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“We Are Not Responsible”: Youth Climate Activists Rally in Glasgow to Demand World Leaders Act Now

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More than 100,000 people took to the streets of Glasgow this weekend in a pair of climate rallies outside the U.N. climate summit. The first protest was organized by Fridays for Future, an international movement of students which grew out of Greta Thunberg’s climate strike outside the Swedish parliament in 2018. We hear from climate activists Evelyn Acham, Mikaela Loach, Raki Ap, Helena Gualinga and Jon Bonifacio. In her address, Loach slammed the leaders of rich nations at COP26: “[They] steal our sacred words and use them to defend and uphold the oppressive systems of capitalism and white supremacy.” Gualina also spoke about the increasing violence against environmental defenders: “Behind every murder that happens in the Amazon, every killing that happens to a land defender, there is a company behind that, there is a government behind that, there is a name behind that.”

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

AMY GOODMAN: The United Nations climate summit has entered its second week. On Friday and Saturday, over 100,000 demonstrators took part in a pair of major climate rallies in the streets of Glasgow, Scotland. The first protest was organized by Fridays for Future, an international movement of students which grew out of Greta Thunberg’s climate strike outside the Swedish parliament in 2018. We begin today’s show with some highlights from Friday’s rally. This is Ugandan climate justice activist Evelyn Acham.

EVELYN ACHAM: We emit very little CO2 — very little CO2 emission — but we are suffering some of the worst impacts. People are dying from floods, disasters like droughts that are drying up people’s crops, people’s food. Uganda is heavily — Uganda heavily depends on agriculture for food and water. But again, agriculture depends on the natural systems. That means people are left hungry, with nothing to eat or nothing to drink.

We are here today to demand for justice from the leaders, because we are not responsible as people from Africa, and yet most times we are not being heard. Our voices are not being heard. Our voices are left behind.

DYLAN HAMILTON: Up next, we have someone from — our first one — sorry, our second one from the U.K. is Mikaela Loach from the Stop Cambo campaign, and she’s also one of the young people taking the U.K. government to court on climate change. Woo!

MIKAELA LOACH: My heart was broken by the people inside that COP building, by the world leaders who steal our sacred words and use them to defend and uphold the oppressive systems of capitalism and white supremacy, who tell us that action needed to prevent sea level rise engulfing my ancestral home in Jamaica is impossible or not practical. In this heartbreak, fear and despair, I felt weak. But I will allow myself the space for my heart to break, so that the gold of community can be poured into those cracks and make it stronger, make it bigger, because every time my heart breaks, it is made stronger.

The antidote to despair is not to run away or ignore the realities of the societal violence around us. It is not to ignore the violence of our siblings on the frontlines who experience at the hands of the neocolonial fossil fuel companies. It is not to ignore the hypocrisy of the U.K. government, the host of this conference, who prop up these violent fossil fuel companies with 4 billion pounds of our public money in subsidies, this same government who are trying to approve the Cambo oil field and 39 other oil and gas projects at a time when the IEA and the IPCC have said that we can have no new investment in oil and gas if we want a livable future. This is worse than hypocrisy. It is violence. In the face of this violence and despair, we cannot give up. We cannot be overwhelmed. We must act. These are last resort times. So do whatever you can and be audacious about how incredible the future we can create can be. We have to believe that we can achieve it.

RAKI AP: Good afternoon, Glasgow! Can I see the fists up? There you go! My name is Raki Ap. I’m the spokesperson of Free West Papua Campaign, and I stand here in full solidarity on behalf of the Indigenous peoples of West Papua. West Papua is the half — the western half of the island of New Guinea, world’s largest tropical island, described as one of the most frontline areas with the most unique land and marine biodiversity. …

Once the home of the Indigenous West Papuans, New Guinea island has become a colonized lands by Indonesia today, having world’s largest gold mine owned by a U.S. mining corporation, BP with — having one of the largest LNG gas projects, and palm oil companies destroying our ancient lands, world’s third largest lung threatened with extinction of half the people.

If I reflect you our current status, 4.6 billion years of life to just 10 years to prevent irreversible destruction of the Earth’s ecosystems. What does innovation and development means? So, this is what climate justice is about. And if I may reflect one of the outcomes of the U.N. IPCC, that states that just 5% of world’s populations exist of Indigenous communities, have preserved more than 80% of world’s remaining biodiversity. They are the most important stakeholders, who have been ignored at COP26.

HELENA GUALINGA: Hello. My name is Helena Gualinga. My community is a community that has been suffering from the oil industry since before I was even born. And that is the reality of many, many Indigenous and Amazonian communities in Ecuador and in the other Amazonian countries.

But I want to talk about how is this even possible. How is it even possible that we have, every year, more concessions, and how we, every year, can see more oil platforms being built in the Amazon? It is only possible because there are people financing that. And the same people that are perpetuating this violence on our lands are the same ones having the negotiations over there in that building at COP.

We need to start talking about this. Behind every murder that happens in the Amazon or that happens to — every killing that happens to a land defender, there is a company behind that, there is a government behind that, there is a name behind that. U.S. and European banks are, every day, financing and investing in the Amazon destruction. They’re investing in the killing of the Amazon and in the killing of the people. There are people actually responsible for this, and we need to hold them accountable.

JON BONIFACIO: Good afternoon, everyone. I am Jon Bonifacio from the Southern Peoples’ Action on COP26. I’m also part of Youth Advocates for Climate Action Philippines and Fridays for Future Most Affected Peoples and Areas.

Right now, just a bus ride away from here, world leaders are talking about youth empowerment in addressing climate change. And for the past few days — and actually decades — youth around the world have tried to play a role in all the negotiations about our present and future. And yet, we, the youth from the Global South, alongside so many more of the most impacted peoples of the world, are here. That is because we have been excluded, peoples who have fought tooth and nail to get here to Glasgow, while billionaires and fossil fuel CEOs coming in their private jets and super yachts get to speak at COP and lecture us on how to save the planet.

The Philippines is one of the most impacted countries when it comes to the climate crisis. I have witnessed firsthand how two of the costliest typhoons to ever hit the country just last year, floods reaching the roofs of two-, three-story buildings, lives and livelihoods erased overnight. On top of this, our president, Rodrigo Duterte, is cracking down on environmental activism, calling for the massacre of Indigenous Lumad peoples, other land and environment defenders, and shutting down climate activists by calling us terrorists. It’s no wonder that the Philippines has remained the deadliest country in Asia for eight consecutive years — Gloria Capitan, Obillo Bay-ao, Datu Victor Danyan all assassinated under the Duterte regime for protesting against destructive coal mining and plantation projects in the Philippines.

The climate crisis is not an issue — it’s an issue of today, not 2050, not 2030. And each second these world leaders delay action towards global mitigation and adaptation condemns billions across the world to an unlivable future.

AMY GOODMAN: That’s Jon Bonifacio, Filipino climate justice activist, speaking along with others in Glasgow at the Fridays for Future rally this weekend. When we come back, we’ll hear from Greta Thunberg, Vanessa Nakate and more. Stay with us.


AMY GOODMAN: Chilean artist and activist Ana Tijoux performing at Saturday’s climate protest in Glasgow, Scotland.

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