Newsletter 34: Hell and High Water
January 14, 2020 by XR Newsletter
Welcome to our first International Newsletter of the year. As a new decade dawns, we are faced with a world already on the brink of disaster. However, amid the grief and flames there are so many of us fighting hard to make this decade the one that finally brings change to a society – and ecology – that needs it more than ever.
Australia and Indonesia have been facing floods and fires of unprecedented scale. In Indonesia, the tragedy is deepened by a lack of awareness, both within the country and beyond it. The crisis is largely being ignored by global news-organisations, and many Indonesians fail to see the connection between the ecological emergency and the current global system. (For a bleak but lucid vision of this system, check out this week’s History Corner, describing Nigerian Oil Wells and their opposition).
In Australia, the tragedy and loss of life is intensified by the uniqueness of the habitat which is being stripped away. Below you can read about some of the acts of solidarity from other members of the global community who are united in grief and determined to see tangible change before any more of the world’s flora and fauna is lost forever.
In other, brighter news, we highlight the landmark victory in The Netherlands, where the Dutch Supreme Court has ruled that the government must act immediately to protect its citizens from the deadly effects of the climate crisis. While this success within the legal system is the first of its kind, it will hopefully not be the last, as other governments and courts wake up to the scale of the problem.
Also included today is an update on the protests in Russia, where three brave activists are continuing their campaign despite persecution and imprisonment. We salute their intense determination and strength.
Finally, an opportunity for European rebels to get involved with an exciting new project: the Tour de Rebel, which seeks to educate and raise awareness in a sustainable and adventurous way.
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- Action Highlights
- XR Unchained
- History Corner
- XR Content
Floods Devastate Indonesia
31 DEC onwards | Jakarta, Indonesia
Torrential rains have led to landslides and severe flooding in Indonesia, with the destruction centred in and around the capital, Jakarta. Dozens of people have been killed and tens of thousands have had to abandon their homes.
The storms began on New Year’s Eve, when 72,000 Olympic-size swimming pools worth of rainwater poured onto the city, the heaviest downpour since records began in the 19th century. Although floodwaters are now diminishing, more heavy rainfall is expected in the coming weeks.
Members of XR Jakarta have been directly affected by the crisis. Many have friends and family living in the temporary refugee camps that now house the dispossessed. Others have volunteered to help in the aftermath. A group of doctor rebels are busy doing medical checkups on those in the camps.
When the situation settles down, XR Jakarta will be launching direct actions and organising a series of talks where experts can explicitly link the climate crisis to the floods. The majority of Indonesians don’t see a connection. One in five don’t believe in climate change at all. The current disaster has been exacerbated by a government unwilling to both face the scale of the climate crisis, and address the severe wealth inequality within Indonesian society.
Jakarta is home to ten million people, but it won’t be for much longer. The megacity is sinking, and so quickly that entire regions will be permanently submerged within a decade. This is partly because of rising sea levels from global overheating and partly because of a lack of public infrastructure. Piped water is only available to a small elite, so most people drink and bathe in water pumped from aquifers deep under the city. As the groundwater disappears, the land above rapidly subsides.
On top of this, extractive industries in Indonesia are given free rein. Environmental safeguards are not enforced, and the government is wedded to coal-generated electricity for the next decade. Consequently, Jakarta suffers terrible air pollution, and its rivers are clogged with around 20 tons of trash per day. The city also boasts the biggest uncovered landfill in Southeast Asia.
During October Rebellion, dozens of members of XR Jakarta marched through the city centre , demanding the government call a climate emergency and totally reform its environmental policy. They were ignored – with one official stating “we are in a climate crisis when we reach dreadful and unlivable conditions.”
The government’s solution to the recent flooding has been to use weather modification technology. Its air force has been seeding clouds with salt to stop them unleashing more rain. As for the long-term problem of Jakarta sinking, the government recently announced that it will be moving the capital city to the island of Borneo, hundreds of miles away, by 2023. Reluctant to acknowledge the climate crisis, the official reason for the move is overcrowding.
And despite Indonesia having a wealth of coastal mangroves to absorb carbon and stem the flooding, the government is allowing them to be razed for palm oil production.
Sadness and Solidarity for Australia Bushfires
10 – 16 JAN | Multiple
Our world is on fire. The Australian heartland burns like never before. According to the Annual Climate Statement 2019– from the Australia Bureau of Meteorology, this has been the hottest year on record. With temperatures roughly 1.52 °C above average and rainfall down as much as %40, this is 11.7% below previous driest year. High winds have exacerbated the progress of the inferno. This, undeniably, is the climate crisis in action.
28 people have died, including one from the effects of air pollution caused by the smoke. Thousands of homes and hundreds of thousands of hectares have been burned to the ground. To some, the biggest catastrophe is the loss of flora and fauna, with an estimated one billion animals dead, many of which are on the extinction list.
The tragedy and severity of these fires can hardly be put into words. In Sydney, tens of thousands marched through the streets demanding change to Australia’s climate policy.
Across the world, rebels have come together to share their sadness and show solidarity with acts of protest and performance. Over 30 countries have now signed up to the #BushfireRebellion, with dozens of actions taking place on the 10th of Jan, and a massive turnout in London to demonstrate outside the Australia High Commission. The next round of protest is due on the 16th of Jan. Find your local branch and join us in fighting fire with love and rage.
Landmark Legal Ruling: Governments Must Act Now
20 DEC | The Hague, The Netherlands
On December 20th the Dutch Supreme Court chose to uphold two lower court rulings legally obliging the Dutch government to take action to protect its citizens from climate change. The ruling will reverberate around the world as the case – the first of its kind – has since inspired others, some of which are still progressing through their countries’ legal systems, including one in the US.
The Urgenda Foundation, a Dutch climate solutions NGO, gathered 886 ordinary Dutch citizen co-plaintiffs and issued their first summons in 2013. In 2015 a district court ruled that the Dutch government was obliged under civil law to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by between 25 and 40% by 2020, due to numerous documents it had signed to that effect at international meetings. The government appealed, but in 2018 the appeals court not only upheld the decision, it ruled the government is also obliged under the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR), to protect its citizens from harm due to dangerous climate change.
The government appealed again, taking the case to the Supreme Court of the Netherlands in The Hague. This latest ruling is the end of the road and means the Dutch government must reduce emissions by at least 25% compared with 1990 levels, by the end of 2020. The win is hugely significant, as it signals the legal arguments used are sound, and 47 states are bound by the ECHR.
The Dutch government did little to try to meet the 2020 target until the 2018 appeals ruling. It has since begun closing one of the country’s five coal power plants and launched new subsidies for renewables and energy-saving measures. Emissions have so far only fallen 15% from 1990 levels, leaving a big gap, but Urgenda has published a plan, in collaboration with over 700 other organizations, setting out 50 measures the government can take to meet its legal obligations to protect its citizens from the climate crisis.
These cases, and others against corporations and investors, “are creating a burgeoning toolkit of environmental jurisprudence,” said Urgenda co-founder, Marjan Minnesma, writing in Nature last month. “Together, these serve notice on contributors to the world’s still-growing emissions that their inaction is no longer defensible.”
Russian Rebels – Detained But Not Deterred
20 DEC – 11 JAN | Moscow, Russia
Back in November 2019, we reported on Russia Fridays For Future (FFF) activist Arshak Makichyan. The 25-year old violinist was facing jail time for organizing an unauthorised three-person strike in Moscow on 25thOctober 2019.
Despite an international surge of support for the activist and numerous solidarity actions, on 20th December Arshak was sentenced to six days in prison – “a disproportionately severe punishment and one of the harshest crackdowns on student campaigners anywhere in the world.”
For 350.org’s managing director in Eastern Europe, the Caucasus and Central Asia, this punishment was nothing less than a deliberate act of intimidation towards all climate activists across the world.
Now released, Arshak admits he is feeling quite vulnerable after his time in jail but is grateful for the outpouring of support. He comments “Some activists may feel discouraged…but we are in a climate emergency and we don’t have time to be discouraged…Personally, I don’t know what will happen next, but I know that I’m going to continue striking every week.”
The two other activists arrested alongside Arshak on 25th October, Konstantin Fokin and Liubov Samylova, concur: while they have yet to be sentenced, they are already back on the streets, protesting.
Seasoned activist and XR supporter Konstantin comments: “If you know your rights and, even more importantly, you know why you are doing what you are doing – then you just live with that, it becomes part of the process.”
Konstantin in solo XR protest, Moscow, 26th December
Konstantin was arrested once again on 26th December for an XR protest which also sought to remind the government of Article 31 of the Russian constitution: “Citizens of the Russian Federation shall have the right to gather peacefully, without weapons, and to hold meetings, rallies, demonstrations, marches and pickets.”
The third arrestee for the protest on 25th October, FFF activist Liubov, described the experience of arrest as ‘strange’ and ‘awkward’, particularly for a 15-minute action. She too appears undeterred however, and on 5th January, was once again holding a solo picket.
The three activists emphasise that international support and solidarity are important to them and the many other activists in Russia; as is action in rebels’ own countries. Crucially, as Arshak finally reminds us, action is needed from everyone: “Please don’t look for heroes” he says, “we need everyone to act, a few people cannot save the future.”
Tour de Rebel
Ongoing | Europe
Get involved with a mass cycle ride through Europe, which is happening right now! Extinction Rebellion and Animal Rebellion members are cycling to spread the message in their epic journey. They plan to keep cycling all the way to Glasgow, Scotland, to attend the COP26, the next UN climate change summit in November 2020.
One rebel rider, Jacob, says ‘We have a vision that one day thousands of people will be cycling together through Europe to make others aware of the climate crisis.’
The rebels have three aims: 1. Educate: events and talks are given in different towns along the route. 2. Build connections and help the movement grow. 3. (remembering the importance of regen) Adventure – making memories and friends along the way!
And email: email@example.com
This week featuring actions of solidarity from all around the world to bring awareness to the #bushfireRebellion!
Colombo, Sri Lanka – in front of the Australian High Commission to demand climate action, part of an international #bushfirerebellion in solidarity with Australia.
Tokyo, Japan – rebels outside the Australian Embassy demand climate action and an end to coal mining #bushfirerebellion
Argentina show sadness and compassion on 10th of Jan for #bushfirerebellion
See full XR Unchained here.
History Corner: Oil Wells in the Niger Delta and those who Oppose them.
From 1956 to Today | Nigeria
Today on History Corner we bring a story of oil wells drilled in the Niger Delta, the lessons and struggles of those protesting against them. From the ‘Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People’ who successfully drove Shell out of their lands in 1993, to the ‘Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta’ who sadly resorted to violence in the quest for economic justice.
Read in full here.
‘Largest strike in history’ totally ignored by western media. Estimated 200-250 million participate in protest against the Indian government. Arundhati Roy provides some background context.
Humans of XR
Emma and Isla at COP25
‘The reason that I stopped doing activism was that I was worried about the police with Isla. So it was really refreshing to realize there were loads of families and kids around and maybe she is going to be safe.
I’ve got a bit braver every time, and now she’s involved in all kinds of actions with me; there’s always someone there who will take Isla and keep her safe, or will allow me passage to get out – I’ve found that people have almost created a family.
Isla seems to be this little ball of energy who goes around and injects regen into everybody. I think it’s actually one of the best things I’ve done for her, and it’s been really fundamental to her development.
There are things that I’ve witnessed in my life that my daughter is never going to see or understand. One day I’m going to have to turn around to her and say ‘there used to be an Amazon rainforest’, ‘there used to be all these kinds of animals’, and it’s terrifying.
I’m angry because no one is doing anything. It just seems like everyone is saying ‘yes there is a massive problem’ but people have too much money invested in things that are destroying the planet. They’re not willing to sacrifice anything to fix it.’
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Thank you for reading. There’s so much exciting stuff going on in the movement that we barely have time to write this sign-off. Keep up the good work! If you have any questions or queries, please get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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