Trafigura: Why did Greenpeace have to stop their poisoned ship? Why did Twitter have to stop their censorship? Because Governments failed to do their job.
Why are we, with less than 53 days to go to the Copenhagen Climate summit fearing we will have to ratchet down our already battered expectations? Because governments are failing to do their job.
What do we need to do to change this situation? We need to do our job. And our job, every one of us, is to raise the mightiest voice this world has ever raised to tell governments to do THEIR job.
In case you've NOT been part of the Total Twitter Triumph over Trafigura of the past few days, Andrew blogged the backstory here. But in a nutshell, Trafigura knowingly poisoned 44,000 people in the Ivory Coast when a ship they had chartered, the Probo Koala, dumped a load of toxic chemicals on the Ivory Coast in 2006.
Surely, the ship must have been immediately impounded and an investigation begun to find out how this could have happened, right? After all, dumping chemicals on a developing country willing to pay for the privilege of disposing them was made illegal by the 1998 Basel Ban, which Greenpeace fought a decade-long war to get implemented.
Nooooooooooooo. The ship was allowed to merrily carry on its way. It took us, Greenpeace, to cry foul and lock the ship down in Estonia. We didn't let go until we were promised the EU would take up an investigation.
That investigation is underway, and when an MP asked a question in the UK parliament relating to evidence, uncovered by the Guardian, that Trafigura knew precisely what it was doing and what the consequences would be of simply dumping that load instead of treating it properly, Trafigura got a gag order forbidding the Guardian from reporting the name of the MP, the question that had been asked, the name of the company involved, or the answer that was given.
A gag order. On a question in Parliament. Fer *&^%sake. Surely the court didn't agree such a thing? Surely the UK government wouldn't allow the democratic process itself to be silenced?
But nooooooooooooooooo. The gag order was approved. And when Alan Rusbridger of the Guardian tweeted "Now Guardian prevented from reporting parliament for unreportable reasons. Did John Wilkes live in vain?" His 104 characters set off a Twitter typhoon which, within hours, had revealed and retweeted planet-wide the question by Labour MP Paul Farrelly, the answer, and the fact that it was Trafigura trying once again to bury their culpability.
So what has all this to do with the Climate this blog Action Day? It's a heart-warming story about the power of activism and our individual voices, and a bone-chilling warning about what happens when we don't spur governments to look after the global good.
If the world is going to do something about climate change, it's up to us to make it happen.
Governments are looking after their own election, not the next generation. The voices of the future don't vote. The tragedies of floods, pestilence, drought, mass starvations, mass migrations, and wars over water that the policies they adopt today will cause simply will not be their electoral liability in 2050, anymore than the 300,000 people who will die this year of climate-related reasons can be laid at their doorstep -- for those people are dying due to policies enacted a hundred years ago. You see the predicament. It's the tragedy of the commons, where nobody is responsible for the care of what belongs to all, and so all feel free to defoul it and blame others. And in this case, that commons is our planet, our future.
For nearly five decades, Greenpeace has been dealing with problems of the Global Commons. We have had again and again to stand up and fight for those who had no voice because governments were failing to do so -- from stopping the Antarctic from being carved up by oil companies to stopping commercial whaling to the very ban on traffic in toxic chemicals that Trafigura ignored.
If we look with a somewhat cynical eye on efforts like the Climate Summit in Copenhagen, it's because we know how big a fire you have to light under a politician's butt to make them care about anything that doesn't vote.
And that fire is not yet nearly large enough, people. Take the direct action we took in locking ourselves to the Probo Koala and multiply it by thousands. Not enough. Take the Tsunami of Tweets that took down the UK gag order and multiply it by billions. Not enough. Take the global efforts that the coalition of environmental and human rights groups that are running the tcktcktck campaign, and multiply it by millions -- well, that might do it.
If politicians are willing to turn a blind eye to 44,000 people being poisoned in Africa and do nothing, if they are willing to allow the company responsible to silence their own democratic process, if they are willing to continue to listen to the voices of the oil, coal, and nuclear industries and their shills instead of the voice of the science, we have to set the world on fire and toast their buns over it to get the job of stopping runaway climate change done.
Can we do that in the next 52 days? We don't have a choice. We have to. And if that fails, we need to set off the greatest wave of protest that this planet has ever witnessed. And if that's going to happen, it's going to have to start with you.
What are you doing today? You are blogging about climate change, or commenting on a blog about climate change, or sharing with your friends a blog about climate change. (Twitter tag is #BAD09 ) What are you doing October 24th? You are joining in the global day of action against climate change. What are you doing in the meantime? You are devoting some part of your life, you are giving your spare time, you are talking, writing, shouting and marching about climate change.
This is too big a job to be left to politicians. We all need to become climate activists. The future is ours to save.