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Direct Action for Climate Justice: Confronting False Solutions to Climate Change

by Anne Petermann,  Executive Director, Global Justice Ecology Project

23 August, 2012, Source: Daily Kos

Over August 9-12, fifty participants and trainers gathered in Vermont’s Northeast Kingdom for a Climate Justice Direct Action Training Camp.  The camp, organized by Red Clover Climate Justice and co-sponsored by Global Justice Ecology Project provided essential direct action skills including formation of affinity groups, blockading tactics, legal rights as a protester, a history of non-violent civil disobedience, strategic planning for direct action, and the nuts and bolts of media work to ensure actions and their messages are seen as widely as possible.

Climate justice involves taking real and just action to address the root causes of the climate crisis, and transforming the system that is driving it. Direct action has a rich history of achieving the unthinkable, of changing “the impossible.” It is defined as action to directly shut down the point of production.  In the case of climate change, it would be action to shut down the point of destruction.  With the climate crisis worsening exponentially with every passing day, shutting down the point of destruction is critical.

It was with this in mind that the direct action training camp was organized.  Coincidentally, it came just two weeks after the 36th Conference of New England Governors and Eastern Canadian Premiers in Burlington, Vermont.  A major focus of that conference was energy.  Vermont, which has an image of pristine greenness, relies on dangerous and dirty energy sources.  This includes its aging Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant; hydroelectricity from massive dams on Indigenous Peoples’ lands in northern Quebec; and large-scale biomass electricity, which dumps more pollution into the air than coal.

Although these various mega-projects do not rely on fossil fuels as the main source of their energy, they are still “false solutions.”  They cause vast ecological and social destruction and can worsen the climate crisis.  Their primary function, in fact, has nothing to do with the climate.  It is to maintain business as usual.  While the climate crisis demands a radical re-think of how we live on and with the Earth, a fundamental changing of the system, “false solutions” are specifically designed to prevent real change.  They enable the Global Elite–“the 1%” –to maintain their power and profits in the face of mounting social and ecological crises.

Activists disrupt the Northeast Governors’ Conference cruise in protest of Hydro-Quebec.  Photo: Will Bennington

Hydro-Quebec plans to build a series of new mega-dams on First Nations land in northern Quebec. They will drown forests, pollute fresh water, and displace villages and release huge amounts of methane–a greenhouse gas 35 times more potent than CO2.
In response, a delegation of Innu people came to the Governors’ Conference to raise awareness about and protest these new mega-dams. When the Innu delegation tried to enter the Governors’ Conference to speak with the decision-makers, however, they were refused entry.

The Governors’ Conference was emblematic of the unjust system that must be changed if we are to successfully address the climate crisis.  A group of privileged white males sat down to make decisions that would irrevocably impact the lives of First Nations peoples in Canada, as well as rural communities throughout the region.
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Filed under Actions / Protest, Climate Change, Climate Justice, Ending the Era of Extreme Energy, Energy, Events, False Solutions to Climate Change, Indigenous Peoples, Land Grabs, Political Repression, Pollution, Rights, Resilience, and Restoration, Solutions, UNFCCC