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Activists Disrupt Arch Coal Corporate HQ In St. Louis

archcoal-b-225x300CREVE COEUR, MO —  Seven protesters affiliated with the RAMPS campaign (Radical Action for Mountain Peoples’ Survival), MORE (Missourians Organizing for Reform and Empowerment) and Mountain Justice are locked down to a 500-pound small potted tree in Arch Coal’s third-floor headquarters while a larger group is in the lobby performing a song and dance.  Additionally, a helium balloon banner with the message “John Eaves Your Coal Company Kills”, directed at the Arch Coal CEO was released in the Arch Coal headquarters.

“We’re here to halt Arch’s operations for as long as we can. These coal corporations do not answer to communities, they only consume them.  We’re here to resist their unchecked power,” explained Margaret Fetzer, one of the protestors.

Arch Coal, the second largest coal company in the U.S., operates strip mines in Appalachia and in other U.S. coal basins. Strip mining is an acutely destructive and toxic method of mining coal, and resource extraction disproportionately impacts marginalized communities.

“From the Battle of Blair Mountain to the current fight with the Patriot pensions, the people of central Appalachia have been fighting against the coal companies for the past 125 years. The struggle continues today as we take action to hold Arch Coal and other coal companies accountable for the damage that they do to people and communities in Appalachia and around the world. Coal mining disproportionately impacts indigenous peoples, and we stand in solidarity with disenfranchised people everywhere,”  Dustin Steele of Mingo County, W.Va. said.  Steele was one of the people locked in Arch’s office.

Mingo County is representative of the public health crisis faced by communities overburdened by strip mining.  A recent study of life expectancies placed Mingo County in the bottom 1 percent out of 3,147 counties nationwide.(1)

Arch’s strip mines not only poison communities, but also seek to erase the legacy of resistance to the coal companies in Appalachia. Arch’s Adkins Fork Surface Mine is threatening to blast away Blair Mountain—the site of the second largest uprising in U.S. history and a milestone in the long-standing struggle between Appalachians and the coal companies.(2)

The devastation of Arch’s strip mines plague regions beyond Appalachia.  Arch’s operation in the Powder River Basin is the “single largest coal mining complex in the world.(3)”  Producing 15 percent of the U.S. coal supply, Arch is a major culprit of the climate crisis.

NASA scientist James Hansen describes the burning of coal as a leading cause global climate change.(4)  The Midwest region faces serious public health impacts from climate change due to “increased heat wave intensity and frequency, degraded air quality, and reduced water quality(5),” according to recently published data from the National Climate Assessment.

Making Green A Threat Again

interior

Dept. of Interior, April 2011. via Shadia Fayne Wood

Cross-Posted from Counterpunch

“The climate movement needs to have one hell of a comeback.”

–Naomi Klein

The energy was there. It was an overcast spring morning in April 2011 in the nation’s capita1. Thousands had shown up to take action on climate change. The earlier march led us to the Chamber of Commerce, BP’s Washington D.C. offices, the American Petroleum Institute and other office buildings associated with oil spills, coal mining, carbon emissions and more. We heard speakers. We saw street theater. It was all very tame and managed. It lacked confrontation.

It was almost a year to the day after the Gulf oil spill, yet offshore drilling continued as usual with little consequence for oil giant British Petroleum. Out west, the Obama administration had just opened up thousands of acres for coal mining in the Powder River Basin. Appalachia’s mountains were still under attack by the coal industry. Natural gas extraction, also known as “fracking,” was spreading like an epidemic through the countryside.

Over 15,000 youth, students and climate activists had gathered at Powershift for weekend of education, networking and keynote speakers. There were keynote speeches by Al Gore and Bill McKibben, yet little was offered in the way of taking action against Big Oil and Big Coal. We are faced with the greatest crisis in the history of the world, so we were told, yet the Beltway green groups had only produced failure in Copenhagen and Washington.

Globally, we had watched the Arab Spring throw out dictators; anti-austerity movements in Iceland and Greece rise up against corrupted regimes and massive protests in the Wisconsin state house fighting for labor rights. We were only a few months away from Occupy Wall Street.

Needless to say, the North American climate movements wanted in on the action.

As the morning march ended that day at Lafayette Park, the unofficial march, spearheaded by Rising Tide North America, formed and headed into the streets of Washington D.C. Tim DeChristopher of Salt Lake City, who had become something of a folk hero to climate activists after derailing a federal land auction and protecting thousands of acres of southern Utah wilderness, announced on the microphone that it was time for more drastic action. Anyone that wanted to take that step should join the Rising Tide march that was heading down 17th St NW to the Dept. of Interior.

The crowd quickly swelled to over a thousand, both singing “We Shall Overcome” and chanting “Keep It in the Ground” and “Our Climate is Under Attack, What’ll We Do? Act Up, Fight Back!”

As we approached the Dept. of Interior, the small group of twenty that had been pre-organized to occupy the lobby began to more towards the doors. Then to much our surprise and shock, a crowd of over 300 stormed in after them and joined the sit-in. As they sat in, they chanted “We’ve got power! We’ve got power!” It was scary. It was exhilarating. It was powerful.

Direct action is supposed to push a person’s comfort zone, but even veteran direct action organizers felt their comfort zones pushed when many in the march joined the occupation.

In the end, 21 were arrested as part of the sit-in. The Dept. of Interior action began a shift for the youth and grassroots activists with the North American climate movements. Soon, they would become a force to be reckoned with. Continue reading ‘Making Green A Threat Again’

Six People Arrested Inside “Public” Enbridge Hearings

vanFor immediate release: January 15, 2013
Six People Arrested Inside Enbridge Hearings
Group directly intervenes in proceedings and raises climate issues while condemning process

Video available upon request.

Vancouver, BC / Coast Salish Territories - This morning six people directly intervened in the Enbridge pipeline joint Environmental Assessment and Energy Board hearings and put climate change on the agenda . The group managed to make their way past police undetected and into the secured 4th floor of Vancouver’s Sheraton Wall Center.  Once inside they revealed shirts emblazoned with messages like “Stop The Pipelines” and proceeded to use police tape to cordon off the hearing area as a “climate crime scene”.

Climate change is killing thousands of people every year, primarily in developing countries and Indigenous communities that are the least responsible for creating this problem.  Despite this fact, the Joint Review Panel has instructed those participating in the hearings not to talk about climate change. This is a shockingly irresponsible move considering Canada’s tar sands contain twice the amount of carbon dioxide emitted by global oil use in our entire history. New fossil fuel pipelines are an irresponsible step in the wrong direction.” said Sean Devlin.

The impacts of climate change have been drawing global attention recently, between Hurricane Sandy, unprecedented deadly typhoons in the Philippines and previously unimaginable temperature records in Australia.  In this urgent context the JRP has designated climate change and the carbon emissions of Canada’s tarsands “outside of the panel’s mandate”,  a move that officially discourages intervenors from raising these critical issues during their oral statements.

Enbridge and the federal government are using their position of authority within this process to coerce members of the public into silence on these issues. The majority of First Nations and settler communities in the province oppose fossil fuel pipelines. We respect those who are voicing their opposition to the pipelines inside the hearings, but the hearing process is meaningless, especially since Harper has changed the law, giving his cabinet final say on pipeline projects.” Said Fiona De Balasi Brown.    Continue reading ‘Six People Arrested Inside “Public” Enbridge Hearings’

Enbridge Greeted With Vocal Opposition at BC Hearings

This week, the Joint Review Panel has been holding hearings in Victoria about the Enbridge Northern Gateway Pipeline. Just today, the Dogwood Initiative tweeted:

Final speaker of the day makes it official! 141 OPPOSED – in favour, ZERO at the #yyj #Enbridge #JRP hearings #bcpoli

Earlier in the week, several news outlets (written coverage here and TV coverage here) reported heavy police presence and “armed guards” at the hearings, where the public is supposed to be able to express their opinions on the pipeline which is planned to carry over 500,000 barrels of tar sands per day from Alberta to the Pacific Coast where it will be exported. Organizers with Social Coast organized events outside of the hearings and criticized the undemocratic nature of the hearings. “They are public hearings, are they not?” asked Eric Nordal of Social Coast. The format of the hearings taking place this month and next in Victoria, Vancouver, and Kelowna are having a different format than previous hearings on the same pipeline. People who have registered to speak are asked to speak to the panel one at a time, while others wait in a separate observation room. A few months ago, there were also updates as to what people were allowed to speak about, prohibiting people to address issues such as climate change.

The following is a release sent out by Rising Tide-Vancouver, Coast Salish Territories. A long list of endorsers indicates the broad-based opposition to Enbridge, and other pipelines that would bring fossil fuels to the coast and across unceded Inidgenous territories.

Media Release-January 7th, 2013

Enbridge Panel to be Greeted with Loud Demonstration
Diverse list of grassroots groups demand consent not consultation

When the Enbridge pipeline joint Environmental Assessment and Energy Board hearings open in Vancouver on January 14th they will be greeted by community members determined to make their opposition heard on the streets and inside the hearing room. A large, noise demonstration will march through downtown Vancouver in full support of the self-determination of Indigenous communities, and their rights to say no to oil and gas pipelines across their territories.

The Harper government has gutted Canada’s already weak environmental laws, giving cabinet the final say on pipeline projects and making the Joint Review Panel hearings merely a public relations (consultation) exercise. This undemocratic change attempts to remove the rights of communities to say no to big oil corporations. Continue reading ‘Enbridge Greeted With Vocal Opposition at BC Hearings’

Youth Call Out Fossil Fuel Companies & Obama Leadership Failure at Doha Climate Talks

This post was written by SustainUS delegate Anirudh Sridhar and cross-posted on youthclimate.org

Youth call out fossil fuel industry corruption at Doha climate negotiations. Credit: Kyle Gracey/SustainUS

Youth call out fossil fuel industry corruption at Doha climate negotiations. Credit: Kyle Gracey/SustainUS

When Hitchcock’s first black bird landed on the frame of the playing ground, it seemed individual, particular. There was no need to derive a common theory about the bird in the larger scheme of things as a harbinger of anything significant. By the time the children looked out the window again, 4 more birds had arrived. Soon, the sky had become dark with the descent of an avian blanket of hundreds of birds. As delegates entered the U.N convention center at Doha for the second week of the COP 18 in Doha, they saw the first bird perched atop the escalators.

SustainUS, a youth led organization, along with Taiwan Youth Climate Coalition and Canadian Youth Climate Coalition gathered around the entrance of the convention center and stood disenchanted and disenfranchised from the process, with a somber gloom. They held black cancerous spots that had been clogging the arteries of the negotiations, speaking about the chronic and acute influence of the fossil fuel industry on the levers of global climate change policy.

Mike Sandmel, the media chair of SustainUS and co-organizer of the event stated that “we hear a lot of stories about countries being painted as evil actors as if they were monolithic. Often, even in the choke points of the climate negotiations, there is a huge internal struggle for the environmental soul of the country. The fossil fuel industries control the strings of the country’s fate because of their financial influence and this event is to bring it out in the open.” As the delegates went past the signs that read “Fossil fuel industry groups spent upwards of $376 million on TV ads to influence 2012 elections in the US.” and “Preventing the tragedies of a  2°C temperature rise means staying within a carbon budget of 565 gigatons”, their minds were arrested as their bodies glided limply past. There were a few skeptical voices heard as one delegate from India remarked “Do these people not know that half the world’s population doesn’t have electricity?” Mostly, as the delegations passed, they documented the event in film while the media rushed onto the scene to get the individual perspectives.

Democracy Now interviewed Chi Tung-Hsien, a Taiwanese youth, and he said “Hurricane Sandy has recently shaken Americans awake from a deep sleep about the disastrous effects of climate change. In Taiwan, Sandy is the norm. With mudslides, a food crisis that is likely to lead the country into famine and constant threat of the rising oceans on their island, they live at the constant mercy of climate change.” Continue reading ‘Youth Call Out Fossil Fuel Companies & Obama Leadership Failure at Doha Climate Talks’

BREAKING: Two People Barricade Themselves Inside Keystone XL Pipe To Halt Construction

glenIt doesn’t get much more courageous than this.

This morning the Tar Sands Blockade launched another bold action (one of the boldest yet) with a lockdown inside a mile long piece of the Keystone XL pipeline. Locked to two concrete barrels, the team includes anti-mountaintop removal activist Glen Collins, who said:

“This fight in East Texas against tar sands exploitation is one and the same as our fight in the hollers of West Virginia. Dirty energy extraction doesn’t just threaten my home; it threatens the collective future of the planet.”

Police have threatened to dogs and tear gas on the activists.

This action comes less than a week after two climate justice activists with the Tar Sands Blockade launched a hunger strike with a blockade at the Valero Refinery in Houston.

Follow the live blog for updates here.

Check out the press release:

Two People Barricade Themselves Inside Keystone XL Pipe To Halt Construction

Using Completely Unprecedented Technique, Blockaders Barricade Unburied Segment of Pipe in Solidarity with Anti-Extraction Struggles Across North America

*WINONA, TX – MONDAY, DECEMBER 3, 2012 7:30 AM –* Several protesters with Tar Sands Blockade sealed themselves inside a section of pipe destined for the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline to stop construction of the dangerous project. Using a blockading technique never implemented before, Matt
Almonte and Glen Collins locked themselves between two barrels of concrete weighing over six hundred pounds each. Located twenty-five feet into a pipe
segment waiting to be laid in the ground, the outer barrel is barricading the pipe’s opening and neither barrel can be moved without risking serious
injury to the blockaders.

The barricaded section of the pipeline passes through a residential neighborhood in Winona, TX. If TransCanada moves ahead with the trenching and burying of this particular section of pipe, it would run less than a hundred feet from neighboring homes. Tar sands pipelines threaten East Texas communities with their highly toxic contents, which pose a greater risk to human health than conventional crude oil. TransCanada’s existing tar sands pipeline, Keystone XL’s predecessor, has an atrocious safety record, leaking twelve times in its first year of operation.

“TransCanada didn’t bother to ask the people of this neighborhood if they wanted to have millions of gallons of poisonous tar sands pumped through their backyards,” said Almonte, one of the protesters now inside the pipeline. “This multinational corporation has bullied landowners and expropriated homes to fatten its bottom line.”

Recently, over 40 communities worldwide planned actions with Tar Sands Blockade during a week of resistance against extreme energy extraction and
its direct connection to the climate crisis. A growing global movement is rising up against the abuses of the fossil fuel industry and its increasingly desperate pursuit of dangerous extraction methods.

“I’m barricading this pipe with Tar Sands Blockade today to say loud and clear to the extraction industry that our communities and the resources we depend on for survival are not collateral damage,” said Collins, another blockader inside the pipe and an organizer with Radical Action for Mountain Peoples Survival (RAMPS) and Mountain Justice, grassroots campaigns in Appalachia working to stop mountaintop removal coal mining. Continue reading ‘BREAKING: Two People Barricade Themselves Inside Keystone XL Pipe To Halt Construction’

Fossil fuel divestment campaign spreads to over 100 campuses

Wow! We launched this new fossil fuel divestment campaign this November 7 and in less than a month campaigns have sprung up on over 100 colleges and universities across the country. From big schools like the University of Michigan to small liberal arts colleges like Amherst, the idea of divestment is spreading like wildfire.

It’s hard to keep up with everything that’s going on across the country, but here are a few updates from the growing movement. Earlier this month, Unity College in Maine became the first in the nation to meet our demands and fully divest from fossil fuels (Hampshire College in Massachusetts has also passed a sustainable investment policy that effectively divests them from fossil fuels). At Harvard, a student resolution supporting divestment just passed with 72% of the vote and students are now pushing to meet with President Faust about divestment. Just north, UNH students will be delivering 1,000 signatures to their president today to call for a meeting on divestment (they’re already getting AP coverage for the action). Down the coast, at Brown, students are also rallying to today to push their administration to divest from coal.

Students share information about the divestment campaign at a Do The Math tour stop. 

Over in the midwest, students are calling on the Badgers to divest and just published an editorial in the University of Wisconsin’s campus newspaper (more editorials are popping up across the country, like this one from Cornell). At University of Colorado in Boulder, students are preparing for a big Do The Math tour stop next week. And out in California, the five Claremont colleges have banded together to push for divestment across the system. Not to be outdone, the University of California schools are also hard at work, joining with our partners at the California Student Sustainability Coalition to push for divestment.

Continue reading ‘Fossil fuel divestment campaign spreads to over 100 campuses’

America’s Worst Ecological Disaster, Brought To You By Bank of America

Cross-posted from the Understory

“This dusty old dust is a-gettin’ my home,  And I got to be driftin’ along.”

-Woody Guthrie, “So Long, It’s Been Good To Know Yuh”

This past weekend I watched Ken Burns’ new PBS documentary, “The Dust Bowl,” a great, insightful documentary drawing parallels to the dust bowl of the 1930’s and today’s environmental and climate crisis.

And of course it’s sponsored by Bank of America.

As a former history teacher, I can appreciate a new telling of environmental history before our movement even began.  But as an organizer targeting the root causes of climate change and the banks that fund them, I have to wonder what is going on?

The PBS documentary, which aired this month, chronicles America’s worst man-made ecological disaster. A deadly combination of the frenzied wheat boom of the “Great Plow-Up,” followed by a decade-long drought during the 1930s, wrecked America’s heartland.

The disaster was completely man made. During the 1910’s and 1920’s, the “Great Plow Up” had transformed millions of acres of natural grassland into wheat fields. With the Great Depression, farmers responded to falling wheat prices first with tearing up more land for bumper crops, and then many simply abandoned their fields.

When the drought of the 1930’s engulfed America’s breadbasket, there were no natural defenses to prevent the region from turning into a virtual “dust bowl.” Dust storms became commonplace. Static electricity disabled vehicles and could knock a man to the ground with a mere handshake. 850 million tons of top soil blew away in 1935. Dirt and dust blew as far away as New York City and Washington D.C. Incidentally, the dust bowl had “deniers” who said the phenomenon was “God’s will” or part of the natural cycle. (Sound familiar?)

The parallels drawn between the dust bowl and climate change in the film are stark. Markets and investors drove agricultural development, which led to the ecological crisis of the 1930’s. Big profits and fossil fuel prices today drive everything from tar sands development to coal exports, leading us to growing greenhouse gas emissions and climate change. Watching “The Dust Bowl” is a constant reminder to me of the extreme weather (hurricanes, drought, wildfires, etc.,) fueled by climate change, which we’ve been seeing more and more of over recent years. Furthermore, the poverty of communities in the 1930s dust bowl and the poverty of communities in today’s extraction zones were eerily familiar. Continue reading ‘America’s Worst Ecological Disaster, Brought To You By Bank of America’

Doha Climate Talks: First Farce, then Tragedy

The lead-up to COP18 which started in Doha, Qatar this week, would have been farcical, if not for the tragic reminder from Hurricane Sandy that climate change is deadly, and is already upon us.

But for a moment, let’s appreciate the ironies:

Rio+20, “The Future We Want,” summit in June of this year was declared a failure on almost all counts. The tepid commitments, all voluntary, sound exactly like the future fossil fuel industries want. But in Doha, under the mandate of the UNFCCC, parties will agree on issues like finance, carbon markets, and REDD+.

Protester in Rio, June 2012.

Sounds reasonable? Think twice- COP18 is in Qatar, an OPEC nation with some of the highest emissions per capita that has been barely involved in climate negotiations. International campaigners Avaaz posted, “having one of the OPEC leaders in charge of climate talks is like asking Dracula to look after a blood bank.”

At least we can turn to our “climate leaders,” like the EU. Turns out the debt crisis has our European friends a little distracted from their climate commitments. Spain, Germany, Italy, the U.K. and France have all cut aid to renewables.

Well there are some “easy” issues to resolve in Doha, like fund transfers from wealthy countries to developing countries for mitigation and adaptation, right? But the farce continues- just in time for the conference to start, an international report finds that most wealthy countries are falling embarrassingly short of their commitments thus far for fund transfers. So much for the easy stuff.

Okay, at least they off-set their emissions! 25k metric tons of carbon was “eliminated” in the CDM carbon market to off-set 10,000 participants traveling to Doha. Yet this comes amidst mounting evidence that the carbon markets are broken, with the value of credits in the CDM plunging 93% in two years, and the EU system failing to reduce emissions. (I’ll spare the gory details of CDM’s social injustice.)

Yet, somehow in the fracas, carbon speculators are optimistic for Doha. Unlike the negotiators, they’ve figured out they can still make a handsome profit even if emissions don’t drop. In the rush to appease and appeal to business interests, negotiators have bought into a “Green Economy” narrative, where climate solutions are reduced to financial and technological fixes. REDD+, CDM, and other carbon offsets allow industrialized countries to avoid shifting their economies off fossil fuels, and speculators in new carbon markets reap the rewards.

The Doha skyline.

The choice of some climate justice groups to skip the trip to Doha is looking better and better.

So is the COP system broken? Can we expect anything out of Doha? With Sandy barely behind us, and more storms on the horizon, a meaningful U.N. process may feel like our last hope. However most major decisions are mapped out in preparatory meetings, such as those in Bonn and Bangkok this year.  While the presence of critical voices is important, so far the COPs have proven to leave out indigenous peoples, youth, and others most impacted by climate change.  We can’t count on negotiators to broker our future with fossil fuel corporations.

The recent position paper from Focus on the Global South offers a critique and an alternative: “The capitalist system is seeking to get out of this economic crisis through a process of reconfiguration that implies a new process of exploitation of humans and nature… …To confront the interests and power of corporations, our struggle must have as starting point the daily life of the people affected by climate change and not the UNFCCC negotiations.”

Around the world, more and more people are connecting the dots and challenging the root causes of climate change and false solutions. From the Tar Sands Blockade in Texas, to First Nations in British Columbia, to indigenous communities impacted by REDD+ in Mexico, people are taking a stand for their communities and ecology. As Hurricane Sandy showed, if we aren’t already, we all may soon be on the frontlines of climate change.

As Focus on the Global South writes, “A ‘one size fits all’ model like neoliberalism or centralized bureaucratic socialism is not the answer. Instead, diversity should be expected and encouraged, as it is in nature.” Real solutions come from the grassroots.

Rising Tide-Vancouver Coast Salish Territories Solidarity Statement with the People of Gaza

Image courtesy of Rising Tide North America

Rising Tide Vancouver Coast Salish Territories opposes the recent attacks on the people of Gaza and the ongoing military occupation of Palestinian Territories.

Rising Tide has been working with Indigenous peoples on Turtle Island, opposing land grabs and resource exploitation by industries and state sanctioned institutions. One of those institutions has been, and continues to be, imperial militaries which destroy communities, the environment, and the climate.

We reject the Israeli military’s attacks on the Palestinian people in Gaza, and the worldwide state powers which respond with complacency. We reject the state powers which support the Israeli military with monetary contributions and weapons such as drones and missiles. We reject Canada’s negotiating with Israel for the sake of trade and further development of energy resources. As many regions of the world have tar sands resources, including the occupied Palestinian territories, we extend our solidarity with all who are impacted by resource extraction processes, and encroachments on their sovereignty and self-determination.

We reject the mainstream media’s coverage (and lack of coverage) of what is happening and the demonizing of the Palestinian people as terrorists. We reject the Western mainstream media’s ongoing failure to cover the struggle of the Palestinian people as a struggle for freedom and self-determination.

In the movement for environmental and climate justice, we stand with those fighting war and occupation. Militaries exploit land and natural resources to fuel their violent control and power over others. Canada exports 2 million barrels of oil per day to the USA and the US Department of Defense is the world’s largest consumer of oil. Both Harper and Obama have been contributing to the Israeli military’s occupation financially and politically. We will not stay silent as the state and corporations contribute to attacks on communities both here and abroad.


To add fuel to the fire, literally, the unfettered burning of fossil fuels by Israeli and other militaries to wage war and violence on communities is exacerbating climate change and the impacts of droughts, extreme weather events, flooding, and sea level rise. This will lead to an increase in forced displacement and the number of climate refugees hoping to seek access to food, water, and homes elsewhere.

We recognize that the struggle to protect the land, water, and air from colonization, capitalism, and imperialism is a struggle that the people of Gaza face every day.  We extend our voices of solidarity to the people of Gaza who are facing unacceptable escalation of violence as they struggle to end the illegal occupation of their land.

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It’s Getting Hot in Here is the voice of a growing movement. A community media project, it features the student and youth leaders from the movement to stop global warming and to build a more just and sustainable future. Read more...

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