First Fossil Fools\' Day in Australia

Saturday, April 5, 2008 - 11:00

Fossil Fools' Day, an international day of action on April 1 around climate change, was marked by protest actions across Australia involving up to 500 young people demanding an end to the use of fossil fuels and an increase in renewable energy sources.

A Critical Mass bike ride stopped traffic between the University of Wollongong and the city's CBD, after a speak-out on campus addressing the need to join the environment collective and take part in building a mass movement to demand urgent action against global warming. The riders met up with high-school students who had walked out of their classes at the same time.

At least 150 students, including members of Students Against the Pulp Mill, the Greens, Resistance and the Socialist Alliance, rallied on Hobart's Parliament House lawns at lunchtime. The protesters focused on Gunns Ltd and its planned construction of the Tamar Valley pulp mill.

After marching to the ANZ bank offices, 100 students staged a sit-down protest while Resistance member Alby Dallas closed his ANZ account to protest against the bank's financial backing of the Gunns' project. "We are doing this to express our concern over the pulp mill approval process and the type of mill that's being proposed", he said.

Brami Jegan reported from Sydney that "protesters visited Premier Morris Iemma's office to present him with a 'Fossil fool of the year' award to highlight that government and big corporations are fooling with our planet in their continued and increased use of fossil fuel energy".

"Iemma deserved this award for attempting to sell off our electricity", said Brianna Pike, one of the protest organisers. "Private power companies have a vested interest in making us use more energy, which means there is going to be less focus on reducing power usage and finding clean solutions."

In Melbourne, 30 young people rallied outside the state parliament in an action jointly organised by Resistance, Friends of the Earth and the Cross-Campus Environment Network. Protesters targeted Victorian Premier John Brumby for his support of the HRL "clean" coal power plant being built in the Latrobe Valley.

Ten kilometres from the world's biggest coal port, 80 Newcastle students joined a protest on the university grounds. Rallying around a banner reading "No coal is clean coal", they heard retired coalminer Graham Brown explain that fighting climate change means closing down the coal industry. The rally was also addressed by Rising Tide activist Steve Philips, university lecturer Geoff Evans and activists from the university environment collective.

"The University of Newcastle is a partner of the absurdly named Cooperative Research Centre for Coal in Sustainable Development alongside some of the world's largest mining corporations, Rio Tinto, Xstrata Coal and BHP Billiton", said Simon Cunich, an organiser of the action and speaker for Resistance. "We presented a letter to the deputy vice-chancellor opposing the university's role in conducting research for the coal industry."

In Brisbane, 50 young people undertook a tour of the city and awarded Fossil Fool awards outside the offices of Rio Tinto, BHP Billiton, Xstrata, BMA, Peabody and the state government Executive Building.

In Perth, 45 protesters heard Greens senator-elect Scott Ludlum warn young people to be cynical of corporate "greenwashing".

Simon Butler reports from Adelaide that 25 people raised the need for urgent action to reverse climate change in a morning street march on April 1. The protesters stopped to hear speeches outside the Adelaide office of mining giant BHP Billiton, before proceeding to the office of SA Premier Mike Rann.

South Australian co-convener of the Australian Student Environment Network and protest organiser Sophie Rogers told Green Left Weekly: "We are protesting today to show that not nearly enough has been done by government to stop climate change. We need the plans in place to make a rapid transition to a sustainable society."

From GLW issue 746