This article by UN Special Rapporteur Michael Forst on environmental defenders is an important read. There are very troubling developments in several countries, aimed at cracking down on peaceful protest about the most serious crisis we have ever faced, climate change. Several governments are responding in the most inappropriate, authoritarian way, and I am really worried that the media is also mostly failing to notice what is happening and reporting on why it is happening. Italy is among them.
Italy is discussing a bill that creates a new crime of damage to cultural goods, which comes a few days after activists who threw washable paint on Palazzo Vecchio in Florence had their homes searched by police. Activists now risk up to one year in prison and a 60 thousand Euro fine, for throwing washable paint! There is also evidence in various countries of activists who are peacefully protesting against oil companies being fined or banned from a city. This is not just about environmental protesters. We should all be worried about where this is going.
Personally, I’ve had my disagreements with groups using civil disobedience to raise awareness of climate change, both in the UK where I live and in Italy where I am originally from. But my concerns were not about the need for protest itself nor for the science that underpins these forms of radical action. The science is clear, all anyone needs is to read the latest IPCC synthesis report summary. I was just concerned about how protests are polarising this debate, vs broadening support for the cause.
But it is now really important to point out that criminalisation of this form of protest goes against all democratic values that our societies stand for. It is government authorities that need to adapt, passing laws that move us away from the destructive path we are on, and taking on board the concerns expressed by protesters.
We do not need laws to silence young people worried about their future. Those who minimise climate change and the deep environmental crisis we are in, those who pretend it can be fixed with silence and more authoritarian policing, those who engage in denial and climate action delay, those are the REAL vandals. The damage they are doing – unlike that from washable paint – cannot be undone.
Within this context, I commend the initiative by The Good Law Project in the UK which has facilitated a declaration by a group of lawyers that they will refuse to prosecute climate protesters, and I hope similar initiatives will come up elsewhere in Europe or in other parts of the world where they are needed.
#climatechange #art #ultimagenerazione #juststopoil #environmentaldefenders #civildisobedience #authoritarian #populism