Students target Exxon Mobil

A group of students in Manchester take direct action, shutting down a petrol station

How 30 Manchester University students closed down an Esso garage for two
hours on 9th February

Five students used D-locks to attach themselves to bollards and bicycles that were positioned across the entrance and exit of the petrol station in South Manchester. Others held banners and distributed flyers to slow moving rush hour traffic, about the role Exxon Mobil (Esso) has played in denying climate change over the last two decades.

In 2005, Exxon Mobil donated $2.9 million to 39 groups that - according to the Royal Society, Britain's top scientific academy, "have misrepresented the science of climate change, by outright denial of the evidence".

In May 2006, the Competitive Enterprise Institute, one of the groups previously funded by Esso, produced a television advert with the finish line, 'Carbon dioxide- they call it pollution, we call it life.' The advert aired in 14 US cities.

"It's not just a case of targeting one corporate bad boy," said Andy Bowman, a third year Social Anthropology student. "Esso represent something much wider in our culture. They are the world's worst emitter of carbon dioxide, actively promoting fossil fuel consumption, yet also earned £20bn in profit, the largest of any company last year."

Manchester University has seen a flurry of green campaigning recently. 'Climate Change Week' was organised to lead up to the report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change on Friday 2nd February. The week
included a screening of Al Gore's documentary 'An Inconvenient Truth', workshops, and distributing spoof parking tickets to Urban 4x4s. Stencil activists also painted small green feet leading up to the entrances of flight retail shops and a Humvee garage. The large red feet painted leading away from them aimed to warn passers-by as to where they can significantly increase their carbon footprint.

Other People and Planet activists are petitioning the University into employing an Environmental Manager and adopting more sustainable measures in faculty buildings.

The protest at Esso ended when blockaders voluntarily reopened the garage.
No arrests were made.

Robbie Gillett became politically active in 2001 attending the Mayday protests. Since then he’s been involved in anti-war demos, the DSEI arms fair protests and a blockade at Faslane. He is also involved with Plane Stupid.
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Leader: Trump and an age of disorder

Mr Trump’s disregard for domestic and international norms represents an unprecedented challenge to established institutions.

The US presidency has not always been held by men of distinction and honour, but Donald Trump is by some distance its least qualified occupant. The leader of the world’s sole superpower has no record of political or military service and is ignorant of foreign affairs. Throughout his campaign, he repeatedly showed himself to be a racist, a misogynist, a braggart and a narcissist.

The naive hope that Mr Trump’s victory would herald a great moderation was dispelled by his conduct during the transition. He compared his country’s intelligence services to those of Nazi Germany and repeatedly denied Russian interference in the election. He derided Nato as “obsolete” and predicted the demise of the European Union. He reaffirmed his commitment to dismantling Obamacare and to overturning Roe v Wade. He doled out jobs to white nationalists, protectionists and family members. He denounced US citizens for demonstrating against him. Asked whether he regretted any part of his vulgar campaign, he replied: “No, I won.”

Of all his predilections, Mr Trump’s affection for Vladimir Putin is perhaps the most troubling. When the 2012 Republican presidential nominee, Mitt Romney, warned that Russia was the “number one geopolitical foe” of the US, he was mocked by Barack Obama. Yet his remark proved prescient. Rather than regarding Mr Putin as a foe, however, Mr Trump fetes him as a friend. The Russian president aims to use the US president’s goodwill to secure the removal of American sanctions, recognition of Russia’s annexation of Crimea and respect for the murderous reign of the Syrian president, Bashar al-Assad. He has a worryingly high chance of success.

Whether or not Mr Trump has personal motives for his fealty (as a lurid security dossier alleges), he and Mr Putin share a political outlook. Both men desire a world in which “strongmen” are free to abuse their citizens’ human rights without fear of external rebuke. Mr Trump’s refusal to commit to Nato’s principle of collective defence provides Mr Putin with every incentive to pursue his expansionist desires. The historic achievement of peace and stability in eastern Europe is in danger.

As he seeks reconciliation with Russia, Mr Trump is simultaneously pursuing conflict with China. He broke with precedent by speaking on the telephone with the Taiwanese president, Tsai Ing-wen, and used Twitter to berate the Chinese government. Rex Tillerson, Mr Trump’s secretary of state nominee, has threatened an American blockade of the South China Sea islands.

Mr Trump’s disregard for domestic and international norms represents an unprecedented challenge to established institutions. The US constitution, with its separation of powers, was designed to restrain autocrats such as the new president. Yet, in addition to the White House, the Republicans also control Congress and two-thirds of governorships and state houses. Mr Trump’s first Supreme Court appointment will ensure a conservative judicial majority. The decline of established print titles and the growth of “fake news” weaken another source of accountability.

In these circumstances, there is a heightened responsibility on the US’s allies to challenge, rather than to indulge, Mr Trump. Angela Merkel’s warning that co-operation was conditional on his respect for liberal and democratic values was a model of the former. Michael Gove’s obsequious interview with Mr Trump was a dismal example of the latter.

Theresa May has rightly rebuked the president for his treatment of women and has toughened Britain’s stance against Russian revanchism. Yet, although the UK must maintain working relations with the US, she should not allow the prospect of a future trade deal to skew her attitude towards Mr Trump. Any agreement is years away and the president’s protectionist proclivities could yet thwart British hopes of a beneficial outcome.

The diplomatic and political conventions embodied by the “special relationship” have endured for more than seven decades. However, Mr Trump’s election may necessitate their demise. It was the belief that the UK must stand “shoulder to shoulder” with the US that led Tony Blair into the ruinous Iraq War. In this new age of disorder, Western leaders must avoid being willing accomplices to Mr Trump’s agenda. Intense scepticism, rather than sycophancy, should define their response.

This article first appeared in the 19 January 2016 issue of the New Statesman, The Trump era