Friday, July 3, 2009

Drax protesters found guilty of obstructing coal train

Climate change protesters face community service after judge rejects justification defence

Climate change protesters who ambushed and hijacked a power station coal train failed to convince a jury today that their actions were justified by the "imminent threat" of devastation from global warming.

The 22 men and women, including a senior university lecturer, teachers and film-makers, were convicted - after less than two hours of deliberation - of obstructing the service carrying 42,000 tonnes of coal to Drax in North Yorkshire last June.

Their hopes of repeating the "Kingsnorth Six" judgment last September, when activists who defaced a power station chimney were acquitted by a Kent jury, were dashed by a judge, who refused to admit arguments that the hijack was "necessary and proportionate to prevent the greater crime of carbon pollution".

Although he eventually allowed an unexpectedly large amount of evidence about climate change to be heard, Judge James Spencer refused to let expert witnesses such as Nasa scientist, Prof James Hansen, address the seven women and five men on the jury at Leeds crown court. In a pre-trial ruling he said that to do so would allow the protesters "to hijack the trial process as surely as they hijacked the coal train".

He did however compliment the group, who conducted their own defence, on making an "eloquent, sincere, moving and engaging" case to the court. After the verdicts, he said that sentencing in early September would definitely not include jail terms, but was likely to be community service.

The 22, plus a further five protesters who earlier pleaded guilty and two who are ill but expected to submit guilty pleas in due course, will however face hefty financial penalties. The crown is applying for both its costs and £36,000 compensation for cleaning up coal shovelled on to the tracks during a 16-hour standoff with police.

After the verdict, one of the 22, Dr Louise Hemmerman, 31, said: "The judge declared from day one that climate change was irrelevant to the trial, despite the fact that it was the sole reason for doing what we did."

Another of the group, Jonathan Stevenson, 27, who works for a development charity, said: "This won't be the last case where climate protesters are in court for taking peaceful direct action, and while some judges may think climate change is irrelevant, they won't be able to hold back the tide forever."

Stevenson asked the judge after the verdicts if an order banning the defendants from power stations would apply more widely, to include roads. Judge Spencer replied with a smile: "I would steer clear of demonstrations, all of you, until this case is completely over. Try to find some other activities to do on your holidays."

Hansen, head of Nasa's Goddard Institute for Space Studies, whom the defendants had intended to call to the stand to speak about the science of climate change, said: "Civil resistance is not an easy path, but given abdication of responsibility by the government, it is an essential path."

Hansen was arrested last week for his part in a protest over mountaintop coalmining in West Virginia. He has previously said that direct action is necessary because the democratic process is not bringing about policy change fast enough.

The chief crown prosecutor for North Yorkshire, Rob Turnbull, said: "While the CPS [crown prosecution service] respects the rights of individuals to lawfully protest, it takes a serious view of criminal activity which targets those carrying out lawful activities." He defended Judge Spencer's pre-trial ruling on the grounds that no one was in such immediate danger from global warning that hijacking a coal train was "proportionate".

"The judge said that if the power station contributed to global warming, and all that entailed, it was for the government to attend to and not the protesters. He also said that no reasonable jury could conclude that the crime these defendants allegedly committed was either reasonable or proportionate when there were democratic processes available in this country for political change."

The 22 were acquitted of actually stopping the train, after evidence that no one knew which of them had donned fake railwaymen's uniforms and used red flags to bring it to a halt. The ambush stopped the train right on a bridge over the river Aire, whose girders gave protesters the means to clamber up and use 15 shovels to start unloading coal.

Passenger and freight services in the area were disrupted for two days, but Drax generated power normally throughout.

Those convicted were: Theo Bard, 24, Amy Clancy, 24, Brian Farelly, 32, Grainne Gannon, 26, Bryn Hoskins, 24, Jasmin Karalis, 25, Ellen Potts, 33, Bertie Russell, 24, Alison Stratford,26, Jonathan Stevenson, 27 and Felix Wight, all of London, Melanie Evans,25, Matthew Fawcette, 34, Robin Gillett, 23, Kristina Jones 22, Oliver Rodker, 40 and Thomas Spencer,23, all of Manchester, Paul Chatterton, 36, and Louise Hemmerman, 31, of Leeds, Melanie Evans, 25, of Stockport, Paul Morozzo, 42, of Hebden Bridge, Christopher Ward, 38, of Newport Pagnell and Elizabeth Whelan of Glasgow.

The five who pleaded guilty earlier were: Theo Brown, 22 and Clemmie James, 24, of London, Malcolm Carroll, 53, of Stafford, Thomas Johnstone, 25, of Liverpool and Paul Mellett, 29, of Colerne, Wiltshire. The two have indicated they will plead guilty when well are Caroline Williams, 25, of London and Sam Martingell, 24, of Leeds.

Great Lakes wolves returning to endangered list

From: AP via MSNBC

The federal government on Monday agreed to put gray wolves

in the western Great Lakes region back on the endangered species list — at least temporarily.

The decision came less than two months after the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service discontinued federal protection for about 4,000 wolves in Michigan, Minnesota and Wisconsin. The agency acknowledged Monday that it erred by not holding a legally required public comment period before taking action.

Under a settlement with five environmental and animal protection groups that had sued the agency earlier this month, the Fish and Wildlife Service said it would return Great Lakes wolves to the list while considering its next move.

Sea Ice At Lowest Level In 800 Years Near Greenland

New research, which reconstructs the extent of ice in the sea between Greenland and Svalbard from the 13th century to the present indicates that there has never been so little sea ice as there is now. The research results from the Niels Bohr Institute, among others, are published in the scientific journal, Climate Dynamics.There are of course neither satellite images nor instrumental records of the climate all the way back to the 13th century, but nature has its own 'archive' of the climate in both ice cores and the annual growth rings of trees and we humans have made records of a great many things over the years - such as observations in the log books of ships and in harbour records. Piece all of the information together and you get a picture of how much sea ice there has been throughout time.

"We have combined information about the climate found in ice cores from an ice cap on Svalbard and from the annual growth rings of trees in Finland and this gave us a curve of the past climate" explains Aslak Grinsted, geophysicist with the Centre for Ice and Climate at the Niels Bohr Institute at the University of Copenhagen.

In order to determine how much sea ice there has been, the researchers needed to turn to data from the logbooks of ships, which whalers and fisherman kept of their expeditions to the boundary of the sea ice. The ship logbooks are very precise and go all the way back to the 16th century. They relate at which geographical position the ice was found. Another source of information about the ice are records from harbours in Iceland, where the severity of the winters

have been recorded since the end of the 18th century.

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