Open your eyes

Feature story - 3 September, 2002
Greenpeace participated in a day of action in Johannesburg to protest Earth Summit inaction on climate change.

Greenpeace and other NGO activists wearing T-shirts with slogans reading “fight till the end” and “open your eyes” in seven languages. Greenpeace was reacting to news that all renewable targets have been dropped from the Earth Summit Action Plan dealing with energy and climate policy.

Activists from Greenpeace and other organisations, assembled outside the convention centre wearing t-shirts saying 'Open Your Eyes' in the official languages of the United Nations. Holding up personal sirens and whistling shrilly, the protestors signalled their alarm to the Heads of State. Police moved in quickly and moved the demonstrators off the summit grounds, detaining two.

Greenpeace Canada Executive Director Peter Tabuns led the protest, saying that "the world needs to open its eyes to what has happened here. Multinational corporations have hijacked this summit by ensuring that no meaningful action was taken to get renewable energy into the hands of the poor."

This morning when the members of our youth delegation assembled to hold a pre-approved and officially sanctioned press conference in the civic heart of Johannesburg, BMW, which has been allowed exclusive use of the plaza to exhibit the least polluting of its cars, didn't want their giant inflatable globe to be the backdrop to a Greenpeace event. Wearing bullet proof vests, the United Nations police force marched the 10 or so young, non-violent speakers away from the zone and detained them away from BMW's slick exhibition domes.

As the police began to move the confused youth delegation away there were cries of protest from the crowd. Swept up into the removal was a nearby Free Tibet activist group, which was also barricaded by a wall of police.

Shaken, the youth delegation continued surrounded by a ring of officers. Disappointed with the actions of aged delegates who are deciding the future of the youth of the world, they unveiled a banner denouncing the backroom tactics of the United States, signalling it was time for a new Action Plan.

BMW was quick to realise it had a public relations problem, and called Greenpeace to say there had been a misunderstanding, and denied that they had called the police. When asked by Greenpeace political director Remi Parementier, they affirmed that BMW supports the Kyoto protocol and wants a strong signal from governments calling for its ratification.

Language adopted at the Earth Summit does nothing to further the Kyoto protocol, and merely urges states that have not ratified to do so.