Climate activist Roger Hallam sought to shut down Heathrow Airport on Friday
Heathrow Pause activists with the drones they plan to fly. Reuters
A co-founder of the Extinction Rebellion activist group has been arrested a day before he planned to shut down London’s Heathrow Airport.
Roger Hallam and another four people were arrested on suspicion of conspiracy to commit a public nuisance. Climate change activists intend to ground flights at Heathrow on Friday morning by flying toy drones in its exclusion area, in protest at global warming and plans to build a third runway at the airport.
Roger Hallam, Co-Founder of Extinction Rebellion, was just arrested in front of my eyes. From what I understand because of the planned „Heathrow Pause“-Action. More soon @SPIEGELONLINE@extinctionr
“Our policing plan is aimed at preventing criminal activity which poses a significant safety and security risk to the airport, and the thousands of passengers that will be using it,” said Laurence Taylor of London’s Metropolitan Police.
Police had already warned the Heathrow Pause, a group of individual activists with close links to Extinction Rebellion, they faced arrest if they went ahead with their plans.
“In these circumstances, we believe these arrests to be a proportionate response to preventing criminal activity that could significantly impact on a major piece of national infrastructure,” said Mr Taylor, a Deputy Assistant Commissioner.
“We remain fully prepared for the planned protest tomorrow, and will work quickly to identify criminal activity and arrest anyone committing offences.”
Members of the Pause had already said they expected to be detained but would continue with their plans regardless. It is unclear how many of them are. MORE
Extinction Rebellion is calling for the approach that ended Ireland’s abortion deadlock to be used in the UK
‘Extinction Rebellion is merely asking that the government agrees to establish a citizens’ assembly and give it the task of bringing forward proposals.’ Photograph: James Liu/Guardian Community
The climate crisis demands an urgent, realistic and sustained response from governments around the world: such a response will inevitably require sacrifices from all of us. And there lies the rub for our systems of representative democracy.
How can politicians facing short-term constraints (particularly the need to be re-elected every few years) be expected to take the necessary decisions that require long-term and, probably, quite painful change on the part of the citizens who get to vote for them?
This is where a citizens’ assembly could help, as the experience in Ireland shows. The country’s ban on abortion was an intractable problem that generation after generation of political leaders had failed to resolve. In 2016, under intense domestic and international pressure, the Irish government established a citizens’ assembly and tasked it with coming up with recommendations. It met over the course of five long weekends spread across five months. The 99 citizen members heard from expert witnesses, advocates and women who had been affected by Ireland’s abortion ban. In carefully facilitated roundtable discussions the members deliberated on the subject, producing a series of recommendations that were then sent back to parliament. A special all-party committee of parliament spent a number of months debating the recommendations. The result of this was the decision to have a referendum, which passed by a two-thirds majority in the summer of 2018.
In Britain, the Extinction Rebellion group believes that a citizens’ assembly could play a similarly important role in addressing the climate emergency. At the heart of a citizens’ assembly is random selection: in much the same way as for jury duty, regular citizens are selected at random. They have not run for office; they are not there to represent special interests. The citizen members are there to represent themselves, and thereby the greater population, of which they are a representative sample.
This is bringing “disorganised society” into the room – giving regular citizens a voice in helping to drive debates on important public policy. These citizens, in turn, are put in the special position of informing and educating the political classes – helping our political leaders to work through the complexities of a difficult issue; informing them of aspects they might not have considered before; giving them a sense of where citizens might be prepared to go; even providing some degree of political cover.
What is laudable about the Extinction Rebellion agenda is that the activists are not pushing for particular policy decisions on the climate emergency: they are merely asking that their government agrees to establish a citizens’ assembly and give it the task of bringing forward proposals. MORE
Amid mass die-ins, no-fly movements and Greta Thunberg sailing the climate emergency message across the Atlantic, there’s one route for tackling climate change we haven’t pursued, writes Jane Fae: through the courts
An iceberg floats by in Greenland, where the rate of glacier retreat has accelerated over the past several decades ( Getty )
When we think about climate change, the headlines are all about the damage hurtling down the track towards us: the consequences and, sometimes, the difficulties of putting a solution in place. Technical difficulties. Financial difficulties. Political difficulties.
We treat these last as though they are as much a fact of nature as the damage wrought by a warming climate. Increasingly, though, serious jurists and campaigners are beginning to ask whether those who stand in the way of reform, of repairing our climate, should be considered culpable for their actions – and criminally culpable at that.
In short, is the time coming for coordinated international action against those who, for all sorts of reasons, do not just stand in the way of measures to mitigate damage, but actively promote damaging policies? How should we treat those who benefit the climate apathy of their leaders while simultaneously decrying the systems that keep returning them to power?
“Not OUR fault!” proclaim some of the nicest of nice people – ourselves included. But, as Extinction Rebellion and David Attenborough tell us, this is an emergency, so aren’t legal repercussions inevitable?
Is it so eccentric or extreme? From where we stand today, perhaps. From banning smoking in public to exiting the EU without a deal, how quickly yesterday’s outlandish becomes the commonplace of today.
Meanwhile, the Association of Small Island States pluckily stood firm against global incompetence. They highlighted that those who refused to adhere to calls for action benefited the most from climate degradation, while many small island states face near-certain destruction.
Still, this can feel a bit detached from everyday reality: a theoretical future most of us won’t be around for, discussed in technocratic terms by academics and experts. A mere decade ago, concerns fell on deaf ears. (Now, Extinction Rebellion could not be more loud and clear.)
Back then the issues were too big, too frightening. The detail just too much for ordinary people – and many politicians – to grasp. Sure, the forecasts were clear enough. If we continue to pump greenhouse gases (GHG) into the atmosphere, humanity faces a series of disasters of ever-more-biblical proportions, from fire, floods and droughts to the ultimate rendering uninhabitable of large portions of the planet. We needed mitigation to address the causes of climate change (reduce emissions and remove them from the atmosphere) as well as adaptation to address the impacts of change.
...One significant intervention in this area comes from Netherlands-based Stop Ecocide, a law-based group working to make ecocide a crime under international law.
In the end, though, the letter of the law may count for less than the mood of the people. If Britain – or any other nation or organisation – were to invade another country and evict the local population, that would be an act of war, whether it was treated as one by international courts or not.
How culpable are they? Does it matter whether this is ignorance or greed? Perhaps we do need to start being beastly to those being beastly to the planet. Americans, Brazilians… and maybe, before we get too smug, some Brits as well. MORE
“state-sanctioned human rights abuses and ecocide”
An activist splashes red paint over the embassy’s facade during Extinction Rebellion climate change protest in front of Brazilian Embassy in London
LONDON (Reuters) – Climate-change protesters threw red paint at the Brazilian embassy in London on Tuesday to demonstrate against damage to the Amazon rainforest and what they described as violence against indigenous tribes living there.
Police arrested six activists from the Extinction Rebellion group after they glued themselves to the embassy windows and climbed onto a glass awning above the entrance.
The protesters had splattered red paint and sprayed red handprints over the facade, along with slogans such as “No More Indigenous Blood” and “For The Wild”.
Extinction Rebellion, which disrupted traffic in central London for several weeks earlier this year, said Tuesday’s protest aimed to challenge the Brazilian government over “state-sanctioned human rights abuses and ecocide”.
Brazil contains about 60 percent of the Amazon rainforest, a bulwark against global warming thanks to the vast amounts of carbon dioxide it soaks up and recycles into oxygen.
Far-right President Jair Bolsonaro, who took office in January, has long been sceptical about environmental concerns. He argues that the Amazon is a resource that belongs to Brazil and should be economically developed. He also criticizes the existence of protected lands.
Critics say his rhetoric has emboldened loggers, ranchers and informal miners, resulting in a dramatic acceleration of deforestation and in violence against the rainforest’s indigenous inhabitants.
Last week, data from Brazil’s own space research agency showed that deforestation on Brazilian territory had jumped around 67 percent in the first seven months of the year. Bolsonaro has rejected the agency’s data and fired its chief. MORE
This Extinction Rebellion banner recently hung from an overpass in Wellington, New Zealand. HEAPSRICH
On Thursday (August 8) evening, Vancouver members of the Extinction Rebellion will gather at St. James Community Square (3214 West 10th Avenue) to discuss the latest climate science and discuss solutions.
For those unaware of the Extinction Rebellion, it’s a nonviolent, radical, and loosely affiliated international group of climate-justice advocates who disrupt everyday activities with direct action to draw attention to the crisis. The local chapter held its first gathering late last year.
Its demands are three-pronged:
1. Governments must tell the truth by declaring a climate and ecological emergency, working with other institutions [including the media] to communicate the urgency for change.
2. Governments must act now to halt biodiversity loss and reduce greenhouse gas emissions to net zero by 2025.
3. Government must create and be led by the decisions of a Citizens’ Assembly on climate and ecological justice.
A number of them are coming up soon: the Abbotsford International Airshow August 9 to 11; the Canadian International Air Show in Toronto August 31 to September 2; the Aero Gatineau-Ottawa Air Show September 6 to 8; and the Peterborough Air Show September 21 to 22.
All of them feature military aircraft.
Notably, the CBC reports, “The U.S. Air Force F-35 demonstration team will visit Ottawa in September on the eve of this fall’s federal election — just as the competition to replace Canada’s aging CF-18s starts heating up.”
“The stealth fighter is one of four warplanes in the $19-billion contest, which was formally launched with a request for proposals by the Liberal government on July 23,” the article adds.
The $19 billion that is to be spent on 88 jet fighters that burn copious amounts of fuel each second they are in flight is another waste of billions of dollars on top of the $4.5 billion spent on purchasing the Trans Mountain tar sands pipeline (and the billions more it will take to expand that pipeline).
The U.K.-based Campaign Against Arms Trade has an “arms to renewables” campaign that says money now spent on subsidizing the arms industry would be better spent on renewables and that in turn would be better for workers, the economy and world peace.
And Phyllis Bennis, a fellow at the Washington, D.C.-based Institute for Policy Studies, has argued that a Green New Deal needs to fight U.S. militarism. She cautions, “Wars and the military render impossible the aspirations contained in the Green New Deal.”
People have protested against air shows as a symbol of militarism for years.
In September 2010, a Toronto Star headline read: Protesters want “outdated” air show grounded. That article noted the critique of the “antiquated event” highlighted that the air show “pollutes the environment, disturbs residents and promotes symbols of militarism.”
In a 2016 opinion piece in the same newspaper, Craig Damian Smith commented, “in a city with a large population of refugee newcomers and people who have experienced the trauma of war it is insulting, invasive, and violent.”
“In Toronto, people affected by war are not an insignificant minority. This includes newcomers who aren’t refugees, Canadians, and family members struggling with inter-generational trauma,” he wrote.
It is my hope that Extinction Rebellion, Our Time, Fridays for Future and other climate justice groups will also see the need to challenge air shows as relics that serve to promote the militarism that accelerates climate breakdown and misdirects public funds away from the priority of building a green economy. MORE
A new approach must connect the climate crisis with inequality to offer a compelling and attractive way forward for society
‘Tackling the climate crisis offers a profound opportunity to create better lives for people.’ Dunlaw wind farm in the Scottish Borders. Photograph: Murdo Macleod/The Guardian
Let’s talk about the dream, not just the nightmare. Imagine the cities and towns of the future: clean, green, with decent air quality, hospitable to walking and cycling, powered by renewables, with green space, not concrete jungles, and rewarding jobs in green industries. That isn’t just a conceit for the imagination but a tangible vision of the future produced today by Common Wealth, the thinktank of which I am a board member.
Tackling the climate and ecological crisis requires urgently reimagining how we live and work. A Green New Deal – conceived of in the UK, popularised by US congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and now powered by social movements here – should not just decarbonise today’s economy but build the sustainable and just economy of tomorrow. That’s why imagining a town transformed by a just transition to a low-carbon future isn’t just a nice piece of design, it is an essential symbol of where the climate movement now needs to take its case. That movement has an unprecedented chance to be heard as a result of the spectacular success of Extinction Rebellion and the school climate strikes in refocusing public attention on the urgency of action. But now, with people listening once again, our duty is to offer a compelling and attractive vision of the future.
For far too long, progressives – myself included – have talked about the climate emergency and economic justice separately
The way we do this is by connecting the two great long-term crises that confront us today: the climate emergency and inequality. This is how we construct a broad and durable coalition that can sustain this unprecedented transformation. As well as truth-telling about the disaster that will confront us if we do not act, with the costs falling on those least responsible, ours must be a story of how we build a more equal, prosperous, democratic society. MORE
EXTINCTION REBELLION has lashed out at the government over its slow response to their climate change protests, warning: “They’re simply not enough – we’re running out of time!”
For the past eight months, the climate change group has been protesting for Westminster to declare a climate and ecological emergency and to commit to reducing emissions down to net zero by 2025. Since taking its first public action on October 31, 2018, Extinction Rebellion has grown into a global movement with more than 360 groups across 59 countries. The group has significantly ramped up its demonstrations this year, with more than 1,000 protesters arrested at five sites across the capital in April, some of which bought public transport to a complete standstill.
The Metropolitan Police was left overstretched by the chaos, which cost the force around £16million.
But speaking to Express.co.uk, Extinction Rebellion member Zion Lights said although their message is partially getting through to the Government, there hasn’t been a quick enough response and soon it will be too late.
Climate change news: Extinction Rebellion have launched mass protests across the UK (Image: REUTERS)
The statements and promises from the Government are simply not enough and we are running out of time.— Zion Lights
The group member said: “It’s a slow process, but I think we’ve at least raised the alarm along with the school strikers.
“Although Parliament declared a climate emergency, the government is continuing with business as usual. We need to start paying attention to what scientists have been telling us for decades, and start acting on these recommendations now. The longer we wait to take drastic action the greater the risk that we trigger irreversible feedback loops and start down a road of runaway warming.” SOURCE
This summer, I had the opportunity to participate in an Extinction Rebellion (XR) march from Hackney Downs to London Fields in east London, as well as to visit the tomb of Karl Marx in Highgate Cemetery in north London.
A little compare and contrast reflection is bound to happen.
First of all, I’m looking forward to seeing what happens with the disruption XR is planning in London and other cities around the world this coming October 7 to 19.
It reportedly will be larger in scale than the disruption that took place this past April. That’s when about 10,000 people occupied four sites (including Parliament Square and Piccadilly Circus) in London for 11 days resulting in more than 1,150 arrests.
XR Berlin says, “Politics and conventional approaches to political engagement such as voting, lobbying, petitions and demonstrations fail to address this crisis. History shows us a promising, democratic means to bring about social change: nonviolent, civil disobedience.”
That’s a refreshing departure from the traditional NGO approach of campaigns based on symbolic protests and e-petitions targeted at indifferent politicians.
But our struggle needs to go further than that.
Last December, XR activists Cameron Joshi and Boden Franklin wrote, “So far, the [Extinction Rebellion] movement hasn’t focused on neo-colonialism and capitalism as the engines of climate breakdown, and it has actively chosen to disassociate from Leftist thought.”
They highlighted, “Anti-capitalism, decolonization and anti-oppression work cannot be an afterthought — shoved into a five-minute window between speeches or tucked away at the end of an action.”
And then this past May, The Wretched of the Earth wrote in an open letter, “We commend the energy and enthusiasm XR has brought to the environmental movement, and it brings us hope to see so many people willing to take action.”
The grassroots collective continued, “The strategy of XR, with the primary tactic of being arrested, is a valid one — but it needs to be underlined by an ongoing analysis of privilege as well as the reality of police and state violence.”
It adds, “XR participants should be able to use their privilege to risk arrest, whilst at the same time highlighting the racialised nature of policing.”
The amount of friendly chatting between XR organizers and the police that I witnessed in east London suggests that analysis is still lacking.
The Wretched of the Earth letter then notes, “Though some of this analysis has started to happen, until it becomes central to XR’s organising it is not sufficient. To address climate change and its roots in inequity and domination, a diversity and plurality of tactics and communities will be needed to co-create the transformative change necessary.”
Protesters occupied Oxford Circus as part of Extinction Rebellion demonstrations. Getty Images
Earlier this week Extinction Rebellion parked a blue boat outside the Royal Courts of Justice in the Strand and occupied the busy London street with a sit-down protest, causing traffic jams and commuter chaos. It came at the start of a week of protest events around the country.
This is not the first time the non-violent environmental protest group have caused disruption in London. In April this year, they occupied Oxford Circus (where they parked a pink boat) and brought traffic on Waterloo Bridge to a standstill with 11 days of protests that the group described as the ‘biggest act of civil disobedience in recent British history’.
But while some protesters have been arrested for public order offences, the demonstration outside the High Court was not related to any of those cases. Instead, it was in memory of an environmental lawyer called Polly Higgins who died earlier this year, and (among other demands) to promote her proposal for a new international law criminalising ‘ecocide’.
What is ‘ecocide’?
According to the Stop Ecocide campaign, ‘Ecocide is serious loss, damage or destruction of ecosystems including climate and cultural damage. We believe ecocide should be recognised as an atrocity crime at the International Criminal Court – alongside Genocide, War Crimes and Crimes Against Humanity.’
A more legalistic definition of ecocide states that it involves ‘loss or damage to, or destruction of ecosystem(s) of a given territory(ies), such that peaceful enjoyment by the inhabitants has been or will be severely diminished.’ (‘Peaceful enjoyment’ in this context means ‘peace, health and cultural integrity’.)
That definition comes from the website Ecocide Law which further explains that ‘Despite the existence of many international agreements – codes of conduct, UN Resolutions, Treaties, Conventions, Protocols etc – the harm is escalating. Not one of these international agreements prohibits ecocide. The power of ecocide crime is that it creates a legal duty of care that holds persons of “superior responsibility” to account in a criminal court of law.’
They argue that if ecocide is established as an international crime, prosecutions could be brought by nations who are signatories to the Rome Statute, under which the International Criminal Court operates.
A model law
A model law has been drafted that would amend the Rome Statute to create a specific offence of ecocide. It would create ‘an international and transboundary duty of care’ both on governments or relevant ministers and businesses who exercise rights over a given territory to ‘ensure ecocide does not occur’.
The statute currently recognises four core international crimes: genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes, and (since 2010) the crime of aggression. The ICC can only investigate and prosecute those crimes in situations where states are unable or unwilling to do so themselves.
Any signatory to the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court can propose an amendment, but such an amendment requires the support of a two-thirds majority of the states parties, and will not enter into force until it has been ratified by seven-eighths of the states parties. This process is likely to take some time, even if a state party takes the first step of proposing the necessary amendment. However, it has been done before, by the addition of the crime of aggression in 2010. So it is certainly not impossible.
Can it work?
Although it may sound unfamiliar, the concept of ecocide is not new. Use of the term goes back half a century, to the early 1970s when the use of chemical defoliants such as Agent Orange during the Vietnam War were condemned by environmentalists as a form of ecocide. It appears to have been included in the early versions of the Draft Code of Crimes Against the Peace and Security of Mankind (as the Rome Statute was initially known), but was dropped by the time it had been formalised and signed as the Rome Statute of the International Court in 1998.
Polly Higgins proposed adding it back in to the Statute at the United Nations in 2010 and continued to campaign for such an amendment, most recently at the Hague Talks to mark the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in December 2018. But it is clear that such amendment could be a long and drawn out process and, even if successful, it could be many years before any prosecutions were concluded.
How effective would such a remedy be as a deterrent to environmental destruction which, by its nature, needs both urgent and concerted international action. Is transnational criminal law really the best instrument to use? MORE