As we approach, possibly pass, the climate change tipping point, the GOP and corporations have obstinately opposed policy changes that could stymie the problem. As a result, the environmental movement is beginning to rely more heavily on protest and grassroot movements to hopefully force a change.
Large multinational companies are seemingly untouchable. However, Daniel Franks, co-author of Costs of Company-Community Conflict in the Extractive Sector, disagrees. He states “Communities are not powerless our study shows they can organize and mobilize, which results in substantial costs to companies.” When current practices are no longer profitable companies will adjust.
For example, a Canadian company attempted to start a gold mine project in Chile. Due to continuous protests for ten years the company lost 5.4 billion dollars, the government suspended the project and the gold was never mined.
In the UK, 21 climate activists from No Dash for Gas camped in the British energy company EDF Energy’s plant. The sit -in garnered attention to climate change issues but EDF Energy’s actions following the incident gained more. EDF Energy sued the activists for a whopping 5 million GBP for damages creating a storm of negative attention. Nearly 64,000 people, including Richard Dawkins, Mark Ruffalo, Naomi Klein and Noam Chomsky, signed a petition in support of the climate activists. EDF Energy dropped the suit after the wave of disapproval.
“This shows how powerful we are if we all stand together, if we organise and mobilise, if we refuse to back down in the face of the climate crisis. Only a few of us went up that chimney, but 64,000 people came down,” says, Hannah Davey, a member of No Dash for Gas. Furthermore, EDF Energy plans to host a forum, followed by an advisory report submitted to an independent panel and the findings will be published. A step in the right direction.
Monsanto has lost ground due to protests in Columbia and Jackson County, Oregon.
Litigations is another form of protest being utilized by climate activists. A group of teenagers and 2 non-profit organizations, with support of leading scholars and climate scientists, are suing the US government for inaction on climate change. The complaint reads “The welfare of youth is directly affected by the failure of government to confront human-made climate change, and unless the government acts immediately to rapidly reduce carbon emissions … youth will face irrevocable harm: the collapse of natural resource systems and a largely uninhabitable nation.” The case has reached the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit.
When traditional routes no longer work, protests, whether you choose to take to the streets or perhaps through litigations, can create the change in policy needed to decelerate climate change. Protest isn’t the easiest method of generating change, but with persistence several small victories can snowball into the major changes needed.
Chariese is a writer and researcher with Ring of Fire.