Demanding accountability: Blockading for climate justice in the Pacific

Authors: Anja Kanngieser*,
Topics: Pacific Islands, Environment, Human Rights
Keywords: Pacific, blockades, climate justice, accountability, environment
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/3/2019
Start / End Time: 9:55 AM / 11:35 AM
Room: Roosevelt 1, Marriott, Exhibition Level
Presentation File: No File Uploaded

On 17 October 2014, the Pacific Climate Warriors, along with hundreds of activists from around Australia blockaded the Newcastle coal port. Comprising representatives from 12 Pacific Island nations, the Climate Warriors identified the port, the largest coal handling facility in the world, as a key infrastructural site for the visual protest against the circulation of fossil fuels. The blockade of the port was largely performative, rather than extensive disruption the blockade functioned as a statement on the exacerbation of climate change in the Pacific through Australia’s extractive industries.

In this paper I want to look at the blockade as a means to demand accountability and foster mutual care through emphasising lines of cause and effect across geopolitical territories. As the Climate Warriors stated “the coal which leaves this port has a direct impact on our culture and our islands. It is clear to us that this is the kind of action, which we must take in order to survive. Climate change is an issue which affects everyone.” By directly linking mining in Australia to the increasing intensity and distribution of cyclones, sea level rise, coastal erosion and drought, the operation of the blockade was to ground what is often abstracted into very material, and thus reconfigurable, relations. In the case of the Climate Warriors, shifting the narrative from the isolated Pacific to an Oceanic, and more broadly global, modality of capital opened possibilities for building new solidarities and perspectives on frontline struggle.

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