Huge protest for action on climate change

Issue 

Over the weekend of November 27-29, more than 140,000 people took part in marches in 55 towns and cities across Australia as part of the global protest in the lead-up to the United Nations COP21 climate talks in Paris. The protests promoted a 100% renewable energy future and climate justice.

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Melbourne

Chris Petersen reports that in Melbourne up to 60,000 — the organisers' estimate — marched for climate action.

Wurundjeri elder Dianne Kerr said: "It is important to respect each other today. We have to worry about our climate. We call the Earth our mother. We need to eradicate racism. When we look after country, country will look after us."

First Nations activist Neil Morris, said: "The land is sacred. The Earth is indeed ravaged. I, as a traditional custodian, feel ravaged. First Nations' mobs around the world feel ravaged.

"We speak of caring for our mother. This is for the benefit of all people, all beings. The system that is driving the attacks on our way of life and driving ecocide must end!

National director of the Seed Indigenous Youth Climate Network Amelia Telford said: "Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are being forced off our land due to the extractive industries that fuel dangerous climate change and, more and more, by the devastating impacts of sea level rise, drought and lack of access to clean water.

"We know that climate change is the greatest threat to humanity. But what many haven't yet recognised is that a key part of this crisis is the loss of Indigenous land, cultures and livelihoods. In order to build just solutions, we need to see that the fight to stop the forced closure of Indigenous communities goes hand and hand with solving the climate crisis."

Secretary of the Victorian Trades Hall Council Luke Hilakari said: "We know climate change is dangerous and we know there are great opportunities for us in new jobs."

Jacinta Morahan, a doctor and activist with Anglesea Surf Coast Air Action who successfully campaigned to close the Anglesea coal power station, said: "The medical community has been clear in its message — fossil fuels are hazardous to health and climate change is hazardous to health."

Photos by Ali Bakhtiarvandi

Adelaide

Gemma Weedall reports from Adelaide that the 6000-strong crowd included a range of ages, nationalities and sectors. The protest, led by SOSBlakAustralia, was the largest climate march ever in Adelaide.

The protest was organised around a number of blocs, inspired by last year's New York march: "Frontlines of crisis — forefront of change";" The debate is over"; "We can build the future"; "We know who is responsible"; "We have the solutions"; and "To change everything will take everyone".

Speakers included Jared Thomas, from SOS BlakAustralia and Socialist Alliance, Joseph Scales from the Australian Services Union, Judee Adams from Oxfam, Peter Owen from The Wilderness Society, and Lord Mayor Martin Haese.

The Australian Services Union had strong contingent focused on promoting a just transition for workers, with the contingent wearing green hard hats. Faith-based groups were strongly represented. Members of the Tibetan, West Papuan and Pacific Islander communities were also strongly represented.

Photos by Gemma Weedall

Darwin

Anna Boustead from the Environment Centre NT reports from Darwin that in sweltering heat, more than 500 people marched from Stokes Hill Wharf to the Darwin Waterfront.

The march was colourful, creative and noisy, and included everyone from the very young, who stand to inherit a much warmer planet to the very old, many of whom are worried about heat stress.

Seed Indigenous Youth Climate Network NT representative Clayton Simpson said: "Indigenous people will make up 50% of the Territory's population by 2050. It is important that young Indigenous mob are leading our response to climate change, particularly remote Indigenous communities which are most vulnerable to its impacts.

Larrakia woman June Mills and other singers led the march before welcoming everyone to country. The march anthem, "You're the Voice", rang out across the waterfront in honour of the one million women seeking action on climate change.

Unions, nurses, doctors, teachers, environment groups, scientists, young families and retirees all marched through the heat to press their message.

MC Shankar Kasynathan said: "We are not just here representing ourselves today, but we are also here to speak up on behalf of our Island nation neighbours, as well as our own remote communities, who are increasingly forced to cope with a rapidly rising sea level and more unpredictable weather."

Professor Stephen Garnett of Charles Darwin University said: "We may not realise it, but it is getting hotter all the time. This impacts on the way we live and costs the Australian economy around $7 billion each year in heat stress."

Uniting Church member Zac Hatfield explained how people could harness their power by divesting from financial institutions and businesses which support the fossil fuel industries that have generated a 1°C increase in global average temperatures.

New England

The Armidale Road to Paris (AR2P), an action group of Sustainable Living Armidale, organised a march and rally of more than 350 people — the culmination of an extended campaign.

Socialist Alliance New England (SANE) was one of around 500 signatories to a petition from the community to the Australian government delegation "to strongly support the UN aim to achieve a legally binding and universal agreement that will limit global warming to under 2°".

AR2P organised a series of articles on climate change in the local newspaper and asked members of the community to contribute to the AR2P banner, which was filmed at the rally.

Richelle Roberts, convener of AR2P, was the sole speaker and focussed on individuals' values and actions. SANE carried two banners: "The market is the problem, not the solution” and “Community need, not corporate greed”.

Brisbane

Angus McAllen reports from Brisbane that, despite the heat and last-minute changes to the march route, 10,000 people took to the streets.

Diverse groups, including unions, bird-watchers, Pacific Islanders and radical youth took part. Indigenous and Pacific Islander people led the march. Speakers from SEED, the Indigenous Youth Climate Coalition, urged people to connect the dots between the struggle for decolonisation and the struggle for climate justice.

Speakers from the United Firefighters Union Queensland and the Australian Manufacturing Workers' Union spoke about how working-class people bear the brunt of a "throw-away culture" which doesn't prioritise long-term and sustainable development.

A large youth contingent, which included members of AYCC and the radical youth bloc organised by young independent leftists and young militants from Resistance: Young Socialist Alliance, led the main chants of the rally.

Radical youth released a statement on the day calling for radical action on climate change and the end of capitalism.

Sydney

About 50,000 people, organised in colourful and loud contingents, marched from the Domain to Circular Quay. Speakers included author Tim Flannery and Sydney Lord Mayor Clover Moore.

Controversially a pro-nuclear contingent of around 10 people marched; the anti-nuclear contingent was considerably larger. But missing were a number of Aboriginal activists who boycotted the march because the organisers failed to consult with them.

A loud contingent of drummers, around a banner "Capitalism has failed — People's Power Will Win" and another supporting Bolivian President Evo Morales' progressive approach to climate change, attracted supporters to the contingent along the march.

Photos: Peter Boyle

Perth

About 8000 people marched from Wellington Square to the Hay Street Mall in the middle of Perth CBD as part of the international weekend of climate action.

The mobilisation took place in the days after serious bushfires in Esperance. Kevin Jolly of the United Firefighters Union was one of the speakers highlighting that bushfire season is starting earlier.

An Aboriginal contingent led the march in which chants for "people power" as a means to achieve climate action were popular.

The Socialist Alliance marched behind a banner reading "Capitalism kills the climate: ecosocialism is the alternative".

Hundreds of people marched in Bunbury as well.

Canberra
A crowd of about 5000 marched from Parliament House to the Aboriginal Tent Embassy in front of Old Parliament House.

The crowd chanted "from coal and gas to wind and sun. This power shift has begun" and "we are unstoppable, another world is possible".

At the tent embassy the group was welcomed by Aboriginal elders who invited the group onto the land.
The ACT Conservation Council's Phoebe Howe said the march was about celebrating successes as well as advocating for more action.

Hobart

About 4000 people gathered on the lawns of Parliament House Hobart in what was a vibrant rally without a march.

A wide range of speakers addressed the crowd, including a farmer activist, a representative from Fossil Free UTas, Australian Youth Climate Coalition and the secretary of the United Firefighters Union Tasmania.

Many people carried placards and signs calling for a focus on renewable energy and less of a reliance on fossil fuels. Wildlife also featured strongly, with participants dressed as parrots and Tasmanian devils to draw attention to the plight of endangered species.

Cairns
About 400 people rallied at the Cairns Esplanade and marched around the waterfront. Marchers symbolised rising sea waters by partly immersing ourselves in the Lagoon swimming pool next to the rally site.

Hosted by the Cairns Climate Action Network, the event featured speeches by local politicians, traditional owners, Knitting Nannas Against Gas and former residents of Micronesia, a 607-island nation in the western Pacific Ocean that is under threat from sea level rises.

Speakers included Hilary Whitehouse, who spoke about potential damage to the reef, such as acidification, and David Tebbitts who spoke about the impact on Pacific Islands.