Editor’s Note: With the ineffectiveness of the current environmental movement becoming more and more apparent, people are turning to other means to save the natural world. DGR believes in the use of any technique to save the natural world. However, we also believe that caution should be expanded towards the so called “renewable” energy as well. Also care should be taken in what actions would happen in declaring a climate emergency.
By Chuck Collins/Common Dreams
The 1960s folk singer Malvina Reynolds wrote a song: “It Isn’t Nice,” singing, “It isn’t nice to block the doorway. It isn’t nice to go to jail. There are nicer ways to do it. But the nice ways always fail.”
Keep Malvina in mind as you read about the climate protests next week and in the days to come, including Climate Defiance blocking the doors to Citigroup because of their financing of new oil and gas projects. Prepare to witness a militant escalation of tactics aimed at the fossil fuel industry and their role in delaying society’s response to climate change.
After a summer of floods, fires, droughts, record heat, and weather disruption, we are clearly moving into the “new abnormal,” fueled by increased greenhouse gas emissions.
Yet even President Biden can’t seem to mouth the words “climate emergency.” As part of the June budget deficit deal, Biden approved an expedited Mountain Valley gas pipeline project along with an unprecedented legal shield against delaying lawsuits.
There are still avenues and pressure points for humanity to avert the worst outcome of climate disruption, which is an extinction event. But this will require bold action in what scientists call the critical decade ahead.
A new United Nations global climate report card finds countries need to catch up in meeting their Paris Agreement goals in reducing emissions. We would be making more progress if an unrepentant fossil fuel industry wasn’t using its considerable clout to block the transition to a clean energy future.
As global leaders gather in New York City for Climate Week and other United Nations meetings, hundreds of thousands will join the March to End Fossil Fuels. Some of them will be “blocking the doorways.”
Actions in Europe presage US coming attractions. Extinction Rebellion UK has blocked roads and building entrances, Just Stop Oil activists threw soup at paintings and disrupted cultural events, while other European activists blocked private jet runways.
Their focus on fossil fuel corporations makes sense. Investigative reporting has revealed that the largest fossil fuel companies, including Shell and ExxonMobil, have known about the dangerous repercussions of burning coal, gas and oil for decades. And this week The Wall Street Journal offered its own expose about Exxon’s internal strategy to downplay climate risk.
If governments and the public had known what these corporate leaders knew four decades ago, we could have moved more quickly to a safe energy transition. Instead, the industry has “run out the clock”—making low-hanging fruit adjustments impossible and putting our planet on a trajectory towards ecosystem collapse right up until the present moment.
The leaders of a couple dozen global energy corporations are making conscious decisions to build new infrastructure to extract and burn billions of tons of carbon and methane presently sequestered. A Guardian expose identified 195 carbon bomb projects that would each burn a billion tons of carbon over their lifetime. Private airports are making plans to expand capacity for private jet travel, one of the least defensible forms of luxury excess.
In this context, more people are abandoning our political system as the arena for making change, focusing on private sector responses such as carbon capture technologies, and using militant direct actions to block new oil, gas, and coal infrastructure.
Disruptive direct action, such as efforts by Extinction Rebellion and Climate Defiance, are critical to drawing attention to the fight, an urgency that will only grow as ecological stability unravels. On Earth Day last year, a Colorado activist, Wynn Bruce self-immolated himself on the steps of the Supreme Court as they handed down a decision undermining climate protections.
The collision course between ecological realities and our insufficient societal responses will only intensify. The coming decade will see more Wynn Bruce acts of desperation and eco-sabotage, like that depicted in the dramatic new film, How to Blow Up a Pipeline and the nonfiction book by Andreas Malm with the same name.
Works of future fiction may be preparing us for what may lay ahead. In Ministry for the Future, Kim Stanley Robinson depicts a murky “black ops” group that leads to private jets falling from the sky and hostage-taking.
In my novel, Altar to an Erupting Sun, a group of terminally-ill grandmothers calling themselves the Good Ancestors self-immolate themselves in the lobby of ExxonMobil, a wake-up call that mobilizes humanity. Other fictional activists focus on preparing their New England communities to face a disrupted future by building local food resilience, mutual aid, and the capacity to welcome climate refugees. In The Deluge, author Stephen Markley describes the radicalization of right and left-wing activists to rising sea level rise and economic collapse.
There are still avenues and pressure points for humanity to avert the worst outcome of climate disruption, which is an extinction event. But this will require bold action in what scientists call the critical decade ahead. What we need is a bold “just transition” program that ends fossil fuels as soon as possible, including a declaration of a climate emergency, a moratorium on new fossil fuel infrastructure, and the elimination of government subsidies for oil, gas, and coal, and its timely phase-out.
Until this program can move forward, be prepared to find people blocking the doorways.
“Direct action is all we have left. Save the world. #Melbourneclimatestrike IMG_5249” by John Englart (Takver) is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0.
Editor’s Note: One of the indicators of the success of any movement is the level of oppression by the powerful. The protests against logging at Fairy Creek on Vancouver Island, Canada, are an illustration of this. Fairy Creek is home to old-growth forests and has been targeted by forest product industries. Two years ago, activists joined hands with indigenous people to protest the logging. Now renewed efforts to protect the old-growth forests have been met with force by the RCMP. We thank Brenda Norrell for permission to repost this piece.
By Brenda Norrell/Censored News
Background to Fairy Creek
The last time the world was watching Fairy Creek, we witnessed the largest act of civil disobedience in Canadian history. Well over 1,000 Indigenous and non-Indigenous forest defenders were arrested by the RCMP over months of tense standoffs in 2021 as activists sought to halt the logging of rare ancient trees.
The courts hammered that movement, with charges and bail conditions keeping many away, and the tussle in the trees went dormant for most of the last two years.
A new blockade, led by Indigenous youth and supported by non-Indigenous allies, has just been erected on a key bridge crossing an arterial logging road. The RCMP’s specialized tactical team that responds to land defense actions is present and surveilling the camp. A raid could come any day, and having media on the ground is of crucial importance to keep tabs on police and document the latest developments as land defenders seek to protect their unceded territories from old-growth logging.
Brandi Morin, an Indigenous journalist and author who has won a number of major awards, including a Canadian Digital Publishing Award and an Edward R. Murrow award in the U.S., is getting there to bring you the story from Fairy Creek’s new front lines.
She’ll be joined by World Press Photo of the Year-winning photojournalist Amber Bracken, reuniting a dream team that last joined forces to tell the story of First Nations communities fleeing wildfires in Alberta.
Latest crackdowns by RCMP
Three forest protectors were arrested on Tuesday [August 15] protecting the old-growth forests west of Victoria, as Canada continues to target Native people with police operatives protecting the interest of destructive industries. The police ops are British Columbia’s C-IRG, the Community Industry Response Group.
Mourning the invasion of the militarized police squad who arrested the forest defenders, who were his guests, Pacheedaht First Nation Elder Bill Jones said,
“We are at the end times of our great forests.”
Cree journalist Brandi Morin, and photojournalist Amber Bracken, were there.
“The militarized RCMP of the C-IRG unit was also at the Savage Patch raid yesterday. At 6: am Amber and I saw some of them loading their gear to Lake Cowichan and then we raced out to the blockade, cause the raid was on its way.
“Turns out these guys hiked in behind the bridge where the old growth area is, tore the owl structure down and threw the wood in the river below. And then were guarding the bridge.”
Calling on the international community, Peace Brigades International Canada said,
“We draw the attention of the international community to the RCMP C-IRG raid against land defenders and allies protecting old-growth forest on Pacheedaht territory in Canada.”
Cree journalist Brandi Morin said,
“RCMP C-IRG unit raided and dismantled the Savage Patch blockade to protect old-growth forests from being logged this morning. Three land defenders were arrested including Uncle Ricco, Cree Matriarch, and two settler supporters.”
Morin described the Canadian police raid on Tuesday,
“RCMP Sgt. Charney grabbed me after he and others threatened me with arrest when I refused to follow their media exclusion zones during the C-IRG Unit raid of the Savage Patch blockade against old growth logging. I did, however, inform them that I knew of my rights as a journalist and their exclusion zones are illegal.”
The Supreme Court of British Columbia ruled in 2021 in its Fairy Creek decision:
“Exclusion zones, checkpoints, searches, and restrictions on media members clearly interfere with important liberties, including freedom of movement, freedom of expression (including freedom of the press), and freedom of peaceful assembly.”
RCMP’s federal watchdog agency opened a probe into the operations of the C-IRG, a special unit that polices protests against resource extraction in British Columbia, CBC reports.
Abolish C-IRG said,
“Due to the increasing amount of indigenous-led anti-resource extraction movements in British Columbia, the Community-Industry Response Group was born. C-IRG is unique to British Columbia. They are militarized, have no budget limit, and the officers get paid handsomely to force pipelines, mines, dams, and logging through unceded indigenous territories, without consent. This is just another extension of the RCMP’s original task – to remove and separate people from the land and enforce colonial rule. They do not keep us safe, they protect capital.”
Statement from Elder Bill Jones on August 15, 2023
Today, we mourn once again as the militarized police squad raided our peaceful and Indigenous-led camp near Fairy Creek on Trunk Road 11. Again, these brave people were there on my unceded land as my guests, guests who had come to protect what’s left of the old growth forests. Once again, they put themselves on teh line after hearing that the NDP government had approved several cutblocks up that forestry road. Some of those cutblocks include old-growth forests.
We cannot keep cutting our great Mother Earth like this. Once these great forests are gone, they are gone forever. We set up these camps as a last resort. The government refused to change their forestry polices and Tal Cedar has stated in their forest “stewardship” plan that they will harvest every last old-growth tree available to them. The loss of every tree is an affront to my Indigenous rights, sovereignty and title, as it is to every Indigenous person. It is also a loss to all peoples as we are as once and we must learn to stand together as one.
I say again, the forest is my cathedral and my place of spiritual meditation. Government and industry cannot come to my lands and destroy my cathedral and expect us to do nothing.
I say thank you to all those forest defenders who built the amazing screech owl sculpture on the bridge and held the camp.
Thank you to all those who donated and supported the camp.
And I applaud the three brave forest defenders who were arrested and released today. I admire your courage in facing the relentless force of the dozens of CIRG officers who showed up to destroy your camp and arrest you.
I also remind government and industry that it is laughable to charge us with offenses and call us conspirators when we are at the end times of our great forests.
We will continue to do what we can to protect out great Mother Earth.
You can also listen to our latest Green Flame episode on Fairy Creek blockade with Joshua Wright:
Photo by DDP on Unsplash
Editor’s Note: In order to deter the tribal members and activists from fighting for Thacker Pass, Lithium Nevada has sued them. Unsurprisingly, as a corporation, they have greater funds to sustain their legal action. We appeal for all who can to support in whatever way you can. The details for financial donations are at the end of the post.
Lithium Nevada Corporation has filed a lawsuit against Protect Thacker Pass and seven people for opposing the Thacker Pass lithium mine.
The lawsuit is similar to what is called a “Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation,” or SLAPP suit, aimed at shutting down free speech and protest. The suit aims to ban the prayerful land defenders from the area and force them to pay monetary damages which could total millions of dollars.
“This lawsuit is targeting Native Americans and their allies for a non-violent prayer to protect the 1865 Thacker Pass massacre site,” said Terry Lodge, attorney working with the group. “These people took a moral stand in the form of civil disobedience. They are being unjustly targeted with sweeping charges that have little relationship to the truth, and we will vigorously defend them.”
The lawsuit targets Dean Barlese, respected elder and spiritual leader from the Pyramid Lake Paiute Tribe, Dorece Sam from the Fort McDermitt Paiute-Shoshone Tribe, Bhie-Cie Zahn-Nahtzu (Te-Moak Shoshone and Washoe), Bethany Sam from the Standing Rock Sioux and Kutzadika’a Paiute Tribes, Founding Director of Community Rights US Paul Cienfuegos, and Max Wilbert and Will Falk of Protect Thacker Pass, which is also named in the suit.
They are charged with Civil Conspiracy, Nuisance, Trespass, Tortious Interference with Contractual Relations, Tortious Interference with Prospective Economic Advantage, and Unjust Enrichment.
As part of the lawsuit, Lithium Nevada has been granted a Temporary Restraining Order which restricts the defendants and “any third party acting in concert” with them from interfering with construction, blocking access roads, or even being in the area. The accused parties are not involved in planning further protest activity at the mine site.
Regardless, these allegations are alarming to the Great Basin Native American communities who believe their religious practices are protected by the American Indian Religious Freedom Act of 1978. The lawsuit’s language places fear in the hearts of Native American people who want to pray and visit their ancestors’ gravesites.
The case references instances of non-violent prayer and protest that took place on April 25th, and a prayer camp named after Ox Sam (survivor of the 1865 massacre and ancestor of Dorece Sam and Dean Barlese) which was established at Thacker Pass on May 11th. On June 8th, that camp was raided and dismantled by police. One young indigenous woman was arrested and transported to jail inside a pitch-black box. In the aftermath of the raid, a ceremonial fire was extinguished, sacred objects were put in trash bags, and tipi poles were broken.
The American Indian Religious Freedom Act states that it is “the policy of the United States to protect and preserve for American Indians their inherent right of freedom to believe, express, and exercise the traditional religion of the American Indian…including…access to sites.”
Dorece Sam, President of the Native American Church of the State of Nevada:
“I take my grandkids to Peehee Mu’huh to teach them to pray for our unburied ancestors whose remains are scattered there, to collect our holy plants, to hunt and fish, and to collect medicinal herbs. The ancestors who were killed at Thacker Pass have never been given the proper prayers for their spirits. Lithium Nevada is desecrating our unceded lands and our ancestors’ resting places.”
Dean Barlese, respected elder and spiritual leader from the Pyramid Lake Paiute Tribe:
“The Indian wars are continuing in 2023, right here. America and the corporations who control it should have finished off the ethnic genocide, because we’re still here. My great-great-grandfather fought for this land in the Snake War and we will continue to defend the sacred. Lithium Nevada is a greedy corporation telling green lies.”
“Our people couldn’t return to Thacker Pass for fear of being killed in 1865, and now in 2023 we can’t return or we’ll be arrested. Meanwhile, bulldozers are digging our ancestors graves up. This is what Indigenous peoples continue to endure. That’s why I stood in prayer with our elders leading the way.”
“Lithium Nevada is a greedy corporation on the wrong side of history when it comes to environmental racism and desecration of sacred sites. It’s ironic to me that I’m the trespasser because I want to see my ancestral land preserved.”
“Virtually every single accusation against us is a lie, and of course the corporation’s leaders know this. But our actions have scared them, so they are lashing out against classic nonviolent direct-action tactics. And this is yet another prime example of why we need to dismantle the structures of law that grant so many so-called constitutional ‘rights’ to business corporations, like access to the courts.”
Max Wilbert, Protect Thacker Pass:
“Around the world, a land defender is killed every two days. Murdering activists is hard to get away with in the United States, so corporations do this instead. This lawsuit is aimed at destroying the lives of people non-violently defending the land. But we’re not giving up. There are millions of people opposing this mine, and this fight will continue.”
“I’ve been involved in directly petitioning the courts for two years to enforce tribal rights to consultation without success. Now Paiutes and Shoshones are being sued for peacefully defending the final resting places of their massacred ancestors. Lithium Nevada is just another mining corporation bullying Native Americans once again. This pattern has got to stop.”
Lithium Nevada corporation has been locked in legal battles since 2021, when four environmental groups, a local rancher, and several tribes sued the Federal Government to attempt to overturn the permits for the mine. The suits allege failures of consultation, violation of endangered species law and water laws, and dozens of other infractions. The most recent filing in an ongoing Federal Court case brought by three local tribes was filed on Friday, arguing that Lithium Nevada needs to halt construction while it consults with tribes about the Thacker Pass massacre sites. The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in California will hear oral arguments in other cases later this month.
The news comes as Lithium Nevada’s parent corporation, Lithium Americas, has been implicated in four alleged human rights violations and environmental crimes related to their lithium mining operation in Cauchari-Oloroz, Argentina.
The defendants are seeking attorneys to join the legal defense team, and monetary donations to their legal defense fund. You can donate via credit or debit card, PayPal (please include a note that your donation is for Thacker Pass legal defense), or by check.
Editor’s Note: The following are two press releases by Ox Sam Camp. As communities get more radical against corporations, corporations use their power against them. This is not the first time that this has happened and it will not be the last. As activists, it is necessary for us to understand the risk associated with any action against the system. The earlier we understand this, the better we can strategize.
The article is followed by a short reflection piece by Elisabeth Robson on the need for the environmental movement to put our allegiance with the natural world, as is demonstrated in this fight to protect Thacker Pass.
Ox Sam Camp Raided by Police at Thacker Pass
One Arrested as Prayer Tipis Are Dismantled and Ceremonial Items Confiscated
Contact: Ox Sam Camp
THACKER PASS, NV — On Wednesday morning, the Humboldt County Sheriff’s department on behalf of Lithium Nevada Corporation, raided the Ox Sam Newe Momokonee Nokutun (Ox Sam Indigenous Women’s Camp), destroying the two ceremonial tipi lodges, mishandling and confiscating ceremonial instruments and objects, and extinguishing the sacred fire that has been lit since May 11th when the Paiute/Shoshone Grandma-led prayer action began.
One arrest took place on Wednesday at the direction of Lithium Nevada security. During breakfast, law enforcement arrived. Almost immediately without warning, a young Diné female water protector was singled out by Lithium Nevada security and arrested, not given the option to leave the camp. Two non-natives were allowed to “move” in order to avoid arrest. The Diné woman was quickly handcuffed and subsequently loaded into a sheriff’s SUV for transport to Winnemucca for processing.
While on the highway, again without warning or explanation, she was transferred into a windowless, pitch-black holding box in the back of a pickup truck. “I was really scared for my life,” the woman said. “I didn’t know where I was or where I was going. I know that MMIW is a real thing, and I didn’t want to be the next one.” She was transported to Humboldt County Jail, where she was charged with criminal trespass and resisting arrest, then released on bail.
Just hours before the raid, Ox Sam water protectors could be seen for the second time this week bravely standing in the way of large excavation equipment and shutting down construction at the base of Sentinel Rock.
To many Paiute and Shoshone, Sentinel Rock is a “center of the universe,” integral to many Nevada Tribes’ way of life and ceremony, as well as a site for traditional medicines, tools, and food supply for thousands of years. Thacker Pass is also the site of two massacres of Paiute and Shoshone people. The remains of the massacred ancestors have remained unidentified and unburied since 1865, and are now being bulldozed and crushed by Lithium Nevada for the mineral known as “the new white gold.”
Since May 11th, despite numerous requests by Lithium Nevada workers, the Humboldt County Sheriff Department has been reticent and even unwilling to arrest members of the prayer camp, even after issuing three warnings for blocking Pole Creek Road access to Lithium Nevada workers and sub-contractors, while allowing the public to pass through.
“We absolutely respect your guys’ right to peacefully protest,” explained Humboldt County Sheriff Sean Wilkin on May 12th. “We have zero issues with [the tipi] whatsoever… We respect your right to be out here.”
On March 19th the Sheriff arrived again, serving individual fourteen-day Temporary Protection Orders against several individuals at camp. The protection orders were granted by the Humboldt County Court on behalf of Lithium Nevada based on sworn statements loaded with misrepresentations, false claims, and, according to those targeted, outright false accusations by their employees. Still, Ox Sam Camp continued for another week. The tipis, the sacred fire, and the prayers remained unchallenged for a total of twenty-seven days of ceremony and resistance.
The scene at Thacker Pass this week looked like Standing Rock, Line 3, or Oak Flat. As Lithium Nevada’s workers and heavy equipment tried to bulldoze and trench their way through the ceremonial grounds surrounding the tipi at Sentinel Rock, the water protectors put their bodies in the way of the destruction, forcing work stoppage on two occasions.
Lithium Nevada’s ownership and control of Thacker Pass only exists because of the flawed permitting and questionable administrative approvals issued by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM). BLM officials have refused to acknowledge that Peehee Mu’huh is a sacred site to regional Tribal Nations and have continued to downplay and question the significance of the double massacre through two years of court battles.
Three tribes — the Reno-Sparks Indian Colony, Summit Lake Paiute Tribe, and Burns Paiute Tribe — remain locked in litigation with the Federal Government, challenging the BLM’s permit process from the beginning. The tribes filed their latest response to the BLM’s Motion to Dismiss on Monday. BLM is part of the Department of the Interior, which is led by Deb Haaland (Laguna Pueblo).
On Wednesday, at least five Sheriff’s vehicles, several Lithium Nevada worker vehicles, and two security trucks arrived at the original tipi site that contained the ceremonial fire, immediately adjacent to Pole Creek Road. The one native water protector was arrested without warning, while others were issued with trespass warnings and allowed to leave the area. Once the main camp was secured, law enforcement then moved up to secure and dismantle the tipi site at Sentinel Rock, a mile away.
There is a proper way to take down a tipi and ceremonial camp, and then there is the way Humboldt County Sheriffs proceeded on behalf of Lithium Nevada Corporation. Tipis were knocked down, tipi poles were snapped, and ceremonial objects and instruments were rummaged through, mishandled, and impounded. Empty tents were approached and secured in classic SWAT-raid fashion. One car was towed. As is often the case when lost profits lead to government assaults on peaceful water protectors, Lithium Nevada Corporation and the Humboldt County Sheriffs have begun to claim that the raid was done for the safety of the camp members and for public health.
Josephine Dick (Fort McDermitt Paiute-Shoshone), who is a descendent of Ox Sam and one of the matriarchs of Ox Sam Newe Momokonee Nokutun, made the following statement in response to the raid:
“As Vice Chair of the Native American Indian Church of the State of Nevada, and as a Paiute-Shoshone Tribal Nation elder and member, I am requesting the immediate access to and release of my ceremonial instruments and objects, including my Eagle Feathers and staff which have held the prayers of my ancestors and now those of Ox Sam camp since the beginning. There was also a ceremonial hand drum and medicines such as cedar and tobacco, which are protected by the American Indian Religious Freedom Act.
In addition, my understanding is that Humboldt County Sherriff Department along with Lithium Nevada security desecrated two ceremonial tipi lodges, which include canvasses, poles, and ropes. The Ox Sam Newe Momokonee Nokutun has been conducting prayers and ceremony in these tipis, also protected by the American Indian Religious Freedom Act. When our ceremonial belongings are brought together around the sacred fire, this is our Church. Our Native American Church is a sacred ceremony. I am demanding the immediate access to our prayer site at Peehee Mu’huh and the return of our confiscated ceremonial objects.
The desecration that Humboldt County Sherriffs and Lithium Nevada conducted by knocking the tipis down and rummaging through sacred objects is equivalent to destroying a bible, breaking The Cross, knocking down a cathedral, disrespecting the sacrament, and denying deacons and pastors access to their places of worship. It is in direct violation of my American Indian Religious Freedom rights. This violation of access to our ceremonial church and the ground on which it sits is a violation of Presidential Executive Order 13007.
The location of the tipi lodge that was pushed over and destroyed is at the base of Sentinel Rock, a place our Paiute-Shoshone have been praying since time immemorial. After two years of our people explaining that Peehee Mu’huh is sacred, BLM Winnemucca finally acknowledged that Thacker Pass is a Traditional Cultural District, but they are still allowing it to be destroyed.”
Josephine and others plan to make a statement on live stream outside the Humboldt County Sheriff’s Office in Winnemucca on the afternoon of Friday, June 9th around 1pm.
Another spiritual leader on the front lines has been Dean Barlese from the Pyramid Lake Paiute Tribe. Despite being confined to a wheelchair, Barlese led prayers at the site on April 25th which led to Lithium Nevada shutting down construction for a day, and returned on May 11th to pray over the new sacred fire as Ox Sam camp was established.
“This is not a protest, it’s a prayer,” said Barlese. “But they’re still scared of me. They’re scared of all of us elders, because they know we’re right and they’re wrong.”
Land Defenders Arrested, Camp Raided After Blocking Excavator
First arrests are underway and camp is being raided after land defenders halted an excavator this morning at Thacker Pass.
OROVADA, NV — This morning, a group of Native American water protectors and allies used their bodies to non-violently block construction of the controversial Thacker Pass lithium mine in Nevada, turning back bulldozers and heavy equipment.
The dramatic scene unfolded this morning as workers attempting to dig trenches near Sentinel Rock were turned back by land defenders who ran and put their bodies between heavy equipment and the land.
Now they are being arrested and camp is being raided.
Northern Paiute and Western Shoshone people consider Thacker Pass to be sacred. So when they learned that the area was slated to become the biggest open-pit lithium mine in North America, they filed lawsuits, organized rallies, spoke at regulatory hearings, and organized in the community. But despite all efforts over the last three years, construction of the mine began in March.
That’s what led Native American elders, friends and family, water protectors, and their allies to establish what they call a “prayer camp and ceremonial fire” at Thacker Pass on May 11th, when they setup a tipi at dawn blocking construction of a water pipeline for the mine. A second tipi was erected several days later two miles east, where Lithium Nevada’s construction is defacing Sentinel Rock, one of their most important sacred sites.
Sentinel Rock is integral to many Nevada Tribes’ worldview and ceremony. The area was the site of two massacres of Paiute and Shoshone people. The first was an inter-tribal conflict that gave the area it’s Paiute name: Peehee Mu’huh, or rotten moon. The second was a surprise attack by the US Cavalry on September 12th, 1865, during which the US Army slaughtered dozens. One of the only survivors of the attack was a man named Ox Sam. It is some of Ox Sam’s descendants, the Grandmas, that formed Ox Sam Newe Momokonee Nokotun (Indigenous Women’s Camp) to protect this sacred land for the unborn, to honor and protect the remains of their ancestors, and to conduct ceremonies. Water protectors have been on-site in prayer for nearly a month.
On Monday, Lithium Nevada Corporation also attempted to breach the space occupied by the water protectors. As workers maneuvered trenching equipment into a valley between the two tipis, water protectors approached the attempted work site and peacefully forced workers and their excavator to back up and leave the area. According to one anonymous land defender, Lithium Nevada’s action was “an attempted show of force to fully do away with our tipi and prayer camp around Sentinel Rock.”
Ranchers, recreationists, and members of the public have been allowed to pass without incident and water protectors maintain friendly relationships with locals. Opposition to the mine is widespread in the area, and despite repeated warnings from the local Sheriff, there have been no arrests. Four people, including Dorece Sam Antonio of the Fort McDermitt Paiute-Shoshone Tribe (an Ox sam descendant) and Max Wilbert of Protect Thacker Pass, have been targeted by court orders barring them from the area. They await a court hearing in Humboldt County Justice Court.
“Lithium Nevada is fencing around the sacred site Sentinel Rock to disrupt our access and yesterday was an escalation to justify removal of our peaceful prayer camps,” said one anonymous water protector at Ox Sam Camp. “Lithium Nevada intends to desecrate and bulldoze the remains of the ancestors here. We are calling out to all water protectors, land defenders, attorneys, human rights experts, and representatives of Tribal Nations to come and stand with us.”
“I’m being threatened with arrest for protecting the graves of my ancestors,” says Dorece Sam Antonio. “My great-great Grandfather Ox Sam was one of the survivors of the 1865 Thacker Pass massacre that took place here. His family was killed right here as they ran away from the U.S. Army. They were never buried. They’re still here. And now these bulldozers are tearing up this place.”
Another spiritual leader on the front lines has been Dean Barlese, a spiritual leader from the Pyramid Lake Paiute Tribe. Despite being confined to a wheelchair, Barlese led prayers at the site on April 25th (shutting down construction for a day) and returned on May 11th.
“I’m asking people to come to Peehee Mu’huh,” Barlese said. “We need more prayerful people. I’m here because I have connections to these places. My great-great-great grandfathers fought and shed blood in these lands. We’re defending the sacred. Water is sacred. Without water, there is no life. And one day, you’ll find out you can’t eat money.”
The 1865 Thacker Pass massacre is well documented in historical sources, books, newspapers, and oral histories. Despite the evidence but unsurprisingly, the Federal Government has not protected Thacker Pass or even slowed construction of the mine to allow for consultation to take place with Tribes. In late February, the Federal Government recognized tribal arguments that Thacker Pass is a “Traditional Cultural District” eligible for the National Register of Historic Places. But that didn’t stop construction from commencing.
“This is not a protest, it’s a prayer,” said Barlese. “But they’re still scared of me. They’re scared of all of us elders, because they know we’re right and they’re wrong.”
For more, go to Ox Sam Camp.
Hug Trees Not Pylons
By Elizabeth Robson
In the past couple of weeks both The Economist and Mother Jones have published covers showing people embracing industrial objects and exhorting “environmentalists” to get on board with the green building boom.
The Economist cover shows a man hugging a massive steel electric grid pylon and says “Hug Pylons Not Trees: The Growth Environmentalism Needs.” The Mother Jones cover shows a woman hugging an excavator, and says “Yes in Our Backyards: It’s time for progressives to fall in love with the green building boom.”
The latter is made even worse by the fact that it is Bill McKibben saying this. We expect relentless pro-industry, pro-growth propaganda from The Economist. But Mother Jones? Bill McKibben? McKibben begins his article in Mother Jones, Getting to Yes, by saying “I’m an environmentalist” and then proceeds to spend multiple pages telling us exactly how he is not an environmentalist but rather a pro-technology industrialist. To solve our “biggest problems” he pleads with us to “say yes” to “solar panels, wind turbines, and factories to make batteries and mines to extract lithium.”
Max Wilbert, co-founder of Protect Thacker Pass, climbed on top of an excavator on April 25, 2023 to protest the Thacker Pass Lithium Mine, currently being constructed in northern Nevada by Lithium Nevada Corporation. He was there with about 25 other people including Northern Paiute Native Americans Dorece Sam and Dean Barlese, who spent the day blocking mine construction and saying prayers to this land considered sacred by their people.
In Max’s book, Bright Green Lies, he describes “environmentalists” like McKibben as “bright greens”. These “environmentalists” understand that environmental problems exist and are serious, but believe that green technology and consumerism will allow us to continue our current lifestyles indefinitely. As Max writes: “The bright greens’ attitude amounts to: ‘It’s less about nature, and more about us.’”
In his Mother Jones article, McKibben illustrates how he’s less about nature, and all about us (meaning humans, our technologies, and our lifestyles). “Emergencies demand urgency,” he writes, and what he urges us is not to stop destroying nature, the source of all life on planet Earth, but rather to destroy more of it, by building more industry and mining more, for “electrons… a crop we badly need.”
McKibben acknowledges that “repeating the mistakes of our history” by building “a lithium mine on sacred territory in Nevada” is “truly unforgivable,” but then immediately dismisses the concerns of regional tribes by saying that “if we can’t make a quick energy transition, then the impact of that will be felt most by the poorest.” Does he not understand that for many traditional cultures and traditional spiritual practitioners, everywhere is sacred? Does he not understand that everywhere not already destroyed by industry is home to someone — sage-grouse, pronghorn, endangered spring snails, swallows, endangered trout, old growth sagebrush, and so many more? Apparently he does not, or perhaps he doesn’t care, because his article is all about promoting industry, nature be damned.
“So there’s one general rule you could derive: If something makes climate change worse, then we shouldn’t do it,” McKibben writes. I agree. Does McKibben think the 150,000 tons of CO2 the Thacker Pass lithium mine will emit per year don’t count? Clearly those emissions will make climate change worse. Does he think that the carbon emissions caused by digging up thousands of acres of ancient soil at Thacker Pass don’t count either? And what about the 700,000 tons per year of molten sulfur trucked into Thacker Pass from oil refineries; where will that molten sulfur come from if it doesn’t come from oil refineries, and do those oil refineries and their CO2 emissions not count? If we use McKibben’s rule, then clearly the Thacker Pass lithium mine should not be built, and yet he urges us to support more lithium mining.
McKibben and those pursuing the “electrify everything” agenda promoted by The Economist and Mother Jones are stuck in blinders about climate change. McKibben exposes these blinders when he writes: “slowing down lithium mining likely means extending the years we keep on mining coal.” He believes that this is our choice: lithium mining and batteries and electric vehicles, or coal and CO2 emissions. To him and the “electrify everything” crowd those are the only two options.
But there is another option: we can resist industrial culture and work to end it. We can block construction equipment rather than embracing it. We can dramatically lower our profligate energy use — no matter how it’s powered. We can protect the land and the natural communities, including human communities, that depend on unspoiled land, unpolluted soil, clean air, and clean water. We can be real environmentalists, deep green environmentalists, who understand that we must live within the limits of the natural world, and work to transform ourselves, our culture, our economy and our politics to put the health and well-being of the natural world first.
We can be more like Max and Dorece and Dean and the other activists who stood their ground to protect the land at Thacker Pass. We can block excavators, not hug them. Our very lives depend on it.
Editor’s note: In order to fill the void of fossil fuel supplies caused by the Russia-Ukraine War, countries are opening their land for coal extraction. We recently covered the resistance in Lützerath, Germany. A similar story seems to be unraveling in Australia. The following piece, originally published in Public Eye, follows the tragic Aboriginal land grabbing by corporations spanning two continents. Despite local resistance and vigil for over 400 days, the mines have not yet been stopped.
By Adrià Budry Carbó / Public Eye
With the war in Ukraine forcing Europe to seek alternatives to Russian fossil fuels, Australia is opening dozens of coal mines – and sacrificing its natural and cultural heritage in the process. Local authorities are invoking the consequences of the European war to get projects approved, despite the fact that behind the scenes it is the interests of Glencore and Adani – both based in Switzerland – that are ultimately at play.
In remote areas of Queensland, Aboriginal people and environmentalists are organising resistance to the shovel-and-dynamite lobby, but are coming under increasing pressure from mining groups.
Ochre earth gets everywhere, as gritty as those who walk on it, omnipresent in the semi-desert landscape. A pale-yellow column of smoke – up to 50 metres high – stands out against the horizon. With no high ground to cause an echo, the blast from the deep scar of the Carmichael mine rings out with a sharp bang. The mine is located in the geological basin of Galilee, in the heart of Queensland in north-eastern Australia.
Coedie MacAvoy has witnessed this scene often. Born and raised in the region, the son of an Elder of the Wangan and Jagalingou people (a guardian of wisdom), the 30-year-old introduces himself with pride. He relates the number of days he has spent occupying the small plot of land situated just in front of the Adani Group’s concession, which the company wants to transform into one of the largest coal mines in the world. On this October afternoon, the count is at 406 days – the same number of days as the camp of the Waddananggu (meaning “discussion” in the Wirdi language) has existed.
This vigil was not enough to prevent the start of production last December, but it’s a big thorn in the side of the ambitious multinational. The company is controlled by the Indian billionaire Gautam Adani, who became the third richest man in the world (net worth USD 142.4 billion) thanks to booming coal prices (see below). In April 2020, he set up a commercial branch in Geneva with the aim of offloading its coal, and registered with a local fiduciary. According to Public Eye’s sources, Adani benefitted from the support of Credit Suisse, which enabled it to raise USD 27 million in bonds in 2020. After Coal India, Adani has the largest number of planned new coal mines (60) according to the specialist platform Global Coal Mine Tracker. Glencore occupies sixth position in this ranking with 37 planned.
Gautam Adani controls one third of India’s coal imports. As reported by The New Yorker in November 2022, the billionaire is well known in his own country too – for bulldozing villages and forests to dig gigantic coal mines.
In Waddananggu, the ceremonial flames of those known here as “traditional owners” have been burning since 26 August 2021. They are accompanied by various people who come and go; young climate and pro-Aboriginal activists, sometimes together with their children – around 15 people in total. Those who emerge from the tents and barricades to observe the thick column of smoke that is dispersing into the distance are told: “Don’t breathe that shit in!”.
The Austral protestors, the war and the billionaire
With sunburned shoulders, a feather in her felt hat covering her blond hair, Sunny films the cloud of dust moving away to the north-west, towards the surrounding crops and scattered cattle. Sunny denounces the destruction of Aboriginal artefacts that are as old as the hills, and is documenting all the blasts from this mine which – after around 15 years of legal wrangling – is expanding at top speed.
After two years of pandemic, coal mines are producing at full throttle to capitalise on historically high prices. Following the invasion of Ukraine on 24th February last year, Australian coal (the most suitable substitute for Russian coal in terms of quality) is selling at three times the average price of the past decade. Countries highly dependent on Russian fossil fuels, like Poland, have been begging Australia to increase its exports of thermal coal. In Queensland, the authorities even took advantage of the situation to support particularly unpopular projects, such as Adani’s.
Since the start of the war in Ukraine, 3.3 million tonnes of Australian coal have been exported to Europe, according to data provided to Public Eye by the specialist agency Argus Media. Close to half of these exports (1.4 million tonnes) was dispatched on 11 bulk carriers from the Abbot Point terminal, which opens onto the Coral Sea in the north-east of the country, and is also controlled by Adani.
Sunny is indignant: “They shouldn’t detonate when the wind is like this”, she says. “They shouldn’t do it at all – but even less so today!”
For Adani, the objective is to reach 10 million tonnes’ production until the end of 2022. If the group seems to be in a tearing hurry, it’s because its project was initially aiming to produce 60 million tonnes per year, transported 300 kilometres via a dual railway line to Abbot Point. This port is only a few dozen kilometres from the Great Barrier Reef: designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1981, it is considered to be “endangered”, according to a report by UN experts published at the end of November 2022. From here, coal is loaded onto bulk carriers to be burned – primarily in Indian, Chinese and Korean power-plants – nearly 10,000 kilometres from there.
For Grant Howard, a former miner from the region of Mackay who spent 30 years working in the industry, the mine is an environmental and logistical aberration: “Carmichael only makes commercial sense because Adani owns all the infrastructure and makes the Indian population pay too much for energy”.
Grant became an environmentalist and withdrew to the “bush” to be closer to nature. He denounces this “anachronistic” project that is threatening to act as a Trojan Horse for other mega mining projects in the Galilee Basin, which had not been exploited until Gautam Adani’s teams arrived.
“People who continue to extract thermal coal don’t have a moral compass”, he laments.
Australia has the third-largest coal reserves in the world, enough to continue production for four centuries.
When contacted, Credit Suisse claims to be fulfilling its responsibilities in relation to climate change. “We recognise that financial flows should also be aligned with the objectives set by the Paris Agreement”, its media service states, providing assurances that, in 2021, the bank reduced its financial exposure to coal by 39 percent.
On the other hand, the spokesperson did not specify whether a client like Adani, which makes most of its revenues from coal and is planning to open new thermal coal mines, would be excluded from financing in the future. “The position of Credit Suisse in terms of sustainability is based on supporting our clients through the transition towards low-carbon business models that are resilient to climate change”, they explain.
The country’s bloody history
For Coedie MacAvoy, this is very much a personal affair. In support of the fight of his “old man” – his father Adrian Burragubba went bankrupt in legal proceedings against the multinational – he occupied the Carmichael site on his own in 2019 in order to “reclaim pieces of property” on his ancestral lands. In doing so he created a blockade against Adani’s construction teams. He survived two weeks of siege before the private security services completely cut off his supply lines.
The same man has led the rebellion since August 2021, but he is no longer alone. “I am contesting the basic right of the government to undertake a compulsory acquisition of a mining lease”, declares Coedie. With piercing green eyes, a rapper’s flow, and his totem tattooed on his torso, the rebel-looking, young man – who has an air of fight the power – is happy to continue the lineage of activists occupying the trees. “I’m not a greenie from inner Melbourne”, asserts the Aborigine.
The local Queensland government finally abolished native people’s land rights in 2019 in order to give them to the mining company, which has treated them like intruders ever since. However, following harsh opposition from Coedie and his father, they were vindicated by the courts, who gave them the right to occupy their land “to enjoy, maintain, control, protect and develop their identity and cultural heritage” provided that they don’t interfere with mining activity.
It’s a loophole in the law linked to this region’s bloody history, and to the conditions under which the land was acquired from the Aborigines. Coedie MacAvoy explains: “You know, the whites arrived in Clermont in 1860 at the time of my great-grand father. They basically shot all fighting-age males.” Aboriginal people were only included in the Australian population census in 1967. The Australian (federal) Constitution still doesn’t afford them specific rights. “We learned to wield the sword and use it to the best of our abilities. We opened Pandora’s Box”, Coedie MacAvoy maintains proudly. He kept the Irish name “borrowed” by his grandfather. Very much at ease like a tribal leader, he teaches the youngest generation Wirdi and dreams of creating an Esperanto of Aboriginal dialects, because “everything I say or do is recognised as a cultural act”. This enrages the Adani Group, which is determined to hold on to its mining concession, and frequently calls the police, though based nearly 180 kilometres away.
Public Eye witnessed how aggressive the multinational can be towards people who take an interest in its activities. During our investigation in the field, a private security services’ SUV followed us along the public road that leads to the mine, and filmed us getting out of the vehicle in front of the Waddananggu camp. Several hours later, a letter arrived by mail at Public Eye’s headquarters with an order to leave the area – “leave immediately and do not return” – and banning us from broadcasting the images filmed on site. The letter concluded by citing that a complaint had been filed with the local police and leaving no doubt as to the threat of legal proceedings.
Public Eye sent a detailed list of questions to Adani. The company did not wish to divulge any plans for its branch in Geneva or its ambitions for the development of the Carmichael mine, nor did it wish to discuss its attitude towards its critics. On the other hand, the multinational “completely” rejected our questions implying that its activities or businesses have acted in an irresponsible manner or contrary to applicable laws and regulations. “It is disappointing that Public Eye is using its privileged position as an organisation based in an extremely wealthy and developed country to seek to deprive the poorest people in the world from accessing the same reliable and affordable energy that advanced economies have been benefitting from for decades” concludes their response, sent by a spokesperson from the Australian branch of the company.
Yet, the data available to Public Eye shows that a substantial part of Adani’s coal production has been redirected towards ports in the Netherlands, Germany, Sweden and the UK. Thus, not really the “poorest people in the world”.
Big money – and heroes in hard hats
The fight led by the Coedie family against the multinational may seem unbalanced. Both the federal and Queensland governments have rolled out the red carpet for mining companies, who given the historically high prices of coal must be bringing in AUD 120 billion (CHF 76 billion) in export revenues for 400 million tonnes of thermal coal (destined for electricity production) and metallurgical coal (for industrial use).
The Zug-based multinational Glencore is the largest mining company in the country with 15 mines (representing two-thirds of its production). With its Australian, Chinese and Japanese competitors, and the aforementioned Adani, it forms a powerful network of influence that has its own friends in the media and political circles. In Queensland, the coal lobby claims to contribute AUD 58.8 billion (over CHF 37 billion) to the local economy, along with 292,000 jobs, of which 35,000 are direct.
In June 2015, the former conservative Australian prime minister Tony Abbott described the Adani project as a “poverty-busting miracle that would put Australia on the path to becoming an energy superpower”. The Indian group obtained a tax break and an opaque years-long moratorium on its royalties. Under pressure, the authorities finally refrained from awarding a loan to the multinational to enable it to develop its railway line. In 2019, a report by the Institute of Energy Economics and Financial Analysis – a think tank examining questions linked to energy markets and policies – estimated the value of these “gifts” at over CHF 2.7 billion, a sum large enough to actually make the project viable.
In 2017, the journalist and tour operator Lindsay Simpson went to the homeland of Gautam Adani in the Indian state of Gujarat with a group of Australian activists. Their mission was to disrupt the company’s General Assembly and to intercept the Prime Minister of Queensland, Annastacia Palaszczuk, who was there on an official visit. Simpson told her:
The first meeting between Lindsay Simpson and the Adani Group dates back to 2013. Having acquired the Abbot Point terminal two years earlier, the Indian company wanted to increase its capacity through spectacular works undertaken directly in the Coral Sea. To do this, it sought to persuade the tourism sector to back a plan to dump three million cubic metres of dredged sediments directly in the sea. At the time, the former crime journalist at the Sydney Morning Herald had already switched to offering sailing cruises and refused to approve a related document, produced by Adani and endorsed by the Central Tourism Association, as she held the document to be made “against compensation”.
Today, Lindsay Simpson describes herself as an author of fiction and of 11 detective novels based on real crimes, “including that of Adani”: Adani, Following Its Dirty Footsteps (2018). In the book, she relates the kowtowing of local politicians to the Australian mining industry. Drawing a parallel between the colonialisation of Australia and its history of mining, she attacks the ongoing and hypocritical “tributes” paid to these “male working-class heroes in hard hats”.
Queensland’s first coal deposits were discovered in 1825, to the west of Brisbane, at a time when the region served as a penal colony for the British Crown. The large-scale exploitation of sedimentary rock that resulted, when the region became a free territory two decades later, fuelled the steamboats despatching the first colonisers.
In the “countries”, those rural areas located in the interior of Australia, the population continues to depend on these jobs, which constitute an almost exclusive source of income, along with agriculture. In the villages of Collinsville, Clermont or Emerald – where several of Glencore’s mines are located – the obstructionism of environmentalists and of defenders of Aboriginal rights is more readily criticised than the impact of extractivism. The arrival of journalists is rarely viewed positively and few agree to speak with a media outlet “whose agenda they don’t share”.
Making a living for the kids
Luke Holmes is an exception. However, bumping into him while he was watching his herd on his quadbike, he insists on the need to create jobs: “The kids need to be able to continue to work. You won’t become a doctor here.” He spits out his chewing tobacco; his two dogs panting in the background. Luke himself spent some 15 years working for a mining company, which enabled him to put aside the funds needed to purchase enough land to live off. Entry-level salaries are easily as much as AUD 45 an hour (CHF 29), nearly double that for highly qualified workers. Food and accommodation are also provided. Even though he remains grateful to Big Coal, the farmer admits that “regulation is far more flexible for coal mines than for farmers.”
It’s indeed the Coal King who reigns in this region, barely tolerating cohabitation. According to official figures, in Australia there are currently 68 projects in the pipeline to expand or open new mines, half of which are in Queensland. Faced with the rise of coal mining, some farming families have become resigned to experiencing their second expropriation with stifled sobs. To compensate, the mining companies negotiate case-by-case compensation arrangement that are accompanied by sensational announcements highlighting the benefits for local communities and the number of jobs created. Adani had promised 1,500 jobs during the construction phase and 6,750 indirect jobs. These figures have since been revised significantly downwards.
Associate Professor in environmental engineering, Matthew Currell is concerned about the impact of the coal mines over the water resources in these semi-arid regions: “The government of Queensland awarded Adani a license to pump as much subterranean water as its wants”. Impact studies were not properly conducted, denounces the author of the column: “Australia listened to the science on coronavirus. Imagine if we did the same for coal mining”. For this researcher at the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology (RMIT), there is a clear risk of contamination or drying out of the ecosystem of water sources of Doongmabulla, which is home to communities of rare vegetation that are sacred for the Aborigines. This danger has been ignored in the face of economic and electoral interests.
The dealer and his metaphors
There is a more worrying problem at the global level – that of fossil-fuel emissions. For a long time, the debate was focused on carbon dioxide (CO2) generated by the combustion of coal. A criticism to which lobbyists have often responded by shifting the problem to the countries where the coal is consumed.
“It’s the defence of the dealer – I’m simply selling heroine, I’m not responsible for the consumers”, maintains Peter MacCallum.
In late September, the local government also announced in a fanfare that it wanted to phase out thermal coal from domestic energy consumption by 2035. No mention was made of exporting it, however. An announcement that moved Peter MacCallum to comment ironically: “This will bring us in line with Switzerland – our hands will be clean!”
Logically, environmental opposition focuses increasingly on the problem of methane, a powerful greenhouse gas that is released at the point of extraction of fossil fuels. Eighty-two times more powerful than CO2, for a century it has been responsible for the increase of 0.5 degrees in global temperatures, according to one of the IPCC’s latest reports. In Australia – the industrialised country most vulnerable to climate disasters, as evidenced by the rise in sea levels or forest fires – the heart of environmental concern is shifting from burning coal to its extraction and processing. In this scenario, the “dealer-as-producer-country” metaphor evoked above ceases to apply.
New satellite imaging from NASA enabled the research agency Ember to produce a report in June 2022 analysing the methane leaks from all the coal mines in Australia. This was made possible by images produced by a satellite belonging to the US space agency Nasa. They found that these mines produce nearly double the amount of pollution caused by motorised traffic. This situation is set to worsen with the mining projects in the Galilee Basin, such as that of Adani, which have a life of several decades.
Among the most polluting open-cast mines is Hail Creek: in 2018, Glencore bought a majority shareholding and its approximately 7 million tonnes of production. Satellite images show that the mine leaks over 10 times the quantity of methane declared by Glencore to the regulatory authorities. Contacted several weeks in advance, the Zug-based group refused to let us visit the mine, citing “annual budget reviews” as the reason. Nonetheless, at the site entrance from the public road that leads solely to the mine and its checkpoint there is a sign that cites openness and responsibility as among Glencore’s values. When questioned, the company sent us an information sheet on the question of methane emissions. It describes the phenomenon as being linked to open-cast mines, vaunts their efforts to reduce leaks (by burning the gas or capturing it to convert it into electricity) and raises doubts as to the use of satellite imagery “of a discontinuous nature” when compared against their annual emissions declarations.
In Queensland, it’s nevertheless becoming hard to ignore climate change. The Great Barrier Reef, which is the region’s pride and joy and extends over 2000 kilometres, is being ravaged by increasingly violent cyclones and an acceleration of the phenomenon of coral-bleaching. According to a government report, in May 2022 a prolonged heatwave affected 91 percent of the reef. This was the fourth heatwave since 2016. The tourism industry is usually tight lipped on the subject, to avoid discouraging budding divers and sailors. However, tongues are starting to wag.
Born in California, Tony Fontes arrived on the shores of Airlie Beach in 1979 “to live his dream of diving on the reef”. He has never left. However, the Great Barrier Reef has suffered so much that today the experience is not the same as it used to be. “It’s an omerta. Instead of uniting to counter the interests of mining companies that harm tourism, operators prefer to deny the consequences of climate change out of fear that the tourists won’t come back anymore”, he denounces. For her part, Lindsay Simpson has observed the arrival of a new phenomenon that she calls disaster tourism; namely, visitors rushing to see the Great Barrier Reef before it’s too late.
The industry’s halcyon days
Yet the coal industry still has a big future. In April 2020, between the areas of Capella and Emerald, Glencore submitted permit applications for the construction of what could become the largest mine in Australia – six coal shafts producing 20 million tonnes a year. Codename: Valeria Project. Start of work in 2024, with a duration of 30 months – with the accompanying rail and electricity infrastructure. The contract is valid for 37 years, or until well after 2050, the date at which the Zug-based group committed to becoming “net zero” in terms of its greenhouse-gas emissions.
In February 2019, under pressure from its investors, the multinational – then managed by Ivan Glasenberg – committed to limiting its coal production to 150 million tonnes per year. In 2021, a year still impacted by the pandemic, it produced 103.3 million tonnes. Since then, Glencore has not hesitated to acquire its competitors’ shares in the Colombian Cerrejón mine, which will add 14 million tonnes to its own production.
Within the approximately 10,000 hectares that Valeria will occupy in the area, Glencore has already largely marked out its territory. Nine families have already been evicted and the site, on which there are two state forests, has been almost entirely fenced off. The only remaining inhabitant is a helicopter pilot living in a small house, who is waiting for his lease to expire in January 2023.
In the newsagent in Capella, which also serves as an information centre, the shop assistant hands visitors a brochure produced by Glencore, dated May 2022. It summarises the timetable of operations. “It has been going for many years. It does not come as a surprise”, she relates with an air of resignation. “We have many mines around. We know what this is about.”
One farmer, who did not wish to be named, is not pleased to be sitting “in the dust of Glencore”. In Australia, mines are emptying the countryside. Largely because the group does not have a terrific record in terms of relations with its neighbours, according to the farmer. His property shares a border of many kilometres with the future Valeria mine. Even though he has no desire to leave “this land that gave us so much and is part of us”, the inconvenience resulting from the extraction of coal will force him to.”
“People in Switzerland should realise just how invasive the mining industry is”, he says gravely.
On Aboriginal land
Scott Franks is in total agreement with this. When he opposed Glencore’s expansion project at its Glendell mine, located on the lands of his Wonnarua ancestors, the Aborigine found himself named and targeted (along with another activist) in a full page published in a local media outlet. It presented him as “seeking to stop the project” and any industrial activity over a surface area of 156km2 in the Hunter Valley in New South Wales, putting 3000 jobs at stake. “The strategy is to turn the mining community against Aboriginal people – the ‘black folk’. We supported all the mines up to now, but we only have 3 percent of our land left”, says Scott bitterly.
The Glendell expansion project would impact the historic site of a massacre at an Aboriginal camp (36 deaths) perpetrated in 1826 by the Mounted Police. In its announcement, Glencore – who wanted to relocate a farm – asserts that in reality the massacre took place 20 kilometres away from the site in question, and contests the land rights of the two opponents, as well as their legitimacy in representing the Wonnarua people. In late October, the Independent Planning Commission (IPC) refused to grant Glencore a permit to expand its Glendell mine. When contacted, the mining company said that it was considering appealing against the decision given that “the 1826 massacre occurred on properties outside of the Ravensworth estate” and “the current homestead was built after the 1826 massacre”. In its response, the multinational also cited its programmes to rehabilitate mine sites and its support for young Aborigines. “We recognise the unique relationship of Indigenous peoples with the environment”, states Glencore. “We engage in good faith negotiation, seeking relationships based on respect, meaningful engagement, trust and mutual benefit.” Scott Franks’ critical response is:
“Glencore only deals with the communities it can buy off”.
In fact, Glencore appears to be increasingly concerned about its image, following the wave of court proceedings brought against it in recent years in the United States, the United Kingdom, Brazil and Switzerland. In Switzerland, as in Australia, the coal giant seeks to position itself as a major actor in energy transition, highlighting its role in mining copper and cobalt, which are essential for the production of electric batteries. In Australia, its campaign entitled Advancing Everyday Life earned it a complaint for “misleading or deceptive conduct” from the consumer protection body and investors. The Swiss Coalition for responsible multinationals, of which Public Eye is a member, also attacked Glencore for “greenwashing” due to its campaign of posters in public transport and train stations in Switzerland. However, this will not easily undermine the multinational, which asserts that the three accusations were rejected. Nor will it prevent Glencore from opening new mines, just as its competitor Adani is doing.
Humour and a torch
However, at Waddananggu, Coedie MacAvoy doubtlessly has skin as thick as his father’s. He also has humour as gritty as the earth when it gets into the engines of 4x4s. At the camp entrance, he has placed numerous signs warning against non-authorised entry, at the risk of standing trial before tribal justice: “Have you seen my sign? It looks just like any other sign, and in a world full of signs nobody can tell the difference any more”. Last year, he organized his own “Carmichael Tour”, the longest leg of a ride that brought together over a hundred cyclists within the perimeter of Adani’s concession. “We have the moral ground: we are living, so we are winning.” assures the thirty-year-old.
Coedie MacAvoy was living in the regional capital, Brisbane, when the mining project was launched. He openly admits: “I don’t think that my family would have come back to this region, the place that my grandfather left at gunpoint, if it had not been for Adani”. Does Coedie, who grew up listening to his father’s words, not want to rebel against his familial destiny to do something else? Does he not feel that he has inherited a never-ending conflict? “I don’t think that my father’s generation could have been the deciding factor. They still harbour too much trauma and anger.”
On the horizon, the sun is setting over Carmichael. The cloud of dust has dissipated, and the mine is now shrouded in silence. Coedie MacAvoy takes advantage of these peaceful moments to plant a palm tree that he hopes will bear fruit in a few years’ time.
Gautam Adani – a fortune on steroids
Billionaires often evoke their modest beginnings. The son of a textile trader from Gujarat (in western India), one of eight siblings, Gautam Adani is no exception to the rule. After humble beginnings as a trader, the Adani Group, founded in 1988, swiftly diversified into port and airport infrastructure, power plants, coal mines, real estate and – more recently – media.
The rapid rise of the Adani empire was achieved thanks to a perfusion of finance and the largesse of numerous international banks. The most heavily indebted group in India has some USD 8 billion in bonds denominated in other currencies in circulation, according to Bloomberg data. The conglomerate is divided into a network of multiple companies, of which seven are publicly listed.
The energy market crisis that followed the war in Ukraine was a boon for this auto-proclaimed “self-made man”. Backed by high coal and gas prices, both his companies and personal fortune made him the world’s third richest man. In May 2022, the Swiss cement company Holcim sold him its assets in India for USD 10.5 billion.
However, in India, the close relations between Gautam Adani and Prime Minister Narendra Modi have been criticized. Modi also comes from Gujarat, and was Chief Minister for the state when the businessman benefitted from new laws setting up free trade zones (which benefit from tax benefits to attract investors) where he was planning to set up some of his infrastructure. When campaigning to become Prime Minister in 2014, Narendra Modi had the use of a plane made available by the Adani Group to take him home every evening.
Gautam Adani has little appreciation for the interest in his links to the Prime Minister. This is the interpretation of his offensive in the Indian media landscape last August to take control of NDTV, one of the channels that remains critical of the Indian government. He is nevertheless well known for not appreciating questions. “Adani has a long history of intimidation of journalists and activists that he won’t hesitate to bring charges against”, states Stephen Lang, an investigative journalist for the Australian public channel ABC. In Gujarat in 2017, the local police forced his team of reporters to leave the region. His journalists were investigating the group’s tax evasion activities and attempting to speak to fishermen displaced by one of Adani’s port terminals.
Featured Image: Maules Creek coal mine by Leard State Forest via Flickr (CC BY 2.0)
Editor’s Note: Due to their early adoption of renewables, Germany has been hailed as an example by mainstream environmentalists. The myth that Germany is cutting back on fossil fuel has already been debunked in Bright Green Lies. With their main supplier of fossil fuel going to war with Ukraine, Germany is facing a crisis. They are vying for alternate sources, which they have found under their own soil in Lützerath. They are trying to evacuate a hundred villages to get coal under their ground. In a brave attempt to defend their land, the people are putting up a fight against the German state.
Today’s post consists of three separate pieces. The first is a Common Dreams piece covering police brutality against the local communities. The second is a firsthand account of one of those many protestors who joined the local villagers in fighting the German state. This account explores the need for training and militant resistance to industrial civilization. The post finally culminates in an excerpt from Derrick Jensen’s Endgame.
Disclaimer: The opinions expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Deep Green Resistance, the News Service or its staff.
“The most affected people are clear, the science is clear, we need to keep the carbon in the ground,” said Greta Thunberg at the protest.
By Julia Conley / CommonDreams
The way was cleared for the complete demolition of the German village of Lützerath and the expansion of a coal mine on Monday after the last two anti-coal campaigners taking part in a dayslong standoff with authorities left the protest site.
The two activists—identified in media reports by their nicknames, “Pinky” and “Brain”—spent several days in a tunnel they’d dug themselves as thousands of people rallied in the rain over the weekend and hundreds occupied the village, which has been depopulated over the last decade following a constitutional court ruling in favor of expanding a nearby coal mine owned by energy firm RWE.
As Pinky and Brain left the 13-foot deep tunnel, which police in recent days have warned could collapse on them contrary to assessments by experts, other campaigners chainedthemselves to a digger and suspended themselves from a bridge to block access to Lützerath, but those demonstrations were also halted after several hours.
Protesters and their supporters have condemned the actions of law enforcement authorities in the past week as police have violently removed people from the site, including an encampment where about 100 campaigners have lived for more than two years to protest the expansion of RWE’s Garzweiler coal mine.
The vast majority of protesters were peaceful during the occupation. German Interior Minister Nancy Fraeser said Monday that claims of police violence would be investigated while also threatening demonstrators with prosecution if they were found to have attacked officers.
“If the allegations are confirmed then there must be consequences,” said Fraeser.
Fridays for Future leader Greta Thunberg joined the demonstrators last week, condemning the government deal with RWE that allowed the destruction of Lützerath as “shameful” before she was also forcibly removed from the site on Sunday.
“Germany is really embarrassing itself right now,” Thunberg said Saturday of the plan to move forward with the demolition of the village, as thousands of people joined the demonstration. “I think it’s absolutely absurd that this is happening the year 2023. The most affected people are clear, the science is clear, we need to keep the carbon in the ground.”
“When governments and corporations are acting like this, are actively destroying the environment, putting countless of people at risk, the people step up,” she added.
Campaigners have warned that the expansion of the Garzweiler coal mine will make it impossible for Germany to meet its obligation to reduce carbon emissions and have condemned the government, including the Green Party, for its agreement with RWE. Under the deal, the deadline for coal extraction in Germany was set at 2030.
RWE’s mine currently produces 25 million tonnes of lignite, also known as brown coal, per year.
Extinction Rebellion demonstrators in the Netherlands said last week that the protest in the village “is not so much about preserving Lützerath itself.”
“It symbolizes resistance to everything that has to make way for fossil energy while humanity is already on the edge of the abyss due to CO2 emissions,” said the group.
“The people in power will not disappear voluntarily; giving flowers to the cops just isn’t going to work. This thinking is fostered by the establishment; they like nothing better than love and nonviolence. The only way I like to see cops given flowers is in a flower pot from a high window.” — William S. Burroughs
By Agent Eagle
Thousands of people storming a village occupied by police. It was not the revolution, but it was close.
A demonstration had been announced for January 14, a Saturday, in Keyenberg, which is next to Lützerath, Germany. Underneath the villages and their fertile loess soil lies lignite. The German government, the world’s number one lignite miner with 140 million tons extracted a year, dispossessed the residents of approximately 100 villages around the strip mine Garzweiler 2 utilizing laws from Nazi Germany. The police occupy and defend the area that is now in the possession of the energy firm RWE from the people.
Despite attempts at forced evacuation, a couple of activists were still holding out in Lützerath, underground or in the trees. However, since the police had disbanded their community kitchen and thrown out all paramedics, their time was running out.
Therefore, on Saturday, we knew we would make a last attempt at reoccupying the village.
The weather was stormy, which was an advantage in the end because it disabled armored water cannon trucks. The mud was sticky. The rain was heavy. There were police around the entire village, police along the horizon, police as far as the eye can see. Yet thousands of people marched to Lützerath despite the police doing everything they could to prevent us from doing so by using tear gas, batons, riot shields, dogs, horses, anti-riot water cannons, a helicopter and military tactics. It was a siege that began when one of the people organizing the legal demo told us to ignore the police and go for the village.
A group of hooded activists in black marched right through the police lines, throwing smoke bombs and shooting fireworks. Of around 35,000 people, approximately 5,000-10,000 joined in, but we progressively kept losing more on the way to Lützerath. We advanced by taking land and by breaking through police lines, for example by distracting the police, so we could push through elsewhere. Then the police rearranged and it all began anew. It took 6-7 hours to even get to the village.
By then it was almost dawn. Most of the people were deciding to turn around.
The police managed to surround the entire village. They had erected two special fences around the village and the surrounding woods. They had also built a road through the strip mine, so they could bring in ordnance while they prevented all of our vehicles from getting through.
Lützerath leaves an impression. A mark on the consciousness of the people. Some are confronted with the violence of the machine for the very first time. The lifeless bodies of protestants being dragged through the mud by policemen. Running and panicked screams. A heavily armed policeman coming at you, swinging his baton, bellowing, hitting you in the face, despite you raising your arms. In such a moment you become fully conscious of the absurdity and brutality of a system that does not protect you but the interests of a company tearing the life from this very earth. You notice you do not have a weapon because somebody told you that you were prohibited from carrying one. But he does, and he is using it.
You also see the people coming together to lift a woman in a wheelchair over an earth wall. You see the crowd forming a protective circle, shouting and pulling on a policeman who is pushing a screaming woman. I felt something very special that is hard to describe. A solidarity that does not need words.
Over a hundred people were hurt, some severely. The police won, the area was evacuated and flattened in the cruelest way possible. Landmarks that were supposed to go to museums were destroyed. Still, some people are holding out to slow down the monstrous rotary excavator. If RWE manages to mine just one quarter of the amount of lignite it plans to mine, if Lützerath falls, the earth will warm more than 1.5°.
The reason we failed in the end was not hunger. Nor exhaustion. Nor lack of equipment. The reason we failed was morale. Morale was, of course, low from hours of wading through mud and static battles with the police, but people can push through hardships and overcome fear. For this, they need motivation. That could look like a leader giving them a goal and pointing them in the right direction, or knowing that reinforcement is on the way.
What we would have needed was a detailed plan, experience and more structure. A tighter, more responsive form of organization led by people with an iron will. Numbers can only do so much. If he has a weapon, and is willing to use it, and you do not have a weapon and you are not willing to take risks, then he wins. More militant activists led the push, and most of them were carried off by police fairly early on.
I believe the “activisti,” as they are called here, would have profited from training. For example, many people were too timid to effectively advance, so what would have helped is a kind of military structure with leaders and strategically positioned militant activists.
If we could do it again, I would make sure we would have brought the right equipment along and that the people who knew how to carry and use it were protected until arriving at the fence. In Germany, you are not allowed to bring “protective weapons” to demonstrations, meaning any kind of armor to protect you from police violence. I would have disregarded that. In the deciding moment of this battle, right before the fence, I would have given people shields and armor that a group would have carried up until then and I would have told them to shield the people breaking into the fence.
I would have brought smoke grenades, balloons and water guns filled with colorful paint and pepper spray and maybe even a truck with a hose mounted on top to send the police into chaos. We could have made a coordinated effort to storm into their rows and to disarm them, put bags over their heads, use the pepper spray, colors and flash grenades to blind them and tie them up.
We could have notified people of our plans without alerting police via messenger groups.
We could have driven a truck into the outer fence, maybe put wooden planks over the gap between the fences and climbed over it.
We could have used drones to scout and carrier drones to bring supplies.
We could have stormed the perimeter and disabled or even taken over the water cannon truck.
In the ensuing confusion we could have brought in material for barricades. The fences would have worked to our advantage: we would have barricaded ourselves inside and around it. At night, we would have laid down bricks and spikes to keep the police from bringing in reinforcements. We could have sabotaged the police cars that were already there — it is easy to pop their tires. Or we could have taken them, crashed them and used them for the barricades. People in the very densely populated Ruhrgebiet could have sabotaged police stations and laid fires the whole night to keep the police busy. We could have held our position until morning.
For all of this, we would have needed high amounts of coordination and structure and also morale to keep it coming. Everyone would have needed to lose their fear of state violence and to fight till the bitter end.
Agent Eagle is a German radical feminist and an environmental activist.
By Derrick Jensen/Endgame
“Some failures to act at the right time with the right tactic (violent or nonviolent) may set movements back or move them forward. The trick is knowing when and how to act. Well, that’s the first trick. The real trick is kicking aside our fear and acting on what we already know (because, truly, we depend on those around us, and they are dying because they depend on us, too).
I asked a friend what he thought is meant by the phrase, ‘Every act of violence sets back the movement ten years.’
He responded, ‘More often than not, before I say anything radical or militant at all in any sort of public forum, I wonder who is taking in my words. And I wonder what will be the consequences if I say something that may threaten the worldview of those in power.’
He paused, then continued, ‘I think identity has a lot to do with resistance to violent acts. It’s pretty apparent to us all at a very early age that you’re absolutely forbidden by the master to use the ‘tools of the master to destroy the master’s house.’ Imagine a child who is routinely beaten with a two-by-four, who one day picks it up and fights back. Imagine especially what happens to this child if he’s not yet big enough to effectively fight back, to win. Not good. On the larger scale I don’t think many people are willing to identify themselves with these types of acts or with anyone willing to commit these types of acts simply because it is forbidden by those in power and therefore to be feared.’
Another short pause, and then he concluded, ‘The way I see it, the phrase about setting the movement back is coming from a place of fear. It surely can’t be coming from the perspective of successful pacifist resistance to the machine. If it did, we wouldn’t be here discussing how to stop the atrocities committed by this culture.’
Near the end of our book Welcome to the Machine: Science, Surveillance, and the Culture of Control, George Draffan and I wrote, ‘A high-ranking security chief from South Africa’s apartheid regime later told an interviewer what had been his greatest fear about the rebel group African National Congress (ANC). He had not so much feared the ANC’s acts of sabotage or violence — even when these were costly to the rulers — as he had feared that the ANC would convince too many of the oppressed majority of Africans to disregard ‘law and order.’ Even the most powerful and highly trained ‘security forces’ in the world would not, he said, have been able to stem that threat.’
As soon as we come to see that the edicts of those in power are no more than the edicts of those in power, that they carry no inherent moral or ethical weight, we become the free human beings we were born to be, capable of saying yes and capable of saying no.”
Endgame, Derrick Jensen
Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash