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Activists To Ratchet Up Climate Heat

Haider Rizvi

NEW YORK - Teams of environmental activists are planning to take to the streets over the coming weeks to put the spotlight on policy makers who they say are prioritizing corporate interests in the coal and oil industries over the impending threat of global warming.0727 02"Climate change is here and more and more people are refusing to sit by waiting for governments to act and watching them fail," said Alicia Ng, an activist associated with the international campaign called "Climate Convergence 2008."

The Climate Convergence is part of a global campaign that calls for acts of civil disobedience to draw policy makers' attention to the threat of climate change and its impact on the natural environment and indigenous communities across the world.

Apparently inspired by the success of British environmental protests against the expansion of Heathrow Airport in London last year, those who have launched the Climate Convergence campaign say they plan to stage direct actions in a similar way in several U.S. and European cities in the next two months.

As part of their worldwide campaign, a little over a week ago, thousands of activists gathered in the Australian town of Newcastle to register their protest against over-reliance on fossil fuels. They stopped all rail transit of coal for a short time, in a blockade that cost the industry an estimated $1 million. Later, they also shut down coal shipments from the coastal city of Kooragang.

Campaigners describe their direct action gatherings as "camps," where the protest-related activities are not merely confined to speeches or sloganeering, but also include workshops and music to highlight the issue of climate change and the sustainable approaches that are needed to cope with its adverse impacts on communities and the planet.

"Whatever we achieve in our local struggles this summer, they are amplified by the achievements of the five other climate camps around the world," said Connor O'Brien of the British Camp for Climate Action. The camps are part of a global movement to "[build] pathways to a sustainable future," he added.

Those running the Climate Convergence campaign are particularly critical of the Group of 8 (G-8) most industrialized countries' policies toward climate change.

"The G-8 are making pitiful noises and insulting our intelligence with their so-called targets," said Lizbeth Halloran from the Australian camp. "With world leaders clearly demonstrating that they serve the corporate fossil fuel agenda, it's up to ordinary people to put the brakes on climate change when no one else will."

The G-8 club of powerful nations includes the United States, Canada, Britain, France, Italy, Canada, France, Japan, and Russia. Despite worldwide protests by environmentalists, leaders of the G-8 countries, which consume much of world's fossil fuel, have so far failed to agree on concrete actions to turn to clean energy sources.

Despite strong criticism from a large part of the scientific community and civil society groups, the G-8 countries are also pushing for the increased use of nuclear technology as an alternative source of energy. Many environmentalists hold that nuclear energy is not only expensive but also poses serious risks to the health of the planet.

Mining uranium for nuclear power plants produces radioactive compounds that often contaminate groundwater, air, and plant life, explains the nonprofit Nuclear Age Peace Foundation, adding that the byproducts of nuclear energy include plutonium, which remains hazardous for 240,000 years.

The Climate Convergence campaigners say they want dramatic reductions in greenhouse gas emissions to avoid catastrophic effects of climate change, which are not possible without a rapid transition away from oil, coal, and nuclear-based energy production.

For their part, the largest oil corporations are not only resisting such calls, but are also continuing to exert their influence on policy makers to block legislation that would divert the use of fossil fuel-based energy sources and increase reliance on cleaner energy technologies.

In April, as oil industry bosses gathered in Washington for a congressional hearing, they faced angry protests by thousands of environmentalists who questioned their role in addressing the issue of climate change. In the first week of that month, sizable protests also took place in several other industrialized countries, including Canada and Britain.

The Climate Convergence camps are due to take place in Eugene, Oregon and and High Falls, NY from Jul. 28 to Aug. 4; in Kent, England from Aug. 3 to Aug. 11; in Louisa County, Virginia from Aug. 5 to Aug. 11; and in Hamburg, Germany from Aug. 15 to Aug. 26.

© 2008 One World

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