Everybody’s Got a Right to Live: Report on Fall Retreat

by Jean Gant Delastrada, Fall Retreat Committee Chairperson

The 2023 WWFOR Fall Retreat, the Human Right to a Livable and Just World, addressed the topics of climate disruption and militarism, with a special focus on the work of young peace and justice activists. Young people around the world have been especially concerned about the speed of climate disruption and have questioned what the world of their future years will be like environmentally. Young activists are also increasingly aware of the intersectionality in peace and justice issues. FOR, a non-violent peace movement, is more and more making the connections between war and militarism and the need for a peaceful just and sustainable world. Elsie Sabel and Justin Yang, in a Youth Climate Issues panel moderated by Sarah Pham, started us out by sharing their perspective of high school activists. (See their statements on this website or in this newsletter.).

We then heard about an exciting new way for young people to work for climate preservation for their future. Melissa Hornbein, a senior attorney from the Western Environmental Law Center, who worked with Our Children’s Trust in the lawsuit of Held v. Montana, talked about a group of young people who won a lawsuit against the state of Montana to preserve their right to grow up in a healthy environment. Their win in Montana may not survive the appeal to the state Supreme Court, but some other states and countries in Europe are trying similar legal routes to mandate laws that protect climate.

Fall Retreat participants discussed these presentations in small group breakout rooms and had a choice of workshops on specific programs about climate disruption and ways to work against it. Jim Janko from Veterans for Peace talked about their Climate and Militarism Project, including the very current examples of the devastation of Gaza by the war with Israel. Aurora Martin described her Seattle-based organization Front and Centered, which brings together in coalition minority-led groups working for sustainability. Tying together the information from these presentations was a call to action from the Washington State Poor People’s Campaign, Effects of the War Economy, and Ecological Devastation on the Poor. Romy Garcia and Karen Austin invited us to join in a state-wide demonstration in Olympia on March 2, 2024, to present their demands to the state government.

WWFOR’s Mike Yarrow Peace Fellowship Program is our primary way of working towards the future with young people. In the 2023-2024 school year, MYPF has more than 20 young people, ages 14 to 24, participating in the program. The range of topics they are working on this year include Food Justice and Anti-Racism (Vindhya Adamala), Climate Action (Justin Yang), Native American Organizing and Decolonization (Anela Decker) and Artful Activism in the Bengali Community (Anoova Satar). The MYPF students who described their plans for these projects at the Fall Retreat will be invited to return to present their progress at our Spring Assembly. For more details on the Fall Retreat, please see the Fall Retreat 2023 section on the WWFOR website, www.wwfor.org.