By Vero Acitores
The pictures are from the Climate strike on Friday March 15th, were we got together with Friday’s For Future in downtown Mexico City. This was our first appearance of Extinction Rebellion in Mexico City.
By Robert Alcock
an Extinction Rebellion activist and father
have noticed that there’s never any shortage of grown-ups who are
eager to tell you their opinions about whatever you happen to be
doing. That’s especially true when tens of thousands of you—including
my daughter, I’m proud to say—skip school to protest about the
state your elders are leaving the planet in.
(School strikers at the Scottish Parliament.)
a few “responsible” adults—as in “the ones who are
responsible for the mess we’re in”—have made it clear they
think the Climate Strike is really just an excuse to skip school.
Well, duh! Obviously it’s much more fun and educational to be out in
the streets changing the world than sitting in class being taught
about it. You’ve written slogans and designed placards, organised
with friends and debated with opponents, made appearances on TV and
in social media, made new friends and bumped into old ones you had no
idea were involved. Try fitting all that into a timetable and a
Theresa May had this to say about the School Strike: “…Disruption
increases teachers’ workloads and wastes lesson time that teachers
have carefully prepared for. That time is crucial for young people
precisely so that they can develop into the top scientists, engineers
and advocates that we need to help tackle this problem.”
Theresa, but I’ll have to give you an F for that answer. This is a
global ecological emergency! We need action NOW, not in 30 years’
time when a lucky few among today’s teenagers have managed to reach
positions of power and influence. Anyway the vast majority of schools
don’t give kids the kind of education they need to gain access to
those positions. And the wise young people who were on the streets on
Friday know full well that what’s needed today isn’t more technical
solutions, but the political will to put the solutions we already
have into practice, in a way that’s socially just and ecologically
sustainable. No amount of studying is going to achieve that.
it comes to the cost and value of formal education, I know what I’m
talking about. I left school in 1988, the year the IPCC was founded;
I studied science at university, graduating in 1992, the year of the
Rio Earth Summit, went on to do a masters in ecology, then a PhD,
studying the effects of climate change on rocky shore organisms.
November 2002, the very same weekend I completed my fieldwork, the
beautiful coast of northern Spain was devastated by the Prestige oil spill—the worst environmental disaster in Spain’s
history—which covered the whole shore in a thick layer of toxic
black fuel oil, poisoning the seaweed and shellfish I’d spent three
(Futile attempts to clean up the Prestige oil spill.)
all that, I still couldn’t get a job changing the world, so I had to
do it on my own time, supporting myself as an writer, editor and
translator while also building a house for my family—all skills
that I learned mostly outside the formal education system.
in those 30 years since I left school, the global economy has emitted more CO2 than it did during the whole of human history up to that
point, and still shows no sign of slowing down, while ecosystems
worldwide are on the point of collapse. If anyone had told me back
then that we’d be in this predicament now, I think I would have done
less studying and more protesting.
(Global CO2 emissions since the start of the Industrial Revolution.)
here we are.
Unlike George Monbiot, I don’t feel inclined to apologise to your
generation on behalf of my own for having fucked up the world. I’ve
been doing what I can. Let everyone look to their own conscience.
nor do I want to put the burden of the future entirely on your
shoulders. Greta Thunberg has something to say about that: “It’s sometimes annoying when
people say, ‘Oh you children, you young people are the hope. You
will save the world.’ I think it would be helpful if you could help
us just a little bit.”
you loud and clear, Greta. On behalf of the adults of Extinction Rebellion (XR)—and I think I’m safe in speaking for the whole
movement here—I want to say to the school strikers: we’ve got your
back. We’re here to help. We don’t want to take control of the
Climate Strike, profit from it, or use it as part of our nefarious
plot to take over the world (well, ok, maybe just a little bit ;-).
You’ve done a great job so far, and it has to continue to be driven
and organised by you, the young people. But we want to offer you our
whole-hearted support to help the Climate Strike grow bigger and
better every Friday, and make the next mass action, on Friday March
15th, absolutely impossible to ignore.
very practical sense, XR has a lot of resources that you can draw on.
(Of course, we’re also aware of the safeguarding and legal issues
around adults working with children and other vulnerable groups.) We
can offer training and support in a load of different areas: media
and messaging, legal advice, how to plan and cary out NVDA
(non-violent direct action), how to facilitate meetings and
assemblies, prevent burnout, resolve conflicts, and make sure we are
all having a good time, how to make effective and beautiful graphics,
signs, puppets, music… Really, pretty much everything your movement
needs to grow and flourish, except your own passion, wisdom and
dedication—and you already have that in abundance.
about Monday morning?
great that you’re out on the streets protesting on Fridays. I hope
you keep it up and diversify what you do during the protests.
Marching, waving banners and shouting slogans gets a bit boring after
a while. How about holding (Young) People’s Assemblies to talk about
the ecological emergency and what we should be doing about it? Extend
the conversation you’ve started with your brilliant signs and
I think what matters just as much is what you’re going to be doing
Monday to Thursday. Many of you are about to go back to school after
the half-term break: going from schooling adults in how to change the
world, to having to ask to use the bathroom.
the excellent intentions and efforts of many teachers, the vast
majority of schools are simply not fit for purpose. They just aren’t
set up to empower and inform the young people who are going to create
a restorative future for Planet Earth. Rather, for the most part,
they foster a culture of domination, disempowerment, passivity, and
hopelessness: in fact, the culture at the root of the ecological
crisis. The system persists through our resignation and acceptance.
Systemic change is needed, starting where each of us is best placed
to act. For you, that’s likely to be in your school.
climate crisis is a great rallying point, though our predicament is a
whole lot bigger than just the climate. From oceans to insects,
forests to cities, health to justice, no aspect of life on Earth is
untouched. You can create a student-led assembly to demand your
school declare an climate emergency, and discuss what to do about it:
whether that means planting a school forest, tackling air pollution,
eliminating plastics, stopping the use of pesticides, sourcing
healthy local food for school lunches or growing your own… or
reaching out into your local communities. But at the same time,
you’ll likely find yourselves talking about, and coming up with
solutions for, a lot of other problems—from bullying to child
poverty to boring lessons—once you start to see how they are all
words to remember: NEVER. ASK.
don’t mean you should be rude or arrogant in your behaviour. Be
respectful at all times—especially to your opponents; but make it
clear that you’re going to do what you believe is right, whether
those in power grant permission or not. Most adults will be on your
side, even if they might be afraid to say so openly.
world is possible. See you there!
Robert Alcock, Extinction Rebellion Edinburgh
This speech was planned to be read during the Youth Strike 4 Climate, in Exeter on February 15th. Youth Strike for Climate is an international movement that is gaining traction and support all the time. February 15th was the first mass countrywide UK action. Exeter was one of the biggest events. XR unequivocally supports Youth Strikes. Some Youth Strike members are also XR Youth members, including in Exeter. Thanks to ‘Jack’ for the YouTube video above. Jack, please get in touch -one of our editors would like to create some content with you!
by Molly Bovet, 17 years old
To those with the
greatest power, from those who must break the system to claim it:
There never should
have been a ‘time for waiting’, and now even those stolen years have run out.
generation has failed to keep us safe in this time, and now we, your children,
are left to pick up the pieces and provoke you into action. The promises that
have been made and the plans that have been discussed so far are too vague and
have, at best, twelve years left before the state of our planet becomes catastrophic
and we run out of time for action; that is not time that can be wasted like the
politicians and major companies of the world have wasted the years leading up
are the ones who have created this mess and now we are here to force you into
action. You are the ones with the power to help us.
are raised to be quiet when they’re angry and to do as they’re told, but this
is one issue that we cannot be silenced on.
just the past twenty five years, you have emitted more CO2 than the entirety of
the human race before you. The climate we have been born and raised in, the
climate that you have created, is born of obliteration.
may even see climate collapse as soon as within the next five years, and if we
don’t amend that, cultural collapse will inevitably follow within our
these horrific facts are things that we have had to seek out ourselves; our
schools do not equip us with the knowledge and ability to mitigate the worst-case
scenarios. Nor do they teach us about the direness of our climate situation or
how we can live low carbon lifestyles.
do not want to live in fear but you give us no choice. We trusted you, the
adults, to keep us safe but you have failed to secure our future.
You want to raise good kids, people who will be kind to one another and the world around them, work passionately and take their educations seriously. These kids are here, begging at your feet to spare us a future in flames. We will care for this earth and its creatures. We will love every precious second that we are here; just as long as you do the same.
This is my only planet
by Holly Errington
This is my only planet
I must defend it
This is your beautiful planet
You must help us
Tired of endless excuses
Governments saying “We’ll fix it later”
And walking away with a smirk
Their pockets full and our planet empty
We will not settle for later
We don’t care if you think we’re crazy
We can band together
are happening now
Do not let others pollute your vision
Be a protector of precious life
Let us hold hope by the hand
Pray that we will be sitting amongst wildlife
In years to come
Talking about our defiance
Against this ecological destruction
We Have the Facts, We Will Have Climate Justice
by Lauren Fenton, 18 years old
In a world where governments care more
about money than the environment, it has been left to the people to decide
which shade of green we want for our planet.
With an estimated 18 billion pounds of
plastic waste entering the world oceans from coastal regions annually and
Donald Trump looking to re-open coal mines in the USA, it is now down to the
people to make the change.
But we need the support of the government, we need them to wake up and take responsibility and write legally binding agreements to cap the global temperature rise by less than the tipping point.
Limiting global warming to 2 degrees Celsius is not good enough. A two-degree increase in the average global temperature means that mountain glaciers and rivers will start to disappear, 10% of the world’s population will be displaced due to sea level rise and A THIRD OF ALL LIFE ON EARTH WILL FACE EXTINCTION!
As a population we need to band together to
pressure the officials to enforce a mandatory cap in temperature rise at 1.5
degrees C above pre-industrial levels and become carbon neutral by 2030. By the
time we reach 2050 It will be too late.
In 2014, only 5 countries accounted for 70%
of global CO2 emissions: China, the United States, the European Union, the
Russian Federation and Japan. This sparked the launch of the “land mark
agreement” to combat climate change in 2015 – COP 21, The Paris agreement,
Which THE USA HAS NOW PULLED OUT OF.
China is so far the only country to make a
major difference, announcing plans to invest over $USD 3 Billion in renewable
energy. Whist the EU’s aim is become carbon neutral by 2050 and cut energy use
by 20% below business-as-usual projections by 2020. This is NOT good enough! We
are the 3rd largest contributor to CO2 emissions globally and our
member states are among the wealthiest countries in the world. With these stats
there is NO EXCUSE for not making more of an effort to become carbon neutral!
Because of our governments idleness we are now on track for a global
temperature rise of 2.7 degrees C, 0.7 above the tipping point.
Despite all these
statistics, there has still been no legally binding agreement to combat climate
change since 2009. And there are still countries refusing the latest agreement
(Katowice 2018), including the USA, Russia and Saudi Arabia. Knowing this, how can
we rely on governments who are not willing to make a sacrifice to save the
planet? If the temperature continues to rise there will be no trade, there will
be displacement of people and there will be extinction!
We have the facts.
We have the power. We will have Climate Justice.
By Henry Greenwood
My first wake up moment to the reality of climate change came in 2007 when watching Al Gore’s ‘An Inconvenient Truth’. I don’t remember being particularly aware of the issue before, but after watching it I realised that I wanted to do something to play a part in tackling this massive issue facing us. Al Gore talked about it as a crisis then, but not many people were treating it like one.
Since then I always thought of climate change as something that could be prevented if we all worked hard enough to persuade people to change their behaviour and governments to change their policies. The 2015 Paris Climate Agreement, while being a long time coming seemed to be a big step forward to creating the consensus required for action. Three years after that, however, and with nowhere near enough having changed,2018 was the year that I accepted that climate change cannot be prevented. It’s too late for that. The climate has already changed, and the still increasing amounts of greenhouse gases that we are emitting make further climate breakdown inevitable with increasingly devastating consequences.
It feels staggering that it took until 2018 for climate change to become a mainstream concern, but at least it is now happening. It seemed to me as though it was the first year in the UK that people saw and felt it so clearly that it became impossible for anyone, other than hardened deniers, to attribute the extreme weather to repeated freak occurrences rather than a long term trend caused by us.
There was the Beast From the East in March, followed a month later by record high temperatures in April, and then the prolonged hot and dry summer which led to even the Sun declaring climate change to be the cause of the heatwave.
Then in October, the IPCC report came out stating in clear terms that we were way off track to avoid catastrophe, and that we have 12 years to drastically change the way we live. Not long after, WWF produced a heart breaking report stating that 60% of wildlife had been wiped out by human activity since 1970. To put all this into a UK political context, however, around the same time, Philip Hammond delivered the 2018 budget without a single mention of climate change.
Two stories also emerged towards the end of 2018, though, that genuinely have the potential to change the course that we are on.
In November, I was recommended by a colleague and friend to read Jem Bendell’s Deep Adaptation report. Later that week, I went to an event organised by the Climate Action Society at UCL at which leading academics spoke about the reality of climate change. This was my second wake up moment, and it was an even harder realisation than the first. This time, it was the realisation that things probably aren’t going to be OK, and we are facing something truly terrifying that may already be beyond our control. So the following day I decided to join Extinction Rebellion and go and sit on Waterloo Bridge and shut it down to traffic, alongside around 6,000 others across five bridges.
I was initially put off by the name ‘Extinction Rebellion’. Extinction is not a nice thought to contemplate, it makes me deeply sad to think of the animal species that have gone and are facing extinction, but in this context it makes us confront the possible extinction of humanity if we continue on our current path. I’ve never particularly been the rebellious type either, and to me the word conjures up images of violence and bloodshed. But this is a different kind of rebellion, and those harsh words are offset by the movement’s simple demands and a powerfully compelling and compassionate method, delivered by ordinary people who care about our living planet and our collective future.
Their demands are that the government tells the truth about climate change and acts as though it is the truth, that the UK reduces carbon emissions to net zero by 2025, and that we set up a citizens’ assembly to determine the policies needed and oversee the changes. These may sound radical, but on reflection, they are merely a sensible and rational response to the existential crisis that we face.
The method to achieve these aims is non-violent direct action. Inspiration is drawn from the civil rights movement, and the realisation that everything up to this point has failed to change our suicidal trajectory.
The other story that has the potential to inspire action is that of young people rising to the challenge to which adults have failed. Greta Thunberg started striking from school and sitting outside the Swedish Parliament in September and has been doing it every Friday since then. What started as a one person protest has now led to tens of thousands of students in Australia, Germany, Switzerland, Belgium and other countries to follow her lead, making the point that their futures are being compromised by the lack of action from older generations on climate change.
I went along to the first UK youth school climate strike in London in December which was arranged in a few days and attracted around 12 school students. Since then young people have been organising, inspired by Greta’s message and there will be strikes in cities and towns across the country on Friday February 15th.
Where does Green Schools Project fit into all this? I left my job as Head of Maths at a Hackney Secondary School in 2015 to start the organisation as my way of contributing to tackling climate change. In assemblies we tell students about the reality that they are facing and how they can play a part in addressing the greatest challenge we face. I’m not planning to encourage students in the schools that we are working with to go on strike, that’s entirely for them to decide, but we stand squarely in solidarity with the young people choosing to take this action and support their call for a planet that is still habitable by the time that they are adults.
One of our goals as an organisation this year is to amplify the voices of young people calling for change to a system that is causing the mass extinction of species and will lead to the end of our current way of life. I hope with all my heart that the young people that I see in schools will have the opportunities and freedoms to live and work, travel, and enjoy the natural world as much as I have, but I fear that this will not be the case. Maybe young people like Greta will be the ones that finally provide the wake up call that is needed to treat this crisis as the crisis it really is, and decisively change the course of events.