Climate defender Emma Dorge is to return to the Downing Centre Local Court tomorrow, after having secured a plea deal on 14 December, which involved her two most serious charges being dropped, whilst she pleaded guilty to four lesser charges.
The activist in her twenties has been convicted in relation to a 25th March Blockade Australia nonviolent direct action that saw her suspend herself from a bipod to the side of a Port Botany freight bridge blocking all rail coming in and out of Sydney’s most important seaport.
Dorge’s demonstration marked the fourth of five days during which Blockade Australia peacefully brought the facility to a grinding halt. And her protest served to heighten awareness to the campaign as whilst she was hanging there, she had an on-air television spat with Sunrise’s Kochie.
TV host David Koch had a go Dorge, which saw her respond that her actions were nothing personal but rather were spurred on by a necessity to disrupt “the flow of wealth and resources secured by a government system that has no regard for human life and is destroying ecosystems”.
Disrupting business as usual
The Blockade Australia Port Botany shutdown and a series of direct actions conducted by Fireproof Australia, which involved blocking Greater Sydney roads in March, led the Perrottet government to roll out extreme anti-protest laws in late March/early April.
These measures see those involved in protests that block a road, a bridge, a tunnel or a major facility facing up to 2 years imprisonment and/or a $22,000 fine. And the laws, which were specifically aimed at climate activists, are designed to have a chilling effect on others contemplating such action.
“These laws are draconian,” Dorge said last Thursday. “The government is trying to scare people. That’s obviously because there have been some effective actions that have threatened to build serious momentum and power.”
“They can see how powerful the action is and that’s why they’re trying to scare people away from it,” the climate defender told Sydney Criminal Lawyers. “If it wasn’t effective, they wouldn’t care if people were doing it.”
A mouting conncern
Dorge has been taking action on climate for at least five years, and it’s not the first time she’s been arrested in relation to her activism. She was part of the ongoing Brisbane actions that Extinction Rebellion activists carried out in 2019.
And the climate defender made clear last week that since the time of the crackdown in NSW, all that’s been achieved is a worsening of the climate crisis.
The IPCC has long warned temperatures need to be kept below 1.5°C or 2°C on pre-industrial levels, yet a recent United Nations Climate Change report states we’re on track for a 2.5°C rise.
Dorge is hopeful, however, as over the time she’s been raising public awareness on climate, she’s witnessed a shift, whereby the majority accept the truth of the mounting crisis, so she’s no longer having to deal with deniers.
“I was still having conversations with people five years ago about whether climate change was real, even though it had been proven decades before that,” Dorge said in conclusion. “We were still talking about whether climate change is real but now we’re talking about its tangible effects.”
“Polling shows that most people in society not only know about the climate crisis but are really concerned about it.”