FoE Australia News

Break Free from fossil fuels

On May 8, Friends of the Earth activists joined a couple of thousand people gathered in Newcastle to shut down the world's biggest coal port. This protest took place in the broader context of the largest global act of civil disobedience in the history of the climate movement, with actions in countries around the world from Canada to the Philippines, Nigeria to Germany, Brazil to South Africa.

In Newcastle, Horseshoe Beach filled with colourful kayaks, traditional canoes and homemade rafts, and people of all ages including families, campaigners, students, full time workers, Indigenous crew, a Pacific Islander contingent and pirates, who took to the water to block coal ship access to the port.

Meanwhile, others shut down the coal port itself, locking on to conveyor belts and climbing infrastructure, while another group blocked a rail bridge preventing coal trains from accessing the port.

Sam Castro, one of the group arrested on the rail bridge, said: "On Mother's Day this year I decided rather than taking the day off to be spoiled by my kids with breakfast in bed, I decided I would take a stand for their future and mine by joining thousands of people in Newcastle to blockade the biggest coal port in the world. Originally I intended to join the flotilla out on the water but instead I ultimately found myself joining around 60 other brave people to occupy a river bridge train line into the Newcastle coal port. Many of these people had only met the day before and many had never been involved in any form of direct action or civil disobedience. Together we peacefully walked out on the bridge over the water and occupied the rail line for over six hours, apparently backing up the flow of coal trains all the way to northern NSW. For me, the occupation of the bridge that day was a declaration by ordinary people that we will fight for our future. For those of us risking arrest, we did so because our leaders have failed us for decades and the fossil fuel industry has no intention of voluntarily changing their ways."

Sixty-six people were arrested at Break Free and their court cases are ongoing. If you would like to offer support to these brave people, you can donate at www.frontlineaction.org/donate, or email katmoore99@gmail.com to find out how to get involved in future fundraising in Melbourne.

For more information on the international and Australian protests see www.breakfree2016.org and www.australia.breakfree2016.org

Global Marches Against Monsanto

Jessica Harrison, from Friends of the Earth affiliate GM-Free Australia Alliance, writes:

In May, Global Marches Against Monsanto were held for the fourth consecutive year. Rallies and marches were held in 400 cities in over 50 countries, from Tokyo to Mexico to Paris, with the slogan "We will not stand for cronyism. We will not stand for poison. That's why we March Against Monsanto".

In our region, events included a rally for People and Planet, organised by Pesticide Action Group of Western Australia, Alliance for a Clean Environment and Save Our Trees WA. The rally focussed on the failure of industry and governments to exercise a duty of care in approving risky pesticides and presented a petition calling for a Royal Commission into the use of pesticides and harm to public health.

A mock trial was held outside Monsanto Australia's HQ in Melbourne, as a lead-up to the People's Tribunal against Monsanto, to be held at the Hague in October. The Tribunal is an international civil society initiative to hold Monsanto accountable for human rights violations, crimes against humanity, and ecocide. Judges will hear testimonies from victims, and deliver an advisory opinion following procedures of the International Court of Justice.

A parallel People's Assembly will provide an opportunity for social movements to rally and plan for the future we want. Their website says: "Monsanto promotes an agro-industrial model that contributes at least one third of global anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions; it is also largely responsible for the depletion of soil and water resources, species extinction and declining biodiversity, and the displacement of millions of small farmers worldwide. This is a model that threatens food sovereignty by patenting seeds and privatizing life"

Groups and individuals can sign up to support the Tribunal at www.monsanto-tribunal.org

Monsanto is still trying to undo damage to glyphosate sales from the 2015 finding by the WHO's International Agency for Research on Cancer that glyphosate is defined as a "Class 2A probable carcinogen". The debate over the company's weed-killer is reaching critical mass in Europe. Germany and France have publicly backed away from what the industry and the European Commission assumed would be an easy vote for glyphosate's re-approval. Now there is a deadlock and the weedkiller's license was due to expire on June 30.

Meanwhile, on July 1, Vermont became the first state in the US to require labels on all genetically engineered foods. To quote Neil Young, whose latest album "The Monsanto Years" is dedicated to supporting small farmers and stopping GMOs: "Hands in the soil will outgrow Monsanto".

Tulele Peisa and Climate Frontlines

FoE Australia affiliate Tulele Peisa – the program relocating Carteret Islanders to Bougainville in PNG – has made a submission to the UNFCCC Executive Committee of the Warsaw International Mechanism for Loss and Damage. The Committee invited relevant organisations such as Tulele Peisa to provide information on migration and displacement as a result of climate change-related factors. The submission is posted at http://tinyurl.com/tulele-sub and Tulele Peisa's website is www.tulele-peisa.org

In 2012, the Climate Frontlines collective in FoE Brisbane, which also serves as the Friends of Tulele Peisa, was contacted by the Catholic Climate Covenant in the US. They were planning a major climate change educational initiative in high schools and colleges around the country and had negotiated the use of a film called Sun Come Up, produced in 2007 by a US-based film crew, documenting the impacts of climate change on the Carterets and the beginnings of the relocation program. Climate Frontlines was able to organise an audio interview with the program director, Ursula Rakova, with updated information about its implementation.

In early June the Catholic Climate Covenant invited Wendy Flannery, the Climate Frontlines convenor, to take part in an international webinar on the topic: "Climate Change's Canaries: Oceans and Vulnerable Populations". Wendy presented on the challenges faced by vulnerable communities in the Pacific Islands region. All of the presentations were accompanied by slides and followed by a Q&A. The video and audio files of the webinar can be accessed at http://tinyurl.com/cccovenant

art for earth's sake

FoE Melbourne's Anti-nuclear & Clean Energy (ACE) collective is holding our annual art auction in November and we'd love your creative contributions! We are seeking art donations until the 15th of October.

The auction will raise vital funds for our national nuclear-free campaign work. For over 40 years we've been an important part of a passionate national and international movement working at all stages of the nuclear chain to protect country and community from this toxic industry. To learn more about our work please visit www.foe.org.au/waste, www.foe.org.au/anti-nuclear and join our Facebook group: Ace Kollective

If you can support our art auction please contact Michaela 0415 656 403, Anica 0487 294 910 or email ace@foe.org.au

Risky nanoparticles in baby formula

Independent testing commissioned by FoE USA has found risky nanoparticles in baby formula available online in Australia. The European Commission's Scientific Committee on Consumer Safety concluded that the needle-like form of nano hydroxyapatite, which is similar in shape to asbestos, is potentially toxic and should not be used in toothpastes, tooth whiteners and mouth washes. If it's not safe for use in toothpaste, it's certainly not safe in baby formula.

How have these materials made their way into baby formula with no testing and no labelling? How has Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) failed again to take the basic steps needed to ensure that new and risky ingredients aren't added to our foods – especially baby food – without safety testing? FSANZ cannot claim that these nanoparticles are safe. They have no scientific evidence to support such a claim. They cannot claim they didn't know baby formula contains nanoparticles – they have consistently refused to undertake any testing or even surveys of business in order to determine the extent of nanoparticle use in food.

More information: http://emergingtech.foe.org.au/fsanz-fails-us-again-risky-nanoparticles-...

Renewables, fossil fuels and climate campaigning in Victoria

A number of long-running FoE campaigns in Victoria are coming to an end. Of the four key campaign priorities that we have been working on at the state level in Victoria in recent years, we have achieved two of them: a re-start of the renewable energy sector in the state (which had been brought to a halt by the Coalition when it was in power from 2010 to 2014) and the creation of state renewable energy targets (called VRETs).

After helping to gain a halt to all onshore gas drilling in 2012, Friends of the Earth and Quit Coal have been awaiting the government response to the state inquiry that was held into this industry in 2015. Across the state and in the capital we organised, painted and gathered together. Farmers, who have held out for years, campaigning and developing imaginative protests, were looking for a prospect of relief, hoping their hard work had paid off, ending the uncertainty.

We were positive, but reserved, anticipating a total ban but preparing for something less beneficial on June 8 when the decision was expected. The result: the decision has been postponed! The decision-making process has been drawn out because of a Cabinet reshuffle and a new minister, Wade Noonan, taking over responsibility for the Resources portfolio.

The rural people of Victoria are determined and will fight on as they have for years, and Friends of the Earth will continue to support their cause. There is one piece of information that Minister Noonan must have already: there is no social licence for on-shore gas here. Please take action: send a message to the Premier, Treasurer and Deputy Premier. It will only take a few minutes, but it will have an impact. Some ideas for action are posted at www.melbourne.foe.org.au/final_push

A key element of our campaigning in rural areas over the past five years has been to build active opposition to both new coal and gas. FoE Melbourne is now moving onto the next phase in its climate campaigns, with a stronger focus on gaining the closure of existing brown coal power stations and a just transition which will see a major re-focus of the Latrobe Valley economy.

There are two key pathways for our work in the remainder of 2016. The first is through the review of the Climate Change Act, which was gutted by the Coalition when they were in power. The second is through launching a major community initiative to encourage the government to make the next two state budgets primarily about supporting the transition to a truly sustainable economy. We are calling this the climate budget. We will also be continuing our work on new coal proposals, supporting communities who are fighting various plans for coal exploration and mining in regional Victoria.

www.melbourne.foe.org.au/coal_and_gas, www.coalandgasfreevic.org

College Creek added to Vic Reserve system

After a 20-year campaign, Friends of the Earth was recently informed that College Creek, in Victoria's Strzelecki Ranges, will soon be added to the State's Reserve system. The College Creek handover will be the first package of land comprising of 8,500 hectares that will be gradually handed back over the next few years. The Strzelecki Ranges is the most depleted bioregion in Victoria and the protection of core rainforest catchments of the region has been the major focus of FoE's plantation campaign since the mid-1990s. The campaign work was carried out in conjunction with Susie Zent from Friends of Gippsland Bush.

Published in Chain Reaction, national magazine of Friends of the Earth Australia, August 2016