A Better Catastrophe

It has been 18 months since I began reading aloud monologues from Andrew Boyd’s  ’12 characters in search of an Apocalypse’ first published in Dark Mountain No.11. I was inspired and gathered into action by tree brother and illuminator of linguistic alchemy, Jason Stewart’s, vision that these readings could be held in such a way as to facilitate communities and friends to feel their way into needed conversations about this climate emergency. The impact has been significant.

Since reading “I Have Kids.  Hopelessness is Not an Option”, I have rooted myself as often as I can at the Colne Valley Wildlife Protection Camp, Harvil Road, Uxbidge – at the front line of HS2 devastation, ripping into the woodlands and wildlife habitats for a new train line and all they deem needed to service it – one which nobody wants and without doubt, will never be completed.    It is the perfect example of a climate catastrophe headed over a cliff edge while all on board make inane comments about the stunning view out the window. 

As a parent, I rarely get through a reading of this monologue without tears.  As a tree lover, I rarely get through a day living on camp, staring across the busy local road we are camped on at the destruction visited on this unique landscape, without tears.   My response –  to offer gifts of creativity and beauty to the trees and hedgerows behind the camp, eerily marked with red paint – next on the list to be bulldozed into a power station for HS2.   It is not much.  Dawn dances and sunset songs.  I want these beings to know someone knows them as alive, life-sustaining and worthy of care.  I bring passionate presence to the act of faithful witness to what is being done.  

Since reading “Defend this ground”, I do what I can to confound HS2 plans – pull up markers wherever i find them; rub out the red paint lines; untie orange ribbons designating routes.  It is all litter and vandalism to me.  It reappears relentlessly.    Perhaps the men who follow orders from above think this is a game.   They wait until I go away and bulldoze places I have danced or decorated.    In faraway lands, indigenous wisdom keepers, environmentalists and activists doing similar defensive actions, disappear.  Or rather, someone follows orders to make them disappear, or to harass them through the trees they have pledged to protect, till a tired misstep has one fall to his death..  

Since reading “This Means War”, I have been on a steep learning curve, loosening the system grip on my thinking; attempting to acquire skills, tools and comrades to step into direct action to call a halt to this insane runaway train ride into extinction.   I have found elders and those who have been marching this field of activism long before me.  I listen to their stories – tales of courage and conviction, nonviolence and comedy moments, heartbreak and joy, moving on and finding other ways to carry the obligation of doing the right thing.   Some of them have been fighting this war so long, it is hard to imagine something more is called for now.  That this is the last stand that can make a difference.

As a student of Orphan Wisdom, I have been to the end of the road in the land of fire and ice, during days without end; a visitor in a community on the edge of extinction; to witness and learn from a spell-breaking, master practitioner of eloquence, on the topic of the trouble of our times. Stephen Jenkinson tells us: “We’re an hour before dawn, and first light will show the carnage, or the courage, we bequeath to the generations to come.”

And so we weave courage into creativity and ingenuity to add to our armoury of action tools – we must find it within ourselves to hold to nonviolence.   This rebellion will be rooted in song and dance, flapjack and authenticity, grief and beauty and all that we know is magnificent about being human.   Let those who cling to the failing-us-all system find no purchase to drag the rebellion into violence and antagonism.

The dinosaurs are with us in this.  I invite every person within reach of a museum displaying an extinct being, to take a photo of that being next to an encouraging sign – “We may be extinct… but at least we didn’t cause it ourselves.” or  “What will your display case read?  Homo sapiens – extinct by lack of care for home planet”.  Best caption wins a bow of deep gratitude.

Ancestors are with us in this.  If any of you have granny’s favourite flapjack or cake recipe at home, please make a tray of it and bring to any of the Extinction Rebellion days.  Label the tin with granny’s name, and when we offer this delicious delicacy to a frazzled traveller desperate to pick his child up from school or turn up at work on time cos she can’t afford to have pay docked, we will speak your granny’s name to them reminding them we all have ancestors who thought they were building a better life for us.  Extinction Rebellion calls for our future to be met with courage and cake.  The next generation who will live into the consequences of our actions right now – have already been born.

Non-human beings on this planet are with us in this.  The Ash and Elm trees are with us.  The Whales and the Albatross are with us.  The polar bears are with us…only just.   The sun is with us.  The wind is with us.  The composted life as Earth is with us.  The water is rising to be with us.

I am Rising Up to raise my voice for the rights of all beings to some kind of future on this magnificent planet.   And my voice, nurtured to full shine by the sisterhood of trees: plant medicine attuned; reborn in system breaking redemption; vibrating in trust to what is needed –  is powerful and prophetic.    The planet Earth needs your voice and your participation in Extinction Rebellion.  Together, let’s make “A Better Catastrophe”.

April Griefsong

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