Extinction Rebellion Tie-in Die-in, Kendal

By Lawrence Freiesleben

On Wednesday 17th April, members of Extinction Rebellion South Lakes staged a Die-in around Kendal market place. The weather was beautiful and who is ever going to complain about that? Unfortunately, far too many people still seem to share demagogue Donald Trump’s delusion that all global warming amounts to is lucky people in temperate zones getting more sun. As a recent casualty of increasingly unstable weather systems, the population of Kendal and villages nearby must be uneasy about this. Yet it’s always been amazing, how sunny weather and the onset of spring is apt to ameliorate or dim our fears – as if us and our beautiful landscapes with their trees in blossom and the cheer of daffodils will be here forever. Despite the broken bridges that remain broken, left behind by Storm Desmond, we are all too easily reassured. The body is simple in its reaction to warmth and light and the attractions of market day.

Setting up signs and banners in three different parts of the square, chiefly outside the low chains protecting the war memorial, at first, we passed unnoticed – the colourful signs and lettered flags taken for a precursor of carnival? Careful not to conceal any information already present on the windows of two untenanted shops, our own placards were propped or masking-taped to the glass. When we left, the only real sign of our presence would be the chalked lines around the fallen bodies, including those of children who spontaneously joined in. The only damage that occurred was caused by an officious security guard to whose initial crocodile smile we had granted a charitable benefit of the doubt. Taking advantage, while we were dying elsewhere in the square, he ripped down Wendi’s banner, also throwing her treasured bicycle to the ground – all part of the job, only doing his duty . . .

By contrast the community police officer who chatted with us a while, cheerfully agreed we were doing nothing he considered illegal: the disused shop was ‘a civil matter’.

With various members of the South Lakes group away for the duration of the main Extinction Rebellion event in London, our numbers were limited. Arrest however, seemed unlikely and the greatest block in many of our minds may have been embarrassment – that classic British trait?

Never underestimate the effect of embarrassment. If it wasn’t for crippling embarrassment, you never know, I might have taken up ballroom dancing, or any type of dancing. Or learned languages freely.

A Cornish friend of mine ,an eco-activist since the 70’s – who held secret midnight discussions with Swampy in the 1990’s and was an invited guest at C40’s 2011 conference in Sao Paulo – was adamant that action needs to be taken at every level, from every possible angle.

The thought that the Home Front is just as crucial as the Front Line, was one I kept in my mind to deflect disappointment at not being able to get to London – a regret of other members too. But if some considered Kendal a soft option, others were not convinced.

One interested office worker, who soon became a member, said she’d been down in London and felt quite comfortable joining the throng: the largeness of the company making her feel safe. In Kendal our group fluctuated at around 16. Crowd support and back-up were, to say the least, limited. That, she felt, would have made her think twice.

By contrast, a lady who died there and then, wished she’d known in advance that an expensive trek to London wasn’t necessary – nor incurring the irony of extra carbon to get to an event protesting against it!

Though I admire all those resolute, tireless, folk who walked to London, my ideal would have been to cycle. And maybe next time, if things don’t change fast, there will huge columns of cyclists all across the country, legally blocking routes everywhere – a wheeled echo of the Jarrow marchers. With enough warning there need be no idling engines. Everyone will know to put their cars and lorries away and stay at home.

In provincial towns, many of the public appear to know little or nothing about Extinction Rebellion. To them, it’s just a story on the news about some “pesky protesters” far away, “down in London”. Seeing Kendal residents they recognise – many of them pensioners with no experience of making a spectacle of themselves or braving abuse, determined for the sake of their grandchildren to make their point and explain what XR is about – really opens their eyes. It becomes personal rather than a fleeting headline. Our purpose in Kendal was not to disrupt ,but to try to publicise and explain, and although we had two or three hysterical people railing against us, generally, there was interest and support. Even the stallholders trying to make a living, were not all hostile.

Not wanting to disadvantage any of the stallholders in particular, after an hour we altered one of the locations of our dying. I asked the trader on the vegetable stall if he minded us dying nearby and he said not. Taking a leaflet to read at home, he only cautioned us against the shifting shade.

Undoubtedly, there is a vulnerability felt in lying on the pavement. With eyes shut, all the passing comments of support or scorn, impatience or contempt, become magnified. Yet talking was harder for me . . . at least at first. Others went through this same transition. My partner, who tends to be reserved in interactions with strangers, quickly warmed to the task. By the end she felt empowered. At last she was doing something instead of just worrying – and if things turned nasty we had a plan to ensure at least one of us would be free to pick the children up from school.

I’m not sure I felt empowered, but I did eventually manage to engage a few sceptics – who hopefully walked on with at least some idea of the crisis we are in.

“When you lot can do something about over-population let me know!” One woman challenged, and it was tempting to emphasise how wars, plagues and famines linked to climate change are already common and will only get worse. It’s always difficult to avoid the temptation towards fatalism that underlies the go-for-broke mentality so prevalent all over the world.

Throwing leaflets straight in the bin or refusing eye-contact were probably less common than the polite statement “I’m O.K. thanks” to proffered leaflets – a reaction which riled some of my comrades – struggling perhaps to resist the retort of “Not for long!”

The dilemma of how forceful we should be – purely verbally – stays with me. Long arguments with bitter opponents absorb valuable time, as does preaching to the converted. The background hope is that some people between these extremes, will later usefully reflect on a few points gently made.

The role of chief hysteric went to a woman ranting about our lack of respect for the war memorial. This, we stayed outside and fixed nothing to. We merely lay down nearby. Personally, I saw this more as a homage. What was the point of all those soldiers dying, only for us to trash the world they died for?

The war against extinction, against apathy over climate change and our own careless consumerism, is more urgent even than the fight seventy years ago, against the Axis powers.
(Photos by Kirsten Freiesleben April 17th 2019)

From XR Die-in, Seattle

By Rob Lewis

I am lying on sunlit bricks before the Henry M. Jackson Federal Building. I have died, and now look up at a twisted rectangle of sky framed by glass-sided buildings. A single branch waves overhead, reaching from a tree rising from a square of trucked-in soil. About twenty people have also died around me, and lay in the positions they fell in. We will stay dead for about twelve minutes.

That’s how many years we have to prevent climate hell on earth, at least according to the last fleet of studies.  Twelve years is not a lot of time. Perhaps I should have better things to do with mine. But then I realize, arms splayed out, looking slantwise up at the diamond-pointed sun, I’m doing precisely the thing I should be doing and want to be doing. I am dying into the truth of my time. I am dying into the dying. And it feels strangely restorative

The sea is near. I can smell it. And I begin thinking of orcas, in particular, one named Tahlequah. Last August, with her dead calf draped across her nostrum, she heralded her calf through the sea for seventeen days and nights? She made us look. She made us see what life is like behind the word extinction. It’s hunger, loss, attrition. Extinction lowered its mask of data and revealed a broken-hearted mother, grieving on a scale beyond our ken, a grief as big as the ocean. I am thinking I am lucky to be able to lie here and grieve for her, and for all of creation, really. I am thinking of how long I have needed to do this.

Those who can’t lie down join in standing-death. I can’t see anyone though, just this strange, powder-blue fragment of sky. On this chilly April morning the bricks are surprisingly warm, laying a deep bed of deep quiet amidst the clanging jack-hammers, staccato horns, rhythmic sirens. The city thrums on and I realize we are the lucky ones. We at least have found an off-ramp, a brief side exit from the techno-industrial race to ruin.

Though we appear to be sleeping, we are actually waking. We are shaking off an industrial drowse, grieving for a distracted humanity. There’s a feeling of honour to it, a solemnity. This is necessary work. It helps that the sun warms our faces. It helps that we decided to just do this, as awkward as it might have felt at first.

And now here we are, dying into something beyond ourselves, into orcas, snow geese, yellow tanagers, glacier-fed streams, snow-fed glaciers, salmon and seasons. Climate refugees, hurricane victims; we die for them too. By our bodies we have cleared and planted a small plot of human atonement, and inhabit it with a mood akin to prayer. A cloud’s view would see a city swirling around a spot of stillness. Is it a wound or a flower?

It is surely both.

Stop climate change with carbon taxes

By Andy Gebhardt

Everything has a price

Everything has a price. We can look at climate change as an economic problem. Economically speaking, climate change is a market failure. People fly, drive cars and overuse air conditioners because the consequent carbon emissions incur no cost: we do not have to pay for the damage we cause. That is where a carbon tax comes in: to resolve the market failure.

A carbon tax puts cost to pollution

A carbon tax is a tax just like VAT (value added tax), that we pay at the point of purchase, included in the price of the good/service, on all purchases we make. However, a carbon tax is a tax not levied on all purchases like a VAT. It is only applied to fossil fuels and other Green House Gas producing activities. The level of taxes is determined by the amount of CO2 emissions generated per unit of sold energy or substance.

Higher energy cost = higher efficiency = lower consumption

The tax increases the cost of energy intensive goods and services (e.g. fuel, flying). This is an incentive to use less of the now more expensive goods/services. It triggers efficiency. And with that, lower emissions.

However, for people with limited income, a hike in e.g. fuel cost can be disastrous -they might not be able to afford to go work anymore, as the yellow-west protests in France have shown. In particular in the absence of an affordable alternative to gasoline fuel. In addition, increasing the cost of GHG emitting fuels alone will not reduce emissions as fast as is required.

For this reason, individuals have to be compensated for the increasing energy cost. Simultaneously, we have to develop an affordable GHG-free alternative.

The climate tax develops a cheaper and GHG-free alternative to fossil energy

This is why 50% of the tax revenues will be paid back to individuals in cash; to compensate for the increasing energy bill and potentially increasing cost of goods. 40% of the tax revenues will be used to finance the rapid development of a renewable energy infrastructure. The new renewable energy infrastructure provides a cheaper alternative to fossil fuels, and will reduce emissions fast. The remaining 10% could be used for research and development of renewable energy technology.

The proposed carbon tax will reduce GHG emissions to Zero by 2035, while reducing the total global energy bill by 2% of World GDP.

For more information, please check http://www.globalcarbontax.org

Meltdown

By Bill McGuire

Even as thousands of XR foot soldiers bring London to a halt in the name of climate change sanity, the bad news keeps rolling in. The latest despatches from the climate breakdown front point to the last days of the world’s mountain glaciers and the marvellous ecosystems they support. In an earlier post (Asia – Climate Breakdown’s New Front Line), I revealed how the loss of Himalayan glaciers and ice fields feeding Asia’s mighty rivers could lead to widespread famine as they shrink to little more than trickles. Now, it appears, glaciers in western Europe look likely to suffer the same fate. Hardly surprising really, but nonetheless another nail in the coffin of our stable, pre-climate-breakdown world.

What makes the picture painted by the new study (Modelling the future evolution of glaciers in the European Alps under the EURO-CORDEX RCM ensemble) especially bleak, is that even if we act to drastically curtail greenhouse gas emissions, most of the ice locked up in the world’s mountains will not survive until the end of the century. Given a business as usual scenario, the European Alps will be effectively ice-free by 2100; the winter sports business a distant memory. But even if emissions are slashed, two thirds of the ice will still have melted away in a little over eight decades time. Even more dramatically, whatever action we take on the emissions reduction front fully half of the ice locked up in the four thousand or so Alpine glaciers will be gone within barely thirty years.

A second study (Key indicators of Arctic climate change: 1971–2017) for the first time draws together information from both physical and biological systems to show how rising air temperatures are fundamentally transforming the Arctic and the life it supports as the Earth continues to heat up. As the landmark study reveals, the Arctic region’s long stable climate is now following a path into the unknown. The consequences of this are likely to be widespread and catastrophic, not only for the region itself, but also across the world. What happens in the icy wastes of the north is already affecting the climate at more temperate latitudes, such as Europe and North America. Here, the knock-on effects of changes in airflow at high latitudes are driving persistent weather patterns in both winter and summer that result in extreme weather; big freezes and baking heatwaves. Rapid ice melting in the Arctic is also affecting the Gulf Stream and associated ocean currents and has the potential to bring them to a halt or at least precipitate a major slow down. This, in turn, threatens colder winters around the North Atlantic rim along with rapidly rising sea levels along the eastern seaboard of North America.

So, a message to our XR heroes in the London campaign and those bringing the truth about climate breakdown to cities all over the world. Hang on in there. Our planet needs you now more than ever.

Earth March Diary from Colchester

By Ness

Day one. Boudicca the litter collector of Colchester. We collected a dustbin sack full of cans, plastic wrap, fag packets, plastic bottles… Mostly all plastic. Sadly we filled a sack within a quarter of a mile, before we had to stop to recycle it. It actually felt like an ocean we couldn’t content with. We ceremoniously marked the sealing of the first sack by advertising the work of #extinctionrebellion in the form of wall papering a bus stop with some beautiful XR posters – You’re welcome.


Theresa, Janet and myself walked on, leaving the town behind for the main road out of Colchester, before leaving the beaten track for the tranquility of birdsong from hedgerows in country lanes; far less litter here. We passed a farm, with three tractors planting potatoes on a very small field; disproportionate for three machines; the three of us just watched, no words needed…. Shared yet unspoken calculations regarding pollution, energy and yield. The maths just doesn’t add up; the answer certainly doesn’t benefit us.

Day…. What day is it? Thursday 11th. After a tough walk to D’Arcy yesterday, i slept brilliantly. Fab campsite, hot showers and in bed by 7:45 – the only way to stay warm. Q: What’s the one thing every peri menopausal woman dreads whilst camping in the freezing cold? A: surprise period! Excellent. Luckily, i did pack two bullets for my pistol, just in case. Even luckier, our next door neighbour in the caravan managed to find a random tampon in her make up bag. Lady, i am eternally grateful. This may be an overshare; get over it. This has made me think about what it’s like for women sleeping rough; just something else bloody awful to contend with (‘scuse the pun). It was a bloody cold night, but it was mouse free and i slept really well. Theresa and i got ourselves packed up and set off at 10 this morning, as we were to part company at Tolleshunt Knights. On arriving there we discovered the bus service had been axed, but a kind Catalonian woman in the form Gloria, (79, district nurse) gave Theresa a ride to Tollesbury, after a great discussion about the Franco regime and introducing us to her friend Ines who serenaded me on the pavement with a Spanish song, before bestowing a leaflet about Jesus on me. Simply blown away by random acts of kindness.

Day four. Friday 12th. Danbury – Writtle. Despite it being only 7.5 miles, I’m being forced to take the day off. After 13 miles yesterday I’ve developed two really awful blisters, which are incredibly painful, preventing me from walking. Today I have no choice but to rest at my friend’s house with Poppy keeping me company. Due to this, my plans changed from camping tonight to sofa surfing courtesy of Miriam, an XR friend in Chelmsford. It also seems that I may not have dodged the bug…. I’m about to go back to bed in the hope I can shake this off a dreadful headache, sore throat and streaming nose. If I surface in a couple of hours feeling better, I shall make my way to Writtle, as the plan tonight is to meet up with Chelmsford rebels to make banners and keep warm before Miriam rescues me and let’s me sleep on her sofa. Fingers crossed this is just fatigue. I’m not done yet.

Day 5 – Saturday 13th – back home, currently game over. Ended up having to come home. It seems I didn’t escape Sophia’s bug. It was a hard decision to make, my best friend Bee looked after me in her home brilliantly, however there’s no place like home when you develop a temperature of 39 degrees. Those of you that know me well will know that my default position on everything is nearly always confrontational; I fight; but when it comes to health I believe that when your body shouts loudest you should listen; it’s your vehicle that will get you to your destination – so requires love and care. I’m glad I listened, because this morning I don’t feel well at all.
Part of the capitalist rhetoric – the “no pain, no gain” ethos is in stark contrast to regenerative culture; it is non compassion at the deepest level; something I am trying to change in nursing culture; a concept that formed a book chapter to inspire change in the way we socialise students into the profession.
So here I am, after a night of rigours and sweats; grateful to be warm in my home with my family, and not suffering the cold and damp in my tent.
Today, I would have been walking from Writtle to Kelvedon Hatch, having met up with fellow travellers Bob and Colin. Colin has taken the baton from me now, and Bob has sorted me out a place to sleep tomorrow night if I’m back in the game – which I intend to be. I want to thank so many people for their support, effort and care….. Too numerous to mention in my current state of being; you know who you are – all of you XXX

The Benefits of Accepting the Possibility of Environmental Collapse and Human Extinction

By John BellS

British Professor of Sustainability Leadership, Jem Bendell, has recently published a thoughtful review of the scientific studies on climate change, called “Deep Adaptation”. He concludes that social collapse is inevitable, environmental catastrophe is probable, and human extinction possible. He says, dramatically enough to get our attention,

The evidence before us suggests that we are set for disruptive and uncontrollable levels of climate change, bringing starvation, destruction, migration, disease and war

But when I say starvation, destruction, migration, disease and war, I mean in your own life. With the power down, soon you wouldn’t have water coming out of your tap. You will depend on your neighbours for food and some warmth. You will become malnourished. You won’t know whether to stay or go. You will fear being violently killed before starving to death.

He thinks facing this can lead to individual and collective change and growth toward insight, compassion, and action. He proposes what he terms “deep adaptation,” which includes the following framework:

I hope the deep adaptation agenda of resilience, relinquishment and restoration can be a useful framework for community dialogue in the face of climate change. Resilience asks us “how do we keep what we really want to keep?” Relinquishment asks us “what do we need to let go of in order to not make matters worse?” Restoration asks us “what can we bring back to help us with the coming difficulties and tragedies?”

In reading the piece, I found myself relieved and encouraged.

Relieved because I too have been thinking about the likely collapse, thinking that the earth’s environment is past the “tipping point” in many areas, that we will lose more species that we can imagine, that there will be social chaos, that we need to grieve the current and looming losses, and that I may need to become a planetary hospice worker, or a climate chaplain, joining with others in trying to provide support, comfort, and perhaps some spiritual wisdom to help us manage the coming troubles.

I was also relieved because I too have been hesitant to share these kinds of thoughts publicly for fear of reinforcing discouragement and despair that most people carry. I haven’t wanted to be a voice of gloom and doom, since that usually helps disempower people. Prof Bendell addresses this fear by saying that refusing to look directly at the seriousness of our situation gives us false hope that somehow we can avert the worst, and thereby keeps us numb enough to go along with accepting things as pretty much they are, or just advocating for mild, piecemeal reforms, thereby sealing our fate.

Encouraged because I have long believed that what is required is radical transformation at the base of our civilization—an economy that promotes well-being and happiness, not based on greed; a society based on fairness, compassion, and cooperation where the “isms” have been healed and eliminated; a re-uniting of humans with the rest of the natural world, recognizing our inextricable interdependence and embeddedness; a human culture that encourages contentedness, sufficiency, caring, curiosity, and creativity. The author points in that direction.

This transformation seems like a dream, given the current trends. All the more reason to not continue the slow, incremental reformist moves that most of the environmentalists have attempted. This is not sufficient. Nothing is sufficient to stop the severe climate induced disruption and suffering already built in. But hoping that technology or the market or human decency or enough political will can “save” us from the worst is not sufficient either. We are called to a radical shift in consciousness coupled with deep changes in our behavior, policies, and structures in the external sphere, and correspondingly deep changes in the interior realms–our self-concept, beliefs, internalized feelings of powerlessness and unworthiness, unconscious biases that make us feel superior or inferior, and the underlying conditioning that makes us feel separate from each other, other beings, and the Earth.

The interior transformations needed require, among many things, dedicated and effective methods of healing trauma, providing emotional safety and safeguards in the home and public settings, a set of mindful ethics to guide our behavior, and ways of nurturing compassion, loving kindness, peacefulness, and enjoyment in the joy of others.

Contemplating the interior dimension of change needed leads me to three conclusions or directions for myself. a) To re-dedicate myself to do even deeper emotional work to release stored distress and childhood hurts so that I can think more clearly and act more boldly. b) To re-commit myself to meditate more diligently and to practice even more fully the ethical principles I’ve been engaged with, namely, reverence for life, generosity, kind speech, and mindful consumption, so that my actions point to the world I want, and c) To live more deeply into the insights of interdependence, continual change, and unbroken wholeness of reality from which I can’t be separated, so that I know that the Earth and I are one, that what hurts the Earth or other being, hurts me, that when I care for a river’s health I am caring for my health.

Contemplating the radical change in social structures needed leads me personally to commit myself to advocate for a bold vision beyond reform; to support big ideas like the Green New Deal and beyond; to participate in mass non-violent civil disobedience actions; to help dismantle white supremacy, patriarchy, and all the dominator systems; to support the creation of a new just, cooperative economy. A tall order for sure, but why not go for it!

We don’t and can’t know how the story ends. But starting by embracing the strong possibility of environmental collapse and human extinction can jar us into a deeper relationship with our true nature and other beings.

“Inner healing, social transformation. You can’t have one without the other.”
– the tagline of Tikkun Magazine years ago.

John Bell is a Buddhist Dharma Teacher who lives near Boston, MA, USA. He is a founding staff and former vice president of YouthBuild USA, an international non-profit that provides learning, earning, and leadership opportunities to young people from low-income backgrounds. He is an author, lifelong social justice activist, international trainer facilitator, father and grandfather. His blog iswww.beginwithin.info and email isjbellminder@gmail.com.

Will we collapse like Easter Island?

By Zeeshan Hasan

The spectacular statues of Easter Island, a sparsely populated Pacific isle which is seemingly so desolate that there are not even any large trees on it, have been a mystery for centuries. How could an island of a few thousand people produce hundreds of such statues, the largest of which are 33 feet tall and weigh 82 tons? This question inspired Erich Von Daniken, a best-selling author of the 1970s, to speculate that the statues were erected by aliens from outer space. The real story of the statues and the people who carved them are the subject of the first chapter of Jared Diamond’s book, ‘Collapse: How Societies Choose To Fail Or Survive’. Diamond is professor of Geography at the University of California at Los Angeles and author of several award-winning books on the impact of the physical world on human history. His Easter Island history turns out to have profound environmental lessons for us even today.

Diamond points out that archaeologists have proved that Easter Island was once very different from today; before being colonised by people, it was covered with forest typical of other sub-tropical Pacific islands. Once settled by explorers who arrived by canoe from other islands, it seemed to present itself as a hospitable place, and the human population expanded rapidly. Incidentally, this solves the mystery of the statues; a population several times bigger could more reasonably be expected to erect such monuments. However, unknown to the new settlers, the soil of Easter Island was much less fertile than that of other islands that they had lived on. This infertility manifested itself in slower tree growth. Thus when the Easter Islanders cut down trees for firewood, houses and deep-sea canoes, they did this at a rate which may have been sustainable on other islands that their ancestors had lived on; but on Easter Island it brought disaster. As the population grew, people cut down more trees for firewood and canoes. Canoes were necessary as dolphin-hunting provided a large portion of the animal protein in the diet (along with wild birds and other small animals from the forest). But once the forest cover was removed, the exposed land eroded quickly in the rain and wind. Crop yields decreased, and the islanders’ solution was apparently to cut down more trees to plant more crops and build more canoes for dolphin-hunting. As a result, within a few centuries the island was completely deforested. Without trees, there were no more wild birds or animals to hunt, except rats. With no more wood available for canoes, dolphin meat was also no longer available. The islanders descended into famine, war and cannibalism (unfortunately, human meat was one of few remaining sources of animal protein). Two-thirds of the population perished in this terrible manner.

Diamond describes other societies that collapsed primarily due to environmental difficulties, including several more Pacific islands, the Norse colony in Greenland, the native Anasazi culture of the southwestern US, the central American Maya civilisation and modern Rwanda. He also presents the case of Japan, which came close to such a fate but managed to avoid it thanks to intelligent decisions and good leadership.

There is a lesson for us here: in these times of global warming, it may be comforting to believe that our leaders can be trusted to sort everything out, and that humanity would never allow itself to be destroyed. But such a faith would be unfounded; many previous societies have thought this way, and failed. Long-term survival requires a real understanding of the limitations of our environment and a strong political will to live within those limits. Like the first settlers of Easter Island, we find ourselves in a new, unknown environment; namely an industrialised 21st century world with greenhouse gas levels higher than they have ever been in human history. We no longer need to colonise a new island to experience unfamiliar environmental conditions; our carbon dioxide emissions are altering the climate of our whole planet, which will bring unpredictable new risks for everyone. The lesson of Easter Island should make us think on the failure of our own leaders to take real action to prevent catastrophic climate change, even though the latest IPCC report said that only 11 years remain to prevent catastrophic global warming of more than 1.5 C.