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! 

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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.

Potatoes and Football

By George Palen

In the game of football, no one ever grows potatoes. Not only is this a true fact, but no one is surprised by this fact. The rules and objectives of football simply do not allow for the planting, watering, weeding, and harvesting of potatoes. Everybody knows this. You would be laughed off of the field if you brought a hoe, some gardening gloves, and some seed potatoes onto a football field at the beginning of a game.

Similarly, in the game of western culture, Mother Nature is not supported. The rules and objectives of western culture, whereby individuals pursue as much wealth and power as they can, simply do not allow for the support of Mother Nature. And thus we should not be surprised that life on Earth is going away. Indeed we have seen how people in support of life on Earth have been laughed out of corporate board rooms, swept into the streets where their voices have no seat at the decision making table.

We are playing the wrong game. I refuse to play football. I would surely get hurt if I did and besides, the score at the end of the game is meaningless. Society should stop embracing the game of “get rich and powerful”. People just get hurt and the score at the end of the game is meaningless. Instead the rules and objectives of our society should support life. Let us change our game. Let us change our culture. Let us support life on Earth.

Nothing is what it seems, by James Barker

The Suffolk fields are chemical green today, bright under a factory blue sky. A too azure sky. It is June in February today, and I’m still expecting snow this month like we had last year. On Friday it was warm November gales. There is nothing on these fields, our Suffolk fields. Nothing. It’s all been struck out.


Our once rich Suffolk soil is dying. Glyphosate is seeing to that. Ever attentive Farmer Giles, the insects’ friend, the ‘steward’ of the countryside, has carefully dosed each row. Soon the poison will leech away to the river. The river is a waste disposal unit now.

 
Nothing is what it seems.

What should be good is not good now. 

The farmer up the road is carefully planting plastic tubes in long straight rows. Four, five miles of tube along the road. I am dazzled by these bright clear tubes too sharp in the sunlight. My MP tells me they are planting hedge whips!

Hedge whip and plastic intertwine and merge. Gradually the plastic degrades, leeches and poisons the soil . No one cares! No one sees. We drive by.

Nothing is what it seems!

What should be good is not good now.

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. 

XR and School Strike for Climate

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.

Sun Front PageThere 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.

Rebellion Day PhotoIn 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.

Greta ThunbergThe 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.