So, once again we are on the move. After a few months in Sweden, with a months detour to both Germany and Greece, we started traveling again (Germany and Greece doesn’t count), this time going south west. But before I share with you our moderately exciting experiences travelling a well known route, I would like to write about something a bit more interesting and relevant. The Climate Movement.
Not a soul reading this can have missed the urgency with witch the climate issue is being portrayed in the media, both social and conventional. And in an attempt to do something me and August participated in three demonstrations of sorts, one in August and two in September. In this post I will discuss the two first ones, because the third one deserves a whole separate post!
The first climate action we did was in Malmö, under the flag of Extinction Rebellion. This is a relatively new movement that originates in the UK. Our goal was to block streets in Malmö during a sunny Saturday afternoon and night in order to raise awareness. This type of action is an act of civil disobedience, which in some aspects are against the law.
First, when we came there we got an extensive action training, in which we learned a few new terms. Starting from the top, these types of actions are organised in “fingers”. A finger is the biggest unit in an action, and it is made up out of affinity groups. An affinity group is a group of four to maybe 12 people, and in every affinity group there are pairs of two or of three people which are called buddy groups or buddy pairs. So the way it works, is that first of all you get a buddy. No one is ever supposed to be left alone in an action, since there is a possibility of getting in trouble with the law. Second, you get an affinity group, and then third, a finger. The structure of the participants of activists are democratic. Every time a decision has to be made, there is a delegation plenary ( a deli), to which each affinity group selects one representative to attend the “deli”. In the deli, issues of work assignments are discussed, announcements relevant to everyone made, or decision making, like “should we stay or should we go”, or “there is a police blockade, what should we do?”. So the delegate attends the deli and then reports back to his/her affinity group, in which the issue at hand is discussed, and then the delegate returns to the deli to report what her/his affinity groups decide on the topic at hand. The the delegate returns to inform her/his affinity group of what was decided in the delegation plenary. This proces is tedious but hey, democracy yay!
So during the action training in Malmö, we learned about the law, what legal consequences one could get from participating, as well as what rights we have as citizens, and how to sit when one was carried away from a location by police and different ways of communication with hand signs and so on. It was a quite good action training and there were a lot of us, meaning that this was the first action for many people participating.
Chant from the action
All life comes from the sea
The ocean is the beginning of the world
The first thing we did as part of the action, was to walk around in a roundabout, blocking it almost all the way around, chanting and singing, clapping and dancing. In this action we were in the Skåne finger, there were two others, one Göteborg finger and one Stockholm finger, and our finger was blessed with a few drummers and violin players. There were a few people giving out flyers and discussing with angry drivers, whose precious time we were stealing. The police was present during the whole time, but this part is hardly illegal, we have a right to demonstrate, and the right to gather, regardless of whether of not we have a permit from the police. After this we marched onwards to Triangeln in Malmö, where we made camp for a while. Problem was that the police made checkpoints far away from where we were, so this time we didn’t really encounter many normal people. But it was fun, there were lots of press and the general vibe was nice. We were singing, dancing, doing yoga and chatting. There was a big support for what we were doing in Malmö. In the evening, after we gathered in the park and had dinner we marched to the Opera in Malmö, where we made camp for the night.
There was a truck which was remade into a stage and there were performances and speeches. We went home around 10, when they cut the music not to disturb the neighbors, but some people stayed the whole night, or at least until the police got tired of them and removed them from the location. The police was well prepared and had road blocks to redirect traffic far away from where we were, so here there was not much contact with the public either.
Chant from the action
People gonna rise like the water
We’re gonna face this crisis now
I hear the voice of my great grand daughter
SInging “climate justice now!”
Coming home we felt a little weird about it all. When we were chanting “Anti Capitalist” someone told us not to to do that “because everyone was to feel welcomed in the action”. This was a little strange, wasn’t it? How come we cooperated so well with the police after we had that extensive action training? And what is it really that Extinction Rebellion want? This is probably something we should have checked before participating, but what we found out broke our hearts.
Critique of XR
We found out that Extinction Rebellion has some weird goals. The organisation states that it wants governments to implement zero NET emissions by 2025, declare a state of emergency in relation to climate change and for a citizens assembly to decide policy on climate action. All of these goals were a bit strange to us, especially zero net emissions which after more research we have found to mean, that we will continue to use fossil fuels, and with business as usual except that companies like Microsoft and Exon Mobile (one of the biggest fossil fuel companies in the world) will be given huge sums of money from taxpayers around the world to fund research and development of machines capable of sucking carbon dioxide out of the air to neutralise what we have polluted. Therefore the word NET and not just emission neutral or zero as many other climate activist are calling for. This is all part of something called the “Green New Deal” coming out of the US and the “4th Industrial Revolution” meant to be implemented as we enter a state of emergency as called for by Extinction Rebellion and other NGO´s and lobbyist. Lastly is the establishment of a citizens assembly to decide climate policy, which has already started in some places, namely France. What type of people it should consist of is only described as randomly selected “normal people”. They would have no responsibility towards us and would apparently not be able to be recalled by the people if they should behave inappropriately. Behind Extinction Rebellion is also huge sums of money from big business in Silicon Valley in the US. Big business is the reason why we have a climate crisis in the first place so anything they back is something to be suspicious of. You can read for yourself on their website: https://rebellion.earth/the-truth/demands/
Finding out all of this made us very sad at first and we are still doing more research into this topic. I advise all people interested in climate related issues and people active in the climate justice movement to do independent research into the Green New Deal and the 4th Industrial Revolution to create an opinion for themselves as to if this is positive or not for our struggle. I for one however, see this as a complete betrayal and misappropriation of the climate justice movement in the case of Extinction Rebellion and think it will hurt our planet more instead of saving it as the people pushing this claims. The very fact that they want to create very resource intensive machines backed by fossil fuel companies to suck CO2 out of the air is to me absolutely insane and serves as a prime example of the type of thinking that got us into this mess in the first place. We have something already that sucks CO2 out of the air, they are called trees. And to think that we can engineer something to do what they do is crazy. Planting trees would obviously be way cheaper then to trust big business to develop these machines. I hope that some of you reading this will do some research and take a more critical approach towards moving in this new “Green” direction.
But none the less, participating in this action was only the beginning, we had fun, met a lot of people and learned the basics for doing a civil disobedience action. And also it opened our eyes to the monstrosities the capitalists have in store for us to save this destructive capitalist system that we are currently in, and how no one goes safe from their manipulation. So now we are more cautios about who to trust and what the soultion to all the crisis of our time is; namely SYSTEM CHANGE!
Folk mot Fossilgas
The second action we did was the very next weekend in Göteborg. We found out about this action in Malmö and it was organised by a group called Folk mot Fossilgas (People against fossil gas). A company called Swedgas has a huge gas terminal in the Gothenburg harbour, and this company wanted to expand their infrastructure and import more fossil gas (called LNG, Liquified Natural Gas), AND connect their infrastructure to the gas net of west Sweden. So why is fossil gas bad? It’s mostly refered to as “nature gas” and that doesn’t sound so bad? Let me explain.
It’s the gas that mainly is extracted from the ground using the method of fracking. Fracking is the process of drilling down into the earth before a high pressure water, sand and chemical mixture is directed at the rock to release the gas inside. The term fracking refers to how the rock is fractured apart by this high pressure mixture (BBC). This method destroys the environment and causes earthquakes. This was a popular topic in the media a couple of years ago when the people of California outlawed this method because of the earthquakes. To put in into perspective, in Groningen in northern Netherlands, they are conducting this method, which has led to earthquakes in this area, in the Netherlands! This has, apart from the ecological consequences, resulted in property in the area losing value.
But it’s not only the extraction method that is bad. The gas itself is also dangerous to the environment. It is a fossil fuel, a mix of gases such as methane and hydrocarbons. Methane is 34 times more potent than Co2 as a green house gas, and even though the companies try to avoid the gas to leek during the production chain, some of it is released into the atmosphere. Fossil gas is slightly better than oil and coal in terms of the amount of Co2 that is released when it is burnt, but it’s not in any way “green” (Tidningen Syre).
So Swedgas wanted to expand their business and tried to cover up the fact that if their proposal was given a thumbs up by the government, Sweden would be more dependent on fossil fuels for a long time, by stating that the same infrastructure can be used for bio gas, and that they in time would try to switch to this gas. The problem with biogas, however, is that biogas, as it is today, is mainly created out of palm oil. And palm oil is bad for many reasons, I don’t want to go further into that, most of you surely know the problems with how rain forests are cut down to make mono culture palm oil plantations, and all the implications this entails.
Our mission was to blockade the entrances to the terminal in Gothenburg. Me and August arrived on the Thursday before the action, which was on Saturday. There was a climate camp in the Färjenäs park in Gothenburg and we stayed in a tent and helped to build up the camp, putting up circus tents and smaller tents, cooking food for the participants, putting up toilets and getting running water. This is all made by volunteers, everything is based on donations from the participants, and during the action, all the food we ate was saved or donated from restaurants and grocery stores. Everything was vegan. It was hard work to build up the camp, but fun! During the camp we met some fun people from all over the world, of all ages, and this action was way more serious than the one in Malmö. Swedgas proposal to expand their operation was on the governments table and a decision was to be made late September or early October, so we had a clear objective.
Chant from the action
Solid as a rock (Solid as a rock)
Rooted as a tree (Rooted as a tree)
We are here (We are here)
Standing strong (Standing strong)
In our rightful place (In our rightful place)
There were three fingers, and we were with our affinity group of nine people in the red finger. We blocked a really boring entrance under heavy police surveillance, and we were juggling, playing music, dancing, playing cards and reading. Arriving there, shortly after a heavy rain, we were all a little disappointed because it felt like we were not doing enough, but as time passed we saw a few tankers drive by us, giving us the finger, then the spirit of the group was lifted. The police soon realised that we were not doing anything crazy, and they even told us (through our police contact, who is not really a police but someone who handles all contact with the police. This is a Swedish model, invented after the Gothenburg riots in 2001) that since the gas facility is a protected area, filming and photographing the area is forbidden. But the police didn’t want to start taking mobile phones, so they asked us to film and photograph it discretely… In the end there were like two police officers left at our gate. One important aspect of all these actions is that there is always a few people who has big trouble with authority, and want to clash with the police, but the police is not the enemy. They are wage slaves just like the rest of us. In this case, the “enemy” was Swedgas and the entire fossil fuel industry.
Chant from the action
Hårt mot hårt!
Klass mot klass!
LNG är jävligt kass!
So we sat, stood, and danced at this entrance until nine in the evening, at which time it was getting cold and there were a lot of mosquitoes attacking us from all angles. During the day we got coffee and two meals served.
When we returned back to the camp there was a party but we were all so tired we went to bed. We and our dear friend Daniel who was with us during this action had early transport back home the next day. When we were waiting for our train back home with all our stuff at the Central Station in Gothenburg, there was a woman opposite us who asked if we had participated in the action. She told us that she recently purchased an apartment in Gothenburg which had gas as heating. “Where does this gas come from?!” She said with a guilty panic in her eyes. Then she wished all the best for the rest of our lives! The public is on board with all this in Sweden. Change can happen very quickly.
And now in hindsight, the Swedish government decided to DECLINE Swedgas proposal a few days ago!!!! Our minister of environment said that this action increased the weight of the arguments against allowing this plan to happen. It feels like a big victory and it is hard proof that we CAN make a difference! Workers UNITE! Watch the news clip HERE.
I’m sure you are all curious of the legal consequences participating in an action like this can have, so I want to tell you. In Sweden we have the right to gather (mötesfrihet) and the right to protest (demonstrationsfriheten), regardless if we have a permit from the police or not. There are three types of “crimes” that a person can be accused of participating in an action like this:
- Disobedience against the police
- Taking the law into your own hands (Egenmäktigt förfarande)
- Disturbing the public order
The first action the police has the right to is to remove you from the location and then search you. In this case you are just removed from the place and not taken to the police station, but it is important that when you are removed from the area (unless you walk on your own) you should not tense any muscles. This could be considered violent resistance, which could have more serious consequences. They are not allowed to check your ID, unless they suspect you for a crime (or if you are a foreign citizen, EU citizens just need to show ID not to have to show their passport, people from outside the EU must carry their passport), but if you have your ID on you when they search you, they are of course allowed to check it. The police can also drive you away from the location to prevent you from returning. Because of this possibility, we were all asked to bring some cash. The police can also take you to the police station in case you refuse to show ID, or in other ways don’t cooperate with them. They are allowed to keep you in custody for six plus six hours (12 h in total) before they need an official charge to keep you for longer. If you are a foreign citizen, they might be able to keep you for longer since there is a risk of you fleeing the country. I am unsure about the actual sentences a court could give you, but I think the worst, Worst, WORST case for doing everything wrong is like 6 months in prison, otherwise fines.
Identification is a sensitive question in these groups, and many people are masked and some even destroy their fingerprints with glue or with a needle to make identification more difficult for the police. Whenever there is someone who wants to photograph, one must ask everyone in the shot if they are okay with being in the picture. The higher the action level, the more secretive people become. It’s very common with action names, a name you pick instead of your real name. There is always a legal team on sight also, from which activists can get a number by which they legal team can identify you if you get put in custody. The legal team is a great asset.
So, now there is one more action to tell you about, but this post will be waaaay to long if I try to squeeze it in into this one, so when this next post against Free the Soil is done, you will be able to find it here.
Thank you for reading and I hope we have inspired you to act and to think for yourself. Every good thing we have going, they can turn against us. But everything THEY have in terms of power and money and inluence they have at OUR mercy. We have the power.
Lots of Love
Linnea & August