In response to feedback from newsletter subscribers, Real Media is starting a new series of regular round-ups of news – a mixture of short reports and/or links to recommended stories from other independent platforms. Rest assured, it’s not going to be regurgitated press releases – there’s plenty of original research and contextualisation. And it’s also not going to be all bad news – we’ll be looking for stories of inspiration and hope.
US mid-Western pipeline closed by ‘gentle sabotage’
Anti-pipeline activists shut valves on the Line 5 pipeline in the US Great Lakes region recently, as part of ongoing protests. They were careful to phone engineers several minutes before acting, so that emergency action could be taken to safely close down the whole line, as they didn’t want to add to the million gallons of oil already spilt by Canadian oil giant Enbridge. The pipeline was supposed to be shut down two years ago after a court order, but lawyers have been fighting while the oil still flows. The pipeline also flows through Indigenous lands of the Bad River Chippewa Nation. In a separate lawsuit, they were awarded compensation for trespass, and there is a contested order for the pipeline to be shut in 3 years.
Policing Protests – Costs In Perspective
The Metropolitan Police like to put out press releases with large sounding figures for policing protests. These are picked up by corporate and state media to help demonise peaceful protesters. A flurry of headlines claimed that policing Just Stop Oil’s recent 13-week series of slow-walking protests and sporting interventions had cost more than £7 million. Similar costs were cited for the previous Autumn.
Our Real Media article and film last year already pointed out that the cost of policing a year of football matches was £48 million (with only £5 million recoverable from clubs). Like JSO’s protests, matches cause road closures, traffic jams and public inconvenience. The Coronation cost £150 million.
Over the past few years, the Met has paid out more than £7 million each year in private legal settlements, and according to Liberty over the past few years they have spent well in excess of £80 million in legal fees, much of it fighting civil claims such as unlawful arrest, use of force, property damage and so on.
Finally, in the context of climate protests, note that UK taxpayers fund massive subsidies to the oil industry, for example £500 million to Norwegian company Equinor to help develop the controversial Rosebank field.
Those £7 million headlines are designed to inflame, by equating protest with illegality and crime, and yet despite their high cost to the public, policing football or the Coronation is seen as a public service rather than a cost of crime. Both these pale into insignificance compared to oil subsidies, and £7 million is actually less than 0.2% of the Met’s annual budget.
The oil industry’s social media influencers
A recent investigation by DeSmog reveals how the fossil fuel industry are promoting their brands through recruiting environmentalists, science presenters and other social media influencers.
One of many examples is Dallas Campbell, who co-hosted Channel 4’s Gadget Show and along with Liz Bonnin, the BBC’s science show Bang Goes The Theory. He was busy promoting Shell’s hydrogen energy greenwash in a popular 5-part YouTube series, which he puffed on Instagram without even mentioning Shell. He’s one of their favourite poster boys after doing a “fantastic” job on their social media during the Make The Future London festival a few years ago.
A recent Harvard study showed that “green innovation” is the biggest social media narrative being promoted by polluting corporations. Their analysis showed that while more than 70% of posts emphasised green technology, low carbon tech actually represents a tiny percentage of spending.
The Rise of Facial Recognition Technology – implications for protest
Credit: Netpol/Big Brother Watch
Big Brother Watch and Netpol have produced a useful guide for protesters and legal observers. It outlines the ways in which increased facial recognition technology, tied in with recent and upcoming legislation, will likely be deployed, and offers tips to understand and counter its use. As there is no specific legislation governing the technology’s use, Big Brother Watch are appealing for information and feedback so as to monitor its evolution and to help their campaign against it – they also offer legal advice and support.
Watch out for upcoming Real Media interviews with Kevin Blowe from Netpol.
The Reality Of Shell In The Niger Delta
Darren Cullen is an artist, satirist and anti-Shell campaigner. He recently visited Ogoniland in the Niger Delta for the area’s first Climate Change Conference, where he heard from local people – campaigners, farmers and fishermen, a doctor and a student. His short documentary film portrays the stark reality of Shell’s destruction of environment, livelihood and community. Last year, Shell reported profits of more than £33 billion.
Chris Packham – No New Oil
Naturalist and TV presenter Chris Packham has in the past given public support to Just Stop Oil and is filming a C4 documentary about the role of environmental civil disobedience.
Now, after the government’s plans to push ahead with new oil and gas exploration (new licensing round approved), and perhaps in response to anger in some quarters about protest disruption, he has announced a No New Oil campaign “using our polite, democratic voices” to ask all aspiring elected representatives to listen to concerns about climate breakdown. He’s asking people to download a series of posters aimed at different political parties, to post, display or paste.
Bibby Stockholm legal challenge
The Mayor of Portland, Dorset is bringing a legal challenge as a private citizen to stop the detention of refugees on the Bibby Stockholm barge there. Her legal team believe they have enough evidence for a judicial review of the government’s action on the basis that they didn’t follow proper procedures and that planning permission would have been refused had they done so.
A Crowd Justice appeal set up by Mayor Carralyn Parkes has already reached its first target of £15k. Although costs will hopefully be capped by the court, a stretch target of 25k still has 21 days to go, and any money not used will be donated to other legal challenges. Read more, and donate here.
Some victories and good news you may have missed:
Earlier this month, Cuadrilla were ordered to shut down their fracking operations in Lancashire with a Plug and Abandonment Notice from North Sea Transitory Authority. The site has been effectively out of operation for several years, but this now makes it official.
The news came just a week before the tenth anniversary of legendary website Drill Or Drop, which was marked by a surprise present for Ruth Hayhurst – a booklet of thankyou messages from more than 100 groups and individuals. Ruth has been producing reliable and campaigning journalism about the UK’s onshore oil and gas industry, ever since the the protests at Balcombe in Surrey in 2013.
MONTANA YOUTH CLIMATE VICTORY
Taleah, Mica and Grace – Credit: Robin Loznak/Our Children’s Trust
A historic court ruling in the United States establishes a constitutional right to “a clean and healthful environment”. The complaint against the State of Montana was brought in 2020 on behalf of 16 named young people aged from 2 to 18 (through their guardians). It challenged aspects of the State Energy Policy, common to many US jurisdictions, which permit coal extraction and leasing of state land for fossil fuel activities while actively ignoring resulting carbon emissions and climate change.
State lawyers have fought a long and dirty battle throughout, characterising Judge Kathy Seeley as ideological. First, the Attorney General asked the Supreme Court to take over the trial “under supervisory control”, but this was dismissed as “at best, disingenuous”. The judge granted an application for further time (nearly a year) for the government to prepare its defence.
In the months leading up to the June 2023 trial, the State hastily repealed parts of its Energy Policy and amended other legislation, unsuccessfully requesting that the court should dismiss those aspects of the claim.
Despite a further last-minute attempt at supervisory control filed a week before the hearing (dismissed again by the Supreme Court), experts finally had their chance to tell the court how Montana produces substantial emissions contributing to climate change, and from the young plaintiffs how the government’s actions are harming them.
The legal claim was that the State’s promotion of fossil fuel extraction ignored the climate impacts on young people in Montana and therefore violated various constitutional rights including the right to a clean and healthy environment, to individual dignity, physical liberty and safety, health and happiness.
On Monday, the District Court found wholly in favour of the defendants, ruling that Montana laws which promote fossil fuel and ignore climate change are unconstitutional, and requiring a dramatic change in conduct.
The State is of course likely to appeal, and the tentacles of corporate power and influence can never be underestimated, but after several attempts at similar claims in other states, this is an historic first with major implications. Montana is a State which emits around 30 million metric tons of CO2 per annum (matching entire nations like Sweden, Ecuador or Ireland), and this ruling may be a precedent for change across the US and in turn, the world.
FFOS-Y-FRAN COAL MINE SHUT DOWN
Credit: Extinction Rebellion
The owners of the Ffos-y-Fran open cast coalmine, Merthyr (South Wales) Ltd., have been operating without a licence since September last year, after an application to extend permission to operate was rejected by the local council.
So on July 5th, Extinction Rebellion Cymru acted to enforce the ruling and they disrupted operations by locking-on to their famous pink boat (first seen in Oxford Circus in 2019) to blockade the site, backed up three days later with a peaceful mass march supported by many groups under the umbrella ‘No More Coal’.
Yesterday, the company announced that after stopping extraction at the end of July, they will close down all operations on 30th November after making the site safe.
While this is yet another important milestone in the fight against fossil fuel corporations, it does reveal the need for joined up thinking and plans for a just transition (which has been at the heart of activists’ demands in recent years), as it makes 150 local people redundant. There are also fears of a serious shortfall in the money promised by the company to restore the land.
UNIONISING PRESSURE ON AMAZON
Despite the Amazon corporation’s best efforts, workers at their Coventry warehouse are gaining ground in their fight for union recognition and fairer wages and conditions, recently holding a mass protest there. The rally drew up to 1000 people from across the country, causing the site to close down early and cancel the night shifts, while maintaining full pay for strikers there.
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