We squatted the site for this year’s EF! summer gathering! It’s the site of the proposed new coalmine in Whitehaven. Please come and join us, it’s beautiful and we need you!
We have chosen to occupy the site of the proposed Whitehaven mine to send a message to those on these Isles and across the world: This mine will not go ahead, leave the coal in the hole!
The world is burning. More and more people are waking up to the reality we are faced with: we must end not just fossil fuels but also the capitalist system that places profit above planet and people.
West Cumbria Mining Ltd (WCM Ltd) want to extract 2.78 million tonnes of coking coal each year from Whitehaven, right up to 2049. The mine is proposed at the contaminated brownfield site of the former Marchon Chemical Works.WCM Ltd. claims the coal mine would be carbon neutral, but that’s a lie. The use of the coal from this coal mine (downstream emissions) is not counted in its emissions. The mine itself would directly release methane (a powerful greenhouse gas). WCM Ltd say it’d offset emissions, but even the offsetting company that WCM Ltd. said it would use is against its use in this project.
Some claim that mining coal in Cumbria means that coal is not imported, so lowering emissions relating to transporting the coal shorter distances. But this is coal for export and transporting it makes up a very small proportion of overall emissions from using coal. If this mine goes ahead, it wouldn’t reduce coal mining abroad, this coal would be extra to what’s already being mined around the world. Something the climate cannot tolerate.
Whitehaven and West Cumbria have a history of coal mining, with hundreds of workers dying in accidents in undersea mines. Where exactly those historic mines lie is unknown. It’s feared new mining will unsettle old workings and release toxins into the sea.
There are numerous groups and individuals campaigning against the proposed mine here. There is also a strong desire for more jobs in Whitehaven. The biggest local employer is Sellafield nuclear power station just down the coast. Local people have an attachment to the community and solidarity the coal mines used to provide. But there are better ways to create jobs through renewable energy, while more coal use worsens the climate and puts coastal and flood risk communities in jeopardy.
Hundreds of new houses are being built adjacent to the proposed site. The concrete pads on the former Marchon Chemical Works site seal in contamination from the former factory. To start work here would mean removing this contamination and driving it past the new houses, this may result in air borne toxins.
Check out https://www.coalaction.org.uk/west-cumbria-mine/ for more details on this application. The campaign to keep this, and all coal, underground has space for everyone and their talents. Get involved.
Together we can stop the proposed Whitehaven coal mine.
54-year-old climate activist who was among hundreds of peaceful protesters criminalised for opposing the construction of an oil pipeline through pristine Indigenous lands is facing up to five years in prison, amid growing alarm at the crackdown on legitimate environmental protests.
Mylene Vialard was arrested in August 2021 while protesting in northern Minnesota against the expansion and rerouting of Line 3 – a 1,097-mile tar sands oil pipeline with a dismal safety record, that crosses more than 200 water bodies from Alberta, Canada, to refineries in the US midwest.
Vialard was charged with felony obstruction and gross misdemeanour trespass on critical infrastructure after attaching herself to a 25ft bamboo tower erected to block a pumping station in Aitkin county. The gross misdemeanour charge, a post 9/11 law which has been used widely against protesters, was eventually dismissed after a court ruled there was insufficient evidence.
Vialard refused to take a plea deal on the felony charge, and her trial opens in Aitkin county on Monday.
“It was kind of a torturous decision. But in the end, I couldn’t sign a piece of paper saying I was guilty because I’m not the guilty party here. Enbridge is guilty, the violation of treaty rights, the pollution, the risk to water, that is what’s wrong. I’m just using my voice to point out something that’s wrong,” said Vialard, a self-employed translator and racial justice activist from Boulder, Colorado.
“I’m preparing my house for the worst case scenario,” she added.
The protesters, who identified as water protectors, were arrested during non-violent direct actions across northern Minnesota as construction of the 330-mile line expansion jumped from site to site, in what campaigners say was a coordinated strategy to divide and weaken the Indigenous-led social movement – an allegation Enbridge denies.
Overall, at least 967 criminal charges were filed including three people charged under the state’s new critical infrastructure protection legislation – approved as part of a wave of anti-protest laws inspired by the American Legislative Exchange Council (Alec), a rightwing group backed by fossil fuel companies.
Among those criminalised were a grandfather in his late 70s, numerous teenagers, first-time protesters and seasoned activists – many of whom travelled long distances amid growing anger and desperation at the government’s lack of urgency in tackling the climate emergency.
Yet the vast majority of charges were eventually dismissed – either outright by prosecutors and judges or through plea deals, suggesting the mass arrests were about silencing and distracting protesters, according to Claire Glenn, an attorney at the Climate Defense Project.
“It was obviously not about criminal sanctions or public safety because otherwise the prosecutors would not be dismissing these cases left and right. Enbridge was paying police to get people off the protest line and tied up with pretrial conditions, so they could get the pipeline in the ground, and it worked,” said Glenn, who has represented more than 100 Line 3 protesters including Vialard.
In a statement to the Guardian, Enbridge said the protesters were not arrested for peaceful protest but acted in ways that were “illegal and unsafe”, endangering themselves and others and causing damage.
Line 3 has a long track record of environmental disasters since it began operating in 1968, including a 1.7m gallon spill at Grand Rapids, Minnesota, in 1991 which remains the largest inland oil leak in US history. Enbridge reduced its capacity amid growing concerns about the pipeline’s safety, but in 2014 announced a multibillion-dollar project to expand and partially reroute the pipeline.
Construction went ahead everywhere except Minnesota due to widespread opposition from tribal nations, some state agencies, and climate and environmental groups. But in late 2020, regulators granted the remaining permits, and construction began in freezing cold December as thousands of Americans were dying every week from Covid.
Vialard and her teenage daughter were among thousands of ordinary people from across the US to respond to Indigenous activists requesting help in protecting their sovereign territory and water sources.
“The video of Indigenous leaders calling on white people to show up and do what was necessary to protect the land was very moving. There’s been so much racism and so much abuse towards Indigenous people throughout history, that this felt like part of the work that we need to do,” Vialard said.
It wasn’t the first time an Indigenous-led movement garnered wider public support.
The Standing Rock success triggered a wave of new anti-protest laws and could explain why in Minnesota Enbridge made it difficult for activists – and the media – by constructing at multiple sites simultaneously, according to the attorney Glenn.
Vialard had supported Standing Rock from afar but Line 3, located more than 1,000 miles from Boulder, was her first experience of civil disobedience or direct action. The arrests were tough – but Vialard says that the environmental destruction she saw was even harder.
“People being arrested was the reality. But I was mostly worried about the destruction of pristine lands that I was witnessing. I went to the headwaters of the Mississippi, such an iconic gorgeous river full of rare species, and to turn around and see this big swath of destruction through the forest … that was really very moving to me, it just breaks my heart.”
The new Line 3 started transporting oil in October 2021.
Minnesota environmental regulators have confirmed four groundwater aquifer breaches along the new pipeline – including one last month in Aitkin county, not far from where Vialard was arrested, at a wild rice lake in an area with complex wetlands and peat bogs. Enbridge, which reported gross profits of $16.55bn for the year ending June 2023, has so far been fined $11m to address the breaches, which a spokesperson said “Enbridge reported transparently and corrected them consistent with plans approved by the agencies.”
Oil from tar sands is among the dirtiest and most destructive fossil fuels, emitting three times as much planet-heating pollution as conventional crude oil. Environmentalists say the Line 3 expansion was the equivalent of adding 38m fossil fuel-powered vehicles to our roads.
Many of the Line 3 defendants – including Vialard’s daughter – opted for plea deals, but the legal wrangling still tied people up for months or years. Some were left with a criminal record while others were able to secure a “deferred adjudication” plea in exchange for the charge being erased after a probationary period that restricted their ability to protest, find work and travel.
Vialard’s is only the second felony case to reach the trial phase, but several other Line 3 cases remain open and a misdemeanor trial against 70-year-old Jill Ferguson also begins on Monday, in Clearwater county. Next month three Anishinaabe women elders – Winona LaDuke, Tania Aubid and Dawn Goodwin – will go on trial together on gross misdemeanour critical infrastructure charges related to a January 2021 protest.
But the mass arrests and criminalization of Line 3 activists is part of a nationwide – and global – trend of suppressing legitimate protests about climate and environmental harms, according to Marla Marcum, director of the Climate Disobedience Centre, which supports climate activists engaged in civil disobedience in the US.
“The pattern of heavier and heavier criminalization is undeniable. It’s a tactic which aims to divide and distract activists, suppress dissent and stop ordinary folks getting involved as more and more people wake-up to the urgency of the situation … tying people up for years is a huge emotional and energy drag.”
Marcum says that most environmental activists are being charged with serious crimes from old statutes such as domestic terrorism and gross trespass.
“When a protest movement is righteous, effective and powerful, the US government responds by trying to chill, deter and criminalise rather than engaging with the issue,” said Vera Eidelman, a staff attorney with the ACLU’s speech, privacy and technology project who focuses on the right to protest and free speech rights.
A spokesperson from Enbridge said: “Protesters were not arrested for peaceful protest. They were arrested for breaking the law. Illegal and unsafe acts by protesters endangered themselves, first responders and our workers. They also caused millions of dollars in damages … including to equipment owned by small businesses and Tribal contractors on the project. We support efforts to hold protesters accountable for their actions. Activists may attempt to position this as a global conspiracy. It isn’t.”
The past two years since the arrest have been difficult for Vialard, and fighting the criminal charges has cost a lot of time, energy and lost income, but she doesn’t regret answering the call for help from Indigenous leaders.
“I was born and raised in France, and was never taught about the people and wisdom being crushed and forgotten because of colonisation. But there’s so much to learn from ancient wisdom and so much to unpack within ourselves … You don’t have to get arrested, but be brave and do something that’s valuable for your future, for your children and their children’s future. It’s so enriching.”
Last week, Vialard packed up her house and headed back to northern Minnesota to prepare for the trial among those who tried their best to stop the pipeline that is polluting waterways and warming the planet.
“I am preparing for the worst case scenario. Making this decision was not an easy one, but I feel like it’s our duty to to fight when the decisions being made are so wrong. There is pollution everywhere, climate change is a reality and yet the oil and gas industry is still destroying our planet. I’m just a regular person but it’s pretty crazy to me.”
Over the course of the next few months, the Guardian will be reporting on the criminalisation of climate and environmental activists globally.
The past year has seen a global surge in climate activism, spurred by the escalating climate crisis, including controversial actions such as throwing paint and food at venerable works of art, bringing bustling city traffic to a halt, and disrupting major athletic competitions, among others.
A Media Matters analysis of coverage by major national TV news networks and the top five U.S. newspapers by circulation reveals a troubling trend: Coverage of such disruptive climate protests over the last year was not only limited, but also heavily skewed, often focusing on the disruptive tactics of the activists rather than the urgent climate message driving their actions. Coverage also rarely pointed out the increasingly hostile and punitive response from police and governments that these provocative tactics have increasingly drawn.
From May 30, 2022, to July 31, 2023, Media Matters found:
National TV news broadcasters — ABC, CBS, and NBC — and major cable news networks — CNN and MSNBC — aired 43 segments about various climate protests.
Corporate broadcast TV networks aired a combined 7 segments about climate protests, and none of them included context about the scientific warnings driving the actions.
CNN and MSNBC aired a combined 36 climate protest segments, and only 7 of them (16%) referenced scientific warnings about climate change. CNN led with 4 segments that included context about the scientific warnings about climate, followed by MSNBC with 3.
Fox News dominated cable news coverage of climate protests with 144 segments — four times the combined coverage of its competitors CNN (27 segments) and MSNBC (9 segments). Fox’s coverage mentioned climate change 8 times only to deny the scientific consensus or downplay the urgency of the crisis, hence those segments were also excluded from the final tally.
The top five U.S. newspapers by circulation (the Los Angeles Times, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, and USA Today) published a combined 34 stories in their print editions about various climate protests — just 16 specifically referenced scientific warnings about climate change.
MSNBC was the only major news network to mention the criminalization of climate protests, airing a single segment. The New York Times (3 articles) and The Washington Post (1 article) were the only top five newspapers that mentioned the legal reprisals against climate protesters.
Climate activism’s daunting battle for major news media’s attention
Securing substantial and meaningful mainstream media coverage remains a daunting challenge for climate protesters, regardless of whether their activism involves marching in the streets or executing bold direct actions. This dynamic raises critical questions about how climate issues are prioritized in the public discourse and underscores the essential role media plays in shaping this narrative.
For example, in the week leading up to Earth Day 2023, broadcast networks allocated just over 3 hours of coverage to the global event and less than an hour on Earth Day itself. But when it comes to more confrontational climate actions, the media attention is hardly consistent or proportional.
Climate activists engaged in civil disobedience are often portrayed merely as disruptors, with the news media failing to adequately communicate the grave climate concerns that drive their actions. Furthermore, the intensifying government responses to these acts of dissent — from heightened policing to punitive legislation aimed at deterring future activism — are frequently sidelined in the reporting, creating an incomplete picture of the full stakes involved in these protests.
How major broadcast and cable news covered climate protests
The coverage of climate protests by major broadcast and cable news networks over the last year was not only sparse, but it predominantly focused on the disruptive actions of the activists without adequately addressing the urgent climate crisis driving these actions and the increasingly severe responses they provoked.
From May 30, 2022, through July 31, 2023, broadcast TV news networks aired just 7 segments about various climate protests. ABC aired 4 segments about climate protests, followed by NBC with 2, and CBS with 1. None of the corporate broadcast networks’ segments about climate protests referenced scientific warnings about climate change or mentioned the escalating legal reprisals against controversial climate actions.
During the same period, CNN and MSNBC aired 36 segments about climate protests, with 7 mentioning scientific warnings about climate change. CNN aired 26 protest segments, with 4 climate science mentions, followed by MSNBC, with 9 segments and 3 mentions.
One of the better segments connecting climate protest to climate science aired during the April 23 episode of CNN Newsroom Live, which used the occasion of Earth Day to discuss the dual strategies climate activist group Extinction Rebellion was deploying to draw attention to the crisis and also included a detailed accounting of the climate threats facing the planet.
MSNBC was the only cable network to air a segment that mentioned the legal backlash against climate activists. Ayman Mohyeldin, host of MSNBC’s Ayman, explicitly denounced the jailing of climate activists during a November 13, 2022, segment about imprisoned Egyptian journalist and activist Alaa Abd el-Fattah’s hunger strike during the United Nations’ COP 27 climate conference.
The host declared, “Look, there is no environmental justice without social justice. Governments cannot tackle the world’s climate needs with sobriety and urgency, while simultaneously imprisoning young activists around the world who are at the very forefront for the calls for change.”
Despite these notable exceptions, broadcast and cable networks have largely provided limited and decontextualized coverage of climate protests. Most of their coverage focused on the art protests, specifically Just Stop Oil activists who threw soup at Vincent van Gogh’s “Sunflowers” at the National Gallery in London last October. The activists who used charcoal to dye the Trevi Fountain in Rome black in May also received coverage from mainstream TV news outlets.
This reporting often neglected to connect the activists’ provocative methods to the pressing climate concerns propelling their actions or to mention the intensifying government reactions to these protests. This incomplete representation creates an information vacuum, conveniently filled by right-wing media, which could further skew public understanding of the climate crisis and its advocates.
Fox News’ coverage magnified and distorted climate protesters
Overshadowing its mainstream cable news competitors, Fox again dominated cable news coverage of climate protests during the studied time period. The network aired 144 segments, which is four times CNN and MSNBC’s combined coverage. Fox also covered a much wider variety of climate protests than its cable news counterparts, with numerous segments abouts the demonstrators who protested the Congressional Baseball Game last July, the activists who deflated dozens of SUV tires in Boston in April, and the protesters who interrupted Wimbledon in July.
In 8 segments, Fox also explicitly denied or downplayed the climate emergency driving the activists’ actions. For example, during a segment that aired on the May 22 episode of Fox News Tonight about Roman climate protesters who dyed the Trevi Fountain black to draw attention to the link between fossil fuel consumption and devastating floods in northern Italy, correspondent Trace Gallagher noted, “Historians inconveniently remind the protesters that the rain drought pattern in northern Italy has been happening for thousands of years, maybe millions.”
Fox’s coverage routinely mocked and derided climate activists. For example, during the May 23 episode of Fox News’ The Five, co-host Jeanine Piro called the Trevi Fountain protesters “lunatics” and asked, “Is there something off in their brain that makes them do this?”
During the June 1 episode of Fox & Friends, Fox host Carley Shimkus said it was “positively hilarious” that one of the climate protesters who interrupted a Swedish dance competition had been deliberately hit by a piece of camera equipment, before the hosts mused about assaulting hypothetical protesters who happened into the Fox News studio.
Fox & Friends co-host Brian Kilmeade again wished violence upon climate activists during a July 6 segment about a protest that disrupted Wimbledon, saying he hoped that security “roughed up” the protesters.
The top five major newspapers’ print coverage of climate protests was mixed
The top five newspapers by circulation (the Los Angeles Times, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, and USA Today) published a combined 34 stories in their print editions about various climate protests during the studied time period, and 14 of them included specific mentions of climate science.
The Washington Post led with 15 total articles about climate protests, 7 of which mentioned the scientific warnings about climate change; the Los Angeles Times followed with 7 articles with 4 mentions; The New York Times ran 6 articles with 2 mentions; The Wall Street Journal ran 2 articles with no mentions; and USA Today ran 1 article with no mentions. The New York Times and The Washington Post were the only top five newspapers to mention the legal reprisals against climate protesters, with 3 and 1 mention, respectively.
The coverage within the United States’ leading newspapers revealed diverse, often conflicting narratives, where nuanced insights coexisted with more surface-level stories about climate protests, even within the same publications, creating a stark contrast in the way the protests were presented to readers.
For example, the Los Angeles Times, The New York Times, and The Washington Post each published severalarticles that examined the ominous scientific warnings about climate change fueling the urgency of the protests, providing readers a more complete understanding of the activists’ cause. However, these same newspapers also published other articles that ignored the larger story of the climate crisis and focused on the protesters’tactics. The lack of context in these pieces clouded or obscured the urgent message that activists sought to convey. This mixed approach underscores the need for more consistent, comprehensive, and empathetic reporting of climate protests that reflect the gravity of the issue at hand.
Meanwhile, The Wall Street Journal’s 2 print articles about climate protests during the studied period were uniform in their condemnation of the activists and their tactics. The right-leaning newspaper is owned by the Murdoch family, which also owns Fox News among a number of other right-wing media outlets.
Regarding legal reprisals, The Washington Post published a strong editorial on June 16 that decried the Vietnamese government’s imprisonment under false pretenses of Hoang Thi Minh Hong, who is described as “the country’s leading climate activist.” And a July 12 New York Times article about various climate protests at museums noted that the United States was approaching a “tipping point” as “prosecutors have brought serious federal charges against protesters who threatened the safety of art at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, which is a federal institution.” But such coverage remains sparse.
National news media overlook the escalating criminalization of climate protests
The national news media’s insufficient reporting on climate protests neglects a particularly significant and troubling trend: the escalating draconian response to these protests and the concurrent rise in the criminalization of climate activism.
This dearth of coverage not only overlooks an alarming pattern of legislative hostility toward current iterations of climate activism, but it also ignores the array of so-called “critical infrastructure” laws crafted to penalize environmental protests that have been enacted across numerous states. These laws, often advocated by the fossil fuel industry and their proxies, propose severe penalties for protests near fossil fuel infrastructure and prescribe hefty fines for organizations supporting such actions, and they have already caused a great deal of harm among the U.S. climate activist community.
In January, 26-year-old Manuel “Tortuguita” Terán was killed by law enforcement officers during a raid on the Defend Atlanta Forest encampment. Other forest defenders have subsequently been charged with domestic terrorism for protesting the construction of a police training facility in Atlanta, dubbed “Cop City.”
Meanwhile, during protests of the construction of the Line 3 pipeline project in Minnesota, a thousand-mile crude oil pipeline from Canada to Wisconsin, the Enbridge pipeline company paid police officers to harass and mass arrest climate activists and entangle them in complex and expensive legal proceedings.
And choosing to focus sparse coverage of climate protests on the disruptive tactics of activists can have further harmful implications. By portraying protesters as threats rather than as citizens responding to an existential crisis, media narratives provide fodder for right-wing outlets and social media influencers to rationalize violence. This escalates risks for frontline climate activists and adds to the pervading environment of fear and intimidation.
Unfortunately, significant incidents and policy changes often go underreported. For instance, the United Kingdom introduced draft legislation posing unprecedented restrictions on the right to protest, yet this development received little attention in mainstream media.
Similarly, several American states have passed laws that exonerate drivers who hit protesters with their vehicles, a frightening development considering similar incidents in Australia and Germany.
National news media bear a substantial responsibility for reporting on climate protests with depth, substance, and accuracy, especially given the torrent of harmful narratives from right-wing media outlets such as Fox News which frequently seek to distort and diminish the urgency of climate change. Mainstream news outlets must thus strive to provide comprehensive coverage that transcends a narrow focus on protest tactics and emphasizes the scientific underpinnings of the protests, the heightened legal repercussions faced by activists, and the increased criminalization of these vital expressions of dissent.
Media Matters searched transcripts in the SnapStream and Kinetiq video databases for all original programming on CNN, Fox News Channel, and MSNBC and all original episodes of ABC’s Good Morning America and World News Tonight, CBS’ Mornings and Evening News, and NBC’s Today and Nightly News for the term “climate” within close proximity of any variations of any of the terms “protest,” “activism,” or “demonstration” from May 29, 2022, when a man disguised as an elderly women smashed cake on the glass protecting the “Mona Lisa,” through July 31, 2023.
We included segments, which we defined as instances when climate activism was the stated topic of discussion or when we found significant discussion of climate activism. We defined significant discussion as instances when two or more speakers in a multitopic segment discussed climate activism with one another.
We also searched print articles in the Factiva and Nexis databases for the Los Angeles Times, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, and USA Today for the term “climate” in the same headline or lead paragraphs as any variation of any of the terms “protest,” “activism,” “advocate,” or “demonstration” from May 29, 2022, through July 14, 2023.
We included news articles, which we defined as instances when an article in the news section or editorial of one of the above newspapers mentioned climate activism in the headline or lead paragraphs. We did not include editorial letters to the editor.
We then reviewed all identified segments and articles for whether they included context about the scientific warnings that underpin climate activism or mentioned the legal reprisals against climate protesters.