NEXT Wednesday will mark 26 years since the execution of Ken Saro-Wiwa. An author, playwright, and environmental activist, Saro-Wiwa was one of the Ogoni Nine, a group of non-violent environmental activists hanged by the then Nigerian dictatorship following one of the most notorious sham trials of the era.

Saro-Wiwa’s last words were “Lord take my soul, but the struggle continues”. It had been a long struggle. As president of the Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People, Saro-Wiwa led a non-violent campaign against the destruction of the Niger Delta by the oil industry, and Shell in particular.

Saro-Wiwa and the movement he represented have lived on. The work they and those that have followed did not only exposed the abuses of a violent and repressive government, but also the lengths that corporate interests will go to in order to maintain an often brutal and destructive status quo.

Saro-Wiwa was an important activist, leader and figurehead, but he was powered by a mass movement that was key to shifting public debate and international perceptions of the Nigerian authorities.

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The killings received international condemnation. The then UK prime minister, John Major, branded it “a fraudulent trial, a bad verdict, an unjust sentence [which] has now been followed by judicial murder”. The aftermath saw the Nigerian authorities receiving international pariah status and being suspended from the Commonwealth for more than three years.

Six months after his execution, Saro-Wiwa was posthumously elected to the United Nations Environment Programme’s Global 500 Roll of Honour for advancing the cause of environmental protection.

The trial underlined the corruption and injustice at the heart of the system, and Saro-Wiwa saw Shell as a co-conspirator because of its interests in the country. The families of the “Ogoni Nine”, including Saro-Wiwa, brought a legal claim blaming Shell for complicity by supporting the regime. The oil company has always strongly denied the families’ claims and says it had asked the regime for clemency. But in 2009 Shell paid $15.5million to the relatives of the Ogoni Nine as part of an out of court settlement to avoid the embarrassment of court hearings.

He used the closing statement of his trial to accuse the Nigerian military of holding down oil-producing areas such as Ogoni by military decrees and the use of violence “so that Shell can wage its ecological war without hindrance”.

The oil companies have not changed. They may have improved their branding and marketing, but they are still carrying out the same irresponsible and destructive drilling. And it’s not just Nigeria where their impact can be felt. The fossil fuel lobby enjoys cozy and compromising relationships with governments around the world. The industry spends eye-watering amounts on lobbying, including through the support of anti-climate groups.

THESE oil companies will be keeping a close eye on the COP climate conference. There is nothing that they will hate more than the sight of tens of thousands of activists and climate strikers surrounding the conference. Movements like the Fridays For Future school strikes expose the hollow promises and doublespeak of these companies and the governments that have bent over backwards to support them.

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Greta Thunberg and the other young people taking to the streets know that warm words are easy, but they won’t save our planet. They know that what is needed is mass participation and real and radical climate action.

It is the kind of change that won’t happen on its own. It will need MSPs and other parliamentarians to push for it, but that doesn’t happen in a vacuum. The electoral successes of Green parties and other progressive voices can only happen because of the galvanising power of movements for social and environmental justice and a desire for change.

But change doesn’t come from parliament alone. Electing good politicians to positions of power is vital, but it alone is not enough.

That is why our movements need one foot in parliament and one foot on the streets. As long as I have been politically active I have believed in grassroots organising and social movements, and that didn’t stop when I became an MSP. I have worked with activists on local, national and international issues, and always will. I know the difference that our movements can make, and, in my role as an MSP, I will always use my platform to amplify the voices of others and to argue for and advance the cause I have believed in all of my life.

What happens within the ring of steel surrounding COP is crucial to delivering a survivable future for our planet. But so many of the ideas being discussed right now simply wouldn’t even be on the table if it wasn’t for the protests and pressure from below.

Taking Scotland as an example, when my Green colleagues and I entered negotiations with the Scottish Government we did so from a far greater position of strength because of the levels of support that our movement had behind us. That didn’t come overnight, it took years of activism and social movements to cement our ideas. We worked hard and were able to turn that support into real and substantial policy wins that will help to create a fairer, greener and more equal Scotland.

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The promises being made in Glasgow over the days ahead may sound very impressive, but a lot of us will be rightly sceptical. We don’t have time to waste, and the work and pressure of activists will be central to turning those pledges into action and pushing beyond them.

As environmentalists, we must always be internationalist in our outlook, recognising that the climate crisis is global, and so are the solutions and the resistance.

This weekend I will be marching with thousands of people from Scotland and beyond. We will be marching in solidarity and fraternity and calling for climate action and the change we need.

I will also think of Ken Saro-Wiwa and the injustice that he and the Ogoni people endured at the hands of a repressive dictatorship and an industry and system that has consistently put profits and exploitation ahead of human rights.