We recently started a new series on our Instagram – modeled after Humans of New York – that profiles young climate activists from around the world. 350 Pacific‘s Communications Coordinator Fenton Lutunatabua helped start the series strong with these powerful stories from Fiji. Meet 5 people at the frontlines of fighting for a better world.
This is the story of how young Pacific Islanders are finding their voices in the climate discourse, and how they are shaping their own narratives with their multiple truths.
This is their story.
Tevita Bola, Lau, Fiji Islands
“When you invest your money in fossil fuels, you invest in the destruction of the planet. Fossil fuel divestment and switching to renewable energy, is key to protecting our island homes and everything it represents.”
Tevita Bola has been working on environmental protection since 2009, first with Greenpeace Australia Pacific, and now more recently focused on climate change, with 350.org. Tevita is calling for fossil fuel divestment and the transition towards renewable energy.
Cecelia Moku, Tailevu, Fiji Islands
“I was born into a world that was already dealing with the impacts of climate change. This makes me afraid for the type of world my children will be born into.”
Cece was one of the young Pacific Climate Warriors involved in the 350 Pacific’s first Non Violent Direct Action in Newcastle, Australia. On the 17th of October, 2014 Cece and the Pacific Climate Warriors blockaded the worlds largest coal port with traditionally built, hand made canoes from the Pacific. It’s only when she joined 350.org as a volunteer, did she realize how much of a threat climate change poses for the Pacific.
Josaia Tokoni, Kadavu, Fiji Islands
“Young people play a key role in the climate movement. We need to work with as many of them as we can to protect our Island homes.”
Jay is an aspiring politician and is looking at ways he can mobilize more young people in the climate movement, whilst also paying close attention to ways in which he can influence policy change. Jay recently joined 350.org as a volunteer in Fiji and believes that young people can create the change the world needs.
Gregory Ravoi, Lau, Fiji Islands.
“The only ones that can save the Pacific from climate change are ourselves.”
Greg is focused on being part of the solution to climate change and believes that we all have a role to play in protecting this planet.
George Nacewa, Nadroga, Fiji Islands
“We are blessed to be stewards of this earth, and it is our duty to ensure that our children have a better world to live in and are able to fully explore their indigenous cultural identity.”
George is the 350 Fiji Coordinator and leads the young group of Fijians who are working to protect their islands. George has a daughter named Aiyanna Samantha and says that he does what he can in the Climate Movement to ensure that Aiyanna and her grand children will always call Fiji home.
Numerous German NGOs have issued a statement in solidarity with the peaceful direct action Ende Gelände from 14-16 August that aims to bring the coal diggers in the Rhineland to a halt.
The declaration signed by 350.org, Friends of the Earth Germany, Oxfam, Campact, urgewald, Attac and many more, refers to the action as an ‘awakening signal to phase out a destructive technology‘ and ‘an act of solidarity with people around the world, especially those that are already threatened by climate change today‘.
The statement criticises the lack of political action on climate change: “Despite the scale of the threat and strong protests, energy companies continue to produce and burn coal. […]. Even plans for a ‘climate levy’ on the dirtiest power stations was scrapped following pressure from the coal lobby.”
The statement concludes: “In the face of impending climate catastrophe, we understand that people feel moved to take actions of civil disobedience against coal. We stand in solidarity with their peaceful protest.”
The full statement is available in German.
For more information about the action and to learn how you can get involved, visit: http://350.org/ende-gelande/
During a recent digital storytelling workshop in Nairobi, the 350 Kenya team created profiles of each other so that climate activists all over the world can hear their stories.
On Saturday 11th July, over 250 divestment activists came together in London for ‘Fossil Fuel Divestment: Building the Movement’, sharing their campaigning skills, inspiring stories from across the country, and the occasional cup of tea.
— Bill McKibben (@billmckibben) July 11, 2015
The day opened with an introduction to the divestment movement so far – featuring talks from activists involved in local government, university and faith campaigns, as well as The Guardian discussing their #keepitintheground campaign. In the afternoon, 15 workshops explored divestment in detail – from finance to creative action planning to media training. A colour-coded sticker system (don’t ask!) and plenty of refreshment breaks allowed campaigners to find each other and have the conversations vital to building our movement! If you went to ‘Fossil Fuel Divestment: Building the Movement’ and want to share your thoughts on the day, get in touch – email email@example.com.
— divestlondon (@divestlondon) July 11, 2015
Missed the event? No fear! We have collated all of the resources from the day so they are publicly available.
We’re thrilled that our friends over at the “Pathway to Paris” initiative just announced an amazing concert that they’re throwing in Paris during the COP21 Climate Talks this December to benefit 350.org. The concert will feature musical acts like Thom Yorke, Patti Smith, Flea, Dhani Harrison, Tenzin Choegyal, Jesse Paris Smith, and Rebecca Foon. And it will include some incredible speakers, like our very own Bill McKibben, Naomi Klein, Vandana Shiva, and others.
We couldn’t be more ready to rock. Music has always been a critical part of 350.org, from the songs that we sang around the world during our first major day of action back in 2009, to the chants that we’ve shouted out in the streets of New York (and a thousand other cities) during the People’s Climate March last year. As we gear up for a busy few months of action around the Paris Climate Talks, we’re thrilled to have the partnership of some of these incredible musicians to drive us forward.
The whole thing is thanks to our friends at Pathway to Paris, an initiative in partnership with 350.org that brings together musicians, artists, activists, academics, politicians and innovators to participate in a series of events and dialogues to help raise consciousness around the urgency of climate action and the importance of establishing an ambitious, global, legally binding agreement at the UN Climate Change Conference in Paris in December 2015.
Co-founded by musician-activist-organizers Jesse Paris Smith and Rebecca Foon, Pathway to Paris kicked off with an intimate evening of music and speakers at Le Poisson Rouge immediately following the People’s Climate March in New York City in September 2014, with a series of similar events unfolding in New York and Montreal over the ensuing year. The final Pathway to Paris concert will take place December 4th 2015 in Paris at Le Trianon.
All participants donate their time, skills and talents; while the primary aim of P2P is consciousness-raising and call-to-action, the events also raise funds, with all proceeds going to 350.org. Pathway to Paris is a collaboration with 350.org, with support and sponsorship from Tree Laboratory, Sustainability Solutions Group, Modo Yoga NYC and The Flux.
If you’re in Paris, make sure to keep an eye on the Pathway to Paris website to learn more about how you can get your tickets to the show. And for all of you who can’t make it in person, we’ll be setting up a live stream so you can watch from anywhere in the world. Rock on.
This summer, a mass act of civil disobedience will bring the diggers in the Rhineland coalfields – Europe’s biggest source of CO2 – to a halt. We talked to Martin Weis, who is involved in the grassroots coalition Ende Gelände that is organising the action.
This summer, Ende Gelände is organising a mass action to stop the diggers in the Rhineland coalfields. What exactly is going to happen?
Martin: Hundreds of people will enter one of the open-pit lignite mines near Cologne in an act of civil disobedience. Down there – the holes are up to 200m deep and several kilometers wide – we’ll walk towards the excavators and they will have to stop their work. This way we will effectively shut down the mine – at least symbolically for a day or so.
Tell us why you got involved with Ende Gelände.
Martin: Coal and especially lignite is one of the main drivers of global warming. The coalfields in the Rhineland and the coal-fired power plants around those, make this region the largest emitter of CO2 in all of Europe.
In Germany for one we don’t need lignite coal anymore. We could start phasing it out right now and switch to 100% renewable energies. But the political processes are slow and hampered by the strong influence of the coal lobby. Ende Gelände helps nudge things along a bit.
There are many ways to oppose coal. Why do you think it takes civil disobedience?
Martin: Right now we are headed for a global temperature rise of 4°C. That would mean catastrophic climate change. Even now livelihoods are destroyed by droughts or floods, especially in the global south, and climate change will be a catalyst for even more of that. Combating climate change is obviously not just an environmental concern, but one of global justice.
The magnitude of the problem requires us to weigh our priorities. Do we want to try everything in our power to prevent catastrophic climate change or do we stop dead as soon as we see a ‘no trespassing’-sign? Civil disobedience is a legitimate and appropriate part of our diverse strategies as a climate movement.
Who can participate in the action and what are the risks involved?
Martin: We want to empower everyone who wants to be part of the action to protest in a way they feel comfortable with. Our main targets are of course the excavators and to get to them it is necessary to enter the mine. For those who want to show their solidarity, there will also be a legally authorised and family-friendly demonstration close to the mine.
Entering the mine involves some risks, this is after all a devastated moonscape most suitable for heavy machinery. Safety for all participants is our absolute priority. We urge everyone to prepare for the action by organising in groups and taking part in trainings. Directly before the action, which will take place from 14 to 16 August, a climate camp and degrowth summer school will take place in the region as well. Those are great opportunities to meet up, get some new input and enjoy summer. For internationals, they are also the easiest way to take part in a training for the action.
How can people get involved?
Martin: We want to make this big, so the first thing is to tell all your friends about it and spread the word about the action in your networks. We have our campaign materials translated into French and English. Order your packet of materials now and plaster your town, university and neighbourhood in Ende Gelände materials. You can also declare your intention to participate in the action on our website to show that lots of people support the action.
Finally, what does Ende Gelände actually mean?
Martin: It translates into ‘end of the line’ or ‘this far and no further’. The excavators have eaten up town after town, kilometer after another and polluted our atmosphere with greenhouse gases. That has to stop now.
Thank you, Martin. See you in the Rhineland!
If you’d like to find out more about the action and how you can take part, sign up here. 350 will share information from the organisers of Ende Gelände.
Here in Canada, the recent victories of the climate movement have been heartening but we’ve all gotten pretty tired of fighting for a clean future one pipeline at a time. We know that sustaining our movement means uniting against the single biggest barrier to climate justice in this country: the tar sands. And on July 4th 2015, we saw exactly that. Communities from North to South, East to West united to send a clear message to decision-makers: we, the people are greater than the tar sands– and we are ready for a new economy that creates good jobs, delivers justice and takes action on climate change.
The actions roared across Canada’s timezones. Social media was bursting with beautiful images throughout the day. We’ve compiled them here to give you a story of the day.
1. First off, Atlantic Canada fired off with actions in Saint John (NB), Annapolis Royal, and St John’s (NL)– we were pretty excited to see a March in St. John’s bring dozens of people to the streets and to the waterfront. These folks have been at the heart of the struggle against offshore drilling along the East Coast and on July 4th, they showed a determination to turn things around in their communities.In Freericton, Indigenous leaders led a march from the legislature to demand a justice-based transition to a new economy.
— Miles Howe (@MilesHowe) July 4, 2015
2. In Quebec, Hudson-Oka and Québec city showed us their resolve. Hudson geared up for a demonstrative flotilla on the Ottawa River– showing us that kayaks and canoes are much more suitable for this gorgeous body of water than the Energy East and Line 9 pipelines, both of which cut through the river. Indigenous human rights activist, Ellen Gabriel, spoke at this event to emphasize that the struggle for Indigenous sovereignty is at the core of our movement.
— Lindsay Hughes (@lindsay_mtl) July 4, 2015
In Lac Mégantic, there was a more solemn convergence in memory of all those that had passed in a devastating oil train explosion two years ago. With the scars of the tragedy being all too recent, the people of this community mobilized to express a resounding ‘no’ to oil sands in their community.
3. In Ontario, Thunder Bay led the way– Here, the community members have been busy over the last couple of months, mobilizing against the Energy East pipeline, but more importantly they share a common goal to see a prosperous and clean local economy. Peterborough also joined in with a rally that was complete with a showstopping performance by the Raging Gannies!
— DefendOurClimate (@DefendClimate) July 4, 2015
4. The prairies weren’t far behind Organizers in Winnipeg brought along another wave of energy that afternoon by paddling and pedalling to protect the water and the land. Traditional landholders, families, cyclists, canoeists, musicians and many others gathered for a spectacular display of solidarity. Communities here were motivated by a deep intergenerational obligation to protect the climate.
— Clayton ThomasMuller (@CreeClayton) July 4, 2015
In Saskatoon and Prince Albert, Saskatchewan, actions for jobs, justice and the climate were particularly urgent given the hundreds of catastrophic forest fires sweeping across the province. Updates from Prince Albert showed determined activists standing amidst a blanket of smoke!
And Edmonton rocked out with a concert that was 60% powered by solar power and bike-pedalling. In a province that continues to derive the majority of its energy from coal, this was a remarkable example of people leading the way to a clean future.
— Mike Hudema (@MikeHudema) July 4, 2015
5. The West Coast wrapped up the day. In Vernon, BC, Kayaktivists spelled out their demands for us: green jobs, not fossil jobs! And on the shores of Sunset Beach, the people of Vancouver made a human chain to demonstrate that their resolve to defend the climate was greater than the numerous oil tankers that pass by their coast everyday. Several speakers took to the stage, including union representatives from Unifor that were ready to see the province move away from dirty jobs in LNG, coal and tarsands pipelines to safe and reliable jobs.
— 350Vancouver (@350Vancouver) July 6, 2015
We’re still blown away by the remarkable actions that took place on July 4th– to see more pictures, visit 350.org/july.
Last week became an all important turning point in our fight against a coal-fired power plant on the island of Palawan in the Philippines. On the 16th of June, the City Government of Puerto Princesa adopted “a resolution vehemently opposing the construction of a coal-fired power plant in Palawan.”
We couldn’t have asked for a stronger statement of opposition from the City Government, and it marks a turning point in the fight against this destructive and unnecessary coal-fired power plant. What started as a campaign by a small few, is now expanding through churches, academe, farmers, communities, civil society groups, inside Congress, and across the Philippines.
DM Consunji Incorporated (DMCI) had several failed attempts to push the construction of a 15MW Coal Fired Power Plant in the fragile ecosystem of Palawan. Our people can not afford to have a corporation with known environmental and human rights violations destroy our last ecological frontier.
“The fight is not yet over. But moments like this turn our fears into hopes. It defines our values. We realized we have so much courage in our hearts than we ever thought.”
~ Cynthia Sumagaysay- Del Rosario, spokesperson Palawan Alliance for Clean Energy
We have collected almost 6,000 signatures across the Philippines urging DENR Secretary Ramon Jesus P. Paje to stop the proposed coal plant by DMCI. The issued resolution by the City Government of Puerto Princesa clearly states that there had been no proper consultation and informed participation from the people where the project will be built, a direct threat to highly endangered marine and terrestrial inhabitants, and will impact the lives and livelihood of several indigenous groups in Palawan. We need your voice with us – please sign and share the petition!
This Palawan anti-coal resistance is hugely important: not just for the peoples of Palawan, but for the whole of the Philippines. We already have the policies for affordable renewable energy to be delivered. In fact, Palawan has an energy master plan which will show that renewable energy is the cheapest, most available, and wisest energy solution. Now we need to show the strength of the movement to make those policies real to people. Our fight involves the transformation of energy systems by resisting dirty and harmful energy and fighting for real energy solutions that benefit communities and the environment rather than corporations
More and more people are standing up powerfully to show that saying NO to coal in the Philippines is saying YES to a just and sustainable future for our people and climate. Help us gather more signatures – sign and share our petition.
On July 4, thousands across the country from Atlantic Canada to British-Colombia mobilized on foot, bike and boat to show that we are greater than the tar sands and standing for Jobs, Justice and the Climate. They proved that together, we are ready to move to a new, justice-based economy that works for people and the planet.
Here is the news round-up from this beautiful, powerful day of action:
St John’s, NF: “A Call for Clean Energy,” The Telegram
Fredericton, NB: “Climate Rally in Fredericton,” Global News TV
North Bay, ON: “Oil and Trout Lake Don’t Mix,” Bay Today
Saskatoon, SK: “Rally Targets Oil sands, City Emissions,” The Star Phoenix
Read about the entire weekend of spectacular #JobsJusticeClimate mobilization here — which included peaceful sit-ins in the offices of 5 Members of Parliament on July 3rd, and the July 5th March in Toronto where 10,000 took to the streets for Jobs, Justice and the Climate.
Cette fin de semaine, partout au Québec et au Canada, des milliers de personnes ont prouvé que nous bâtissons ensemble un nouveau mouvement pour le climat — un mouvement que nous avons grandi, diversifé, et rendu plus fort.
Aujourd’hui, plus de 10 000 personnes, dans une démonstation spectaculaire de solidarité et d’unité, ont convergé dans les rues de Toronto afin de marcher pour le Climat, la Justice et la Transition. Cette mobilisation a rassemblé une coalition véritablement diverse de groupes, allant des Premières Nations aux plus importants syndicats des secteurs publics et privés au pays, en passant par les étudiants, les organisations de justice sociale et les groupes citoyens qui se mobilisent contre les industries polluantes et destructrices.
Comme l’a exprimé Syed Hussan, organisateur avec Personne n’est illégal (No One is Illegal) pendant l’ouverture de la marche aujourd’hui : « Nous voulons pouvoir penser à l’avenir de nos enfants et des sept prochaines générations sans ressentir de peur à cet égard. Lorsque l’on se tient debout ensemble, nous avons réellement le pouvoir de faire changer les choses. »
Cette marche était le point culminant d’une fin de semaine de mobilisation profondément
inspirante et touchante:
Vendredi, des étudiants dans cinq grandes villes canadiennes ont tenu des sit-ins dans les bureaux de députés fédéraux pour exiger que des gestes concrets en matière de changement climatique fassent partie intégrante de leurs plateformes éléctorales cet automne. Plusieurs d’entre eux sont restés sur place pendant des heures, maintenant leur position jusqu’à ce que des réponses leur soient donné.
Samedi, des communautés de part et d’autres du Québec et du Canada se sont mobilisées afin de montrer que nous valons mieux que le pétrole sale des sables bitumineux. Ces communautés, qui résistent localement aux projets d’oléoducs, de fracturation hydraulique, de forages pétroliers et à d’autres projets liés aux énergies fossiles ayant lieu près de chez eux, ont prouvé que nous menons une bataille commune.
Nous partageons une vision pour une nouvelle économie: une économie qui n’expose pas les emplois aux caprices du marché du pétrole, qui respecte et met de l’avant les droits et les traités des Premières Nations, et qui respecte les limites imposées par notre climat.
Nous avons accompli quelque chose d’immense. Désormais, ce ne sont plus seulement les « habitués » qui se mobilisent. Nous avons un atteint un point tournant pour faire de la justice climatique une réalité.
Nous devons continuer ce momentum afin de poursuivre la construction de ce mouvement si indispensable. Il nous faudra continuer à y travailler, et à faire des sacrifices, mais ensemble, tout est possible.
Avec respect et solidarité,
Clay, Cam, Aurore, Katie, Graham, Angela and Atiya
This weekend, people across Canada showed that we are building the kind of climate movement we need: broad, diverse, and powerful.
Today, in a spectacular demonstration of unity and solidarity, over 10,000 people marched together in Toronto for Jobs, Justice and the Climate. This mobilization brought together a truly diverse coalition, from frontline Indigenous communities to Canada’s largest public and private sector unions, students, social justice organizations and grassroots groups mobilizing against destructive industries.
As organizer, Syed Hussan from No One is Illegal put it at the opening assembly: “We want to be free of the terror we feel when we think of the future of our children and the next 7 generations. When we stand together, we have the power to bring change.”
The march was just the final exclamation point on a weekend of deeply moving action.
On Friday, students in 5 major Canadian cities staged sit ins at the offices of Members of Parliament to demand that these MPs make meaningful climate action a top priority for the next Prime Minister. Some stayed for hours on end, refusing to leave until they got the answers they need:
Then, on Saturday, communities across Canada mobilized to declare that we, the people, are greater than the tar sands. These are communities that have been dedicated to organizing in opposition to local tar sands pipelines, fracking, off-shore drilling and other fossil fuel projects taking place near their homes — and together they showed how we’re all engaged in a common struggle:
Together, we share a vision for a new, better economy: one that doesn’t expose their local economies to volatile oil market, respects the rights and title of local First Nations, and the limitations of our climate.
This is a big deal. It’s not just the usual suspects that are taking to the streets anymore. We have reached a turning point that will lead us closer to climate justice.
We are going to use this momentum to keep building the movement we need. It will require more hard work and sacrifice from us, but together, anything is possible.
In Respect and Solidarity,
Clay, Cam, Aurore, Katie, Graham, Angela and Atiya
The good news is: The decision by the German government to mothball some of the oldest lignite power plants is yet another sign that coal is on its way out.
The bad news: It doesn’t go nearly far enough. In fact, the government caved in to big polluters and went with a watered-down proposal.
Instead of putting a levy on CO2 from the most polluting power plants, a measure which scientists and economic experts described as the minimum needed to meet Germany’s climate targets, the government decided to go with an ‘alternative’ measure proposed by the big polluters and mining union, which won’t achieve the same emission cuts.
Instead of a measure that would have cost the biggest polluters millions, they went with an option that is estimated to cost taxpayers billions.
For the climate movement, the decision makes it clear once again that while coal is on its last legs, the industry’s influence on the political process is so enormous that it can get its way against any economic sense and against the will of the majority of people who want a coal phase-out.
We need to mobilise to dismantle the industry’s influence and the anti-coal movement is growing stronger than ever. Last night, just before coalition partners decided to scrap the coal levy, 500 people gathered outside the Chancellery in Berlin to deliver well over 300,000 signatures against coal.
This summer, grassroots groups are planning to take the anti-coal fight in Europe to the next level. Judging by last night’s decision to ignore the will of the majority of Germans to phase out coal and cave in to coal industry lobbyists, it is more essential than ever that we take action together to end coal.
From 14-16 August, hundreds of people from across Europe will come together to literally stop the digging, by blocking the world’s largest diggers at the source — the Rhineland coalfields which are Europe’s biggest source of CO2. Ende Gelände will be an iconic, peaceful confrontation and an unprecedented act of civil disobedience against coal in this decisive year for the climate. You don’t want to miss this!
By Janette Rosenbaum, 350 Madison
It’s 6am, and 50 Madisonians are ready to roll. They’re on their way to the Tar Sands Resistance March in St. Paul, Minnesota. There, they’ll join a few other Madison locals, as well as thousands of people from across the Midwest, some of whom have already been traveling for hours by the time the Madison contingent takes a group photo and boards their bus.
It’s my first major protest and I don’t really know what to expect. Will my fellow protesters, mostly members of 350Madison or the Four Lakes Sierra Club, spend the five-hour bus ride sleeping or making small talk about their families? Not at all, it turns out. The bus quickly transforms into a rolling conference room. I hear conversations about tar sands, but also about emerald ash borer and race relations and the minimum wage. I’m traveling with an informed, engaged group of people.
As we cross the Mississippi River, our bus captain, Judy Skog, tells us to be ready to disembark quickly. When we pull up at Lambert Landing in St. Paul, it’s not hard to see why. March organizers snap another group photo of us, then hurry us along so the next bus can come in. One coach after another arrives to unload passengers, flags, banners, and a whole lot of enthusiasm.
The riverside path fills up quickly. I see demonstrators of all ages, from those too young to walk to just about the oldest capable of managing the 1.5mile route. Groups have come from as far away as North Dakota, Oklahoma, and Indiana.
Organized, But Free
There’s a rough organization to the lineup, with First Nations representatives at the front and war veterans at the back, but nobody seems to be staying in their assigned spot. Protesters break off from their groups to visit other delegations, exchanging energy, stories, and even the signs they’ll be carrying during the march.
350Madison’s giant octopus balloon attracts a lot of attention. Flags and banners are blowing in the wind coming off the river, but the octopus is one of the few props that needs half a dozen people to hold it down. Balloon creator Carl Whiting directs his crew of handlers masterfully, preventing the Enbridge Octopus from causing any more damage.
The march steps off some time after noon, and a seemingly endless stream of people crosses the first road while police hold back traffic. Cars back up along the river. Drivers honk. Whether they’re honking at us or with us is hard to tell.
The march is peaceful and orderly as it proceeds through the streets towards the Minnesota Capitol building, though the marchers don’t stay in order. Every time I look around I see different people carrying different signs, with slogans ranging from the starkly unambiguous “No Tar Sands” to the whimsical “Save the Water Pokémon”. This freeform approach to marching confuses me until I learn that the march is not for the small crowd of onlookers.
“We energize ourselves,” Kathlean Wolf tells me on the bus ride home. She explains that the purpose of mass demonstrations is to bring activists together, giving them an opportunity to network, share information, strategize, and draw energy from one another.
The march organizers energize us as we walk, leading us in songs and chants. Partway along the route, the organizers inform us that we are 5,000 strong, making this march officially the largest march against tar sands in the Midwest to date.
The afternoon is getting warm as the protesters arrive at and disperse across the Capitol lawn. Some sit on the grass while others continue standing with their flags and banners. From the speakers’ podium, Native women offer a prayer over water, raising their voices above the construction noise emanating from the Capitol building.
Rev. Lennox Yearwood of the Hip Hop Caucus serves as master of ceremonies for a lineup of prominent climate activists. Sarah WellsHeadbird of the Ojibwe nation reminds us that the fight is not just about economics: plants and animals have social and cultural value as well. Gianna Strong of the Horse nation agrees, encouraging us to “walk in peace and harmony with all living things, as well as walk in peace and harmony with Mother Earth herself.”
“The Midwest is absolute ground zero of the climate fight,” Bill McKibben, founder of 350.org, tells the assembled crowd of activists from a dozen Midwestern states. “Every pipeline in America, and every pipeline around the world, is going to be fought from now on, and fought bitterly. We are starting to win in a big way.”
Representative Keith Ellison of Minnesota’s Fifth Congressional District also believes the march will make a difference. “When the people are marching and the people are demanding, the people are going to get what they want,” he says, to a round of applause.
The crowd thins and the cheering dies down a bit as Sierra Club President Aaron Mair speaks and musical group The Raging Grannies sings, but Honor the Earth founder Winona LaDuke brings back some energy to the rally. “You got a choice between water and oil,” she says, after giving the discouraging news that Minnesota’s Public Utilities Commission has just approved another Enbridge project. “Time to make the right choice.”
The rally is still going on as the Madison delegation regroups and returns to their bus for the long ride home. As sandwiches and snacks are shared around, I ask my fellow protesters what they think the impact of the march will be.
“From all walks of life, we walked together, we fought together,” reflects Art Shegone, a member of the Menominee Nation. Corporations are making everyone angry, he says, and should remember that the public can do a lot of damage to them through boycotts and other organized actions.
“We’ll probably do another march,” says Harry Bennett, in a tone of resigned determination. “It’s a long struggle.”
Last Sunday I had a religious experience — and I don’t mean going to my church in Brooklyn. The experience was sitting next to His Holiness the Dalai Lama on a panel discussion about climate change at Glastonbury Festival.
The Dalai Lama had a delightful passion on the topic. It ranged from a love of science; an insistence of the interconnectedness of all people; and the necessity of contemplation and action. But most of all, his presence is all encompassing. While he was speaking, it was if the 150,000 revellers at the Glastonbury Festival weren’t outside the tent, and he alone was speaking. His infectious smile and laugh came suddenly, and exuberantly, and rippled through the whole crowd each time. He regularly made jokes, looked around to see if we were all paying attention, and in a completely unexpected gesture, gently but jovially tapped me on the arm a few times.
Our panel, put together by the unstoppable team at The Guardian, addressed the imperative of keeping fossil fuels in the ground, the successes of the divestment campaign, and the connection between social and individual action. On each point the Dalai Lama had something unexpected to say. He expressed great enthusiasm and support for Laudato Si, the recent Papal Encyclical on climate change. In fact, at the same time as we were speaking, thousands marched in Rome in support of the message. He applauded those who worked to bring together religious leaders in support of more action.
My favorite moment came at the very end, when he was asked for his closing reflections on what people should do in the face of the climate crisis. He paused a moment and said, “I don’t know! Listen to these people!” Gesturing to us on the panel. But then he stopped to add something which I’ll always remember. He said,
“First, we must contemplate, and pray, and try to understand, understand, understand. This builds our conviction. And then we must act.”
The interrelationship between these themes, contemplation and action, is of great importance in the climate movement–and I especially appreciated how he articulated that they operate together, in a cycle, always building towards greater commitment and awareness. There is a lot to learn about climate change and how it connects to so many other important concerns. And in that learning, there is room to become totally overwhelmed, to throw one’s hands up and hope that someone else will step in to fix it, or that technology will solve the problem, or that maybe it isn’t as bad as we think. But the learning can be a powerful tool, just as he said, to grow our conviction, and move us to action. To divest our universities. To put solar panels on our churches. To stop pipelines.
Whether you consider yourself a person of faith, whatever that may be (and mine is not Tibetan Buddhism!) this message can be a liberating one. I was recently asked to speak at my church about faith and climate change. It was a time to clarify a lot of ideas. Faith compels us to believe in things we cannot prove and be sure of, and yet in doing so we are sustained and build resilience. We cannot know what the worst effects of climate change will be—but we do know the problem is already with us. That we can no longer “stop” climate change. But what kind of natural world will be preserved for future generations? And where will people be able to live in a changing climate? These are in so many ways questions with answers unknown to us. But just like we persist in our faith right along with our doubts, we must act to prevent the worst effects of climate change even when we can’t be sure if our efforts will add up to enough. It’s daunting—and in fact, faith can help push us towards action in the face of doubt.
Doubt and fear lies all around us, and within the Dalai Lama’s own experience in exile, there is ample cause for it. So when he extolled us, yesterday, to always return to a place of action, I was deeply inspired. I think we are in the midst of a turning point on climate change. Keep the faith.
Thousands marched in Rome today to celebrate the Pope’s recent call for urgent climate action
People of faith, civil society groups, and communities impacted by climate change marched together in Rome this Sunday to express gratitude to Pope Francis for the release of his encyclical on the environment, Laudato Si’, and call for bolder climate action by world leaders.
Under the banner of “One Earth One Human Family,” the march brought together Catholics and other Christians, followers of non-Christian faiths, environmentalists and people of goodwill. The march ended in St. Peter’s Square in time for the Pope’s weekly Angelus.
The weekly Angelus takes place on Sunday when the Pope is in Rome. At noon he appears from the window of his apartment where he gives a short speech followed by the Angelus prayer and ending with the Apostolic Blessing.
The celebratory march was animated by a musical band, a climate choir and colourful public artwork designed by artists from Italy and other countries, whose work played a major role in the People’s Climate March in New York City last September. Among the artwork was a 75-meter sign in the shape of a green leaf, with verses from Scripture which speak to God’s care for creation and for the poor.
Organisers of the march include: 350.org, FOCSIV, a coalition of over 60 Italian Catholic development, relief and social justice groups, and OurVoices, the international, multi-faith climate change campaign led by GreenFaith and the Conservation Foundation.
Joining the march to represent frontline communities and to relay a message of climate justice were Arianne and George from the Pacific Climate Warriors alongside Father Warren and Father Jovino who are priests from the Philippines engaged in climate campaigning.
In the words of Arianne: “As we stand at this critical juncture in addressing the climate crisis we are particularly grateful to the Pope for releasing this encyclical as an awakening for the world to understand how climate change impacts people across all regions. The truth of the matter is that all of humanity needs to stand united in addressing the crisis of our times. Climate change is an issue for everyone with a moral conscience,”
Among the messages relayed to the Pope during the march was a request to make fossil fuel divestment part of his moral message in the urgent need to address the climate crisis.
“The fossil fuel divestment campaign is hinged on the same moral premise communicated by Pope Francis in his encyclical,” said Father Edwin Gariguez, Executive Secretary of Caritas Philippines. “The campaign serves to highlight the immorality of investing in the source of the climate injustice we currently experience. Which is why we hope that moving forward and building on this powerful message, Pope Francis can make fossil fuel divestment a part of his moral argument for urgent climate action.”
A petition urging Pope Francis to rid the Vatican of investments in fossil fuels has already gathered tens of thousands of signatures. Over the past months, dozens of religious institutions have divested from coal, oil and gas companies or endorsed the effort, including the World Council of Churches representing half a billion Christians in 150 countries. In May 2015, the Church of England announced it had sold £12m in thermal coal and tar sands and just this week the Lutheran World Federation (LWF) announced it will exclude fossil fuel companies from its investments and calls on its member churches with 72 million members to do likewise. In total, more than 220 institutions have committed to divest from fossil fuels with faith institutions making up the biggest segment.
As world leaders prepare to meet in Paris later this year for the UN climate talks, the growing divestment movement will continue to fuel the ethical and economic revolution needed to prevent catastrophic climate change and growing inequality, a key message from Pope Francis’ encyclical.
The clear path required to address the climate crisis is one that breaks humanity free from the current stranglehold of fossil fuels on our lives and the planet. This encyclical reinforces the tectonic shift that is happening, we simply cannot continue to treat the Earth as a tool for exploitation.
With the #JobsJusticeClimate mobilizations just one week away, groups all across Canada are gearing up to host inspiring events in their towns. In all their diversity and local flavors, these actions are sending a common, clear and strong message that we can do better — that we can take real climate action while building a just economy. On July 4th, thousands of Canadians will show that they care about their communities, and that we are ready to stop digging, start building and move beyond the tar sands.
- Signs. Posters. Flags. Stickers. Human banners!
Across Canada, people are painting their towns red with strong visuals displays. In Vancouver, hundreds will draw a red line along the seawall at Sunset Beach to mark their demand for real action that protects their coast, water and local economies. In Fredericton, at the iconic walking bridge that towers over the St John/Wolastoq river, people will assemble to show they are ready for an economy that works for people.
- Summer celebrations
Showing mobilization savviness, people are hitting up local tourist trails, festivals and creating their own summer events to grow the climate movement across Canada. In Quebec City, a bike-powered mobilization will have people pedalling through the city and surrounding areas, just like in Saskatoon, Winnipeg, St John’s, and more. Making the most of the summer, these bike hikes will work with marching bands, children’s games, picnics and flyering and information blitz to make some special summer mobilizing.
In this great radio ad, Winnipeg organizers let the population know why we need to say no to the Energy East pipeline and join the entire city for a full day of events in Winnipeg with pedals & paddles, speakers, music, banners, art project and more.
From Nelson to Winnipeg to Hudson-Oka, people are jumping in kayaks and out on the water to protect their communities. In the wake of the inspiring kayaktiviststs that have circled (more than once) Shell’s Arctic rig in Seattle and off the coast of Vancouver, people east and west are about to bring that tactic home on July 4 with paddles and flotillas. Check out this video of the Hudson-Oka event where kayaks and canoes will cross the Ottawa river just outside Montreal to move past tar sands pipelines (Yep, these are REAL sails, on REAL boats).
- Solidarity with Indigenous frontline struggles
These mobilizations are striving to take leadership from First Nations communities that are on the frontlines of fossil fuel extraction and the climate crisis. We’re building a new kind of climate movement that grounds itself in the struggle for decolonization and recognizes that Indigenous peoples must be the first in line to benefit from a transition to a new economy.
Solidarity with Indigenous frontline struggles is very much central to the actions taking place on July 4th. For example, in Alberta, at the heart of the tar sands and in the middle of a great moment of political and social transformation, the Indigenous peoples that have led this movement will take the stage with local artists for a free outdoors concert in Edmonton showing the solutions and demanding a just transition to renewable energy and a fair economy.
These are only a few examples of all the creative and inspiring organizing that’s taking place right now in the lead up to the day of action. Can you hear the buzz of excitement? Make sure to check out the 350.org/july website, and RSVP to join the thousands who will stand up together on July 4th. Share the mobilization on social media and help local initiatives be heard all through the country with #JobsJusticeClimate (en français: #ClimatJusticeTransition).
And while you’re at it, make an entire weekend of it and march in the street of downtown Toronto for the March for Jobs, Justice and the Climate on July 5th on the eve of the Pan American Summit! See jobsjusticeclimate.ca for all the details and ways to get there.
With the ear of 1.2 billion Catholics and the respect of Christians and non-Christians alike, Pope Francis is uniquely positioned to add both his voice and the unique moral power of his office to the divestment movement.
The Roman Catholic faith, plays an important role in the lives and consciousness of many Filipinos. Because of its involvement in social issues, it has given face to a Christianity that shows a deep sense of faith made known through actions that pursue justice, peace and the integrity of the natural world.
That is why Pope Francis’ recently released encyclical was well received in the Philippines, because by putting the climate crisis in spiritual and moral terms, Pope Francis has focused a spotlight on the ethical and economic shift we urgently need in order to prevent catastrophic climate change and tackle growing inequality.
This Sunday, Catholics, people of all faiths, and people who care about climate change will be marching to thank the Pope for his encyclical and to call for climate action by world leaders. Two members of clergy from the Philippines will be there to bear witness to how they are responding to the impacts of a warming climate.
Fr. Warren Puno: anti-coal activist from Atimonan, Quezon
37 year old Fr. Warren Puno, was ordained in November 2006 and he was primarily assigned in the seminary as formator and professor as well an associate pastor to several parishes.
Last February 28, he was assigned to Our Lady of The Angels parish in Atimonan, Quezon where he became immediately immersed in a community struggle against a proposed 1,200-megawatt coal-fired power plant in the town by the company Meralco PowerGen.
In spite of Meralco PowerGen’s political and financial influence, he continues to campaign by using the mass every Sunday as a platform to inform his parishioners about the health and environmental impacts of coal. More than that, he also participates in consultation sessions held by the municipal council to engage the local government and the proponents of the project. Recently, he was among the organizers of a prayer rally and vigil that was attended by more than 1,500 people from the community including leaders of other Christian denominations whom he joined in a procession around town to dramatize opposition to the proposed project.
When asked about his involvement he simply says that: I” continue to fight because I know that at the end, the poor people will suffer because of climate change caused by these rising power plants. It is our moral duty as priests to fight for the rights of our people. “
“We are just following and doing the Call to Action of our Diocesan synod which states that: The church shall intensify her involvement in environmental issues. We already have two existing coal-fired power plants in our province that is why we cannot just be silent and passive on this important issue.”
Fr. Jovino Batecan: building sustainable communities in Lingayen, Dagupan
Fr. Jovino Batecan, or Fr. Bobits as his parish likes to call him, is a diocesan priest in the province of Lingayen, Dagupan, Philippines.
Since his ordination in 1981, he has already served in 9 parishes, he currently serves a the Priest Director of the San Isidro Pastoral Station in Binmaley, Pangasinan while at the same times he is also appointed as the Director of Farmers, Fisherfolk and Laborers’ Apostolate. He currently leads community efforts to integrate eco-spirituality and organic farming as a means for building resilience in the face of climate change impacts.
Knowing that climate change is caused by the combined unsustainable practices of people he led the formation of ecology teams/eco-household projects in his community to implement a project that integrates environmental awareness, community gardening, renewable energy, zero waste and sustainable agriculture and social enterprise for communities, which he hopes to mainstream.
His vision is to build climate-resilient and sustainable alternative communities that shows a different development paradigm –one that runs contrary to today’s corporate-consumer society that values profit over people and the planet which he believes is largely responsible for the current climate crisis.
Bearing witness in Rome
Amidst climate change the Catholic Church in the Philippines sits in the tension that lies between resisting dirty development and social attitudes, in defence of the poorest and the most vulnerable in the face of the climate crisis.
On Sunday, June 28th , Fr. Warren and Fr. Bobits will join Catholics and other Christians, followers of non‐Christian faiths, environmentalists and people of goodwill in marching to St. Peter’s Square to celebrate Laudate Sii, the forthcoming papal encyclical on ecology and to call for climate change action by world leaders.
The Lutheran World Federation (LWF) just announced that it will exclude fossil fuel companies from its investments and calls on its member churches with 72 million members to do likewise.
It also asks its member churches “not to invest in fossil fuels and to support energy efficiency and renewable energy companies, and to encourage their institutions and individual members to do likewise.”
The LWF is the latest of dozens of religious institutions that have committed to divest from coal, oil and gas companies or endorsed the effort, including the World Council of Churches representing half a billion Christians in 150 countries.
The announcement comes just days after Pope Francis’ moral call to action on climate change in his encyclical on the environment.
Ellie Roberts, UK church divestment campaigner at Christian charity Operation Noah comments:
“With this commitment, the Lutheran World Federation has joined hundreds of fossil free churches worldwide, acting prophetically in the face of the climate crisis by moving their money away from fossil fuels. Representing 72 million Christians in 98 countries – and coming as Pope Francis calls on the world to unite in tackling climate change – we hope this decision will inspire other churches to divest as a matter of faith.”
Rev. Fletcher Harper, Executive Director of GreenFaith, an interfaith environmental group, says:
“For decades, LWF has empowered the world’s most vulnerable communities to fight poverty and to work for better lives. In recent years, they’ve seen that climate change, and its droughts, heat, and destructive weather cycles, erases the progress made. They’ve decided that it’s not right to profit from the industry that’s behind climate change, and we salute that choice.”
More details in the LWF press release.