Yesterday I woke up at 4.30am, entered the second-largest refinery in Europe, and climbed a 90-meter-high chimney to paint over a logo. Not an ordinary day at the office, even as an executive director of Greenpeace. But knowing about the insanity of Total’s plans to drill for oil at the mouth of the Amazon, I knew I needed to stand up, get out there and do something.
Protest in Belgium against Total to protect the Amazon reef. 27 March, 2017
There are many reasons why I decided to get involved in this action, to put myself there alongside other activists. I felt that I had to do what I could to help get the word out. I want people to know how risky and dangerous drilling for oil in the Amazon really is and to join in the protest against this.
One of the first images of the reef taken from the Greenpeace ship Esperanza. 28 Jan, 2017
Drilling for oil in these pristine waters would seriously threaten the recently discovered Amazon Reef, a unique 9500km² reef system. It is an unexplored underwater world of unknown natural treasures and yet the fossil fuel industry is willing to risk it all for oil that the planet can no longer afford to burn. Not only will this damage the local ecosystems, but the homes and resources of traditional communities along the Brazilian coast would be at risk in the case of an oil spill.
The other reason I decided to join this action as part of the #BreakFree movement is because it’s time for all leaders -- civil society organisations, businesses, politicians, everyone -- to confront fossil fuels in their own way. We all must take a stand and accelerate the transition to 100% renewable solutions.
Because if realised, the impacts of Total’s drilling plans would go well beyond the mouth of the Amazon. New oil wells such as this one jeopardise our chances of keeping global warming under 1.5°C, the target in the Paris Agreement which could avoid dangerous climate disruption. So yesterday, we reminded people that we need to keep that oil in the ground.
From the top of that 90-meter-high chimney, I looked around and it struck me how ingenious humans are; we can do amazing things when we put our minds to it. In the distance I could see wind turbines -- the solutions already exist. We have the ability and the solutions, we just need the collective willpower. Now, we must put our focus into a low carbon future. There is no reason we can’t do it, but we must move fast.
Break Free march in Athens, Greece. 20 March, 2017
And we’re not alone. While we -- and peaceful activists in Paris -- were asking Total not to destroy the Amazon Reef, other protests to protect our health and environment from fossil fuels took place in Germany, Thailand and the US. Last week, in my home country New Zealand, around 200 people blockaded the oil industry’s yearly gathering. In Greece, Korea and the Philippines, thousands marched in the streets to demand an end to fossil fuels.
Fishing communities unfurl Break Free banner near Don Kham Puang island, Thailand. 17 Mar, 2017
This movement to Break Free from fossil fuels is growing in strength and diversity. This year we joined forces with women and Indigenous movements to address the impacts fossil fuels and climate change are having on their rights, communities and livelihoods.
We will continue to confront the coal, oil and gas industry at every opportunity. The tide has already turned away from fossil fuels and towards renewables. People will continue to build momentum, together with those governments and the thousands of progressive businesses that want to contribute to a healthier and sustainable future.
For this I will gladly wake up at 4.30am every morning.
This story first appeared on the The Huffington Post.
Bunny McDiarmid is Executive Director of Greenpeace International.