Break Free was an unprecedented wave of people power.
Over twelve days, on six continents, in countries all around the world people acted.
In Germany, thousands shut down Europe’s largest coal plant — occupying it for over 48 hours and reducing the plant’s capacity by 80 percent.
Hundreds stood up to South Africa’s most powerful family with a march that delivered coal to their front door.
10,000 people marched against a proposed coal plant in Batangas, the Philippines.
3,000 people sent an ear-splitting message to Indonesia’s president with a whistle demonstration against coal in Jakarta. A few days later, twelve activists climbed the cranes supplying coal for the Cirebon Coal Power Plant, dropping banners to Quit Coal and for Clean Energy, Clean Air.
In Australia, an armada of kayakers blocked the Newcastle harbour entrance while 70 people blocked a critical rail crossing preventing any coal from getting to the port for over six hours.
In Ecuador, people from across the country gathered to peacefully protest fossil fuel extraction at a oil refinery. They also planted gardens at the site to feed those affected by the recent earthquake that rattled the country.
In Aliaga, Turkey 2,000 people marched to the gates of the Izmir region’s largest coal dump and surrounded it with a giant red line, as a call to end plans for the massive expansion of coal in the country.
Dozens of people occupied train tracks overnight in Albany, New York in the United States to stop oil-filled ‘bomb trains’ from rolling through communities — including less than 100 feet from low-income public housing.
And on unceded Coast Salish Territories outside of Vancouver over 800 people surrounded Kinder Morgan’s pipeline terminal by land and by sea preventing anything from coming in or out for the entire day.
That’s just to name a few.
In total tens of thousands took to the streets, occupied mines, blocked rail lines, linked arms, paddled in kayaks and raised their voices, pushing the boundaries of conventional protest to find new ways to keep coal, oil, gas and tar sands in the ground.
Thousands, worldwide risked arrest — many for the first time — to say that it’s time to Break Free from the current energy paradigm that is locking the planet into a future of catastrophic climate change and to speed the transition to a 100 percent renewable energy future.
Driving this unprecedented wave of demonstrations is the sudden and dramatic acceleration in the warming of the planet. April shattered all temperature records — becoming the seventh straight month to do so. Fires, fueled by record dry temperatures, are raging across North America and Russia. Just this week, it was reported that five Solomon Islands have been swallowed by the rising seas.
Combined with the growing number of planetary warning signs is the growing gap between world governments’ stated climate ambitions and their demonstrated actions in approving new fossil fuel projects. Break Free was about starting to close that gap.
I’m not sure if world leaders follow hashtags, but I hope that for a short time they followed #breakfree2016. I hope they saw the amazing stories of courageous people pouring in from countries around the world. Stories of people standing up, of people taking the actions we need to take, and pushing us all to break free from fossil fuels and speed the move to a 100 percent renewable energy future.
Break Free shows that all around the world, people are ready to act. And if leaders are ready to move on climate change, then we will be there to support them.
But we aren’t waiting. The clock is ticking, and we don’t have any time to waste. It’s time to restore the balance.
Mike Hudema is the climate and energy campaigner at Greenpeace Canada.
A version of this blog was originally posted by Greenpeace Canada.
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