The World at 1°C — We Resist (June ‘17)

Part 4 of our essential climate justice summary of the past month

Though the scale of the climate crisis is overwhelming and any realistic assessment would say we have very little chance of making the broad socio-economic changes required to avert an all out collapse of civilization, we have to shake off the disbelief that another world is indeed possible and on her way.

Our job then becomes to box clever, to leverage our limited power for immediate gains even as we continue to build alliances for transformation. Our job is to keep hope alive.

All around the world, this is already happening in a variety of ways which we must let inform and inspire us.

Barely one week ago in the Philippines a diverse set of grassroots movements, consumer groups, and affected communities brought a series of petitions to the Energy Regulatory Commission to try and stop power distribution company Meralco from setting up power supply agreements with 7 coal-fired plants.

Communities in the Philippines are engaged in a long-standing battle against coal mining

If it goes ahead, the agreement would lock the Philippines into a further 20 years of coal power so movements are understandably ready to battle.

Similarly, communities in Australia are fighting not only the Adani Carmichael mega coal mine but also a proposed new coal seam gas development in Narrabri. Almost 23,000 people lodged objections with the Department of Planning and Environment.

In Northern Ireland, environmentalists beat the government in the appeals court over its decision not to immediately stop illegal sand dredging in Lough Neagh, an ecologically important and legally protected bird sanctuary.

Sand dredging in Lough Neagh is yet another extractive industry driving climate change and ecological destruction

Much of the sand is destined for new road infrastructure in a country already overly reliant on and polluted by private transport vehicles.

The Canadian Supreme Court handed a small but significant win to a Guatemalan community in its long-running battle with Canadian mining bandits Tahoe, who have bullied, harassed, and liquidated any opponents to their business. The Court ruled that the community’s legal case against Tahoe be allowed to proceed in British Columbia.

In another important court decision, the now famous Standing Rock Sioux were validated as a federal judge ruled that the permits for the Dakota Access Pipeline were granted in violation of the law.

The Standing Rock protest camp drew thousands of supporters from around the U.S. when it was first set up

Also in the U.S. another potentially explosive legal challenge looms as last week 21 young people were granted permission to take their case against the federal government to trial starting February 2018.

They are arguing that the U.S. government is violating their constitutional right to a healthy climate system by supporting fossil fuels and continuing to emit dangerous levels of greenhouse gases.

Sometimes the law fails to deliver justice and so our resistance must also include direct challenges to the governments and industries that are driving climate chaos.

The community opposition to fracking in Lancashire involves the local council. Credit: Claire Stevo

In the U.K. this has resulted in an ongoing site battle to prevent the first case of fracking. Despite fierce community and municipal opposition, the Tory government in London has put its weight behind the drill going ahead.

The police have seemingly put their weight behind the company as they inflict bodily harm on peaceful protestors.

With no shortage of fossil fuel foolery in Australia, activists there have their work cut out. In June they occupied a coal stockpile in the world’s largest coal port and sent a strong message to the Commonwealth Bank who are major coal financiers.

The message to Commonwealth Bank was clear: Stop Funding Coal

Religious leaders actually occupied the headquarters of the Commonwealth Bank in protest against its funding of the infamous Adani Carmichael coal mine.

Direct action is important because it creates an atmosphere of pressure on the polluters and their pals, but there are myriad ways of contributing to such pressure. For example, in Indonesia a coal transport railway was suspended following some brave investigative journalism which showed the proper permits had not been obtained.

In a further example that pressure works, the Norwegian parliament banned the public procurement and use of palm oil biofuels, which are often worse for the climate than fossil fuels.

Similarly, Sweden’s largest pension fund divested itself of stocks from companies like ExxonMobil whose entire business is based on destroying the climate.

The AIIB is under pressure to go further and commit to a ban on fossil fuel financing

Even the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank was forced to tone down its enthusiasm for fossil fuels at a recent meeting, saying that it “will not consider proposals if we are concerned about the environmental and reputational impact.”

While these stories highlight the possibilities of collective action, we also must contemplate the impossible and reevaluate our strategies all the time.

We are vaguely aware, in our guts, that climate change really is a reckoning for our species. And we must extend our fight to the battleground of human imagination.

BP sponshorship of public institutions such as the British Museum has been incessantly challenged by activists in an attempt to strip them of their social license. Credit: Anna Branthwaite

This needn’t be purely philosophical: some efforts to that end include fighting climate change denial in the classroom, or tackling corporate capture of the arts, or naming a breached iceberg after those responsible for the global warming.

Essentially, it means accepting what we already know, that neither liberal environmentalist nor NIMBY localism are not going to deliver the change we need.

Though our struggles are collective rather than individual, at times it is important to highlight the stories of specific activists or movements.

A solar shop in Eastern Nepal run by Runa Jha. Credit: Lucy EJ Woods

So this month we say congratulations to the Dakota Sioux for winning a $250,000 grant for their work towards the energy transition and to the Nepali women who are doing it for themselves by running solar businesses, winning a £20,000 prize as a result.

We say thank you to 98-year old Frances Crow who was arrested for blockading a gas pipeline in Massachusetts and to Murrawah Johnson, a young aboriginal woman who is honouring her grandparents and all of us by fighting coal in Australia.

We send our solidarity to Abelino Chub Caal, an environmental and human rights campaigner in Guatemala who has been detained without trial for a year, and to Aura Lolita Chavez, also in Guatemala, who has been threatened for her work in bringing polluting mining companies to justice.

We express our rage at the murder of Carlos Maaz Coc in Guatemala. He was killed at a peaceful protest calling for the cleanup of a lake contaminated by mining.

Finally, we express our sadness at the loss of Koreti Tiumalu, a fearless Pacific Warrior who will be missed by many around the world.

RIP Koreti