US environmental kingpin Bill McKibben throws his weight behind civil disobedience in NZ

Press release - March 17, 2016
World-leading environmentalist Bill McKibben is today urging New Zealanders to take part in peaceful civil disobedience to overthrow “radicalism”.

The well-known American has made the call in a video, which has been released by Greenpeace, five days before members of the public will participate in a Greenpeace-organised demonstration of peaceful civil disobedience at the annual petroleum conference at SkyCity in Auckland.

It will be the first time in New Zealand that Greenpeace has invited the general public to take civil disobedience action en masse.

McKibben, who founded global climate change organisation, recorded the video in support of the action on March 21.

In a personal message to the New Zealanders taking part, McKibben said:

“We thank you in advance for being willing to stand up peacefully and non-violently to the most violent forces on our planet.”

He says New Zealand is one of the most “beautiful places in the world” but now stands as a place that needs to get serious about the climate crisis.

“Everybody went off to Paris [climate conference]. Everybody said lots of sweet things. Everybody pounded each other on the back about what great people they were,” he says. 

“[But] if you come home from Paris and say ‘nothing is changing – we’re still going to mine coal, we’re still going to go drill in the deep blue sea for oil, we’re still going to frack’, then you did not get the message.”

On the back of the Paris Climate Conference in December last year, New Zealand Prime Minister John Key stated he had no intention of scaling back any search for fossil fuels.

McKibben has words of encouragement for Kiwis considering using peaceful civil disobedience as a tactic for change.

“The point that you’re trying to get across I think, most importantly, is there’s nothing radical about what we’re talking about. All we’re talking about is trying to keep a world that works a little bit like the world worked for the last 10,000 years,” he says.

“The radicals [are the] oil companies and the government ministries that aid and abet that…[It’s] our job, with our bodies if need be, to slow down that radicalism…Civil disobedience is a powerful tactic - it needs to be done with a complete commitment to non-violence and peacefulness.”