Tuvalu, Kiribati, The Marshall Islands; These low-lying coral atolls are often represented as drowning paradises, disappearing beneath the rising waves caused by anthropogenic climate change. Pacific islands pepper the rhetoric of politicians, journalists, and climate change campaigners. They stand in for urgency, for tragedy, for irony: the irony that the people who fuelled these climatic changes are not the people that now suffer this seemingly inescapable fate.
But what happens when these islands no longer stand in for the West’s ecological incompetence? Or when they resist the narrative of their inevitable demise? When instead these islanders stand up for themselves and their homelands, and tell the world they are not drowning, but fighting?
Last month in Australia, this is what the Pacific Climate Warriors showed me. In October 2014 thirty Pacific Islanders from twelve countries came together to put their bodies (and their visas) on the line. From the highlands of Papua New Guinea to the Rock of Polynesia, these young people, warriors and activists came, united and blockaded coal ships, occupied banks, wept at the destruction of the Australian bush and sang, danced and laughed with joy. And I had the honour to join them.On Friday 17 October, with seventy plastic kayaks, a few hundred Australians, and five handcrafted canoes, the flotilla managed to stop ten out of eleven coal ships due to collect their cargo that day from Newcastle, New South Wales; the world’s biggest coal export port. We held the waters and the beach for ten hours, while police aboard jet-skis impeded our vessels, at one point dangerously capsizing our largest canoe. The outrigger was snapped but the warrior spirit was not broken. With prayers and powertools the Vanuatu canoe was back on the water within half an hour.
Our adventures didn’t end in Newcastle. Following the flotilla, many of the Warriors dispersed across the country, sharing their stories, as Australian allies undertook secret direct actions in solidarity with their island neighbours. In Sydney twelve Australians occupied the offices of Whitehaven Coal, the company leading the construction of the Maules Creek Coal mine; a project that is being vigorously opposed by activists, farmers, priests and doctors in Northern New South Wales. And for eight hours the foyer of the global headquarters of ANZ – one of the largest banks in the Pacific, and a major investor in fossil fuels – became a site of pasifika struggle and song, as up to eighty protestors occupied the lobby, performing haka and collectively projecting their voices using an Occupy-style ‘human microphone’.These Warriors, organising through the 350 Pacific network, were not ‘professional protestors’ or an international rent-a-mob. They were students, civil servants, conservationists and police officers who could no longer abide how the expansion of the Australian fossil fuel industry was diminishing their homelands. They were new to direct action, and they were brilliant at it.
If we take the Pacific Climate Warriors seriously (and in my mind there is no doubt that we must) then we must cast aside the misconception that these are nations of helpless victims and prospective climate refugees. Or that political action belongs only to their governments. And most of all that any of these places or people are expendable. As Carol Farbotko highlights, if Tuvalu becomes uninhabitable, we will have the won the argument for the urgency of action on climate change. But in all other senses we will have lost.
Here in the UK, at the 2007 Climate Camp, we carried the faces of those who would be hit first by climate change. Now we paddle side by side with those whose kitchens are flooded by kingtides. We claimed we were armed only with peer reviewed science. Now our armoury has expanded. Ask any of the Warriors and they’ll tell you they have culture, heritage and religion on their side. They do not carry spears, but blessings from their elders, their God, their governments.For the Climate Warriors, this is only a beginning. A fossil divestment campaign targeting ANZ bank has been launched across the Pacific and the College of the Marshall Islands in Micronesia has committed to divesting. The Pacific Climate Warriors campaign forces us to ask ourselves what does a climate movement led by those most imminently affected by climate change look like? And as allies on the other side of the world, how can we stand in solidarity? Does Pacific direct action challenge the practices and conventions of predominately white European climate activism? And how does Pacific piety and placing Christ at the centre of the struggle speak to the staunch secularity of the UK radical environmental movement?
Most of all, I hope this campaign signals a shift away from speaking for (or even failing to acknowledge) Pacific Islanders, and instead shines a light on how we stand alongside with our brothers and sisters in Oceania, as they stand up for the Pacific, for Australia and for all communities that are threatened by climate change.
Hannah is a UK climate activist and a PhD student researching grassroots responses to climate change in Pacific Island countries.
Andrew Dolan on how the left must match the anti-establishment rhetoric of the right, but with a different politics
In the first of a series of interviews with migrants' rights and racial justice activists from the US, Marienna Pope-Weidemann speaks to Peter Pedemonti, co-founder and director of the New Sanctuary Movement in Philadelphia
Yasmin Gunaratnam reflects on John Berger’s gut solidarity with the stranger
Charlie Clarke and Heather Mendick discuss how to work through the tensions within Momentum
In 1972 David Widgery wrote about the bitter intensity of love in capitalism
Emma Snaith speaks with directors Emer Mary Morris and Nina Scott about the power of theatre to encourage community resistance to estate demolitions.
Photos from The World Transformed festival in Liverpool, by David Walters
A short story by Kirsten Irving
Nadhira Halim and Andy Edwards report on the range of creative responses to the housing crisis that are providing secure, affordable housing across the UK
As man-made global warming gets closer to the tipping point, Andrew Simms finds reasons to be positive about averting catastrophic climate change
Greenwald speaks Trump, War on Terror, and citizen activism
Glenn Greenwald was interviewed by Amandla Thomas-Johnson over the phone from Brazil. Here is what he had to say on the War on Terror, Trump, and the 'special relationship'
Report from the second Citizen’s Assembly of Podemos
Sol Trumbo Vila says the mandate from the Podemos Assembly is to go forwards in unity and with humility
Protect our public lands
Last summer Indigenous people travelled thousands of miles around the USA to tell their stories and build a movement. Julie Maldonado reports
From the frontlines
Red Pepper’s new race editor, Ashish Ghadiali, introduces a new space for black and minority progressive voices
How can we make the left sexy?
Jenny Nelson reports on a session at The World Transformed
In pictures: designing for change
Sana Iqbal, the designer behind the identity of The World Transformed festival and the accompanying cover of Red Pepper, talks about the importance of good design
Angry about the #MuslimBan? Here are 5 things to do
As well as protesting against Trump we have a lot of work to get on with here in the UK. Here's a list started by Platform
Who owns our land?
Guy Shrubsole gives some tips for finding out
Don’t delay – ditch coal
Take action this month with the Coal Action Network. By Anne Harris
Utopia: Work less play more
A shorter working week would benefit everyone, writes Madeleine Ellis-Petersen
Mum’s Colombian mine protest comes to London
Anne Harris reports on one woman’s fight against a multinational coal giant
Bike courier Maggie Dewhurst takes on the gig economy… and wins
We spoke to Mags about why she’s ‘biting the hand that feeds her’
Utopia: Daring to dream
Imagining a better world is the first step towards creating one. Ruth Potts introduces our special utopian issue
A better Brexit
The left should not tail-end the establishment Bremoaners, argues Michael Calderbank
News from movements around the world
Compiled by James O’Nions
Podemos: In the Name of the People
'The emergence as a potential party of government is testament both to the richness of Spanish radical culture and the inventiveness of activists such as Errejón' - Jacob Mukherjee reviews Errejón and Mouffe's latest release
Survival Shake! – creative ways to resist the system
Social justice campaigner Sakina Sheikh describes a project to embolden young people through the arts
‘We don’t want to be an afterthought’: inside Momentum Kids
If Momentum is going to meet the challenge of being fully inclusive, a space must be provided for parents, mothers, carers, grandparents and children, write Jessie Hoskin and Natasha Josette
The Kurdish revolution – a report from Rojava
Peter Loo is supporting revolutionary social change in Northern Syria.
How to make your own media
Lorna Stephenson and Adam Cantwell-Corn on running a local media co-op
Book Review: The EU: an Obituary
Tim Holmes takes a look at John Gillingham's polemical history of the EU
Book Review: The End of Jewish Modernity
Author Daniel Lazar reviews Enzo Traverso's The End of Jewish Modernity
Lesbians and Gays Support the Migrants
Ida-Sofie Picard introduces Lesbians and Gays Support the Migrants – as told to Jenny Nelson
Book review: Angry White People: Coming Face to Face With the British Far-Right
Hilary Aked gets close up with the British far right in Hsiao-Hung Pai's latest release
University should not be a debt factory
Sheldon Ridley spoke to students taking part in their first national demonstration.
Book Review: The Day the Music Died – a Memoir
Sheila Rowbotham reviews the memoirs of BBC director and producer, Tony Garnett.
Power Games: A Political History
Malcolm Maclean reviews Jules Boykoff's Power Games: A Political History
Book Review: Sex, Needs and Queer Culture: from liberation to the post-gay
Aiming to re-evaluate the radicalism and efficacy of queer counterculture and rebellion - April Park takes us through David Alderson's new work.
A book review every day until Christmas at Red Pepper
Red Pepper will be publishing a new book review each day until Christmas
Book Review: Corbyn: The Strange Rebirth of Radical Politics
'In spite of the odds Corbyn is still standing' - Alex Doherty reviews Seymour's analysis of the rise of Corbyn