SUE JACKSON Therapist | Writer | Photographer | Activist

An avid blogger for the last fifteen years, I believe in the power of the word to change the world. I have participated in, and reported on, a range of protests during this period, including the successful East-West Link campaign and, more recently, our wonderful, home-grown Extinction Rebellion (XR). If you believe, like I do, that it is time for ordinary people to rise up in defence of the planet, I encourage you to explore this blog, share it with your networks, and – of course – take action.

Friday, May 04, 2018

Accelerate Climate Action - Bill McKibben at Collingwood Town Hall

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Bill McKibben is a climate hero, in recognition of which in 2014 he was awarded the Right Livelihood Prize, aka the 'alternative Nobel'. In 2006 Bill founded, the world's first grassroots climate change movement. It has now staged 20,000 demonstrations around the world - everywhere except North Korea (and thanks President Trump! - that might be changing soon?!).
The Australian branch, 350 Australia, organised the tour and are powerful environmental defenders, staging a range of actions including the highly successful divestment event in Melbourne on Valentine's Day 2015 (photo above)
Bill's 2012 article, 'Global Warming's Terrifying New Math' for Rolling Stone magazine, was one of the magazines' most read articles, and had a huge impact globally on changing the way people think about investment in fossil fuels.
Bill tours the world arguing that the future is already upon us and we need to accelerate our response to climate change. And last night was I in luck! He landed just around the corner - at the glorious Collingwood Town Hall, proudly flying its Aboriginal flag in welcome.

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More than a thousand people from all around Australia joined the packed town hall audience last night via live broadcast.  Sadly they missed out on our arrival present - free ice creams from Ben and Jerry - who originate from Vermont just like the guest of honour.
I didn't know what to expect from the event, having never heard Bill McKibben speak live before. Nor was I prepared for the richness imparted by the other speakers. I found myself scribbling frantically in the darkness in an attempt to capture some of their insights for you, so here goes (and any mistakes are failures of my shorthand, nothing to do with them):

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Brynn O'Brien, who is an international social justice lawyer - business and human rights her areas of expertise - described herself as a 'newby' on climate change action. She underwent a rapid conversion and is now a powerful force in ACCR (Australian Centre for Corporate Responsibility). She spends lots of time speaking to big fossil fuel investors. In September 2017 this bore fruit when an amazing 10% of the vote at the BHP shareholders meeting went ACCR's way, with the result that BHP said it would quit coal.
Rio Tinto was next to fall, as a result of a shareholder's revolt. They have now also just exited coal. And in the last 6 months ACCR has doubled its support within the financial sector, which is a tremendous result.
Brynn emphasized that superannuation is key; it has a huge impact on the financial sector and could change the financial landscape utterly. So we know what we need to do!

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Joe Dodds is a writer and Councillor in Tathra and a survivor of the hellish bushfires which ravaged her area on March 18. Joe describes herself as someone 'bringing news from the front line of climate change'. Joe, courageously, publicly challenged Malcolm Turnbull for his assertion that it is inappropriate to raise the issue of climate change when there is a crisis.
As she concluded: ' (From now on) I want to bury fossil fuels, not friends.'

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The guest of honour, Bill McKibben, described how last month in Pakistan the temperature reached 50 degrees, which is the highest ever recorded in April on our planet. It is alarming facts like this that fuel his determination that we need to act now, not tomorrow, on climate change.
He said that he hoped for a long time that his writing alone would make an impact, but in 2006 he changed his mind.
Nowadays he believes that we have had 25 years of phoney debate as to whether climate change is real or not - phoney because the big polluters have known all along that it was a reality. He suggests that we are now no longer in an argument with Big Business/Government, but rather in a fight. The fight is all about those age-old preoccupations: money and power. And its objectives are 3-fold. In his view there needs to be: 

1. Fast just transition to renewables, which is attainable as the cost of solar panels is falling rapidly.  It was heartening to learn that by 2020 Canberra will be powered exclusively by renewables.

2. No new fossil fuel projects. Keep carbon in the ground where it belongs.
This is why the fight against the Adani coal mine is so crucial, and it was encouraging to hear that Bill is confident we will prevail. Certainly all around Australia people are doing their best!

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3. Not a penny more for dirty energy.
The way we send that message is to divest from companies that fund dirty energy. It is great to hear that the City of Melbourne has now divested.  And that even with Trump at the helm, on 18 January the Mayor of New York announced the city's divestment to the tune of $200 billion and that New York was suing the five biggest oil companies for destruction caused by global warming. To mark that auspicious day the Empire State building glowed with green lighting!
Bill said that sometimes the fight feels a bit like the Rebel Alliance against The Death Star. But one thing he is sure about is that we will do it together. Another is that we will have to move super fast, just like the Kay-aktivists who blockaded the giant Shell drill en route to the Arctic. (Shell finally conceded because the fight was in danger of destroying its reputation.)
 Bill concluded: 'Some days it feels really dark to me. But whatever the future holds, there will be one helluva fight along the way!'

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Fittingly the last word was left to Joseph Zane Sikulu, from neighbouring Tonga. Joseph is Pacific Project Coordinator for
Joseph opened by reading a poignant poem he had written entitled 'I fight for my islands because...'
He described the recent resilience of his people as they faced the 3 most powerful cyclones ever in as many years. He believes that Australia is responsible for transporting a great deal of destruction to the Pacific.  He said: 'We are people who stand up when called to action. We are Pacific Island Warriors. It is Australian's turn now to stand up to your government and financial institutions.' As Joseph put it:

We are not drowning. We are fighting. 

#FossilFree #BlockadeAdani



Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks Sue. Another great post. Viv

12:36 AM  
Blogger Sue Jackson said...

I'm glad you enjoyed it. Thanks for the support, Viv.

6:26 PM  

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