Melbourne ISTSDay Report
MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - Slowly but surely the photos from International Stop the Tar Sands Day 2012 are creeping in. Since I had about a 10 hour head start on most ISTSDay events I had time to write this article about ISTSDay in Melbourne. The article has been published on line in DEMOTIX:
The full text of the article is below. More photos of us and our 2 meter tall climate dot are in the DEMOTIX article or on facebook. I will have more May 5th tales for you in the coming days.
MELBOURNE - 05/05/2012
Concerned citizens of Melbourne took to the streets today despite rainy conditions to participate in one of the largest international days of action for the planet in human history. Hundreds of events involving thousands of people will take place around the world today for Climate Impacts Day and International Stop the Tar Sands Day.
“The tar sands are the pin-up for unconventional fossil fuels,” says Melbourne co-organizer Cheree Mack. “If we can stop the tar sands in Canada maybe it will have a ripple effect on other places around the world that are using similar destructive technologies. In Australia, coal seam gas (unconventional gas) has become a major issue and we also have undeveloped oil shale deposits here.”
The three unconventional fossils fuels under development globally at the moment - tar sands, oil shale and shale gas/coal seam gas – require more energy to develop, have more negative environmental impacts and produce less energy than their conventional predecessors. Tar sands are a mixture of clay, sand, heavy metals and a tar like form of petroleum called bitumen. The largest and most developed tar sands deposits in the world are located underneath the beautiful boreal forests of Alberta, Canada. The Albertan tar sands are the third largest oil reserve in the world.
"I wasn't expecting to change the minds of thousands of Melbournians today," explains Bronwyn Wauchope, Melbourne co-organizer. "It was about capturing people's attention through creative means to raise awareness about the climate crisis."
Organizers and participants of the Melbourne event pushed a two meter tall handmade "climate dot" through the busy streets of Melbourne's central business district. People were nearly mesmerized as the handmade cardboard dot rolled past famous city landmarks like Flinders Street train station and the State Library.
"Connecting the dots" between recent extreme weather events and climate change caused by humanity's burning of fossil fuels was the main of theme of Climate Impacts Day. This is the fourth international day of action organized by 350.org, an environmental organization that is present in every country in the world except North Korea.
Prior to the event, Melbourne organizers had painted the earth on one side of the dot and a spiral on the other. Melbourne co-organizer Joel Gresham explains the symbolism:
"The spiral represents how our energy needs are spiralling out of control and pushing us towards more extreme forms of energy like tar sands and coal seam gas. The earth represents the need for us to reconnect with our planet in order to live more sustainably."
Neither a group nor an organization, International Stop the Tar Sands Day was created in 2010 with the goal of raising international awareness about the Canadian tar sands industry. Organizers and participants of International Stop the Tar Sands Day are encouraged to be creative, stay positive, and have fun with their events in order to make the notion of stopping the tar sands accessible to people from all different walks of life.
At noon, participants met with Melbourne's "Quit Coal" group for a rally in front of the office of the Australian mining company Rio Tinto. People are calling for a moratorium on new coal mines and coal seam gas operations in the state of Victoria. Coal seam gas projects in Victoria are only in their exploratory phase, despite having support of the state government to move on to full operations.
To show support for Canadian indigenous peoples, solidarity photos were taken on the banks of the Yarra River. Indigenous peoples of western Canada are currently in a legal battle with the Canadian government over the construction of the Northern Gateway pipeline, which would be built on their lands. Northern Gateway would be a major step towards shipping tar sands oil to emerging markets in Asia. According to eminent scientist James Hansen, Director of NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies, it would be “game over” for the climate if the Canadian tar sands were developed completely.
In spirit of addressing these issues, Cheree Mack quoted from the Users Guide to Demanding the Impossible - “It's easy to feel paralysed by the complexities of the world, to feel like nothing you do will ever make a difference...But when we look back at history we see that every movement, every single shift in society began with a small group of friends having an idea that seemed impossible at the time.”
For more information on Climate Impacts Day and International Stop the Tar Sands Day go to:
[FULL DISCLOSURE: the author of this article is the European coordinator of International Stop the Tar Sands Day]