Fierce, radical love

This week I have been thinking about radical love.

A friend asked me this week – what did the word radicalised mean to me? She asked me this before 129 people were killed in Paris. Before 43 people were killed in Beirut. I was mindful even before then about the baggage that comes with this term, but it’s something I think is vital to our experiences as activists. Because we need more people to be radicalised in the right way.

We are radicalised when we start to have a sense of our own power.

Both when we see things we love taken from us, and when we realise we can fight for them and win.

In the last few years I have been focusing on training activists. Amongst many other skills, to take nonviolent direct action. I believe deeply in the power of people to create change, and in the grassroots. Large, wealthy, nongovernment organisations will not win these fights. Frontline activists will – the people who stand up, sit down, lock on, and fuck shit up.

Because we are in a state of emergency and we need to start responding appropriately.

I give my thanks to those who get in the way.

To the students who sat in tree sits to stop forests being cleared, to the people copping pepper spray whilst standing up to reclaim racists in Melton as we speak, those of you heading south this Antarctic campaign, the scientists and grandparents and war veterans who walked into the Whitehaven coal mine and leard state forest in NSW… and stopped the machines… over 350 people arrested over two years… to the christian leaders being arrested in MP’s offices, and mums and children who are occupying the department of immigration calling for an end to death and rape and detention of human beings fleeing war zones, to animal rights crew doing open rescues, to my young friends who locked themselves together as they occupied and re-branded Greg Hunt as the Minister for Coal a couple of weeks ago.

And it works. How do we know this? Because they are coming after us. They consistently introduce higher legal penalties and demonise activists. My work was cited by the Australian Petroleum Production & Exploration Association, and the Minerals Council of Australia and I was called to appear at a parliamentary inquiry this year. CounterAct has been singled out in the media and defamed. Just last week the NSW Minerals Council gave evidence of my work and that of Lock the Gate… a powerful grassroots movement of farmers and first nations activists, city environmentalists and knitting nanas defending country against fracking and coal. For a love of country.

But amongst this all, it has been a deep privilege to be invited to sit on country, and hear stories of place, of love and culture and history before I can imagine. And to see a fight with that fierce love of place, actually WON. To win the campaign to keep Woodside and the WA government from destroying Walmadan, and the whale nursery and ecosystems around James Price Point. Some folk here may have played a role in that as well.

It’s where I decided to start this work. To train communities to stand and protect the places they love. To give voice and action to their struggles for justice.

Radical love, and love of place, and love of animals and humans and culture and story and country, is so much stronger than what we are up against.

Because we will be the best of ourselves, and see the best of each other when we commit to this fight.

For those of you going to Antarctica on this next campaign for the first time, you will fall in love. Like I did.

With the colours… the beautiful shades of grey, the giant petrels diving for the galley compost. With the emerald colour of the water as it laps up on the shallows of a massive iceberg. With the whales that will play so close to the ships that you fear for them, with the starkness of that bright mustang suit orange against the grey as brave boat teams come in, drenched, and bone chilled and numbingly alive – after taking action that matches their thinking.

You will love the crew you travel with, and build friendships that will last long past the return to dry land. Some of them will also drive you nuts. But always be nice to the galley crew. It’s in your best interests.

I loved being on the waves and grieved a little every time we returned towards home. I ventured on three campaigns to Antarctica and still miss it. The ocean is nourishing and you will feel deeply alive in that little metal boat as you realise the enormity of that ocean and the wilds of Antarctica and the animals that live and travel along those shores.

And on the way down the iceberg sweep stakes will come up, people will bet on how far south they are going to see the first one and again you probably see bergs much further north than they should be.

Because we are breaking this planet. Politicians will not save us, and business and green capitalism will not save us. We are the only ones who can.

And know that when you see that first ice that I will be working with people who are doing everything they can to try and turn that tide. To hold back the more extreme storms and the worsening heatwaves. To work with people whose island homes are going under – our pacific brothers and sisters who strongly hold to the refrain – we are not drowning, we are fighting.

The people I had the deep privilege to work alongside as they paddled in traditionally carved canoes with 100’s of Australians into the path of massive coal ships, and brought them to a halt.

Because we now have to intervene. We have to get in the way. The voices of the impacted communities are being shut out of the COP21 climate talks in Paris. So in cities across the world we must put our bodies in the way. We must throw a spanner into the gears of this broken system.

And we must push back, fight it. With our hearts, and minds and bodies. And our love. Love is all we have.

If anything will save this place… Fierce, Radical love will save this place.


By Nicola Paris – Speech for Sea Shepherd fundraiser. Having fallen in love with Antarctica after crewing  several years back I decided to talk about radicalisation and love of country and place. I should acknowledge this was partly inspired by conversations around this changes everything.

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