Extinction Rebellion – Halloween and Guy Fawkes Night

On the 31st October 1517, Martin Luther nailed his 95 Theses to the door of the Wittenberg Church. The awareness of this action’s long-term significance may have escaped him at the time. With swathes of people turning against the Catholic Church, which had been the most powerful force in Europe for countless years, any doubts about its effect cannot have lasted long.

On the 31st of December 2018, Extinction Rebellion issued a “Declaration of Rebellion” against the British Government. The event was passionate and inspiring. One hopes it will have a similarly galvanising effect as Luther’s hammers had upon the Church. Indeed, it will need to if we are to survive the ecocide standing before us.

This time of year has a feeling of rebellion. The haze of Summer, which somehow seeps well into September, starts to lift. Suddenly we are plunged into darkness and our clocks go back. An extra hour’s sleep never feels quite enough. Halloween is a time for Trick or Treat – far more of an American tradition than a British one. There’s something anarchic about the whole idea that I find appealing – the act of sanctioned, carnivalesque begging. Is giving sweets to strangers paying homage to that sense of hospitality we fear losing, or are we symbolically paying tribute to monsters we have no way of controlling?

Imagine if this practice happened constantly throughout the year? The Trick aspect of Trick or Treat is presented as a last resort if children do not get the treats they want. But really Trick is more of a word for the whole masquerade of Halloween, and its anti-authoritarian semblances, for dressing up as ghouls and ghosts. Halloween is about joyful anonymity through masquerade. It feels in some sense like an age-old protest. Or at least an exorcism of bad spirits.  

Costume parties run into November. And in Britain unlike the US we have Guy Fawkes Night. When I was a child, it always struck me as unpleasant to celebrate someone’s execution with bonfires and burning effigies. It took an imagination like Alan Moore’s to reinvent the Guy Fawkes imagery as an act of rebellion against a future British fascist state in his comic V for Vendetta to symbolically spin something out of Guy Fawkes’ vengeance at years of smouldering mannequins. On the night of the 3rd November, I sat in a plush London cinema watching the film version; a tear ran down my cheek at the inhumanity and the cruelty the film portrays. The message is very much that a certain ruthlessness, based on revenge, is if not necessary then at least inevitable for a mass popular uprising. The lead characters “V” and “Evie Hammond” delight in gleeful destruction – art as political violence.

In some senses, the Extinction Rebellion is similar – more subtle and much more forgiving than the swashbuckling anarchist of the aforementioned tale. Rather than taking pleasure in chaos, Extinction Rebellion presupposes that worldwide chaos is already occurring. Waking people up to their fate involves not blaming or taking out our anger on those who stand against us: the government and big business. Their resistance involves presenting us with half measures to global warming: they cannot face up to destruction, they will waver until the last minute to Midnight. It is only through grieving the extinction that is presently happening that we can hope to change the status quo. People do not know what they have until it is gone. Sadness is powerful and also political. Meanwhile, we have to be creative and artistic against a backdrop of violence and destruction. We have to speak truth to the emotions that lay in the realm beyond a climate apocalypse: both a collective mourning for what we are losing and a collective joy in what we are building anew.

The truth behind Antarctica’s fast-melting ice

By Kate Goldstone

Resources:

 

Introduction

Antarctica, which has long been thought to be relatively safe from vast ice melts, has proved us wrong. It’s actually in just as much trouble as the Arctic.

Plenty of people believed the ice on Antarctica wouldn’t melt as fast as the Arctic. Then, in April 2017, scientists claimed Antarctica’s ice might actually be melting a lot faster than anyone predicted. It matters because Antarctica is home to 90% of the world’s ice. If it keeps melting this quickly, and the continent’s massive ice sheets go, we’re looking at profound worldwide effects including mass flooding.

What’s going on, and is the trend continuing? Here’s what you need to know.

 

How Arctic and Antarctic sea ice differ

Because the Arctic and Antarctics’ geography is different, so is their ice. The Arctic ocean is partly enclosed, mostly surrounded by land. Its ice is less mobile and floes tend to clump together into thick ridges. Ridge ice has a longer life cycle and stays frozen for longer. The region is home to 5.8 million square miles of sea ice in winter, reducing to roughly 2.7 million square miles by the end of the summer.

The Antarctic is totally different. Made up of land surrounded by ocean, the sea ice there moves freely and drifts faster. There are fewer ice ridges as a result, and the lack of a land boundary to the north means the ice naturally floats northwards into warmer waters before melting. Winter sees about 6.9 million square miles of Antarctic ocean covered in sea ice, but by the end of the summer there are only around 1.1 million square miles of it left.

 

Clear warnings in 2017

April 2017 saw the first reports of Antarctica’s ice melting faster than previously predicted, thanks to the discovery of a network of lakes and streams under the continent’s ice shelves which created a destabilising influence on the ice above. The study was published in the journal Nature and revealed the process is taking place in areas where scientists didn’t think there was any liquid water. As global temperatures keep rising, the speed of the damage can only increase. The team examined satellite images dating as far back as 1973 as well as aerial images snapped by military aircraft way back in the 1940s. And the results were a shocker – some of the streams flowed for 75 miles, and some of the lakes were several miles across.

A few months later in November 2017 a study examined the east Antarctic Totten ice shelf, finding it unexpectedly vulnerable to warming waters. And still governments failed to react, never mind act. March 2018 saw scientists announce more of the Totten Ice Shelf was floating than they’d predicted. Multiple different types of supporting evidence proved the point. Now it looks a lot like a certainty. If Larsen C and Totten melt, the world’s sea levels will rise as much as 5 metres. Totten could easily contribute a 3m sea level rise all on its own.

 

Another equally clear warning in 2018

In August 2018, more headline news surfaced about Antarctica’s ice. It appeared a couple of enormous glaciers to the east of the region had lost ice mass disturbingly quickly in the years since the millennium. The results hinted that forecasts for sea level rise this century will have to be revised upwards, but nobody knows exactly how much. While it’s obvious the ice in Antarctica is melting frighteningly quickly, the complex dependencies and inter-dependencies that make it happen aren’t at all clear.

So far most molten Antarctic ice has come from the west of the continent. The Antarctic Peninsula is under particular threat, reaching out into the ocean and exposed to warmer waters, and the Larsen C ice sheet, which famously cracked in 2017, is also to the west. East Antarctica has long been thought to be more stable, cut off from the planet’s weather systems by powerful spinning gales that stop the warmth getting anywhere near. On the other hand it’s so remote that scientists have spent decades guestimating what might happen instead of actually measuring. But they keep getting it wrong. In 2015 one piece of research hinted the region was putting on extra ice, not losing it, but closer examination revealed it was simply not true.

Even if Totten disappears, we probably won’t see a 5m rise by 2100. There’s such a lot we don’t know about the behaviour of Antarctic ice and the many factors a big melt depends on. It apparently takes hundreds of gigatonnes of ice to raise sea levels by just one millimetre, and Totten isn’t anywhere near that level… yet. But it might speed up, and we have no idea how fast the melting could ultimately become once we pass a tipping point, also unknown.

There are more unknowns around the effect of the geology underneath the continent, the shape of the bedrock itself. And the channels running from underneath the Totten link it to the ocean give warmer water the access it needs to potentially kick off a runaway melt.

Only one thing is clear. The original consensus was far too cautious. Now we know for sure Antarctica is losing ice mass hand over fist. It has been losing ice for years. And nobody knows where the tipping point is.

 

The effects of runaway sea level rises

The cities under the most threat from rising sea levels also happen to be amongst the biggest on the planet, the most financially, socially and culturally important. Alexandria in Africa, The Hague in Europe, Miami in North America and Rio de janiero in South America are all at risk, home to a total of 10 million people, almost all of whom would be displaced. Ten million migrants from just four cities… that’s hard to deal with. And it’s only the tip of the iceberg, if you’ll forgive the pun. On every continent, in every sea-facing country, we’d have to build vast amounts of new housing stock for migrants.

Cities don’t operate in isolation, either. Every drowned city means drowned transport networks, communications networks, power, utilities and food networks, all left under water permanently. Wildlife will suffer just as badly, forced out of natural habitats. It actually doesn’t bear thinking about… but it’s happening all the same. As UN environment chief Erik Solheim said before last year’s Bon conference, “[We] still find ourselves in a situation where we are not doing nearly enough to save hundreds of millions of people from a miserable future.”

 

What are governments doing about Antarctic ice loss?

Antarctic ice melt is driven by climate change. Governments are not doing enough about climate change. All over the world those in power are still prevaricating, delaying, discussing and disagreeing while Rome burns. It’s our job to force them to act. Will you join us?

 

The price of failed promises in Brazil

When social reformers fail to make good on their promises, it is of little surprise that they get punished. Any legitimate State or ruling body needs to maintain the trust of its citizens in order to function. When trust is lost, the vacuum is created for the “strong man” to walk in.

I find it hard to blame Brazilian citizens for voting Jair Bolsonaro into the presidency. They, like most, want what is best for their families, peace, stability and security.  The sense of deep disappointment in the ruling elite[1], felt as much in Europe nowadays as it is Latin America, has allowed Bolsonaro to reinvent himself in Trumpian style as “not one of them”. Although in reality, he very much is one of them having been actively involved in politics since 1988.

What this means for the conservation of the Amazon, the environment and the preservation of indigenous land rights, on the other hand, is deeply disturbing. Bolsonaro has stated on the campaign trail that he would, like the US, pull Brazil out of the Paris Agreement[2], ban public funding to NGOs[3] working on climate and conservation issues, allow for a rise in the rate of logging and thus deforestation in the Amazon, pave the notorious BR-319 highway that runs through the rainforest,[4] expand agribusiness in beef and soy, and possibly go ahead with threats to strip indigenous peoples of their land rights. “There won’t be a square centimetre demarcated as an indigenous reserve”[5], Bolsonaro has thundered on the campaign trail.

In an atmosphere of strong and clear public support for a hard-line figure like Bolsonaro who espouses the use of armed force to crack down on disorder, activists engaging in acts of civil disobedience must tread carefully; monitoring the level of impunity being granted to law enforcement and military units, analysing the level of public approval of government policies, and realising that the risk of being portrayed as the kind of people Bolsonaro was elected to contain and shut down is extremely high. That said, with the reductivist measures being planned that will turn the Amazon from being the world’s carbon sink into a major source of greenhouse gases, emergency and extreme measures must be taken now to resist.

Some lessons from my time in Latin America in human rights activism and non-violent resistance may be relevant here:

  1. Be leaderless. Engage and advocate regularly with the State and its enforcement mechanisms. Get your message across but show a different face each time. Leaders or appointed liaisons will be used to control the activist group through deals and promises.
  2. Stick to the script. Write an FAQ of the most challenging questions you expect to face and make sure everyone repeats them verbatim. Use your message to sell your position and polarise your opponent. Know your rights and the law.
  3. Build networks. With indigenous groups under threat, it is necessary to build national and international emergency response networks that can be activated to raise the political cost of any attempt to strip people of their land rights, intimidate or kill them, or evict them from their lands. Those living on the lands know best[6], allow them to make their own decisions. Having an international network that can reach the ears of those with vested interests in Brazil will be crucial in supporting indigenous people to protect themselves and their lands. Partner with the communities that are willing to have international outreach; map the stakeholders and those with interests and target accordingly. Do not be surprised if the indigenous groups themselves are the ones to emerge first with acts of resistance and civil disobedience, they are at a critical juncture now with the results of this presidential election.
  4. Target multinationals and businesses operating in or planning to operate in the rainforest. Analyse which methods will have the most negative impact on their brand; boycotts, social media campaigns, direct action in their physical locations, or blockades. Do your homework, analyse the context and re-analyse regularly.
  5. If the security crackdown is too severe, consider using forms of resistance that do not involve direct physical confrontation; work slowdowns can be an equally effective tactic in some circumstance and represent a low risk/high impact strategy for activists.

 

These techniques have been used by human rights defenders for decades while attempting to protect their lands and seeking to enjoy their rights under international law. The Guardian and Global witness state that from 2015 to date, “145 land and environmental defenders have died in Brazil: the highest number on Earth”.[7] The dismal scenario that is unfolding with the news of Bolsonaro’s election is that this number will only rise not fall.

A Mongabay forecast of events in Brazil’s upcoming election written at the start of 2018, painted a bleak but accurate prediction of the path Brazil has taken this year. The forecast closes being heartened to see growing indigenous and grassroots resistance continuing to develop. The piece quotes Survival International as saying:

“On the positive side, indigenous organizations at grassroots and regional levels are active and vocal in defending their Amazon homeland and, if anything, they will be more vocal in 2018. In the almost absence of the state, tribes like Guajajara and Ka’apor have formed their own groups of ‘guardians’ to defend their forest and the vulnerable, uncontacted people who live there too. We can expect to see more action from them (in 2018).”[8]

The results of the election are dispiriting for those of us who see the protection of the environment, the Amazon rainforest, and the people that live in it as necessary for the global good of the planet. Acts of civil disobedience against those institutions and corporations that seek to profit monetarily from the deforestation and destruction of the rainforest must be taken now. Strategic acts of civil disobedience that strengthen the hand of indigenous peoples defending their land, rights and heritage, could weaken the citizens’ trust that the ruling class is truly working for their benefit.

Matt Byrne

 

[1] Surveys in August 2017 found disapproval of the government to be at 83 percent, see http://dapp.fgv.br/o-dilema-brasileiro-entre-descrenca-no-presente-e-esperanca-no-futuro/

[2] He subsequently rowed back on this but it is hard to see why he would not go ahead with such a move given the swathe of other anti-conservation, anti-climate measures he plans to introduce.

[3] https://istoe.com.br/bolsonaro-diz-que-ira-acabar-com-demarcacoes-de-terras-e-financiamento-de-ongs/

[4] https://www.dangerousroads.org/south-america/brazil/2067-br-319.html

[5] https://www.nytimes.com/2018/10/17/climate/brazil-election-amazon-environment.html

[6] https://c532f75abb9c1c021b8c-e46e473f8aadb72cf2a8ea564b4e6a76.ssl.cf5.rackcdn.com/2018/09/12/8vxkock8bw_Policy_Brief_WCS_CDU_UMD_Indigenous_Lands_and_Intact_Forest_Landscapes_v5.pdf This study has found that at least 35 percent of the world’s remaining intact forest landscapes are managed or owned by Indigenous Peoples

[7] https://www.theguardian.com/environment/ng-interactive/2018/feb/27/the-defenders-recording-the-deaths-of-environmental-defenders-around-the-world

[8] https://news.mongabay.com/2018/01/brazil-2018-amazon-under-attack-resistance-grows-courts-to-act-elections/

Hope dies, action begins

(Published in El Espectador of Colombia, South America. Adapted by XR blog)

October 31st, 2018, could be a historic day for future generations. In Parliament Square at the heart of London, a number of people will join the Declaration of Rebellion, an uprising against the extinction of life on the planet.

The British are the spearhead of this potential global revolution because it was on that European island that the Industrial Revolution was born and shaped the West as we see it today. For generations they have watched and withstood the deceptions of an increasingly predatory system, have suffered the neoliberal lies of development and progress, and therefore they precede us in conscience and fatigue, as the old wise people of the tribe. They are fed up and now have the undeniable certainty that if things continue as they are, the extinction of life on the planet could be a reality, terrifying and far too close. This has been stated by scientists, confirmed by the common sense of peasants, and witnessed by the unease of the world’s citizens who are awake, connected and worried.

So in the words of the Declaration, “We will, in accordance with our conscience and a clear duty to our children; our communities; this nation and planet; declare a non-violent rebellion on behalf of life itself and against our criminally negligent government.” These words resonate with the indignation of all peoples right now.

The Extinction Rebellion aspires to be an international movement calling for massive civil disobedience to enter a phase of war-time mobilization in response to the climate change disaster which many of us are already aware of and experiencing. The principles are those of true humanistic revolutions and the spirit is that of moving altruism, both contemporary and ancestral, inclusive and respectful, holding the efficient truth of felt emotions allied with the certainties of science and sound community civil action. Thus they proclaim, “Our hearts break and we rage against this madness. We have a right and duty to rebel in the face of this tyranny of idiocy – in the face of this planned collective suicide  … We cannot stand idly by and allow the ongoing destruction of all we love.”

It is easy to subscribe anywhere on the globe to the principles of this movement. With the exception of the loss of hope, which in my case hangs on the thin thread of a spiritual connection that prevents me from losing it, even if it is overshadowed at times, these principles are the ideals we would like to make real on the planet. I list some that ring true for me: the first is the certainty that extreme capitalism, besides creating inequality, is knowingly destroying the planet; a common vision of change – we need a healthy, resilient and adaptable culture; reflection and learning; welcoming everyone and every part of those individuals; mitigating institutional power in order to break hierarchies and encourage equal participation; creating a nonviolent network … and other idealistic values made real through courage and pragmatism.

And I also sign up to the belief that, “The time for denial is over; we know the truth about climate change and we know the truth about current biological annihilation. It’s time to act like that truth is real. What does living with this truth call us to do? Will you die knowing you did all you were able to?” Good luck to the rebels! We are here.

Ignacio Zuleta

@TomLennard Why Aren’t We Worrying More About Climate Change? Action not Words

This post was originally published here:

https://tomdlondon.blogspot.com/2018/10/guest-blog-tomlennard-why-arent-we.html?spref=tw

In July, Green Party candidate and academic Rupert Read declined to appear on a BBC programme. The tweet in which he justified this, read as follows: BBC Radio wanted to have me on today to debate a climate-denier in the context of the drought/heatwave. I said NO. I told them it was a disgrace that they still give climate-deniers airtime at a time like this. I won’t be part of such charades any longer. Please RT if you agree. @GreenRupertRead

Read’s contention is that giving climate-deniers airtime is a ridiculous move from the BBC, when there are more important debates about climate change; it is here, and is dangerous. This impatience is echoed by other activists, but ones that will not wait for a comfortable discussion around the pros and cons of different strategies. They are unwilling to make polite appeals to our government, when it is clearly in the pocket of big business and major polluters.

On September 25th I chaired a discussion entitled “Why Aren’t We Worrying More About Global Warming?”  where one of Extinction Rebellion’s main activists, Roger Hallam, spoke. At this event he laid out his arguments – arguments for starting a public rebellion against the government over their climate change inaction – and then he left before the Q & A began. 

Action, he explained, not words, are important in the little time we have to do something. We should not get caught in the over-analysis of the information. He painted a picture of activism as a sacrifice of personal freedom, and the importance of rule breaking to achieve ones goals. And knowing Roger a little, I can corroborate that he lives by these ideals. Here is a link to Roger’s speech https://ytcropper.com/cropped/EA5bd4dc118a72b

It is easy to view the non-violent action that Roger proposed as extreme and drastic – it is. It was only a week after the talk, on October 1st, that the IPCC released their damning report: we have only 12 years to keep climate change temperatures under control:https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2018/oct/08/global-warming-must-not-exceed-15c-warns-landmark-un-report And this is to put widespread devastation and societal unrest into emotionless facts and figures.

I am no longer convinced that political parties of the Left have enough energy or gumption to turn us toward serious responses and solutions to climate change. Political cycles are short and politicians have even shorter memories.

Roger’s walk away from the discussion, and abandonment of polite convention had a very polarising affect. It generated an emotional response –  and such responses are necessary for going beyond our willingness to rationalise and normalise the impending chaos.

Whilst the positive stories are definitely something that can keep us going in the darker moments outside activism, many people around the globe are engaged in great projects that facilitate us moving to a more ecological way of living. But these are alternatives, and not the mainstream, socio-political reality.

Extinction Rebellion’s method is to shock the system. They plan to do this in the coming months, starting with a big demonstration and direct action in Parliament Square, with the backing of George Monbiot https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2018/oct/18/governments-no-longer-trusted-climate-change-citizens-revolt

The present moment seems terribly fragile and frightening. Even the climate change deniers seem to be keeping rather quiet. But since the IPCC report the media has returned to its regular coverage of minutiae and gossip. It is a fragile moment that we live in, but fragile moments, are ones in which the status quo is broken. How things will look from the other side of a social revolution is much harder to say. But to be climate extremist in these times is nothing but common sense.

Tom Lennard @TomLennard

Kensal and Kilburn Better 2018 @KKBetter2018

You can become involved in the necessary campaign to force politicians to account over climate change at Extinction Rebellion – https://risingup.org.uk/XR/

For a recent, short analysis of the political strategy of Left Wing politics see Graham Jones’  “The Shock Doctrine of the Left” (published by Polity)

Distributed Decision-Making Committed to Living Within the Means of the Planet

”What I stand for is what I stand on” Wendell Berry

Since I last wrote, #ExtinctionRebellion has gone boom!   Shared by Mr Monbiot to Mr Sanders who tweeted it to the World –  what we do now on 31st Oct Declaration Day and in the subsequent direct actions,  really matters.   Just like everything we do that has consequence on the future –  though we are so far removed in time and place, we barely need to think about that – only this time, how this plays out will be replayed to us on a very short feedback loop, over and over again, and the consequences will be deeply present.

I look out on a cloudless sunset skyscape, where contrails blaze across the darkening blue like dragons,  beautiful and dangerous.   I have thought a lot about what this rebellion is asking folks to sacrifice.  Holiday flights.  No big deal, surely.  But what about those whose family are in distant lands?  Maybe growing old and dying.  Are they to deny each other a last chance to clasp hands and hearts?  Supermarkets.  I think of the empty shops in high streets and lack of community hubs across our towns.  I think of the vast over cultivated expanses of tree-barren agricultural land no longer growing food for human consumption.   I think of all our concrete gardens.   Pharmaceuticals.  I get real to the fact that many of my dearest friends’ lives rely on a daily dose of drugs.   And those so close to my heart, who have choices about how they live because of Big Pharma.   There is so much more.  Individual car ownership.   Home heating as winter is coming.   Pure Water preservation.

Remorse.  I swim in an ocean of it.

And still, #ExtinctionRebellion  appears utterly necessary to me.   It is not that these privileges will disappear from our plate immediately.  They are the kinds of policy re-evaluations that will be taken to the People’s Assemblies.    Decision-making will be distributed among real people who have to live with them,  with a firm commitment to living within the means of the planet .  A commitment to assuring there are other than human beings still available to sustain those generations, already born, who will be dealing with the exigencies of life on a planet in deep trauma.

And so, Declaration Day approaches and now has a life of her own.  The laughter of gods echoes through the corridors of our plots and plans.   Where my focus goes now is nonviolence and de-escalation.  I have been arrested for civil disobedience –  grabbed from behind and face-planted in the dirt by police protecting a lorry from my oh so slow walk.  It is not pleasant.  It is not nonviolent.

My mind goes to the nonviolent direct action training  Rising Up are rolling out to support volunteers.  I took the role of a police person in role play and felt the frustration and irritation grow as the activist in front of me refused to move, in the face of all my cajoling and persuasion and even my rising ire.  The one next to me cried, and still did not move.  It was hard to keep calm and rational.   I listened to the sharing of experiences  of my affinity group – how they stayed grounded and calm and held their positions –  deep breathing;  rooting to the Earth;  flowing like water;  repetitive statements;  songs.

Ah, songs.  I am resonant to the power of songs – the way these magically manipulative mouths of ours have been gifted capacity to carefully shape sacred sound into words layered with meaning and history.  This is a tactic I used to great effect when I spent 24 hours in a holding cell after the slow walk arrest.   Cells have incredible acoustics and I would sing for an hour – not always songs, sometimes  tones or mantras, til the vibrations were bouncing round the tiny plastic room.  Then, in the silence after the sound, when every cell in my body was resetting itself to the highest vibrations resonating around me, I would lay down and sleep – for hours.  Deep, nourishing , restorative sleep.   When I woke, I began the whole process again,  until hours later, I was released,  calm and wide awake, to the welcoming arms of the wellbeing team who met us with food and tobacco and music to shake to.

Song.  What a powerful tool in the armoury of nonviolence.  We will have songs on Declaration Day.  Songs to bind us together in nonviolence and connectedness.  Songs to raise our energies and songs to help us calm each other.  Songs to voice out loud our commitment to make a stand for where we stand.

So, bring your singing voices, rebellioneers.  Leave behind the system tools of anger and aggression.   However many come, we are a small minority of people who will sing our way back to a world that works for all life on Earth.

by April Griefsong

 

 

Making our power visible in the face of extinction

By Matt Byrne

I am alarmed by climate change. As I put my children to sleep, it is the one thing that truly makes me fearful for their future. The rest we can work out or stumble through but this one is bigger than us –  we need help. I can feel the alarm, hammering away inside my chest, as I hold them closer for a fraction longer before placing them down in their cots for the night.

Humans have been altering the climate for thousands of years. The advent of agriculture in the Holocene geological period (around 11,560 years ago) created the conditions to keep planet Earth in an extended interglacial. The widespread adoption of farming helped stave off the glaciers, so to speak. Fast forward to the Industrial Revolution and we see some geologists arguing that we have now entered the Anthropocene period, in which mankind’s impact on the environment is the dominant force[1]. The last 100 years have seen a 1 degree centigrade rise; the heating is speeding up and we are stepping on the accelerator. I am alarmed.

Yes, we need a movement; yes, we need to resort to civil disobedience to push for change in a society where it is not truth but money that speaks to power. Those of us without access to bulging wads of cash have another currency – mass mobilisation. The question is, when so many people think that reversing climate change is an issue that is simply too big for them, on an overwhelming scale, how do you get them onto the streets? Or at a minimum, supporting those in the streets and taking the small but necessary steps towards improving the health of the planet today and every day. How do we get past the denial, the doom, the stasis?

About eight years ago I accompanied indigenous groups in Colombia reclaiming land that they had lost to paramilitary forces. Once evicted, the lands were used for palm oil plantation. The choice they were given, if any, was often a legal fiction, to have “shares” in the new palm oil company. The groups returning to their lands would mark out plots, defend it with a sign and a single piece of wire or string, a humanitarian fence if you like, to reclaim their land, their space, their freedom and dignity. It took a lot of courage and trial and error but collectively they overcame.

So, how do you get your mother, your granny, your friends, your enemies (maybe more importantly your enemies) to overcome their fears and onto the streets with you? Perhaps psychology has the answer. The unwieldy but cleverly titled book What we think about when we try not to think about Global Warming. Towards a New Psychology of Climate Action (Stoknes)[2] offers us four simple strategies to go about it:

  1. Be social. Make climate change urgent by showing its impacts on your community closer to home. The melting of distant glaciers or forest fires in California will not stress you too much if you live in Exeter. Climate change is closer, though, if we sense it in the air we breathe.
  2. Be supportive. There are positive things we can do. Prophecies of doom can and do discourage and overwhelm people. A greener earth is a healthier earth, a greener economy creates new jobs and drives creativity. Rewilding and reforestation are easy for most people to be on board with, we can be ecosystem gardeners. That doesn’t seem so terrible does it? Now, get your shoes on!
  3. Be simple. Yes, march and while on the way, recycle and refresh yourself afterwards with a water saving showerhead. There are hundreds of small nudges that can shift people’s behaviour greatly, if we identify them, we can share them.
  4. Share stories. We thrive on stories, and great stories can and do shape our identities. Find your heroes and tell everyone about them.

We need to act because all the scientific research and evidence in the world does not seem to be shifting people or policy. If that isn’t evident from the muted response by governments to the most recent IPCC report, or the downright blatant rejection by others, see the UK’s and Australia’s responses in both word and deed.

One reason is because there are two types of power here – hidden and invisible. Hidden power is the back door dealings, the lobbying, the horse trading, the old boy’s network. Such vested interests do not need evidence to operate. Invisible power is more insidious, causing the relatively powerless to internalize and accept their condition.[3] The #MeToo movement is a great and welcome example of invisible power becoming visible.

We need to act. We need to move. Moral psychology has developed the analogy of the hive. We are 90% chimp and 10% bee. In our minds, we each possess a hive switch[4] and once flipped, it allows us to transcend our individual self-interest and feel the power of the collective, the power of the group, to be part of something larger than our individual selves. We have all experienced the flipping of the switch, be it through the simple awe of nature, the ecstatic energy of dance at a rave, or through the traditional use of hallucinogens (such as Ayahuasca) to mark the transition to adulthood. In a group dynamic the flipped hive switch fosters love, trust and equality. It offers us another strategy to cement the movement through collective actions – let’s bring back raves,  forest sit-ins, you name it! I would get outside for that and I think we could convince a lot of other people to do so too.

[1] For more I recommend this; Simon Lewis and Mark Maslin’s The Human Planet. https://www.penguin.co.uk/books/298/298037/the-human-planet/9780241280881.html

[2] https://www.chelseagreen.com/product/what-we-think-about-when-we-try-not-to-think-about-global-warming/ or the ubiquitous Ted Talk summary is here: https://www.ted.com/talks/per_espen_stoknes_how_to_transform_apocalypse_fatigue_into_action_on_global_warming

[3] You can download Duncan Green’s book How Change Happens for free here: http://how-change-happens.com/

[4] You can read about the hive in Jonathan Haidt’s book “The Righteous Mind. Why good people are divided by politics and religion” https://righteousmind.com/ The last chapter will make you rethink conservatives!