As protests erupt at the U.N. climate summit in Katowice, Poland, we speak with Liam Geary Baulch, part of the new movement called Extinction Rebellion that began six months ago in the United Kingdom and has now spread to 35 countries. Members are taking extreme action to fight the climate crisis, including supergluing themselves to government buildings, shutting down London Bridge and taking to the streets to sound the alarm about the impending catastrophe of global warming. They are demanding governments commit to legally binding measures to slash consumption and reduce carbon emissions to net zero by 2025.
AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report, as we broadcast from the U.N. climate talks in Poland. We turn now to look at a U.K.-based movement taking extreme action to fight the climate crisis. It’s called Extinction Rebellion. Its members have been supergluing themselves to government buildings, shutting down roads, taking to the streets to sound the alarm about the impending catastrophe of global warming. Extinction Rebellion marched here in Katowice last Saturday to protest U.N. climate talks. In November, Extinction Rebellion protesters shut down London bridges, blockaded the U.K. Department for Business and Energy and attempted to interrupt Brexit negotiations.
EXTINCTION REBELLION ACTIVIST 1: Conscientious protection, this is what it looks like.
EXTINCTION REBELLION ACTIVIST 2: We’re very concerned about the state the Earth is in, the seriousness of things. You know, we’re leading the world to 3 degrees centigrade. Well, that’s way outside the range that human development has known. Enormous unknown dangers.
EXTINCTION REBELLION ACTIVIST 3: Tell the truth! Everybody needs to know what’s coming! We need to prepare for what’s coming!Everybody needs to know! They need to wake up!
EXTINCTION REBELLION ACTIVIST 4: I only got arrested for the first time two days ago, and now I’m doing it again, to basically become disobedient with the system as a result of our impending danger.
EXTINCTION REBELLION ACTIVIST 5: The government is criminally complacent in the mass murder of all life on this planet! And I will not be silent!
AMY GOODMAN: Those are members of Extinction Rebellion, a movement taking radical action to combat the climate crisis. It started in the United Kingdom just six months ago, has now spread to at least 35 countries. Extinction Rebellion is demanding governments commit to legally binding measures to slash consumption, reduce carbon emissions to net zero by 2025.
We’re joined right now by Extinction Rebellion activist Liam Geary Baulch. He just participated in the action here at the U.N. climate summit, not far from the Democracy Now! set.
It’s great to have you with us, Liam.
LIAM GEARY BAULCH: Thank you for having me.
AMY GOODMAN: You know, even using words like “global warming” or “climate change”—
LIAM GEARY BAULCH: Yeah.
AMY GOODMAN: —people feel, does not convey the urgency of this issue. You all have decided to use the term “extinction.” Extinction Rebellion is your group. Talk about what you’re doing.
LIAM GEARY BAULCH: Yeah. So, we have been talking to people about the real science that we’re seeing now, not in an alarmist way, but in a realistic way. We are now facing what could be the next mass extinction. We’re already grieving over the lives lost, both human and otherwise, to climate change. And we’re seeing and talking to people about the fact that we might now be facing human extinction. And so we’re asking people to face that grief and feel that emotional response to this crisis, what we’re calling an emergency crisis—we want to shift the language to that emergency crisis—and to respond to that and move through that into action.
AMY GOODMAN: So, explain your actions. It’s just been six months since you guys got started.
LIAM GEARY BAULCH: Yeah.
AMY GOODMAN: What have you done in the U.K.?
LIAM GEARY BAULCH: So, we just actually did our first action just a month and a half ago. We gathered outside of the U.K. Parliament, and we declared a rebellion against the government. This is not a one-off protest or a direct action against a specific corporation. This is an ongoing rebellion against our government in the U.K. over their inaction on climate change. So, we lay down in the road, and other people read out the declaration of rebellion. And then we said, “We’re here. We’re going to keep rebelling.” And I was arrested that day and taken away.
AMY GOODMAN: You were arrested.
LIAM GEARY BAULCH: Yeah.
AMY GOODMAN: And what happened?
LIAM GEARY BAULCH: And then we were released. Most of our activists have been released so far. They’re aware that part of our movement is the fact that we have hundreds, if not thousands now, people willing to get arrested for this cause, willing to give up their freedom about this issue, because the time for action is now. And we’re calling on our government to tell the truth and to act now.
AMY GOODMAN: Supergluing yourselves? Explain what you did.
LIAM GEARY BAULCH: Yeah, so we shut down the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy a week later. And that led to a whole series of actions where people were risking arrest. We saw that activists decided to shut down this department for six hours by supergluing themselves to the doors. And that’s the department that’s having backroom meetings with fracking companies while refusing to go and meet the people who have to live next door to where they’re trying to frack in the U.K.
AMY GOODMAN: You shut down five bridges. How?
LIAM GEARY BAULCH: So, we’ve just seen an amazing response. From that month-and-a-half-ago original action, our campaign has just exploded. We now have a reach of 100,000 people. We’re in over 35 countries around the world. And 6,000 people came out on the street on the 17th of November and blocked five bridges in central London. We had trained affinity groups in nonviolent civil disobedience to take those bridges initially, and then members of the public, in the thousands, took to the streets and sat in the roads and celebrated our resistance against this system.
People are angry, and they’re calling for a change to the system. I think that’s what we’ve been seeing in the action going on behind us here. That’s what we’re seeing in movements like the Sunrise Movement and the school strikes. This is being reflected all across the world right now.
AMY GOODMAN: In fact, today is the school strike globally that Greta Thunberg has called for, and we’re going to hear from Polish high school students who made it to the COP today, who walked out of school. How would you assess—this is your fourth COP, conference of parties?
LIAM GEARY BAULCH: Yeah.
AMY GOODMAN: Your fourth U.N. climate summit. Do you think it has succeeded? Do you think it’s failing?
LIAM GEARY BAULCH: I am aware that this system is broken. The political system in the U.K. is broken. The political system here at the COP is broken. We’re asking for a citizens’ assembly to be formed, a whole new system which can solve this crisis without the politicians kind of continuing to talk to each other. I’m here at COP to talk to activists on the ground, to learn from each other across grassroots movements around the world. And we’re here to talk with those people about how they can join us next year on the 15th of April, when we declare an international rebellion.
AMY GOODMAN: I want to thank you very much, Liam Geary Baulch, an activist with the new organization, based in Britain but spreading around the globe, Extinction Rebellion. You’re planning a week-long rebellion April 15th?
LIAM GEARY BAULCH: Yeah. And we hope to see you there. And we hope to see your viewers there. Please, find your local groups, get involved, get trained in nonviolent civil disobedience and take part in the Extinction Rebellion.
AMY GOODMAN: We urge you to continue to watch Democracy Now! as we are there not only in the streets, but in the suites and at these U.N. climate summits, as well as the gatherings that are taking place all over the world. Stay with us.
Climate Strike: Heeding Call of Greta Thunberg, Polish Students Walk Out of Class
Fifteen-year-old Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg has called for a global climate strike today to protest inaction at the U.N. climate summit. Greta made international headlines after she refused to go to school in August and began a School Strike for Climate. Greta made the call for today’s strike in a video posted on Twitter.
AMY GOODMAN: The music break is Polish high school students singing Michael Jackson’s “Earth Song” here at the COP24, the U.N. climate talks we’re broadcasting from, here in Katowice, Poland. I’m Amy Goodman.
Fifteen-year-old Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg has called for a global climate strike today to protest inaction at the U.N. climate summit. Greta made international headlines after she refused to go to school in August and September and began a school strike for climate. Greta made the call for today’s strike in a video posted on Twitter.
GRETA THUNBERG: Hello. My name is Greta Thunberg. I am 15 years old, and I come from Sweden. And I am here at the United Nations climate change talks in Poland. We are on week two of negotiations here. And as of now, there are no signs of commitments to climate action. Our emissions are still increasing, at the same time as the science has clearly told us that we need to act now to keep the planet within 1.5 degrees of warming.
Whoever you are, wherever you are, we need you now. This Friday, the 14th of December, I am calling for an international climate strike. Please strike with us. Stand outside your parliament or local government office, even for just a short while, to let them know that we demand climate action.
AMY GOODMAN: The words of 15-year-old Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg, who just left the U.N. climate summit last night, her dad driving their electric car through the night so she could sit in front of the Swedish parliament once again, where she goes every Friday in a school strike against climate change.
Here in Katowice, Poland, at least 30 local high school students answered Greta’s call, walking out of classes today and carrying their message here to the COP. The group sang and chanted while sitting on the steps of the main conference hall, holding signs that said “12 years left” and “#ClimateStrike.” This is student Gosia Chehowska speaking with Democracy Now!’s Carla Wills.
MALGORZATA CZACHOWSKA: My name is Gosia. And I live next to Katowice, and I go to school in Katowice. And I wasn’t there today because I went to climate protest. And I want to support Greta with her idea, and I want to—politicians to make a good choice for all of us.
CARLA WILLS: And so, you said you were inspired by Greta Thunberg, who spoke here at COP. Can you talk about her message and why it resonated with you?
MALGORZATA CZACHOWSKA: Well, I think that what she did was really brave and amazing, because not many young people have the feeling that they can do something. And I think that one person can do a lot. And she is a great example of this.
CARLA WILLS: You were holding up some letters while you were just rehearsing. Talk about what the words are that you were holding up.
MALGORZATA CZACHOWSKA: We have letters that say “12 years left.” And it’s because of the Paris Agreement and about scientists that counted that in—if we don’t do nothing ’til 2030, we are really in danger, and, well, it may end really badly for all of us, for humanity and for entire world.
CARLA WILLS: And tell me what song you’re singing today.
MALGORZATA CZACHOWSKA: We are singing song “Earth Song” by Michael Jackson. And we are singing it a cappella. And this song is really beautiful, and it’s perfect for today’s occasion.
STUDENT CLIMATE STRIKERS: [singing] What about sunrise
What about rain
What about all the things that you said
We were to gain
What about killing fields
Is there a time
What about all the things
That you said were yours and mine
Did you ever stop to notice
All the blood we’ve shed before
Did you ever stop to notice
This crying Earth, these weeping shores
CARLA WILLS: And what is your message to the negotiators here at COP?
MALGORZATA CZACHOWSKA: They know the facts. And maybe they sometimes don’t want to admit it, but they know everything what they need to know. They know the solutions. They know that we need to change, because, otherwise, the world will change in a way we don’t want to know. So, my message is to not ignore anymore all the threats and to do something, and not just for money, not just for economics, but for us, for all the people, for the animals and plants and for our world.
AMY GOODMAN: Special thanks to John Hamilton, Carla Wills and Hany Massoud. And an update on 15-year-old climate activist Greta Thunberg: She returned to Sweden last night. They were driving an electric car. She was with her father. Said she’d try to get Malmö; she wouldn’t make it to Stockholm. She just posted a photo on Twitter of herself participating in the climate strike.
Hundreds of Activists Stage Sit-in Against Big Polluters on Final Day of COP24 U.N. Climate Talks
Hundreds of demonstrators gathered at the U.N. climate summit in Katowice, Poland, on Friday, demanding bolder action from world leaders on climate change. The action was organized by the Global Campaign to Demand Climate Justice. Demonstrators filled the staircase inside the conference center holding banners reading “Which side are you on?” and “People Not Polluters” and “System change not climate change.” As protesters marched out of U.N. climate talks, Democracy Now! spoke with Maya Menezes, Canadian climate activist and member of the Canadian Youth Delegation with the climate justice organization The Leap. She is a migrant rights organizer with No One Is Illegal.
AMY GOODMAN: Yes, we are broadcasting from the U.N. climate talks in Katowice, Poland, where hundreds of demonstrators are gathered just beyond our set demanding bolder action from world leaders on climate change, the actions organized by the Global Campaign to Demand Climate Justice. Protesters have filled the staircase inside the convention center. They’re holding banners saying “Which side are you on?” “People not polluters,” “System change not climate change.” This is Rita Uwaka of Friends of the Earth Nigeria.
RITA UWAKA: We are here to denounce false solutions by big polluters, who are acting as saints at this COP. We are here to promote solutions that are sustainable, that are people-powered. We are here to expose the inequities of corporations at COP, that are causing devastating environmental, social consequences in communities around the world.
In the Niger Delta, where I live and come from, I know that there are a lot of oil pollutions, that is devastating community lives and livelihoods. Water polluted. Our soils are polluted. Our farmlands are polluted. Women are suffering. Communities at the front line have been victimized by these corporations, who have brought human rights abuses, who is causing a lot of scarcity of food in our communities, who is destroying our local food system, destroying our forest and causing a lot of climate change in communities, affecting people and our climate.
We say no. We are here to denounce the activities. We are here to promote solutions that are sustainable. We’re here to kick them out and let the people in.
AMY GOODMAN: That was Rita Uwaka of Friends of the Earth Nigeria. And as we broadcast today from the U.N. climate talks, right next to us, hundreds of people are walking out with their hands up in a fist sign.
We are now joined by one of the demonstrators. Maya Menezes is a Canadian climate activist, member of the Canadian Youth Delegation here at the U.N. climate talks, senior manager of development at climate justice organization The Leap, a migrant rights organizer with No One Is Illegal.
It’s great to have you with us. Describe for us what you’re seeing right now right behind you, Maya.
MAYA MENEZES: Well, we’ve got in a really incredible coalition of climate activists from across the Global South, but also their allies in the Global North, who are calling for the decorporatization of the COP and for a climate justice movement that centers people, not polluters.
AMY GOODMAN: And what does that mean? And are you concerned about what’s come out of these talks? Though they’re continuing until tomorrow. What are you demanding has to happen?
MAYA MENEZES: I think we’re demanding that we want to see people’s rights and protection for marginalized peoples at the core of how we have these climate discussions, which we know just never happens. It’s not in the interests of wealthy corporate elites to make sure that marginalized people’s voices are heard. And that’s why community organizers have to mobilize in the way that we do, to ensure that that message reaches the public. And that’s what we were calling for today.
AMY GOODMAN: According to some projections, one-fifth of the world’s population in 2100—that’s 2 billion people—could become climate refugees. That’s by the end of the century. Have U.N. climate talks here addressed this staggering number that we’re talking about? You are particularly focused on migrants. And what does climate migrants mean?
MAYA MENEZES: These talks never have that discussion at the core of them. In fact, a lot of the ways that we talk about migrant and refugee issues actually uses language that makes it very easy for right-wing extremism to navigate the space in a way where we start to call people and we refer to them as “illegals.” A lot of the conversations around migrants and refugees center things like “regular” migration, “safe” migration. And it allows a lot of space for that language suddenly to be used to call people “illegal,” “irregular” crossings. And that’s what I organize against in Toronto.
Right now we’re seeing, of course, a lot of people on the move with the migrant caravan waiting, many people who have applied for asylum in the United States, many people whose claims will be denied. A lot of the organizing that we do when we leave the COP spaces and when we go home is fight for things like the Safe Third Country Agreement to be rescinded in Canada. The Safe Third Country Agreement is basically a piece of law that bars people who have applied for asylum in the U.S. and been denied access to apply for asylum in Canada. Migrant rights activists having been calling in Canada for this to be rescinded for a very long time. It basically says that the U.S. is a safe country. We know that the U.S. has rampant xenophobia and that this will actually serve to bar people who are in the migrant caravan from being able to get access to Canada. And that’s something we want to see removed immediately.
AMY GOODMAN: We just reported in our headlines about the 7-year-old Guatemalan girl who came over the border with her dad. She has just died of dehydration and shock—we just learned this—while in the custody of U.S. Border Patrol. They didn’t take her to the hospital until her temperature peaked over 105 degrees. This treatment of migrants and what this bodes for the future, and where you think the kind of activism you’re involved in can play a role?
MAYA MENEZES: I think we actually need to invest in organizers who are fighting this idea that migrants and refugees are seen as dangerous in our society. It’s a very, very frightening common theme that we’re seeing across the COP and that we’re seeing at home, this language that has allowed people—I guess, actually, a story is, when we found out about the caging of migrant children and the removal from their families in the U.S., there was of course international days of action, where people occupied outside of U.S. consulates calling for this to end. When I was going through the crowd afterwards—I spoke at that rally, and I was going through the crowd later talking to parents who were there with their children, who were saying—you know, I said, “Why are you here? What draws you here? We know these children are being traumatized. They’re being treated so inhumanely. And we need an end to detentions, and we need an end to deportations.” And many family members who were there said, “Well, I don’t actually believe that people shouldn’t be imprisoned. I just think families should be in jail together.” And that’s a very scary thing. It’s a very scary thing to be faced with.
So, what we’re trying to organize on the ground against is actually a rejection that some people are deserving of basic dignity and rights, and some are not. In the global climate crisis, we understand that most of the world either will be turned into a desert or will be uninhabitable, due to temperature, storm changes. We need to make sure that a climate plan that talks about decreasing emissions also has an open conversation that the borders must be open and people must have clear avenues to status and citizenship and safety in wherever they want to move to.
AMY GOODMAN: Can you quickly talk about the Canadian role right here at the U.N. talks? One of your representatives, her event was just disrupted.
MAYA MENEZES: Yes, definitely. Well, Canada has an interesting role. We are touted as a very progressive government, and at the same time we push some of the harshest refugee and migrant laws out there. Right now we’re talking about—there was an event, of course, that we heard about between, I think it was, Claire Perry, and Catherine McKenna was on that panel, as well.
AMY GOODMAN: And explain who they are.
MAYA MENEZES: Claire Perry, I believe, is the U.K. environment minister. Catherine McKenna is the Canadian minister of environment and climate change. And it was a conversation about getting off coal, which is all fine and great, but the Canadian government right now—80 percent of oil and gas emissions, largely coming out of the tar sands, are going to be exempt from the federal carbon pricing plan, which is outrageous. That’s a complete oxymoron to say that we care about the climate and reducing emissions, but then exempting 80 percent of oil and gas from that carbon pricing plan. And so the role of Canada is interesting in that regard. But we’re here to basically call out domestic policies that are completely out of sync with what Canada says on the international stage, from migration and refugee issues to carbon emissions plans that don’t hold polluters accountable at all.
AMY GOODMAN: The United Nations formally recognized climate migration for the first time this week, with more than 160 nations agreeing to the United Nations Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration at a meeting in Marrakech, Morocco. The compact asks nations to, quote, “provide basic services for migrants, whether they enter a country legally or illegally,” and “facilitate access to procedures for family reunification for migrants at all skill levels” and “establish mechanisms for the portability of social security entitlements,” unquote. The United States did not sign on to the agreement. In a statement, the U.S. State Department said, “The United States proclaims and reaffirms its belief that decisions about how to secure its borders, and whom to admit for legal residency or to grant citizenship, are among the most important sovereign decisions a State can make, and are not subject to negotiation.” Maya, your thoughts?
MAYA MENEZES: I think something that really bothers me about all of this language is, when countries—and, of course, the context for me being Canada—when countries like us sign on to these agreements, I think that’s fantastic in a lot of different ways, but also we have domestic policies that completely fly in the face of it. In Canada, for example, with the Safe Third Country Agreement, we know that people who are applying for asylum in the migrant caravan, many of whom have come from Central and South America, are on the move not because of tsunamis, but because of war and destabilization. We know that Canada supported the coup in Honduras in 2009 in order to continue Canadian mining practices and to expand their reach. We know that the many Hondurans that are in the migrant caravan, who have applied for asylum in the United States, are not going to be able to apply for asylum in Canada because of the Safe Third Country Agreement. This is war and mining profiteering that Canada is championing in Central and South America. And then, of course, when these people are on the move because of political destabilization, we deny them at the border. And this is a climate issue. And it’s not taken up in these documents the way that it should be, and it’s not taken up by the Canadian government the way they need to be accountable for it.
AMY GOODMAN: Well, I want to thank you so much for being with us, Maya Menezes, Canadian climate activist, member of the Canadian Youth Delegation here at the U.N. climate talks, senior manager of development at climate justice organization The Leap, also a migrant rights organizer with No One Is Illegal.