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Paris and Beyond: Climate Movement Won't Be Silenced at COP21

Climate

The march may be cancelled, security may be strengthened, but the global climate movement is vowing that its voice will still be heard as world leaders convene in Paris for international negotiations over the future of the planet.

"No matter what, citizens' voices will be heard throughout the Paris Climate Summit," reads a press statement from Climate Network International. Photo credit: fant0mette / Flickr

Citing security concerns in the wake of the attacks in Paris, the city's Prefecture of Police on Wednesday cancelled a massive climate justice march planned for Nov. 29, the day before UN-brokered COP21 climate talks officially begin, as well as more dispersed mobilizations scheduled for Dec. 12, the day after the summit ends.

But the climate movement—and the tens of thousands who planned to take part in the demonstrations—won't be easily silenced. While acknowledging that certain plans need to be retooled, organizers say that now, more than ever, is the time to "work for climate justice and the peace it can help bring," as 350.org's Hoda Baraka put it.

"No matter what, citizens' voices will be heard throughout the Paris Climate Summit," reads a press statement from Climate Network International—whether on the streets of Paris or at one of more than 2,000 coordinated events scheduled to take place in 150 countries this weekend.

To that end, the Climate 21 Coalition, made up of 130 groups including unions, environment, community and climate activist associations, outlined three ways in which activists will circumvent the prohibition under the state of emergency:

  • through visual and sound art installations (picture shoes symbolizing walkers placed along the route);

  • by demonstrating solidarity in cafés, in bakeries, street corners, balconies and windows and even on clothing (a common symbol will be chosen to express commitment to the climate);

  • and via a new tool, march4me.org, which will "allow all those who cannot march that day, from Beirut to Bamako including Paris, to be represented by all those are going to walk in America, Africa, Asia and in Europe." The website will go live on Nov. 25.

Meanwhile, the organizers behind the decentralized, civil disobedience protests known as the Climate Games also remain undeterred. "We believe that COP21 can not take place without the participation or mobilizations of civil society while governments and multinationals continue with business as usual," reads a statement from the Climate Games crew.

"We are still and more than ever dedicated to forms of actions that aim to address the root causes of climate chaos in determined non-violent ways," the statement continues. "Our playing field has been totally transformed in Paris, but everywhere else in the world we encourage people to continue with their plans and adventures."

In fact, "the decentralized creative nature of the Climate Games could become the alternative nonviolent response to this state of emergency," organizers declared.

Still, in the face of what they see as a government crackdown, many groups remain defiant.

For example, the "It Takes Roots to Weather the Storm" COP21 delegation—representing three powerful alliances of grassroots activists and frontline communities—said in a statement on Monday that "despite the ban on protest in Paris, we will be there to raise our voices against war, racism and pollution profiteering."

The statement continued: "Civil society, popular movements, Indigenous movements and society in general have the right to raise their voices in dissent, especially when our futures are being negotiated. The voices of Indigenous peoples, youth, women and frontline communities need to provide guidance in these negotiations, now more than ever."

Indeed, as author and activist Naomi Klein wrote on Monday in a piece highlighting what's really at stake in Paris, "being at the summit is a precious chance to speak about climate change in moral terms and to put a human face to this unfolding catastrophe."

As of early this week, groups were still considering alternatives and actions for the Dec. 12 day of action. But 350.org is confident that in the end: "Love will win out over fear and our movement will win over injustice."

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A powerful volcano on Monday rocked an uninhabited island frequented by tourists about 30 miles off New Zealand's coast. Authorities have confirmed that five people died. They expect that number to rise as some are missing and police officials issued a statement that flights around the islands revealed "no signs of life had been seen at any point,", as The Guardian reported.

"Based on the information we have, we do not believe there are any survivors on the island," the police said in their official statement. "Police is working urgently to confirm the exact number of those who have died, further to the five confirmed deceased already."

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At the time of the eruption on Monday, about 50 passengers from the Ovation of Seas were on the island, including more than 30 who were part of a Royal Caribbean cruise trip, according to CNN. Twenty-three people, including the five dead, were evacuated from the island.

The eruption occurred at 2:11 pm local time on Monday, as footage from a crater camera owned and operated by GeoNet, New Zealand's geological hazards agency, shows. The camera also shows dozens of people walking near the rim as white smoke billows just before the eruption, according to Reuters.

Police were unable to reach the island because searing white ash posed imminent danger to rescue workers, said John Tims, New Zealand's deputy police commissioner, as he stood next to Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern in a press conference, as The New York Times reported. Tims said rescue workers would assess the safety of approaching the island on Tuesday morning. "We know the urgency to go back to the island," he told reporters.

"The physical environment is unsafe for us to return to the island," Tims added, as CNN reported. "It's important that we consider the health and safety of rescuers, so we're taking advice from experts going forward."

Authorities have had no communication with anyone on the island. They are frantically working to identify how many people remain and who they are, according to CNN.

Geologists said the eruption is not unexpected and some questioned why the island is open to tourism.

"The volcano has been restless for a few weeks, resulting in the raising of the alert level, so that this eruption is not really a surprise," said Bill McGuire, emeritus professor of geophysical and climate hazards at University College London, as The Guardian reported.

"White Island has been a disaster waiting to happen for many years," said Raymond Cas, emeritus professor at Monash University's school of earth, atmosphere and environment, as The Guardian reported. "Having visited it twice, I have always felt that it was too dangerous to allow the daily tour groups that visit the uninhabited island volcano by boat and helicopter."

The prime minister arrived Monday night in Whakatane, the town closest to the eruption, where day boats visiting the island are docked. Whakatane has a large Maori population.

Ardern met with local council leaders on Monday. She is scheduled to meet with search and rescue teams and will speak to the media at 7 a.m. local time (1 p.m. EST), after drones survey the island, as CNN reported.