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Speaker Tour Follow Up

November 27, 2009

Well, the dust has settled, we’ve all got some sweet, sweet sleep, and now we’ve got our brains back sufficiently to let you know that the Tar Sands speaker tour was a massive success! So we wanted to tell you about what we achieved, what we’re doing next, and how you can get involved.

Eriel Tchekwie Deranger, Heather Milton Lightening and Melina Laboucan-Massimo spent from 13th to 22nd November traveling all over the country to build the UK movement to shut down the Tar Sands. They were interviewed by the Financial Times, spoke to a packed auditorium at the Bristol Arnolfini organised by Platform, sold out the Oxford venue for the New Internationalist speaker event, and Heather found time in between to hop over to Ireland to link up with the Rossport Solidarity Campaign.

Next, they addressed MPs in Parliament – and Simon Hughes (Lib Dem Spokesman for Energy and Climate Change) pledged to make this a major issue for his party. RBS (the world’s 11th biggest investor in the Tar Sands, using OUR money) were clearly rattled – so much so, they turned up at the Parliamentary meeting in person to invite Eriel, Heather and Melina to have a meeting with them! They were probably hoping to head off our plans to have a protest outside their London HQ that afternoon.

It didn’t work.

We still had the protest – a noisy die-in with People & Planet students right outside their front door. Then the three women, plus Kevin from Platform, swanned into the building to challenge them face to face on their dodgy investment practices. Meanwhile, simultaneous protests by P&P groups had taken place outside RBS’s Scotland HQ and outside RBS offices in three other Scottish cities!!!

That evening the gang spoke at two separate events in London, and spent the next day in meetings with Greenpeace and doing interviews, before speaking on a Climate Justice panel at SOAS. Except for super-Heather (does she ever stop?) who nipped over to Copenhagen to make some plans for some conference or other that’s apparently coming up over there quite soon.

Then it was Thursday, and Eriel and Melina (accompanied by Sue, their fiendishly efficient tour manager), chugged up to Wales, to the Centre for Alternative Technology. They spoke at a community meeting in Machynlleth, had an inspiring tour round CAT and took tea and cake with the Great Monbiot himself.

Final stop was Manchester, where Heather rejoined the gang, and they pretty much took over Shared Planet, People & Planet’s national conference – delivering the keynote speech, a workshop, a screening of H2Oil and a Climate Justice panel discussion. All this whilst making a film, planning actions for Copenhagen, and being a bit ill (well, poor Melina was anyway).

The grand finale took place on Sunday evening in Manchester’s Dancehall Theatre, at a screening of H2Oil organised by Leonie from Ethical Consumer. Then we sobbed our goodbyes, and bid them farewell.

So. What happens next?

Well, the reaction we got up and down the country was pretty much unanimous: ‘this is unbelievably awful, what can I do about it?!’ So we now have a large and growing group of people up for taking action on the Tar Sands here in the UK. But what are those actions?

1. Please join the UK Tar Sands campaign Facebook group which we’ve just set up, and invite your friends. We’ll keep you posted with everything that’s going on in the UK:
UK Tar Sands Campaign Facebook Group

2. you are coming to Copenhagen, please get involved in the Tar Sands actions that will be taking place over there. Email us to let us know you’re interested and we’ll let you know the details tarsandsinfocus@gmail.com

3. Think about ways you can put pressure on BP in the next few weeks. They’re going to make the decision as to whether to go into their first Tar Sands extraction project, ‘Sunrise’, pretty soon, they say. Anything you can do that could point out to them what a bad idea this would be WILL have an impact, from a letter to your pension fund, to full-on direct action.

4. Show H2Oil at your local cinema/student union/community centre. Email us to find out how to get hold of a copy. tarsandsinfocus@gmail.com

It’s looking like our big campaign focus after Copenhagen is going to be BP and Shell’s Annual General Meetings, which are taking place in April and May. Both will have Tar Sands-related shareholder resolutions shining a spotlight on their dirty business. We are likely to have another Indigenous Environmental Network delegation coming over in April to help pile the pressure on to BP, and we’ll want to be building momentum for this from January onwards, so join the Facebook group and we’ll keep you posted.

Thanks to all of you who came along to the events, made such a lot of noise at the protest, or were just with us in spirit. Based on the last two weeks, I’ve got the feeling the Tar Sands are going to be THE big issue of 2010. I hope you can continue being part of this crazy adventure, right up to the point where we shut the fxxker down!

Jess Worth, on behalf of the UK Tar Sands Network

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