Guardian: ‘It’s scary – things are escalating fast’: protesters fill UK streets to highlight climate crisis and cost of living

cross-posted from the Guardian

Organisers hail largest wave of simultaneous protests seen in Britain for years as people turn out in over 50 towns and cities

A woman in a sleeveless dress with underarm hair holds up a sign saying "Stop frack, Earth will crack" ahead of other marchers holding signs

The Just Stop Oil protest in central London on 1 October 2022 – the day regulator Ofgem’s price cap was due to rise. Photograph: Antonio Olmos/The Observer

& Sundus Abdi
1 Oct 2022 14.09 EDT

Lizzie and Dnieper are new to the protest scene. But the mounting economic crunch, cost of living crisis and climate emergency have galvanised the young family.

“It’s a little bit scary out there at the moment – things are escalating fast,” said Dnieper Cruz, 32. Turning to his daughter Lumi, almost three, the teacher added: “We just want a better future for her generation.”

His partner, solicitor Lizzie Manchester, 32, said: “It’s time for us as a family to make our voices heard.”

Around them the crowd was building rapidly outside King’s Cross station in central London, just one demonstration among at least 50 being held in towns and cities across the UK on Saturday for people to register their anger at the cost of living crisis. Organisers describe it as the largest wave of simultaneous protests seen in Britain for years.

From Eastbourne to Edinburgh, Hull to Hastings, thousands turned up at protests timed to coincide with the jump in gas and electricity unit prices that will prompt bills to soar. Social media showed large crowds at events in Glasgow, Liverpool, Manchester, Newcastle and Belfast, among others.

In Glasgow thousands gathered on the Buchanan Galleries steps for a rally and chanted: “Tories, Tories, Tories! Out, out, out!” and “The workers, united, will never be defeated.”

Coordinated among multiple community organisations and trade unions to maximise their impact, Saturday’s protests were also staged against a backdrop of the biggest rail strike in Britain for decades.

Jade Anderson holding a “We will rise – enough is enough” sign at a rally with other people standing on a low wall

‘It’s fantastic to see all the factions coming together’: Jade Anderson (centre) from Taunton, Somerset, attends the Enough is Enough rally at King’s Cross. Photograph: Andy Hall/The Observer

At King’s Cross, however, the station’s vast forecourt was crammed with protestors. Among them was Jade Anderson, 25, who had travelled up from Somerset to make the point that “enough is enough I just hope enough people mobilise for them to listen. It’s fantastic to see all the factions coming together,” she said, noting the alliance of transport unions, climate activists and social justice campaigns.

The trainee PT teacher said she was still forced to live with her parents because she couldn’t afford high rent costs.

“And the rising energy bills mean that we’re already collecting logs for the winter. My dad’s a builder and he’s putting in longer and longer shifts so we can afford to get by,” added Anderson.

The King’s Cross demo was one of at least six major demonstrations in the capital on Saturday, the combined volume of expected protestors prompting the Metropolitan police to earlier announce that it was “equally important that the rights of local residents, visitors and business owners are balanced with those who wish to protest”.

The warning did not stop climate protesters bringing the vital artery of Westminster Bridge to a standstill.

A crowd sitting on Westminster Bridge holding signs like “Only fools like fossil fuels” with Big Ben in the background

The Just Stop Oil protest at Westminster Bridge. Photograph: Antonio Olmos/The Observer

At around 2pm, dozens of activists sat on the road and played music, blocking traffic as others chanted slogans about the climate crisis.

Earlier, hundreds had also congregated outside Euston station before heading to Westminster Bridge.

The eclectic nature of those present was again quickly evident, with Just Stop Oil, Extinction Rebellion (XR) and the Revolutionary Communist Group (RCG) among the groups gathered. Some held banners denouncing capitalism “the enemy of Mother Earth”, with others protesting against the government’s recent mini-budget.

Back at King’s Cross, teaching assistant Farzana Khanom, 23, how her economic situation meant difficult choices, namely that she was having to choose between paying rising energy bills and investing in her career.

“But if we come together and make our voices heard then perhaps we can make a difference,” she said.

As she spoke, a recently launched petition calling for a general election to “end the chaos of this government” soared above 300,000 signatures by lunch.

Across the UK reports emerged of householders setting fire to their utility bills – a symbolic gesture promoted by Don’t Pay UK, a grassroots movement that has received almost 200,000 pledges from householders who are prepared to cancel their direct debits if a total of a million Britons commit to not paying.

The campaigners’ big precedent, the poll tax riots, took 4 million people refusing to pay – some of whom faced liability orders forcing them to pay – to get the government to scrap the levy.

The backdrop to the protests was the date when regulator Ofgem’s price cap was due to rise, with Liz Truss’s energy price guarantee meaning an average annual bill will be capped at £2,500 for two years from Saturday.

Idaho: Fifth Navy Nuclear Waste Train in Two Years!

cross-posted from Wild Idaho Rising Tide

On Friday evening, September 23, Wild Idaho Rising Tide (WIRT) and allied, climate activists observed and documented the first train hauling nuclear waste across western Washington since November 28, 2021. As displayed between 4:35 and 5:31 of the linked, rail fan video, Burlington Northern Santa Fe (BNSF) Railway, the second largest consumer and emitter of diesel in the world, slowly hauled four casks of radioactive waste for the biggest diesel glutton, the U.S. Navy, and its nuclear reactor-powered submarines, probably from the Kitsap naval base on the Salish Sea [1]. One front, forward, BNSF locomotive pulled this extremely hazardous train composed of one long, metal, flat, buffer car on each end of the train, four cylindrical, upright, nuclear casks and their carrier cars (the most that WIRT has ever seen in one train during two years), and one rear, blue, possibly armored and/or armed caboose.
The train traveled south along the Interstate 5 corridor, then east beside the Columbia River throughout Friday night, September 23-24, heading to Villard Junction near the Tri-Cities, Washington, where BNSF transfers the loads to Union Pacific Railroad, which then travels through the Umatilla reservation around Pendleton, Oregon, and across Idaho: The Boise metropolitan area, the Shoshone-Bannock reservation near Pocatello, and ultimately to the Idaho National Laboratory west of Idaho Falls. Please see previous, WIRT, facebook post descriptions of four similar, 2021, Northwest, nuclear rail shipments, and alert relatives and friends, land and water protectors, and fellow activists along this train’s path, and document it with photos and/or videos if you see it [2]. Contact WIRT directly to potentially receive or share further information.
[1] 4 Nuclear Waste Caskets! Private Cars, Bear & Squirrel, Power Moves, Meets & Much More! 9/24&25/22, September 25, 2022 Virtual Railfan
[2] Fourth 2021 Northwest Nuclear Waste Train! November 18, 2021 Wild Idaho Rising Tide

Coming Soon: 2023’s “Certain Days: Freedom for Political Prisoners Calendar”

cross-posted from Certain Days

Now available for pre-order!!! We expect the calendars to hit by early October and we’ll ship them out as soon as they get here. Any orders containing a Certain Days calendar will be held until the calendars arrive. If you need your order right away, please order your calendar separately. Thank you!

A Burning Books favorite -? Full of essays, beautiful artwork and important dates in social justice history!

Now in its 22nd year of publication, the?Certain Days: Freedom for Political Prisoners Calendar?is?required reading for radicals, leftists, and all who support political prisoners and advocate the end of mass incarceration.

All proceeds support prisoners and grassroots organizations like Release Aging People in Prison (RAPP), Mutulu Shakur legal support, Sundiata Acoli release fund, Palestinian Youth Movement, Burning Books expansion, Puget Sound Prisoner Support , Coalition to Decarcerate Illinois, Appalachians Against pipelines, Community Resource Initiative- CA, P4W Memorial Collective Prisoners’ Justice Day healing circle, Wet’suwet’en Solidarity Fund 2022, Cascadia Forest Defenders and NorCal Resist.

Each calendar has 12 thought-provoking essays and 12 pieces of beautiful art. ?You’ll feel inspired every day of the year, with radical historical dates and lots of space for your own plans.

Featuring Zola, Jeff Monaghan and Andy Crosby, Kill Joy, Noelle Hanrahan, Juan Hernandez, Dan Baker, Antiproduct, Upping the Anti, Katy Slininger, David Gilbert, Paul Lacombe, Garrett Felber, Oso Blanco, Mark Tilsen, Terra Poirier, Steve McCain, Lawrence Jenkins, Ed Mead, Windigo Army, Dio Cramer, Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz, Scott Parkin, Seize the Mean and Cindy Barukh Milstein.

Your group can buy 10 or more for the rate of $10 each and then sell them for $15, keeping the difference for your organization. Many campaigns, infoshops and projects do this as a way of raising funds and spreading awareness about political prisoners.

?Use the discount code “BULK” to get 10 or more calendars for $10 each. In order to receive the discount, you must enter the discount code “BULK” at check out.

About Certain Days:
The Certain Days: Freedom for Political Prisoners Calendar is a joint fundraising and educational project between outside organizers across North America and political prisoner Xinachtli (s/n Alvaro Luna Hernandez) in Texas. We were happy to welcome founding members Herman Bell and Robert Seth Hayes (Rest in Power) home from prison in 2018, and founding member David Gilbert home from prison in 2021. We work from an anti-imperialist, anti-racist, anti-capitalist, feminist, queer- and trans-liberationist position.. Learn more and support them at?certaindays.org.

Malvern, PA: Eight Quaker climate activists arrested at investment firm Vanguard’s headquarters

cross-posted from the Philadelphia Inquirer

Members of the Quaker group, Earth Quaker Action Team, protest at Vanguard headquarters in Malvern on Wednesday.

Eight Quaker climate activists were arrested Wednesday after protesting at Vanguard’s main headquarters in Malvern. The group sought a meeting with the investment company’s stewardship executive, while drawing focus to the firm’s record on environmental issues.

“We still haven’t seen Vanguard hold companies accountable,” said Christina Tavernelli, EQAT research team chair. “BlackRock has a coal-exclusion policy, while Vanguard does not.”

Together, BlackRock, Vanguard, and State Street manage roughly $20 trillion and vote at least 25% of shares across the S&P 500. This gives the firms an outsized influence to shape corporate behavior, according to Earth Quaker Action Team, known as EQAT, a group of climate activists based in Philadelphia.

EQAT hopes to see Vanguard better integrate climate justice into their business decisions, including phasing out investments in companies that rely on coal, excluding fossil fuels from investments, and committing that 100% of the money they manage will go toward zero-emissions by 2050.

Investment portfolios are the latest political football. Trillion-dollar asset managers are now targets of both left- and right-leaning political activists. Progressives claim firms managing trillions of dollars in assets should push the underlying portfolio companies harder to address climate change; political conservatives, meanwhile, claim that doing so could hurt returns for mom-and-pop retirees, who are trying to save as much as possible.

A mixed bag for investment firms

The reality of ESG investing — an acronym for environmental, social and governance issues — is complicated. Each firm claims a varying level of commitment to climate policy.

To sort through the noise, a nonprofit called As You Sow runs a free database called FossilFreeFunds.org that ranks all funds on Wall Street by environmental measures. Some Vanguard funds rank very highly — such as the Vanguard Real Estate ETF, which earned an “A” grade — while others in the index fund category receive low or even “F” grades.

“Vanguard is known for being this very large index fund provider, which doesn’t actively stock pick companies in their index funds,” said Daan Van Acker, program manager for InfluenceMap, an international firm that compiles data on how business and finance are influencing climate issues. “As a result, stewardship on climate issues isn’t a focus.”

Stewardship is the use of influence by institutional investors to maximize overall long-term value. Activists have expanded that to include common economic, social and environmental factors.

When compared to Vanguard, BlackRock’s CEO and stewardship staff “have been more vocal [on climate issues]. BlackRock in recent years has published case studies that are available for anyone to read,” Van Acker said.

“Vanguard claims to have engaged on climate issues but not specifically on the process or the outcomes,” he said. “Fidelity is a little worse. They don’t do much around climate at the moment.”

InfluenceMap gave BlackRock a grade of “B”-minus, Vanguard a “C”, and Fidelity a “D” for engagement with climate issues.

Pushback by both sides

EQAT’s action Wednesday wasn’t its first. In April, the group pressured Vanguard with a weeklong march highlighting its holdings in coal, oil, gas, and other polluting industries as “a major driver of climate destruction and environmental racism.”

Groups such as EQAT want Vanguard to phase out thermal coal from all portfolios, with a priority on any firms still expanding coal mines or coal power capacity. Conservatives want hands off, said Van Acker.

And conservatives now are waging their own battle against what they allege is “woke” portfolio management, a direct response to such groups as EQAT.

In August, a group of more than a dozen attorneys general in Republican-leaning states signed a letter to BlackRock’s CEO Larry Fink, suggesting that changing portfolios based on climate change inherently prevented shareholders from the best returns.

BlackRock “appears to use the hard-earned money of our states’ citizens to circumvent the best possible return on investment,” the letter stated. “BlackRock’s past public commitments indicate that it used citizens’ assets to pressure companies to comply with international agreements such as the Paris Agreement.”

BlackRock was first out of the gate marketing ESG investing, said University of Delaware professor Charles Elson, who edits the magazine Directors & Boards.

Elson, however, doesn’t think the investing firms should be moved by political causes. “Using other people’s money to further a position you find appealing is problematic,” he said.

“Coal is still legal in this country. A retirement plan’s obligation is to maximize the value for those who invest,” he continued.Once it becomes a tool to promote social change, the corporation is the wrong place for that. It should be happening at the governmental level.”

Looking ahead

Vanguard in August said it would launch another new ESG fund as part of a series aimed at socially responsible investing. The Vanguard Global Environmental Opportunities Stock Fund will hold a concentrated portfolio of companies that are involved in decarbonization and that derive at least half of their revenue from activities deemed by the fund’s adviser to contribute positively to environmental change.

On Wednesday, the eight EQAT members were arrested for trespassing on Vanguard property and taken to the Tredyffrin Township police station. They were released but told they would be charged with misdemeanors, which has yet to happen, said EQAT spokeswoman Eileen Flanagan.

Reflecting on Vanguard’s new ESG funds, Flanagan said: “That’s positive, but it’s not stewardship. It’s not what they pledged: to engage with companies to mitigate climate change. ESG funds don’t take the place of using their influence at Exxon to change course.”

Vanguard did not respond to requests for comment on Wednesday’s events.