Break Free 2016 Rides an Unprecedented Wave of People Power
by Mike Hudema
May 17, 2016
Twelve days. Six continents. Tens of thousands of people. Around the world, Break Free put people power on full display and the movement to keep fossil fuels in the ground at the center of conversation.
A version of this blog was originally published by Greenpeace Canada.
If Break Free 2016 showed us anything, it’s that people around the world are ready to flex their citizen muscles and take action to keep fossil fuels in the ground.
Take a look at just some of the powerful direct actions that turned up the heat on the fossil fuel industry over the past two weeks (and check out even more photos from Break Free actions around the world here).
Activists in Colorado blockaded a government fracking auction, disrupting the sale of public lands for fossil fuel profit.
In Washington, DC, more than 1,000 people turned out to protest offshore drilling — just days after Shell spilled 90,000 gallons of oil into the Gulf of Mexico.
In Germany, thousands shut down Europe’s largest coal plant, occupying it for more than 48 hours.
Their action reduced the plant’s capacity by 80 percent.
And hundreds in South Africa stood up to the country’s most powerful mining family with a march that delivered coal to their front door.
10,000 people marched against a proposed coal plant in Batangas, Philippines.
Twelve activists climbed the cranes supplying coal for a major Indonesian coal plant, bringing with them a clear message to move from coal to clean, renewable energy.
In Australia, a flotilla of kayaktivists blocked the entrance to Newcastle harbor while 70 people blockaded a nearby rail crossing. Together, they prevented any coal from getting to port for more than six hours.
In Los Angeles, hundreds of people marched to city hall to let Mayor Eric Garcetti know that neighborhood drilling is not safe for communities.
And this was just the beginning.
In total, tens of thousands of people took to the streets, occupied mines, blocked rail lines, linked arms, paddled in kayaks and raised their voices, pushing the boundaries of conventional protest to find new ways to keep fossil fuels in the ground.
Thousands worldwide risked arrest — many for the first time — to say that it’s time to Break Free from the current energy paradigm that is locking the planet into a future of catastrophic climate change and to speed the transition to a 100 percent renewable energy future.
Driving this unprecedented wave of demonstrations is the sudden and dramatic acceleration in the warming of the planet. April shattered all temperature records — becoming the seventh straight month to do so. Fires fueled by record dry temperatures are raging across North America and Russia. Just this week, it was reported that five Solomon Islands have been swallowed by the rising seas.
Combined with the growing number of planetary warning signs is the growing gap between world governments’ stated climate ambitions and their demonstrated actions in approving new fossil fuel projects. Break Free is about starting to close that gap.
I’m not sure if world leaders follow hashtags, but I hope that for a short time they followed #BreakFree2016. I hope they saw the amazing stories of courageous people pouring in from countries around the world. Stories of people standing up, of people taking the actions we need to take, and pushing us all to break free from fossil fuels and speed the move to a 100 percent renewable energy future.
Break Free shows that all around the world, people are ready to act. And if leaders are ready to move on climate change, then we will be there to support them.