I wrote this letter to the Magistrate sentencing me for last year’s office occupation of Cygnet Capital. I was a bit nervous about it and my Lawyer recommended I didn’t use it because of its lack of repentance.

The Presiding Magistrate,

Melbourne Magistrates Court

Your Honour,

In September this year I chained myself in an act of protest to three other people in the office of the finance company Cygnet Capital. When asked to leave I refused, and was subsequently arrested for trespass.

The reason I undertook this action was to protest and draw attention to the actions of Cygnet Capital, who are underwriting the operations of another company named Mantle Mining, which plans to establish a brown coal export industry in Victoria.

The reason I oppose these companies’ actions is simple: on the authority of the world’s leading scientific authorities, a failure to adequately reduce manmade greenhouse emissions will be very likely to produce dangerous and even catastrophic climate change, leaving the members of both our species (bar perhaps a privileged few) and others to suffer the consequences of ecosystem collapse. I therefore believe that seeking to profit from exporting brown coal from Victoria – home to enough brown coal to single-handedly push the planet past the so-called ‘2° guardrail’ often spoken of by governments as the barrier beyond which climate change becomes ‘dangerous climate change’ – is deeply immoral.

I also believe that the current laws of our society have fallen far out of step with the demands of morality when it comes to climate change. As it stands, our laws hold it perfectly legal for companies such as Cygnet Capital and Mantle Mining to seek profit by knowingly contributing to the foreseeable catastrophic consequences of climate change, and make it illegal for people such as myself to attempt to prevent them doing so. To me, this indicates that our current laws regarding such matters are wrong and in urgent need of regress.

Of course, in a democracy such as ours one can always use legal channels to change the law. In a basic way this is true. But to this basic truth I would attach two important caveats.

First, in the case of climate change the picture is more complicated. Greenhouse pollution diffuses across the globe, so the actions of any democratic society produce consequences that affect more people than just those able to participate in its democracy. Australian adults, for example, are able to campaign to change Australian law, but citizens of other countries cannot realistically do so, nor can members of other species, anyone still too young to have a public voice, or future generations. If the justification for democracy is that people deserves a say over decisions that effect them, then climate change presents us with a case in which this very justification may call for people within a democracy to step outside the bounds of their current law in order to protect the interests of those who cannot affect those laws, but who are nonetheless affected by them.

Second, I have tried legal channels. I have spent countless hours volunteering, campaigning, leafleting, letterboxing and doorknocking to promote responsible action on climate change. In 2009 I even went about as far as one can go via legal forms of political protest, starving myself two thirds (give or take) of the way to death on a 43 day water-only hunger strike outside our Parliament House in Canberra calling for climate action.

All these legal forms of political participation make a difference, and I do not repudiate them. I believe, however, that history shows civil disobedience to have an important and vital role to play in achieving social change.

People with a conscience have been violating what they see as immoral laws for millennia, and I personally believe it is a damn good thing that they have done so, for our civilization would not be where it is today if they had not.

I also believe, in the context of climate change, that it is only by people continuing to stand up for what is morally right, rather than what is simply legal, that our species stands a chance of getting ourselves out of the mess we are creating for ourselves.

But ideology and rhetoric aside, I do recognise that you have a job to do, and I only ask that when sentencing me you keep in mind the nature of my actions – that they were peaceful, that they harmed no one, and that they were born of nothing but compassion and a sense of moral duty to the victims of climate change, present and future.

Yours sincerely,

Paul Connor

December, 2011

So I haven’t updated paulconnor.org in ages. I’ve been pretty busy with my climate group, which in the past few months have rebranded ourselves with a new name ‘Quit Coal’. Here’s the logo I’ve designed for us:

And here is the Quit Coal website. which i’ve spent countless hours designing and setting up using a pretty cool wordpress theme called ‘Corona’.

This is a quick video I put together of a Christmas-themed media stunt/day of outreach by Quit Coal.

We Don’t Want Coal For Christmas! from Quit Coal on Vimeo.

This one is an interview I gave on the first night of Occupy Melbourne. Spoiler alert: I said ‘like’ too much:

This one is me and about 10 other people last Saturday, telling the police that if it really is a crime to sit peacefully on the lawns of the State Library and talk then they had better arrest us. They decided not to.

This is a video I made of my anti-coal collective’s recent peaceful direct action out in Bacchus Marsh. It took me a while to finish whilst simultaneously learning to use Apple’s video editing software Final Cut Pro rather than the more easy to use but limited IMovie. The song is a short version of Go Count Your Money by my band Wildcat General Strike. Enjoy!

On Saturday night, a handful of friends and I went down to City Square to Occupy Melbourne. Like many others inspired by the traction and momentum gained by the Wall Street occupation, we wished to experience its model of protest for ourselves. The experience was fascinating, educational, confusing, inspiring and confronting.

I arrived at City Square around 2pm and began exploring the area. One side of the square was an assembly area hosting an open speaking forum, at which a wide variety of people spruiked various anti-establishment causes to a medium-size crowd. Elsewhere volunteers at an information desk displayed a schedule of workshops. I spent a couple of hours attending a workshop on climate change and then circulating and chatting to people about respective campaigns we’re involved in and how we might be able to help each other.

At 4pm a general assembly was held, at which a large crowd listened to various proposals and voted on them to test for consensus. Few substantive proposals were passed, a notable exception being a statement of solidarity with striking Qantas workers. Happily, some of the more unconstructive proposals, such as the assembly ‘vilifying the 1%’ or being ‘against Capitalism’ failed to achieve consensus. Read the rest of this entry »

On Monday this week a small group of Stop HRLians woke before dawn and drove 60 kilometers West of Melbourne to Bacchus Marsh. I rode shotgun, filming everything for a video I would like to make about the day. Neil drove. Shaun, Maude and Maddie were in the backseat.

We made the trip to perform a peaceful direct action against Mantle Mining, who are currently undertaking exploratory drilling in the area and hoping to dig an open cut mine in order to establish a brand new international brown coal export industry.

It’s hard to explain how crazy it would be for Victoria to start exporting brown coal to the world, but I’m willing to try. If you already know that it’s crazy to start exporting brown coal from Victoria, I don’t know, skip over this bit.

In Victoria, we have a lot of brown coal. That’s why almost all of our electricity is generated by digging it up and burning it, which boils water, spins turbines, and voila, electricity. And that’s also why Victoria’s per capita greenhouse emissions are among the highest in the world, what with brown coal being so dirty and all.

But now, thanks to Australia’s new carbon price legislation, Victorian power is being dragged kicking and screaming away from it’s dirty brown coal-flavored teat and into the mid-20th century. Yes, you heard correctly. The Labor government’s tragi-comically inadequate one-fifth-the-scientifically-accepted-minimum carbon pricing legislation is actually going (eventually) to price brown coal out of the electricity market. That’s just how polluting brown coal is – you can’t even burn it in Australia anymore.

Yet like any kicking and screaming little brat, the Victorian brown coal industry is refusing to go to bed peacefully. Instead, a new plan is emerging – if we can no longer make money here out of the stuff, maybe we can make money elsewhere out of it? After all, there are countries out there whose poverty and low historical emissions means they don’t have to do as much on climate change as us, which as a result of our ineffectual efforts means they really don’t have to do anything. So…maybe we can sell them our brown coal?

To date, this kind of thinking has been thwarted by a lucky happenstance in physics. You couldn’t export brown coal simply because it would catch fire if it came in contact with air. And air is fairly ubiquitous in the majority of our trading partners. But rather than recognise what seems to have been a fairly blatant hint from the Gods regarding the favor with which they view brown coal exports, a company named Exergen has now devised a method of drying out brown coal, rendering it capable of being transported vast distances and burnt in countries with less ‘ambitious’ emissions targets than our own. Read the rest of this entry »

This is the artwork for Wildcat General Strike‘s debut CD ‘Nobody’s Got A Gun To Your Head’. The CD’s finally showed up today. We are pretty happy with it. The cover image came from a NY artist named Shianne Rosenberg, who was kind enough to let us use it. The rest of the design was a team effort by me and Jarred, and our friend Shannon took the sleeve photo.

This Op Ed was published on Crikey’s ‘Rooted’ blog on Tuesday, giving rise to the War-And-Peace-Epic 11,000 word comment war I’ve included below for shits and giggles.

Don’t be fooled, Mantle are in it for the money

Few could accuse Mantle Mining company director Ian Kraemer of lacking rhetorical ambition. Attending a public meeting in Bacchus Marsh last week to explain his plan to turn local farmlands into a brown coal mine, Kraemer was keen to talk up his environmental credibility. ‘Brown coal’, he told locals present, ‘has the ability to be the saviour of the planet’.

Now, given brown coal’s status as one of the world’s most polluting fossil fuels, this seems an odd statement. Yet Kraemer is adamant it can be defended. Mantle, he says, plans to use a special technique developed by another company, Exergen, to remove moisture from the coal, thereby reducing its greenhouse emissions by up to 40%. Given that countries such as China and India are likely to use brown coal for some time to come, he argues, it makes good environmental sense to help them to burn it in a cleaner way.

But can we trust Kraemer’s reasoning here? To begin, let’s examine the claim that Exergen’s coal-drying technology will reduce greenhouse emissions from burning brown coal by up to 40%. A quick review of the company’s very own promotional material shows how deceitful that figure really is. Read the rest of this entry »

Last Thursday I was arrested for trespassing at the office of a Melbourne finance company named Cygnet. Myself and three other protestors chained ourselves together in Cygnet’s foyer to demand a meeting with their director to discuss their decision to finance Mantle Mining’s plans to establish a brown coal export industry out of Bacchus Marsh in Victoria.

Me on the phone chained up in Cyget's office. The bearded copper behind us made a point of saying he agreed with what we were doing.

We did so alongside Bacchus Marsh locals, under the banner of ‘Farms Not Fossil Fuels’, a campaign title devised by the Stop HRL collective and put into the graphic form below by yours truly. A funny moment occurred during the protest when the managing director of Cygnet told these locals that ‘this is our area, you can’t be here!’ The locals, who are being told that they have no power to stop mining companies drilling on their properties and possibly taking their land, completely sympathized.

Read the rest of this entry »

I recently watched Dig! on Youtube. I reckon you can probably tell. This was the design the band ended up settling on.

What have I been up to lately? A lot of rehearsing with the band, a bit of getting dodgy hipster haircuts(!), a fair bit of hand therapy for my broken hand (long story) and a fair bit of this (it’s a video I wrote, scored and directed for the Stop HRL crew I’m in here in Melbourne):

Go Count Your Money

Listen: Go Count Your Money

Take me from this violence
Trampled in a stampede
Millions of acquaintances

Drowning in the shallows
Please don’t live in shadows
Let me see you small and frail

I’ve been thinking so long
Of what I’ll say to you
As I save you

What are you worth?/Who do you work for?
What do you do?/What is it to you?
When do you get out of here?

So count your money/Don’t rock the boat
Have some mercy/Along with your hatred
I’ll be waiting here for you

Go count your money I’ll get the Vaseline
I’ll give you a smile if you bark like a dog for me
And if you want a smorgasbord we’ll get one for your decadent horror show

You can never know
What’s in store for you
What’s in store for you

Let it go
Let it fall
Let it go

I’m here today as a representative of the Stop HRL collective, a grassroots community group working alongside our partners at Environment Victoria, Greenpeace and Friends Of The Earth to stop HRL.

Our group are all volunteers, choosing to put our own time and effort towards stopping HRL. Since we got together earlier this year we’ve been spreading awareness of HRL in communities, a events, and in the media after occupying Ted Ballieu’s office last month and after pulling 60 to the EPA’s office last Friday with only two hours notice to protest their approval of HRL.

The reason the Stop HRL collective is doing all this is simple. James Hansen, the chief climate scientist of NASA in the USA, has said that ‘coal is the single greatest threat to civilisation and all life on our planet’.  Now that is a pretty amazing quote, and it probably bears repeating. James Hansen, the brilliant scientist. Often called ‘the grandfather of climate science’. That is what he has said. Coal is the single greatest threat to civilisation and all life on our planet. Read the rest of this entry »

Click to listen: I’d Love To Have Sex With You

I’ve decided everything I ever did was wrong
I’ve been undercover, covering my arse

And I wanted I wanted I wanted to touch you
But I’m probly, I’m probly, I’m probly gonna drop it,
‘Cause I’m clearly, I’m clearly, I’m clearly on my last legs

And she’s always a woman
I’m always a man
And it’s much of a muchness
But I’d love to have sex with you

I’d love to have sex with you

O World where I live, so achingly stupid.
I walk you alone and try to make sense of
My fumbled attempts at propitiation
And at sex with you

Sow the seeds and reap the fields
Take your daily bread

O World where I live, so achingly stupid.
I walk you alone and try to make sense of
My fumbled attempts at propitiation
And at sex with you

All these years of pain and tears,
Blood and sweat and toil

All these years of pain and tears,
And blood, blood, blood, blood, blood, blood, blood motherfucker!

Two weeks ago Tim DeCristopher, the US climate activist charged with disrupting an auction of land parcels for fossil fuel exploration by entering the auction and bidding for land, was found guilty in a Salt Lake City courtroom.  He now faces up to 10 years imprisonment, with his sentencing scheduled for June 23rd.

During his trial, Tim’s defence was not allowed to mention that the auction he disrupted was itself illegal, and that all of its sales were later overturned.

They were also not allowed to mention that he had in fact been able to raise enough money from supporters to afford the initial deposit on the land he had bid for.

And finally, they were also not even allowed to mention Tim’s motivation for entering the auctions – to stand in the way of the enormous threat of climate change, and to protect his future.

Tim took a courageous stand. As Naomi Klein has noted, it is ironic that he stands to be imprisoned because he had no intention of paying for his bids, while oil and gas companies are free to profit from the use of fossil fuels with absolutely no intention of paying the costs of the climate change they cause. Bill Mckibben has said of DeCristopher ‘he should be getting a medal, not a sentence….He was brave by himself; we need to be brave in quantity.’

Tim is a complete bloody hero, and just what each of us needs to be as members of what Simon Sheikh from the Australian group GetUp calls ‘the last line of defence for mother nature’ – the very last generation with a chance to act on climate change.

Tim needs our help and solidarity right now. Please go to his website to donate towards his defence fund and find out how else to help him, and join this facebook cause calling for Obama to pardon him.

Friend I swear that I will kill you if I see you on the other side
Of this barricade

In the dark I heard an ambulance rush past but I would not admit
Its significance

Touch me
With everything you have left
With everything you pray for
With everything your life has come down to

Say it
Even if your voice shakes
Even to your children
Say you’re going to have your God damn rights now

And in my life I had no choice
And in my nights I had no rest
And in my hands I held
This country I was born

And if I ever let you down
And if I ever gave you hope
In my life I was pull-
I was pulling at the seams to see it, to see it come down tonight

To see it come true tonight

To see all the world turn around

Friend I swear that I will kill you if I see you on the other side
Of this barricade

Die Like A Man

Listen: Die Like A Man

And for good measure, here is a new song.

Die like a man

I need a lover
To get me out of bed
I need a purpose
I need to feel that something you promised to promise could actually come

Your reflection
In eyes alight with shame
And in the paper
You see them frame their questions as answers that answer the questions they gave

All the world is a housefire
“Ah…” the angels sigh,
“How we yearned to live,
“To die like a man,
“With blood on our hands,
“And never look down,
“And never admit what we’ve done”

Glued together
By the reading light
She was ready
And though our hearts were heavy we did it we did it to fill up our lives

All the world is a housefire
“Ah…” the angels sigh,
“How we yearned to live,
“To die like a man,
“With blood on our hands,
“And never look down,
“And never admit what we’ve done”

Whoah.

I haven’t posted anything here in a looong time. After finishing my thesis the sight of microsoft word tended to induce me to rock back and forth in the fetal position and sweat profusely. But I’m OK now. I’m back. I think.

This is just a note I put on facebook tonight, reflecting about the terrifying cyclone that tonight is smashing into the north-east of my country. I have a number of facebook ‘friends’ who really aren’t very environmental, and I was wondering if perhaps this cyclone might be a way to reach some of them and engage them in a discussion of climate change. It started as a status update, but I then just kept on typing. There’s a lot that needs to be said.

Anyway, it went like this:

Hi, facebook friends.

Any of you not sure what you should do with your life? Well, I want you to look at the cyclone hitting Australia now. Cyclones are more intense now, and more frequent, as a result of climate change. But here’s the thing – the climate hasn’t even CHANGED that much yet. Read the rest of this entry »

Having now finished my university degree, I find myself in the unusual position of having some spare time with which to read books and watch films, and am wondering where to begin. So I would like recommendations! I want to be inspired, and educated, and moved. Below is a list of the 6 works that have probably had the greatest influence over my life so far. What, in your opinion, should be added to it?

1. Dead White Males by David Williamson

Assigned to my year eleven literature class, I read this play half-stoned on my old bunk-bed while on a visit back to Wangaratta. Living away from home for the first time and running off the rails, I had convinced myself I was undergoing some kind of heroic rite of passage into manhood, and Williamson’s take on the resilience of gender roles in post-modern society seemed full of just the long-hidden secrets I was searching for. Never again would my machismo be natural or un-analysed. Read the rest of this entry »

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