Mobilizing climate action around Copenhagen

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An impressive global grassroots mobilization, possibly unparalleled in creativity and diversity, is rising up in the next few weeks, aiming for maximum citizen pressure on the final Copenhagen climate change negotiations.

The starting shot was fired September 21 with the playful Global Wake-Up Call that boasted 2,600 simultaneous self-organized events in 135 countries.

But don't worry if you slept through that one; there are plenty more to come, tailored to suit just about anyone's taste in protest.

Here in Canada, credit for the most audacious actions so far must go to Greenpeace, which has staged no fewer than three stunning direct actions in the last three weeks.

On September 15, more than 20 protesters entered Shell's Albian Sands Muskeg River mine north of Fort McMurray and occupied a giant dump truck, forcing operations to shut down for several hours. On September 30, another group of international Greenpeacers were arrested and charged with mischief after they unfurled banners at Suncor's bitumen conveyor belts in the Fort McMurray area.

And just this week, other daring dissidents scaled three smokestacks at Shell's Scotsford upgrader plant to make their point that the tar sands are a climate crime. Don't judge the impact by the publicity these events receive at home. The presence of international activists in each action is their clever way of ensuring that publicity spreads around the world.

It's unlikely that this is the last we'll hear from Greenpeace before and during Copenhagen. One sign is that they are organizing a series of Climate Camps for those inspired to bone up on their civil disobedience skills (greenpeace.ca has more info).

And if courting arrest without Greenpeace-style athleticism feels tempting at this crucial climate juncture, you can always sign on to the international pledge to get busted in December at beyondtalk.net. This is organized by the Yes Men, whose New York antics have been a model of creative audacity.

Since the pen is said to be a mighty weapon in the right hands, next week's Blog Action Day is a potentially arresting innovation of another kind. The intent is to unite the world's bloggers around a common climate theme for one day on October 15. If writers and readers unite, the combined audience of the blogosphere's outpourings could be mammoth.

The following week, October 24 is International Day of Climate Action, and the big push is for a large "fill the hill" action on Parliament Hill in Ottawa. Check out climateday.ca. for info on Ottawa, and 350.org for Toronto plans.

Trying to engage the South Asian community, the Climate Action Network is touring Bollywood actor Rahul Bose in the pre-October 24 buildup. The Ottawa Climate Day Action will take place as Powershift, a three-day youth climate crisis summit, also converges on our capital. On the last day, the expected 1,000 delegates are scheduled to engage in a massive MP lobbying effort. Info at Powershiftcanada.org.

Lobbying MPs is also the focus of a campaign that a coalition of Environmental Defence, ForestEthics and Polaris are organizing. They're going door-to-door in close to a dozen Ontario ridings, including Mississauga-Erindale and Parkdale-High Park (yourvotetheirfuture.ca) asking residents to contact their MPs.

Or, for a sharper target, take the example of activist Sharon Howarth and her friends (climateactionnow.ca), who have just taken it upon themselves to "put democracy to work" and knock on doors to talk up the environment in Michael Ignatieff's home riding. "It is the best recreation time ever," she says. "Nothing beats speaking about something that real matters.

And, of course, pretty much every environmental org has a Kyoto-plus pledge to add your name to. If you haven't done so yet, it is definitely time to sign on somewhere to history's honour roll.

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