In 2019, global CO2 emissions caused by humans from combustion of fossil fuels reached almost 37 billion metric tons which by 2022 has been surpassed. The envisaged compromise from international negotiations is a reduction of about 20 billion tons of CO2 per year. The rest would be absorbed by oceans and new vegetation. This chapter explores “leave fossil fuels underground” (LFFU) movements against fossil fuel extractivism, and how much of this CO2 reduction can be achieved by grassroots movements. Sometimes the conflicts manifest in legal appeals in low lying areas for remediation. There are also many demonstrations or “direct actions” across the world against extraction, transport and burning of coal, oil and gas, against fracking, CFFP and pipelines (as in the opposition to the DAPL). Sometimes motivations of LFFU movements are local – the defence of their territories and livelihood – but these movements now often combine local reasons with the global alarm at climate change.


In this book we discard the miraculous coming of a “circular economy” whether by virtue of the Chinese law for its promotion of 2009 or by the many directives from the EU Commission in Brussels. Meanwhile, India is making progress in its transition to coal (Roy and Schaffartzik 2021) while China has been financing coal-fired power plants (CFPPs) also outside China. This is a crucial chapter in this empirical book. It focuses on the grassroots actions around the world preventing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from the supply side. Meanwhile, the extraction of coal, oil and gas still increases. The COPs have made no difference in the Keeling curve. It is difficult to decrease GHG emissions because of the close link between fossil fuel energy, economic growth and political power; and also because the unburnt fossil fuels in the ground become “stranded assets”.

In 2019, global carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions caused by humans from combustion of fossil fuels reached a record high of 37 billion metric tons. About 5 billion more must be added from net deforestation and land use changes. The oceans absorb about one-third of the emissions. The emissions are still going up in 2022. The envisaged compromise from international negotiations is a reduction of about 20 billion tons of CO2 per year. How much of this can plausibly be achieved by the “leaving fossil fuels underground” (LFFU) burgeoning movements? (Temper et al. 2020; Pellegrini et al. 2021, 2022; Martinez-Alier, 2021). Their supply-side contribution to the required decrease in CO2 emissions could be complemented by disinvestment activism from shareholders and stakeholders, by emissions quotas by country, carbon taxes, changes in technology, economic degrowth and rapid population degrowth.

Assume that activists in the USA would manage to stop the Sherer CFPP (coal-fired power plant) in Juliette, Georgia, which burns 11 million tons of coal per year with four units each of 880 MW, and produces altogether 27 million tons of CO2 per year. Or assume that in Taiwan a social movement would close down the Taichung 5,500 MW CFPP, said to produce 40 million tons of CO2 per year. In this chapter, we look at a diversity of LFFU movements against fossil fuel extractivism (Martinez-Alier 2021). Their repertoires of actions include hunger strikes, hanging the national flag upside down, blockades, strikes, street marches, petitions to the authorities, climate lawsuits where citizens sue governments and corporations for the violation of their right to a healthy environment

Brown and Green Anti-extractivisms

Environmental conflicts arise concomitantly to the growth and changes in the current social metabolism. Some are born from the use of fossil fuels. Others might arise when attempts are made to narrow the “circularity gap” by introducing forms of energy different from the fossil p. 314fuels (hydropower, “biofuels”, nuclear, wind-mills, photovoltaic), when new or old metals are mined for the electricity transition (lithium, cobalt, nickel, copper), or by the current plunder of light balsa wood for windmills by Chinese firms, or polluting instances of local recycling of metals damaging health. There are also many conflicts arising from the materiality of the communications industry – the reliance of the media technologies on the extraction of minerals such as coltan, the dumping of electronic waste, and the use of great amounts of electricity (Parikka 2015).

Some analysts are more intrigued by the tricks of carbon credits, the rare earths and rare metals, the promises of green energy than by the “boring” existing industrial metabolism. However, the extraction of the “old” fossil fuels keeps growing. Oil might have reached peak extraction, but not coal and gas. Local complaints against fossil fuels contribute to climate justice by preventing local damages and avoiding GHG emissions although there are many different issues involved in such protests that cannot be reduced to tons of GHG or billions of dollars, such as avoidance of oil spills, mining accidents, coal dust or pneumoconiosis (Liu 2021).

Climate Justice: Top Down or Bottom Up?

The production of carbon dioxide (the main GHG) is disproportionately biased to rich countries and rich people both historically and at present. Figure 16.1 summarizes the present distribution by deciles of population. The 10 per cent richest produce 50 per cent of emissions. The 50 per cent poorest produce less than 10 per cent and their emissions present no problem because they would be recycled by the new vegetation and the oceans.

Percentage of carbon dioxide emissions by world population (Marina Requena, data: Kartha et al 2020[i]). [i] Kartha, S., Kemp-Benedict, E., Ghosh, E., Nazareth, A. and Gore, T. (2020). The Carbon Inequality Era: An assessment of the global distribution of consumption emissions among individuals from 1990 to 2015 and beyond. Joint Research Report. Stockholm Environment Institute and Oxfam International.
Figure 16.1

Percentage of carbon dioxide emissions by world population

Source:  Marina Requena, data: Kartha, S., Kemp-Benedict, E., Ghosh, E., Nazareth, A. and Gore, T. (2020). The Carbon Inequality Era: An assessment of the global distribution of consumption emissions among individuals from 1990 to 2015 and beyond. Joint Research Report. Stockholm Environment Institute and Oxfam International

This chapter frames the issue of mitigating climate change as an effort from bottom-up movements. Economic degrowth in rich countries, stopping population growth, public policies p. 315and changes in technologies might help, together with a firm LFFU grassroots movement. Those at the bottom 30 or 40 per cent in Figure 16.1, whose GHG emissions are livelihood emissions and not luxury emissions, can claim with reason to be in favour of Climate Justice. The notion of Climate Justice has two different origins, as a “bottom-up” complaint against the disproportionate distribution of historical (and present) emissions of GHG compared to the distribution of the likely effects of such emissions (Agarwal and Narain 1991); and as a “top-down” approach discussing and dictating the principles of justice that should apply to climate change in an intragenerational and intergenerational context. For instance, are John Rawls’ principles of justice applicable to climate change? In an article in Development and Change in 2015 I summarized these two approaches, comparing two books on climate justice, one by academic Henry Shue and one by activist Naomi Klein.

Henry Shue, from Merton College, Oxford, is a well-known writer on climate justice. I place him as a top-down author, in contrast to Naomi Klein and to myself, who are bottom-up authors. Henry Shue believes that there should be effective public policies coming from international negotiations. He was influenced over the years by the Conferences of the Parties (COP) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and by the reports from the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). Shue's work as a moral philosopher and expert on international relations inspired the Climate Justice initiative of the Mary Robinson Foundation and the World Resources Institute. Geoengineering techniques against climate change, with their own set of moral and political issues, also became relevant with time (Hamilton 2013). Shue believes in top-down public policies but he was impressed by Anil Agarwal's and Sunita Narain's bottom-up booklet, Global Warming in an unequal world: a case of environmental colonialism (1991), from which he borrowed a basic tenet of environmental justice. Namely, the difference between subsistence or livelihood or necessary emissions of carbon dioxide and ‘luxury emissions’.

There are great differences in the use of energy between people, and the reduction effort should be made by the rich. We all need a minimum of energy as food energy or ‘endosomatic’ use energy, as Alfred Lotka said (1921). This is ‘vital energy’ as Frederick Soddy, the Nobel Prize winner, wrote in his books. We also all need a minimum of ‘exosomatic’ energy. Shue rightly insists that climate policy is also energy policy. Many people in the world will increase their energy use. Excessive emissions of GHG imply a unilateral appropriation of sinks, whether they are new vegetation, the oceans or the atmosphere as a temporary deposit. Not only are emissions unequally distributed, but positive harm is also being done to the environment. Could there be a system of international environmental justice as in the case of war crimes? For instance, “bottom-up” activism in the form of court cases based on damage caused by climate change have caused concern among governments of rich states or fossil fuel companies, as in the Kivalina village vs. Exxon court case (2008). The United States representative at the COP in Copenhagen in 2009 (Todd Stern) recognized the US historical role in putting emissions in the atmosphere. Nevertheless, his government had no sense of guilt and objected to the word “reparations”. However, a counterpoint could be the principle of ‘strict liability’ as in domestic environmental legislation in the US and the EU. Shue distinguishes between punishment and responsibility – rich industrial countries are certainly responsible for accumulated emissions. Nevertheless, in the Paris Agreement of 2015, a clause of “no liability” was imposed by rich countries, and meekly accepted by the governments of the world.

Olivier Godard (2012) argued that insistence on repayment of the climate debt irritated rich countries and could become counterproductive for the success of international negotiations. p. 316I have myself long argued instead that using climate debt as a means to put pressure on rich countries would be the best contribution from the global South in the negotiations. Some of the most inspiring bottom-up proposals from environmental groups in Nigeria and Ecuador since 1997 on ‘leaving oil in the soil’, and the demands from the South for repayment of the ecological debt and/or the climate debt since 1992 (Warlenius et al. 2015), including payments for ‘loss and damage’, have failed at the COPs.

The economics of climate change do not provide good guidance for international agreements. Shue (1994, 1999) appropriately mentions Cline (1992) and Howarth (2011) as economists who asked for very urgent action against climate change and who disputed the pertinence of a discount rate applied to future benefits obtained from present reductions of emissions. However, at the end he praises Nicholas Stern's (2008) 1 description of climate change as ‘the largest market failure’ ever, instead of one of the largest infringements of rights ever. Shue rightly disagrees with the application of Ramsey's rule of discounting because we can no longer assume that there will be economic growth. However, Nicholas Stern also discounts the future precisely because of this assumption.

Shue proceeds to consider the virtues and shortcomings of the 1997 Kyoto Protocol that allocated property rights on carbon sinks and reservoirs to rich countries in exchange for a promise of small reductions in emissions. Meanwhile, the problem looms larger because what matters is the accumulated stocks of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. So even if peak carbon dioxide emissions are reached, this comes too late. Shue's book ends by asking whether industrial civilization has committed an “unforgivable sin”.


In contrast to Shue's top-down approach, Naomi Klein's This Changes Everything (2014) is more optimistic because she relies on bottom-up activism. Her book was a powerful call for reinforcing an existing Blockadia or LFFU global movement and tried to put climate change at the centre of politics before the 2015 COP in Paris. It denounced the inaction of the UN after Copenhagen 2009, and the failure of top world politicians to face climate change. Naomi Klein learned about the climate debt in 2009 from the young Bolivian ambassadress to the UN in Geneva, Angelica Navarro. At that time, we naively expected presidents Evo Morales from Bolivia and Rafael Correa from Ecuador to become champions in the struggle against climate change. Naomi Klein quotes Sunita Narain saying, “I am always being told — especially by my friends in (North) America — that… issues of historical responsibility are something we should not talk about”. Klein was at Copenhagen in 2009, she protested alongside activists. She explains with humour her participation as an invited (or uninvited?) guest at the Heartland conferences reuniting politically motivated climate change deniers, and also at a retreat of top experts on geoengineering methods such as Ken Caldeira and David Keith, sponsored by the Royal Society in Chicheley Hall. Klein believes in the environmentalism of the poor and the Indigenous much more than in the environmentalism of governments or the Big Green organizations.

Her book was written following a methodology of action-research with forays up to the blockades against open cast gold mining in Greece, against shale gas fracking in Romania, against oil pipelines in Canada and into the marshes of Louisiana to inspect the damage from the BP oil spill. Drawing also on reports from the EJOLT project (Temper et al. 2013) and other sources, she reconstructs early proposals to leave oil in the soil in the Niger Delta and in Ecuador, and the founding of Oilwatch in 1995. Klein's book includes travel to the Alberta p. 317oil sand devastation, and her participation in the resistance to the Keystone XL. It shows the movements against fracking in France and elsewhere, as well as the resistance to mountaintop coal removal. Naomi Klein could have travelled even more to reinforce her point, but she travelled enough.

Naomi Klein believes in the importance of social reproduction and care, and the power of regeneration of life on which she could have quoted Georges Bataille's (1947) La Part Maudite. Her labours, her written work and documentaries are not only for the social movements at present, they are also for the benefit of life of our children and of life on the planet. She quotes Article 71 of the Constitution of Ecuador on the Rights of Nature, including the obligation to respect and restore the regenerative powers of Nature. The “right to regenerate” is a keyword of her book calling for a bottom-up global climate justice movement, linking up with other movements such as that for a universal citizens income. It must be a movement as vigorous and successful as anti-slavery was, and feminism has been and is at present. If we continue suffering the insufferable COP meetings, if the languages of ecological debt and liability or economic degrowth are not accepted by rich countries it must be because the environmental movement has become weak or has been bought off. In North America, after Rachel Carson's Silent Spring in 1962, the environmentalists achieved successes, reinforced in the 1980s by the movement from the US that fought against ‘environmental racism’ and proclaimed the 17 Principles of Environmental Justice in 1991. Klein believes that in the US and Canada the strength of environmentalism was lost in the neoliberal era of Ronald Reagan.

It is therefore time for more radical policies. According to Klein, the urgent task of decreasing GHG emissions falls mainly on the many Blockadia movements that form networks drawing their strength from the battles on the ground against fossil fuel companies. Klein's book explains that in December 2012,

Brad Werner… made his way through the throng of 24,000 earth and space scientists at the Fall Meeting of the American Geophysical Union in San Francisco… Werner's own session… was titled ‘Is the Earth F**ked?’… Standing in front of the conference room, the University of California, San Diego professor took the crowd through the advanced computer model he was using... He talked about system boundaries, perturbations, dissipation, attractors, bifurcations… in complex systems theory... When a journalist pressed Werner for a clear answer on the ‘Is the Earth F**ked’ question, he set the jargon aside and replied, ‘More or less’.

There was one dynamic in the model, however, that offered some hope. Werner described it as ‘resistance’ This was “the likeliest source of ‘friction’ to slow down the economic machine that is out of control”.

Klein might have used words from Walter Benjamin: such movements of resistance must vigorously pull down the emergency brake in the economic engine.


The New York group CorpWatch sponsored in 1999 the first known international conference on climate justice, where a definition of bottom-up climate justice was put forward: Climate Justice means opposing destruction wreaked by the Greenhouse Gangsters at every step of the production and distribution process—from a moratorium on new oil exploration […] to the p. 318promotion of efficient and effective public transportation 2 (Kenny Bruno et al. 1999). With help from Oilwatch, since 1997 the debate arose on “unburnable fuels”, questioning which reserves must be left untouched to avoid further increases in the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere (McGlade and Ekins 2015). One hundred years earlier, in 1896, Svante Arrhenius estimated how a rise in atmospheric carbon dioxide would increase Earth's surface temperature through the greenhouse effect. Little was done about it, and until the 1930s scientists were not really worried about increased temperatures; some thought this would favour agriculture in northern latitudes. In 1982 the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) was formed. The Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro in 1992 led the way for the COPs (Conference of Parties) with outcomes such as the Kyoto Protocol in 1997 and the Paris Agreement in 2015. The COPs discourse has shifted more from mitigation to adaptation, accepting climate change as already irreversible, refusing liability but offering little bribes as compensation for damages.

In November 2017, at the COP23 in Bonn, world leaders and climate negotiators met to discuss their voluntary contributions to climate change targets. Members of the Pacific Climate Warriors campaign group (including members of the research group EnvJustice at ICTA UAB) gathered at the edge of Hambach mine before COP23 started, where for the last six years activists had occupied the treetops. Later that day, 4,500 nonviolent Ende Gelände (‘Here and No Further’) activists descended into the coal mine to blockade three diggers, as they braved police armed with pepper spray and on horseback. This is “degrowth in practice” (Figures 16.2 and 16.3).p. 319

The white suits are emblematic of similar actions in Europe (Ende Gelände).
Figure 16.2

The white suits are emblematic of similar actions in Europe

Source:  Ende Gelände
Ende Gelände activists face the police in Hambach lignite mine in 2017 (Ende Gelände).
Figure 16.3

Ende Gelände activists face the police in Hambach lignite mine in 2017

Source:  Ende Gelände

Annually since 2015 Ende Gelände has attracted thousands of activists willing to face police repression. In January 2023, young people (including Greta Thunberg and Luisa Neubauer) tried to blockade lignite mining in Lützerath. In a similar style, in the historical coal extraction region of Wales, the ‘End Coal Now’ camp in 2016 culminated with over 300 protesters entering the Ffos-y-Fran mine to temporarily halt operations. Whereas these acts of mass civil disobedience usually involve already engaged activists, other communities in Europe are also mobilizing against fracking for gas. Residents fear the emissions of greenhouse gas methane, water pollution, health and environmental impacts and geological instability on land. In 2013, people of Zurawlow, in Poland, occupied a field for around 400 days to blockade the fracking activities of Chevron activities, which withdrew. In the UK, in the first fracking sites nearing operation, direct action protests were active. Fracking for shale gas in Lancashire by the firm Cuadrilla caused earthquakes in the area, which after some scientific controversies led to the imposition of a moratorium on fracking (as will be discussed in Chapter 28). Direct action tactics have also been used to blockade fossil fuel transportation. In 2017, a coalition of climate activists called “Code Rood” (Code Red) called for mass civil disobedience against the fossil fuel industry in the port of Amsterdam. Some 300 people from the Netherlands, supported by groups from Belgium, the UK, Germany, France, Denmark and Sweden occupied the port, shutting down operations for one day. Amsterdam and Rotterdam are among the two largest petroleum and coal harbours of Europe.p. 320

In every continent communities are defending their land, livelihoods and the climate from fossil fuel projects. These networked spaces of resistance are Blockadia, the same movement as that of “leaving oil in the soil”, “leaving coal in the hole” born in 1995‒97 from the Oilwatch network (Figure 16.4). In what follows, an overview of these Blockadia or LFFU movements is presented. Often the local grievances are the main factor, and climate change reinforces arguments against fossil fuels.

OilWatch poster (by Vanessita Roa) for a meeting in South Africa: “Keep the oil in the soil and the coal in the hole”.
Figure 16.4

Oilwatch poster (by Vanessita Roa) for a meeting in South Africa: “Keep the oil in the soil and the coal in the hole”


Bringing together cases from the EJAtlas where people have used different types of protests to oppose fossil fuel projects, we presented in 2017 a preliminary cosmopolitan Blockadia Map. The selected cases included climate justice claims as well as localized environmental injustices. Many include the violation of human rights, contamination of water, soil contamination and subsidence, air pollution, land and water grabbing, loss of livelihoods, poor working conditions, biodiversity loss, cultural loss, health impacts, inadequate compensation, killings of activists and other forms of violence.

The concept of Blockadia originated from the resistance against Shell in the Niger Delta in the 1990s (Chapter 14). Following the destruction of the land, water and air of the Ogoni p. 321and Ijaw peoples through oil spills and gas flaring, there was first a peaceful uprising. This culminated in the killing of thousands of Delta residents. In 1998, the Ijaw Youth Council issued the Kaiama Declaration and started armed violence against oil activities in the Niger Delta, linking the fight for community control and against fossil fuel extraction (Temper et al. 2013).

These ideas have spread since 1995. The founding of Oilwatch in Lago Agrio, Ecuador, led to the Yasuni ITT initiative in 2007 with backing from the government to ‘leave the oil in the soil’, after the damage done by the Texaco-Chevron company (Temper et al. 2013). Acción Ecológica and other groups put forward this proposal. In 1997, environmentalists Nnimmo Bassey (ERA, Nigeria) and Esperanza Martinez (Acción Ecológica, Ecuador), founders of Oilwatch, had already proposed a moratorium on oil exploration and exploitation at the Kyoto parallel sessions (Temper et al. 2013). This was to protect local peoples, to protect local biodiversity and to prevent climate change. Blockadia and LFFU are then grassroots words for environmental and climate justice and sustainability, belonging to the global movement for environmental justice with roots in the mid-1990s.

Climate Justice and LFFU Movements

The premise of climate justice (Bond 2014) is that countries and persons who are responsible for the majority of historical and current GHG emissions should also take responsibility for the damages caused. It's closely linked to that of climate debt (Warlenius et al. 2015; Warlenius 2016) but financial compensation would not be enough, rather the climate brakes need to be immediately applied. The bottom-up position for climate justice is strongest when local arguments for LFFU come together with a global perspective of the need to decrease GHG emissions (Anguelovski and Martinez-Alier 2014).

This confluence between local grievances and environmental issues happened in India within the global youth movement Fridays for Future. The Farmers’ movement in Punjab in 2020 decided the issue. The Indian police arrested Disha Ravi who had demonstrated with activists raising the slogan “fund farmers, defund coal” on cardboard, a defiant performative symbol (Figure 16.5). 3 A civil movement by a small group of non-violent young people was cruelly repressed because they were internationalists, and they suggested a radical change in the political and economic agenda of the Modi government.

Demonstration of Fridays for Future in Bangalore, India (Disha Ravi).
Figure 16.5

Demonstration of Fridays for Future in Bangalore, India

Source:  Disha Ravi

I divide the rest of the chapter into two parts: coal-related conflicts, and oil and gas conflicts.


The Philippines

One could multiply the instances of opposition to coal around the world (Temper et al. 2020; Roy et al. 2021). In December 2017 (Figure 16.6) members of militant and Indigenous peoples’ groups staged a protest in front of the South Cotabato provincial capital in Koronadal City to oppose open cast coal mining and condemn the killing of tribal leaders. 4 Two thousand hectares for mining were to be used by the San Miguel Corporation to take out about 27 million tons of coal. The project was stopped (Delina 2021). This is again “degrowth in practice”.p. 322

Activists and Indigenous people hold a protest in Koronadal, capital of South Cotabato province, against coal mining and other issues (Bong S. Sarmiento).
Figure 16.6

Activists and Indigenous people hold a protest in Koronadal, capital of South Cotabato province, against coal mining and other issues

Source:  Bong S. Sarmiento

A Failed Coal Renaissance in Japan? 5

The history of environmental conflicts in Japan falls into three periods (Chapter 2). A very recent period is marked by the reappearance of coal after the Fukushima disaster in 2011. Fuel, oil, gas and nuclear energy had been substituted for coal after the Mitsui Miike coal dust explosion of November 1963.

In Chapter 2 the failure to stop the Kobe CFPP was described. Another case is the Sendai Coal-Fired Power Station, Miyagi Prefecture. The residents opposed the operation of a small 112-MW CFPP that emits 670,000 tons of CO2 per year. In 2014, the construction plan was reported by the media. It was developed by the subsidiaries of Kensai Electric Power Co. (KEPCO) and ITOCHU ENEX Co., LTD. The capacity of 112 MW does not require an EIA. The residents and city council requested a voluntary assessment but it was never answered until construction was completed. A citizen group called Anti-Coal Sendai was initiated. In September 2017, 124 Miyagi prefecture local residents filed a court case against Sendai Power Station Co., Ltd. This was the first lawsuit in Japan against a single coal-fired power plant.

The background to this and other conflicts on CFPP in Japan is as follows. Japan has around 90 coal power plants and companies were planning to build 30 more with a total capacity of 16,730 megawatts. As climate change issues grew in importance, the government, sought to increase reliance on nuclear power to 53 per cent of the total and reduce that of coal p. 323to 11 per cent by 2030. But the Fukushima disaster threw that plan into disarray. Under the current plan in 2019, the government was aiming to rely on nuclear power for 20 to 22 per cent of Japan's electricity, and coal for 26 per cent by 2030. This plan is also in disarray because of opposition to coal.

The next cases are also on CFPP from Japan. There are several protests against new CFPPs, e.g. citizens` protests against two 650-MW units in Yokosuka City in Tokyo Bay deemed to emit 7.26 million tons of CO2 annually. This opposition is paralleled in Chiba prefecture against the Soga CFPP of 1,070 MW and estimated to produce 6.42 million tons of CO2 per year (Figure 16.7). 6 Citizens worry that their living conditions will get worse in an already polluted area. There is strong support from other groups in Japan concerned with climate change. Actually, the amount of carbon dioxide per year released by the economy of Japan amounts to 1.2 billion tons of CO2. Keeping Soga CFPP out would represent about 0.5 per cent decrease in emissions for Japan, provided this decrease is not compensated by new emissions elsewhere: hence the relevance of NIABY movements.

Demonstration against the Soga CFPP (FoE Japan).
Figure 16.7

Demonstration against the Soga CFPP

Source:  FoE Japan

Another conflict in Japan documented from the Kiko network led to the cancellation of a 1,200-MW CFPP in Ube city. A counter-proposal also discarded was for a 600-MW unit producing ‘only’ 3.6 million tons of CO2 per year. Meanwhile, Asahi Shimbun in April 2021 announced that Kanden Energy Solution Co. had abandoned plans to build two coal-plant units with a combined capacity of 1.3 gigawatts at Akita Port. This subsidiary of Kansai p. 324Electric Power Co. said it is no longer feasible to operate coal plants amid the global push to go green and also cited the Japanese government's measures for promoting decarbonization.

One can estimate that bottom-up complaints have managed to avoid emissions of 40 million tons of CO2 per year from new CFPPs. In 2021, the Kiko network was recognized with a Goldman Prize to Kimiko Hirata.

Lignite Mining and CFPP in Rajasthan, India

Here we shall introduce a conflict concerning both mining and a CFPP in a “traditional farming community” which is not an Adivasi community. In 2007, Rajasthan State Mines & Minerals Ltd (RSSML) signed a joint venture agreement with Raj West Power Limited (a subsidiary of Jindal JSW Energy) for setting up a lignite-fired power plant in the Barmer district of Rajasthan. A “Phase I” of 8 × 135-MW units was completed in 2013, and additional 2 × 135-MW units were planned. 7

The estimated cost of the project was Rs 5,000 crore. The generation capacity was over 1,000 MW, the second major lignite power project in Rajasthan state. Lignite was to be sourced from neighbouring Jalipa and Kapurdi villages, and water would be brought from the Indira Gandhi Canal 200 km away.

The land acquisition for the project was initiated accordingly. The Rajasthan state government planned to acquire 8,000 ha of land for the project, estimated to affect 40,000 people. Fearing the loss of land and livelihood, villagers staged protests: they did not allow government officials to enter villages for land survey and formed an anti-acquisition group in December 2007.p. 325

According to Kusvinder Singh, the lawyer representing the farmers, those who sold their land got monetary compensation. The organization filed a case against Jindal subsidiary RajWest Power in the Jodhpur bench of the Rajasthan High Court for the proper assessment of land and livelihood and for lack of measures to mitigate environmental and social impacts. The protesting organizations, Gram Sewa Sahakari Samiti and the Sangarsh Samiti started indefinite dharna (sit-in protest) in the villages. They stopped construction works at the project site. Notice that climate change from CO2 emissions was not yet an issue

Coal in India: Chamalapura, Karnataka 8

In 2007, the Government of Karnataka decided to implement three CFPP projects of 1,000 MW each in Gulbarga, Belgaum and Chamalapura. In August 2007, the Power Company of Karnataka Ltd (PCKL) issued a Global Invitation for Request for Qualification inviting bids for setting up a power plant at Chamalapura. Bids from several companies including Reliance Power and Tata were received. The power plant expected to acquire 1,200 ha of land and to be set up as a public-private partnership at Chamalapura, Mysore district, a region of verdant agriculture between the Kabini and Kaveri Rivers.

In addition to the loss of agricultural lands, displacement of 13,000 people and adverse impact on the groundwater, the CFPP would threaten two wildlife habitats: Rajiv Gandhi National Park at Nagarhole and Bandipur National Park. This proposal quickly met resistance from affected people, environmentalists and social action groups. Cutting across socio-economic barriers and urban-rural divide, the agitations were conducted independently by civil society organizations, with vigils around the project site, street demonstrations, rasta roko (traffic road disruption), etc. Peaceful protestors were arrested and charged under criminal laws. There were seminars conducted in Mysore, documentary films, students’ protests, meetings organized between village folk and city folk making common cause. There were petitions to all levels of government, and a formal petition was made on October 2007 to the Karnataka Electricity Regulatory Commission (KERC), arguing that the project was undesirable. People lobbied with elected representatives, and delegations went to Bangalore to argue with government officials and political figures. A meeting of 5,000 people took place in Mysore in September 2007, with leaders of all political parties except the ruling party. An apolitical alliance of organizations and individuals was formed and named the Chamalapura Ushnavidyut Sthavara Virodhi Horata Samithi (CUSVHS).

Mysore Grahakara Samiti filed a petition to the KERC for a public hearing in March 2008 on the desirability of establishing 1,000 MW CFPPs in Karnataka. Taking cognizance of the submissions made by affected villagers, Gram Panchayat members, social action groups and environmentalists during the Public Hearing, the KERC in May 2008 observed that the “bidding process lack(ed) transparency”. As a result of the continued protests, the Karnataka Power Minister announced that the power plant would not be constructed. After this victory, the CUSVHS decided to erect a victory stone (Vijayagallu) in July 2010. Sometimes climate change is the main factor in LFFU movements, or sometimes it is absent as in this Karnataka movement.

A Ban on Rat-hole Coal Mining in Meghalaya, India 9

India is an importer and a producer of coal. Most of the extraction is carried out by the National Coal Corporation and by private firms. There is a transition from biomass energy p. 326to fossil fuels, coal being the main one, and there are numerous protests against coal mining and CFPPs. Coal mining provides legal and illegal jobs, but also destroys livelihoods. One small part of India's coal mining is done by families in underground mines in Meghalaya. Coal mining, once the driver of Meghalaya's economy, has been forbidden in the state by the National Green Tribunal (NGT) since 2014. But it continues to be mined illegally.

On 8 November 2018, Agnes Kharshiing and Anita Sangma were assaulted allegedly by the coal mafia for capturing pictures of coal-laden trucks in the village of Tuber Sohshrieh. They were attacked in broad daylight and their car was blocked by 30 to 40 people who attacked with stones and sticks at about 2 p.m., on their way to Shillong, minutes after Agnes had photographed trucks carrying coal. She was returning to the state capital after a meeting with police officials in Lad Rymbai to talk about coal issues. She is a social activist, working on a range of issues including corruption, violence against women and public food distribution, and the involvement of politicians in the illegal coal-mining business.

According to police reports, the day before she was attacked, she had tipped off the Shillong police about five trucks transporting coal illegally. On the same day as the attack, another activist, Marshall Biam, chairman of the North East Indigenous People's Federation, filed a police report stating seven people had attacked him demanding withdrawal of cases by the Federation against coal dealers, and hinting at a police-coal mafia nexus. This level of violence is not a new phenomenon.

Meghalaya has a total estimated reserve of 640 million tonnes of coal. The most common way of mining the coal in the East Jaintia Hills region is by the traditional rat-hole mining technique. However, in April 2014 the NGT ordered an interim ban on rat-hole coal mining, a result of a petition filed by the Assam based All Dimasa Students Union and Dima Hasao district committee who had complained about the pollution of Kopili river downstream. The NGT also considered the death toll during the rainy season due to flooding of the mines, the unsafe working conditions and the presence of the coal mafia. According to Impulse Social Enterprises, 12,500 people are estimated to have died in rat holes between 2007 and 2014 in Meghalaya. A report by O.P. Singh and Sumarlin Swer emphasizing the negative impact of rat-hole coal mining to the environment and loss of traditional cultural values was also key for the ban. It concluded that roadside dumping of the coal caused air, water and soil pollution.

There were many protests against the 2014 ban. For example, “They should look at ways of improving the current state of affairs rather than a blanket ban on mining. This ruling has left thousands without the means to earn a livelihood”, questioned Zinba Sangma, the General Secretary of the Nongal Dobu Coal Truck Owners Association (NDCTOA). The people also blamed Congress, ruling party in the state, for not taking measures to fight the ban. Following protest, the NGT bench chaired by Justice Swatanter Kumar, later allowed for transportation of the already extracted coal, but refused to lift the mining ban. Between 2016 and 2017, there were two extensions given by the Supreme Court for 8 months and again for 4 months between 2017 and 2018. According to an assessment made on 20 March 2018, 5 million metric tonnes of coal remained.

The politics of coal was one of the main pillars of the 2018 state elections. The newly elected state government promised to lift the ban. Shortly after winning the elections, it filed an application in the Supreme Court for further extension and in a hearing dated March 2018 had the date extended till May 2018. Although these petitions only mention already mined coal, the presence of coal mafia and illegal mining is an open secret in the state. On 13 November 2018, the state government of Meghalaya challenged the NGT ban in the Supreme Court by p. 327questioning the authority and jurisdiction of NGT. At the hearing, the Supreme Court decided to allow transport of already extracted coal till 31 January 2019.

Coal Mining in Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand 10

Moving to central India, we notice the perseverance of local people, very often Adivasi, to prevent fossil fuel extraction despite threats of violence. The focus of the protests is on land and livelihood issues and not on climate change. An example would be that of Chiru Barwadih village in September 2016 in Hazaribagh district in Jharkhand, where over a thousand villagers started a peaceful sit-in protest near a mining site in Chiru Barwadih village on 15 September 2016. But, on the morning of 1 October 2016, police fired 60 rounds of bullets at these villagers, killing five and injuring 40.

Another case is the Hasdeo Arand conflict in Chhattisgarh. As analyzed by Brototi Roy (2021), this was the first case where rights granted to forest lands under the FRA 2006 were taken away by the government officials to promote coal mining. Here, the claims by communities on the recognition of Forest Rights encounter the plans of coal mining to provide fuel for the growing Indian economy. The Hasdeo Arand forests are not just rich in biodiversity but also in coal reserves. Until 15 years ago, the area had no active coal fields. Now there are 18 coal blocks in the Hasdeo Arand area, and a major part of these coalfields is still in a virgin state. Out of the 18 coal blocks, mining operations are currently being carried out in two of them while proposals for mining in four other coal blocks are under consideration by the authorities.

The Scheduled tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers Act, which is commonly known as the Forest Rights Act (FRA), provides Indigenous communities the opportunities to claim legal ownership over their forests. There have been many delays and misconducts in the granting of these forest rights to the Indigenous people of India, due to the profit making at the extractive commodity frontiers.

In fact, in January 2016, Chhattisgarh became the first state to outright cancel already given forest rights in Ghatbarra village, Surguja district. Instead, the forest was diverted for coal mining of the Prasa East and Keta Besan coal block, allocated to Rajasthan Vidyut Utpadan Nigam Limited (RVUNL) with Adani Minerals Private Limited as the mine developer cum operator. The latter is a 100 per cent subsidiary of Adani Enterprises Limited. The Adani family's enormous wealth is a testimony to the power of coal in the Indian and world economy.

The district administration along with the tribal affairs and the forest department argued that because the land had been given in 2012 to the company, it was no longer classified as forestland in 2013. In October 2014, 17 gram sabhas in this coal field protested against coal mining in their forests, and passed a resolution opposing the re-allotment of coal mines. In December 2014, thousands of villagers gathered under the banner of Chhattisgarh Bachao Andolan (CBA) and signed a six-point resolution demanding to honour provisions of the PESA Act of 1996 (Panchayats Extension to Scheduled Areas) and Forest Rights Act of 2006, under which the gram sabha is the only authority empowered to decide the future of traditional tribal lands.

Again in 2021 a 300-km march was started to save the Hasdeo Arand forests, as described in Chapter 25. “That is the basis of their livelihood, culture and survival. But they are also speaking up about the existence of elephants and wildlife, and the environmental harm caused by coal mining. The challenge of climate change and our role in it poses fundamental p. 328questions about the survival of the planet. In such a scenario, dense forests like Hasdeo need to be saved from destruction” – said Alok Shukla, an activist in the 300-km march. 11

Sompeta in Andhra Pradesh 12

Another similar case of violently repressed resistance, this time to a CFPP in the coastal village of Sompeta in Andhra Pradesh, became internationally known. The Andhra Pradesh government allotted 972 acres of land to Nagarjuna Construction Company (NCC) in order to build a coal-based thermal power plant. In addition, NCC privately acquired over 500 acres. Community members, especially fishermen and farmers, were opposed to the construction since it would destroy their livelihoods. The residents of Sompeta, Baruva and other neighbouring mandals fought against the thermal power plant in 2009. Several people were killed in 2010 (Figure 16.8).

A small memorial in the village of Sompeta, Andhra Pradesh to people killed by the police in 2010 when defending their agricultural lands and wetlands against a CFPP (The News Minute, 2017[i]). [i] Korada P. 2017, The Sompeta agitation lives on: How the police killing of 3 men fuelled a battle for the wetland, The News Minute, July 15.
Figure 16.8

A small memorial in the village of Sompeta, Andhra Pradesh to people killed by the police in 2010 when defending their agricultural lands and wetlands against a CFPP

Source:  The News Minute, 2017; Korada, P. (2017). The Sompeta agitation lives on: How the police killing of 3 men fuelled a battle for the wetland, The News Minute, 15 July

The protest was for the preservation of the common wetlands, locally known as ‘Beela land’ and against pollution from the thermal power plant. In 2015, the state government finally cancelled the land allocation, after an eight-year-long campaign, which included a relay hunger strike for 2,166 days. After a visit in 2017 we concluded that the local complaints were paramount, and that the implications of coal burning for climate change had not been used as an argument. Nevertheless, this power plant would have emissions of over 7 million tons of carbon dioxide per year. They have been avoided, although so-called “leakage” might have happened ‒ when oil, gas or coal are left in the ground here to be taken out elsewhere. Protests on coal mining predate by many decades the awareness of human-induced climate change. However, the “glocal” links are more and more visible. The bottom-up position for climate justice is strongest when local arguments for LFFU come together with a global perspective to decrease GHG emissions.

From the Russian Arctic to India: Coal Mining and Transport 13

As we know, the Arctic has become a new commodity extraction frontier. One of the latest conflicts between wilderness conservation, coal extraction and the scarce local population takes place in Dikson, in the far north of Russia. Taymyr peninsula has one of the biggest nature reserves in the world, called Bolshoi Arkticheskaya (The Great Arctic State Nature Reserve). It has 18 kinds of mammals, 124 species of birds and 29 species of fish. The animals include the lemming, Arctic fox, wild reindeer, wolverine, ermine, walrus, seal, beluga whale, musk ox and of course, polar bear. Furthermore, 550 people inhabit the area.

In October 2016, Russia signed ambitious energy cooperation deals with India. The Russian government opened a new mega open cast coal mine in Dikson. Vostok Coal-Dikson is the project developer company, which plans to extract an annual 30 to 40 million tons of anthracite coal (suitable for steel making) from Taymyr, where there's also oil and gas. India's Minister of Petroleum and Natural Gas said: “We are the second-largest coal importer in the world, so we need to increase coal supplies”. As for the Russian government, due to these investment projects, the increase in shipments on the Northern Sea Route will be ensured (Chapter 7).

On the other hand, environmentalists stated that new coal projects in such an ecologically sensitive area are illegal. Moreover, an international bird monitoring centre is 2 km from the mine. Polar bears prefer to spend most of their time on floating sea ice, an ideal platform p. 329to hunt for seals. But as the ice pack retreats earlier in the year, more bears are forced to spend the summer on land. The International Barents Observer (IBS) reported to the State Environmental Monitoring Agency on the mining on the Taymyr peninsula and sued the Vostok Coal company for environmental law violations. The court ruled that the company has to pay the equivalent of US$ 7.4 million for the mining violations but, backed by the government, the mining is likely to continue. Russia's strategic priorities are boosting extraction in the polar wilderness. While China is one main market for Russian oil and gas together with Europe, India is becoming involved as an importer of coal.p. 330

Coal in Bangladesh 14

In Bangladesh, there have been massive mobilizations against fossil fuels. One remarkable case is that of the Save Sundarbans movement, with multiple protests and rallies against the construction of a 1320-MW coal-fired power plant in Rampal since 2013, close to the largest mangrove delta in the world. In 2016, there were two marches to Dhaka where thousands of local people and international activists participated. The protests intended to save the endangered mangrove forests and its flora and fauna, livelihoods of the villagers who live from farming and fishing, and to reduce impact of climate change. But with financing from India, the project is going ahead.

Another long-drawn-out movement took place against the open-pit coal mining project in Phulbari, where in August 2006 more than 50,000 people took to the streets. The protests were against the eviction of 50,000 Indigenous people from 23 tribal groups. This case has been mentioned in Chapter 4.

However, it took countless protests and pressure from international organizations to officially cancel the project. It was a decade later and continents away from the 2006 Phulbari shootings, when in 2016 the protest took the form of a Blockadia action. In December 2016, protesters from Bangladesh were joined by human rights and climate justice activists in London who called for the shutting down of Global Coal Management (GCM) Resources.

Coal in China: A Case from Henan Province 15

Apart from the local resistance against Chinese financed CFPP in many countries, there is also some resistance to coal in China itself. There is an immense Chinese landscape of about four billion tons of coal extracted per year. Per capita this is “only” about 3 tons per year. There must be enormous environmental liabilities left after mines are closed. I now take one case of the EJAtlas from Henan province, where coal mining and overexploitation of deposits resulted in multiple social-political problems at Zhanggou Village of XinZheng City. Henan Province ranks only eighth in China in terms of coal output. Zhanggou Village was a wealthy village with abundant coal resources in the 1980s. It has been mining coal through external investment and 16 pits were exploited. However, in 2016 the inhabitants had to fight for their livelihoods, threatened by the coal mining activities.

Zhengzhou Coal Industry (Group) Co., Ltd. was the main owner of those pits in Zhanggou Village. Years of exploitation had depleted the resource, causing environmental pollution, house damages, a drop in groundwater level and subsidence of the ground which caused crop failures in the village. Consequently, the villagers were forced to abandon farming and instead borrowed high-interest loans to build some warehouses and workshops on their own farmland, trying to rent them out for an income. Unexpectedly, in 2016 the local government ordered the villagers to demolish those warehouses and workshops. According to the local government, the demolition was due to their illegal status. However, this proposal was strongly opposed.

In October 2016, the Xinzheng Municipal Government and the relevant departments of the Longhu Township Government dispatched some officials to Zhanggou Village to persuade the villagers to dismantle of workshops, but their attempts were rejected by the villagers. On 5 October 2016, villagers demonstrated to protest against the demolition, but the local government mobilized hundreds of armed police to suppress the demonstration and assist in p. 331the demolition. More than a dozen people were arrested and several people from both sides were injured. According to one of the residents, 1,000 villagers participated in the protest and 450 police appeared with shields and knocked down all the villagers in the front row. Subsequently, the two sides fought against each other with bricks, stones and wooden sticks. The local villagers complained that the government left no way for them to survive. The fierce battle lasted for more than three hours, and the police finally withdrew from the village. In the end, the police once again entered the village to arrest some villagers.

The Longhu Township Government started the rectification of illegal land use at the beginning of 2016 and issued several notices to persuade villagers to demolish the warehouses and workshops, but it was not fruitful. Local officials said that the illegally built warehouses and workshops would have serious safety risks, which involved 276 households in Zhanggou Village. The number of the injured and detained villagers was not disclosed officially, but it was revealed that five policemen were injured.

The total investment for the construction of the warehouses and workshops exceeded CNY 200 million. Apparently, the local government wanted the demolition because it had secretly sold the land a few years ago. At the same time, the compensation from the mine for repairing the houses with cracks caused by coal mining was not delivered to the villagers. Local officials claimed that the villagers’ protest was for compensation, which did not make sense for them because they defined the warehouses and workshops as “illegal”.

In conclusion, this was not a success in environmental justice. The land of Zhanggou Village cannot be cultivated anymore. The warehouses and workshops were demolished anyway. The amount of compensation can neither cover the costs nor guarantee the payment of interests by the villagers. Villagers lost their livelihood. Coal is essential to the metabolism of the growing Chinese economy, there must be many local protests against coal, and sometimes they might be starting to link up with the debate on climate change. This was not yet the case.

Japan and China Building CFPPs in Indonesia

Meanwhile, Japan and China have amicably been active in promoting new fossil fuel investments. In Chapter 6, we saw examples of Chinese investment in Pakistan and Indonesia. 16 Here we stay in Indonesia where local, national and international mobilization has taken place against Chinese and Japanese investments in CFPPs. 17

The first unit of the Cirebon coal power plant located in Kanci Village, was put in operation in July 2012. The 660-MW plant is operated by PT Cirebon Electric Power (CEP), which is a joint venture between some of Asia's leading companies in the energy and infrastructure arena: Marubeni Corporation, Indika Energy, Korean Midland Power, and Samtan Corporation. The project was financed through a US$ 595-million loan from the Japan Bank for International Cooperation (JBIC), the Export-Import Bank of Korea (KEXIM) and the commercial actors ING Bank, Mizuho Bank, Sumitomo Mitsui Banking Corporation & Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi UFJ. Here we have a case of Japan pushing for coal burning even outside its frontiers.

In 2013, plans were released to add another coal-fired unit – Cirebon II – with a capacity of 1,000 MW. Before the project took ground, PT CEP changed its name to PT Cirebon Energi Prasarana (CEPR) as JERA Co was added to the consortium of investing companies. PT CEPR was granted yet another loan of US$ 1,750 million.p. 332

Local residents have faced substantial livelihood losses as a result of air, thermal and water pollution. Fishing is a main source of income in the region but catches are drastically decreasing and it is necessary to go further out at sea. This has raised costs and led to many fishermen becoming migrant workers. Salt production is another main income-bringing activity, which is now becoming increasingly difficult due to pollution of the sea and river waters. Air pollution is affecting rice yields, and villagers suffer from respiratory problems. As a result, local residents advocate for Cirebon I to be closed, and the expansion of Cirebon II to be stopped.

Widespread mobilization happened both nationally and internationally. In 2016, activists blocked the coal supply. Additionally, villagers and NGOs have sent several formal complaint letters to Japan's Bank for International Cooperation (JBIC) and the commercial lenders, without receiving any response. In March 2017, a petition signed by 280 CSOs from 47 countries was handed over to the Japanese government, calling for a withdrawal of investments from the Cirebon facilities and the coal-fired power plant in Indramayu, West Java. Initial signatories of the petition were WALHI Indonesia, Friends of the Earth (Japan), Japan Centre for a Sustainable Environment and Society (JACSES), Kiko Network Japan and Japan. There has also been mobilization against Hyundai Engineering & Construction, which was contracted for the construction of Cirebon II.

In April 2017, residents supported by NGOs filed a lawsuit against the Provincial Investment and Licensing Agency (BPMPT) for issuing the environmental permits for the plant. The court found the permit to stand in conflict with spatial planning laws, and was revoked. However, after having appealed, PT CEPR regained its permit. in February 2019 it was announced that construction of Cirebon II is on track to commence its operations by 2022.


Another large CFPP in West Java is Indramayu, in close proximity to Cirebon. The 330 × 3-MW coal-fired power plant was put in operation in 2011. While being operated by the government-owned company PT Perusahaan Listrik Negara (PT PLN), it was financed through a loan from a consortium of public and private lenders led by Bank of China. Surrounding communities have suffered severe livelihood losses like respiratory diseases, diminishing yields and reduced catches of fish and shrimp. Farming and fishing were important income-bringing activities, but have become difficult due to pollution and large-scale acquisition of productive farmland.

At the end of 2015, the Indonesian president announced that the Indramayu facility would be expanded by adding another coal-fired plant (PLTU II) of 2 × 1000 MW. The local residents and supporting NGOs claim the process of public consultation didn’t invite all affected residents. Furthermore, the Land Acquisition Plan (LAP) was not prepared until after the acquisition process had started. A loan has been granted to the Indonesian Government by the Japan International Development Agency (JICA) that will cover the costs. PLTU II is planned to commence its operations in 2026.

Mobilization against the PLTUs has been organized by the local group Jaringan Tanpa Asap Batubara Indramayu (JATAYU) (in English: Indramayu Coal Smokeless Network). In 2017, JATAYU filed a lawsuit against the environmental permit granted for PLTU II, motivated by the increased health risks and the lack of community consultation. The administrative court ruled in favour of the community, and the permit was revoked. However, both the High Court p. 333and the Supreme Court ruled in favour of the company. JATAYU was in the process of filing a verdict review. Finance for Indramayu comes from China and Japan.

Many protest actions have taken place locally and some villagers also travelled to Jakarta to protest outside the presidential office and the Japanese embassy. In 2017, some JATAYU members joined with a few residents from the Cirebon Regency and representatives from Indonesian Forum for the Environment (WALHI) to protest outside the Japanese Government in Tokyo. In April 2019, another coalition of JATAYU and WALHI members went to Tokyo to submit another letter to the Japanese Government, asking for a withdrawal of funds. To calm on-site protests, PT PLN hired military officials and police officers. In December 2017, three Indramayu residents were arrested, accused of having insulted the Indonesian flag by raising it upside down in a protest. In September 2018 they were detained again, and sentenced to between five and six months in prison.

Still another CFPP case in Java: the operation and expansion of the Chinese-built large CFPP in Cilacap was met by protests by local communities as a response to negative health impacts and livelihood losses (Chapter 6). There are articles forthcoming from Bowen Gu (of ICTA UAB) on coal-related investments and conflicts in China and (with Chinese finance) in Indonesia. 18

In Jamaica: Aluminium and a CFPP 19

In February 2017, it seemed that the Chinese company Jiuquan Iron & Steel (JISCO) would build a 1,000-MW coal power plant at the Alpart bauxite-alumina factory in Jamaica, that belonged to aluminium giant Rusal. The Russian mining company signed a deal of US$ 300 million to sell it. In a separate pact with the Jamaican Government, JISCO agreed to the expansion of the plant and its conversion to a 500,000-tonne-a-year smelter. The agreements took place in Beijing, where Jamaica's mining minister, Mike Henry, and his energy colleague Andrew Wheatley had talks with Rusal, JISCO, as well as the Development Bank of China. JISCO would be part of a US$2-billion investment despite opposition to JISCO's 1,000-MW CFPP.

Cheap energy is a critical ingredient in aluminium smelting, and its absence had been a barrier to Jamaica's ambition to convert its bauxite to metal. After 2008, Alpart refinery had been mothballed for seven years in the face of a soft market for alumina. More than 21,000 people signed a petition opposing coal-fired power in Jamaica. The #SayNOtoCoalJA initiative, led by the Jamaica Environment Trust (JET) wanted the government instead to continue the transition to a new energy future for Jamaica. Government documents emphasized energy conservation, renewables and liquefied natural gas (LNG) as a transitional fuel for Jamaica.

JET's Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Diana McCaulay is a writer and environmentalist. She said: “Coal plant emissions cause respiratory illness in humans and affect the environment by creating acid rain and contributing to global climate change. […] The 1000 MW plant alone would emit roughly 6.7 million tons of CO2 per year, just over half of Jamaica's 2025 target under the 2015 Paris Agreement on Climate Change”.

For his part, Jamaican Energy Minister Andrew Wheatley said that the disquiet over the coal plant was much ado about nothing. In the end, by November 2017 it was decided that: “It's LNG and not coal for the Alpart plant”. Stopping around the world 50 CFPP of 1,000 MW each would avoid emissions similar to those of France or Italy every year. Provided of course there is no “leakage” (Pellegrini et al. 2021, 2022).p. 334

Coal in South Africa and in Russia

Let's look at the murder of a WED in 2020 complaining against open cast coal mining threatening her community in Somkhele, KwaZulu Natal, South Africa.

Coal extraction is certainly not new in South Africa. This is a case of intensification of an existing commodity frontier. Tendele's coal mine was denounced by the South African Human Rights Commission, WoMin, and The Women's Water Assembly for its human rights and environmental violations. In October 2020, four hitmen shot and killed 63-year-old grandmother Fikile Ntshangase in her home. 20 Ntshangase was Vice-Chairperson of a committee of the Mfolozi Community Environmental Justice Organisation (MCEJO). It is suspected that the killing was in retaliation for her refusal to sign an agreement with Tendele to cease MCEJO´s court challenges against the mine (Figure 16.9).

Residents protest about the environmental and health impacts of the Somkhele coal mine on the borders of the Hluhluwe-Imfolozi Park in KwaZulu-Natal (Rob Symons).
Figure 16.9

Residents protest about the environmental and health impacts of the Somkhele coal mine on the borders of the Hluhluwe-Imfolozi Park in KwaZulu-Natal

Source:  Rob Symons; Brooks, G. (2020). Mam’ Ntshangase murder: Lives of human rights defenders, whistle-blowers must be protected, IOL, 5 November

Also, in South Africa, more than a thousand Fuleni residents prevented the Regional Mining Development Environmental Committee from visiting the site for Ibutho Coal's proposed open cast mine in April 2016. This open cast coal mine also in KwaZulu-Natal was proposed near the border of the very valuable Hluhluwe-iMfolozi Wilderness area. There was a confluence of protests from conservationists and local people who blocked the main road to Ocilwane with rocks and tyres which they set alight to stop vehicles from entering Fuleni. They stood guarding the road with a big banner saying “We will not move”. 21 p. 335

While South Africa is the seventh largest coal-producing and the fifth largest coal-exporting country in the world, Russia is the sixth largest producer after China, the US, India, Australia and Indonesia. An old area of coal extraction is the Kuzbass. Russia seems determined to extract its fossil resources despite some local opposition. In one case, Mencherep farmers in this Kemerovo region successfully resisted a new open coal pit threatening their village. The Belovo regional court in 2018 said the government had no land rights. Residents in the region are suffering from coal dust which is heavily polluting the air, making agriculture impossible and degrading public health. Pollution of water and destruction of landscapes is a daily reality. Banners say “Against the Mine”, or “Mining Not” (transliterated, Razrez Niet). 22

In Australia ‒ A Coal Mining and Exporting Conflict

In May 2016, in New South Wales, 1,500 activists gathered in the port of Newcastle and hundreds kayaked into the shipping channel to block coal ships in the harbour, which is the world´s largest coal export port. Also, 70 protesters blocked a coal train in a day of civil disobedience at the Sandgate Bridge railway line. This was a part of the global “Break Free from Fossil Fuels” actions. It was reported that 66 people were arrested. In Australia, activism has had some success as communities used non-violent direct action to achieve a moratorium on unconventional gas.

However, the struggle to stop the Adani Carmichael coal mine and railway in Queensland, a project of ten million tons of thermal coal per year, apparently failed. It started in June 2021. The project faced protests from a section of the population, with several banks even refusing to fund it. It signals a failure of the Australian‒Indian environmental movements. 23


Chapters 17, 18 and 19 consider environmental conflicts in Latin America but here we anticipate analysis on some LFFU movements.

Belize 24

In Belize, on the Central American coast, there was a successful story of Blockadia in 2012, when for the first time a popular consultation occurred where 90 per cent of the population voted against offshore oil exploration and drilling. This resulted in the Supreme Court of Belize ruling that all the earlier offshore oil contracts issued would be null, as well as a moratorium on offshore oil drilling. This mobilization occurred after the common people of Belize realized that they were neither consulted nor informed of the harmful impacts of offshore oil drilling when the government started granting oil concessions in 2010, threatening their environment and livelihoods.

The Alliance against Fracking in Mexico: Ban on Gas Fracking 25

Several entries in the EJAtlas anticipated the ban on gas fracking in Mexico. Resistance in La Huasteca and Totonacapan, for instance. CORASON is a coordinating body born in June 2015; activists meeting at the ejido Emiliano Zapata, in Papantla, set up the Coordinadora p. 336Regional de Acción Solidaria en Defensa del Territorio Huasteca-Totonacapan. The EJAtlas entry on Chihuahua (by Lena Weber) explains that the local alliance against fracking was supported by geologists and politicians who feared that gas fracking might become another lucrative business for the “narco-mafia”. With an estimated 600 trillion cubic feet of recoverable shale gas and 13 billion barrels of recoverable shale oil, Mexico is one of six countries that account for almost two-thirds of recoverable shale gas in the world. Pemex began the exploration process for shale gas production in Chihuahua and elsewhere in 2010, and under the constitutional reforms in Mexico that ended Pemex's 75-year monopoly, allowing foreign companies to invest in gas and oil exploration and production.

In February 2014, Pemex drilled 29 wells in Chihuahua, and officials claimed that more than 18 trillion m3 were found. Studies undertaken on the potential of fracking in the region took in $230 million in investments. Cesar Duarte, Governor of Chihuahua, supported fracking and claimed that it would help economic and social development. Duarte was meeting with European investors, businessmen and Pemex in his attempts to bring in more investment in Chihuahua. However, Martha Beatriz Cordova, a Chihuahuan Congresswoman, openly opposed fracking. Popular resistance also took place. Hundreds of Chihuahuan small farmers listed fracking as one of their main grievances in the Chamizal Proclamation during a blockade of the Bridge of Americas linking Ciudad Juarez with El Paso. Then, the Chihuahua Citizen Alliance against Fracking formed in Chihuahua City.

There exists a great deal of concern surrounding fracking due to the high levels of overlap with water-stressed regions, threat of toxic waste, threats to natural protected areas and high levels of seismic activity. The Mexican Alliance Against Fracking formed in 2013, and brought together a broad range of groups. In Coahuila, foreign and national companies hoped to drill up to 10,000 fracking wells in the regions of Carbonífera and Cinco Manatiales. A state advisory council on sustainable development claimed that some fracking wells are operated without the EIA. Apart from the Alliance Against Fracking, the environmental litigation organization CEMDA began legal action against wells lacking permission.

Activists in Coahuila also mobilized against the dispossession of land by companies. In November 2014 in Saltillo, members of ‘Coahuilenses contra el Fracking’ (Coahuilians against fracking) protested in front of the Autonomous University of Coahuila, where the first Energy Expo forum was taking place and where federal and state authorities were present. Those from San Buenaventura denounced the dispossession of their land by GPA Energy for their exploratory gas projects. The protestors blocked part of the federal highway 57 (México-Saltillo). Many anti-fracking forces pushed Congress to pass a moratorium or ban on fracking in the country. By 2021, this ban was in operation in Mexico. Keep it in the ground.

In Argentina: The Barbarism of Western Civilization

In the provinces of Río Negro, Neuquén and Mendoza (Argentina) there has been resistance against gas and oil fracking or drilling. Significant deposits of shale oil and gas were discovered in Neuquén province in the Loma de la Lata field in 2010, adding to Argentina's overall shale reserves, estimated to be the second largest in the world. Argentina's Vaca Muerta shale formation is estimated to hold a large amount of oil and gas. In Loma de la Lata and Loma Campana there have been conflicts over 20 years, first with YPF, Repsol and Petrobras, and now with Chevron on oil and gas extraction and fracking. The resistance involves some p. 337Indigenous people ‒ the Confederación Mapuche de Neuquén (Figure 16.10). 26 , 27 There have been blockades against Vaca Muerta. 28

Banner “No to fracking in Neuquén”.
Figure 16.10

“Chevron out of Neuquén! No to fracking!”

Source:  Ecoticias

Allen, Río Negro, is a fruit growing zone settled by Italian immigrants decades ago. It belongs to the Vaca Muerta formation that has reached it from its principal area in Añelo. The government agreement with Chevron was signed in 2013. This is a “commodity widening” and “commodity deepening” process. There is some local resistance: Maristella Svampa, a political ecologist, was born in Allen and in 2019 she wrote a sad book about the events, Chacra 51, Regreso a la Patagonia del fracking.

In the Argentinian dilemma between “Civilization or Barbarism” that Sarmiento announced in 1845 after Independence, Argentina has opted sometimes for both, i.e. the Barbarism of Western Civilization as in the so-called Conquest of the Desert in Patagonia against Indigenous populations in 1870, or in the barbarous military dictatorship of 1976‒83. The “barbarism of civilization” continues with the deforestation and generalized aerial spraying of glyphosate in soybean fields, in open cast metal mining with cyanide (Walter and Wagner 2021), in gas and oil fracking, and in the enthusiasm of mainstream political parties (including the Peronists) for the extractive economy for primary exports.

Bolivia: Resisting Oil and Gas Extraction at a Time of Political Upheaval 29

When president Evo Morales and his vice-president García Linera failed to secure re-election in October 2019, the issue of resistance to fossil fuels extraction loomed large. The world press talked about lithium mining as a possible factor influencing politics in Bolivia. But discontent regarding oil and gas extraction had been brewing for some years. Evo Morales’ p. 338government prided itself on the improvements in the terms of contracts with fossil fuel companies. He also, around 2009‒10, presented itself to the world as a voice from the South on climate change, asking for repayment of the ecological debt, and organizing in April 2010 a festival in Cochabamba of civil society climate change summits. At least 15,000 people from worldwide Indigenous movements, civil-society groups, presidents, scientists, activists and observers from 90 governments attended.

There was indeed an empty slot for a president of the South to lead poor countries (at the receiving end of climate change) into meaningful grievances and negotiations based on the concept of an ecological debt from North to South. However, the Bolivian government was handicapped by its internal policies, not least by the plans for road building in the Amazon geared to biomass and fossil fuel extraction. Evo Morales and García Linera became left-wing extractivists, propelling the domestic economy by increasing cheap exports of oil and gas. The unavoidable local resistance will undermine the international position. This happened with the TIPNIS road. It also happened in the Tariquía reserve in Tarija, threatened by oil and gas exploration, which has been defended by local peasant unions with supporters from outside. This is a defence of the commons (Figure 16.11).p. 339

“No to Mother Earth. We want oil, power and wealth” (EJAtlas).
Figure 16.11

“No to Mother Earth. We want oil, power and wealth”

Source:  EJAtlas

The Tariquía Flora and Fauna Reserve, of about 246,870 ha, was created in August 1989. In 2015, the Reserve was at risk from oil exploitation. The state-owned company Yacimientos Petrolíferos Fiscales Bolivianos (YPFB) was about to sign two oil service contracts with Petrobras, British Gas (BG) and YPFB Chaco to intervene in the areas of San Telmo and Astillero, located within the Tariquía de Tarija National Park. Following the promulgation of Decree 2366 in May 2015, which authorized the development of hydrocarbon activities in all protected areas of the country, the areas at greatest risk were Iñao (Chuquisaca), Carrasco (Cochabamba), Amboró (Santa Cruz), Tariquía (Tarija) and Aguaragüe (Chaco). The National Protected Areas Service (Sernap) estimates that around 200,000 Indigenous people, peasants and intercultural communities live there. This was despite Bolivia's temporary role as a champion in the struggle against climate change.

In 2016, peasants from the Tariquía region reached the city of Tarija to express their rejection of the seismic exploration project and to ask the departmental authorities for support to curb the entry of oil companies. The peasant leader of the Arce province, Naval Valdez, informed that after an assembly the ten communities of the region of Tariquía unanimously determined to reject oil exploration in the area. “We want to make our voice heard and let everyone know that we do not want oil intervention”, he said. The peasant leader recalled that in 2005 an oil exploration was already carried out in Tariquía that evidenced that there is a risk of severely affecting the nature reserve. A year later the conflict had worsened. Ten of the 22 communities disagreed with hydrocarbon exploitation within the protected area. At the end of January 2017, the Central Campesina of the first Section of the Arce province agreed to a “unanimous rejection of all types of hydrocarbon work or project, exploration, exploitation, prospecting within the National Reserve of Flora and Fauna of Tariquía”.

Our entry in the EJAtlas in 2017 got a helpful public comment here translated, from Pablo Gutiérrez:

In April 2018, the Bolivian government approved three projects to explore and extract fossil fuels (“hidrocarburos” in Spanish) within this national reserve, specifically at the San Telmo Norte and Astilleros points of entry. Local residents blocked the companies involved from accessing Tariquia for 3 days. These government-led efforts exist due to the controversial Decreto Supremo 2366 that, among other things, speaks of reducing extreme poverty and facilitating “development” in the interest of the country. Those in opposition to this decree and to petroleum special interest groups, have been highly critical of President Evo Morales. In 2019, an activist group of students, artists and designers created an Instagram account named “losjucumaridetariquia” which regularly posts updates in defence of the Tariquia National Reserve.

In Norway: The Lofoten Islands Revisited

Very far from Bolivia, in the Lofoten Islands in Norway, and as mentioned in Chapter 7, success was reached in the attempts to “leave oil in the ground”, or rather under the sea, believed to hold about 1.3 billion barrels of oil and gas. But the area is also one of outstanding natural beauty. For many years there was a debate on whether to get oil from the biodiversity-rich Lofoten Islands. By 2019, the question is temporarily settled. The forward march of the Norwegian oil-extractive economy to new commodity frontiers continues elsewhere. After years of civil society efforts, by 2019 the alarm at climate change meant that the Labour Party, the country's biggest force in Parliament and a long-time backer of the oil industry, decided to stop pushing for oil exploration in the Lofoten Islands whose fisheries are very important. 30 p. 340

Blockading Pipelines: Canada, the USA, Italy

Shifting our attention from Bolivia to North America, we realize that Indigenous communities have been carrying out Blockadia actions protecting their lands and waters. Stopping pipelines is often an objective of local environmental movements reinforced by global concerns about climate change. The word “Blockadia” was born in these encounters in the USA and Canada, often involving Indigenous populations (Temper 2019).

There is a growing awareness of the ways in which climate change and fossil fuel extraction are a continuation of colonial exploitation. In a historic movement against the Dakota Access Pipeline in “Turtle Island”, the native Sioux mobilized Indigenous peoples and diverse supporters. As a form to block construction of the oil pipeline, “spiritual and water protection camps” were founded. Broad-based support was received from all over the United States and beyond. During protests more than 750 people were arrested and others faced pepper spray attacks and rubber bullets.

The Sioux argued that “water is sacred”; therefore, economic compensation was not the issue. The DAPL, with the Standing Rock famous protest, would connect to the Keystone XL pipeline, a network of pipelines that would carry oil from Alberta (Canada) to refineries in the United States. The DAPL is a 1,886-km oil pipeline that would transport nearly 500,000 barrels of crude oil a day from North Dakota to Illinois, where it would be shipped to refineries (Figure 16.12). This is equal to 25 million tons of oil per year which, when burned, would produce approximately 75 million tonnes of CO2.

Sarayaku people and their lawyer visit the Dakota Access Pipeline protest camp in 2016 (KFYR).
Figure 16.12

Sarayaku people and their lawyer visit the Dakota Access Pipeline protest camp in 2016

Source:  KFYR

According to Vipal Monga in The Wall Street Journal, 21 Jan. 2021, President Biden's decision to revoke a permit for Keystone XL, an expansion of an existing pipeline called p. 341Keystone, spells the end of a 12-year saga. Keystone XL was first proposed in July 2008 by TC Energy Corp. ‒ then known as TransCanada Corp. and ConocoPhillips, which was a joint owner until 2009. The expansion was conceived when oil prices were at historic highs ‒ before the 2008 financial crisis and American shale oil boom ‒ as an artery that would pump Canadian crude from Alberta to the U.S. Gulf Coast. 31 , 32 , 33

Another case of Blockadia opposition in North America, also with origins in the Alberta tar sands (and fully reported in the EJAtlas by Carol Voss) affects the Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain Pipeline Expansion, a US$ 3.5-billion project that would establish a second pipeline from Strathcona County (Alberta) to Burnaby (British Columbia). In 2018, around 240 people were arrested in Burnaby, Canada, for disrupting its expansion. 34

There are similar pipeline cases elsewhere. For instance, in Southern Italy Né qui né altrove is the translation of NIABY (not in anyone's backyard). NIABY is commonly used by the environmental movements as a reply to NIMBY framings (Figure 16.13). 35 In this region, called Puglia, they fought to protect land from the Trans Adriatic Pipeline (TAP). They had good iconography but they failed to stop the pipeline and terminal that threaten ancient olive farms, water sources, cultural heritage sites and a stunning coastline. It is part of the larger project called the Southern Gas Corridor carrying gas to Europe.

Against the TAP in Puglia: “neither here nor elsewhere” (No-Tap, Front-Line Defenders).
Figure 16.13

Against the TAP in Puglia: “neither here nor elsewhere”

Source:  No-Tap, Front-Line Defenders

Italian best-known “No” movements are in 2021 No Tav, No Tap, No Muos, No Ponte, No Grandi Navi, No Triv, Mamme, No Inceneritore, all born at particular locations but with wide reach. They are respectively on the very material issues of the new rapid railway line between Turin and Lyon, the gas pipeline in Puglia, the Mobile User Objective System p. 342(a military satellite communications system), the bridge over Messina Strait, the nuisance from the enormous cruise ships in Venice, the offshore oil drilling and the waste incineration (Bertuzzi 2019).

Bunker Extractivism of LNG in Cabo Delgado, Mozambique 36

Oil and gas conflicts at the extraction and transport frontiers are not always played out relatively peacefully as the ones we have seen in this section, with sometimes some people arrested and an occasional mortal victim here and there. The truth is that oil and gas have caused wars. A brutal colonial military encounter is making progress in 2021 around the very large LNG project in Cabo Delgado, Mozambique, as described in Chapter 13. Total, the French fossil fuels firm, was forced in 2021 to suspend work at the Afunge airport and gas terminal because of Islamic insurgency. The awful events at Palma, a town on the coast of Mozambique immediately south of the border with Tanzania, happened because this is the base of LNG operations for the growing offshore Mozambique natural gas industry. Although at the beginning community relocation seemed successful (Symons 2018), the gas project led to major local changes and violence, displacing farming and fishing communities who lost their livelihoods.

Over half the population of Cabo Delgado is Muslim. This is a case of enclave or “bunker” extractivism where Total hopes with Mozambican and foreign troops to secure about 7,000 hectares. In March 2021, South African mercenary military security flying helicopters battled the Islamist insurgents. 37 In July 2021, a terrestrial and naval “counter-insurgent” army with Portuguese, US, South African and other forces is being organized to secure gas extraction and export of 60 million tons of oil per year.

An article by Ilham Rawoot 38 mentions coal also and warned that “Unfortunately, it seems Cabo Delgado is heading down the disastrous path of the province of Tete, where the government handed some 60% of local land in concessions to the coal industry”.

Three multinationals control the gas in Cabo Delgado: ENI (Italy), ExxonMobil (US), and Total (France, taking over from Anadarko). So far, work has begun on only a small part of the dreamed gas bonanza. The Total CEO told President Filipe Nyusi that Total would only continue if Mozambique guaranteed security in a 25-km cordon around the gas project. It is still doubtful whether a moratorium will be established for some decades instead of resorting to military violence. There is a great appetite for LNG everywhere.

Oil and Gas in Namibia and Botswana: The Kavango Basin 39

Another large conflict, although probably less costly in terms of human lives, is brewing up across Namibia and Botswana (Figure 16.14). A Canadian company is drilling exploratory wells in Namibia for what could be a major oil and gas find. Local residents and conservationists fear the project would use up scarce water supplies and cause widespread ecological disruption downstream in the world-renowned Okavango Delta. Also, it could damage traditional sites of the San, the Indigenous people in Namibia and Botswana. Reserves are estimated at very large quantities, and exploration licences comprise over three million hectares.

Oil drilling in Kavango provinces in Namibia and in North-West Botswana (Arielle Landau).
Figure 16.14

Oil drilling in Kavango provinces in Namibia and in North-West Botswana

Source:  Arielle Landau

ReconAfrica's plans are located in the regions of Kavango East and Kavango West which are home to 200,000 people making a living from farming, fishing and tourism. A network of rigs, pipelines and roads would sprawl across an environmentally sensitive, semi-arid region p. 343 p. 344that is home to Africa's largest remaining population of savanna elephants as well as numerous endangered wildlife species. In addition, the drilling would also encompass or border national parks and wildlife conservancies. It could threaten waterways that local communities rely on and that eventually flow into the Okavango Delta, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

The Kavango Basin, which spans Namibia and Botswana, is part of the Kalahari Desert. In a dry environment, the Okavango River is a lifeline flowing from the highlands of Angola, through northern Namibia, and emptying out into the Okavango Delta Botswana. There are global climate change concerns of eventually burning the oil, but another problem is whether ReconAfrica plans to frack for oil and gas, a technology which contaminates water. Given that water from the region flows into the Okavango Delta, any pollution would be harmful to the Okavango Basin ecosystem as well as Kavango communities.

Namibia is a water-scarce country, and when news of the company's project became widespread, communities expressed concern that contaminants from drilling would seep into shallow aquifers that supply drinking water and irrigation for crops. Conservationists also worry that contamination from the test drilling could affect wildlife: elephants, Temminck's ground pangolins, African wild dogs, martial eagles.

ReconAfrica has a 90 per cent stake in the Kavango development, while the Namibian government holds 10 per cent.

Environmentalists and community leaders have teamed up to raise awareness: a campaign called #SavetheOkavangoDelta was started by Fridays for Future Windhoek and Frack Free Namibia and Botswana; a protest was organized in Windhoek; and an online petition to governments of Namibia and Botswana garnered 150,000 signatures. “Who gave the government the right to determine the destiny of Indigenous communities? This is just another case of environmental racism”, Ina-Maria Shikongo, the founder of Fridays for Future Windhoek, told Al Jazeera. This Kavango Basin entry in the EJAtlas got some comments, openly available on the EJAtlas platform. One comment says, “Thank you for placing everything on one easy to use platform so that we are not overwhelmed with information but can focus on what really counts”. The other is critical, and concludes, “let Recon Africa drill oil and help develop the country's economy. Just let it be”.


The industrial economy recycles a very small part of its inputs. An economy based on fossil fuels dissipates photosynthesis from the past. Coal, oil and gas are not “produced”, they are extracted, burnt and the energy is dissipated, so the recycling rate of such energy is zero. The industrial economy is not circular but entropic, causing an enormous “metabolic gap” or “entropy hole”. This explains the growth of conflicts at the extraction, transport and waste disposal frontiers; the industrial economy continuously searches for new sources of energy because the energy from yesterday is already dissipated and only some materials are recycled. LFFU movements motivated by “glocal” grievances have the result, when successful, of leaving many tons of carbon from coal, oil and gas underground. The bottom-up position for climate justice is strongest when local arguments for LFFU come together with a global perspective of the need to decrease GHG emissions. “Glocality” is the recipe.p. 345

We live in the Entropocene from stocks of photosynthesis from the distant past. Hunter-gatherers and agriculturalists had indeed lived by current photosynthesis. Ecological anthropologists (Rappaport 1968; Lee 1979; Love and Isenhour 2016) calculated the sustainable energy return to human energy input. Pre-industrial agriculture had a favourable EROI (energy return on energy input) compared to modern industrial agriculture (Martinez-Alier 2011). With industrialization and fossil fuels, the world economy became more and more entropic. Solar and wind energy are added to other sources (coal, oil, gas, also hydropower, biomass and nuclear) and they cause their own conflicts because of land and minerals requirements (Avila 2018; Temper et al. 2020; Levenda et al. 2021). This is happening not only in territories in the South of the planet but also in the periphery of Europe. For instance, in Serbia in November 2021 it was reported that protesters blocked major roads against new laws giving free rein to lithium mining companies such as Rio Tinto and China's Zijin. 40 So, environmental conflicts are caused not only by the increase in the social metabolism but also by the changes in its configuration.

The Anthropocene is seen as a period in which scientific awareness of biodiversity loss and climate change will motivate a common ethical project of humanity towards sustainability. I rather look for social movements (akin to “class struggles” in Marxism but inclusive of feminism, Indigenous movements, agrarianism, pacifism, popular health movements…) that could lead to a world different from the necropolitics of capitalism in the Entropocene. However, climate change can indeed lead to the triumph of Garrett Hardin's “lifeboat ethics”, a geopolitic of xenophobic zones, a new “age of empires” where internal grassroots movements would be repressed. In this hour of anguish, there is hope in grassroots activism. In September 2021, Indigenous resistance to fossil fuel projects in the United States and Canada was reported to “have stopped or delayed greenhouse gas pollution equivalent to at least 25 percent of annual U.S. and Canadian emissions”. Optimistically, this could be complemented by an International Treaty of Non-Proliferation of Fossil Fuels 41 similar to treaties against nuclear arms proliferation.

Academically, this chapter brings together the study of social metabolism in ecological economics and industrial ecology providing evidence for the low degree of circularity of the industrial economy. Environmental conflicts are exacerbated by the need for new sources of energy and materials which outstrip recycling, requiring expansion of extractive and waste disposal sites. Second, the concept of “commodity frontiers” comes from environmental and economic history, the places where the “fresh” material and energy input for the industrial economy come from. The concept of “waste disposal frontiers” is also pertinent for the excessive amounts of carbon dioxide produced. Third, political ecology is deployed as the study of environmental conflicts, which I call “ecological distribution conflicts” (EDC) to emphasize that they are not only economic in nature. The participants in such EDCs exhibit a plurality of values. This is a fundamental tenet of ecological economics. Adding an element from the environmental humanities, I draw on the iconography (Serafini 2019) of conflicts gathered in the EJAtlas, the banners and murals, the slogans and songs that help the awareness of environmental protests in the media and in academia.

There are three striking characteristics which connect these LFFU campaigns. First, they often go beyond environmental protection, and delve into questioning the type of democracy and resource control. Second, they often combine local concerns with a global awareness of climate change. Third, the people protesting are mostly local citizens, peasants or tribal peoples, shopkeepers, students or grandmothers – these everyday people with everyday forms of p. 346environmental resistance attend local village assemblies, council meetings, march in cities, and are sometimes subjected to violence.

Across the world there are the LFFU movements, with roots in activism in Nigeria and Ecuador in the 1990s. Their motivations are local, but their impacts might be important. They are reactions against the growth and changes in the social metabolism. Oil extraction and burning is peaking at about 100 million barrels per day but coal and gas continue their growth. The main point is that, even if they stop growing, once they are burnt new supplies are required from the commodity extraction frontiers. And, second point, the emissions are double what they should be if we want to stop the growth in the Keeling curve because the oceans and vegetation cannot absorb all the CO2 emitted.

The yearly human-made emissions of CO2 are around 40 Gt (thousand million tons), of which 35 come from burning fossil fuels (Figure 16.15) and five come from land use changes. A movement from the South claiming an ecological debt for climate change, and proposing to leave the “unburnable fuels” in the ground was born in the 1990s. I have focused on complaints against extraction, transport and burning of fossil fuels. The protestors are Indigenous and relatively poor people in some instances, or middle-class and professional people in other instances. Climate change–related protests are more likely to attract international EJOs than purely local environmental protests.

Emissions of CO2 per year from fossil fuels (Global Carbon Project).
Figure 16.15

Emissions of CO2 per year from fossil fuels

Source:  Global Carbon Project

We have looked at the interruption of the pipelines Keystone XL and DAPL in the United States. We have seen in the Kuzbass cases of “leaving coal in the hole”. While the Yasuni ITT proposal failed, the Lofoten Islands have been saved. In the Philippines there is much violence against the environmentalists and the Indigenous peoples but coal mining in South Cotabato was stopped. In Mexico (as in the UK) gas fracking has been banned, but not in Argentina. In p. 347Japan, several CFPPs have been stopped. In India, the extraction and imports of fossil fuels grow, including coal, but there are some cases where “coal is left in the hole” because of social movements, as also in Bangladesh. In Java, Indonesia, CFPPs have been going ahead at full steam with Chinese or Japanese financing, despite local protests.

We could have added descriptions of many other cases. Sometimes the protests are successful. Our focus is the local opposition to fossil fuels’ extraction, transport and burning to which climate change arguments are added. The movements are promoted by local communities confronted by national or foreign extractive industries. Sometimes they are supported by external environmental organizations, religious groups, scientists and professionals. In the EJAtlas as a whole, the success rate in environmental protests reaches 17 per cent. The rest are “failures” and “don’t know”. The success rate is similar for the 612 fossil fuel conflicts registered in the EJAtlas, of which 90 are deemed as successes. Local complaints against fossil fuels (and against investments that indirectly increase GHG emissions) contribute, if successful, to climate justice locally and globally.

The large sample of cases in the EJAtlas allows statistical political ecology (Scheidel et al. 2020). I appreciate such exercises (Cheon et al. 2021). There might be for instance a positive correlation between strength of mobilizations and degree of democracy. However, beyond political opportunities, there is also a sense of the march of history. Environmental issues such as climate change become central to local, national or international politics. The environmental movements of the poor and the Indigenous are a historical wave, and environmentalism is not a passing new social movement, it might change political regimes.

Our hypothesis (Temper et al. 2020; Roy 2021) is that the many grassroots LFFU complaints may become an effective socio-environmental strategy of keeping “carbon captured” – as Oilwatch proclaimed in 1997. Leaving the Yasuni ITT oil in the ground would have meant an economic sacrifice for Ecuador, but it would have benefitted some (though not all) local populations and the local and global biodiversity. On its side, foregoing production of LNG in Cabo Delgado would damage Total's financial results but would avoid about 150 million tons of carbon dioxide per year and methane emissions.

Meanwhile, an efficient 1,000-MW CFPP will emit into the atmosphere roughly 6.5 million tons of CO2 per year. Many CFPP are locally challenged because they also emit sulphur dioxide, nitrogen oxides and particulates affecting the local populations. World emissions of carbon dioxide per year exceed the ability of the oceans and new vegetation to absorb them. They must be reduced by half. Putting all the effort on coal, stopping one thousand CFPP of 1,000 MW would imply a substantial 6.5 billion tons of CO2 avoided, an almost 20 per cent decrease of world emissions per year. There are also possibilities to stop coal mining, in actions such as Ende Gelände in Germany or by Adivasi opposition in central India.

In conclusion, a ball-park estimate of the potential of LFFU struggles is a decrease of 20 per cent of the reduction that must be done. Provided of course the decrease is not compensated by new carbon dioxide producing investments. No automatic “leakage” (conflict-free substitution by other fossil fuels projects) is to be expected. However, in the Jamaica CFPP case, we have seen that natural gas will substitute for coal. If there is no “leakage”, then there would be “degrowth in practice” meaning, as so often happens, a de-facto alliance between the Degrowth movement in the North and the Environmental Justice movement in the Global South (Martinez-Alier 2012). The force of the growing LFFU movements comes from the many eco-territorial struggles refusing to be “sacrifice zones”. Thirty years ago, nobody had yet said “leave oil in the soil, leave coal in the hole”. The next IPCC report should have a p. 348section based on peer-reviewed scientific articles on Blockadia / LFFU movements. It should include a survey of Fridays for Future actions in India, Uganda, Namibia and Europe.



Stern, N. (2006). The price of change, IAEA BULLETIN, 48(2), p. 25.


CorpWatch (1999). What is climate justice?, 1 November.


Chatterjee, S. (2021). Fridays for Future was on govt radar long before Disha Ravi's arrest: An inside view, The News Minute, 15 February.


Coal mining in Barangay Ned, Lake Sebu, South Cotabato, Philippines, EJAtlas.


Sendai Coal-Fired Power Station, Sendai City, Miyagi Prefecture, Japan (EnvJustice team), EJAtlas.


Soga coal power plant, Chiba, Japan, EJ Altlas.


Raj West Power Ltd in Barmer, RJ, India (Swapan Kumar Patra), EJAtlas.


Chamalapura Thermal Power Plant, Mysore district, Karnataka, India (Swapan Kumar Patra), EJAtlas.


Ban on rat hole mining across Meghalaya, India (Ezra Rynjah and Brototi Roy), EJAtlas.


Illegal land acquisition for coal mining and violent protest in Hazaribagh, Jharkhand (Brototi Roy), EJAtlas.

Mayank, A. (2019). The Hasdeo Arand story: Is coal mining a fait accompli for the pristine forests?, Mongabay, 7 March.


Chitrangada, C. (2021). Chhattisgarh's Adivasis are on 300-km march to save the Hasdeo Forests, latest in a decade-long protest against coal mining, Article14, 14 October.


Sompeta Coal Power Plant, AP, India (EJAtlas).


Mega natural gas project ‒ Yamal, Arctic Russia, EJAtlas.

Coal mines for exports to India threaten the Arctic's natural reserve, Taymyr, Russia (Ksenija Hanaček), EJAtlas.


Rampal Thermal Power Plant at Sundarbans, Bangladesh (Swapan Kumar Patra), EJAtlas.

Phulbari coal mine project, Bangladesh (Malena Bengtsson and Martin and Brototi Roy), EJAtlas.


Coal mining and livelihood impacts in Zhanggou Village, Xinzheng, Henan, China, EJAtlas.


Sindh Engro coal mining and power plant project, Thar Desert, Pakistan, EJAtlas.


Cirebon I and II Coal Power Plants, West Java, Indonesia (Emmy Iwarsson), EJAtlas.

Indramayu CFPP, West Java, Indonesia, EJAtlas.


Bowen Gu, articles on China PIL and in Indonesia forthcoming.


Coal power plant to be built by Jiuquan Iron & Steel for alumina production at Nain, St Elizabeth, Jamaica, EJAtlas.


Somkhele coal mine owned by Tendele, KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa (Camila Rolando Mazzuca and Dalena Tran), EJAtlas.


Fuleni blockade and leave the coal in the hole campaign, South Africa, EJAtlas.


New open coal pit project in Mencherep, Kemerovo, Russia, EJAtlas.


Carmichael Coal Mine and Rail Project, Queensland, Australia (Lisa de Kleyn), EJAtlas.


Belizean population against offshore drilling blue hole (Grettel Navas), EJAtlas.


Gas fracking en la Huasteca y Totonacapan. Resistencia de la coordinadora Corason, Mexico (Mauricio González and Joan Martinez-Alier), EJAtlas.

Protests and legal action against Fracking, Coahuila, Mexico (Lena Weber), EJAtlas.


Resistance to Chevron-YPF Fracking, Argentina (Lena Weber), EJAtlas.


Loma de La Lata y Vaca Muerta en Neuquen, Argentina (Martin and Joan Martinez-Alier), EJAtlas.


Observatorio petrolero sur (2021). La Confederación Mapuche de Neuquén paralizó Vaca Muerta, 11 August.


Reserva Nacional de Tariquia y oposición a hidrocarburos, Bolivia (CB and Joan Martinez-Alier), EJAtlas.p. 349

Fundación Plurales (2019). El extractivismo en Bolivia. El caso de la comunidad de Tariquía, 21 August.


Oil drilling stopped, Lofoten Islands, Norway (Linda Dubec), EJAtlas.


Native American's Sioux against the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL), USA (Grettel Navas), EJAtlas.


Opposition to Keystone 1 Pipeline in South Dakota and huge oil leak, USA (James Joshua Young), EJAtlas.


Opposition to Keystone XL in Nebraska, United States (James Joshua Young), EJAtlas.


Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain Pipeline Expansion Project, British Columbia, Canada (Coral Voss), EJAtlas.


Trans Adriatic Pipeline (TAP) in Puglia, Italy (Annalisa Cavallini), EJAtlas.


Afungi LNG airport and construction camps, Mozambique (Rose Bridger), EJAtlas.


Friends of the Earth International, Les Amis de la Terre, Justiça Ambiental (FoE Mozambique) (2020). Gas in Mozambique: A windfall for the industry, a curse for the country, France thrusts Mozambique into the fossil fuel trap.


Rawoot, I. (2020). Gas-rich Mozambique may be headed for a disaster, Al Jazeera, 24 February.


Oil and gas exploration in the Kavango region threatens San People and endangered wildlife, Botswana-Namibia (Joan Martinez-Alier and Arielle Laudau), EJAtlas.

Frack Free Namibia, Womin, Coalition against the mining pandemic, People in Lockdown Extractives in Business, Case Study: Namibia. Dispossession and violations in Recon Africa's Kavango Oil and Gas exploration.


Rio Tinto proposed lithium mine in Jadar Valley, Serbia (Mirko Nikolić), EJAtlas.


The Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation Treaty (website).

Monograph Book