What does saying ‘no’ mean to you? If a mining corporation decided to use your home for their new extractivist project – would you be able to stop them? And as well as saying no to extraction and pollution, how able are you to say yes to another way of living, that works with the natural world and within planetary boundaries?
On the 2nd December, environmental frontline defenders from Ecuador, Brazil, Ireland and Belgium came together in De Studio in Antwerp for a night of activities around the ‘right to say no.’
Organised by CATAPA in collaboration with CIDSE, Grondrecht and Fridays For Future Antwerp, the event was designed to share stories and experiences of frontline defenders, and build solidarity in the worldwide movement against extractivism.
The diversity of the speakers and of the event – which was held simultaneously in English, Dutch and Spanish – reflected both the diversity of the experiences of those participating, and the unity of a movement that transcends languages and geography.
The night kicked off with a speech by Jakob Cleymans, one of the founders of Fridays for Future Antwerp and of democratic supermarket Coop Centraal. He spoke of the importance of better including youth in discussions around climate action on a political level and the concept of MAPA – most affected people and areas.
Following this, we heard from a panel of female frontline defenders. V’cenza Cirefice, Irish ecofeminist researcher, artist and activist, and part of CAIM (Communities Against the Injustice of Mining). She spoke about the importance of viewing anti-extractivism through a feminist lens.
“At the forefront of the anti-mining movement in Ireland are women. It is women that are experiencing first hand the impacts (of mining), such as water pollution.”
Ivonne Ramos, an Ecuadorian environmental and human rights activist who coordinates the national campaign of Acción Ecológica on the ecological and social impact of mining and the #QuitoSinMinería campaign, echoed this.
“By working with women in both the urban and rural areas of Ecuador, we have created a kind of sisterhood of resistance.”
We also heard from Hedwig Rooman, member of the Belgian organisation Grondrecht, a collective of concerned citizens demanding justice on PFAS pollution in their environment and its effects on themselves, their children and grandchildren.
“We all have a right to the protection of our environment and health, thanks to the universal declaration of human rights. This right is enshrined in the Belgian Constitution.”
After the panel discussion, artistic organisation Atelier Rojo led a collective imagination session to foster creativity and solidarity.
The night rounded off with some live music by Roger de Bortoli and Arno Foppe, and empanadas courtesy of Antwerp business Monte Maiz.
This event is just one of many upcoming opportunities to get involved and learn more about the Right to Say No campaign. Find out more about this new campaign on our website.
Article by catapista Cass Hebron – pictures by catapista Estefanía Moreno Amador