The Stories of ISTSDay 2012 From the People Who Made Them Happen


COPENHAGEN'S STORY:

How do you build a movement?

By Anders Lorenzen

What does one do when one keeps being disgusted over the lack of media coverage on the issue of Tar Sands exploration in ones home country of Denmark?


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.

http://www.facebook.com/DanishStopTarSandsInfoPage

http://www.tarsandsdk.moonfruit.com/

This article original appeared in the blog A Greener Life, A Greener World. Anders was the co-organizer of ISTSDay 2012 in Copenhagen, Denmark and is the co-founder of the group Denmark Against the Tar Sands


LISBON’S STORY

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?

I respond:

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.



LONDON'S STORY:

Occupy London Takes a Stand Against Shell and the Corporatisation of Everything


By Melanie Strickland

Tired of being shoved on from every place we went, we finally settled under a dirty bridge opposite Waterloo Station called Sutton Walk. Assuming this was public land, we set up our film and began screening. After a few minutes some Shell security guards turned up, telling us that Shell owned the land and that we had to leave. It was a surprise to us to learn that Shell owned the land – are there any genuinely public spaces in London anymore? It seems not, in fact in most places you only have a permission to be there provided that you shut up and be a good consumer and don’t challenge the corporates and the insane economic system that results in the destruction of our planet for profit.

We decided to carry on with the film, we were not disturbing anyone and interested members of the public had stopped to watch the film. Quickly more police showed up by the van load, including the notoriously violent TSG police and FIT cameramen.

Towards the end of this short-lived and relatively minor act of civil disobedience, there were about a dozen police and a dozen Shell security guards, which far outnumbered us. Once Shell security backed up by police force started confiscating our stuff we decided to leave so as not to bring violence on our group – particularly with the TSG squad lurking in the background. We told the crowd: ‘When injustice becomes law, resistance becomes duty’ – Thomas Jefferson, and we pointed out, though they could see it for themselves, that this is more like a corporatocracy than a democracy. In this city, in which the real crimes of money laundering, human trafficking and organised drug dealing is taking place as you read this – how can the authorities justify such use of police time?  People need to know that the police are political and they police politically.

We learnt from this episode that the Establishment is very worried about the challenge posed by the Occupy London movement. They don’t like us because we tell the truth and are a powerful voice of dissent which many right minded and decent people agree with. The police received orders from above to stalk us, to film us, to put us off dissent, to intimidate us. It probably works to put off the mothers and children that accompanied us. The police collude with corporates to shut down free speech, at least free speech that has the potential to overthrow this corrupt system. Yesterday we got members of the public on side. We drew a crowd, our speeches drew applause. We are a movement for justice, democracy, equality and freedom. We occupy out of love for people and planet who are suffering. That is political too.

 

This article originally appeared in The Occupied Times



MANCHESTER'S STORY

By Joe Sykes

At 1 pm, around 20 people of a whole spectrum of ages and backgrounds met at Piccadilly Gardens for a shared reason: to raise awareness about the need to “connect the dots” between extreme weather and climate change, with a particular focus on the Albertan tar sands.

Complete with a huge grim reaper, passers-by were more than happy to stop and have a quick chat, have their picture taken and hear more about why we were there. After an hour at Piccadilly gardens, we headed down to the Royal Bank of Scotland headquarters on Deansgate. There, we held up a banner sending out a clear message that RBS (which has invested £5.6 billion in tar sands extraction since being bailed out by UK taxpayers in 2008) should “get our money out of bloody oil”. Here, we handed out leaflets focusing particularly on the role of RBS in tar sands funding, and finished off the demonstration by delivering a dirty, tar-stained dot under the doors of the bank’s headquarters. It was a great day, and a great collaboration between 350.org and International Stop the Tar Sands Day.

Joe was the co-organizer of ISTSDay 2012 in Manchester, UK. He was also the co-organizer of ISTSDay 2010 and 2011 in Berlin, Germany.



MELBOURNE'S STORY:

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.”

This article originally appeared in Demotix. Derek is the European organizer of ISTSDay and participated in the ISTSDay 2012 event in Melbourne.


OXFORD'S STORY:


Tar Monster caught by climate campaigners on the Streets of Oxford


By tarfreetown.org


Today, May 5th 2012 a Tar Monster was on the loose in Cornmarket Street as part of an international day of action on climate change. The tar monster was caught by a dozen campaigners who called to stop the extraction of Canadian Tar Sands and connected the dots between extreme energy projects and extreme weather events.

Tar sands fuel releases three to five moregreenhouse emissions that conventional oil and is driving the planet to irreversible climate change.” said Pete Barker, one of the organisers of the Oxford event said, “Rather than making the transition to renewable forms of energy we are seeing more and more extreme energy in the mix like tar sands, which is creating extreme weather and is already impacting on communities globally.”

The creative demonstration was a combination of “Climate Impacts Day,” an effort led by international climate campaign350.org which has brought together over 1,000 events in 150 countries [1], and International Stop the Tar Sands Day, a grassroots initiative raising awareness about the dangers of tar sands exploitation [2]. It was organised by local 350.org and tar sands activists in collaboration with Lush store in Oxford, and was supported by the UK Tar Sands Network [3], who is calling on Oxford to become one of the first Tar Free Towns in the UK [4].

People have got to realise that climate change is happening right now, and if we don’t rapidly transition from away from extreme forms of energy extraction like mining tar sands or drilling in the Arctic, soon it will be too late to avoid runaway climate change” said tar sands and climate campaigner Ruthi Brandt 

NOTES:

[1] Climate Impacts Day is hosted by 350.org, an international grassroots climate campaign. Today, over 1,000 events in 150 countries “connect the dots” between local changes, like extreme weather events, and the broader climate crisis. Visit www.climatedots.org for more information about Climate Impacts Day.

 [2] International Stop the Tar Sands Day is highlighting how industry is going to more and more extreme lengths to get fuel for the world’s fossil fuel addiction by drilling deeper and deeper for more and more difficult to extract oil and gas resources. Growing from 9 events in 2010 to fifty in 2011, today was the 3rdISTSDay, organised by a group of everyday citizens from around the world.

 [3] The UK Tar Sands Network campaigns in partnership with Indigenous communities affected by the Tar Sands oil developments in Canada. They target the UK and EU governments, UK companies (such as BP and Shell), and banks and investors (such as RBS) operating in the Alberta Tar Sands. It is based in Oxford.

 [4] A Tar-Free Town is a community that is working towards a vision of clean energy, and is setting out to actively make the positive transition away from dirty oil. The idea came from a desire to connect people in the UK with communities fighting Tar Sands in Canada. Similar initiatives in the US were successful in blocking tar sands oil entirely from individual municipalities. Although Tar Sands oil hasn’t yet arrived in the UK in significant quantities, its large-scale import is potentially very close and the battle to shut Tar Sands out of the UK market is taking place right now.

[5] More about the tar sands in Alberta, Canada –

 It is the biggest energy project in the world and extracting oil from the sand is an incredibly damaging process, both to the natural environment and the people that live there. Tar sands have such high carbon intensity that if extraction continues, all attempts to hold global temperature below 2 degrees to avoid the most severe climate change impacts will be inevitable. Although at this stage very few tons of tar sands get shipped over to Europe the issue cannot be ignored as the EU has to decide if they will allow for more and more dirty tar sands to be shipped to Europe. EU countries recently voted on the Fuel Quality Directive, which would classify tar sands to be more environmentally damaging than conventional fuels. If passed this policy would have kept tar sands oil out of Europe. But, the vote resulted in a stalemate. The decision is now delayed until 2013 as the European Commission will conduct an impact assessment for the proposal, asked by European oil corporations, which are heavily lobbying EU member states along with Canada.


This article first appeared on the Tar Free Towns website



USA'S STORY

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.


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