On Saturday, in Istanbul, I marched with 500 young people from 134 countries and several thousand people from Turkey, for the right to live in a healthy environment: to demand the End of the Age of Coal.
In the wake of the Gezi Park protests, this was also a poignant moment to underline people's right to peaceful protest. It stressed the necessity for public participation in all decisions that affect their environment and the quality of their lives.
The Gezi protests in Istanbul are an awakening after years of environmental abuse in Turkey backed by an erosion of democratic participation that has put private profit before the environment and public good and public opinion.
Unfortunately, the same is true for many other countries across the world.
Global Power Shift conference
The march, and the rally, came at the end of the "Global Power Shift" meeting; a week of training in building citizen movements and in running campaigns for action on climate change. Global Power Shift was organised by 350.org and 45 partner organisations, including Greenpeace Mediterranean, and two Turkish groups: TEMA Vakfı and Küresel Eylem Grubu.
Photo: Daniel Maissan
The 500 young people are the next wave in a globally networked movement to stop coal burning, end the age of coal and demand urgent action to prevent runaway climate change. After China, India and Russia, Turkey is the 4th largest coal burner in the world.
The End of the Age of Coal activities ricocheted around the world beginning on Saturday in Australia with the publication of an open letter to Australia's four biggest banks. More than 60 prominent Australians urged the banks to stop investing in coal and other fossil fuels for the sake of the climate. The people supporting the letter included scientists, artists, former politicians, musicians, writers, religious leaders, health professionals and environmentalists.
Activists across the world staged more than 70 events demanding that governments and companies stop investing in new coal projects and commit instead to phasing out coal and implement a massive shift towards renewable energy.
Australia was followed by the Philippines, India, Indonesia, Burma, South Africa, Slovenia, Romania, Italy, Germany, Bosnia-Herzegovina, and the US. There were 13 countries that had activities. The anti-coal movement is becoming increasingly stronger.
One big step away from winning
Like Gezi Park, our whole planet is a fragile and special place. It is my hope and belief we will see the same energy to protect the climate grow like we saw the movement to protect Gezi grow.
From the End of the Age of Coal rally on Saturday, with some of our colleagues from Greenpeace Turkey I joined a protest in Taksim Square to commemorate the people killed over the past few weeks during the protests across Turkey.
The violent repression of protest by the Turkish police force has not stopped. A day earlier a man was killed and ten more people where wounded when police opened fire on a group calling for greater police accessibility in the Kurdish area of Turkey. Media in Turkey are timidly reporting such incidents which in turn only fuels the anger and frustration of many Turks towards their government.
Photo: Daniel Maissan
I often quote Mandela, who once said that he was prepared to die for an ideal and for social justice. I was incredibly moved by the thousands of Turks who are willing to take risks and peacefully protest against a government that uses brutal force, tear gas and water canons to suppress the people's voice. History shows us that justice will ultimately prevail. Solidarity and non-violence where resolute amongst those in Taksim Square – and I found that both energizing and inspirational.
Increasingly people are realising that the struggle for social, economic and environmental justice are one and the same, and that governments will not listen until decent men and women say, enough is enough, and, no more.
Globally, people's disappointment with their governments is bubbling up and I am deeply inspired and hopeful that the air of change will materialize. A just, equitable, sustainable and peaceful future lies ahead of us if people continue to resist flawed economic and environmental policies and are willing to put their lives on the line even with the risks that entails.
We must stay strong, stay connected and stay peaceful. As Mahatma Gandhi put it: First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you and then you win. Lets take some comfort from the fact that they are not ignoring or laughing at us. Indeed they are fighting the forces of justice and let’s hope that means we are one big step away from winning.
Kumi Naidoo is the Executive Director at Greenpeace International.