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Million dollar bash

On 12 May, Edinburgh university announced that it would continue investing in fossil fuels. It would divest from companies extracting the worst fuels in terms of carbon emissions, coal and tar sands, but only if they ‘do not meet the criteria that we set’.

This announcement sparked a spontaneous occupation of the finance department by 30 students that lasted for 10 days.

At the end of April, the Church of England announced it had sold £12m in two of the most polluting fossil fuels: tar sands oil and thermal coal.

In April, the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine became the first health research organisation in the world to sell off investments in coal companies (from its £16m endowment). Also in April, SOAS, part of London university, announced it would divest the £1.5m of its £32m endowment held in oil and gas companies (it holds no coal investments). On 18 May, Oxford university ruled out future investments in coal and tar sands from its multi-billion pound endowment.

Two groups recently announced that they would stop direct investments in all fossil fuel companies: Syracuse university at the end of March, and Guardian Media Group at the beginning of April. Both institutions have investment funds of £800m each.


Times are a-changing

On 14 May, one week after the general election, and after just four days’ notice, 1,000 people crammed into the first London Radical General Assembly, created ‘to provide a space where people thinking radically about change could come together and discuss working in a more joined-up way’.

There was a follow-up event on 23 May in Bethnal Green, also organised by Brick Lane Debates.

The assembly may become a monthly event, spawning local assemblies and new networks of activists. More info:

Masters of war

On 18 May, the Muriel Lesters Trident Ploughshares affinity group protested outside the London headquarters of aerospace giant Lockheed Martin over its role in the manufacture of British nuclear warheads at AWE Aldermaston.

(Not) Maggie’s farm

If you’re wondering where to put your divested funds, the very wonderful Ecological Land Co-op is appealing for investment.

Based on the success of their first cluster of small farms at Greenham Reach, Devon, the co-op plans to create 20 new ecological smallholdings between 2015 and 2020. They are looking to raise £340,000. More info:

I shall be released!

On 16 May, the Transform Now Plowshares three were released from prison after an appeals court in Cincinnati struck down their 2013 sabotage convictions and ordered resentencing on their remaining conviction.

The court said sister Megan Rice (85), Michael Walli (66), and Greg Boertje-Obed (59), were still guilty of damaging government property at the Y-12 national security complex. The three entered the Oak Ridge, Tennessee, plant in 2012 to protest against a planned multi-billion-dollar nuclear bomb factory. More info:


Shelter from the storm

On 11 April, six Greenpeace climbers who boarded and camped on an Arctic-bound Shell oil drilling rig came down after nearly a week on the 38,000-tonne platform.

Worsening weather conditions in the Pacific, with swells of up to 25 feet, brought the six down before a court ruling by a federal judge in Anchorage, Alaska.

The climbers – from Australia, Austria, Germany, New Zealand, Sweden and the US – shared photos and video of the climb and the occupation:


Desolation row

On 25 April, 6,000 people formed a four-and-a-half-mile-long human chain in Germany’s Rheinland as part of the region’s largest-ever anti-coal protest.

The demonstration along the Garzweiler II open-cast mine called for cuts in open-cast mining, an end to coal-related displacement of communities, and the closure of Germany’s dirtiest and oldest lignite coal-fired power plants.

Too much of nothing

In India, more than 200 Greenpeace India workers will work for free for the whole of June, after the government froze the organisation’s bank accounts on 9 April, leaving it unable to pay expenses or wages.

The attack began in June 2014, when all funding coming from Greenpeace International was frozen. The ministry of home affairs says Greenpeace India should not be allowed to obstruct development.

As PN went to press, Delhi high court was due to rule on the group’s finances on 26 May.

It’s alright, M(i)a

International Conscientious Objectors’ Day was marked with ceremonies of remembrance on 15 May around the world, including events in Brighton, Edinburgh, Liverpool, London and Portsmouth.

The London event, organised by the First World War Peace Forum, featured Mia Tamarin, a young woman who served four prison terms as an Israeli conscientious objector.

Nepal unity?

The recent earthquakes in Nepal have not only caused massive damage to the country’s agriculture, economy and infrastructure. They may also have shaken up national politics.

The main parties, who’ve been unable to agree on a new constitution for the last eight years, have pledged to work together to accelerate its passing.

Some have floated the idea of a broad church coalition government. On 9 May, Madhav Nepal, former prime minister and a senior leader within the Communist UML party, said: ‘We should form a national unity government to complete the constitution drafting process, to hold local polls and to speed up reconstruction and rehabilitation works.’ UML governs in coalition with the Nepali Congress party.

An emergency government of national unity could be a face-saving way for the opposition Maoists to give up their failed attempt to force constitutional concessions, and to isolate militants within the party.

Topics: Nepal

Western Sahara

There should be no oil drilling in the waters of Western Sahara ‘until the Saharawis have had the chance to exercise their right to self-determination and have freely and fairly decided the political status of their homeland’. So went a joint letter to the UN security council from 243 organisations from around the world, sent on 15 April.

Scottish oil company Cairn Energy is involved in oil exploration off Western Sahara, under licence from Morocco, which has illegally occupied the territory since 1975.

In the UK, signatories included Mary Turner for the GMB union (630,000 members), Max Hyde for the National Union of Teachers (300,000), Billy Hayes for the Communication Workers Union (200,000 members), and Alan McLean for the Fire Brigades Union (44,000 members).

The joint letter argued: ‘The oil companies’ activities in Western Sahara through a deal with the Moroccan government will give Morocco even less incentive to engage in peace talks and fulfill its duties under international law. It furthermore undermines the Saharawi people’s faith in peaceful negotiations. As such, Morocco’s oil development undercuts the UN’s efforts to negotiate a just and lasting solution to the conflict.’


Topics: Western Sahara

Turkish Kurdistan

The peace process between the Turkish government and the armed Kurdish Workers’ Party (PKK) insurgency has suffered numerous set-backs recently, mostly at the hands of president Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

The government has refused to implement reforms needed to secure the disarmament of the PKK, and has even cut off access to the PKK leader Abdullah Ocalan.