Groups of citizens have been organizing worldwide to fight against fossil fuel industry's negative impacts on their lives. These impacts are either direct—through expropriations of land and development of infrastructure against the will of the population—or indirect—through their role in the sharp increase of climate-altering emissions threatening health and livelihoods worldwide.
These movements are often born spontaneously in response to a present challenge or threat. Through grassroot organizing, the impact of a handful of determined citizens can grow dramatically and has, in many instances, forced fossil fuel companies to abandon projects, deal with less and less private investments or defend themselves in courts.
Here are three stories from the Philippines, Brazil and the U.S. that show how small groups of determined people have taken on large corporations and shifted the local economic and political context.
The videos have been produced by 350.org as part of the Fossil Free campaign.
Since 2015, citizens of Atimonan, Quezon province, in the Philippines, have been opposing the construction of a 1,200-megawatt coal-fired power plant.
Despite the determination of government authorities at national and provincial level to move forward with the project, the citizens of Atimonan and of the whole province have organized rallies in front of one of the banks funding the project, disrupted a meeting of the provincial board and overall voiced their concern and opposition.
Father Puno, of the Our Lady of the Angels parish in Atimonan, has been one of the most vocal regarding the potentially nefarious impacts of the future power plant, organizing a prayer-vigil attended by more than 1,500 people.
While opposing coal as an energy source, local parishioners have also discovered solar power and decided to install solar panels on the roof of the church, turning their stewardship for natural resources and people's health into a message in support of a fast and just 100 percent renewable energy transition for all.
The citizens of Peruíbe, in the Southeast region of Brazil, have been actively resisting the development of a new thermoelectric power plant, which would have been one of the largest of its kind. Citizens have organized themselves, putting pressure on city councilors to approve an amendment to the municipal law that would prevent other large polluting projects from being built in the city.
After a complicated legislative process, which lasted months, the city council finally approved unanimously the amendment.
Peruíbe has clean and sustainable energy to spare and holds unquestionable tourist potential. The region is one of the last reserves of continuous Brazilian Atlantic rain forest in the world, and more than half of the city's territory is in a preservation area.
The controversial industrial project, estimated at R$ 5 billion, was proposed by Gastrading Comércio de Energia, and it would have generated up to 1.7 gigawatts of energy.
New York, New York
In January 2018 the Mayor of New York Bill de Blasio made two important announcements. The first one was that the city would divest its assets from fossil fuel companies.
The second one was that the city had filed a lawsuit in federal courts against the five fossil fuel companies identified as the most responsible for global warming: ExxonMobil, BP, Conoco Phillips, Shell and Chevron.
These announcements came after years of grassroots organizing and it was celebrated as a victory by the many citizen groups that had been mobilizing to push the city to take this decision.
The divestment movement in New York dates back years, driven among other things by the impacts that Hurricane Sandy had on New York and its citizens: more than 100 dead in New York and surrounding areas; an estimated damage of more than $40bn; 100,000 houses damaged of which 2,000 rendered uninhabitable.
The awareness that climate change had played a major role in creating the conditions for Hurricane Sandy to develop and grow in strength convinced many New Yorkers to hit the streets asking the city not to give a penny more to dirty energy.
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At first glance, you wouldn't think avocados and almonds could harm bees; but a closer look at how these popular crops are produced reveals their potentially detrimental effect on pollinators.
Migratory beekeeping involves trucking millions of bees across the U.S. to pollinate different crops, including avocados and almonds. Timothy Paule II / Pexels / CC0<p>According to <a href="https://www.fromthegrapevine.com/israeli-kitchen/beekeeping-how-to-keep-bees" target="_blank">From the Grapevine</a>, American avocados also fully depend on bees' pollination to produce fruit, so farmers have turned to migratory beekeeping as well to fill the void left by wild populations.</p><p>U.S. farmers have become reliant upon the practice, but migratory beekeeping has been called exploitative and harmful to bees. <a href="https://www.cnn.com/2019/05/10/health/avocado-almond-vegan-partner/index.html" target="_blank">CNN</a> reported that commercial beekeeping may injure or kill bees and that transporting them to pollinate crops appears to negatively affect their health and lifespan. Because the honeybees are forced to gather pollen and nectar from a single, monoculture crop — the one they've been brought in to pollinate — they are deprived of their normal diet, which is more diverse and nourishing as it's comprised of a variety of pollens and nectars, Scientific American reported.</p><p>Scientific American added how getting shuttled from crop to crop and field to field across the country boomerangs the bees between feast and famine, especially once the blooms they were brought in to fertilize end.</p><p>Plus, the artificial mass influx of bees guarantees spreading viruses, mites and fungi between the insects as they collide in midair and crawl over each other in their hives, Scientific American reported. According to CNN, some researchers argue that this explains why so many bees die each winter, and even why entire hives suddenly die off in a phenomenon called colony collapse disorder.</p>
Avocado and almond crops depend on bees for proper pollination. FRANK MERIÑO / Pexels / CC0<p>Salazar and other Columbian beekeepers described "scooping up piles of dead bees" year after year since the avocado and citrus booms began, according to Phys.org. Many have opted to salvage what partial colonies survive and move away from agricultural areas.</p><p>The future of pollinators and the crops they help create is uncertain. According to the United Nations, nearly half of insect pollinators, particularly bees and butterflies, risk global extinction, Phys.org reported. Their decline already has cascading consequences for the economy and beyond. Roughly 1.4 billion jobs and three-quarters of all crops around the world depend on bees and other pollinators for free fertilization services worth billions of dollars, Phys.org noted. Losing wild and native bees could <a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/wild-bees-crop-shortage-2646849232.html" target="_self">trigger food security issues</a>.</p><p>Salazar, the beekeeper, warned Phys.org, "The bee is a bioindicator. If bees are dying, what other insects beneficial to the environment... are dying?"</p>
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