Spring 2012

By James Turner
In this street nothing grew at all
where pavement meets with churchyard wall,
but while financial markets crash,
here weeds can make a coloured splash.
They root and photosynthesise and cling
where stone and asphalt once were king.
This gum-bespattered world has mellowed,
primrosed, oxford-ragwort-yellowed.
For, since corruption bit the banks,
no men have passed with plastic tanks
of herbicide to spray the weeds
before they bloom and shed their seeds.
More weeds means insects, means more birds—
I’d paint the future green with words!—
but when the money flows again,
they’ll soon return, those dogged men,
with tanks of poison on their backs,
to mount their chemical attacks
on cheekily invasive plants.
Those primroses won’t stand a chance.

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XR – Where Next?

By Chris Taylor

What a beautiful rebellion we have conjured. What a beautiful vision of care and compassion, regeneration and community. We lived it. We breathed it – in London and in places across the world as we flexed our muscles in International Rebellion.

And returning to our daily lives, fractures are starting to appear within the movement. Cracks that reveal tensions and differences. These are to be welcomed, embraced, for they reveal tender places that we need to give attention to. How we deal with them will shape whether the movement grows and flourishes.

We have the potential to reveal a pathway to a new version of human society. If we hold to our vision of a world beyond climate chaos and species extinction and if we act out of our values of regeneration and renewal we have the opportunity to pick up from where Occupy, The Arab Spring and Standing Rock have brought us. We have the chance to be the next wave lapping at the shores of a regenerative world.

So what about these fractures in the movement? How do we best deal with them? I have seen four in particular that I feel deserve our attention.

  1. Burn Out. I have seen many of my friends and fellow rebels return from London exhausted and washed out. Perhaps this is inevitable. We partied hard. We saw a chance and threw ourselves at it. Yet, if our culture is truly regenerative, maybe we are missing something.

It has taken us two thousand years to get to the brink of civilisation collapse. Rome will not be dismantled in a day. Let’s pace ourselves. It’s time to let go of the need as individuals to “make a difference”. This is the voice of ego and it leads to burn-out. Only “we”, the movement can create change. So let’s ensure we are deeply sharing power amongst us, passing the baton back and forth in a continual relay. And when we have time to rest, let’s do it well so we can return with energy afresh.

  1. Inclusion. There have been challenges, particularly from people of colour, recommending what we need to do to be more inclusive. It is of the utmost importance that we respond positively and deeply to these challenges. The global system that is destroying the Earth is built on empire, colonisation and patriarchy. Social inequalities and environmental destruction go hand in hand. All the evidence from history suggests that as social inequalities widen, environmental destruction accelerates.

Unless we dismantle the intricate structures of oppression that have silenced the majority of humanity, we will not save the planet. We will become just one more minority interest group trying to impose its will on the world. Only the radical inclusion of the colonised and marginalised will bring into the movement the wisdom and humility needed to live in harmony with the whole of existence. It is our work to do. It is not something separate from why we are here.

  1. Business. Controversy arose within XR when a group of entrepreneurs formed XR Business. Many were offended by this, saw it as opportunist or out of alignment with who we are. Others took a position arising out of economic analysis: capitalism is destroying the world so business cannot easily become part of the movement. All of these concerns are valid. Given our current situation we are right to be a little suspicious.

At the most fundamental level, the disintegration of our current form of economics is essential in achieving our three core goals. When the leading edge of concerned business breaks ranks and reaches out we would do well to hold them in the embrace of tough love. There is much that business must make amends for, much damage it must heal. And only a regenerative approach will hold them to this task. Those of us who have done the inner work, faced into grief and despair are well placed to hold others to the reality of what they have done. Who else will do it?

The success of all non-violent movements has come when they have been able to mobilise a mass of people AND hold a mirror up to the people who hold positions of power within the old system. Some of these people will crack. When enough do, pressure from the mass takes on a new power. This needs to be our approach to business – tough love and safe spaces to allow those at the leading edge to acknowledge the wrongs of the past.

  1. Strategy. This is less a fracture, and more an ongoing field of discussion. How do we maintain momentum?  How do we achieve maximum impact? How do we achieve our goals – not only here in the UK but globally? This is no easy task. And like all complex tasks it will take time to realise. While we feel the urgency of the situation we would do well to sit for a moment with the not-knowing of how next to proceed. Anything we do precipitously will be at best ineffective and at worst counter-productive. It risks adding to our sense of exhaustion.

I have heard many wise and considered voices within the Circle of Counsel exploring how to proceed: “Come back different”, “Go to the places where climate emergency is felt most already”, “Go to the belly of the beast – the financial heartland”. All of these feel like tactics worth integrating into a strategy based on building momentum and undermining the Pillars of Power.

How exactly we stitch them together is not yet clear. What I do know is that we must hold tight to our values of non-violence, compassion and regeneration. Whatever we do must bring us as individuals, as Affinity Groups and as a movement to a renewed sense of our our vigour, our own agency and our own interdependence with all that surrounds us. This is the path to the world we are seeking to birth.

As we move forward let’s remember something profound about the work we have decided to undertake. At one level this movement is about tackling climate chaos. At another it is about stopping the extinction emergency that is facing not only humanity but one million species across the planet. At another level still, it is about completely reinventing what it means to be human.

Unless we are able to create mindsets, behaviours, communities, organisations, societies that recognise our complete and total interdependence with the living planet we will not succeed at even the first level. This is why regeneration is so crucial a part of who we are. It must guide our every thought and our every action.

Onward in compassionate rebellion!

Positive, peaceful and unified – why I joined Extinction Rebellion

Image for ‘Positive, peaceful and unified – why I joined Extinction Rebellion’

By Eileen Peck

As so often happens, the idea came to me in the middle of the night. I was lying in bed pondering why I felt so very peaceful and calm, when the lightbulb moment struck. I have to confess that in view of what is going on in the world I, like many others I guess, have been feeling pretty stressed recently. Climate change, knife crime, terrorism, stories of gloom and doom regularly making headline news means that anxiety and confusion often fill my mind. So, what had happened the previous day to make me see things differently?

I’d been at the Extinction Rebellion protest in London and had met up with a huge crowd of energetic, inspiring, caring people who are prepared to give time and risk arrest for a cause in which they deeply believe.

My joining my local group of rebels came about because I believe that climate change is a real threat not only to the distant future but to life on Earth in the here and now. And because I believe financial interests are stopping the government from taking the action which we so desperately need.

Before my trip to Oxford Circus I was invited to a workshop where I was given lots of helpful information about our legal rights, how we should behave (non-violently) and what would happen if we got arrested. Most helpful were the phone numbers of solicitors who specialise in protest law. Role play helped us to prepare for how to deal with angry people – motorists and those angry that they had been stopped from getting to work or going shopping.

My day with XR in London turned out to be everything I expected: well-informed people spreading the word and encouraging each other. People handing out free food and drinks and passing around sun lotion. There was lots of singing and clapping. Yoga and first aid tents. Inspirational speakers. Chatting with strangers who I immediately ‘clicked’ with. The chanting of “We love you” and the shouting support when an arrest was made. The day was fun, orderly and inspirational. Emma Thompson described it as an “island of sanity” and how right she was.

The organisers have made it clear that this is just the beginning. We are now waiting for the government to respond to our demands and if the demands are not met, there are lots more very carefully organised and orchestrated non-violent disruptive events in the pipeline.

So, why did my day with the ‘rebels’ bring me such cheer? Why did my middle of the night flash of insight feel potentially life-changing? Life-enhancing?

I’ve come to see our regular exposure to bad news as a way of dampening down our joie de vivre. It produces fear, which can make us feel powerless, so we perhaps feel inclined to pull up the drawbridge and look after number one.

In my days as a sociology student, I was introduced to the idea of ‘hegemony’ which describes the largely unquestioned world view taken in by a population. The British sociologist Anthony Giddens described ideological hegemony as “shared ideas or beliefs which serve to justify the interests of dominant groups”.

The term hegemony is thought to have been coined by the Italian Marxist Antonio Gramsci in the 1920s. He used the term to describe how, in a democracy, the domination of one group over others can be achieved by political power, which depends on the population taking on certain values and ideas. His message was that what comes to pass does so, not so much because a few people want it to happen, but because the mass of citizens abdicate their responsibility and let things be.

I’ve come to see our regular exposure to bad news as a way of dampening down our joie de vivre. It produces fear, which can make us feel powerless

I’ve come to see that by focusing almost exclusively on the bad news, our mainstream media drip feeds us daily the idea that the world is a terrible, dangerous, place and that central to 21st century-life are competition, excessive material consumption and each man for himself.

But this obscures the fact that:

  • Plenty of people are working hard to help others
  • Co-operation is on the rise, with local shops, pubs and even failing companies being taken over by local people
  • The idea of a ‘good life’ of depending on excessive material consumption is being challenged
  • Random acts of kindness and selflessness are on the increase
  • And so much more

My lightbulb moment showed me that – as the ancient Greek Stoics said 2,000 years ago – I need to ‘guard my thoughts’ and look for the good stuff in the world. The climate change protestors are a highly visible, wonderful, example of people rebelling. All over the world, people in their everyday lives are rebelling and finding peace and happiness in a way of life which nurtures both the planet and each other.

My lightbulb moment showed me that I need to ‘guard my thoughts’ and look for the good stuff in the world.

I take great comfort from the words of the US historian and activist Howard Zinn who said: “Revolutionary change does not come as one cataclysmic moment (beware such moments!) but as an endless succession of surprises, moving zigzag towards a more decent society.’”

To Power

By Matt Byrne

In 2015, I was working in Mariupol, Ukraine, setting up office and rolling out a humanitarian response to the ugly, harsh and continuing conflict in the Donbass. Daily our team would trek towards the ‘line of contact’ separating the two warring sides, passing kilometres of WWII style trenches, and heavily fortified checkpoints packed with Ukrainian soldiers, who would go give our vehicles a quick once over before letting us through. Invariably, we found that those still living on the frontline, in their bullet pocked and shell-mangled houses, were the elderly and people with disabilities. Those, who by their own admission, had nowhere else to go, this was their home.  At night, over a beer, we would listen to the shelling less than 15 kilometres away as the two sides delighted in keeping each other up all night. 

In my spare time, my chosen reading material was This Changes Everything by Naomi Klein. As I looked up from the pages of the book, out of my window to the industrial skyline of the city, ringed as it is by steel and chemical works all across the horizon and the port to the Azov Sea to the south, I noted the light film of black soot that covered my window sill if I left it open for the day, the giant chimney stacks perpetually spewing smoke and the soapy film that ran down the middle of the street every time it rained. Needless to say, I didn’t get very far with the book. It was all too much for me, the people of Mariupol were getting a raw deal, short-changed from all sides. I already felt small, adding climate change to the mix, made me feel powerless, useless.

Watching XR take off and command global attention, seeing non-violent civil disobedience do exactly what it is intended to do, is changing that sense of powerlessness inside me. Hearing the flimsy response of the UK authorities that police are being diverted from ‘violent crime’ in order to manage the blockades by the rebels or reading academics who recommend ‘tea fetes’ as a more viable tactic to obtain sympathetic public opinion is a testament to the work of the movement thus far. In these feather-ruffled responses, I hear a call for business as usual. But the courage of the rebels has been heard and noted with the various declarations of a climate emergency in the UK, the Committee on Climate Change’s report for a net zero carbon free UK by 2050 that they are pushing to be signed into law now, and the global surge of protest movements demanding change. These are revolutionary times we live in and it appears that a global wake-up call from the streets has put the heat under the decision makers.   

In 1968, Howard Zinn, wrote ‘this is why civil disobedience is not just to be tolerated; if we are to have a truly democratic society, it is a necessity. By its nature it reflects the intensity of feeling about important issues as well as the extent of the feeling.’ He was writing about those who risked and endured incarceration by objecting to the Vietnam War but his words are as valid today as they were then, if not more so. The CCC pointed to the level of intensity seen in the recent protests as part of its advocacy for cutting carbon emissions to zero starting today.

Recently, I have participated in on UN led sessions monitoring progress towards the 2030 Sustainable development goals. Climate change and the need for action has not been neglected in these discussions. That said, as I observe the member states and participating agencies wrangle over terminology and monitoring indicators, I am struck by how this is also business as usual, very well intentioned business but far from the revolutionary type required given the emergency timeframe we are living in. The urgency is lacking.  So, back we go to Zinn, who concluded; “A new politics of protest, designed to put pressure on our national leaders, more effectively, more threateningly, more forcefully than ever before is needed”. The streets rose up, the urgency appeared.

That said, I also realise to be effective you need to have rebels on the so-called ‘inside’ and ‘outside.’ You need networks of influence that punctuate all levels of the political and justice systems. You need networks that represent the full gamut of those affected by climate change; youth, the global south, diversity, ethnicity, the dispossessed. We also have to mobilise ourselves against emergent threats such as fossil fuel dominated Climate Leadership Council which lobbies for legal immunity from cases taken against them for climate and environmental damages caused by their actions.

Rolling town hall meetings were an instrumental part of the 2016 Bernie Sanders campaign mobilizing the great surge in grass roots support for his candidacy. Coming from Ireland, I have watched in admiration, the great societal leaps spurred through the debates and decisions taken by a national level citizen’s assembly. Public support can be mobilized and maintained through a campaign of holding local level citizens assemblies and XR has chosen its tactics wisely by adopting them.

I may be too much of a dreamer but guerrilla tactics that provide a social service like providing renewable energy to underserved public services (like hospitals or clinics) in marginalized areas can also drive the message home to people that there is a climate emergency and the system is failing us now, not at some unspecified point in the distant future. The clandestine Gap organization in Rome is exactly this, a vigilante group performing ‘illegal’ acts of repair to the cities crumbling infrastructure. Partnership with renewable energy providers, if they were willing to take the risk and it appears that a number of businesses are, could be an interesting mechanism for responding to some of the manifold grievances that are sure to be raised in the citizens assemblies that link climate injustice to social neglect and marginalization.  

The people living in Mariupol, still live with ongoing conflict, landmines, shelling, dispossession, loss of income, loss of family members, restrictions on movement and hostage to an unhealthy, toxic environment. They have innumerable daily challenges to confront but with nowhere else to go it is still their home. This is our home, we have nowhere else to go. We will not be victims, if we stand together, we are strong, a better future awaits.

I am inspired and forever grateful to those that took to the streets globally to demand exactly that.

XR Machynlleth post-London healing debrief session

By Beth Maiden, XR Machynlleth regenerative culture group

Almost everyone I talked to in the wake of April’s rebellion in London described taking part as ‘overwhelming’, even if they had a great time (which most had)! Actions like these are very intense and complex, and it’s hard work for most of us to participate. Hard work physically, emotionally, and spiritually.

Suddenly, for days, a week, two, we are like a tiny pop-up nation, requiring systems for decision-making, communication, care and support, and more. Feelings run high as we co-create community, trying to respond collectively to a fluctuating, unpredictable environment that can change in an instant.

Then, just as suddenly, we are home, coming down from it all. Trying to make sense of what just happened, how it felt, what worked, what didn’t. What was joyful, what was painful. The whole roller-By Beth Maiden, XR Machynlleth regenerative culture groupcoaster of feelings we’ve just ridden.

We’re often so focused on the ‘action’ part of activism that we forget that driving it all is emotion. We act because we feel something. And when we are acting, we keep on feeling – highs, lows, joy, grief, anger, love, hope, elation, and of course the comedown after.

And so we need space to process. Space to share all that comes up for us – the common ground, and the different experiences. Space to celebrate. Space to release grief and pain. Space to gather back in all of the parts of ourselves that are so easily lost in these big overwhelming actions and in the fight of everyday life. Space to be witnessed as whole, imperfect, feeling beings. Space to witness each other.

Regenerative space.


A regenerative culture is one that is committed to creating those spaces, so that we can process and heal and ultimately, stay in the movement and not burn out.

Here in Machynlleth, members our Regen group hosted a healing/debrief session for local folks who had gone down to London.

I’m sharing a simple template of what we did for other groups to use/copy/adapt if wanted:

We weren’t totally sure what the session would be like – we just knew that we wanted to hold space for activists to get together and share process all they had seen and felt and experienced in London and since returning.

We booked a community room in a local church for 3 1/2 hours. We advertised the session as a debrief specifically for folks who had been to London. We encouraged people to bring along food to share, cushions, blankets. We also invited people to bring a small object that represented how they feel or felt about the action, to create a temporary community altar.

We had three of us to hold the space – two who had taken part, and one who had not (to hold the space while and allow for the other two to participate).

  • We had time to grab a cuppa while we arrived and came to sit in a big circle. There were about 20 of us from the local area. We agreed that this was a safe, confidential space.
  • For the first hour we simply went around the group. Each person took a few minutes to introduce themselves, talk about what they did in London, sharing thoughts and feelings while the group listened.
  • Then we ate together. This was really special – some folks hadn’t seen each other since the action, whilst in London everyone had felt very close. It felt really powerful and important for activists to be back together again, revisiting the experience with others who ‘get it’ about what it was like. We also lit candles on the altar.
  • After food, we worked in pairs, taking turns to share and offer active listening. One person would talk for one or two minutes, whilst the other would listen closely, without interrupting or strongly reacting. Using a timer to ensure we all got the same amount of talking/listening time, we asked three questions: How did I feel at the action? How am I feeling now? and What are you hoping for going forward, what seeds have been planted?
  • Then we joined pairs, to make ‘pods’ of four. Again using a timer (five minutes each), each group took turns to talk and listen. This time, the question was ‘What do I need?‘. This might be what I need right now (touch, words, silence…), or what I need more generally – from my community, from XR, from my self – to feel supported and remain a part of this movement.
  • Lastly, we had a closing circle to once again move round the group and share reflections on the action as a whole. Each person took a few minutes to share ideas on what was great about the action and its aftermath, and what could be done better, and we wrote these up on flip-chart paper for future planning.

Feedback after the session was that it was healing, nourishing and really necessary. As it was a dedicated space for people who had shard a very specific experience, people generally felt safe to share a wide range of emotions, they knew others would listen and understand. And whilst not everyone understood the purpose of the session at the beginning, we found that everyone had a lot to say once things opened up! There were tears and a lot of laughs, and the whole thing felt very profound. We intend to host these kinds of sessions after every action, to keep offering space for the regeneration that is so important to the sustainability of XR.

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.

Poem: The Tactics of Our Antics

By Liz Darcy Jones

Let us be Up Rising!

Create a mighty swell:

Our words are magnetising

they say ‘Wake up! Rebel!

We’ll get up and we’ll stand up

for those who don’t or can’t

and if you’re not for marching

then find some trees and plant!

Let us be Up Rising!

Create a mighty swell:

Our words are magnetising

they say ‘Wake up! Rebel!

we will not stoop to fight or harm

but mischief-make with glee

‘til songs and chants and mass arrests

and our solidarity

wake up those in denial

and rouse the ones who sleep

‘til all can see we’ve got to change

adapt and make it deep!

Let us be Up Rising!

Create a mighty swell:

Our words are magnetising

they say ‘Wake up! Rebel!

If we can challenge and rise up

and rock the status quo

whilst keeping our hearts open
there’s just a chance we’ll show

revolting rigid concepts

(born of power or greed)

hold far more threat than you or I:

let fierce love be our creed

Let us be Up Rising!

Create a mighty swell:

Our words are magnetising

they say ‘Wake up! Rebel!