The Stories of ISTSDay 2012 From the People Who Made Them Happen
How do you build a movement?
By Anders Lorenzen
When looking back at it now, it could be seen as an insane idea to set up a Tar Sands campaign in a country you don’t presently live in, in a country where interest in the environment has drastically declined in the wake of the failed Cop 15 talks in Copenhagen and the global economic crisis. But that was nevertheless what I decided to do when I got so frustrated that the Danish media was not discussing Tar Sands and Danes did generally not seem to be aware of the biggest environmental destruction on our planet.
When International Stop the Tar Sands Day announced that the fifth of May would be the global day of action of 2012, (later down the line 350 announced that their global impacts day named as Climate Dots would also be on the very same date, we wanted to combine this with our activity and worked hard to implement that) despite being located in London, I decided that now was the time to take Tar Sands to Denmark.
This was back in February, and looking back at where we were then and where we’re now it’s an understatement to try an express how astonished I am. My first action was to contact my London based friend Kirstie who organised the Cop 15 climate march. Before we knew it, using her contacts we had a solid working group of four people that steadily grew, and with regular Skype meetings and brainstorms we soon developed some kind of idea of what we could do to kick start a movement in Copenhagen.
Yesterday in Copenhagen, our small dream became a reality and we launched our campaign focused on the Danish pension funds who are investing a large sum of money in the largest oil companies whom we know are heavily involved in Tar Sands project; with our campaign we’re questioning the Danish governments ambition to go 100% renewable by 2050. We protested this inconsistency through an effective flash mob on Stroget (the main walking street) in Copenhagen while leafleting. Stunned Danes stopped up to talk to us about what we were doing.
This is just the beginning of our campaign and our movement, and the next few months will show how we move on from here, but one thing is for sure an important significant step have been made.
By Joao Vinagre
ISTSDay in Portugal took place on May 5th, 2012. One dozen environmental and animal liberation activists joined at the Principe Real in Lisbon. It’s an area with a century old tree, the old water distribution system for the city, and the office of PortoEnergy (hydraulic fracking company in Portugal). We found out that an attorney who worked for oil companies long ago (Vasco Sande Taborda e Paula Nobre) once had an office here.
We stopped in a park and gave out flyers about tar sands, played music, spoke on the megaphone, and talked to people about tar sands and the 'Save the Fraser Declaration' (we had a small banner for this also). After we put together the main banner we started to move in the direction of the Canadian embassy.
On the way we stopped near the statue of the poet Fernando Pessoa and read this poem to the people in the street:
Someone asks me - What’s new?
Everyone knows that a flower is a flower and a tree is a tree.
Everyone loves the flower because they are beautiful, but I’m different.
Everyone loves the trees because they are green and give nice
refuge from the hot sun, but I don’t.
I love the flowers because they are flowers, directly.
I love the trees because they are trees, without my thinking.
I continued down the street with the megaphone screaming about tar sands, oil shale and gas fracking. When we arrived at the Canadian Embassy we sat down and discussed amongst ourselves the best way to create a group in Portugal that defends the environment and animals and how to join forces to support the two struggles.
Joao was the 2011 and 2012 ISTSDay organizer in Lisbon, Portugal.
Occupy London Takes a Stand Against Shell and the Corporatisation of Everything
Connecting the Dots
By Derek Leahy
Concerned citizens of Melbourne took to the streets today despite rainy conditions to participate in one of the largest international days of action for the planet in human history. Hundreds of events involving thousands of people will take place around the world today for Climate Impacts Day and International Stop the Tar Sands Day.
“The tar sands are the pin-up for unconventional fossil fuels,” says Melbourne co-organizer Cheree Mack. “If we can stop the tar sands in Canada maybe it will have a ripple effect on other places around the world that are using similar destructive technologies. In Australia, coal seam gas (unconventional gas) has become a major issue and we also have undeveloped oil shale deposits here.”
The three unconventional fossils fuels under development globally at the moment - tar sands, oil shale and shale gas/coal seam gas – require more energy to develop, have more negative environmental impacts and produce less energy than their conventional predecessors. Tar sands are a mixture of clay, sand, heavy metals and a tar like form of petroleum called bitumen. The largest and most developed tar sands deposits in the world are located underneath the beautiful boreal forests of Alberta, Canada. The Albertan tar sands are the third largest oil reserve in the world.
"I wasn't expecting to change the minds of thousands of Melbournians today," explains Bronwyn Wauchope, Melbourne co-organizer. "It was about capturing people's attention through creative means to raise awareness about the climate crisis."
Organizers and participants of the Melbourne event pushed a two meter tall handmade "climate dot" through the busy streets of Melbourne's central business district. People were nearly mesmerized as the handmade cardboard dot rolled past famous city landmarks like Flinders Street train station and the State Library.
"Connecting the dots" between recent extreme weather events and climate change caused by humanity's burning of fossil fuels was the main of theme of Climate Impacts Day. This is the fourth international day of action organized by 350.org, an environmental organization that is present in every country in the world except North Korea.
Prior to the event, Melbourne organizers had painted the earth on one side of the dot and a spiral on the other. Melboure co-organizer Joel Gresham explains the symbolism:
"The spiral represents how our energy needs are spiralling out of control and pushing us towards more extreme forms of energy like tar sands and coal seam gas. The earth represents the need for us to reconnect with our planet in order to live more sustainably."
Neither a group nor an organization, International Stop the Tar Sands Day was created in 2010 with the goal of raising international awareness about the Canadian tar sands industry. Organizers and participants of International Stop the Tar Sands Day are encouraged to be creative, stay positive, and have fun with their events in order to make the notion of stopping the tar sands accessible to people from all different walks of life.
At noon, participants met with Melbourne's "Quit Coal" group for a rally in front of the office of the Australian mining company Rio Tinto. People are calling for a moratorium on new coal mines and coal seam gas operations. Coal seam gas projects in Victoria are only in their exploratory phase, but the state government supports these projects moving on to full operations.
A solidarity photo with Canadian indigenous peoples was also held on the banks of the Yarra River. Indigenous peoples of western Canada are currently in a legal battle with the Canadian government over the construction of the Northern Gateway pipeline, which would be built on their lands. Northern Gateway would be a major step towards shipping tar sands oil to emerging markets in Asia. According to eminent scientist James Hansen, Director of NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies, it would be “game over” for the climate if the Canadian tar sands were developed completely.
In spirit of addressing these issues, Mack quoted from the Users Guide to Demanding the Impossible - “It's easy to feel paralysed by the complexities of the world, to feel like nothing you do will ever make a difference...But when we look back at history we see that every movement, every single shift in society began with a small group of friends having an idea that seemed impossible at the time.”
International Day of Action Against the Tar Sands
By Adam Gaya
On Saturday, May 5th, people around the globe were out in the streets for the third annual International Stop the Tar Sands Day.
From New York to Australia, people stood up and said no to the forest destruction, poisoned communities and climate change linked to Tar Sands extraction and refining.
Thousands of people participated in over 60 events in 13 countries, making this one of the largest days of action against the Tar Sands ever.
I had the privilege of spending the day with dozens of activists in Anacortes, Washington, a community living in the toxic shadow of two Tar Sands refineries.
Through increased emissions of sulfur dioxide—which threatens human breathing and heart function—and a heightened risk of refinery fires and explosions, refinery use of Tar Sands has made a bad situation worse for the people of Anacortes and the Swinomish tribe on whose ancestral land the Anacortes refineries sit.
People around the world are making it clear they don't want to buy products shipped to market with fuels from Tar Sands refineries. And big American companies—16 so far, as different as Walgreens and Whole Foods—have made public commitments that relate to the Tar Sands problem.
Unfortunately some American companies, like Dole, are choosing to ignore the Tar Sands problem. But, as the global resistance to Tar Sands grows, the Tar Sands problem is going to get harder for every major company to ignore.
This article originally appeared on the ForestEthics website. Adam has been an US organizer of ISTSDay since 2011.