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Global Climate Movement Turns Up the Heat

Using direct actions to save the planet, 'We're doing what we have to do.'

-Jon Queally, staff writer

Over fifty people were arrested in Washington, DC on Friday after shutting down the offices of the company behind the flawed Keystone XL impact statement. (Photo via twitter)Earlier this month Greenpeace members in London scaled the tallest building in western Europe with a simple but dramatic message for Royal Dutch Shell and other oil giants: Save the planet. Don't drill in the Arctic.

At the beginning of this week, eleven climate activists in Michigan were arrested for blocking construction of an expansion of a tar sands pipeline that just three years ago caused the largest on-land oil spill in US history.

Of the eleven arrested, four now face felony charges and possible two-year prison sentences for chaining themselves to construction equipment at the project which is owned by Canadian pipeline company Enbridge.

Asked if this would or should deter future activists, Lisa Leggio, ones of those facing felony charges, said simply: "Hell, no. We're doing what we have to do."

On Thursday, fourteen people were arrested after bringing a halt to operations at a proposed gas fracking site in Sussex, England. The anti-fracking activists formed a human chain and refused to leave the roadway and police responded by physically separating the individuals by force.

"They just started taking people out one by one," one witness told the Guardian. "Not everyone went voluntarily and there were some struggles. A girl was shouting at one point and seemed to be quite upset and the police seemed to be quite rough. I saw a policeman with his knuckles pressing on the side of a guy's face until he released the man he was holding onto. He was obviously hurting him. Another looked like he was bending someone's little finger back."

Police officers try to break a human chain formed by anti-fracking protesters at Balcombe in Sussex. (Photograph: Tony Kershaw/Rex Features)Also on Friday, fifty-four members of the global climate movement were arrested in Washington, DC after blockading the offices of an environmental engineering firm responsible for contributing to what protesters see as a deeply flawed impact statement on the proposed Keystone XL pipeline, a controversial tar sands project that has become a focus of the climate change debate in the US.

Demanding that the State Department’s final Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (SEIS) of Keystone XL be fair, balanced, and free from the influence of the fossil fuel industry, the activists surrounded the offices, locked arms, and refused to leave until they were arrested by local police.

So what is all this?

Even if not all formally labelled as such, the actions this week paint a picture of a mid-summer campaign organized by the climate group 350.org called "Summer Heat." Designed as a series of direct actions against the fossil fuel industry, the campaign is the manifestation of an escalation in tactics by the global climate movement that says it is taking its efforts to combat global warming and educate the public about the dangers of climate change to the next level.

Focusing on the impacts of the fossil fuel industry on local "frontline" communities, the activists hope they can show that though the climate emergency is global in scale, every person—no matter where they live—has a role to play in challenging the energy paradigm that is threatening the world's vital ecosystems.

“We’ve reached a point where every local fight over dirty energy is also a fight for the planet’s survival," explained 350.org co-founder Bill McKibben, who said that the SummerHeat campaign shows how frontline groups like the ones in Michigan, Washington, and Essex are "battling for people around the world.”

The campaign, which has been ongoing throughout July, is culminating in a series of actions over this weekend nationwide:

Richmond Summer Heat – Bay Area
President Obama — Keep your Promises – DC
Flotilla to keep New England tar sands free – Maine
2013 Walk for our Grandchildren – Maryland
Shut Down Brayton Point – Massachusetts
Oil and Water Don’t Mix: A Rally for the Great Lakes – Michigan
Rally at the Rio! – New Mexico
Ohio vs. Frackers – Ohio
Pacific Northwest stands up to fossil fuel exports – Portland, OR
Utah Tar Sands Action Camp – Utah
Texas Keystone XL Showdown – Texas

Follow the #summerheat hashtag on Twitter:

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