En­vi­ron­men­tal harm comes with the ter­ri­tory when de­vel­op­ing or run­ning fos­sil fuel projects.

Living Now - - Sustainable Energy -

re­gion with toxic chem­i­cals, in­clud­ing ura­nium, at twenty times the safe limit for drink­ing wa­ter. Gov­ern­ments in Aus­tralia and over­seas are of­ten con­sid­ered to be too closely aligned with fos­sil fuel in­ter­ests, in turn lead­ing to sev­eral doc­u­mented cases of murky col­lu­sion and out­right cor­rup­tion. Po­lit­i­cal do­na­tions are part of this pic­ture.

In de­vel­op­ing na­tions, it is com­mon for vil­lagers to be forced off their land for en­ergy and ex­trac­tion projects, with no com­pen­sa­tion. When they are an­gry and coura­geous enough to protest, fa­tal shoot­ings have oc­curred in such coun­tries as In­done­sia, China, Peru, and Burma.

Some­times, how­ever, some­body makes a stand. In the high­lands of Peru, Máx­ima Acuña lives on the site of a fifty per cent Us-owned gold and cop­per mine, and is block­ing its de­vel­op­ment by re­fus­ing to move. This stance won her the 2016 Gold­man En­vi­ron­men­tal Prize. At one point she had her house de­mol­ished, and has ex­pe­ri­enced a cam­paign of vi­o­lence, ha­rass­ment and in­tim­i­da­tion at the hands of cor­po­rate se­cu­rity guards work­ing hand-in-hand with the Peru­vian po­lice.

Very wel­come re­cent news is that the In­ter­na­tional Crim­i­nal Court is adding a new cat­e­gory of crimes linked to en­vi­ron­men­tal de­struc­tion, es­pe­cially il­le­gal ex­ploita­tion of nat­u­ral re­sources and un­law­ful dis­pos­ses­sion of land.

In the ex­treme en­ergy era, far greater swathes of the planet are now at risk than be­fore, in­clud­ing large tracts of ru­ral Aus­tralia. Many bush dwellers have deep-rooted con­nec­tions with the land, and it takes a lot, namely the prospect of their home ter­ri­tory be­ing trashed, to turn con­ser­va­tive vot­ers into ac­tivists. Yet, this process has been un­der­way for a while. Break­ing the stereo­type of the un­em­ployed protestor, par­tic­i­pants in fos­sil fuel protests are typ­i­cally lo­cal peo­ple from all walks of life.

Amer­i­can author Naomi Klein’s ground­break­ing book This Changes Ev­ery­thing pro­motes the chal­leng­ing mes­sage that cli­mate change is on a col­li­sion course with the econ­omy, and brought the term ‘blocka­dia’ to a mass au­di­ence. Blocka­dia is de­fined as a ‘rov­ing transna­tional con­flict zone that is crop­ping up with in­creas­ing fre­quency and in­ten­sity’, with com­mu­nity mem­bers on one side and ra­pa­cious ex­trac­tive in­dus­tries on the other, fre­quently fos­sil fuel min­ing and its associated in­fra­struc­ture.

Blocka­dia is no lin­guis­tic in­ven­tion of Klein’s; the term had been coined a year ear­lier in con­nec­tion with protests against the Key­stone XL pipe­line in Texas, nec­es­sary for bi­tu­men from the Cana­dian tar sands to be trans­ported to re­finer­ies in the US Gulf Coast area. Against all ex­pec­ta­tions, Pres­i­dent Obama re­jected the project in 2015, link­ing this stance to ac­tion on tack­ling cli­mate change. Fuel from the tar sands has a life­cy­cle car­bon in­ten­sity 23 per­cent higher than from reg­u­lar crude.

Protest ac­tion of­ten in­volves public meet­ings, marches, vig­ils, in­for­ma­tion shar­ing, le­gal chal­lenges, and, if all else fails, non-vi­o­lent civil dis­obe­di­ence. Pro­test­ers put them­selves in harm’s way by lock­ing onto equip­ment as a means of pre­vent­ing it from be­ing used, mak­ing them­selves vul­ner­a­ble to dan­ger­ous or ag­gres­sive treat­ment. It re­quires some courage, es­pe­cially when sus­pended off the ground in a tree-sit or tri­pod.

At other times, a row of peo­ple block an en­trance by link­ing clips at­tached to the wrist un­der­neath metal arm tubes that can only be dis­man­tled with an an­gle grinder. The ex­pe­ri­ence of be­ing locked on ne­ces­si­tates spend­ing a lot of time do­ing noth­ing, per­haps pro­vid­ing plenty of time to re­flect on why such lengths have needed to be taken. In May 2016, many co­or­di­nated di­rect ac­tions and protests around the is­sue of cli­mate change were held glob­ally, in­volv­ing at least 30,000 par­tic­i­pants. New­cas­tle, the world’s largest coal ex­port port, was tar­geted by about 1,500 ac­tivists, who blocked coal move­ments by sail­ing kayaks in the har­bour and lock­ing onto a bridge. Of these, a to­tal of 66 peo­ple were ar­rested.

Close to Lis­more, de­vel­op­ment of the coal seam gas (CSG) in­dus­try by gas driller Met­gasco was halted in 2014 at the vil­lage of Bent­ley as a re­sult of the strength of a block­ade that ran for three months. Ready to be taken by sur­prise, com­mu­nity mem­bers were per­ma­nently locked onto the en­trance night and day. Thou­sands of sup­port­ers ar­rived in the early hours of the morn­ing to boost num­bers when a sur­prise po­lice raid was most likely. A plan to spend millions of dol­lars on us­ing about 850 po­lice to vi­o­lently break the block­ade turned into a lo­gis­ti­cal night­mare when lo­cal busi­nesses de­clined to feed and ac­com­mo­date them, and shortly af­ter­wards gas

li­cences cov­er­ing the NSW North Coast were re­voked by the state gov­ern­ment.

On the Liver­pool Plains of NSW near Gunnedah, some of Aus­tralia’s rich­est agri­cul­tural land, the farm­ing com­mu­nity has been in re­volt against short-sighted plans for coal mines such as the ANZ bank-funded Maules Creek mine that opened in mid-2015. Dur­ing con­struc­tion, there were hun­dreds of ar­rests fol­low­ing lock-ons.

Prom­i­nent in the news has been the ma­jor protest in Amer­ica, tar­get­ing the pro­posed Dakota Ac­cess Pipe­line that is be­ing con­structed to trans­port fracked shale oil about 1,900 kilo­me­tres from North Dakota to Illi­nois. Mem­bers of the Stand­ing Rock In­dian Reser­va­tion in North Dakota have con­cerns about it be­ing routed un­der the Mis­souri River that they de­pend on for wa­ter, given the track record of oil spills else­where. Since the start of the protest in April, 2016, num­bers have swelled as non-in­di­ans and mem­bers of tribes from all over the States and be­yond have ar­rived to stand in sup­port.

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