For people that know me personally, they would know that I’m not the person to confront or to stand on the front line of a protest. I feel more comfortable using the written word to express my thoughts than to stand in front of people that are going about their business with a sign accusing their corporation for ruining the world.
But that all changed this week.
On Wednesday, I stepped out of my comfort zone and protested in the ANZ headquarters in Melbourne. I stood with fellow Islanders and many wonderful Australians and confronted ANZ on their investment into the fossil fuel industry.
Why ANZ? Because in the last 10 years, they have invested $6.75 billion dollars into the fossil fuel industry. Through our superannuation and our individual banking, ANZ uses that money to invest in continuous mining in Australia, even though they have the choice to invest in clean energy. So despite building a headquarters that is ‘a world leader…in sustainable design’ they are directly feeding into an industry that is everything against sustainable, ethical and environmentally sensitive.
Why does this effect Kiribati and the rest of the Pacific Islands? Well, you’ve heard me say it many, many, many times before that Kiribati’ sea level has risen at an alarming state. You can read about my personal observation and documentation with sea level rise here. To put it simply, the more carbon dioxide there is in the atmosphere, the warmer the planet gets. The warmer our planet gets, the warmer the sea gets. When the ocean temperature rises, two things happen: ice and giant icebergs melt and water particles moves at a quicker pace (just the same as when water boils).
So when a king tide of 2.9 metres hits the shores of Kiribati – sitting 3 metres above sea level, the Kiribati people don’t just notice it, they feel it. They worry. They wonder if the water will get into their home. They wonder if any sea water has splashed into the fresh water well they rely on for drinking and cooking.
Our house in Kiribati is right by the water and is now surrounded by sea walls that the sea rages up against. When you go to sleep in the room, the waves thundering is so loud, you dream that you’re on a boat in the middle of the raging sea.
For the last twenty years, the sea level has increased its level and yet never has it shown signs that it will stop increasing. The threat is very real.
So when ANZ spends $6.75 billion on an industry that murderously throws carbon dioxide into the atmosphere without a care in the world, when Tony Abbott says that ‘coal is good for humanity’, when the mining industries don’t give a fuck about anything but their profit, I take it personally.
It’s personal for Pacific Islanders. It’s personal and thems fighting words Tony Abbott.
So yes, I stood proudly in the middle of the ANZ headquarters with a small army surrounding me and and said this to the 6,500 workers in ANZ:
‘I am here as an Australian. I am here as a Pacific Islander. I am here as a citizen of the islands of Kiribati. Climate change and rising sea levels has already forced my family members to move. The sea water floods the kitchen. Kiribati is drowning and ANZ’s coal investments directly effect my whole family’s health. Today ANZ, I plead you to listen. Stop investing in fossil fuels.’
I know that the fight isn’t with the majority of the ANZ workers but when you need to speak to a company, you go to the headquarters. Besides, I spoke to quite a few of the workers and they actually were appreciating the distraction and change to the work day.
The team behind this protest is 350.org and the Climate Warriors. If you actually look at their actions, just this week they have protested in Canberra, Perth, Melbourne and Newcastle. In Newcastle, 30 Climate Warriors in all their traditional clothing and in their tiny little canoes, paddled out to the Newcastle coal port (the worlds largest) and parked their little canoes in front of the massive cargo ships that were coming in the collect their coal. They stopped 10 ships.
350.org and 350Pacific are the smallest Davids against the most giant of Goliath’s. And 350.org just made grabbed major media exposure in Victoria, WA, NSW and ACT. And their following and support is growing rapidly. Watch out for where they hit next.
Never underestimate the power of Islanders – they tend to be a little crazy.
For more information of 350.org and the Climate Warriors, click here.
For more information on the Climate Warriors blocking the coal port in Newcastle, click here.
For a media report on the protest at ANZ, click here. (Despite what the report says, no one got aggressive, that’s just ANZ trying to win a publicity stunt they clearly lost.)
Oh and I also spoke on camera at the event. I’m a little awkward so apologies about that! Here’s the clip.
Call me optimistic but I truly believe we can win this fight.
P.S. This marks the first time on this website that I have ever muttered an expletive let alone it being the big bad ‘f’ word. Excuse my potty mouth but the coal industry really don’t give fuck about anything but their millions and it’s the only word I can find that is appropriate!