Welcome to our latest action-oriented newsletter.
Many of Our Climate Declaration members participated in the major demonstration to disrupt this year’s petroleum conference, held in Wellington in the week beginning March 26. Principal organisers were Oil Free Wellington with the assistance of other groups from around the country.
The message to conference delegates, media and public was that the age of oil and gas is drawing to an end and we want companies to plan for a just transition.
The call to be at the venue by 5am established a staunch blockade of arm-linked protesters which achieved the purpose of delaying the conference’s start by about three hours.
It also resulted in interventions by the police and four arrests – despite non-violence being the order of the day for the blockaders.
There were, amongst the 200 or so demonstrators, different levels of commitment. At one end were those who believe that oil companies have no right to continue their climate-wrecking activities and that the police, by protecting the venue, were facilitating these activities. This group was the focus of the media.
Less media attention was paid to the wider group of demonstrators who wanted to express their views without putting their bodies on the line and incurring police action. A quiet space for prayer and meditation was set up in one corner and a soup kitchen provided food and drink for blockaders. Children drew with chalk on the pavement.
Visible everywhere were the yellow-caped “Supergrands” – members of the older generation - who held up banners with photos of their grandchildren and the words “For our children and their children, take action on climate change.” They were led in an eye-catching march around the square by a bagpiper and a drummer.
All in all, the day had a positive atmosphere with good-humoured interaction and even admiration from Wellington passersby.
The petroleum conference is a yearly event. We are now reflecting on how we might participate in activities for the next one. Under discussion is a way to engage in preliminary dialogue with the organisers, perhaps averting confrontation.
We would also like to design actions that older people feel comfortable participating in, perhaps a demonstration in which hundreds of grey-haired oldies in yellow capes process or stand in dignified silence.
Another view, based on the experience in Wellington, is that having older people central to the physical blockade may have a moderating influence on police action and change stereotypes about protesters. Each of these tactics – dialogue, dignified silent protest and bodies on the line, can find expression in future action.