Climate Action: Can We Change the Climate From the Grassroots Up?
By Irene Banos Ruiz
Alarming headlines regarding the climate crisis often overshadow positive actions taken by citizens around the world, but that doesn't mean they're not happening.
They are, and sometimes with considerable success. DW looks at some civil society victories.
Blocking Fossil Fuels
Despite scientific warnings, governments and companies continue to green light fossil fuel projects around the world. But in many instances, these authorizations are accompanied by protests.
1. Hema Thermal Power Plant
Earlier this year, after more than a decade of vocal opposition to the planned Hema thermal power plant, villagers in the coastal Turkish region of Amasra welcomed a court ruling that rejected its construction. Locals had not only feared the destruction of their land, but also the impacts on their health and that of their children.
Amasra villagers have been protesting for years to prevent the construction of a power plant.
The win is a milestone for Turkish climate activists, whose struggle to stop the expansion of fossil fuel plants in the country still has a long way to go.
2. Rocky Hill Open-Cut Mine
Locals around the Australian town of Gloucester experienced similar satisfaction when a national court rejected a plan to build the Rocky Hill open-cut coal mine on the basis that it would increase greenhouse gas emissions at a time when they needed to be reduced. It took those involved in fighting the plans about a decade to achieve success.
It took protesters a decade to fight plans of an open-cut coal mine.
The judge said the negative impacts outweighed its economic and public benefits. Australia is the fourth largest coal producer in the world.
3. Hambach Forest
Germany has become the setting for one of the most iconic fights against coal mining in Europe.
Hundreds of people have spent five years living in tree houses in a bit to prevent a tiny fraction of the Hambach forest in North Rhine-Westphalia from being razed for the expansion of a nearby open-pit coal mine that has already devoured dozens of villages and 90% of the forest.
In 2018, the anti-coal movement brought together thousands of people in Germany's biggest climate march. A few months later, authorities agreed on a moratorium on logging. Only until 2020, however, so theirs is a bittersweet victory.
4. Divesting Money
More and more people are demanding that investors, such as faith-based organizations and pension funds, withdraw their financial support from fossil fuel projects. The global divestment movement has convinced over 1,000 institutions to commit to divesting from oil, coal and gas companies. This translates to almost $8 trillion (€7 trillion) less in assets from fossil fuel investments.
"The momentum has been driven by a people-powered grassroots movement, ordinary people on every continent pushing their local institutions to take a stand against the fossil fuel industry and for a world powered by 100% renewable energy," the NGO 350.org says.
Thousands Coming Together
Climate protests have long been a niche for dedicated eco warriors, but this year, they've become increasingly mainstream.
1. Fridays for Future
Kids who go on strike to protect their future are becoming the new normal. The Fridays for Future movement has managed to capture everyone's attention — in a way that not even the iconic images of starving polar bears achieved.
It all began with Swedish teenager Greta Thunberg skipping school on Fridays to take a lone stand outside her country's parliament. That singular action has since spurred hundreds of thousands of young people worldwide to participate in Friday school strikes calling for decisive climate action.
2. Extinction Rebellion
In early 2019, a mass civil disobedience campaign emerged on the streets of London. The protest group, which includes members of all ages and walks of life, occupied iconic sites in the English capital and saw some of its number strip off inside parliament.
A week of disruptive actions in April led to the arrest of more than 1,000 people, but it also scored the group considerable global attention. The movement has since expanded to more than 30 countries.
3. We Are Still In
U.S. President Donald Trump's intention to withdraw from the Paris agreement came as a shock, but U.S. American civil society quickly recovered. They gathered strength and created the We Are Still In coalition.
Since then, the group has tripled in size and now totals over 3,500 institutions, including local governments, faith communities, businesses and universities.
The group has generated hundreds of climate commitments, businesses have pledged to meet climate targets and over 100 U.S. cities have committed to switching to 100% percent renewable energy.
The Climate Crisis Goes to Court
Globally, more than a thousand court cases are demanding governments and polluters comply with laws to protect citizens. Some have already achieved success.
1. The Urgenda Case
In 2015, a group of Dutch citizens decided to hold their government accountable for contributing to climate change.
In a landmark ruling, a court in the Hague ordered the Netherlands government to cut greenhouse-gas emissions in the country by at least 25% within five years. However, the Dutch government appealed the decision and a final decision is now expected from the Netherlands' Supreme Court.
Whatever happens, the Urgenda case is seen by many as the climate's greatest legal milestone. It has inspired lawsuits across the world.
2. Waorani Against Oil
Earlier this year, Ecuador's Waorani indigenous people celebrated a court ruling that suspends the sale of the community's territory in the remote Amazon for the pursuit of oil extraction. The result came after more than five years of opposition from the indigenous group.
This victory could also mark a turning point for other indigenous communities struggling to defend their land rights and oppose oil exploration.
Reposted with permission from our media associate DW.
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This week marks the official start of fall, but longer nights and colder days can make it harder to spend time outdoors. Luckily, there are several inspiring environmental films that can be streamed at home.
1. Kiss the Ground<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="ccc5f0c92a5603e68aec39e56b0db02a"><iframe lazy-loadable="true" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/K3-V1j-zMZw?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span><p><strong>Streaming On: Netflix</strong></p><p><strong>Premiere Date: Sept. 22</strong></p><p>Between <a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/wildfires-california-washington-oregon-photos-2647585008.html" target="_self">wildfires devastating the U.S. West Coast</a> and <a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/tropical-storm-beta-landfall-2647760268.html" target="_self">storms battering the Gulf</a>, the impacts of the <a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/climate-change/" target="_self">climate crisis</a> can feel overwhelming right now. <em><a href="https://kissthegroundmovie.com/" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">Kiss the Ground</a> </em>offers an alternative to all of the bad news by focusing on solutions.</p><p>The film, directed by Josh and Rebecca Tickell and narrated by Woody Harrelson, explains how we can heal the Earth through "regenerative agriculture," farming practices that draw carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and into soil as a way to restore soil health, which in turn boosts ecosystems and food supplies.</p><p>"<em>Kiss the Ground </em>shows how feasible it is to make these changes at a grassroots level immediately and make a truly substantive impact with low cost and easy to implement solutions," Executive Producer RJ Jain said in an email. "This is why I got involved."</p>
2. Public Trust: The Fight for America's Public Lands<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="5338f7a2931e356910026e5fd76fac56"><iframe lazy-loadable="true" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/jsKMTAaj_wQ?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span><p><strong>Streaming On: YouTube</strong></p><p><strong>Premiere Date: Sept. 25, 2 p.m. EDT </strong></p><p>This <a href="https://www.patagonia.com/films/public-trust/" target="_blank">award-winning documentary</a> tells the stories of Indigenous activists, journalists, whistleblowers and historians working to protect America's <a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/tag/public-lands" target="_self">public lands</a>. The film focuses on three political struggles: the shrinking of <a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/tag/bears-ears" target="_self">Bears Ears</a> National Monument in Utah, the mining of Boundary Waters Wilderness in Minnesota and the opening of the <a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/tag/Arctic-National-Wildlife-Refuge" target="_self">Arctic National Wildlife Refuge</a> to fossil fuel exploration.</p><p><em>Public Trust</em> was directed by David Garrett Byars and produced by Jeremy Rubingh. Patagonia Films, Patagonia founder Yvon Chouinard and actor Robert Redford are executive producers. It will be <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OGjnIG7puzY" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">released</a> on YouTube in time for <a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/national-public-lands-day-2640656776.html" target="_self">National Public Lands Day</a>.</p><p>"Our country is fortunate to have millions of acres of public lands, including National Parks, Monuments, Wildlife Refuges and Wilderness set aside for future generations," Redford said. "Sadly, these lands that belong to you and me are under unprecedented threats from the greed of big corporations, eager to weaken restrictions in the pursuit of profits. Many of our current politicians are also to blame. <em>Public Trust</em> tells the story of citizens who are fighting back. It's a much-needed wake-up call for all of us who want to preserve our unique and wild cultural heritage."</p>
3. David Attenborough: A Life on Our Planet<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="156438a30836a765d7a92982545fc334"><iframe lazy-loadable="true" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/B_OFZvAd05Y?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span><p><strong>Streaming On: Netflix</strong></p><p><strong>Premiere Date: Oct. 4</strong></p><p>Beloved nature broadcaster <a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/tag/David-Attenborough" target="_self">David Attenborough</a> has spent his career introducing viewers to the wonders of our planet. In recent years, his footage of albatrosses swallowing <a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/tag/plastics" target="_self">plastic</a> in <em>Blue Planet II</em> has been credited with <a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/2018-fighting-plastic-waste-2624606566.html" target="_self">helping to ramp up</a> the global fight against plastic pollution. Now, in this <a href="https://www.wwf.org.uk/" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">World Wildlife Fund</a> (WWF)-produced <a href="https://www.attenborough.film/" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">documentary</a>, he reflects on the defining moments of his career and the devastating changes he has witnessed.</p><p><em>David Attenborough: A Life on Our Planet,</em> which was also produced by Silverback Films and directed by Alastair Fothergill, Jonnie Hughes and Keith Scholey, features an intimate conversation between Attenborough and Sir Michael Palin as the broadcaster reflects on his life and a career that took him to every continent on Earth. In addition to streaming on Netflix, the movie will be available in select theaters starting Sept. 28.</p><p>"For decades, David has brought the natural world to the homes of audiences worldwide, but there has never been a more significant moment for him to share his own story and reflections," WWF executive producer Colin Butfield said in a <a href="https://www.wwf.org.uk/updates/david-attenborough-life-our-planet" target="_blank">statement</a>. "This film coincides with a monumental year for environmental action as world leaders make critical decisions on nature and climate. It sends a powerful message from the most inspiring and celebrated naturalist of our time."</p>
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EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
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By Maria Trimarchi and Sarah Gleim
If all the glaciers and ice caps on the planet melted, global sea level would rise by about 230 feet. That amount of water would flood nearly every coastal city around the world [source: U.S. Geological Survey]. Rising temperatures, melting arctic ice, drought, desertification and other catastrophic effects of climate change are not examples of future troubles — they are reality today. Climate change isn't just about the environment; its effects touch every part of our lives, from the stability of our governments and economies to our health and where we live.
<p>Why environmental refugees flee their homes is a complicated mixture of environmental degradation and desperate socioeconomic conditions. People leave their homes when their livelihoods and safety are jeopardized. What effects of climate change put them in jeopardy? Climate change triggers, among other problems, desertification and drought, <a href="https://science.howstuffworks.com/environmental/green-science/deforestation.htm" target="_blank">deforestation</a>, land degradation, rising sea levels, <a href="https://science.howstuffworks.com/nature/natural-disasters/flood.htm" target="_blank">floods</a>, more frequent and more extreme storms, <a href="https://science.howstuffworks.com/nature/natural-disasters/earthquake.htm" target="_blank">earthquakes</a>, <a href="https://science.howstuffworks.com/nature/natural-disasters/volcano.htm" target="_blank">volcanoes</a>, food insecurity and famine.</p><p>The September <a href="http://visionofhumanity.org/app/uploads/2020/09/ETR_2020_web-1.pdf" target="_blank">2020 Ecological Threat Register Report</a>, by the Institute for Economics & Peace, predicts the hardest hit populations will be:</p><ul><li>Sub-Saharan Africa, South Asia, the Middle East and North Africa</li><li>Afghanistan, Syria, Iraq, Chad, India and Pakistan (which are among the world's least peaceful countries)</li><li>Pakistan, Ethiopia and Iran are most at risk for mass displacements</li><li>Haiti faces the highest risk of all countries in Central America and the Caribbean</li><li>India and China will be among countries experiencing high or extreme water stress</li></ul>
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In his latest documentary, My Octopus Teacher, free diver and filmmaker Craig Foster tells a unique story about his friendship and bond with an octopus in a kelp forest in Cape Town, South Africa. It's been labeled "the love story that we need right now" by The Cut.
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