Monday, October 19, 2009

Kingsnorth verdict a 'tipping point' in climate struggle

On September 10 a British jury acquitted six Greenpeace protesters who were on trial for trying to shut down a coal-fired power station on the grounds that they were trying to stop global warming.

Last year, the protesters climbed the chimneystack of the Kingsnorth power station, in Kent, to paint "Gordon, bin it" (as in, "bin coal") on the side, but were arrested before they could complete the task. They were charged with causing criminal damage equivalent to around $80,000 – the costs cleaning the 200 metre stack.

However, in a majority verdict, the jury in Maidstone Crown Court found that the protesters had a "lawful excuse" for their acts, because they were trying to protect property that would be damaged by climate change, including parts of Kent at risk from sea level rise, parts of Greenland, the Pacific island of Tuvalu, coastal areas of Bangladesh and the city of New Orleans.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Germany: Left makes big gains in poll

German Chancellor Angela Merkel, from the centre-right Christian Democratic Union (CDU), was returned to power in the September 27 federal elections. But the vote was marked by a record low voter turnout and a significantly increased vote for the far-left party, Die Linke ("The Left"). 

The election was a clear success for the CDU. Merkel's preferred coalition partners - the free-market fundamentalist Free Democratic Party (FDP) - increased its support by 4.8 points to an all-time high of 14.6%. 

This was enough to form a CDU-FDP government.

The FDP will replace the centre-left Social Democratic Party (SPD) as coalition partners in the government of Europe's largest economy.

The SPD's support collapsed by more 6 million votes. It dropped a huge 11.2% to only 23% – the SPD's worst result since World War II. An SPD leader said on election night: "We have been bombed back into the Weimar Republic."

However, although the result has been widely labelled a shift to the right, the actual outcome doesn't bear this out. The total vote for the centre-right parties rose by only 3.4%, while the vote for the far-right neo-Nazi NPD dropped to just over 1%. 

The vote for Die Linke was 11.9% - a 3.2% increase on the 2005 result by the joint electoral ticket of two left-wing groups that was the forerunner to Die Linke. Formed in 2007, Die Linke is Germany's newest party and stands for pro-people, anti-corporate policies. 

Die Linke is also the only party that opposed the occupation of Afghanistan and has committed to withdrawing all German troops.

Ecuador: Indigenous, government clash over mining

On September 30, violent clashes between indigenous protestors and police in Ecuador left at least one protester dead, and nine protesters and 40 police injured, the October 1 Latin American Herald Tribune said.
The protests are the first big test for Ecuador's left-wing President Rafael Correa, first elected in 2006 on the platform of a "citizen's revolution" promising to build a "21st century socialism" in the small Andean country.

The protests were called by the Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities of Ecuador (CONAIE) — the umbrella confederation representing Ecuador's indigenous population. About 35% of Ecuador's population is indigenous.

On the same day, Ecuador's main teachers union, the UNE, and students also protested against proposed educational reforms.

CONAIE and many environmental organisations are opposed to a new mining law they believe will cause environmental destruction and may result in water privatisation.

They also believe the law violates Ecuador's new constitution, which, among many other progressive additions, guarantees access to water and grants specific rights to the environment.