A Growers diary from 2018

My 2018 season on the farm began with rain and lots of it. I had vivid dreams about the irrigation pond at the back of my caravan slowly filling my home while I slept.

The rain and the cold delayed the planting of crops and meant our two acres of asparagus lay dormant. We took advantage of the heavily sodden ground to dig docks out of the first acre of asparagus. We hoped to see spring soon.

Spring came with the first two swallows. It was a very short spring. The trees all blossomed and then greened in unison; the different shades of fresh greens were really beautiful. The asparagus responded with a bumper harvest over a month and a half. Some days we took 100-200 kg a day from the two fields. Spring flipped to summer very quickly.

We loved summer’s first month. We could plant whenever we wanted, not having to worry about sodden ground anymore. The seedlings responded well to the damp earth and constant sun. Then we started to miss the rains. I threw up while weeding the parsnip field. We began to really notice how hot it was. We missed breezes. We became obsessed with weather reports. The rains always seemed to miss us. The ground hardened. The irrigation ponds shrank.

A tame jackdaw named Morgana became part of the team. Driven into someone’s kitchen by hunger and thirst. We fed her by hand and she’d dosed with me in the hotbox that was my caravan during lunch. Sometimes we had 2-hour siestas to get through the hottest part of the day. We’d never needed siestas the 2 previous years I’d worked on the farm.

The summer continued. The grass browned. The crops suffered. We planted cabbages, kale and broccoli into sand. The soil blew off the fields into our eyes. I had to wear glasses to protect mine, which became red and itchy, my eyesight so blurred I couldn’t see properly. We drained both ponds. That had never happened in my time there or during the grower’s 16 years producing crops. We prayed for rain. It didn’t come.

The crops started wilted. Some started dying. We became desperate. We started taking water from the river. Bringing it back up to the farm in a water tanker. We fed our wilting crops sparingly through 120-metre-long irrigation pipes. We realised the true value of water. We we’re thankful then for that wet cold spring, which filled our rivers so they still ran during the drought. The rains that had kept local reservoirs full enough, so we could still water tunnel crops with mains water.

The river kept our crops alive. We heard other farms weren’t so lucky, losing whole plantings of crops twice over.

Rain finally came. We drank the 50 ml caught in the rain gauge with champagne I had saved for a special occasion. The rain had some effect, most of all on our morale, which had been waning as the summer continued. But we still needed to take from the river to truly feed the crops.

The news spoke of UK crops failing and lettuce was sailed across the Atlantic. Brexit talks continued with no definite or security.

The crops managed to survive through our sheer force of will and luck. Luck that someone had leant us that tanker; luck that the rivers and reservoirs still had enough water for us to feed our crops with. We were tired from the effort. I thought about it all and what it meant if that luck ran out.

My 6 month season ended. I felt emotionally and physically battered. I’d thought we’d had time. I thought we’d change it before it all happened; before the climate truly broke down. Then I, a Western, got a taste of how the other half of the planet lives, the half that truly knows what climate change means. Food insecurity. I saw what that looked and felt like. It was terrifying to contemplate what happens when the luck run out. I thanked whatever’s up there for the March rains which filled our pond, reservoir and rivers. Do we hope to based our food security on the luck of the weather? Because we can’t be certain about how the weather behaves anymore. 2018 was a year of ice and fire, neither of which we were ready for; I know I wasn’t.

I have a sadness in me I didn’t have before this year and before this season. It’s the sadness that comes from dead hope. From truly feeling what dying, sterilised earth feels like and that we are heading for big, uncomfortable changes.

From my comfortable position as a Westerner I’ve cared about the environment almost in the way you care for a pet. I got upset about it, signed petitions about plastic in the oceans and the extinction of species, tried to champion the natural world through my art and chose to work in organic farming. But it was only this year that I realised that I’M in danger. My little taste of food insecurity, which must be laughably small in comparison to what African or Middle Eastern farmers experience, made me realise how little we are ready for the dramatic breakdowns in the status quo of our weather. Which are going to happen. This was a year of ice and fire; the Beast from the East to The Grapes of Wrath.

I still carry this sadness in me. It pops up regularly; snatches away happy moments; the pointed end of the stick bursting my optimistic bubble. I guess that’s why I wanted to write this for Extinction Rebellion, because they acknowledge this sadness, this dire experience that we are apathetically allowing to happen, but they are showing such energy in response to it. They speak common sense and they speak it loudly so we can all hear and maybe have enough time to change. They call up the utter nonsense and self-interest that has infested out politics and our systems and they inspire me to continue.

Next year I will still be growing crops; my partner and I will be renting a market garden from the start of 2019 and we plan to incorporate all kinds of plants and habitats to benefit the wildlife which shares the land, but I now know that these actions also benefit me, that protecting nature isn’t an act of sacrifice or parenthood, but one that means I too can keep living on this earth.

Written by Rebecca Mackay

Letter From An Apocalyptic Future Pt. 3

(Part 1, Part 2)

But then, at that tortuous point, a peculiar thing happened: something in me awoke.

There arose in me an overwhelming peace and a feeling of love larger than the earth-embracing sky. I found myself thrown open like I’d never been before and began to see the world with new eyes and a heart that could finally allow itself to be completely and entirely broken, utterly riven, and finally revealed to itself in its full tenderness.

For there was no longer anything to resist or to protect.

There was no longer a problem to be solved or a victory to be fought for. There was absolutely no space left for striving or for making anyone wrong. Finally, at the end of the day, at the end of time, all that remains is the crystalline knowledge that all we ever have is this one moment: rich, fragile, all-encompassing, infinitely precious.

And I experienced this moment as pure love.

Love as the ground and inner being of everything. Love as the space within which everything occurs. Love as the silence which contains every sound. Love as the womb of creation. Love as the enfolding void.

I felt love for this Earth as never before and for all beings without exception: insects, animals, plants and humans; viruses, billionaire frackers, terrorists and Trump — all fragile fleeting forms of tender life, vulnerable to all manner of ills, all living bravely beyond themselves into uncertainty and then death, all desiring only life and more and more life, existence infinitely precious and sweet.

I felt love for the sky above, its clouds floating along. I felt love for the birds so light who give us what is left of their song while they can. I felt love for the dawn, which will continue to spread splendour over the eastern horizon after we’re gone though there won’t be eyes to behold it or hearts to rejoice. I felt such love for the children of our world, my own son among them, some of whom will be playing and laughing until the very end takes them into silence. I felt only love for everyone, whatever their active or passive roles in bringing about this tragic end. Yes, it was clear to me that no-one is to blame. All things come to pass through the mysterious agency of ultimately impersonal forces. And yes, I believe these forces boil down only to love.

Over the last three years I have of course descended from this pure state of abiding love, spiralling again and again through grief and confusion, distraction, denial and the rest, but never for very long. I always return to what has become a baseline: the presiding pulse of sublime love and peace. The world increasingly conspires to return me to it. Every joy and every sorrow give way quite quickly to the awareness that all this, every cause of joy and sorrow, will soon be gone. And that makes even the sorrows poignantly beautiful. There is in this a deep relief, considering the multiplying causes of sorrow arising amidst this daily escalating crises.

Soon I will see my son die, or he will me, or we’ll be incinerated together along with millions of others. And soon after that our Earth, our beautiful, poisoned Earth will be without life upon her rocky surface.

Yes, the sun will still set in the West, but there will be none left to weep at its setting.

The worst that could happen is happening. It came slowly, then suddenly. And we brought it on through our own choices, our failures to choose better. And yet, around everything, somehow there is something untroubled, something vast, indestructible and whole. I call it love. Where it is felt, fear is absent.

*******

 

Author’s Note: This piece was written in the shocking summer of 2018, while unprecedented wildfires burned across the Northern hemisphere, the Great Barrier Reef died-off by a third and the Arctic sea-ice further melted and thinned. This year it became clear that previous models predicting climate change to become disruptive by 2050 and catastrophic by the end of the century seriously underestimated the rate of climate collapse due to the non-linear effects of positive feedback loops and tipping points. Increasing numbers of renowned scientists and analysts are now saying that the global climate may already have gone into an abrupt and irreversible breakdown, the effects of which will become catastrophic within the next decade. It may already be too late. But there might still be just a little time left to make radical changes to prevent anthropogenic global climate breakdown from cascading into apocalyptic proportions. But only if we act now and resolutely, individually and as a global civilisation. The future of life on our planet is in our hands. It is time to rise up and demand that our governments take the necessary steps to reduce carbon emissions, invest in clean energy technology, decommission and safely dismantle nuclear weapons stashes and nuclear power stations and legislating against irresponsible consumption while massively promoting and incentivising One-Planet living. They won’t do it unless we make them.

Rise up in the name of life on Earth!

extinctionrebellion.org

Letter From An Apocalyptic Future Pt. 2

(Part 1)

“If everyone does a little we’ll achieve a lot”, seemed to be the mainstream platitude of the time, promulgated by those seeking to sustain the consumer disaster to those too stuck in it to seriously consider an alternative. The reality is, of course, that if everybody does a little then little gets achieved. And that’s what happened.

It was an excruciating time. While living simply and radically reducing the negative impact of my life on our planet to almost zero, I’d come to realise that not only was this kind of step necessary for ecological survival, but it was also what we needed to do for the sake of our basic wellbeing. Living close to the earth in a small heart-centred community felt greatly more than anything that was going on in modern ‘civilisation’. But very few people could see far enough beyond their own personal dramas, glowing screens, sense of entitlement to luxury convenience, in order to perceive an alternative. Amidst the many sparkly distractions of the consumer circus and the status symbols of power and success, no one had time for the sacrifices of simplicity or its quiet beauty.

I think that most people were just too far gone to explore any remedy.

Opening to the real necessity and possibility of radical change would only have revealed the horrendous depth of the disaster that most people’s lives were embedded in. People just couldn’t look at how monstrous the world they were living in actually was, beneath its face-paint and bling. To do so would have been to see their lives and themselves laid bare in a hideous way. It was too much the collective psyche to bear.

So it was a complex time for us few radical earth-dwellers. On the one hand, we were experiencing deep nourishment from our community and the land, living in a way that wasn’t hurting anyone else or our planet. On the other hand, we were one of a handful of tiny islands in the midst of a great destructive ocean. I went through a lot of anger at the levels of blindness and apathy; contempt for my spineless fellow humans; grief for everything I saw was being lost or thrown away.

Such a priceless thing to exchange for baubles, this Earth.

It was almost too much, witnessing the wanton destruction of our blue-green jewel of a planet. And yet that seemed to be what I was asked to do: to endure this destruction with open eyes and heart unclouded by the opiates of distraction.

In the end, exhausted, I finally dropped through almost endless despair into a state of resignation and complete acceptance. Something in me died. It was all over. We just weren’t going to make the changes. The temperature would continue to rise. Species loss would accelerate. Ecosystems would continue to deteriorate. Natural disasters would become more frequent. Food and water shortages would intensify. Nuclear war would break out. Civilisation was going to kill itself, taking along with it the rest of life on this planet. No amount of positive action from a very minor segment of the population was going to have an impact on the rumbling juggernaut racing towards global destruction. There was no longer any point in hoping for a solution.

Such a strange thing to accept. So vast, the implications. So devastatingly sad. Grief isn’t really big enough to fully let in the scale of this loss.

We weren’t made for this.

I was breaking beyond endurance.

Letter From An Apocalyptic Future Pt. 1

It’s August 2021.

There’s no longer a question as to what will happen next: Life on Earth is coming to a close.

Global temperatures have risen half a degree in the last three years alone. Last winter there was no sea ice in the Arctic at all. This summer it seems as if half of the Northern hemisphere is ablaze with wildfires. The 250 species which were already exiting stage left each and every day a couple of years ago have now increased in number to over 600 per day, all of whom will soon be followed by the rest of the characters still in the play.

We don’t know if there’ll be some kind of denouement lasting several years or simply an abrupt end counted in weeks and months. What we do know is that the curtain is about to fall. No-one born today will live beyond the age of 10. Many will starve this winter. Many more in the coming summer.

Whatever chance there might have been for us to turn this thing around and evolve beyond the crisis point we reached over the past 30 years or so—we missed it. That window of possibility has firmly closed. Strangely, we knew it was closing. We knew we had to make some radical changes in order to squeeze through. But there simply wasn’t sufficient will to do so, not individually or collectively. The apathy was too strong. The marketing industry was too powerful. The corporate influence on government was too powerful. Forces both personal and systemic simply couldn’t accommodate themselves to the changes required in order to transition into a sustainable way of being. And now there’s no longer any hope of our planet’s biosphere surviving beyond the next decade. It will all soon be over.

Either catastrophic ecological collapse will trigger economic breakdown which will, in turn, trigger the catastrophic wars that our governments are currently poised for to fight over the remaining resources, or economic meltdown brought on by fear and panic at the worsening ecological situation will trigger wars which will then push the dying ecosystems into full demise. Either way, the outcome is the same. The crazy-train is rushing headlong off the cliff-edge. It doesn’t really matter which way we fall into the abyss. Life on this planet is finished.

Many people are still living in denial.

“Everything will be ok. We can still sort this out.”

But the vast majority of climate scientists, ecologists, and economists are in agreement that we have passed the point of no return. Abruptly escalating climate change is upon us. Every day this fact sinks a little bit further into reality. While broadcast media is paralysed, still engaging the mock debate of ‘is it really happening?’, the internet is awash with evidence of the incontrovertible reality.

Many of the super-rich have been preparing for “The Event” for some time now, buying up small islands or swathes of land in New Zealand, Hawaii, Tasmania, preparing bunkers, assembling private armies. What they hope to achieve by extending their time by a few years after the apocalypse I’m not sure even they know. A reflex of habit I guess, an isolationist hangover from lifetimes of sociopathic dissociation from the fate of every man. Not that I blame them for wanting a few extra years. It does feel good to live, and it is very hard to face the prospect of the void.

I remember it was three years ago, in August 2018, that I fully accepted for the first time that the crazy-train wasn’t going to slow down and turn around. I’d been living for two decades in the shadow of the knowledge of the potentially world-destroying activities of human beings, oscillating between desperate hope and bitter despair. For the last five of those years I’d been living very small and light in a conscious community of people focused on healing our connection to the Earth and each other, housed off-grid in mud huts, working the land, cooking on fire, gathering water from the stream, embracing the radical simplicity that some of us believed the whole world needed to adopt if our planet was going to make it. Elsewhere others were doing likewise. Elsewhere others were protesting the disaster, risking prison and in some cases their lives in order to halt some of the destruction. Elsewhere many brave souls were striving to transform their lives in radical ways in line with carbon neutrality and ecological protection.

But really, we were very few.

(To Be Continued)

“What I Stand For Is What I Stand On”

45062838_10214466431552284_787289044617789440_oSince 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 release, 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.

Written  by April Griefsong

 

 

The tough got going – why I ran for the hills…

I’ve spent much of my adult life battling injustice. Decades of fighting for climate justice (and thereby the fate of all living things), culminated in leading 50,000 concerned citizens through the streets of Westminster at the Avaaz Climate March in 2013.

As a solution-seeker, I joined a lobby group behind *Thorium fuelled nuclear energy; working tirelessly within the corridors of power.

After many years of bashing my head against a brick wall – the wall built of vested interests, I, literally, ran for the hills; now into my third year living & breathing on the spectacular North Devon coast.

I thought I could be content with not being complicit in the mass destruction and maybe, just maybe, convert the odd non-believer…

Clearly that’s a reach too far. Among other things, I’ve refrained from campaigning against the prolific use of palm oil by the chippies + seaside eateries and fed my inner need to DO something by regular beach cleaning + working with Surfers against Sewage.

I’m now willing, able and ready for this long overdue rebellion…

We Take Action

Impotence is a terrible thing – especially when self enforced.

Any one of us, at any time, could take matters into our own hands and throw a spanner in the works of the enormous destructive forces that operate around the world and yet most of us do not. Why?

My own reason is that I would probably lose my job if I got arrested but this choice to an external observer would seem insane.
– job now and allow a destruction of your land base to the extent that your children will struggle to survive or….no job but a possibility that a relatively normal life may be possible on earth –
and yet I still continue to choose job over the next generation’s ability to survive. Feeling helpless in the face of pretty good odds.

It is this self enforced impotence that ensures the inertia of the way things are. From the man with a chainsaw in the Amazon to the oil explorer to the would-be whistle-blower at the IMF and even the CEOs and politicians the reason why the devastation continues is because our jobs depend on turning up to work to grind the wheels of the destructive system. This is why most people who have taken direct action are those on the outside of the system or those whose lives will be immediately and directly, negatively impacted by a specific aspect of the machine.

The Extinction Rebellion offers an opportunity to the millions of ordinary people, whose anguish is the destruction of nature in whatever form – loss of clean air, water, particular species, individual trees, entire ecosystems or ultimately an environment that can sustain ourselves. An opportunity to convert their impotence into an organised force demanding that those that govern on our behalf act fast to steer our society to a sustainable future.

Why will the Extinction Rebellion do what other causes have thus far failed to do?

Because there is a recognition of the end of hope.

This sounds like a weakness but it is the greatest strength.
When there is only us.
When there is no campaign manager, no department of the environment, no benign government or NGO that is going to do anything for us – or even tell us what to do – then we finally have to take the full weight of responsibility ourselves.

And when we take responsibility….
We take action.

We must.

By Len Stevens