Australia Fossil Fuels Campaign
Activism for environmental conservation has created immense global concern over the past decade. With concerns about the ever changing climatic conditions driven by human activity, organizations have come up to advocate for the adoption of manufacturing and other technologies which adhere to the requirements of sustainable environmentalism. Across the globe, environmental conservation has attracted diverse views, particularly on the need to avoid the use of fossil fuel technologies which result in emissions considered hazardous to the environment. According to Timmons (2010: 289), environmental justice which is advocated for by various organizations across the globe is based on the foundation that there is need for every individual to be freed of ecological destruction. This implies that environmental conservation campaigns held across the world are not limited to positive impacts in the locations in which the campaigns are held but rather aim for diverse impacts across the globe.
One of the organizations that have taken center place in the fight for environmental conservation is the Climate Movement, which operates across six continents in the world. This movement has regional sectors such as the Break Free organization in Australia which aims at advocating for environmental management through breaking free of fossil fuels. The mother movement has more than 10,000 members across the globe and was responsible for organizing and implementing the global wave of resistance to fossil fuels which took place between 3rd and 15th May 2016. This project aims at analyzing the campaign in details, to determine various aspects connected to the campaign such as its aims and the effectiveness of the process in achieving its objectives.
The major aim of this project is to analyze the break free campaign which was carried out across the globe and particularly in Australia. The analysis will involve the consideration of various aspects of the campaign and comparison of these aspects to social movement theories as well as to various pieces of literature regarding environmentalism and the effectiveness of collective processes in achieving the desired informative and influential objectives of the campaign.
The present analysis will focus on the break free protest held in New Castle, Australia on 8th May 2016. While aiming at finding out the effectiveness of the campaign, the analysis will focus on the aims of the protests, the participants, the strategies used and tactics used in the campaign. This information will be compared with the information collected about other organizations which also carry out advocacy for the same course about their activities, strategies and tactics. This will enable the report to evaluate the campaign and to come to a conclusion about the campaign.
- Methodology and Research
The research for this analysis was conducted using a qualitative approach in which data was collected over a 14 day period. The data to be used in the analysis was collected using a primary technique as well as a secondary approach to research. During the time in which the research was conducted, primary data was collected from the campaign itself while the secondary data was collected through access to past literature on collective activism as well as on various social movement theories. The objective of collecting information through the secondary method was to provide a strong background for the primary research conducted.
2.1 Primary Research
Primary information was collected during the study mainly through reading press releases and media reports on the same. Although most of the media reports give general information about the global campaign, it was the only reliable source of primary information since the media personnel who reported on the news experienced the action first hand. In addition to this, the flyers distributed by the break free organization, the campaigners for fossil fuel elimination and pro-renewable energy activists all form essential sources of information for the analysis. Moreover, media reports received through various methods also contributed to the information added to the analysis.
2.2 Secondary Research
In order to find effective back up for the primary information received during the campaign, secondary information was also collected before and after the campaigns. The secondary information was collected majorly through comparison of texts from various aspects of social theory. The key objective of the secondary data collection process was to compare the recommendations made by various authors such as Humphreys (2012) and Dough (n.d) on how to carry out effective social movement protests with the actual occurrences during the Break free campaign. In addition to this, the secondary information also aimed at providing information about the emergence of environmentalist organizations and how these organizations carry out their collective activities. Such works are provided by Graham (1998: 195) who discuss the preparations required for effective collective action, particularly with regards to environmentalist activities. The resources for the secondary information were obtained online from the university library and were confirmed sufficient for the study since the articles provided information relevant to the study.
3.1 Campaign Aims
The campaign held by the Break Free organization was part of global wave of fossil fuel resistance that took place over 12 days (Australia.breakfree2016.org). The key aim of the campaign as reported in the break free website was to encourage the country to break free from the destructive impacts of fossil fuels by making way for a clean energy in future. To achieve this aim, the campaign running across the world was aimed at preventing operations at organizations recognized to be major emitters of fossil fuel wastes.
The activists involved in the campaign across the globe aimed at turning up political heat on those considered to be the worst polluters in the world. According to Meiman and Baraka (2016), breaking free from fossil fuels as proposed by the break free organization spells a vote of good life for the entire globe and particularly for the continents which practice the recommended aspects wholly. With focus on breaking free from fossil fuels, the international communities, through activists, concerned citizens, and various local communities aim at ensuring that the pressure to advocate for cleaner energy is strong enough to address the objectives of the climate movement.
3.2 Organization and Participation
The campaign held at New Castle was part of a larger international campaign held across the globe between 3rd and 15th May 2016. The Break free organization was participating in what Milman (2016) described as the largest disobedience in civil contexts across the world. The campaigns that ran through the globe were organized by the international climate movement to include more than 10,000 participants across six continents (Australia.breakfree2016.org). As described in the break free website, the Climate Movement identified key fossil fuel companies which were considered to be the greatest polluters. Actions were planned to restrict or prevent the operations of each of these companies for at least one day among the 12 days of the global activity. The participants from each of the countries carried out their planned actions on the scheduled dates (Australia.breakfree2016.org). The actions of the movement were made even stronger through the participation of global communities in online forums as well as in actual activism in their countries. The political systems across the world had no objections to the campaigns since they were carried out within the confines of national laws. In the New Castle campaigns, 66 people were arrested at the port during the blockages (Remle, 2016).
3.3 Australia Fossil Fuels Campaign
Motivated by the objective of Climate Movement, Break Free Australia carried out a campaign to advocate for a break free from fossil fuels on 8th May 2016, beginning with preparations and minor activity on 7th May 2016 (Australia.breakfree2016.org). To address their grievances effectively, the campaigners worked with the same strategy of preventing a recognized polluter from operating. The collective action involving more than 2000 participants in New Castle provided sufficient pressure for the blockage of the world’s largest port for coal. This was achieved through the blockage of the harbor entrance and a critical rail road to the port. According to the break free organization website, the harbor entrance was blocked by Kayakers while other campaign participants blocked the rail road. Because of this action, the port did not operate on 8th May (Australia.breakfree2016.org).
The strategy used by Break Free organization in Australia was similar to a large extent to protests and/ or campaigns carried out in the same campaign period and with the same objectives. Campaigns in countries such as Germany, Brazil, Nigeria and the U.S all aimed at preventing the operation of key polluters for at least one day.
Maarsh and McLean (2012: 68) propose that the effectiveness of collective action in the wake of political activity requires a political system that encourages citizen engagement and the application of appropriate policies. The authors suggest that it is only through effective political systems that real influence can be achieved by activism. This implies that despite effective organization and support from international communities, real influence can only be achieved in the wake of activism if the political structure of a country supports engagement. In considering the activities carried out by the break free organization through collective action, it can be deduced that real influence had the potential of being achieved based on the fact that the Australian government provides sufficient support for collective activity. The fact that political structures influence the effectiveness of campaign directly relates to the choice of targets for the campaigns across the world. Allen et al (2012: 106) suggest that political regimes across the world have reduced their engagement in collective activities over the years. While this may not be directly linked to the Australian fossil fuels campaign, the relative silence of the political regime on the same issue could be interpreted as reduced participation in the climate change initiative that is supposed to cut across the globe.
Participation in collective action particularly for the environmental sustainability has increased in rate over the years. Environmental justice is described as the key driver of environmental activism and the core objective of Climate Movement across the globe. Jamieson opines that environmental justice is driven by the objective to create a globally conducive environment for achievement of environmental management. According to Jamieson (2012: 86), the only way to be included in the global environmental campaign is to think globally while acting locally. It is on this very basis that the campaigns in Australia were conducted in solidarity with the global climate movement’s objectives (McKeith, 2016). From this point of view, it is no longer suitable to simply analyze the campaign from the local point of view, but to review the global context through comparisons and determination of the degree of influence achieved by the collective action, not only in the local scenario but also across the globe.
While analyzing the campaign, it is imperative to consider how environmentalists have re-shaped the global thinking about environmental conservation and sustainability. While the present analysis may offer insight into how the campaign was carried out in Australia, it may be necessary to find other sources of information that actually described the distinct changes in practices and discourses that have been realized through environmental activism. Allen et al report that environmental activism have actually resulted in changes in these essential contexts. According to Gameson (1989: 6), organizing and actually implementing these environmentalist activism campaigns as well as any other collective activities in the globe requires consideration and application of pluralist theories. The application of pluralist thinking to the collective campaign context can result in prevention of single group dominance and increase of responsiveness to citizen needs by national political systems. The question therefore persists as to whether break free relied on the pluralist thinking or was driven by selfish motives towards the organization and implementation of the campaign. In case this thinking was adopted, there is greater potential that the demands of the organization will be addressed by the Australian government.
Besides referring to a pluralist approach, Teivainen (2002: 628) describes the differences between effective collective measures versus non-effective ones. The author opines that effectiveness lies in the ability of a social movement to distinctively outline their objectives by clarifying their message through provision of alternatives rather than merely advocating for anti- something. The break free organization managed to succinctly capture their message through the caption which asserted that their objective was to drive down fossil fuel use while increasing the use of renewable energy (McKibben, 2016). Similarly, Humphreys (2012) also highlights the need to initiate and progress discussions about alternative ideas clearly rather than going around in circles. The reports of Teivainen and Humphreys can directly be linked to the need for peaceful and constructive publicity, especially where collective action in applied. Dough (n.d) also adds that any concerns by social movements should be pursued in a diplomatic manner to ensure that the objectives of any campaign are achieved. The evaluation of the Australia Fossil fuels campaign takes into consideration all these factors.
Although Tarrow (1994) suggests that collective action has immense influential power, the ability to efficiently channel conflicts through means other than parliamentary as proposed by Habermas (1981: 33), and avoiding distractions as is recommended by Graham (1998: 195) are key to achieving the campaign objectives. Avoiding distractions is not limited to the duration of the campaign. On the contrary, Graham defines distractions to be any activity that takes one away from the focus of activity. This implies that for green activism to achieve its iobjectives, it is necessary for participants to carry out the campaigns full time, rather than for a short period of time. In addition to this, Burgmann and Burgmann also suggest that collective activism should only include participants who are not increasingly aware of their self-differences but who focus on the collective objectives of the movement.
From the findings of the study and the ensuing discussion, it could be concluded that the Break Free campaign was in alignment with most of the requirements of an effective collective action. First and foremost, the campaign adopted a pluralist approach since it was conducted as part of a global campaign to break free from fossil fuels. The objectives of the campaign were in line with the desire to achieve the global environmental conservation aims; the campaigns also provided an alternative solution rather than mere anti fossil fuel slogans; and acting diplomatically in the quest for a better environment. However, the key issue that remains to be addressed is the unsustainability of such campaigns in achieving the overall advocacy objectives.
Although the Break Free campaign in Australia managed to achieve the objective of stopping the operation of the largest coal port in the world, it is still difficult to predict the potential influence of the campaign on the national climate change initiative. It is true the campaign was well organized, with pluralist thinking and the coverage of the media and willing participants. However, the question still remains in that preventing the operation of the port for one day only limits the day’s profits; the operations however continue thereafter, probably with more intensity with the objective of recovering the lost profits. Can this aid in reducing climate change due to human activity? A more sustainable solution that goes beyond the campaigns is needed.
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