Artist Focus: Rory Hinshelwood
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Artist Focus: Rory Hinshelwood

Louisa Hunt - April 25, 2018
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“E.ON F OFF” protesters take to the streets

Activists from the Brighton Climate Change group in Brighton on Saturday - photo: Lisa Pieca Cake

Activists from the Brighton Climate Change group in Brighton on Saturday - photo: Lisa Pieca Cake

Climate change protesters dressed as animals staged a “mass extinction” in Brighton city centre last weekend to protest against plans for energy company E.ON’s new coal power plant at Kingsnorth.

The group, Brighton Climate Change, were taking part in a nationwide 48-hour protest, “E.ON F OFF”, which sought to draw attention to E.ON’s support for new coal power.  If the plans for Kingsnorth go ahead, it will be the first new coal power plant built in the UK for decades.

On Friday, the group protested outside of the Royal Bank of Scotland – a big investor in E.ON – dressed as cleaners, with a banner accusing RBS of “funding climate chaos”.

On Saturday, the protesters, dressed up as animals, wandered through the streets of Brighton handing out leaflets which read: “Sign up with E.ON today and get 400 new endangered species”.  At 3 p.m., the day’s protests culminated in the “mass extinction”, when the animals – from pandas to pigs – died dramatically in Churchill Square, to the bemusement of shoppers.

Following the extinction, protest organiser Marina Pepper, dressed as the Earth, told the crowd that failure to act now would lead not only to the extinction of animals, but to the extinction of humanity.

Rachel Magdassian Dean, a second year student at Sussex explained: “We’re here to bring home the fact that if the government doesn’t do anything this is what will happen, we’re not being radical.”

“Direct action should always be a last resort. But that’s where we are.”

Despite some confusion over the point of the “mass extinction”, the message did get across to the public and after the animals were resurrected they were asked questions about E.ON and Kingsnorth.  The creativity of the protesters seemed to spark curiosity, and even the police were eager to ask questions.

Coal power remains a highly-charged issue in the climate change debate.  Many point out that building further coal power plants – which generate large amounts of CO2 compared to other fossil fuels or renewables – would seriously undermine the UK’s pledge to cut carbon emissions by 80% by 2050.  The planned coal plant at Kingsnorth would emit between 6 and 8 million tons of CO2 every year – more CO2 than Heathrow’s third runway would burn.

Last week, the Badger reported that researchers from the University of Sussex have waded into the debate, saying that the government should not build any more coal power plants unless they were fitted with equipment to capture and store carbon.

Brighton Climate Change want to see the UK weaned off its addiction to fossil fuels.  A press release states: “Using coal to burn our way out of the energy crisis would be a monumental mistake. We should instead use the energy crisis positively and implement the solutions that will get us off fossil fuels.”

A spokesperson for Brighton Climate Change said if these nationwide protests don’t produce positive results, and raising awareness isn’t enough to discourage the government from approving Kingsnorth, the activists’ next steps will be far more direct.

“Direct action should always be a last resort. But that’s where we are.”

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