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Pacific Island Warriors blockade world’s largest coal port

Pacific Island Warriors

The Pacific Island Warriors are calling for an end to Australian coal expansion. Courtesy of: Market Forces, 2014

Thirty Pacific Climate warriors were, today, joined by hundreds of Australians to blockade a coal port in Newcastle, Australia, highlighting the threat that coal expansion poses to their future.

Using traditional canoes, built in their islands, the warriors blocked coal ships from entering and leaving the port for the day – with just two ships managing to break through the line of boats.

Chanting “we are not drowning, we are fighting” the protesters aimed to show they are ready and willing to fight for their homeland.

Mikaele Maiava, a warrior from Tokelau said:

It is very important for us to take direct actions against climate change because it is threatening our lives and our islands. Our land is the most valuable treasure in our lives and the impacts of climate change will destroy it. We don’t want this to happen and we will not allow it to happen.

Small island states are on the front line of climate change impacts, and every gram of coal burned adds to the threat they face from rising oceans, drought and extreme weather events.

Pacific Island Warriors

The warriors blocked ships from entering or leaving the port. Courtesy of: Market Forces, 2014

Today’s protest aims to show the fossil fuel industry that island countries are prepared to stand up to Australia’s radical plans to double coal exports and drastically increase gas production; plans that are threatening their nations’ very survival.

Stand in solidarity with the Pacific Island Warriors >>

Milañ Loeak, a 26-year-old warrior from the Marshall Islands and daughter of the President of the Marshall Islands Chris Loeak said:

I’ve seen my people and my islands suffer the impacts of climate change through droughts and floods from high tides. The impacts of climate change in my country have very real impacts on people lives.

I have a close friend whose house was destroyed by the king tides earlier this year, and that was her whole life. She told me ‘the sound of the ocean used to be a constant comfort in my life, lulling me to sleep. And in such a short time, it destroyed my home.

The warriors – from 12 Pacific Islands – called on the Australia to halt its destructive expansion of fossil fuels and wake up to the growing threat of climate change.

Australia is the world’s second largest coal exporter and Newcastle’s coal port is the largest in Australia and the world.

If it were a country, the coal exported from it would make the port the 9th highest emitting country in the world.

Pacific Island Warriors

The Warriors chanted “We are not drowning, we are fighting” as they protested. Courtesy of: Market Forces, 2014

In recent months, Prime Minister Tony Abbott has rolled back climate protections, as well as vocally supporting the expansion of additional coal mining.

At the opening of a new coal mine on Monday, Abbott said “coal is good for humanity,” a line markedly out of step with other world leaders, scientists, health professionals, and nearly everyone concerned with human well-being.

Coal is a leading cause of climate change, along with numerous other environmental and health impacts.

Maiava said:

Australia is regarded as the biggest member of the Pacific family. Their exporting of fossil fuels however have made them an unloving family member,” he said. “This is why we are taking a stand for all other members of the Pacific family that are affected directly by Australia’s destructive actions.

Today’s protest came on the same day hundreds of Australians closed their bank accounts with the country’s big four banks, making a statement against their financing of fossil fuel expansion project.

Meanwhile around the world, groups have come together to call for an end to dirty coal, as part of the Reclaim Power week of action against fossil fuel expansion.

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