. Land acknowledgment isn’t directly connected to Indigenous people alone. Every one of us plays a part in the perpetuation of colonization. Try asking yourself how your families and friends came to live where you do currently or what made it possible for you all to be in the United States.
  3. Be clear. Whether your speaking, signing, or writing, you should be sure that you are taking your time and allowing for the message to be communicated effectively to your audience.
  4. Be relevant, again. Where a university-wide land acknowledgement comes up short is in regards to specificity. You should take the time to include a few comments on how the acknowledgment is directly connected to whatever the topic of your event is.
  5. Be thankful. After the acknowledgement and the event, I hope that you practice thankfulness that you’ve had the opportunity reflect on the land and it’s original peoples. I hope that you continue to think about the land as you go on with your daily activities. I hope that your activities shift to include some decolonial work daily.

At the following website and app, you can see whose land you are on at any time. It also provides a brief guide, with more suggestions, on how and why to draft an acknowledgment. I highly suggest you download on your mobile devices! https://native-land.ca/

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Community Accountability and the Proposed Larimer County Jail Expansion

By: Chase Williams and Shirley Coenen

The Larimer County Commissioners will vote to approve a $75,000,000 jail expansion at the end of this summer. It will almost double the size of the jail from its current 617 beds to 1,067. This project has been successfully hidden from the public view through the use of backhanded funding practices that do not require community input through a vote, community input or any community discussion.

The Fort Collins Homeless Coalition has been working to defend the community’s right to a democratic decision-making process on whether we want to spend over $75 million to finance the new Larimer County Jail. We also believe that funding what our communities’ need to thrive instead of the criminalization of people is not just a better investment, it is morally right.

Research has shown that across the nation, with Fort Collins included, jails and prisons are primarily used to incarcerate people experiencing poverty and people of color. The jail expansion proposal is shrouded in language guaranteeing increased public safety and is promoted as if it is an obvious necessity with our population growth, but research and experience shows that this is false and misleading and in the end building more cages to put human beings in will further invisiblize people in our community who are at risk to incarceration, such as those in poverty, people of color, immigrants, disabled and those with mental illnesses.

Larimer County’s Facilities Master Plan lays out their proposal of this expansion with the assumption that increased population correlates with increased crime rates. This is not true, the ACLU has reported that in the early 2010s crime rates across the country have plateaued and in many cases has decreased. Currently sixty-six percent of the people held in the jail have not been convicted of any crime yet and many of these people are there solely due to their inability to pay their bail. The county frequently refers back to their multitude of pretrial services, speciality courts, substance abuse and mental health treatment plans and diversion plans. However, these services routinely require the person to pay bail first, this discrepancy makes these services null and void. The false information that surrounds this expansion proposal serves to garner support from the three County Commissioners who have the final say in it’s approval, disallowing any democratic engagement from the community.

Within the County’s Facilities Master Plan, there are a series of exercises that the county constructed for the Criminal Justice Advisory Committee to perform to help better understand the needs they have observed while working with the populations most at risk for filling the proposed beds. The members of this committee include those who benefit from incarceration- police chiefs, the sheriff, attornies, county staff and a CEO. No one from the community who has a lived experience of incarceration themself, or who has been directly impacted by the jail system is given the space to be included in this conversation. Their answers are summed up as such:

Within each of these boxes they have identified a need for “community support, public awareness and education”.  Which leaves us wondering why they would engage such a large, impactful, long term project such as doubling the size of the Larimer County jail while providing no space for community engagement? In fact, the community has been given the opportunity to vote for a jail expansion four times since 2006 only to have a minor increase in taxes voted in during 2014. All other times it was voted on, it failed to garner enough support. It is clear that the community does not want to be putting more people in cages.

More jail beds appear even less reasonable as the rest of the nation as well as the Colorado Bond Reform initiative that just received the governor’s signature, works to reform the cash bail system. Again, an astonishing sixty-six percent of people held in Larimer County jails haven’t been convicted of anything, according to 2015 data from the Vera Institute of Justice, which tracks trends in prison populations. Many are there because they can’t afford bail. Rather than creating drastic alternatives to a cash bail system that needlessly drives incarceration, Larimer County is spending millions to expand our incarceration infrastructure with moderate efforts to keep fewer people from spending time in jail.

Any major county development should start with conversations in the county’s communities. Instead, Larimer County charged ahead with the new jail development with virtually no public input. With many months built into this long process that started last year, there has been ample time to hear from residents. Community members have a right to know why their tax dollars are being spent on a jail, as well as the impacts of its construction,  and their input should be taken into account.

To conclude, research has shown that putting people in jail, doesn’t help them recover from addiction, mental illness, prevent crime or violence, or increase public safety. As a community, we should be fighting for affordable housing, increased public transportation, mental health care and better education- not spending millions of dollars on expanding the carceral system.

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Decolonizing Spirituality: A Conversation and Practice with Edana Wellness

By: Zora Satchell and Shirley Coenen

We sat down with the founders of Edana Wellness, Victoria Benjamin and Ali Owens where we talked about the intersections between white supremacy, institutionalized european-christianity- and the joy, excitement and difficult work that healing justice offers us.

This is a sneak preview of the more in depth practice, coming up at our Healing Justice Workshop on Saturday, April 13th. Please join us and RSVP!

Victoria Benjamin on the left and Ali Owens on the right. Photo courtesy of Victoria Benjamin.

What do you define as healing justice and why is it important to you?

Victoria Benjamin (VB):  I feel like the overarching theme of healing justice lies in healing from the trauma and pain of systemic oppression. This work takes place on multiple levels.

First, individuals may work to heal their own physical, spiritual, energetic, and emotional bodies in a variety of ways that include contending with their victimization as well as the ways they are complicit in perpetuating the pain and oppression of other people.

Secondly, humans working toward healing justice may choose to help other individuals and communities heal from pain and trauma. I personally believe that this work is crucial in all communities and must be navigated in ways that do not perpetuate systemic oppression.

For example, White people do not need to enter and attempt to “rescue” communities of Color, because it is problematic on multiple levels and there is a great deal of healing work that needs to be done inside of White communities by White people.

I find healing to be a fundamental piece of social justice work. I wholeheartedly believe that we cannot harm others unless we choose to become blind to their humanity. And, on a similar note, we cannot harm others without losing pieces of our own. For me, healing justice offers opportunities to come closer to our own humanity while insisting we acknowledge and celebrate the intrinsic worth that lies in other people. Moreover, it insists we work to stop causing others harm.

Ali Owens (AO): Healing Justice, to me, describes the process of contending with our own passive or active perpetuation of oppression and judgment, AND acknowledging the trauma inherent in that perpetration. Coming to terms with the fact hat we can be both oppressed and oppressors is no easy task, and this process of self-examination requires extensive spiritual and emotional healing. Until we commit to doing the inner work, I believe we cannot be as effective in healing the many injustices that exist in our world today. Just as the health of one cell affects the body as a whole, so too does the spiritual and emotional wellness of the individual affect the collective conscious.

How does this connect to decolonizing spirituality?

AO: Decolonizing spirituality requires white folks to examine our areas of privilege and our societally-informed entitlements to significant spiritual practices of marginalized groups.

By focusing on Euro-Pagan practices, we hope to offer white people in our community a chance to connect with ancient wisdom from our own ancestors and integrating that wisdom into our lives in a way that honors the sacredness and divinity of every human being.

VB: I am a White woman who was raised in the Christian church. Throughout my personal journey, I found Christianity to be extremely patriarchal and rigid in gender, sexuality, and many other social identities. As I began to gravitate toward Paganism, I also felt a great deal of fear because of the negative connotations involved with it, like Satanism and Witchcraft.

Now, I am in no way saying White people should not be Christian or that the church is necessarily bad. Not at all. But, I think that it is important for white women to name the harm that the church – and white men – have caused us.

Throughout history and still today, things like witch hunts, executions, and extreme physical and sexual violence have been enacted on White women and children. What’s more, violence was used to steal our spiritual practices. Even today, we see abuses like sexual assault against children and nuns in the Catholic Church being talked about more and more. There are so many different examples like these in our communities. So, in this way, it becomes necessary to name and deal with our spiritual victimization.

White folks in the U.S. overwhelmingly identify as Christian. It is important to also name and contend with the brutality of our collective history and the harm this has caused other people, no matter how uncomfortable it may be.

For example, White colonizers literally used their faith as justification for slaughtering Native Americans and enslaving African people. Rape and other forms of violence against people of Color were – and continue to be – commonplace. Another example of this harm can be found in the GLBTQQA+ community.

I mean, look at the Westboro Church and conversion camps. And, trans women of Color are at higher risk of violence and homicide than other demographics. It becomes clear that a Christian society is still harming people right now.

Remember earlier, when I talked about White people contending with both our victimization and the ways we perpetuate harm against others? Well, spirituality is a prime example of this work for these reasons and so many more.

Edana Wellness, photo from Edana Wellness Instagram.

Many White people do not identify as Christian, though. But, I often see them try to find alternative spirituality through other means, like in the practices of communities of Color. Now, I think White people can practice certain spiritual practices if they do so carefully and respectfully, while others are inappropriate to practice. We will open up dialogue about this at our discussion on April 13th.

The answers White people seek about their own souls and humanity can be found by other means [than cultural appropriation]. Focusing on a European-based practice allows White people to look to their own roots – those that existed before forced religion and colonization – for healing. This can be a way to reclaim what has been stolen from us as well as allow us a way to practice spirituality in ways that are not appropriative – and not harmful – to communities of Color. In this way, we can begin to decolonize our spiritual practices and move more gently in the world – and perhaps even change it.

AO: I, too, am a white woman who was raised in the Christian church, where I internalized misogyny, bigotry, and intolerance. The things I was taught in church caused me significant trauma around my own sexuality, identity, and roles, and the scars have lasted decades. I separated from the church as a teenager, but the burden of shame remains imprinted in my brain to this day.

Overall, the sad truth is that so many atrocities committed today are rooted in white American Christianity. We see it every time we turn on the news. Bigotry. Misogyny. Discrimination. Hate crimes. Doubled-down pressure toward maintaining limiting and harmful gender roles. Ostracizing and criminalizing those in the LGBT community. For those of us who no longer wish to perpetuate these problems, being able to identify with alternative spiritualities has become increasingly important – but equally important is being able to do this without co-opting, trivializing, or disrespecting the spiritual practices of people of color.

How do you connect this with your company Edana Wellness?

VB: Edana Wellness seeks to help others heal from trauma and find empowerment through earth-based spirituality. Specifically, we focus on European-based Pagan philosophy because we both identify as White women and find it important to work within our own community, and because we both embrace Paganism as our spiritual practice. We currently offer workshops to help folks with healing and personal empowerment and, soon, we plan to offer a variety of services and opportunities that align with that vision.

AO: As Victoria said, Edana Wellness seeks to help others heal from trauma and find empowerment through earth-based spirituality; specifically, Euro-Paganism – and we do so through a lens of intersectional feminism.

We believe healing is not complete unless it examines the intricacies of oppression that have been woven into the fabric of our culture. In this way, we aim to address the root of the wound, not just the symptoms.

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