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An activist hangs from a coal loader in Newcastle Harbour, Australia. (Photo: 350 Australia)

From Philly to Australia, People Rise Up Against 'Fossil Fuel Dinosaur Economy'

Demonstrators laid their bodies down and raised their voices up to demand a just transition to renewable energy

Lauren McCauley

The climate movement was out in force on Saturday as demonstrators from Australia to Philadelphia laid their bodies down and raised their voices up to demand a just transition to renewable energy.

In Newcastle, Australia, over 1,000 kayaktivists and other protesters shut down operations at the nation's largest coal export port.

"For the first time in a very long while, no coal came into or left Newcastle Port today," organizers with climate action group 350 Australia wrote in an end-of-day recap of the dramatic occupation.

"Kayakers blocked the harbour entrance in the largest flotilla ever seen here. While at the same time over 60 people blocked the only coal transport train line into the port, preventing any coal from getting to port for over six hours," they said. "Other brave folk suspended themselves from coal loaders and mooring lines of major coal assets."

Dramatic images of the protest are available here.

Student Jesse Kalic, who was among the 66 protesters arrested over the course of the action, told reporters, "We are putting ourselves at risk by being here today but we feel that it's far riskier to not take action on climate change."

The port shut down is part of a massive international civil disobedience campaign against fossil fuels known as Break Free 2016 that launched last week with demonstrations in Wales, the Philippines, and New Zealand.

Kicking off the wave of resistance in the United States, hundreds of residents and climate activists rallied outside the Philadelphia Energy Solutions (PES) refinery in South Philadelphia to protest a proposed oil refinery expansion and import/ export facility.

The Right to Breathe Mobilization amplified the voices of community members whose health is already impacted by the presence of the fossil fuel industry.

"I am concerned about the fact that Philadelphia Energy Solutions wants to expand a refinery that has been poisoning the air in our neighborhoods for decades," said longtime resident Doreen Rich, who carried an oversized sunflower sign.

"Everybody in my house has asthma, and I got 1-2-3 kids that got asthma," she said. "We do not need anymore pollutants in this city."

Echoing the message of the global campaign, Rich added: "I think Philadelphia can go in a different direction, I think we can develop an economy moving in a green direction, instead of sticking with this fossil fuel dinosaur economy that locks us into fracking, locks us into pollution."

Over the next week, large demonstrations are planned across the United States, including in Washington state, Chicago, Denver, Los Angeles, upstate New York, and Washington, D.C..

And as the climate movement continues to hone its demands, namely a just and rapid transition to 100 percent renewable energy, Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell drew fire this week for calling the "keep it in the ground" movement naïve.

"It's going to take a very long time before we can wean ourselves from fossil fuels, so I think that to keep it in the ground is naïve, to say we could shift to 100 percent renewables is naïve," Jewell said.

Tim Ream, an activist with the group WildEarth Guardians, told the Desert Sun that Jewell "needs to get past the 'keep it in the ground' slogan and look at the real policy request, which is to end new leases" of federal land for fossil fuel exploitation. Ream and others also shared their dismay with the U.S. official on Twitter:


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