Vale Pete Gray

by Anna Helme May 06, 2013
Last weekend, the climate movement lost one of its brightest and most inspiring activists. Pete Gray, member of Newcastle Rising Tide, died on Saturday after battling with cancer for the past two years.
Vale Pete Gray

Pete Gray at Climate Camp 2008

(from thank you to Pete's friends at Greenpeace for their wonderful words about Pete)

As an activist, Pete simply did not stop finding creative and ingenious ways to block dirty, destructive projects and protect the environment. In 2006, Pete won a landmark case in the NSW Land and Environment Court that forced tougher scrutiny of coal mine emissions in Australia. Even as he passed away, he and his partner were taking on Bayswater power station, Australia’s largest point-source of greenhouse gas emissions, attempting to have the power station’s emissions regulated through the courts. This case continues.

Pete was also willing to put his body on the line and to take direct action for the causes he cared about. He was the original instigator of what is now an annual flotilla in Newcastle harbour, disrupting the movement of ships for a day at the world’s largest coal export port. He has been arrested many times – usually with a big smile on his face – in protests against the expansion of the coal industry and has helped many more direct actions take place from behind the scenes. Pete played a key role in the 2008 climate camp in which around 1000 people took place in civil disobedience to protest the expansion of coal exports. This video of Pete on the day show the spirit and passion that led Pete to be an inspiration for so many.

Pete was also an accomplished protector of Australian native and old-growth forests, helping many campaigns that have resulted in areas of Australian forests being locked up and secured from the chainsaw. A passionate opponent of the Iraq war, Pete knew how to get his message across. In opposition to the death and misery suffered by the Iraqi people, he threw his shoes at John Howard on Q&A, an action inspired by the Iraqi journalist who threw his shoes at George W Bush.

Pete was one of those people whose creativity, courage and spirit provided hope and inspiration to those around him and the climate movement is stronger because of him. For all who are reading this, you should know that Pete stood up repeatedly and courageously for you and your planet. We are so sorry to lose you Pete, but far more glad that we had the chance to know you and work with you for a better world.

EngageMedia had the privilege of working with Pete and the Rising Tide climate change action group at the 2008 Climate Camp in Newcastle, Australia. Pete was a rare individual, matching his intelligence with unstoppable inspiring enthusiasm, he was a joy to know and will be very missed. You can view more videos and news from this event here:

EngageMedia helped to coordinate an independent media centre for Climate Camp Australia 2008 (July 10 - 14) at the Octapod, a not for profit independent arts and new media organisation based in the heart of Newcastle. Around 20 video makers, photographers and bloggers used this space to create their own media coverage of the Climate Camp workshops, discussions and actions to build a community-based movement for real action on climate change. We were able to present our own stories as a counter-measure to the often simplistic and conflict-based accounts presented in the mainstream media.

Climate Camp has been a rich and diverse exploration of positive action on climate change, and ways to build alliances by the many different communities who are stepping up their efforts to convince governments to take real action, and to take it now, before it is too late. The major focus of the camp was on coal exports, as Newcastle is the world's largest coal port, and therefore one of Australia's major contributions to greenhouse gas emissions.