Sierra Club Supports Landowners, But Evicts the Homeless
by lesley haddock
This past week I spoke with Eleanor Fairchild, a 79 year old woman who has stood in front of bulldozers, been arrested on her own property, and housed treesitters in an attempt to keep TransCanada from constructing the Keystone XL pipeline through her 300-acre ranch. Tar sands are flowing through the pipeline below her feet and she is currently being sued by TransCanada, but she has still refused to sign any sort of agreement with the company.
The project was allowed to go through because of eminent domain, a legal tool allowing the government to seize private property with or without the owner’s consent when the project is considered to benefit the public.
At the same time, a thousand miles away, in the Bay Area, an entire community is being forced out of their homes to make way for a gentrifying “passive recreation” project. The Albany Bulb is a landfill in Albany, California that over the last thirty years has been transformed into a home for people who otherwise have no place to stay. Recently, about 50 people lived on the Bulb in structures they built themselves from scraps and waste, creating a community and political power for a population of people who otherwise are not afforded a voice.
Environmental groups, including the Sierra Club have been outspoken about the misuse of eminent domain to confiscate land in order to build the Keystone XL pipeline. At the same time, the Sierra Club is a major backer of the eviction of Albany Bulb residents.
Again and again environmental groups have been critiqued for ignoring or undermining social justice projects that interfere with their goals, while taking up the flag of environmental justice when it serves their interests. In order to build an effective movement to stop the warming climate and the pollution of our water, we must also fight the social injustices that allow us to overlook the needs of people in our communities.
The Bulb is a unique wild space in the Bay Area. What was once no more than a pile of rebar and concrete has now been transformed into a home, and trees and flowers have broken through the cracks in the concrete to vegetate the post-industrial landscape. Artists from all over the world have used the Bulb as a canvas, painting, building, and sculpting it into a hub for wild and public art.
But most of the residents of the Albany Bulb have been forced from their homes. Today only two resilient residents are left, and they are being asked to give the police a deadline by which they will be gone.
The struggles of all people are connected. Sierra Club, where do you really stand?
Please help stop the eviction of Bulb residents. Call the Sierra Club at +1 415-977-5500 and ask them to follow their own environmental justice policy and stop the eviction. Also call the City of Albany and tell them you stand with Bulb residents at (510) 528-5710.