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Updated: 13 hours 29 min ago

Reclaiming power – Poland’s first climate camp

August 13, 2018 - 2:07pm

When I arrived at the camp, the morning was cloudy and wet. There were a handful of people around. Some got there the night before and had to pitch their tents in pouring rain. Some of us knew each other, some were strangers. We shared the space – but we weren’t there together.

By the time I left the camp, we were all a part of something. Something new and growing and hopeful. Together.

It’s not every day you witness a movement being born

“One day I will tell my kids about this. That I was there when the climate movement in Poland was born,” Kasia, one of the camp’s participants, told me. We were walking through a muddy field to take part in a discussion about the future of work in a world where climate is changing.

She had a bright, hopeful look in her eyes, a hunger even. And she wasn’t alone.

“Something is finally moving. We finally have a critical mass of people who want to talk about climate in Poland, and who want to act,” another participant, Monia, told me as we were sitting on the grass during a break. The sun had come out again.

Marek has been working to fight Poland’s coal addiction and air pollution for years in professional NGOs. “We’ve watched and learned from others – the successful movement to protect the Bialowieza Forest, the air pollution campaign – and we knew we needed to have that space to talk about climate, to learn, to share, to consolidate, to plan”.

If you care about the climate, you are not alone

It made sense to feel excited and hopeful: the camp was the first time ever that people from across Poland could come together to talk and mobilise to stop fossil fuels.

Over the five-day programme, several hundred people came to the camp. We learnt a lot: the programme was full, from workshops on how to set up affinity groups for action, to local organisers sharing their experiences of making change happen in their communities; from discussions about a just transition for mining regions in Poland to a slogan-writing workshop.

But in between workshops we were also building a community. I remember coming late for lunch one day and feeling amazed: people who were strangers the day before were now chatting in the long queue or sitting in the grass in one of the many small groups eating together.

We were discovering the things we shared: caring for the planet, feeling the injustice as we watched a few powerful people destroy our landscape and our future for profit, the need to act.

We were discovering that we were not alone, and that others were ready to stand with us against fossil fuels. It didn’t take long to start being there together.


…and you can do something

People came to the camp from different places. Some were climate experts and campaigners. Some came from other movements, to build people power together. For some this was their first experience with climate organising and campaigning, and they came because they felt the need to act. At the camp we found what we were looking for.

“I came here as a Christian,” said Magda. “I believe God doesn’t want us to destroy this Earth. He wants us to redeem and save it. This is something that unifies all of us here: no matter if we’re believers or not, we care for the same cause. This is the message I want to share”.

Goja is an animal rights activist. “I came here to learn more about climate change. I also have knowledge to share, such as how industrial farming is harming our climate,” she told me.

But the camp was also a space to meet and share experiences with others from across Europe and beyond. Climate justice activists from Germany, Czechia and even Colombia came to share their struggles and successes.

Miku is part of the climate justice movement in Czechia, called Limity jsme my, “We are the limits”. “It was necessary for me to come here, to Poland’s first climate camp, to support the struggle. The struggle for climate justice knows no borders”. Dorothee from Germany’s Ende Gelaende agrees: “It’s important to connect and help carry on the spark of climate action across borders.”


Inviting people to the table

Later, I ask Monika, one of the camp’s organisers, what motivated her. “I wanted to help build a space where people from very different backgrounds could meet, maybe for the first time, and talk about this huge challenge we’re all facing,” says Monika.

“I have a motto: if we’re not sitting at the decision-making table, we’re probably a dish being served. This camp is bigger than we expected, and equally, I hope that this table where decisions about our future are made will also grow bigger and bigger. That local communities, activists, NGOs, local authorities, we’ll all sit at this table together to talk about what’s important. And if we see someone missing from the table, that we know to invite them.”

Reclaiming hope

I left the camp with the same feeling of hope, and the same spark in my eyes, that I saw that first day in Kasia’s. Can a real, radical, powerful climate movement really be born, and really make change, in the land of coal?

Climate activism used to be something difficult in Poland, reserved for NGO experts, professional campaigners and organisers. There were no open spaces for people to take action. But the climate camp, and the people who came there, changed that.

What happens now that the camp is over? The power and the hope are still there, and the activists are meeting after the summer, to craft the movement’s values, guiding principles and goals, and chart the way forward. And right now it feels like we just might succeed.

We are the climate justice movement and we are on the rise.

Categories: International News

Overcoming Despair

August 10, 2018 - 11:55am

The news we’ve been hearing the past weeks on climate has given many of us reason to despair; the draft IPCC 1.5C report makes it clear how difficult it is to stay within 1.5C without negative emissions and most recently a scientific article has suggested that feedback loops could shift the earth into a “hothouse” state.

This is also proving to be a year full of impacts that many of us have experienced ourselves – record heat in Pakistan and India during summer (April-June) resulted in approximately 4,000 deaths. Currently the whole northern hemisphere has spent these summer months struggling with high temperatures from Sweden to Canada, Japan to Algeria. And we are not only hearing about deaths in poor countries, but in wealthy countries such as Japan and S. Korea almost 200 people died due to the heat. We haven’t even mentioned the weather in the Southern hemisphere, such as the heat waves in January in South Africa and Australia.

It’s been a long time since I felt hopeless about the state of the climate. But I have felt the despair this boreal summer seeing the impacts that the hot weather is having here in Switzerland and the “hothouse” paper only made me feel worse. The Aare river in Bern, where I live, recorded its highest temperature ever, 23.8C, which is dangerously close to the upper limit that many freshwater fish species can handle. On a mountaineering tour, we did not need our crampons because the glacier had receded so much. While cycling through the countryside I have met farmers who are fearing that they will lose their whole crop for the year. What sealed my fear was a large article in the newspaper on the frontpage about farmers not being prepared to deal with climate change. Despite being one of the wealthiest countries in the world and priding itself on always being prepared, it has been caught off guard by climate change.

India is a chaotic country where you expect things to go wrong – I find it easier to deal with dire situations there, because it has been the norm so long. When something actually goes as planned, it is a nice surprise. But Switzerland? If the train is 1 minute late, there is an announcement, there is always a plan B.

I started working on climate change over 20 years ago and knew it was going to be for the long haul – it’s a complex problem that requires systemic change. And quite frankly, everything is in flux; when humanity solves one issue, another comes along. So, it’s been a long time since I felt despair, but one of those times was in Mumbai in 2005 when I was an active member of the “Ghar Bachao, Ghar Banao” movement (Save the home, build the home). The movement arose due to a large number of slum demolitions that were happening in Mumbai at the time, home to half of the city’s inhabitants.

We had hatched a plan to resist a slum demolition, but one of the slum dwellers turned out to be on the payroll of the mafia that controlled the slum; even before we could resist we were arrested. It just seemed futile – fighting the government was one thing, but taking on the mafia was on a new level and quite frankly, scary.

But Balubhai, a resident of the slum reminded me that the struggle had to continue – we hadn’t any choice if we wanted to ensure that half the city who lives in slums would continue to have a home. Where would he go and what would he do if there wasn’t a movement? He also showed me all the ways in which we had made progress – we had delayed demolition of homes into two slums, we got media attention showing how the city gives away public housing plots to the mafia, and despite the presence of mafia in the slums people were joining the movement. In fact, we had seen a number of slum dwellers whose self confidence increased and felt comfortable demanding their rights.

That has stayed with me – if we give up, nothing can change; sure, maybe we need to rethink our strategy or tactics at times, but we do have agency and we can use crises to increase the size of the movement to be more powerful and effective. There is no ignoring the pain and suffering, but we can do something about it. And we must continue to see the beauty in life – it always amazed me that the slum dwellers continued with their lives, the movement was an important part, but not the only part; they continued to have babies, meet family and friends, and enjoy the rare moments of leisure they had. So I knew I had to keep on working on climate change and I forced myself to take joy in the flowers in my garden or hearing the birds while running.

When I saw that the “hothouse” authors were upset at the doomsday depiction of their scientific work by the media and explained that the recipe to prevent such a scenario is to get off of fossil fuels and transition quickly and fairly to 100% renewable energy, it also gave me renewed energy, because I knew what the climate justice movement has been demanding all along was on point and we do have a winning strategy that has resulted in many gains.

I know each person working on climate change falls into despair in response to different events and has their own way of dealing with it. We are working on an issue that is hard, scary and overwhelming all the time, but I hope each of you finds your way back to the reason you are doing this work and are able to find joy.

Categories: International News

The ripple effect

August 3, 2018 - 1:50am

It’s easy to feel helpless when it comes to climate change.

But one of the best ways we can all feel hopeful again is to take action and share our stories — and here are 5 ways you can do just that:

You can watch and share this video wherever your networks are — on Facebook, Youtube or Twitter.

To end the age of fossil fuels we’ll need to see changes on a massive scale. Yet each and every small action, every social media post, every conversation we have is an important step along the way. We are all megaphones for the change we want to see.

People around are already gearing up to demand a fossil free future.

Need a bit of inspiration? Search #RiseForClimate and see folks organizing around the world for Sept 8

— Pennie Opal Plant (@PennieOpal) July 29, 2018

If you haven’t signed up to host or attend an event yet, there’s still time for that. But if you can just take the small step now of sharing this video, putting a poster in your window, sending a tweet, or flagging the date with a community group you’re part of, you’ll be part of the ripple effect that could make this moment a turning point. As @lindsaymeim14 tweeted when out flyering for Rise,“Community is everything!”.

Yesterday I was feeling pretty overwhelmed by, well, all the things. So Penny & I took a break from screens and handed out some #RiseNY flyers to fellow New Yorkers. Community is everything!#WhyWeRise #RiseForClimate pic.twitter.com/wF9b9yDece

— Lindsay Meiman (@lindsaymeim14) July 26, 2018

We’re in this together.

Join Rise

Categories: International News

Recruitment for #RiseForClimate has officially kicked off!

August 1, 2018 - 9:45am

The final month of recruitment for the Rise for Climate global day of action on September 8th has kicked off. And all over the world local groups are taking to the streets to spread the word.

People in San Francisco and New York took a one-on-one approach and went door-knocking and headed out flyering (and sometimes brought a friend):

Yesterday I was feeling pretty overwhelmed by, well, all the things. So Penny & I took a break from screens and handed out some #RiseNY flyers to fellow New Yorkers. Community is everything!#WhyWeRise #RiseForClimate pic.twitter.com/wF9b9yDece

— Lindsay Meiman (@lindsaymeim14) July 26, 2018

Some organisers in Manilla grabbed attention with dinosaur costumes and giant QR codes:

There was an ‘Artivism’ workshop in South Africa, harnessing the power of art to spread the word and inspire:

A collaborative effort which showcases #artivism in its essence. We become environmentally conscious through awareness. The more aware we become, the more we can do.#RiseforClimate #RiseForClimate #RiseArt #riseart #350org #350Africa pic.twitter.com/S3Lm263ack

— 350 Africa (@350Africa) July 21, 2018

And in the same spirit Team Ghana are using posters from the Rise for Climate art project to catch peoples’ eye:

You can download a set of beautiful Rise for Climate posters by artists from 6 continents here or even generate your own with the Rise for Climate poster-maker

And everywhere in the world people are taking to social media and sharing their own story about why we’re Rising for climate.

I’m going to #RiseforClimate, Jobs and Justice on September 8th because the climate crisis is here and it’s time to act for a better future.
Rise with me and the thousands of others fighting for a just world. https://t.co/39Dj7a9pNm

— Asmaa Hanafi (@AsmaaHanafi1) July 29, 2018

Wherever you are in the world, and however much time you have, you can help build momentum towards Rise for Climate on 8 September. Here are 5 things you can do to spread the word.

There are already over 200 events planned worldwide, find out if there’s an event near you — and if not, there’s still time to get organising!

Categories: International News

“It’s time to walk the walk”

July 25, 2018 - 5:24am

There’s a groundswell of people fighting for climate justice in our communities. It’s happening in our backyards, in our towns and cities, and across the world.

Thousands of people are ready and inspired to Rise for Climate on 8 September. We’ll mobilize calling for real climate action, with a powerful message to local leaders everywhere: “It’s time to walk the walk.”

The Global Climate Action Summit this September will bring together elected leaders from all levels to make climate commitments. But we’ve seen empty political gestures in the past, and there’s no more time for that.

Watch and share the video on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or Youtube, and help make our message ring out on 8 September: No more stalling, no more delays. It’s time for real climate leadership.

Already, people all around the world are leading on climate locally, and getting results. In Portland in the US, people have fought for policies to ban new fossil fuel infrastructure and transition to 100% renewable energy, building “fantastic public support” along the way. People power has so far won over 900 fossil fuel divestment commitments from cities, universities and other institutions. While in Peruíbe, Brazil, the community knocked down one of the largest proposed power plants in the world and blocked future mega-polluting projects.

Now it’s your turn.

Join or host a local Rise for Climate event to add your voice to the chorus of hundreds of thousands of people demanding a fossil free world.

Extreme weather events, forest fires and heatwaves are plaguing communities right now, while fossil fuel executives and crooked politicians continue to profit from environmental destruction. It’s time for a new standard in climate leadership.

You can play a role in ending these injustices for the sake of a cleaner, healthier, more just planet. Together we will win.

Join Rise

Categories: International News

Join the NYC Youth Climate March on July 21st, 2018

July 18, 2018 - 12:41pm

Climate change is not just an issue that will affect our children or grandchildren; it’s an issue that affects all of us, right now. It particularly affects those of us in Generation Z, as the effects of climate change, as of present, will continue to increase in severity over the course of our lifetimes. As Americans and as global citizens, we have a unique responsibility to take action—and that’s what our work as Co-Head Coordinators of Zero Hour NYC is all about.

That’s why we’re asking you — our peers, adult allies, and organizational partners—to join us in a historic youth-led climate march on July 21st this summer. Sign up here to march with young people to demand the bold climate solutions we need.

Zero Hour was founded by Jamie Margolin, a 16-year-old from Seattle, Washington, who wanted to galvanize her peers in the fight against climate change. Since its founding, Zero Hour has worked to unite youth voices across the country and globe, and bridge social movements to create a powerful coalition dedicated to both social and environmental justice. On July 21st, Zero Hour will stage an international Youth Climate March—with the main march in Washington, DC and sister marches from NYC to Melbourne, Australia.

Our demands for our cities, states, and countries are clear:

  • Total divestment of public and private funds from the fossil fuel and big agriculture industries
  • A just transition to 100% renewable energy by 2040
  • A complete stop to the current construction of oil pipelines & fossil fuel infrastructure.

By joining the Zero Hour movement, students have the ability to build a better future for themselves — one without fossil fuels. Here in NYC, we are partnering with a diverse array of activist groups and organizations to maximize turnout for our July 21st March. We have worked closely with Fossil Free USA, People’s Climate Movement, 350NYC, 350.org, Alliance for Climate Education, and the Youth Progressive Policy Group. We are also working with People’s Puppets to use art as a means of amplifying our message of building a more sustainable future. In addition to organizational partners, we are encouraging elected officials, political candidates, and businesses to prove their commitment to a more sustainable future by marching alongside us.

On July 21st, the NYC Youth Climate March will begin at Columbus Circle at 11 AM and end at Dag Hammarskjold Plaza by UN Headquarters, where it will be followed by a Rally featuring student speakers experienced in environmental activism.

We hope this rally will make the issue of climate change more accessible and grounded in our everyday lives. We know that tackling climate change is as much about fostering concern for our fellow humans’ lives and livelihoods as it is about understanding science and statistics.

The NYC Youth Climate March route.


Our work does not stop here. We hope to show students that activism goes beyond attending demonstrations. That’s why we’re using the March to introduce students to the larger climate movement and publishing a post-march action guide that will detail some of the key ways youth can grow their involvement in climate activism beyond July 21st.

To RSVP to our July 21st March, go to our Facebook and Eventbrite links. For more information, check out our website and follow us on social media: Facebook/Instagram & Twitter.

To become more involved in the March, sign up here to be a day-of March volunteer. We’re holding a March Day Volunteers Training and Information Session on Wednesday, July 18th from 6-8pm at 125 Maiden Ln #5, New York, NY 10038, where we will prepare people who will help facilitate the march and go over in-person all of the critical march information, such as the route and transition to our post-march Rally.

Lastly, please donate to and share our grassroots fundraising campaign at gofundme.com/zerohournyc — we need your help to obtain the materials necessary to make our March and Rally the most impactful they can be!

If you have any press or general inquiries, you can email us at thisiszerohour.nyc@gmail.com.


Categories: International News