Climate Activism

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This article was published in Adbusters #91, the  ’I, Revolution’ issue. Right at the back. But that’s cool, because I read magazines back-to-front. Don’t know why, just do. :)

It’s late. Maybe 2, or 3am, and I’m scanning my email inbox for anything important I might have missed. Eventually I notice a message that lists the names of two famous activists – Bill Mckibben and Naomi Klein – in its subject header.

The email is a ‘call to action’ soliciting support for Tim DeCristopher, a climate change activist who faces 10 years in jail after disrupting an auction of oil and gas leases in Utah.

I’m interested in this, and not just because of the facts – that by his fake bidding, DeCristopher prevented the Bush administration selling off 14 parcels of land for fossil fuel extraction – and is being prosecuted despite the new US administration ruling that the land had been inappropriate for sale. I’m actually interested largely because I’ve recently been thinking a lot about jail, and wondering about what role it might play in the peoples movement for just action on climate change. So I want to know more about Tim DeCristopher.

On his website (www.bidder70.org) there is a video of DeCristopher speaking at a climate rally in Salt Lake City last October. An athletic-looking 26-year-old with a shaved head and intense eyes, he speaks loudly and succinctly, like a charismatic churchman in full swing. At times he even breaks into gospel song.

There is more than a hint of spirituality in his speech, too. He tells the crowd of his personal awakening – that every day since his action, despite knowing he may soon be behind bars, he has walked a little taller, and felt a little more free. He also offers them a form of salvation, promising that it will be the social struggle for a safe climate and sustainable future that will make us the truly noble beings we were meant to be. Read the rest of this entry »

Fantastic news today for all climate activists around the world: Ted Glick, Climate Justice Faster and policy director of the US NGO Chesapeake Climate Action Now was spared the ordeal of a jail sentence for peacefully unfurling banners reading “GREEN JOBS NOW” and “GET TO WORK” inside the U.S. Senate Hart Office Building last September. Hundreds of fellow activists and climate concerned citizens from all over the world wrote letters in support of Ted to his judge, and packed out his courtroom in solidarity, and it seems to have some effect. What was looking almost certainly like at least a few months, and quite possibly years, of jail time became simply a good behavior bond and community service, as Ted walked free from the court amongst friends and supporters.

Here is the poignant and powerful statement Ted read out in court:

Ted Glick’s Sentencing Statement, July 6, 2010

Your honor, I’d like to focus my statement on the “why” of the September 8th action, about which I was not able to testify at my trial. I’ll begin with a quote from a March 4th, 2010 press release from the U.S. National Science Foundation. It concerns the emission of methane, a greenhouse gas 70 times as strong as carbon dioxide over the first 20 years after it is released into the atmosphere. This release begins: Read the rest of this entry »

Court

Yesterday I appeared, clean shaven and underslept, in the Melbourne magistrates court to answer the charge of trespass which I incurred last year at a protest calling for the closure of Hazelwood power station. It was quite an experience.

This was the second time in my life that I have been to court. The first was after I dented a car with a drunken teenage kick outside a pub in suburban Melbourne. A long time ago now, I can’t remember much about the hearing, except being slightly annoyed that the judge involved made an incorrect assumption in his statement about his decision to fine me, which I was unable to correct. It wasn’t of great consequence, and his decision was fair, but it still irked me slightly that there could be anything even slightly arbitrary in the execution of such an authoritative role.

And yesterday, again, the same thing seemed to occur. I was denied a ‘diversion’ – an odd construct at the very bottom of an overly complex hierarchy of legal consequences – on the basis of my previous conviction. The dented car.

Now, fair enough, I suppose, but again, it was all just so hopelessly vague and disempowering. I was first given a long form to fill out, which included a question asking if I had ever been convicted of an offense before. Helpfully, it included details about my previous case, which had written underneath in capitals: NO CONVICTION. Naturally, I answered no. Read the rest of this entry »

With this essay I will attempt to do a few things. First, I will introduce the concept of global justice, and will briefly sketch the positions of the most prominent schools of thought upon it. I will then outline the issue of climate change, and explain why I believe that we should arrive at much the same conclusions about the demands of global justice regarding it no matter which of the aforementioned schools of thought we adhere to. Given these conclusions, I will propose that there can be little doubt that the majority of affluent nations are today acting unjustly in regards to climate change. I will then discuss the implications of recognising this fact for individuals living within such countries, and argue that citizens of affluent nations are obligated, by a negative duty not to contribute to injustice, both to limit their own emissions of greenhouse gas, and to undertake further efforts to rectify the injustice involved in climate change and compensate its victims.

Global Justice

Traditionally, the boundaries of justice were seen to be national borders, and the only globally recognised standard of behaviour to which nations were held was a general moral duty not to violate other nations’ sovereignty. In recent times, however, it has become increasingly recognised that the issue of justice also concerns the interactions between states, and that people may owe obligations of justice to others who live beyond their own borders.[1] This thought, however, has given rise to a number of theoretical debates, and a number of different schools of thought have arisen about what global justice might be.

Four major schools of thought on this question are Liberalism, Utilitarianism, Libertarianism, and Communalism. Liberalism, while it has many different forms, generally entails the view that global justice should primarily be grounded in the provision and protection of a universal set of human rights.

Utilitarianism, on the other hand, is the view that a just international system would, so far as possible, serve to create the best overall outcome, or the greatest ‘utility’. It therefore does not admit of any in-principle recognition of national sovereignty or human rights.

Libertarianism differs from both these views, maintaining that the primary concern of justice should be the protection of individual freedom. Calling upon the common distinction between positive and negative duties – positive referring to duties to take certain actions, negative referring to duties to refrain from taking certain actions – libertarians insist that the only obligations that individuals should have under a system of justice are negative duties not to harm others.

And finally, Communitarianism is the view that there is no one standard of justice that has a claim to be universally recognised, and holds that it is the autonomy of states must be upheld as widely as is possible. Like with libertarianism, however, this autonomy of states is limited by the proviso that it must not be used to harm other states.

So given these widely divergent views, it is a rare issue that would lead theorists from each camp to achieve a consensus position about the demands of global justice. Yet in climate change, it seems, we may have just such an issue. But before exploring why this is so, we will first need to understand a little bit more about the problem of climate change itself. Read the rest of this entry »

The protestors who hung this banner above Melbourne’s famous Young & Jackson’s hotel may have done a slightly wonky job, but if they were around and willing to be identified I ASSUME they would say that the thing was absolutely massive, and that police spotted them rather quickly, meaning they had to scamper back across a few roofs and do some speedy climbing to get away. Ah well. Next time I’m sure they’ll hang it straight.


This was a small but satisfying protest at a conference held so that the Victorian coal industry could work out how to keep making as much profit as possible regardless of climate change. A group I am in that is working on shutting down Hazelwood power station thought we should go along and remind them that burning our future is not something you can do without getting hassled at least a little.

Hi all. I’m just posting this photo to head off any ‘CJF denial’ (there has been some- misinformation on the net claiming that the long term fasters weren’t really fasting, or that we were still taking in nutrition other than water). Such statements are just lies.

It’s hardly surprising that this has occurred, however, given that we are climate change activists, and there is such an unseemly rash of lies all over the net about our cause. There is, however, an antidote to this rash, which is to spread onto it, as widely as possible, a generous amount of TRUTH.

Please watch, and share, the following videos as widely as you possibly can, and make a point of checking for new ones from their authors at regular intervals. You will find that once a rash sufferer has sat through a few of them, they will be forever cured. Read the rest of this entry »

On December 19, 2009, I ended my fast, after 43 days and 11 hours of taking in nothing but water and salt. I posted the following blog later that day.

One day.

Could any two words hold more hope than these?

They precede our dreams, our longings, and that which we need to believe.

One day I’ll get that dream job, we say. One day I’ll have that family. They are a prayer, holding us up, and calling us on. Through these words, we fill the unknown future with everything our hearts desire- love, happiness, and security. And through these words, we find the strength to make our dreams come true.

I used to have so many of these prayers. One day I would travel the world. One day I would be a successful musician. One day I would own my own home.

Today, I have only one. Because I know that if this prayer does not come true, the rest will mean nothing.

Today, my only prayer is that one day we will look back upon the current period of history and we will remember a time when the threat of climate change rendered our future uncertain.

We will remember feeling fear as we watched the desperate warnings of scientists ignored by our leaders at COP15, and disbelief as our irreplaceable planet was sacrificed for meaningless profits. And we will remember our frustration as we worked to awaken a world that often seemed willfully ignorant of the enormous danger it faced.

But this will not be all. Read the rest of this entry »

On around day 40 of CJF, as I was lying half awake in our tent, the words of a speech started appearing in my mind. I grabbed a pen and scribbled a few of them down, then later worked on them a little more until they became the following message, which I sent out to all the people around the world who fasted with us on December 18, 2009.

Greetings. My name is Paul Connor. And today, alongside my good friends Anna Keenan, who is like me an Australian, and Sara Svensson, from Sweden, I am now on day 42 of a fast for climate justice. Today though, we are far from alone. Today, over 3000 people, from all over the world, have joined us in fasting for this same cause.

To those of you who have joined the fast, I want to say that it is a blessing to be fasting with you, as we come together, today, unified by our love for this planet, its people, and its animals, and by our deep and shared concern over its future.

My friends, today, as we fast alongside each other, I know that many of us are angered, saddened, and disillusioned with what we have witnessed over the past two weeks in Copenhagen. But I want to say to you all that whatever has taken place over there- we must not despair, because hope is alive.

I want to say to you that no matter how much we may have to fear, there has never been a more exciting time to be alive than now. It is a scary time, granted- but an incredibly exciting one nonetheless.

Today, with all of human history behind us, and a new millennium stretched out ahead, we stand at a moment in time when a completely new civilization is being born upon planet Earth- a civilization utterly unlike any that has ever come before it. And we stand, here, today, right now, at its dawn.

But so far, this ‘new civilization’, well, it doesn’t really have a name. Well, not a sexy name, anyway. I mean, the words ‘ecological sustainability’- E-CO-LO-GI-CAL SUS-TAI-NA-BI-LI-TY…-now, that’s five syllables followed by six- lets face it, they don’t quite roll off the tongue. We’ll come up with something more catchy, eventually, I’m sure.

But ecological sustainability. Those two words represent something incredible. Because for the human race- those two words are a revolution. Read the rest of this entry »

And so, the COP has stalled. It is only day 3, and already we have reached crisis point. Tuvalu, accompanied by fellow small island states and some small African nations, has blocked consensus, holding out for a legally binding treaty that will return atmospheric greenhouse gasses to a safe level, and would give their nations a chance of survival.

Dishearteningly, these countries were not backed up in this call by the bigger players within the G77 group of developing nations such as China, India and Saudi Arabia, who do not wish to accept the cuts to their emissions that such a deal would entail.

Immediately, passionate protests began within the Bella Centre, as activists from all over the world joined together to demonstrate their solidarity with these tiny nations and their fight for a viable future.

I must admit that my tears flowed freely reading this news, and watching these protests, for I knew that I was watching an incredible moment in history. A rare and cherished moment when human dignity takes over, and when the oppressed find the courage to say no.

These proud, beautiful nations are literally being asked to agree to oblivion, and they are sayingno. For the first time, they are truly demanding justice, and are refusing to compromise.

It could not be any other way. Read the rest of this entry »

This is an opinion piece published online in ‘The Punch’ during CJF about the famed ‘hip-pocket reflex’ of Australian voters and the danger it entails for us all in the face of climate change and political jostling.

Australia, congratulations. We now boast a brand new opposition leader from the far-Right, who proudly declared, say, eight or nine times in a single interview on Tuesday that he would not support climate change legislation, terming it a ‘big new tax’ on the Australian people.So here we have the new political tactic of our Right- simple, snappy, and to the point- “that other lot want to TAX you!”

This tactic is nothing new, of course. Ben Chifley once observed that the Australian public ‘votes from the hip-pocket reflex’. The Right is simply banking that this is still the case.  Shrewd.

Never mind that such a reflex, if the Western world cannot overcome it, will almost certainly destroy our planet. Never mind that. A ‘big new tax’? That’’s bad. No need for that. No sir.

And so, here, my friends, is the ultimate tragedy of the commons, excitedly limbering itself up for what looms as its greatest triumph. The Right wants power. Fossil fuel companies want profits. Voters don’t want taxes. And meanwhile, (according to the scientists, at least) climate disaster looms. So cue the violins. This will be a tragedy to impress even the ancient Greeks.

At the heart of this potential tragedy, however, is not fiction, but a simple truth. And this truth is one that the West are going to have to confront very soon if the project of civilization begun by its Grecian forefathers is going to stand a chance of continuation.

This truth is, folks, that we are obscenely spoiled. Read the rest of this entry »

Today marks day 30 of CJF, one month exactly since 6 people, myself, Anna Keenan, Diane Wilson, Sara Svensson, Michael Morphett and Chuck Cain last took in any nourishment other than water. It’s also the eve of the great Copenhagen climate summit, where CJF will be in force (albeit without yours truly), delivering our message of the absolute urgency and moral importance of climate action. I thought I would take this opportunity, then, to offer some brief thoughts about our campaign so far.

If there is one thing that 30 days without food energy of any kind gives you, it is a chance to reflect. I very much doubt that there is any aspect of my 29 years upon this earth that I haven’t had a chance to think about while lying in our marquee outside Australia’s Parliament House here in Canberra. Misadventures, loves, victories, losses, goals, beliefs, family and friends- all of these have freely circled my mind, unburdened by any urgent need to concentrate on anything much at all.

This has personally been quite pleasurable, and a welcome change from the hectic organising that was my life for the preceding few months. Now, I figure, what’s done is done, CJF is what it is, I am who I am, am doing what I’m doing, and it’s time to just lie back and fast. All the obsessing over repercussions and effects, the tactical intricacies, and the “messaging” (a word I was completely unaware of six months ago and would dearly love never to hear again) are to me now almost like a strange game we used to play back in some other time, and some other place. Read the rest of this entry »

The following blog was published in The Punch, an Australian online opinion forum, during CJF.

Let’s be frank. Australia’s response to climate change so far is a disgrace. It is well understood, by even Kevin Rudd and Penny Wong, that the emissions reduction targets of the carbon pollution reduction scheme (CPRS) are scientifically inadequate to effectively respond to climate change.

Even if it’s maximum reduction target of 25% by 2020 is implemented, and other nations make similar efforts, atmospheric greenhouse gasses will still overshoot a safe level, very likely pushing us past tipping points that lock into place disastrous runaway climate change.

And once we take into account our world-beating per-capita emissions, combined with our chart-topping standard of living, our nation’s token efforts on climate change become simply impossible to justify. We know this, so let’s not harp on it. As Australians concerned about the future of our nation, we need to accept the reality that our nation is nowhere near implementing responsible climate policies.

But we also need to ask ourselves, whose fault is this, really? Because there are a range of views.

Is it the government, for prioritising political safety over an adequate response to climate change?

Or is it perhaps the opposition, for entertaining bizarre climate-denialist theories and lowering the bar for what can be done?

Or, last but not least, is it our perennial whipping boys ‘big business’ – for prioritising profits over the good of the planet and its people?

Well, yes. And yes. And yes. But there is another culprit here, one who all to often escapes the blame for the environmental sins of our nation, and one who has even more pull over national policies than any of the aforementioned groups.

It is us. The people. This is a fact all too easily forgotten, and frequently left out of discussions of the issue. The reason that Australia has shameful climate policies is that Australians have allowed it to. We can wring our hands and condemn politicians and big business all we like (and boy don’t we love to do this), but the cold hard fact remains: with sufficient public demand, government policy is what we the people say it is. Read the rest of this entry »

More vlogs from CJF. They became more infrequent the more fatigued I became..

Read the rest of this entry »

When setting out to take part in Climate Justice Fast!, I steeled myself for a lot of negativity. After all, hunger striking is controversial- that’s part of the reason it can be so effective in focusing attention on issues and spurring debate. However, I have to admit that while preparing for a barrage of criticism, I completely forgot to prepare myself for being completely, and blatantly, lied about.

Was I naïve?

I guess so.

But I just did not expect to see bare-faced lies printed about myself. Perhaps I figured that there would be enough ammunition for people opposed to CJF to use if they wanted to criticize me, without having to resort to untruth. But how wrong I was.

Here is Malcolm Farr of the Daily Telegraph, reporting that “Connor isn’t going to give up all food; he’s just not going to have as much as he usually would.”

A lie. I have drunk water only since November 6th.

We have contacted Malcolm and asked him, in the name of journalistic integrity, to retract his report. But he hasn’t responded.

And here is a fellow called ‘Jack the Insider”, who surprised me today with the news that I am no longer on hungerstrike!

Also a lie. (Unless I have missed something rather pertinent!) Read the rest of this entry »

Today marked the first birthday of Maggie Elizabeth Ahearn, my beautiful niece. Our family gathered in a park in Melbourne to mark the occasion, in what was doubtlessly an occasion filled with joy. As, I’m sure, are most all 1st birthday parties. Unfortunately, I couldn’t make it, as I’m still on hunger strike for climate justice up here in Canberra.

I hope that this doesn’t make me a bad uncle.

I promise that Maggie is not far from my thoughts. In fact, for the past few weeks, and especially during the period directly before climate justice fast! began, I have thought about her about her a heck of a lot. Maggie will probably live, I suppose, until the latter part of this century.

Which means, (deep breath),

…that unless drastic action is taken on climate change, far beyond what governments are now proposing, there is an increasing likelihood that she will experience a planet four degrees warmer than the one in which humanity has flourished.

This is no ‘doomsday cult’- this is the word of our most eminent scientists. And according to their modelling, this warming would leave Australia, Maggie’s (and my) country of birth, a catastrophic 7 degrees hotter. If this were to occur, Australia would become near uninhabitable. Coastal areas would be inundated. Agriculture would be extinguished. Water security would be a thing of the past. And bushfires would increasingly blacken the summer skies. Read the rest of this entry »

Upon reading Clive Hamilton’s ‘Is It Too Late to Prevent Catastrophic Climate Change’, a stark and frankly depressing review of recent scientific appraisals of humanity’s ability to avoid catastrophic climate change, I was immediately struck by one thought: ‘something is missing here’.

In his essay, Hamilton relates projected future greenhouse emissions scenarios from the recent work of Kevin Anderson and Alice Bows at the United Kingdom’s Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research, and soberly notes that even when the researchers used the most optimistic projections of future emissions reductions, they still predict that humanity will far overshoot the mark for stabilising greenhouse gasses at a safe level. In fact, on their projections, the entire concept of stabilising greenhouse gasses at a safe level begins to look somewhat like a pathetic joke.

Yet before we all throw in the towel, accept that our climate is done for and buy as much land and weaponry in Tasmania as we can, we need to ask of these figures: are they really based on the ‘most optimistic’ scenarios?

I believe they are not.  I believe that there is something immensely important missing from their calculations.

I’ll try to explain.

Climate science tells of natural ‘slow feedback mechanisms’ at work within the climate system, which act to amplify global warming. An example is the melting ice poles. As they melt, they begin to reflect less light back into space, causing further warming, which causes further melting, and so on in a vicious cycle. Another is the ‘permafrost’. This is frozen soil which, when thawed by warming temperatures, releases greenhouse gasses into the atmosphere, causing further warming, which then thaws more permafrost, and while these are only two of many, by now you should be getting the picture. Read the rest of this entry »

A bunch of vlogs from early on in CJF. Read the rest of this entry »

CJF Day 2

Blog from Day 2 of CJF

Today was a nice day in the warm Australia Sun outside Parliament House in Canberra. Kamrul Khan, the director of the Bangladesh Environment Network Australian chapter, came down and fasted for the day in solidarity with us, and kept us amazed with stories of fighting for independence and being a political prisoner as a youth in Bangladesh. We are all inspired, and full of hope.

(The following is a statement the Canberra CJF participants prepared together for the media)

Today marks the end of the Barcelona climate negotiations, and the beginning of Climate Justice Fast!- Climate Justice Fast! is an international hunger strike for responsible, just action on climate change. Founded in Australia, it now involves over 80 people from 14 nations all around the world.

Our hunger strike is calling for world leaders to commit to stabilising atmospheric greenhouse gasses at below 350 ppm, and to provide at least $160 bn dollars per year to the developing world to adapt to climate change. We will end our fast if these demands are achieved. Climate change is a global emergency. Every leading scientific body on earth is warning us that if we don’t drastically reduce our emissions of greenhouse gasses, we will bring about an irreversible catastrophe.

This will not only be a tragedy, but it will be an enormous injustice. It will mean the world’s most vulnerable people, and our very own children, forced to suffer terrible consequences from a problem which they did not cause. Read the rest of this entry »

CJF Day 1

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