Here are 10 reasons this historic mobilization should give you hope for the future:
1. We're standing up to power — even when power fights back.
In South Africa, Break Free actions defied attempts to shut down their peaceful protests of the country's most powerful family, the Guptas and returned toxic coal financed by their companies right to their front door.
2. We're learning from the past.
Groups in Nigeria stood together at Oloibiri, the site of the first oil well in Nigeria, to demonstrate how the fossil fuels industry has left only pollution, not prosperity for the people. Later in the week, they continued to carry the message in Ogoni where oil has created such great exploitation and Ibeno, where Exxon wishes to drill for more offshore.
And in Turkey, where in the early 90s a mass movement in the Izmir region defeated plans for a massive expansion of coal, a new wave of organizing picked up the torch. 2000 people marched together and formed a red line around an illegal coal waste dump that is supporting the expansion of coal once more in the region.
3. We're led by powerful voices from Indigenous movements.
Everywhere, the original inhabitants of lands (that's now being used by the fossil fuel industry) are fighting back — and thousands of people are standing with them. For example in Canada, the Tsleil-Waututh First Nation is fighting to defeat the Kinder Morgan tar sands pipeline on un-ceded Coastal Salish territory on the west coast. More than 800 people stood in solidarity with the T'Sleil-Waututh Nation by swarming the Kinder Morgan facility on both sides. They staged a massive kayak flotilla on the water and surrounded it with their bodies and art on land.
4. We're showing grit and resolve.
Break Free actions were not your typical protests. Some went more than 24 hours long: in Germany, Ende Gelaende occupied the rail lines leading from a lignite mine to a power station for over 48 hours, forcing the plant to power down. On the West Coast of the U.S., several dozen people blocked rail lines carrying "bomb trains" of crude oil to the regions' largest unmitigated source of carbon pollution — for two nights running.
5. We're taking on the biggest projects from land, water and air.
Indonesia digs up and exports more coal than any other country on Earth. During Break Free, 3,000 people joined an ear-splitting whistle action outside the president's office in Jakarta, calling for an end to coal — and then a few days later, others hung off of coal loaders in the port in Cirebon.
Newcastle, Australia is home to the world's largest coal port and thousands of protesters banded together to block all coal from entering or leaving the port over one day. Actions included an aerial blockade of coal loaders first thing in the morning, more than 60 people blocking a railway to the port and hundreds more afloat in the harbor to keep ships from passing.
6. We're connecting the dots between climate disaster and fossil fuels.
The Philippines is one of the most climate-vulnerable countries on Earth. They helped kick off Break Free with a 10,000 person march to oppose coal in Calaca, Batangas — at 6 a.m. in the morning. They had to start so early because of a devastating heat wave that is making life much harder to live:
7. We're building strong bridges.
In Albany, New York in the U.S., Big Oil wants to send hundreds more oil by rail "bomb trains" along tracks that run just feet from low income public housing and playgrounds. Residents there have been fighting back against the expanded infrastructure for years, but during Break Free as more than 1,000 people blocked the roads and rails with them, one local leader called the people standing with them as their "spinach"— adding power to the strength they've been showing for years.
8. We're building global power.
At one point on Saturday, May 14, major fossil fuel projects were being blocked on three continents — from the coal plant in Germany, to Brazil's largest coal power plant, to oil projects on both coasts of the U.S. and a major land and water blockade of a proposed tar sands terminal in Canada.
9. We're getting results.
Immediately following a mass action in Umuarama, Brazil during Break Free, the town council voted to ban fracking in their borders — just the latest victory for the Nao Fracking Brasil coalition that is keeping gas in the ground across the country.
At the same time, people in Germany were blocking the Schwarze Pumpe power station, forcing it to reduce capacity by 80 percent.
10. We're bigger than ever.
Break Free was the largest global civil disobedience campaign ever in the history of the climate movement. And as the planet continues to overheat, opposition will only grow from here.
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EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
By Dolf Gielen and Morgan Bazilian
John Kerry helped bring the world into the Paris climate agreement and expanded America's reputation as a climate leader. That reputation is now in tatters, and President-elect Joe Biden is asking Kerry to rebuild it again – this time as U.S. climate envoy.
Energy Is at the Center of the Climate Challenge<p>The <a href="https://science2017.globalchange.gov/chapter/1/" target="_blank">effects of climate change</a> are already evident across the globe, from <a href="https://theconversation.com/100-degrees-in-siberia-5-ways-the-extreme-arctic-heat-wave-follows-a-disturbing-pattern-141442" target="_blank">extreme heat waves</a> to <a href="https://science2017.globalchange.gov/chapter/12/" target="_blank">sea level rise</a>. But while the challenge is daunting, there is hope. Solar and wind power have become the <a href="https://www.irena.org/publications/2020/Jun/Renewable-Power-Costs-in-2019" target="_blank">cheapest forms of power generation globally</a>, and technology progress and innovation continue apace to support a transition to clean energy.</p><p>In the U.S. under a Biden administration, long-term national climate legislation will depend on who controls the Senate, and that won't be clear until after two run-off elections in Georgia in January.</p><p>But there is no shortage of <a href="https://www.bloomberg.com/features/2020-biden-climate-change-advice/" target="_blank">ideas for ways Biden</a> could still take action even if his proposals are blocked in Congress. For example, he could use executive orders and direct government agencies to tighten regulations on greenhouse gas emissions; increase research and development in clean energy technologies; and empower states to exceed national standards, <a href="https://www.reuters.com/article/us-autos-emissions-california/defying-trump-california-locks-in-vehicle-emission-deals-with-major-automakers-idUSKCN25D2CH" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">as California did in the past with auto emission standards</a>. A focus on a just and equitable transition for communities and people affected by the decline of fossil fuels will also be key to creating a sustainable transition.</p><p>The U.S. position as the world's largest oil and gas producer and consumer creates political challenges for any administration. U.S. forays into European energy security are often treated with suspicion. Recently, France blocked <a href="https://www.wsj.com/articles/frances-engie-backs-out-of-u-s-lng-deal-11604435609" target="_blank">a multi-billion dollar contract</a> to buy U.S. liquefied natural gas because of concerns about limited emissions regulations in Texas.</p><p>Strengthening cooperation and partnerships with like-minded countries will be critical to bring about a transition to cleaner energy as well as sustainability in agriculture, forestry, water and other sectors of the global economy.</p>
Creating a Global Sustainable Transition<p>How the world recovers from COVID-19's economic damage could help drive a lasting shift in the global energy mix.</p><p>Nearly one-third of Europe's US$2 trillion economic relief package <a href="https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2020-07-21/eu-approves-biggest-green-stimulus-in-history-with-572-billion-plan" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">involves investments that are also good for the climate</a>. The European Union is also strengthening its 2030 climate targets, though each country's energy and climate plans will be critical for successfully implementing them. The <a href="https://joebiden.com/clean-energy/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Biden plan</a> – including a $2 trillion commitment to developing sustainable energy and infrastructure – is aligned with a global energy transition, but its implementation is also uncertain.</p><p>Once Biden takes office, Kerry will be joining ongoing <a href="https://www.un.org/en/conferences/energy2021/about#:%7E:text=The%20overarching%20goal%20of%20the,2030%20Agenda%20for%20Sustainable%20Development.&text=Accelerate%20delivery%20of%20United%20Nations,related%20issues%20at%20all%20levels." target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">high-level discussions on the energy transition</a> at the U.N. General Assembly and other gatherings of international leaders. With the U.S. no longer obstructing work on climate issues, the G-7 and G-20 have more potential for progress on energy and climate.</p><p>Lots of technical details still need to be worked out, including international trade frameworks and standards that can help countries lower greenhouse gas emissions enough to keep global warming in check. <a href="https://www.carbonpricingleadership.org/what" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Carbon pricing</a> and <a href="https://www.csis.org/analysis/how-can-europe-get-carbon-border-adjustment-right" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">carbon border adjustment taxes</a>, which create incentive for companies to reduce emissions, may be part of it. A consistent and comprehensive set of national energy transition plans will also be needed.</p><p>The global shift to <a href="https://www.irena.org/publications/2019/Jan/A-New-World-The-Geopolitics-of-the-Energy-Transformation" target="_blank">clean energy will also have geopolitical implications for countries and regions</a>, and this will have a profound impact on wider international relations. Kerry, with his experience as secretary of state in the Obama administration, and Biden's plan to make the climate envoy position part of the National Security Council, may help mend these relations. In doing so, the U.S. may again join the wider community of countries willing to lead.</p>
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By Maria Caffrey
As we approach the holidays I, like most people, have been reflecting on everything 2020 has given us (or taken away) while starting to look ahead to 2021.
We Need More Than Listening<p>By now we have all become sadly accustomed to the current administration sidelining scientists, most prominently Dr. Anthony Fauci, because the facts they provide do not fit with the political rhetoric of the moment.</p><p>I have <a href="https://www.csldf.org/2019/08/22/csldf-helps-climate-scientist-maria-caffrey-fight-for-scientific-integrity/" target="_blank">my own history</a> of filing a scientific integrity complaint with the National Park Service (which falls under the Department of the Interior) after senior ranking employees attempted to censor one of my scientific reports. I know all too well the damage and pain that these actions cause, not just for the individual scientist, but also because these <a href="https://www.ucsusa.org/resources/attacks-on-science" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">attacks on science</a> over the last few years have undermined sound, evidence-based decision making.</p><p>President-elect Biden has repeatedly said that he will <a href="https://thehill.com/homenews/521638-trump-biden-will-listen-to-the-scientists-if-elected" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">listen to the scientists</a>. While this is certainly a welcome change, listening can only take us so far. This past week Lauren Kurtz from the <a href="https://www.csldf.org/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Climate Science Legal Defense Fund</a> and my colleague <a href="https://www.ucsusa.org/about/people/gretchen-goldman" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Gretchen Goldman</a> published <a href="https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/ten-steps-that-can-restore-scientific-integrity-in-government/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">an article</a> listing 10 actions the new administration should implement to show their commitment to strengthening government science:</p><ol><li>Clearly prohibit political interference and censorship.</li><li>Protect scientists' communication rights.</li><li>Acknowledge that attempts to violate scientific integrity, even if ultimately not fruitful, are still violations.</li><li>Protect federal scientists' right to provide information to Congress and other lawmakers.</li><li>Commit to incorporating the best science as part of agency decisions.</li><li>Elevate agency scientific integrity policies to have the full force of law.</li><li>Publicly release anonymized information about scientific integrity complaints and their resolutions at every agency.</li><li>Institute an intra-agency workforce, potentially under the White House <a href="https://www.ucsusa.org/sites/default/files/2020-09/strengthening-science-and-si-at-ostp.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Office of Science and Technology Policy</a>, to coordinate scientific integrity efforts across agencies, foster discussion of policy improvements, and standardize criteria for policies across agencies.</li><li>Strengthen whistleblower protections.</li><li>Ensure that policies cover all actors who will be dealing with science.</li></ol>
Time for Action<p>I have spoken to many scientists, particularly federal scientists, who are eager to turn the page so they can hurry back to the work they had been doing before this administration, but I urge caution in assuming that things can be "normal" again.</p><p>Before Trump, I naively thought the scientific integrity policies established during the <a href="https://obamawhitehouse.archives.gov/blog/2016/12/19/scientific-integrity-policies-update" target="_blank">Obama administration</a> would be sufficient. I never imagined that any administration could so willfully ignore and attack expert advice and evidence that is intended to protect us and our public lands.</p><p>I have personally witnessed how hard our federal scientists work. They put in long hours with minimal pay (far less that what they could get if they worked in private industry) to pursue one simple goal: to make things better for the nation.</p><p>We need stronger scientific integrity policies to protect these people and their work. But more than that, we need stronger scientific integrity laws because they also benefit society.</p>
By Andrea Germanos
Environmental campaigners stressed the need for the incoming Biden White House to put in place permanent protections for Alaska's Bristol Bay after the Trump administration on Wednesday denied a permit for the proposed Pebble Mine that threatened "lasting harm to this phenomenally productive ecosystem" and death to the area's Indigenous culture.
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By Gwen Ranniger
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