Monday, July 7, 2008

The answer my friend is blowing in the wind

Although this song reminds me of dreamy hippies, here in Southern Thailand it is reality.

The Rainbow Warrior has arrived in Thailand and was greeted by traditional Thai dancers. My heart beat faster when the ship came into port. I still think it is such an amazing sight and a symbol of hope. Slowly it made its way into the berth (actually slowly because we figured out when low tide came, that the berth is not deep enough and the Rainbow Warrior is sitting in the mud, rather than floating.)

In the afternoon the University of Songhkla gave a workshop about small scale, home made wind turbines as a tool for poverty alleviation for communities.

Did you know that Thailand has quite good feed in tariffs for renewable energy? So in theory communities can make a profit by selling their excess electricity back to the grid. The reality looks different as many bureaucratic barriers prevent people from taking up this opportunity. Furthermore the lack of a Renewable Energy law that prioritises green electricity over dirty electricity means that investors prefer building coal fired power plants and even nuclear has appeared on the agenda last year.

The Thai government forecasts an unrealistic increase in energy demand and instead of investing into energy efficiency and renewables, it gives out big contracts for coal fired power stations and thinks about going nuclear. Despite the fact that they say themselves that there is 1600MW wind potential in Southern Thailand.

Coming from a country where the wind capacity has reached now 22GW (that is Thailand’s overall electricity demand) due to a good Renewable Energy law, it is hard to believe that this cannot be repeated in countries blessed with more coast. If you have ever stood under a big 5MW wind turbine, you might share my feeling of being struck with awe and filled with hope for our future.

So it was more than impressive to see yesterday how passionate people started designing their own low cost, small scale wind turbines and push for a renewable energy revolution from the ground until the government gets its act together.

However Thailand is full of these grassroots movements. The movement against coal has grown so powerful that many coal fired power plants had to be canceled. We will visit one of those communities tomorrow and I will tell you more soon.

Have a look here for more pictures of the Rainbow Warrior's arrival in Thailand.


Wednesday, June 25, 2008

This is not yet the end...

We all felt hopeful by the time the Rainbow Warrior has faded down into the horizon off to continue the struggle for a greener and peaceful future that's free from coal.

Looking back we cannot help but feel hope at the prospect of freedom from coal. Two days before the Philippine Independence Day we lit the night sky of the Jaro Cathedral grounds in Iloilo to manifest our aspirations as beacons of hope and it is with the departure of the Rainbow Warrior that we are hopeful that the candle lights that illuminated that dark night sky has sparked a flame that would carry on until genuine and lasting freedom from coal is realized.

This is not yet the end...

Stay tuned for the Rainbow Warrior's arrival in Thailand...

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

In the eye of the storm – or the effects of burning coal

What an end to our Quit Coal ship tour in the Philippines… After talking about the effects of Climate Change on the Philippines for several weeks, I experienced them first hand with “Frank” or internationally better known as Typhoon Fengshen. The Rainbow Warrior left just in time from the island of Boracay where we had launched the “Save the Climate, save Boracay” initiative with local resorts. Just hours later the typhoon struck the island.

I have never seen such torrential rainfall, flooding and strong gales for 3 days. Stuck on the paradise island of Boracay – it seemed more like hell with no way to escape; no electricity, water or any kinds of communication with the outside world.
The locals assured me that this was nothing compared to a super typhoon.
Although typhoons hit the Philippines on a regular basis, they have changed their pathway due to climate change hitting the islands more frequently and intensely. Here you can get a glimpse of the impacts.
I can tell you, that I am more than relieved that the storm is over. The sad irony is that the island of Panay with the City of Iloilo, where we have been protesting against the new coal fired power plant and pointing at the impacts of Climate Change, has been hit hardest. Greenpeace Southeast Asia is now looking if we can help with the rescue operations.
Climate Change often seems so far away to me, reduced to scientific numbers – this experience has definitely showed me that we cannot waste any more time until we act.


Wednesday, June 18, 2008

From the climate defenders camp to the the funders of coal

Sorry but my last entry didn’t show up on the website (internet doesn't always work on the ship). So I give you again an overview of the last days.

When the sun rose on Monday morning I climbed into one of the inflatables from the Rainbow Warrior and headed with mixed feelings towards the Climate Defenders Camp on the shore.
The day before had started off in a festive atmosphere. Anti-coal communities arrived in boats to support the camp as the road access had been blocked. Together we planted colourful wind socks around the camp with personal Quit Coal messages. We packed out our solar cookers and cooked noodles for everyone. It felt a little like having a picnic at a festival.

Suddenly Panay Power brought in about 100 so called “pro coal” people into our tiny camp (much more than the day before). However one of the women told a Greenpeace volunteer that they were paid 500 pesos and received free lunch to be there. The atmosphere grew tense again when Panay Power employees threatened to tear down the camp.
Intense debates took place and my full admiration goes to all the Greenpeace volunteers for always behaving calm and friendly - even when the employees started covering our 6 meter high structure with cloth enclosing our climbers. Non-violence sends out such a powerful message!

In the afternoon a priest managed to convince the Panay Power people to leave.
The next morning we broke up the camp shifting our campaign focus on Metrobank, the funder of the proposed power plant. We dumped a huge amount of coal in front of the main branch (see the viral here) and will continue our campaign nationally against them until we stopped this plant.

Taking down the camp was hard work and I felt a little sad to leave this place behind. But when the last volunteer jumped into one of the boats, some locals came running along the shore. They handed flowers to us and thanked for our support. This was a nice note to leave on.

We finished the Iloilo stop with a dinner in the archbishop's palace and are now on our way to Boracay.


Monday, June 16, 2008

Metrobank: Save the Climate!

Click here to know more

Taking the easy way out...

News came about of intimidation from Panay Power Corporation (PPC), wherein their men harassed the Greenpeace Climate Defenders Camp in Barangay Ingore, Iloilo City, Philippines and endangered the safety of peaceful activists.

In an unprovoked attempt to disrupt the camp, workers from PPC, acting under orders from management, tried to dismantle the camp tower while Greenpeace climbers were still on the structure and could have been injured. Later the workers fenced in the Camp tower with bamboo poles and tarpaulin, cutting off the Greenpeace activists.

A quick look at it, simply makes me realize how PPC is now trying to take the easy way out, by resorting to violence in order to brush aside our message. At the same time it also demonstrates why the Greenpeace principle of non-violent confrontation to raise the level and quality of public debate has stood the test because it does not take the easy way out it seeks to go deep into the roots and follow through on the issue and stop only when the 'wrong' has been made 'right,'as Cesar Chavez puts it:

"Non-violence is not inaction. It is not discussion. It is not for the timid or weak … Non-violence is hard work. It is the willingness to sacrifice. It is the patience to win."

Read our statement on the incident

- chuck baclagon

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Facing the pro coal villagers

Have you ever been surrounded by 20 people shouting at you in a language you don’t understand? Quite scary. Yesterday in the early hours of the evening the pro coal chief of the village next to our camp had organized his relatives to come to the camp and shout their pro coal messages. The atmosphere seemed tense.

I made eye contact with the women in the crowd and smiled at them and to my surprise the smiled back, even giggled and seemed somehow embarrassed. Most of them had spent the afternoon with us while their children had coloured in pictures of the Rainbow Warrior with our Quit Coal message. Three women seemed more serious though and tried to agitate the crowd. My heart was beating. Not the right moment to sit down and have a discussion about Climate Change. Just repeating that we are here to protest peacefully, smiling and calming down the crowd. I can understand that they want the jobs at the power plant and the money the company promised to invest into schools. However they will be the ones first feeling the impacts of climate change and won’t have any resources to adapt. I have to tell myself that many people in the community are against this plant and that this is also more than just a local issue.

It seemed hours before they left. They might come back though today.