Funders Convening on Climate Justice and Digital Rights

In October 2021, Mozilla, the Ford Foundation and Ariadne kicked off a new research project exploring how digital rights and climate justice intersect.

In April 2022, we convened 30 digital rights funders interested in applying a climate lens to their work. Together in Lille, France we sought to better equip digital rights funders to craft grantmaking strategies on these issues and to build bridges across our movements. We also discussed the results of a landscape analysis led by The Engine Room and issue briefs prepared by Association for Progressive Communications, BSR and the Open Environmental Data Project.

The fuller proceedings from the event will be published on the project’s wiki page, along with the full research later in June.

Below are my opening remarks from the event.

Move Slowly, Quickly

Welcome to the this convening of digital rights funders learning about climate justice.

We made it. We are here, in person, in Lille, France.

We have been living through the pandemic. It has been hard, and it has been a lot, and it is ongoing.

And we’re living through other crises.

The UN Secretary General just said in a tweet: We have 36 weeks—not 36 years, not 36 months—but 36 weeks, to dramatically reduce emissions from the world’s largest polluters to avert a climate catastrophe. Just 36 weeks.

Right now, there is a heatwave in India. With temperatures of over 45C for days on end, there are millions of people in danger and crops are failing. The people who are least responsible for the fossil fuel emissions causing this heatwave are suffering the most.

Russia’s war on the Ukraine is fueled in part by reliance on fossil gas. A water emergency was just declared in California. And these are simply headlines from this week.

The climate crisis is not a single issue. It is an era. We are living in it now. And we’re going to be living in it for the rest of our lives.

The science is clear. We need to stop all new fossil fuel extraction. We have to transition away fossil fuels as fast as possible. And we have to make rapid and unprecedented change to a more just and sustainable society.

This is not about individual blame and shame. It’s about systems change.

Today, as we gather here, let us see this crisis as urgent. And while we hold this, let us also acknowledge that the solutions may be slow.

I invite us to move slowly, quickly.

In Europe right now, there is a conversation about the twin transitions. This describes a digital transformation and a shift to renewable energy.

Within these agendas, technology is sold as a solution. It is the smart city. The surveilled borders. The automated everything.

The digital rights movement knows that these are false solutions. We have been fighting this fight for a long time. We know the issues around privacy, digital security, misinformation, and internet access.

And there are new perspectives we are learning about:

  • Big Tech’s very lucrative business selling machine learning services to Big Oil to speed up fossil fuel extraction
  • the historic and ongoing practices of colonization and environmental depletion taking on accelerated forms through technology, and
  • how the internet itself is a significant contributor to climate change as it emits 2-3% of global carbon and has become the world’s largest coal-powered machine.

The twin transition is an opportunity.

Let us divest from Big Tech and Big Oil.
Let us invest in sustainable and just alternatives.

Let us, as digital rights organizations, partner with climate groups and grow solidarity with other movements working towards social justice and sustainable, equitable knowledge commons.

There is incredible work already underway. What it needs now is more support and more coalition. Together we can meet this moment.

Let’s move slowly, quickly.

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