In this issue: COP15 | XR France vs Forever Chemicals | Stop EACOP |
96% of all the mammals on Earth today are either human or our livestock. 4% are wild. Humanity is wiping out the biodiversity of this planet, and we are doing it with terrifying speed.
Animal populations worldwide have declined by 69% since 1970 (by 94% if just looking at Latin America and the Caribbean). 1 million plant and animal species face extinction.
Last month, governments converged in Montreal, Canada for two weeks to try and reverse the largest loss of life on this planet since the dinosaurs. The UN summit on biodiversity, known as COP15, resulted in a new set of biodiversity targets to meet over the coming decade, known as the Global Biodiversity Framework.
Rebels discuss biodiversity loss with students in Tanzania, one of many seminars held across Africa during the COP15 negotiations in Montreal.
This Framework has been called a ‘major milestone’ by some campaigners, a ‘failure to stop mass extinction’ by others. Find out more about its contents, and the rebel actions launched during its negotiation, by heading to Action Highlights.
You can also hear from a Canadian rebel who has campaigned passionately for biodiversity and attended the summit in Humans of COP15, then read more reactions to COP15 and stories about biodiversity loss in Must Reads.
Rebels enter a toxic chemical plant that is poisoning a whole region of France.
This issue, we also report on how hundreds of rebels invaded a toxic petrochemical factory in France that is leaking terrifying ‘forever chemicals’, and we dedicate Solidarity Corner to the brave activists of Stop EACOP who are being persecuted for protesting against a monstrous crude oil pipeline that will run across East Africa.
Whatever you feel about the biodiversity targets that emerged from COP15, none of them are legally binding. We live in a world where trade deals are protected by law, but deals to ensure the survival of a million species are merely voluntary.
Human overconsumption has spread extractivism, pollution, and habitat destruction all over our planet, and extinguished nearly three quarters of its life. And it’s growth-dependent capitalism which demands that this overconsumption continues.
When we live in a world where international biodiversity deals are legally enforced, and trade deals must yield to their demands - that will be a world where nature has a fighting chance. We must dedicate our activism this year to bringing that world about.
The Global Newsletter is brought to you by XR Global Support, a worldwide network of rebels who help our movement grow. We need money to continue this crucial work.
- Action Highlights: COP15 Actions & Analysis, XR France vs Forever Chemicals
- Action Roundup: Australia, Indonesia, Nigeria, Argentina, UK
- Must Reads: COP15 Verdicts, Insect Collapse, Adani, Guyana, Degrowth
- Humans of COP15: Douglas, XR Canada
- Solidarity Corner: Stop EACOP
- Book of the Month: No More Fairy Tales - Stories to Save Our Planet
- Upcoming Actions: Debt 4 Climate
- Announcements: XR Disabled Zine, XR South Korea, Solarpunk Showcase.
COP15: More Fairytales
7 - 19 DECEMBER | Montreal, Canada & Worldwide
After two years of pandemic-induced delays and a change of host country, governments from 195 countries finally arrived in Montreal for COP15, the UN summit on biodiversity.
As negotiations began on the biodiversity targets that would define the decade, rebels in some of the most biodiverse regions of the world launched actions to pressure their governments and spread awareness of the biodiversity crisis.
Rebels in Argentina staged a blood-smeared protest outside a courthouse in Córdoba to demand their government stop the relentless extractivism and construction in the region, and address local water shortages.
In Misiones, the province with the greatest biodiversity in Argentina, rebels painted messages on the motorway walls that act as death traps for endangered animals. More than 5000 are killed each year, including jaguars, ocelots, bears and tapirs.
Rebels rally in Córdoba & Misiones, Argentina (top), on the streets of Medellín, Colombia, and by the National Service of Protected Areas in La Paz, Bolivia (bottom).
Across Africa, including in Democratic Republic of Congo, Nigeria, Rwanda, Senegal, Tanzania, and Uganda, rebels held seminars with farmers, students, and women’s groups to discuss the causes and impacts of biodiversity loss, and spread awareness of sustainable cultivation practices as well as the need to conserve wild spaces.
Rebels in Zimbabwe (welcome, XR Zimbabwe!) marked COP15 by planting trees on a deforested part of a mountain sold to a stone-mining company. The quarry was green lit by Mutare city council last year even though it endangered local residents and their water supply.
Rebels discuss preservation of wetlands in DRC, combating desertification in Gumel, Nigeria (top), ending deforestation in Iganga, Uganda, and planting trees on Danagamvura mountain in Zimbabwe (bottom).
In Montreal itself, activists from Collectif Antigone (who have close links with XR Montreal) helped unfurl a giant banner telling world leaders to stop following the whims of ecocidal billionaires trying to influence global policy on biodiversity.
Indigenous people make up 6% of the world’s population, but protect 80% of the world’s biodiversity, and so Indigenous Leaders converged in Montreal to ensure their rights were enshrined in COP15’s agreement.
After two weeks of negotiations, a Framework of four goals and 23 targets was agreed to by all parties. The final text recognised Indigenous leadership as key to recovering biodiversity and called for Indigenous people (as well as all women, children, and disabled people) to be part of national decision-making.
A Namblong woman from West Papua, Indonesia explains how a palm oil company is destroying her forest homeland at a press conference in Montreal. Photo: Toma Iczkovits/Greenpeace
Elsewhere, though, the Framework has serious problems. Many of the targets are written in vague or compromised language. Even the headline target of preserving 30% of land and sea for nature by 2030 doesn’t explicitly exclude extractivism from those protected areas.
Corporate schemes like offsetting are also included in the targets, enabling ecocidal industries to continue exploiting what’s left of our biodiversity for profit.
And in a repeat performance of COP27, the Global North is refusing to give adequate funds to the Global South to stop planetary breakdown. The Global South is rich in biodiversity, and protecting it takes money. Negotiations very nearly broke down over this issue, and the final pledge of $30bn per year is far from enough.
Climber-activists unfurl a banner telling billionaires to back off from biodiversity policy in central Montreal.
But the biggest problem with the targets is that they are not legally binding. Governments are expected to go away and draw their own plans to implement them, then report back at COP16 in Turkey next year, echoing the failed process that followed the Paris Agreement.
The last time governments set UN biodiversity targets, in Japan in 2010, they failed to meet a single one.
Biodiversity has long taken second place to the climate crisis on the world stage, despite both crises arising from human overconsumption and a global economic system reliant on that overconsumption. Until this ecocidal engine is dismantled, there is no credible way for our atmosphere to decarbonise, nor for our planet to sustain a healthy biosphere.
For more analysis of COP15 check out Must Reads and Humans of COP15.
Rebels Vs. Forever Chemicals
17 DEC | Lyon, France
Rebels in protective gear outside a chemical plant that is poisoning the whole region.
Hundreds of rebels from XR Lyon celebrated the holiday season by targeting a local plant of the petrochemical giant, Arkema. The multinational corporation is a major producer of perfluorinated chemicals.
Perfluorinated chemicals are highly toxic and carcinogenic, and accumulate in soil and water thanks to their near indestructibility - earning them the nickname “forever chemicals”.
Testing shows that the plant’s chemicals have contaminated both the local area and its inhabitants. A recently aired documentary revealed that the water supply of 200,000 people contained dangerous concentrations, as did the breastmilk of local women.
Rebels hold a die-in outside the regional watchdog that has ignored Arkema’s ecocide.
Rebels dressed in protective overalls and facemasks stormed the plant site, just south of Lyon, banging drums and chanting as security quickly mobilised to evict them. Meanwhile, a second rebel group held a die-in outside DREAL, the regional environmental watchdog that has ignored the plant’s chronic pollution for decades.
Around 300 rebels participated in the actions, and although police made 20 arrests, no rebels were charged. Importantly and unusually, the French government gave two responses to XR Lyon’s actions. Though not supportive of the disruption, they did agree to start negotiations within Europe to further regulate environmental pollutants.
In the US, Arkema was successfully convicted by the state of Michigan for contaminating its water and environment with perfluorinated chemicals. In France, not only are there no convictions, but Arkema is given tax-breaks to continue its ecocide.
XR Lyon will be closely following any regulatory developments and maintain pressure on the French government to ban these Earth-killing chemicals.
13 DEC | Sydney, Australia: A Fireproof Australia activist and former rebel is released from prison on bail after an outrageous sentence of 15 months for disrupting Sydney Harbour Bridge. The sentence will be appealed in March. Read her first interview since release.
14 DEC | London, UK: HSBC announces it will stop funding new oil and gas fields (although it excludes its soon-to-be-sold operations in Canada). The move comes after Lloyds, another British banking giant, announced an end to ‘direct’ funding of fossil fuel projects in October. It’s not the end of all fossil fuel financing by the big banks, but it’s a start. Protest works, people! Partial victory!
24 DEC | Makassar, Indonesia: A rebel addresses world leaders as he stands in floodwater outside his house. His message: the climate crisis is happening today. Loss and Damage is real. Act now.
25 DEC | Kaduna, Nigeria: A Christmas rebel flash mob called for their government to stem widespread poverty in the country after months of extreme flooding, and reduce the rampant tree-felling which is destroying biodiversity and making the flooding worse.
26 DEC | Buenos Aires, Argentina: Police detained eight rebels after they peacefully protested outside the offices of oil fracking company, Equinor. The rebels used washable paint to write messages on the glass skyscraper before staging a sit-in outside its entrance. The rebels were later released after being issued with an infraction report, meaning they will face a court summons.
1 JAN | UK: Despite the provocative headline, XR UK has not quit, just temporarily shifted its tactics, moving away from actions that disrupt the public to focus instead on actions that encourage mass participation. The move is part of the build up to ‘The Big One’, starting on 21st April, when XR UK hopes to gather 100,000 people around the Houses of Parliament in London. Everyone’s needed to make history, so sign up now.
So many actions happened this month, we can’t fit them all into one newsletter. Find out about amazing actions in Italy, Sweden, Rwanda, USA & more by reading NEWSLETTER XTRA: a feast for the eyes and extra fuel for the soul!
A rebel demands an end to ecocide outside Córdoba’s courthouse, Argentina
In this COP15 edition of Must Reads, we have two verdicts on the final Framework, two startling stories of recent and ongoing corporate ecocide, an investigation into the rapid and largely hidden decline of insects, and the true solution to all this loss - degrowth!
Greenpeace: A Bandage For Biodiversity
A pithy analysis of the COP15 agreement that lacerates the final text for containing ‘false solutions’, ‘greenwashing’, and ‘protections on paper but nowhere else’.
Resilience: Biodiversity - Targets and Lies
This analysis of the COP15 agreement co-authored by an ex-spokesperson of XR UK and a green economist argues that it will take much more than non-binding long-term targets to reverse the biodiversity crisis.
Guardian: The Coal Mine That Ate an Indian Village
The story of how the Adani Group insidiously destroyed a village and razed a pristine forest to get hold of $5bn worth of coal. A text-book case of corporate ecocide, and one that COP15 should have prohibited for good.
Wired: The Quest to Defuse Guyana’s Carbon Bomb
An inspiring report on how a former BP lawyer is trying to stop Exxon from drilling for oil off Guyana’s shoreline. A potential landmark case for dismantling the oil industry.
Reuters: The Collapse of Insects
This beautifully presented article investigates how insects are dying off at a frightening rate, and why these tiny, mysterious organisms are vital to all life on Earth.
Nature: Degrowth Can Work
Researchers in ecological economics call for degrowth - the scaling down of destructive and unnecessary forms of production to reduce energy and material use, to enable rapid decarbonization, and to end ecological breakdown.
Humans of COP15
Douglas, Quebec, Canada
It was Bill McKibben’s book The End of Nature that first woke me up to the climate and ecological emergency, back in 1989. I was so shocked by the title, I ran out to get a copy. This book made so clear and concrete what we were doing to our world – what we were destroying.
I’ve been following the development of XR since it emerged in 2018, and am part of XR Québec. In December 2022, along with about 18,000 others, I attended COP15 in Montreal, not far from my home in Canada. It was a mixed bag: passionate young activists, Indigenous campaigners, and scientists, as well as political and corporate figures apparently unable to think beyond our ecocidal status quo.
Although there was a lot of promising language, I’ve been referring to COP15 as the “make a wish” biodiversity conference. Almost 200 participating nations adopted four overarching goals and twenty-three targets to hit by 2030, but the major problem – and the reason I use the term, “make a wish” – is that these are not legally binding. The agreement is a set of “ambitions”. So, the agreement itself is only the start. We now need, urgently, to enforce these targets. We need to act radically and fast.
Another problem is the vagueness and inadequacy of some of the targets. For example, number three is about conserving ‘at least 30% of terrestrial, inland water, and of coastal and marine areas,’ by 2030. But this is too vague, and ‘at least 30%’ is not enough. One of my heroes, the late biologist and writer Edward O. Wilson, said we need to ensure that at least 50% of nature is protected.
It was good to see that defending nature protectors – hundreds of whom are killed every year – was included in the agreement, but again, without a legal framework, it’s just wish-making.
A crucial question for me is: how do you inspire a love for nature in other people? Can you educate others to feel that? I used to run music festivals, where I incorporated conversations about biodiversity and climate into the programming. It made perfect sense to me, and I believe climate and ecology should form a core part of our education throughout school and university, and should permeate every part of our culture.
I also believe we need to work one-to-one, and in our local communities, and to rapidly set up Citizens’ Assemblies across the world, as XR demands, while continuing to participate in civil disobedience wherever possible.
Underlying all this, we must incorporate nature into our understanding of ourselves in the world. And we need to ask: what restrictions are we going to place on the rich world in order to protect life on Earth, including all human life? It is an unpopular question, but one that demands an answer.
Read more about Doug’s COP15 visit on his blog Georgian Triangle Earth Day Celebration
If you know (or are) a rebel somewhere in the world with a story to tell, get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org
Students with Stop EACOP begin their march through Kampala. Police were waiting.
We are living through an unprecedented climate crisis thanks to the overconsumption of fossil fuels. If there’s one thing we really don’t need, it's 1,445 kilometres of brand-new oil pipeline.
The East African Oil Pipeline (EACOP) is brought to you by French oil giant TotalEnergies, the China National Offshore Oil Corporation, and the Ugandan Government. It is supposed to stretch from oil fields in Uganda to the port of Tanga in Tanzania. Its effects on local communities and the environment would be disastrous.
A large coalition of activists has organised to stop EACOP by protesting, taking legal action, and trying to block the financial flows and insurance of the project. The harsh reaction of the Ugandan government shows that they have struck a nerve.
Police bundled nine activists into jeeps and imprisoned them for nearly a week.
In October, several brave students started a protest march through the capital Kampala demanding that their government stop EACOP. At least nine were arrested and detained in Uganda’s maximum security prison for nearly a week.
Now, they are facing charges of inciting violence. “They exercised their right to peacefully protest, and were arrested”, says a Stop EACOP activist, who works under a pseudonym for her safety.
The Ugandan government does not treat all protests equally. When students and school children from across Kampala 'unexpectedly’ marched in favour of EACOP and against an EU resolution that condemned the pipeline, the protest received extensive police protection.
The nine students were eventually released on bail, but now face trumped-up charges.
“Over 100,000 people would or have been displaced by the pipeline,” the Stop EACOP activist explains. “Most of them are farmers, whose livelihoods depend on their land. I know many families from western Uganda who lost their independence.”
“Now they must cultivate other people’s land. That affects their income, their ability to send their children, especially girls, to school. And we see similar things happening in Tanzania.”
When it comes to fossil fuel projects, social and ecological damage go hand in hand, and it’s no surprise that the pipeline also poses a huge threat to many natural reserves, each a biodiversity hotspot and home to endangered species.
It will also affect vital freshwater reserves like the Lake Victoria basin, which provides food and drinking water for 40 million people. And finally, there’s the carbon emissions from the crude oil that would flow through the pipeline - 34 million tons per year.
Book of the Month
No More Fairy Tales: Stories to Save Our Planet, edited by D.A. Baden
No More Fairy Tales is a collection of short stories that all showcase characters either developing climate solutions or living in climate solutions, or both.
Some are set far in the future in worlds very different from our current reality. Others have a more or less contemporary setting. Each ends with a footnote suggesting further reading on the solution suggested by the story.
Although the stories are not all from the same author, and some are excerpts from longer, previously published works, they do interlock—reading through the collection, you find characters living in solutions proposed by the characters in previous stories.
Fiction written to deliver a message is seldom as well-realised as fiction written for its own sake, and indeed some of these non-fairy tales read as a little simplistic—and yet they are engaging, accessible, and relatable. Some contain real gems.
And while essays proposing the same solutions might be dry or dull, these stories do the job in a way that is not only clear and effective, but also genuinely enjoyable to read. You care about the characters and hope they make it.
Then you hope we make it.
Debt For Climate: Global Call!
27 FEBRUARY | Global
Turn the tables on financial colonialism and hold the Global North accountable for their climate debt on a historic date for debt cancellation!
Why February 27th? It’s the 70th anniversary of Nazi Germany's debt cancellation after World War II, which led to its "Economic Miracle".
Today, Germany is the 4th largest voting power in the IMF and the world’s 4th largest historic polluter. Germany, and the rest of the Global North, owe the Global South a massive climate debt, and we will take action globally on this day to make them pay it!
If it was possible to cancel the debt of the Nazis then, it is definitely possible to cancel the debt of the Global South now, and enable a just transition!
Get in touch! email@example.com
XR Disabled Rebel Network: Help Us Create a Zine!
Submit by 31 MAY
XR Disabled Rebels Network (DRN) is asking disabled rebels from all over the world to submit contributions for a zine (like a small pamphlet) that will raise awareness of the impact of the climate crisis on disabled people.
Submissions can be sent via email to firstname.lastname@example.org
Contributions from D/deaf, disabled, neurodiverse people, as well as those living with chronic illness or long term health conditions are all welcome. Please state in your email submission whether you want your name included or prefer to use a pseudonym or remain anonymous.
All written submissions must be in English. Written work can be submitted as a file or written as an email. All images must be in JPEG format.
The deadline for submissions for the first edition is 31st of May 2023
Contributions can be in a variety of forms, including personal anecdotes/written pieces (word limit 1500 words), poetry, letters, photos, and all kinds of artworks.
Subjects covered can include the impact of climate change on disabled peoples’ health conditions, medication, support, housing, transport, as well as feelings of exclusion from climate activism, eugenics/stigma, climate Darwinism, and disabled climate refugees.
Once completed, a digital copy of the zine will be made available for free to download. If a publisher can be found, a print copy will also be made available for a small fee.
Show XR South Korea Solidarity!
Sign The Petition Now
Six rebels in South Korea were fined $16,000 for a direct action against the construction of a new airport. They disobeyed the order, went through six trials last year, and are now facing a final trial on January 17th. Please watch the action video.
With solidarity from people around the world, we can make a difference.
Please show your solidarity by signing the petition (it takes less than 1 minute!)
Solarpunk Showcase 2023
We can’t stop the future, but here’s a chance for writers of all ages to imagine and help shape the world they’d want to live in. Extinction Rebellion Wordsmiths is opening its second round of Solarpunk storytelling following last year’s successful showcase.
Picture a world where we’re more in harmony with nature and ourselves, and have found the technology to help that happen – that is Solarpunk in action!
If you’re new to Solarpunk, read some of our favourite entries from last year. If you’re familiar with it… start imagining!
For more information and inspiration, head to our Solarpunk Showcase 2023 website or email us at email@example.com
Activists from Mighty Earth projected messages around Montreal during COP15 calling on the Chinese president to stop the extinction of the Tapanuli orangutan. The Chinese state recently bought a dam project in Indonesia that will destroy the last habitat of the rarest great ape in the world. There are fewer than 800 left.
Thank you for reading, rebel. If you have any questions or feedback, we want to hear from you. Get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Global Newsletter is brought to you by XR Global Support, a worldwide network of rebels who help our movement grow. We need money to continue this crucial work.