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Tuesday 20th March 2018

Climate Protests

Environment

Chris Doyle

Thu, 25 Apr 2019 08:26 GMT

The original Easter story for Christian believers has Jesus Christ sacrificing himself for the future of mankind. This Easter climate change activists gathered in a host of places around the world looking for salvation of a different kind, for the entire planet.   

These events were organised, by the “Extinction Rebellion,” founded in London nearly six months ago. Its key demand is to get governments to agree to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to net zero by 2025 not 2050.  

They are determined, resourceful and creative. Suffragettes used to use chains. Climate protesters also use glue. Strong glue. One protester was stuck to Waterloo bridge. Another group stuck themselves to the garden fence of none other than Labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn.  

In London, the bright pink boat, named Berta Caceres after the murdered Honduran environmental activist, was the centre piece in Oxford Circus demonstrations. The police were led a merry dance. They moved the boat but got trapped in the next street.  

Every day a new locale is found. The iconic blue whale skeleton in the Natural History museum was a superbly logical choice for another day of protest. Marine life is massively threatened. Whales, sharks and other large sea creatures have become large consumers of deadly plastic, given that around 4.8 to 12.7 trillion pieces of plastic enter the oceans every year. Extinction Rebellion said it hoped a museum "die-in" would raise awareness of what they call the "sixth mass extinction". 

Greta Thunberg, the 16-year-old Swedish girl and founder of the global School Strike for Climate movement addressed the London protests. She has become one of the icons of the climate change movement, even recently meeting the Pope. The young Swedish activist kicked off school-wide protests, when in 2018 she dodged school and decided to protest in front of the Swedish Parliament. Others started copying her example. She wants us to “act as if the house was on fire.” Theresa May refused to take up the offer of meeting her when asked in Parliament.   

As of Monday 22 April, more than 1,000 people had been arrested during the climate change protests. Some of the public are angered at the disruption to central London, others identify with their call, even if not always agreeing with all their methods. Damage was done to buildings although the protests were largely non-violent.  

Protests have escalated globally. In Paris protesters blockaded H&M’s flagship store. In Norway, they staged a funeral procession to the Norwegian ministry of finance. Berlin and Munich had die-ins. Chicago witnessed glue-ons. Denver had a disco road blockade. Australia and New Zealand had a week of action. The campaign has also reached Uganda, Ghana and Pakistan. In April protesters even interrupted the House of Commons after stripping naked and gluing themselves in.  

Despite all the humbug of head-in-the-sand climate change deniers, the science is extremely clear. 20 out the last 22 years were the hottest on record. The planet is already one degree hotter since measurable temperatures have been taken. The levels of methane, a gas many more times dangerous than carbon dioxide, are also at record levels.  

The sea levels of the planet have risen 20 centimetres in the last hundred years. Antarctica is losing 3 times more ice than it was 25 years ago. A third of the planet’s coral has bleached and died over just the last three years. Half the Great Barrier Reef has died since 2016. Deforestation is rampant. Rich areas of the world are not immune. The hot dry conditions enabled the recorded wild fires in 2018, including a tripling of fires in the western US, that cost a mere $24 billion. Fires broke out even in the Arctic circle last summer. The area used to be fire-free.  

Will these protests work? For the moment, they have momentum and buy-in from a large enough segment of global youth. The Extinction Rebellion will need to be built to last, earning significant and powerful allies to ensure it is not a flash-in-the-pan. Collective decision making may appear democratic and inclusive but it’s not a recipe for a coherent strategy and conclusive decision making. A leadership cadre needs to develop and take hold.  

Political pressure needs ramping up. A quarter of a century of warm words and joint statements cannot camouflage the horrific reality that mankind is helping to kill the planet. Young protesters are only too keen to make their voices heard. Street protests are one thing but they require major political parties, either existing or fresh ones, to embrace their agenda. As yet few do. The British government has just cut subsidies for renewable energy. Sadly, the current US administration is highly regressive. President Trump even misleadingly claimed that wind turbines caused cancer.  

The one thing that must not happen is for these voices to be ignored or downplayed just because of the inconvenience of the disruption caused. The planet has a choice of acting now or paying a far heavier price later.  

Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not necessarily reflect the views of 7Dnews.

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