Poetry Anthology #1

Author: Greg Cumbers

Almost Midnight 

Confused by the rhythm
And still, he stands up to dance
With Godheads and their hi-tech threats
Orange bleeds into red

He doesn’t wear a watch
Instead, he stares straight at the sun
Like a rabbit in the headlights
Beyond the point of no return

Confused by the rhythm
She sits down and puts the world to rights
A frightening place with nowhere to hide
The clock strikes closer to midnight

Tired, she’s so tired of waiting
For the sirens to start singing
Wound up like a spring with rage in her eyes
She crosses her heart and hopes to die

These are the days it never rains but it pours
You can run, but you can’t hide forever
The weather will have its way with you! 

——————————————————————————————————————–

Author: Santosha Tantra

Excerpt from the poem “One True Tribe

This is the time and the need for the One True Tribe to recognize itself and begin living.
Who is in this One True Tribe?
All Hearts everywhere
We cannot, not know each other.
There are no places we haven’t seen
And no one can live apart from the other, from how the other somewhere else affects everyone here.
We know of everyone’s suffering and everyone’s needs.
Our hearts are all the same, with the same impulse – to live and live well.

To live well all must know their own heart and recognize everyone’s heart.
The heart – the place and the knowing of love – the recognition of all as love.
Love is the impulse to serve without selfishness, to give so all can live with dignity.

Love makes happiness, purpose and enjoyment,
love does not cause suffering for others.
This is the time and the world has the need, for all of us to see itself as
One family, as the One True Tribe.

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Extinction Rebellion isn’t about the Climate

Originally published in Medium.

Yes, yes, I know. The climate is breaking down. It’s urgent. An emergency. We’ve only got a few years left to ‘fix’ it.

Indeed, we won’t fix it. Weather patterns will become increasingly unstable and unpredictable, and the effects it will soon have on how humans around the world grow food will be devastating, likely causing harvests to fail across entire continents and food prices to sky-rocket. Millions have already suffered due to the amplified instability. We’re facing imminent societal collapse (whatever that means), both around the world and in the UK. All of our lives are soon going to radically change.

None of this is particularly controversial. When a bus is driving with a certain momentum towards a person, it gets clearer and clearer that it will hit the person. After a certain point, it’s inevitable. And that’s where we stand now, with regards to the momentum of climatic change. The bus is about to hit us. Our lives are about to change. It’s not clear whether or not we’ll survive (as a species). Many species have already been run over. Two hundred species each and every day go extinct.

I’ve been with Extinction Rebellion (XR) from the start. I was one of the 15 people in April 2018 who came together and made the collective decision to try to create the conditions that would initiate a rebellion. I was a coordinator of one of the original five working groups, and I’ve been organising with XR day-and-night since then (frugally living off my savings so I don’t have to work, having quit an industry that paid me £1000/week). And I’ve been in RisingUp (the organisation from which XR has emerged) since the first RisingUp action in November 2016. I’m a RisingUp Holding Group member, and a member of the XR Guardianship Team.

And for the sake of transparency: that previous paragraph is all about me ‘pulling rank’ — I’m trying to convince you to listen to what I have to say…

And I’m here to say that XR isn’t about the climate. You see, the climate’s breakdown is a symptom of a toxic system that has infected the ways we relate to each other as humans and to all life. This was exacerbated when European ‘civilisation’ was spread around the globe through cruelty and violence (especially) over the last 600 years of colonialism, although the roots of the infections go much further back.

As Europeans spread their toxicity around the world, they brought torture, genocide, carnage and suffering to the ends of the earth. Their cultural myths justified the horrors, such as the idea that indigenous people were animals (not humans), and therefore God had given us dominion over them. This was used to justify a multi-continent-wide genocide of tens of millions of people. The coming of the scientific era saw this intensify, as the world around us was increasingly seen as ‘dead’ matter — just sitting there waiting for us to exploit it and use it up. We’re now using it up faster than ever.

Euro-Americans violently imposed and taught dangerous delusions that they used to justify the exploitation and reinforced our dominance while silencing worldviews that differed or challenged them. The UK’s hand in this was enormous, as can be seen by the size of the former British empire, and the dominance of the English language around the world. There is stark evidence that everyday racial bias continues in Britain, now, today. It’s worth naming some of these constructed delusions that have been coded into societies and institutions around the world:

  • The delusion of white-supremacy centres whiteness and the experience of white people, constructing and perpetuating the myth that white people and their lives are somehow inherently better and more valuable than people of colour.
  • The delusion of patriarchy centres the male experience, and excludes/hinders female-assigned people from public life (reducing them to a possession or an object for ownership or consumption). Patriarchy teaches dominating and competitive behaviours, and emphasises the idea that the world is a place of scarcity, separation and powerlessness.
  • The delusions of Eurocentrism include the notion that Europeans know what is best for the world.
  • The delusions of hetero-sexism/heteronormativity propagate the idea that heterosexuality is ‘normal’ and that other expressions of sexuality are deviant.
  • The delusions of class hierarchy uphold the theory that the rich elite is better/smarter/nobler than the rest of us, and make therefore better decisions.

There are other delusions. These delusions have become ingrained in all of us, taught to us from a very young age.

None of these delusions have ended, although some of the arguments that supported them (e.g. phrenology) have been dispelled. They continue to play out through each of us, in our ways of relating, regardless of our identity. The current pride in the history of the British empire, or the idea that the USA is on the side of ‘good’, continues to enable neo-colonialism in 2019, taking the form of palm-oil plantations, resources wars, and the parasitical financial sector, to name but a few. The task of Extinction Rebellion is to dispel these delusions. We need to cure the causes of the infection, not just alleviate the symptoms. To focus on the climate’s breakdown (the symptom) without focusing attention on these toxic delusions (the causes) is a form of denialism. Worse, it’s a racist and sexist form of denialism, that takes away from the necessary focus of the need for all of us to de-colonise our selves.

My ancestors are European, some of whom claimed to ‘own’ people as slaves. There are black people with the name Basden in the Americas, and I have begun to mobilise my (white) family to make contact in order to seek to pay reparations.

However, my own accountability cannot be fully paid through this. The insanity* of the mind of the coloniser continues today. It continues in the extraction of fossil fuels, minerals and water from the earth. It continues in deforestation and industrial agriculture. It continues in a callous culture of consumption, which intensifies each Christmas. It continues in evictions and deportations. It continues in the ways of relating to those around us that perpetuates separation and division.

The result is isolation, pain and suffering. The result can be felt at the individual level — in the endemic levels of loneliness and mental-health illness. It can be felt at the community level — in the theft of land for plunder and profit by largely-European-and-US-based banks and corporations. And it can be felt at the global level — in the polluting of our air and oceans.

So Extinction Rebellion isn’t about the climate. It’s not even about ‘climate justice’**, although that is also important. If we only talk about the climate, we’re missing the deeper problems plaguing our culture. And if we don’t excise the cause of the infection, we can never hope to heal from it.

This article is calling to all of those who are involved in XR who sometimes slip into saying it’s a climate movement. It’s a call to the American rebels who made a banner saying “CLIMATE extinction rebellion”. It’s a call to the XR Media & Messaging teams to never get sloppy with the messaging and ‘reduce’ it to climate issues. It’s a call to the XR community to never say we’re a climate movement. Because we’re not. We’re a Rebellion. And we’re rebelling to highlight and heal from the insanity that is leading to our extinction. Now tell the truth and act like it.

* I use the term ‘insanity’ carefully, with the intention of highlighting the need for healing. Indigenous First Nation people helpfully taught me to see the mindset of the coloniser as a sickness. In no way do I intend to marginalise or discredit the experience of people who have been labelled ‘insane’ by a normative system, nor who identify as being ‘insane’.

** Climate Justice refers to the injustice that those who are affected first and worst by extreme weather events (the people in the poorer countries, the majority of whom live in the Global South) are not likely to be the ones who caused the climate emissions (the people who consume the most, including the pathologically wasteful cultures of Europe and Turtle Island (aka North America), and the rich who live/travel around the world).

In Support of Life

As we prepare to tackle the issue of global warming let us resolve to genuinely fix this problem.  The consequences of inaction or wrong action are dire.  Effective and prompt action is needed.  Towards this end, let us keep in mind that global warming is a symptom of our culture. Thus, if we want to effectively address the issue of global warming, we must address its root causes.

Global warming is not the first instance in which our culture has disregarded the needs of the natural world.  A cursory look at the state of the forests, oceans, prairies, rivers, and lakes will tell us that we have a history of being irresponsible and destructive citizens of the Earth.  Indeed, this history portrays us as a greedy, self-absorbed culture that cares little for life besides our own.  And even with our survival on the line, only time will tell whether we will act responsibly.

In any case, I propose that if we wish to adequately address the climate crisis then we need to examine the principles that drive our culture.  I will begin by proposing some principles that should be at the heart of a healthy culture.  I have five such principles.  To the extent that you agree with these principles, you might agree with my further analysis.

First, we should support life.  After all, we are nothing if not for life.  This is pretty simple.

Second, we should support Mother Nature.  Our lives are utterly dependent upon the ways of Mother Nature.  The food we eat, the water we drink, the air we breathe are all circumstances that are intricately entwined in the ways of Mother Nature.

Third, we should support honesty and integrity.  Without integrity, the systems of life on Earth fall apart.  Without honesty, we are told by those who destroy the ecosystem that they are supporting the ecosystem.

Fourth, we should help each other out.  We are all alive today because of the help of others in our lives.  We would not survive our infant years but for the help we receive from our parents and caregivers.  Our communities sustain us.

Fifth, we should support dignity in life.  None of us wishes to live without dignity.  We should support life with dignity for all.

To the extent that we all support any one of these principles, we should ensure that the institutions and rules of our culture support that principle. And here is the rub.  Our culture, along with its rules and institutions, lays waste to each of these five principles.  Life is on its way out.  Mother Nature has been disregarded for millennia by western culture.  Honesty and integrity are but hollow promises in our halls of government and on our media airwaves.  The homelessness in our streets attests to the facts that neither do we help each other out, nor do we ensure the dignity of life for people in our culture.

Of all the people I know personally, I don’t know anyone who wishes to get rid of life on Earth.  I know no one who thinks that the ways of Mother Nature can be disregarded.  No one thinks I should lie to them, or refuse to help my fellow neighbor, or deny dignity to anyone.  We are a culture of well-intentioned people who have taken a wrong turn and are heading down the path of destruction.  Where have we gone astray?

I suggest that we are a culture preoccupied with the pursuit of power and wealth.  In fact, it is this pursuit of power and wealth that drives decisions that go against each of the five principles I have named.  It is this pursuit of power and wealth that is driving us into the climate crisis.

The pursuit of power and wealth is ingrained into the fabric of our culture to the extent that most of us equate the pursuit of power and wealth with the pursuit of life itself.  I think that it is time for this confusion to stop.  It is plain to see that when the wealthy among us are pursuing power and wealth they are no longer pursuing life.  Any multimillionaire alive today has all that they need in order to live in our culture.  It is deeply ironic that the rules and institutions of our culture are being used to increase the wealth and power of those who need no more wealth and power.  It is clear to see that for the wealthy; the pursuit of power and wealth should not be confused with the pursuit of life.

Furthermore, let us recognize that money has no intrinsic value.  You cannot eat money.  You do not build a house out of money.  Money does not warm you on a cold winter night or move you from home to work on Monday morning.  Money itself does not support life.  Money is a thing in our culture solely because we agree that it is a thing.

Because of this agreement, it is hard to live without earning money.  Food and housing and transportation have all been folded into our economy in such a way that those of us who are successful at the wealth and power game have an easy time getting needs met while those of us who are not successful suffer.  And thus, people who are not wealthy need to earn money in order to live.  We conflate the pursuit of money with the pursuit of life because the rules of our culture demand that we make money in order to eat and put a roof over our heads.

But is it not time to stop pretending that this economic system is helping us out.  Who among us really feels fulfilled in the work that they do to make money? Most of us work at jobs aimed first and foremost at lining the pockets of those who need no more money.  The success of every company and industry and corporation depends upon the profit that it brings its owners, not the benefit it brings to life on the Earth.

Our economy is designed to transfer power to those at the top of the economic pyramid.  It does this at the expense of people and life.  While we must acknowledge that most people must earn money in order to create “value” and thus live in our culture, we also should acknowledge that the system itself is destructive.  The “value” that we are creating is in many cases not valuable.  This system values consumption at the expense of life, profit at the expense of community.  This is the system that has ushered in global warming.

The people of America spoke at Standing Rock demanding that oil pipelines not be built from the fracking fields.  The pipelines were built anyway at the behest of the oil corporations looking for profit.  The people of the world have gathered in the streets at the climate talks calling for real solutions to global warming.  Meanwhile, the rich and powerful in control of the talks have ensured that corporate profits get priority over real solutions.

In western culture, we play the game of who can gain the most power and wealth.  In this game, the winners win because they cut costs and exploit resources.  If you try to run a business ethically, without cutting costs and exploiting resources, you lose out to those in the industry willing to cut costs and exploit resources.

In this game, the winners work on Wall Street while the losers lose their farms.  The winners sit in the boardrooms of corporations while the losers work overtime in order to afford food and housing and health care.  The winners decide monetary policy while the losers drown in debt.

Our economy, by the very nature of the rules of western society, will destroy life.  We are seeing this take place in front of our eyes.  Most of us are caught up in this system even though we disagree with the outcomes.  We are forced to chase wealth because those are the rules of our culture.  People who gain wealth, be it ethically or not, get to buy food.  People who don’t suffer.

It is time to do away with our allegiance to the principle that people should pursue power and wealth.  It is time to stop letting this corrupt principle drive decisions in our culture.

 

George Palen is an educator from California. 

IT’S CHRYSALIS TIME

Lee Camp crystalized the nature of our predicament with one tweet:

“If you don’t like change, — You’re going to hate extinction!”

We are now in a phase of extreme pressure to evolve into a radically different society. If this were the lifecycle of a butterfly, we must now enter the chrysalis. This will only seem impossible to those who have not grasped the severity of our crisis. Failure amounts to an act of collective suicide. There is no guarantee of success, so everyone needs to engage. Evolve or die. #extinctionrebellion

A Letter To My 11-Year Old

Dear Milly,

Us adults owe you – your generation – an apology. I think you know what I am going to say but I should say it anyway.

You know the way the weather is so unpredictable and even the meteorologists seem to consistently get it wrong? And you know the way Mummy with her asthma can’t go outside during any extreme cold or hot? And you have heard that hundreds of our animals are becoming extinct each day? And you know at primary school, one of your teachers seemed almost obsessed with informing you of the Sustainable Development Goals and burgeoning global warming? And you know the way I have become obsessed with how much meat-eating, car-driving and paper-using we all do?

Well, it’s because hundreds of knowledgeable scientists around the world are saying it is because we, humans, may well only have approx 80 more years to live on our precious earth. They are saying that unless we cut our carbon emissions to zero within 20-or-so years, it will become so hot and or wet on the planet, humans will not be able to live here any more. Yes, the earth will become uninhabitable by humankind.

Unfortunately, our friends in the environmental movements cannot seem to get our world leaders to act fast enough on these issues so hundreds of people have pledged to get themselves arrested carrying out repeated non-violent direct actions in order to highlight what on earth (literally) is going on. They say that renewable wind and solar energy should be used A LOT more but I have heard MPs say that it is too complex or too expensive… Not true apparently and certainly not compared to the cost of losing our home: OUR Planet Earth.

So I have come here to say sorry that we have made such a hash of things environmentally. You have stood with us at Balcombe (anti-fracking site) years ago and you have done your bit with Mummy even as you are fed up with rocking up to political events with so many strangers. So I am praying that as you reach adulthood, you will become more involved with this work to slow down this catastrophe and maybe even one day agree to let Mum get arrested even just once. It’s true that there are so many avenues through which to carry out this awareness-raising work but I have been an activist for so long, I feel it is time to make that sacrifice. To be honest, most cops can’t wait to get most of us out of the police stations if they arrest us at all!

I hope you can accept this apology knowing that we are doing our bit to address these issues now, albeit a little too late. Most of all, I am sorry that I sometimes drive you spare banging on about these critical issues. After all, as you keep reminding me, you are “only a kid”.

Love,

Mummy Andria

Photo: Milly having fun whilst protesting the arms fair with CAAT in 2013/14.

Nurses to Extinction

The old woman coughs hoarsely into a handkerchief, pulling the mask from her face. We use morphine to keep her free of the agitation of respiratory distress, and nebulized drugs to keep her airway open, as well as make the cough productive. Eating and drinking are hard to do when you are constantly on an oxygen mask. Even with the oxygen off your mouth, there is oxygen flowing into your nose. This is not really helping her to live, merely setting trails to her dying with tubes and wires.

The webpage London Air gives you very measured and description of how air pollution can affect conditions like Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disorder (COPD). It does however not give any insights into the emotions of those suffering from the disease, often caused by our bad air quality, nor of those who care for them – London’s many fine nurses, healthcare assistants, allied health professionals, and doctors. We do the best we can with people panicked and traumatised at their own bodies’ failure. The ravages of COPD are quite ghastly to behold. Many patients bounce back into hospital a short time after their admission with the same problem, but with a poorer prognosis. Our treatment of them has only been a sticking plaster, placed over the cracks. We do our best to keep people happy and enjoying that bare, reduced life they lead in hospital. Back out in the polluted streets and modern slums of London we do not see or hear them – they are invisible – save when they re-emerge from this “illspring.”

The “sticking plaster” seems for me symbolic here, as it mirrors our government’s attitude to dealing with climate change. For a small cut, a “sticking plaster” is ideal, but climate chaos is a huge, scarifying wound – capable of destroying communities, dwellings, lives and –as time may tell – societies. Nothing small or temporary will do. I did not want to be a “sticking plaster” in the battle against extinction and the poisoning of our environment. Nurses have long been patient advocates. But that advocacy remains locked to our clinical area for the most part. We should remember the bravery of some of the first modern nurses such as Mary Seacole, who, derided and scorned, journeyed into battles to take injured soldiers away from harm’s reach or tend to their injuries.

But long before the Crimean War, women, and occasionally men, provided help to their communities when it was not always safe and went against the authorities’ wishes. What were the state-sanctioned Stuart witch trials of England other than an attack on local “healers” and “pellars”. Most of these people did the best they could with a lack of science and scant resources. It was in some sense a power grab enacted by James I – drawing influence away from local knowledge and talent and making the country ready for the Age of Reason, which was all too keen to throw the kernel of medical wisdom away with the chaff for being folksy. The 17th century Stuart regime was faced with a crisis, in the form of the 1665 plague, a terror that took the lives of 100,000 people. The clinical heirs to the folk wisdom of ill health, the plague doctors, were not able to offer good remedies. The rich fled London. Industrialisation and human misery helped to spread the damage. This history offers us a smaller scale parallel of our modern situation. The difference is that we can stop extinction with our knowledge and tactics, whereas early modern clinicians had little hope of stopping Bubonic epidemics. Not to detract from their humanity and human sensitivities, but nurses are made for crisis situations, whether that be widespread disease or climate change.

Nurses should feel empowered by being trusted figures in the community, the inheritance of a job that is a vocation nor a career. We can speak about climate chaos, as well as report from the frontline of pollution and degradation’s effects on our nation’s health. We have the social connections of those wise women of times forgotten, but with a deeper pool of knowledge and more possibilities of working together within our networks.  We can relay the suffering of those in poverty and lingering in chronic illness and give voices to the voiceless. We can be more than mere “sticking plasters” in sum. Which is why, as your fellow nurse, I would passionately urge all of you to join Extinction Rebellion.

Tom Lennard @tomlennard

You can get involved with the Extinction Rebellion health workers group at “XR Health Workers”.

 

 

 

 

Eyewitness Account from Declaration Day

From small groups of people rallying up to fight against the profitable eviction racket (known as bailiffs) to a full-blown protest in Parliament Square demanding our oil-lobbied politician rethink about their response to climate change, people are rising and demanding change across the UK. On Wednesday the 31st of October, Extinctions Rebellion peacefully took over London’s busiest intersection to purposely disrupt the mindless routine of the city. 24 hours prior to the organised rebellion, scientists stated that since the 1970’s, humanity has made extinct 60% of mammals, birds, fish and reptiles. By the time our grandparents will turn 90, that number will have risen to almost 80% unless immediate action is taken.

A pool of different eclectics, faiths, and ages poured into the event projecting a heartfelt and welcoming communal vibe. Like a spell, people would fall silent cradled by the melodic pagan-like hymns sung while their smiles and shining eyes spoke more than a thousand words could. The palpable energy pulsating from the drumming and chanting crowd showed the love for our blue earth, and their cry for action was fierce. Amplified by the microphone, Green MEP Molly Scott Cato stated: “We are not here because we understand the importance that our planet has to our survival, rather because we all feel a deep energetic connection with mother Gaia”.

Out of the many speakers, Greta Thunberg, a 14-year-old who has been school striking for climate change, stood in front of thousands to share her message of action. With the latest UN reports stating that we have no more than 12 years before climate catastrophe, the teenager’s perspective of “climate crisis has never been treated as a crisis” deeply contrasted with the child-like inaptitude of our leaders.

Families shed tears of pain for the conditions in which they were inevitably going to leave the future to their younger loved ones. “It is painful for me to accept that the youth of today will never be able to experience the life that I had growing up because we wiped it out”, expressed one grandparent.

In the two and a half hours of public highway obstruction, police officers mingled and conversed with protestors. One officer paid personal attention to the well-being of certain protestors who had locked their arms and laid down on the road.  The mood seemed cheerful and friendly between protestors and law enforcement, giving off the illusion of a festival rather than a protest. A touching moment was briefly captured when Tom, a steward for Extinction Rebellion, approached the yellow-jacketed men and women with “Save Our Children” stickers. The momentary hesitation from their part was replaced by a handful of officers gingerly huddling in with outstretched hands to accept the stickers with prideful smiles. However, the harmonious atmosphere quickly came to an end when a false emergency ambulance was called in by the police to break the crowd apart. Within minutes, new stern faces populated the area shouting, pushing, and intimidating the crowd off the road.

The tug of war between civil disobedience and law enforcement created a divide amongst the activist. With most of the protesters dancing and singing on Parliament Square, the police swarmed the protestors locked to the gates of the Parliament. To create an aversion, a member of “Grandparents for a Safe Earth” decided to lie down with the activists despite having been pushed away by the police several times. The commitment of these individuals being ruthlessly arrested for asking for an emergency response to our polluted laws shocked many bystanders.

But we are not easily intimidated. Extinction Rebellion will take over Parliament Square again from the 12th till the 17th of November to demand carbon neutral strategies from our elected representatives.