From Egypt to Spain, to Turkey to Brazil, people are demanding equal rights, justice, democracy and a better future. Maybe we all have different demands but we inspire the world and solidarity brings strength.
Here in Istanbul, in Gezi, we hear the voice of people whose struggle has been ignored for a decade. It is born from years of past conflict in defence of the belief that nature and human rights are essential to life.
We have another problem, which is global and of interest to us all, climate change. Now it’s time to demand justice for people whose land is at risk because of sea-level rise, who are suffering from drought and malnutrition.
Climate change didn't happen on its own. Our use of fossil fuels for transportation, electricity, industry and other uses is causing global warming and climate change. Fossil fuels sicken the world and poison our air and water.
Coal-fired power plants are the largest source of the carbon dioxide emissions that have already changed our climate. Continued coal burning will cause even more catastrophic climate change. The hundreds of thousands who die now from climate change will grow to millions within decades.
The World Resources Institute has identified plans to build 1,200 more coal plants in 59 countries, with 86 new plants planned for Turkey. There are sporadic movements around the country to build a clean energy future. Greenpeace is trying to create a nationwide network to achieve clean energy in Turkey.
We have a very limited time to stop climate change. As a coal activist, there is no such motivation stronger than this.
All around Turkey, there is a growing resistance against coal projects. Intense public opposition has stalled the Anadolu Group’s plan to build a 1,200 MW coal-fired power plant in Gerze. The determination of local people means further delays are highly possible.
Court cases against coal projects are rapidly increasing. Normally, environmental impact assessment (EIA) reports are easily approved in Turkey. Due to mobilization, EIA’s are now being rejected and local courts are suspending the projects.
This movement is getting stronger and standing strong against investments that threaten natural habitat. It is seen as the biggest risk confronting the investors.
There is also a local resistance movement in the Black Sea province of Zonguldak where miners play dice with death every working day. Zonguldak’s coal mining industry has a huge influence on the city. There are few homes where no one is involved in coal mining. Coal activists in Zonguldak say most people have been affected by coal. Recently, they have started to see more negative impacts of the coal industry. Cancer rates and births of babies with pulmonary problems have been increasing. Breathing should not be life threatening. Of the fundamental rights in this world, being able to breathe clean, fresh air should be one of the most important.
This is a struggle for rights started by hundreds and now encompassing millions. A popular movement is forming in support of the environment and rights and it starts as a local struggle.
The nationwide protests in Turkey started with people who lay in front of bulldozers to resist the destruction of our open spaces, the drying up of the streams and the felling of the forests. Two years ago, police attacked protesters at a coal plant for 12 hours with tear gas, pepper gas and water cannons.
Now that gas has come to the heart of the republic and Gezi Park in Taksim, Istanbul.
Gezi Park has become a mindbomb for the world. The protest over a park became a referendum for democracy. "We are here for our freedom," "We are here for a space to breathe," people said.
Gezi Park is important for another reason: The people of Istanbul have shown the world that citizens can stand up to military and police violence with peaceful solidarity. We have the power. Governments should listen to people.
What is happening in Turkey is actually happening all around the world; this is about the rights of people, the right to choose. It’s about people power. We have a right to decide our planet’s future, our future.
Pinar Aksogan is a Climate and Energy Campaigner with Greenpeace Mediterranean