Remembering Pete Gray

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.

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.

  • Paulie Georges

    I didn’t know you Pete but I remember watching this clip when it was released and feeling so glad there were people like you in this world. Thanks for everything you brought to the environmental movement.
    Truly inspiring.

  • What an inspiring life lived with heart and courage and joy . Big thanks.

  • delperro

    Pete Gray

    There was always this hippie in the library at Newcastle University. He studied classics, and the ladies loved him. He would fight and fall on his sword. A Casanova of the environment.

    He was a real hippie. He believed in love, had dreads of sorts, wore clothes resembling rags but with the passion he could love he could fighter.

    One of those lovers for whom love conquers all, induces the seemingly irrational and the envy of the range of emotional intelligence of the man.

    I know him only as a passing acquaintance. I bear only anecdotes. His passing has evoked such feelings in me that there must be many more whom have lost so much more.

    He was an activist. He believed humans were damaging the environment irrevocably and more than anyone I’ve ever met he was prepared to do something about it.

    His academic revere for the passionate classics, a beatniks range of articulate dissidence and a calm, strong man about the house, wicked on the chess board and funny.

    If there were more like Pete, and if we were all more like Pete, life would be more interesting and the world would be a better place.

    It’s very sad that he’s died.

    In fact, I can hardly believe it.

    Of all the words I can write, you will never know him, unless you have lost substantially.

    Pete was like a conscience and a bad influence all at the same time. He was standing there on that coal loader demanding the insanity end of exporting something that was killing us, yet probably ate a lot of acid and smoked a lot of weed.

    I remember once, while volunteering for the Greens, asking him to lay off the direct actions while the election campaign was on. I took figs.

    I took figs as a peace offering. I took them for two reasons, to attempt to buy his support and I knew they didn’t work much and would probably appreciate the ripe figs. I was very naïve. Not about the second tenant, for they hungrily took the figs, but about being able to buy Pete’s support. He took the figs.

    But less than a fortnight later, he was atop Morris Iemma’s Premier vehicle, banging on the roof about the coal exported from Newcastle.

    Clearly, I don’t have the commitment of him and I admired that. I also admired his irreverence. He told me once a story about police coming to his door.

    They were inquiring about reports that weed was being sold out of his house in the centre of town. He told me that he answered their request for a \Mr Pete Gray\ with an \yeah I’m he, what of it, for if it be about the direct action on the coal loader, then I’m not answering a single question\. When the politiely suggested that they were not interested in the protest, but in the drug distribution, the tone may have changed, but the point remains.

    The guy was a guy.

    He was a lover too. I knew a few of the hippy girls about town, who would have, could have, did, want to, fall at his feet, drown in his tears and share his struggle. I don’t know his partner Naomi, but she must have been a special woman.

    There’s not many with as true, as honest and as pure a spirit as Pete. May gaia rest his soul.