It’s been almost two weeks since a wildfire broke out near Fort McMurray in Alberta, Canada, forcing the evacuation of 90,000 residents from the tar-sands boom town. Swathes of spruce and pine forest continue to burn, fueled by dry conditions that scientists link to climate change. With 2,400 homes and thousands of acres of forest destroyed, it will be a long time before the region recovers. But oil companies operating in Alberta have already resumed oil-sands production.
It’s against that grim background that environmentalists around the world are staging a series of direct actions against fossil fuel–development projects, to make a statement that energy companies should not be allowed to carry on business as usual while the world burns. As part of this “Break Free” wave of action, some 10,000 Filipinos marched in Batangas City last week to demand the cancellation of a plan to build more than two dozen coal-fired power plants in their country. Activists in the United Kingdom temporarily shut down that nation’s largest coal mine. More than 60 people have been arrested in Australia for blocking a rail line used to transport coal, while dozens more formed a floating blockade made of kayaks, sail boats, and surfboards in the harbor.
Thursday marks the beginning of a week of Break Free protests in the United States. Activists are expected at a Bureau of Land Management auction in Denver, Colorado, to protest the leasing of public land for fracking. The Pacific Northwest is preparing for a new wave of kayaktivism, in what is anticipated to be the largest act of climate-related civil disobedience ever in the region; hundreds of people have agreed to risk arrest in an attempt to stop the flow of oil from two oil refineries in Anacortes, Washington. In Los Angeles, the country’s largest urban oil field and the site of gas leaks that pose long-term health risks to residents, activists plan to gather at City Hall on Saturday to call for an end to drilling in the city and a move toward 100 percent renewable energy. In Albany, they’ll be blockading railways to call attention to the “bomb trains” that carry crude oil from the Bakken shale region of North Dakota to the city’s port.