Activism: It’s better than dying. – Sinan Eden

§0. When I talk about climate change, many people ask me: “But what can I do in my daily life?” My answer is: become a political activist in your daily life. Organize collective action against climate criminals. This is not only more fun, it is also more effective. And by more effective, I mean by faaaaar more effective.

What happened in May 2016?

§1. In May 2016, a series of mass actions against the fossil fuel industry took place around the world under the umbrella slogan Break Free from Fossil Fuels. In six continents, more than 30 000 activists participated in 20 actions of civil disobedience in key spots, blocking mines, ports, coal plants, fracking sites and many more.

One highlight action was in Germany: Ende Gelände in Lusatia.

I don’t think people understand what that action means for consumer-based individualist proposals.

§2. Here is the fact: In Lusatia, 3500 activists from all around Europe blocked one of the biggest coal mines in Europe for several days, physically obstructing 24 547 tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions.13244715_1742022822686472_3530679302855493306_n

This is around 7 tonnes per person.

§3. Put this into perspective: The average annual greenhouse gas emissions in Germany are around 12 tonnes per capita. In a whole year, an average German person emits the equivalent to 12 tonnes of CO2. (Because we also emit methane, nitrous oxide etc, we use equivalents in terms of global warming potential.) This number would of course be much less if one doesn’t have a car, uses bicycles, eats vegetarian or vegan food, repairs her/his clothes instead of buying new ones, buys local etc.

In Portugal, that value is 7 tonnes.

So, you live in Portugal. Let’s say you are an average person. You have three ecologically sound options:

A) You can consume less.

§4. The sustainable levels for emissions worldwide is 2 tonnes per person, annually. So if you are average, you must cut every five items out of seven you have been consuming, be it food, transport, heating, laptops, housing or any other item.2c5d48a662202d567fa2581755a34053

§5. If you are a Franciscan ecologist, maybe you i) share your house with three people, ii) never use heating, iii) use electricity only for basic needs, iv) never travel between cities, v) use public transport and only for going to work, vi) never eat meat, vii) only eat local and seasonal food, viii) buy new clothes only when it is absolutely necessary, ix) avoid packaging, and x) go to cinema very rarely. Then, your emissions would be 3.4 tonnes per year. [1]

So you can only cut by half because the socio-economic system has embedded emissions over which you don’t have a choice as a consumer.

But the sustainable levels are 2 tonnes! Hence the second option:

B) You can commit suicide.

§6. This would put your emissions to zero.

§7. But world emissions would continue. So when you commit suicide and you meet your ecological god, he or she or it or they would send you to ecological hell (to be burned as zero-emission bio-fuel for heating the ecological paradise) because you didn’t convince other people to commit suicide with you.

Portugal needs to cut domestic emissions by 57% in 15 years. So you would have to convince more than half of the population to massive collective suicide in 15 years. If this sounds unreasonable, go to the next option:

C) You can participate in direct actions.

§8. You can spend only three days in a year for escalated action against the fossil fuel industry. If you are an average Portuguese person and you participated in Ende Gelände, your annual emissions this year are: ZERO!

If you have been careful with your lifestyle choices too, maybe you had negative emissions!13239881_1628109127513542_4669764780033591569_n

§9. By the way, if you liked the spirit of being on the right side of history, if the feelings of solidarity and unity made you happier, then you can do more than one action – maybe in smaller scales.

What it all means

§10. Of course, this is not to underestimate the efforts involved in organizing, preparing and spreading an action of this kind. Many buses arrived to Lusatia from almost all Europe. There were trainings. There was an action camp. There was a hell lot of kitchen work for legal and medical support. You can help in all these so that next time we come together, we are bigger, stronger, bolder. And all kinds of support are needed, not only in Germany but also in other campaigns that participated in Break Free. A 3-day action doesn’t just happen, it involves hundreds of people preparing it for months.

§11. This is also not to overestimate single acts. Break Free actions were part of larger local campaigns that use various tactics to stop these polluting projects, from direct communication to public information events, from street stands to creative actions. You can help with all these, and who knows maybe with such diverse campaigns we could even bankrupt the largest private-owned coal company. Wait, that already happened last April! Anyway, the biggest corporations in the world still work in the fossil fuel industry, and we still have a long way to go.breakfree_0

§12. Also, climate justice is not only about emission cuts. It’s also about housing, racism, food sovereignty, corporate power-ups such as free trade agreements, and maybe most importantly it’s about peace. I am sure you can find what annoys you the most, and take action in that area. All of these struggles add up for climate justice.

§13. All I’m saying is this:

From a conformist perspective; if you want to restrict your political understanding to your individual sphere, you have little chance of becoming sustainable even if you try hard every single day; if you cannot be bothered to act, get your ass off the sofa for a few days a year for civil disobedience, and you’ll make a big difference.

From a non-conformist perspective, all actions are welcome, but be sure to prioritize collective political action over individualist frames because they are by faaaaaar more effective.

§14. There is at least one group in Lisbon keen on following the effective path to climate justice. (Hint hint! Its first letter is C. Also, it is not the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation.)

Join in, give a hand to existing projects, bring new ideas, be part of this historical opportunity to change everything, before climate does so.

***

[1] There are many ways of calculating your carbon footprint. I use http://www.carbonfootprint.com/ but you can duck-duck-go another online calculator if you’d like to verify these numbers.

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A huge case study of resistances and victories: Turkey – Sinan Eden

“How can you fight against state authority?” says one. “They already started the construction, they will finish it no matter what.” says another. From Istanbul to Lisbon, millions feel desperate and impotent in the face of the great alliance of governments and multinational corporations for the destruction of the ecosystems.

But there is another story being told, also by millions of people around the world. A story of resistance, revolt and hope. Told by peasants and villagers confronting soldiers in Anatolia, and by the youth inside the teargas cloud in Gezi. They are stories that go against “You cannot stop them, you are wasting your time”s, that prove wrong all varieties of “There is no alternative”…

So what, if the men in suits have all the paperwork done? So what, if they started the construction? Maybe years later we will refer to those projects as “the half-drilled well” or “the unfinished shopping mall”, who knows…

victories article map

Northern Forests Defence in Istanbul made a compilation of recent victories against mega-projects. (http://nefesol.kuzeyormanlari.org/nerelerde-kazandik.html) These are only some of the thousands of stories, a small but inspiring subset of environmental justice struggles (more can be found here: http://ejatlas.org/ ).

#1. Loç valley, Hydro-electric plantloc4

Loç resistance started in 2009 with the initiative of only two people, and mobilized all the locals against the hydro-electric plant construction. Following several mass protests, when bulldozers entered the valley, the locals organized several actions including the occupation of the the construction zone and a one month long vigil in front of the contract-holder Or-Ya energy company, after which the court decided to suspend the construction. In 2009 the court stopped the execution of the project. While the legal process (due to claims of the company) is still ongoing, the people of the Loç valley haven’t let the company in their lands for six years.

(more: Loç Vadisi Koruma Platformu, http://www.locvadi.com )

#2. Gerze, Coal power plantgerze2

In 2008, Anadolu Group got the license for a coal power in Gerze, Sinop, and the locals got organized to launch a legal and political resistance.

The peak moment of the struggle was on September 5th, 2011, when protesters of all ages and backgrounds confronted water cannons and teargas bombs. The brutal attack that injured more than 50 people sparked anger and unity, which gave rise to long-lasting action. In 2012 and 2013 the Environmental Impact Assessment Report was reviewed twice, but the Ministry of Energy declined in both cases on the grounds that the required changes were not done. The project was officially revoked in February 2015.

(more: Yeşil Gerze Çevre Platformu – YEGEP )

#3. Andon valley, Hydro-electric plantandon_yurttas_kazim

In this moving story, Kazım Delal took bank credits to pay for court expenses against Ambarlık hydro-electric plant project and, when the money was not enough, he sold his only cow for the cause. After the victory, he moved on to another hydro-electric plant project planned in the main fresh water resource of Rize.

Also known as “Citizen Kazım”, Kazım Delal started a years long struggle against destruction of ecosystems, faced several detentions and many trials. He became the symbol of determination and resistance in Turkey.

#4. Fındıklı, Hydro-electric plantFindikli3

The locals of Fındıklı have been successfully resisting against dams in their region for 8 years. With various actions including protests, debates, presentations and vigils, they mobilized virtually everyone and didn’t let a single step forward in the construction attempts.

(more: Fındıklı Derelerini Koruma Platformu)

#5. Hopa, Hydro-electric planthopa

The resistance against Güneşli dam in Hopa made it to the headlines when the company (Erva) wanted to organize a public information meeting (part of the Environmental Impact Assessment process), but company representatives couldn’t even enter the town due to public pressure from the locals. Following the mass protest in Hopa, many in Istanbul took to the streets in Taksim and occupied a textile shop belonging to Erva.

Soon after, the company announced it cancelled the project.

#6. Cerattepe, Gold and silver minecerattepe

The decades long resistance in Cerattepe, Artvin made two mining companies give up their projects: Cominco Madencilik transferred its license to Inmet Mining, which left the town in 2009. This is the only example in the world of a mining company abandoning a site.

Ignoring court orders, the ministry gave the license to yet another company in 2012 and the locals relaunched their campaign to defend the rich biodiversity of the region.

(more: Yeşil Artvin Derneği http://yesilartvindernegi.org/ )

#7. Tortum, Hydro-electric plantTortum4

The AKP government announced three hydro-electric plants on Katıklı river in Tortum, Erzurum. The locals blocked access to the construction site, confronted gendarmerie forces, faced massive detentions of hundreds of people. After a long Environmental Impact Assessment process and many lawsuits between the company and the locals, the project was cancelled.

#8. Munzur, Hydro-electric plants

The projects on the Munzur river, planned in 1983, included 4 dams and 6 hydro-electric plants. After decades of struggle (including camps and festivals in support of the resistance), the court ruled in 2010 that the conservation of the natural site had “high public interest”. In 2012 the Ministry of Environment and Forestry relaunched the projects that didn’t have Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) conflicts. The locals filed another lawsuit. In an exemplary case, the state council decided that natural reserves were not even subject to EIA process as their status already obstructed such construction works.

#9. Bakırtepe, Gold mineBakirtepe3

Locals occupied and blockaded the gold mine site in Bakırtepe where cyanide leaching methods would be used. The legal struggle started in 13 March 2013 when the government gave a license to the project. The locals won all the lawsuits so far. Even the objections from the ministry and the company were overruled. The expert opinion stated that the region was a worship zone and therefore part of cultural heritage. Bakırtepe will soon be listed as UNESCO heritage site as well.

(more: Bakırtepe Çevre Platformu https://www.facebook.com/bakirtepecevreplatform )

#10. Hevsel gardens, Diyarbakır, Natural reserve transformationHevsel

In February 2014, Dicle University administration ordered that 3000 trees in the Dicle valley and Hevsel gardens to be cut down. In response, students mobilized for a vigil in the site. On the 20th day of the vigil, the city governor announced that the cutting down was stopped and the area would be reforested.

Then on November 14th, 2014, the government changed the status of a large part of Hevsel gardens (7.5 million metre squares out of 8.6) to become construction site. Following the lawsuits filed by civil society organizations, the court canceled the status change in May 2015.

In July 2015, Hevsel gardens entered UNESCO’s World Heritage list.

#11. Boğazpınar village, Hydro-electric plantBogazpinar4

The resistance against a hydro-electric plant project on the main water source of two cities started in 2009. After several years in protest, the court overruled the Environmental Impact Assessment Report and stopped the execution.

During the resistance, the local football team would enter the field with a banner against the project. To avoid their appearance in the finals (where state officials would be present), the match schedules were modified so they would play against the toughest team. When that match went 0-0 until the last minutes and the referee letting the opposing team’s fouls go unnoticed, a verbal argument started in the field. Using this as a pretext, the police entered the field, attacked the players, and injured 4 people. It was of course the players who were punished after this incident, and not the police.

In another highlight story, the retired imam of the village prayed against hydro-plants in a protest, saying “O my allah, we are here to protect our river. Make us attain our goals, my god.”

The villagers are now expecting the cancellation of the project that was suspended by court order.

#12 Ahmetler village, Hydro-electric plantAhmetler7

The struggle against the hydro-electric plant in Ahmetler Canyon, a touristic site which also provides fresh water for 14 villages, started in 2013. In December 2009 the local government of Antalya decided that Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) was not needed to launch the project. The locals were informed about this decision only in 2012, much later than the 60-days legal reclamation period.

When the company staff came with construction trucks, the locals together with civil society organizations set up tents and started a permanent vigil, blocking the roads to the site. There were four reported cases of armed attacks to the villagers by the company employees, as well as police attacks with tear gas and batons.

In November 2014, court overruled the exemption from EIA, which makes it virtually impossible to continue the project.

#13 Phaselis ancient city, Dream of Phaselis hotel projectPhaselis

In 2010, the archaeological site of the ancient city Phaselis was leased for the construction the “Dream of Phaselis” hotel. The local youth got organized to spread awareness in the population and to mobilize against the project. Many local actions were accompanied by a petition with 95.000 signatures. The court first overruled the Environmental Impact Assessment exemption, and then canceled the licence.

(more: Phaselis inisiyatifi https://www.change.org/p/antalya-phaselis-antik-kentini-koru-dreamofphaselisehay%C4%B1r-save-phaselis-ancient-city-saynodreamofphaselis )

#14 İztuju beach, Privatization

The worldwide famous İztuzu beach, the spawning place for the Caretta Caretta sea turtles, was leased to a company for eight years, which received a strong protest from the locals. A vigil that lasted weeks led the court to stop the privatization in January 2015.

#15 Yuvarlakçay, Hydro-electric plantYuvarlakcay2_nobet

The Yuvarlakçay resistance against water commodification and ecological destruction continued for 11 months in 2010. It was also the first example in Turkey of a hydro-electric plant project cancelled due to local resistance.

#16 Yırca, Coal plant

It was March 2014 when the Energy Minister participated in the ground-breaking ceremony for a coal power plant in Yırca. In early 2015, the locals launched a campaign against the project. The security staff of the company attacked the villagers by spiked clubs. One night, the company cut down 6000 olive trees in the region and caused national anger. With massive support from all around Turkey, the resistance grew and on April 2015 a court order cancelled the project. To celebrate, the villagers organized a plantation feast in May.

#17 Gezi park, Urban transformationtaksim liberated

In the internationally famous Gezi uprising in June 2013, millions took to the streets initially against the destruction of a public park for a shopping mall project. While in some aspects more visible in Gezi than in other local struggles (and in some aspects less visible), all these resistances ended up deconstructing the growth-über-alles narrative of the state and the there-is-no-alternative narrative within the society.

Gezi is still a park and still belongs to the people.