Environmentalists and green activists in Norwich have been coming together to discuss ways in which the city could address climate breakdown, and how, in the light of the COVID-19 pandemic, the city could ‘build back better’. Green New Deal UK’s Norwich hub is part of a nationwide network of groups hoping to combat climate breakdown. Describing a Green New Deal (GND) as ‘our map for a future worth fighting for’, they have five key goals they hope to achieve within the next decade, which they describe as ‘a fork in the road for humanity’.
by Sam Alston
Last November saw climate activist attempt to use USA state elections in order to pass through a number of climate friendly referendums. Almost all of the measures fell victim to the huge expenditures spent by fossil fuel companies on counter campaigns. However, those concerned with the fate of the planet had reasons to be optimistic, as climate change begins to emerge as an issue on the USA political agenda.
by Lotty Clare
In 2017 when the United States, the world’s second biggest polluter, withdrew from the Paris Climate Accord it felt hugely demoralising, but unsurprising. Unsurprising because for years some climate activists have been disillusioned with the notion of a top-down political solution to climate change because it is the political and economic elites who have been the architects of this economic and climate crisis, and who benefit from the current capitalist, neoliberal system. However, newly elected congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio Cortez (otherwise known as AOC) has challenged this view. The ‘Green New Deal’ (GND) being proposed by democrats, spearheaded by AOC, and backed by grassroot groups, is a welcome dose of hope and progress that has been injected into an otherwise gloomy mainstream discourse around the fate of our planet.
The environment is changing. All across the globe, weather patterns have shifted, resulting in abnormal meteorological behaviour and pushing society towards conditions it is not used to. The UK has just come out of a record-breaking heatwave. Japan declared a national emergency after heatwaves there killed 65 people. Wildfires in Greece left over 70 people dead and in California, over a dozen people are missing as fires spread. Visitors required evacuation from Yosemite National Park and wind threatens to fan flames in Sweden’s forests.
However, should we be surprised by these events?
China has been the subject of environmental scrutiny for years now. It remains the world’s largest greenhouse gas emitter, has horrendously high levels of air pollution, and still uses coal fired power stations to generate its electricity. 2018, however, seems to be welcoming the beginning of change for the country. International media has reported on new environmental protection laws, policies and bans, as China attempts to turn a new leaf. For better or worse, China is the world’s largest player in our changing climate, and how this change plays out out in the coming decades rests largely on their shoulders.
The question must be asked though: Is China really pushing for a safer future, and pioneering a nation-wide effort to combat global warming? Or is it just a master greenwasher, in a bid to sell itself as a bastion for modernity and progress?
by Laura Potts
We expect time to encourage positive progression, as new minds surface and opportunities ripen. But recently we are seeing more of the opposite achieved by the leaders of some of the greatest western ‘powers’. Last week, the current president of the United States announced the country’s withdrawal from the Paris Climate deal. This will have seriously detrimental effects on the environment and the future of our planet.
by Alex Valente
Original Italian by Biancamaria Frabotta (1946 – ), ‘L’estate delle stelle…’
The summer of stars less striking
encouraged locals and strangers
to hope in a return of ancient climates.
On the yellow grass unstable in the sparse
humours drinks remained half-full
another fuel to have sleepless nights.
The election of Donald Trump and the result of the Brexit referendum have thrown the prospect of a greener future into doubt. Trump’s threat to withdraw from the Paris Climate Agreement and promise to boost the ailing US coal industry overshadow the current surge in renewable energy. The UK government’s decision to sell the Green Investment Bank (GIB) has been attacked amid fears of asset-stripping.
Social media is full of individuals and climate groups recoiling in horror at the potential of such actions pushing back the advancement of environmental progress. Many are counting down the days until Trump’s inauguration and the eradication of environmental regulations that is predicted to follow. Yet is the future really as bleak as many would have us believe?
by Olivia Hanks
Certain things are inescapable at this time of year. Overeating. Musical jumpers. Footage of the prime minister in wellies, assuring a street that’s under three feet of water that the government will do everything possible by way of assistance.
It’s high time we talked about our future. Forget about border control or the free market, they offer no insight. If we want this tumultuous, divisive year to mean something, we need to think bigger, bolder and shape our decisions around our vision. Let’s talk about an end to the draconian sweatshop conditions, imposed by the likes of Sports Direct, who have exploited free movement of labour to keep profits high and wages low. Immigration control is a quick fix and a distraction. They will always find a way to exploit and profit. What if instead we did away with these common low-skilled low-wage jobs, altogether. What if we put our faith in British industry again, but instead of labourers going down into the stuffy pits, lining their lungs with coal dust, they were breathing the cool, crisp air on the surface on a wind farm. I am talking about creating a thriving, prosperous renewable energy industry.
by Olivia Hanks
The graph that emerged recently showing the unprecedented fall in global sea ice coverage was a chilling sight for many. Not, though, for Labour MEP David Martin, author of a European Committee on International Trade document celebrating climate change as creating new opportunities for the economic development of the Arctic”.
The comment, spotted and lambasted by Green MEP Molly Scott Cato, might seem extreme in its suicidal logic: we’re burning down the house, but look, we can use the newly exposed rafters for more firewood!
by Olivia Hanks
The green movement is a tough place to be right now. With the Conservative government announcing another environmentally disastrous policy just about every week, from Hinkley to Heathrow via fracking in Lancashire, cuts to renewables and planning deregulation, activists could be forgiven for feeling a bit despondent. But Adrian Ramsay, CEO of the Centre for Alternative Technology (CAT), is philosophical when I ask if morale has been hit by this wave of irresponsible policy-making.
by George Laver
With the recent news that the Swedish government has backtracked on its pledges at the Paris climate agreement by selling off state-owned coal assets to private buyers EPH, now is a better time than ever to ask: when is it enough?
It should come as no surprise that governments will betray the public façade of agreement on positive terms. Such is the cycle of history. I am thinking, in particular, of the Paris Agreement that took place just last year. Not yet past its stage of infancy, and already it has been shot in the back. The selling off of a lucrative coal asset to private industrial proprietors has set a clear line for where their favour lies and where the climate — which has recently passed a dire milestone — sits in the rank of importance.
This agreement, climate scientists from Stockholm University have warned, will violate the terms of the Paris Agreement. Even so, it is not as if it can be claimed that the Swedish government has worked around loopholes in the agreement. At least if this were the case, with all technicalities applied, the government would not be violating the agreement — that is not to say that they would not be violating climate integrity. But even so, the case as it exists is one of straight up betrayal — and who else could we expect it from?
“The army has an assassination list of 18 wanted human rights fighters with my name at the top. I want to live, there are many things I still want to do in this world but I have never once considered giving up fighting for our territory, for a life with dignity because our fight is legitimate. I take lots of care but in the end, in this country where there is total impunity I am vulnerable…when they want to kill me, they will do it.”
Berta Cáceres (2013)
In the early hours of Thursday 3rd March 2016 in La Esperanza, Honduras, an unknown number of assailants broke into the house of environmental and human rights campaigner Berta Cáceres and killed her. The only witness to the crime, Gustavo Castro Soto, a Mexican national, has been denied permission to leave the country with a 30-day immigration alert put in place against him. According to Global Witness, at least 109 people have been killed between 2010 and 2015 in Honduras, all with links to campaigns against a number of projects, including mining, logging and dams.
Storms have mercilessly battered Britain, one after the other over this festive period, bringing with them severe and unrelenting floods. The scale of damage and devastation was unprecedented, but it was not unpredictable. We’ve seen these storms growing with intensity every year. And, whilst a few might naively blame El Niño for this recent bout, we know that climate change is the driving factor. The government and general public appear to have accepted this, but even so, whenever a frank discussion about the consequences of climate change is put forward, it seems to be met with some underlying scepticism. This systematic dismissal of the difficult questions leaves us wholly unprepared for what’s to come and the recent floods have served as a sobering reminder of this.
For many millennia to come, the climate crisis will be the defining moment of our history. When we first shovelled the crushed, decayed, fossilised remains of prehistoric creatures into engines, we found that we could create plentiful power. It is this power that has allowed us to coexist in huge societal networks, to eliminate disease and travel to outer space. But these tremendous strides in humanity have come at a huge price.
The infrastructure of our society relies on consuming, we no longer share local resources within small communities, but transport them across the world and transform them many times until they take the barely recognisable forms of commodities we use every day. In each step of this process we lavishly spend fuel, a resource that we once treated as ever-lasting, but now we see it’s running out. But our biggest mistake was that we thought we were getting all of this for free when in fact, all this time we’ve been borrowing huge amounts from the environment. And as we see the Earth changing drastically, with the oceans acidifying and the weather becoming increasingly unpredicable, we know that the time has come to settle the debt. These next few weeks, as world leaders gather at the 21st Conference of the Parties (COP21) in Paris, we will decide as a species how to return what we owe.
By John Heathcliff
It’s 8.30 pm on 5th November 2015, and for the first time in over four years UEA students have gone into occupation, just outside the Vice Chancellor’s office. It’s a cold winter night, and it’s raining quite heavily, but the protesters – resplendent in orange jumpsuits – are huddled together under a blue tarpaulin, which is swaying in the wind. Banners and placards are hung across the railings of the square, with one proclaiming loudly: “DIVEST”. There aren’t many students around yet to see the occupation, but there will be more tomorrow, because the protesters are staying for 26 hours: each hour representing £5,000 of the money that UEA invests in fossil fuels. This is the UEA Fossil Free occupation.
By John Heathcliff
On Thursday October 22nd, a coalition of student run societies and campaigns are coming together to put on a debate on UEA’s investment policies, specifically in relation to the fossil fuel industry. Similar discussions are taking place all across the country as student activists organising under the banner of ‘Fossil Free’ are lobbying their institutions to end all financial links with fossil fuel companies on the grounds that such links are inextricably linked to the catastrophic effects of climate change. At UEA, students have been campaigning for over 2 years for senior managers to divest funds from the industry, and have garnered support, taken mass action and put significant pressure on the University.
by Klimacamp im Rheinland
In August, the 6th Climate Camp in the Rhineland (Germany) will take place. From the 7-17th August there will be 10 days full of workshops, networking, exploring sustainable lifestyles, and direct action.
Why a Climate Camp, anyway?
With its three open cast mines and five power plants, the Rhineland coalfield is Europe’s biggest emittant of carbon dioxide. The power plant Niederaußem alone emits about 29 million tons of CO2 per year. That is almost one ton per second — more than one person in Bangladesh causes in a whole year. While the ailing power company RWE can make a lot of profit with that, it means the loss of their livelihoods for hundreds of millions of people especially in the global south. This year’s Climate Camp will most likely take place in the immediate vicinity to the open cast mine Garzweiler, right where the destruction of the global climate begins.
by Rowan Gavin
So it’s that time of year again. It gets real cold out, warm alcohol is consumed in considerable quantities, and people give each other gifts. At UEA, the People and Planet Society decided that the University management deserved a very special kind of christmas present. As you may have heard, People and Planet have been running a branch of the Fossil Free campaign at UEA. Unfortunately, the University has not responded to our concerns in any meaningful way, so we decided that we should send a more direct message. Judging by their investment choices, it seems that UEA are rather fond of Fossil Fuels – so what better present than their very own oil rig?
In certain circles, there is the perception that the transformation to the ideal of the student as consumer is complete and that therefore the student activist and a radical student movement is a thing of the past. Although there was the anti-fees flashpoint in 2010, the argument goes, now the modern student is more concerned with getting their money’s worth from the education they directly pay for, than they are about changing the world.
Over the last four years there have been countless examples of campaigns that prove this thesis wrong. This series of articles seeks to explore those campaigns, what they have achieved and what they mean for the student movement and the Higher Education sector as a whole.
by Chris Jarvis
Launched in the USA in 2012 by 350.org, the Fossil Free campaign has spread worldwide, building an international movement on University campuses. The aim of the campaign has been to persuade public and civic institutions to remove any investments that they hold with coal, oil and gas companies and thus remove the social license the fossil fuel industry has to operate. Since its inception, Higher Education establishments, city authorities and religious institutions across the globe have cut their financial ties to the fossil fuel industry
by Rowan Gavin
Climate change is the defining issue of our time. For once I’m resisting the philosopher’s urge to insert the word ‘arguably’ into that sentence, because right now I really believe it. My inspiration arose from the People’s Climate March which took place around the world on Sunday the 21st of August, and the creativity, commitment and love of the people involved.
Some months ago a coalition of climate activist groups announced their intent to organise the biggest climate change protest ever, centred around a massive march in New York. Certainly, as became apparent over the following weeks, they were creating the biggest publicity campaign for such an event that I personally had ever heard of. Inspiring videos and statements came flooding in from people all over the globe, from those whose lives were most threatened by climate change, to some of today’s most prolific and successful climate activists, and to those many compassionate individuals who simply felt they had to do something. Reasons to march, tales of previous protest actions, and reports of new additions to the movement sparked across the internet, in a slow but steady growth of solidarity and support.
Before I went to bed on Saturday night, reports and images from marches in time zones ahead of mine began to trickle in − tens of thousands were turning out in Australia, India, various pacific nations, and elsewhere. At 12.30 GMT+1 it was to be London’s turn.