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“We’re Trying to Provide the Armies that They Lack”–Bill McKibben on Supporting Poor, Vulnerable Nations with Mass Protest Movements

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On Saturday, 100,000 people marched in Copenhagen from the Danish Parliament to just outside the Bella Center, the site of the UN climate change conference. Over 3,000 solidarity events were held around the world. Jacquie Soohen of Big Noise Films filed this report. [includes rush transcript]

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This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: We return now to the streets of Copenhagen. I’m Amy Goodman. Yes, it was Saturday, a massive march in Copenhagen, when 100,000 people marched from the Danish Parliament to just outside the Bella Center, the site of the UN climate change conference.

Jacquie Soohen of Big Noise Films filed this report.

    PROTESTERS: What do we want? Climate justice! When do we want it? Now!

    UNIDENTIFIED: We’re in this together!

    PROTESTERS: The number has been set! Pay the climate debt! We are watching you! You know what to do! The number has been set! Pay the climate debt!

    KARI FULTON: When I say “climate,” you say “justice!” Climate!

    PROTESTERS: Justice!

    KARI FULTON: Climate!

    PROTESTERS: Justice!

    KARI FULTON: My name is Kari Fulton, and I’m the national youth coordinator for the Environmental Justice and Climate Change Initiative. I came to Copenhagen because I’m an African American from the United States, and most of the time people don’t know about the situations that are going on for our communities when it comes to environmental concerns, so I wanted to make sure that people know about that, make sure that they know that there’s support in the United States, and help to build connections so that we can reach a global agreement and strengthen the youth voice when it comes to fighting for climate justice.

    Our organization, the Environmental Justice and Climate Change Initiative, we wrote a report in 2008 talking about the adverse effects of climate change on African Americans. And we know that African Americans, along with people of color around the world, will be hurt first and worst by climate change. We tend to live near those polluting industries like power plants, cement factories, landfills, so we get the brunt of those. A lot of people that come from my community have cancer, asthma, bronchitis, directly related to the pollution that’s causing the greenhouse gas emissions that cause climate change.

    Today is like a huge rally, march. You’ve got people from all over the world coming together to stand up for system change, not climate change.

    PROTESTERS: Climate justice! Climate justice! We say “climate,” you say “justice.” Climate! Justice! Climate! Justice!

    UNIDENTIFIED: Are you from the South? Do we love the South? Are we here from the South? Are we here to beg? I am from the Hemispheric Social Alliance from the Women’s Committee. And we are here to demand; we are not here to beg anything to the North. And we want the North to know that we’re going to fight to the end, because the lives depend on this climate. The earth is dying, and we can die with the earth. We need to stop the people who are negotiating with our lives, the people who would rather have money than people like us. So we need your support, not only today, but for the years and years to come.

    HAWA: We are taking our rights back right now, and we are asking the North to pay their debt to the South. We are asking them to pay their historical debt, their social debt, their ecological debt to the South. They must pay their debts now!

    I’m Hawa. I’m from Ghana. And I’m representing the Africa Jubilee South. And I’m speaking on behalf of all Africans, not just Ghana. We are here to demand that the North pay off their debts to us. They owe us historical debt, social debt, ecological debt. The economies of the North was built on the backs of Africa’s, and we are asking that it’s time that they pay us back the debts they owe us. That’s why we are here.

    NNIMO BASSEY: We are on the streets of Copenhagen. The great flood has just started. And we are sending a very strong message to world leaders that the people can no longer take their playing around, and they must sit down, negotiate, make a strong deal for deep emissions. We are in a human flood, showing — maybe they’ve never seen a flood before. And today we are showing the determination of the people to make a statement and to insist that emission cuts we need must have no offsetting, no offsetting whatsoever. This is what is going on. We have thousands of people here with us today, and we are marching all the way to the Bella Center to deliver our message and to be heard.

    PROTESTERS: Tell me when to stop pollution! Is this social revolution?

    HANNAH MOWAT: I’m Hannah Mowat. I’m from Friends of the Earth France. We’re all asking for climate justice, because it’s not happening. And we’re here. We want them to listen to us That is why we’re here, they’re going to listen to us, want the politicians to listen to us. And that’s why we’re here, because they’re going to listen to us. And after today, something is going to happen.

    It’s been about a year ago that organizations, the Friends of the Earth International at COP14 decided to have a massive mobilization on this day, on the International Day for Climate Action in Copenhagen, and we decided that water was going to be the theme, so that’s why we have a human flood. Every drop makes a flood. So, alone, we’re quite loud, but together, that’s what makes the pressure. So we’re all going to get together today, and that’s what we’ve done, to put pressure on the politicians and to tell them what we want them to do. And that’s to have climate justice.

    BILL McKIBBEN: Bill McKibben, founder of What’s happening in the summit is important. What’s happening out here is even more important. And most important of all is that while this kind of great stuff is going on, there are 3,000 vigils taking place all over the world this weekend that we’ve organized. And there’s a real global movement finally around climate. That’s what’s key.

    It may not get completely reflected in what comes out of the COP by the end of the week. Our goal this week is to get all the support we can behind the most vulnerable poor nations on the planet. They’re showing unbelievable courage in sticking up against the pressure from the US and others to just cut a deal and go away. They’re demanding their survival be taken seriously. We’re trying to provide the armies that they lack, you know, mobilizing civil society behind the science and behind survival. So that’s what week two is about, and it’s really what the last couple years have been about and what the next couple years will be about.

    VANDANA SHIVA: This is what earth democracy looks like: the diversity, the integrity, the joy, the beauty. That’s what we are going to build on. What’s happening at COP15 is the death of democracy. It’s an attempt to undo twenty years of work on a legally binding agreement. People are not in Copenhagen to bury the climate treaty; they are here to implement it, with an acceleration.

    To the governments who would like to cheat the world, cheat the earth, cheat their own people, like the Danish government, which comes with a mysterious text out of nowhere, or the United States government that is playing games with India and China to undo the international obligations, we want to tell you from before, when you arrive for your political service circus, we will not be supporting you. We will not be cheering you.

    We know we need climate action now. I come from the Himalaya. I just had an office in Delhi; I don’t live in Delhi. It’s a polluted city. The automobile has taken over. I come from the Himalaya. Our glaciers are melting. Our villages are getting flooded out or drying up. Agriculture is collapsing. Ninety percent of the food production in my area has collapsed in this year. Seventy percent of the streams have dried up. And that is not happening because of what the local people did. My journey in the environment movement began with Chipko, where women came out to hug the trees. We are now hugging our mountains and telling the polluters, “You’ve got to stop polluting, because you are stealing our water, you are stealing our food, you are stealing our snows.

AMY GOODMAN: Voices from Saturday’s protests in Copenhagen, produced by Jacquie Soohen. That last voice, Vandana Shiva, the world-renowned environmental leader and thinker from India.

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Indian Environmentalist Vandana Shiva: “It Is Time for the US to Stop Seeing Itself as a Donor and Recognizing Itself as a Polluter, a Polluter who Must Pay”

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