I first heard about Extinction Rebellion from a friend. She mentioned it was a new environmental non-violent movement aimed at bringing positive change for the planet and humanity. I had wanted to get more involved with environmental activism for a while so I thought I would head to one of Bath’s XR group demonstrations.
It was one of the group’s first demos and they were asking for Bath and North East Somerset Council to declare a climate emergency, outside the Guildhall. There weren’t many of us but it didn’t seem to matter. Our passion and drive was clear from the signs and leaflets we were handing out: ‘Be Scared, Get Mad, Do Something,’ ‘Climate Emergency- Act Now’. I have been to quite a few demonstrations like this but what I loved about this one was that it was a collective of people. The group isn’t run by a single entity, it’s a community effort driven by a desire to bring attention to the climate crisis. I met a woman in her late fifties who was going on a meditation retreat in the Himalayas in a few weeks time and one of the coordinators, who’s day job was as a therapist. I was just another person who wanted to add my voice to the movement using peaceful strategies that engage and inspire. I’m a creative writing student at Bath Spa University, artist, musician, and I work as a student ambassador and green communicator at my uni. I’m highly passionate about environmental issues so knew I could bring my own voice to the cause. I just needed to give it a chance. More recently, I took part in the #YouthStrike4Climate which Bath XR gladly promoted through their social media channels. There were hundreds of young people there and it was truly inspiring to see. Members of Bath XR were there too and it was incredible to come together and make some noise in the city of Bath. We marched through the centre, towards Kingsmead Square and back to the Guildhall. We were in it together and Extinction Rebellion was right at the heart. That’s what Extinction Rebellion is made up of. Community. People from all walks of life coming together to stand up for the planet and all the other species we share it with. They want people from anywhere and everywhere to join them. It’s what the movement is all about. Everyone has something to bring whether it’s writing, illustrating, singing, playing an instrument or even knitting! Every movement requires creativity and people to make it effective. It needs passion but it also needs fun! We can’t hope to make a positive difference if we’re not having fun. It doesn’t have to be difficult and from what I’ve learned from these events, it isn’t. If we hold our passion in our hearts and keep in mind why we need to be one of those rebellious voices, we can have fun with other people who share that passion. From there, we might have a chance at saving our futures.
“You are not mature enough to tell it like it is. Even that burden you leave to us children.” – Greta Thunberg, Swedish climate activist
In all my years of activism, I had never heard anything like it. A shiver of nervous excitement ran through me. The high, piercing voice of a girl on a megaphone demanded: “Tell me what democracy looks like!” A chorus of mostly teen girls shouted back: “This is what democracy looks like!” A boisterous crowd of a few hundred self-led youth and children, with a handful of adults, we marched uphill in downtown Los Angeles. We were adding our small part to the worldwide Student Strike for Climate Action, in which 1.6 million participated in over 125 countries. The march was more like a trot, and I was having a bit of a sweaty struggle to keep up. I was relieved when the march stopped briefly near the iconic Disney Concert Hall. A group of Latina high school students formed a line for photos and chants.
Some students’ colorful signs reflected grim humor: “If you fail our planet/ good luck/ getting elected on Mars” and “Sunscreen won’t save you forever”. Some were nature-centered: “Plant Trees/ Save Bees/ Clean Seas.” Much love of the natural world and artistic flourishes had gone into the making of their messages. As we trooped past the huge, fortress-like headquarters of the LA Police Department, a song familiar from my high school days burst out: “Everywhere we go/ people wanna know/ who we are/ so we tell them/ mighty, mighty students/ fighting for justice…” The “fighting for justice” part was different. These kids weren’t yelling for their basketball team. I thought back to the desperate anger I had felt as a teen during the Vietnam War. The crisis that threatens this generation of youth dwarfs even a decades-long war. As both the U.S. government’s National Climate Assessment and the UN’s IPCC report documented in late 2018, we are in a national and a global emergency. Atmospheric carbon dioxide is the highest in 800,000 years. Emissions are rising, not decreasing. We – in California, but also all over the world — are already suffering the effects of a rise of just over 1 degree Celsius: harsher and more frequent storms, wildfires, droughts, crop failures, unpredictable weather.
The march looped back to LA City Hall. I complimented a boy on his large sign, and we exchanged info on our home towns; his, Venice Beach and mine, Palm Springs. We gave each other a small nod of approval and a “thanks for being here.” After talking to Alissa, an adult activist at the Extinction Rebellion table, and getting a sticker from the Center for Biological Diversity folks, I took a seat in a grassy area above the small stage to listen to the rally. An indigenous woman led us in a heart-opening ritual to the seven directions: east, south, west, north, above, below, inside. Scientist Peter Kalmus, whose two sons have been climate striking on Fridays at Pasadena’s City Hall, spoke briefly, followed by his son Zack: “I strike because the Earth is so beautiful…” A hush fell on the crowd at his words.
A Chicana high school student cried out: “We are more than a hashtag! We are the generation who will have to deal with this! I would rather be in school.” Another girl spoke of her terror during the wildfires last November, and her feeling of dread at the approach of summer. From Boulder, Colorado, Xiuhtezcatl Martinez, an environmental justice activist since age 6 (he’s now 18), performed his spoken word piece, then changed to “rally speech.” He observed, “It used to be me and a bunch of old white people, talking about climate change. And shout out to all the old white people” – I grinned – “but now is OUR time!” In the wave of applause that followed, I didn’t clap or cheer, because a huge lump rose in my throat and grief overwhelmed me. Why should these young people have to face such a bleak future? So what is left for us, their elders, to do? Educate ourselves on both the crisis and the solutions; I recommend the book “Drawdown” for starters. Decrease our own emissions by flying and driving less. Speak up in public and private — but don’t waste time on the deniers. Support young activists, and take up some share of the burden. This fight for climate justice has the potential to draw humanity, and the generations, together in the face of a shared existential threat.
I am grateful to the young people I shared an afternoon with. They could have spurned me or asked me to leave. Instead, there was a shared feeling of concern and trust that I will cherish. My feet were sore, and my heart was full.
Janet Weil is a longtime activist for peace and justice. She lives in the California desert town of Palm Springs with her husband and many hummingbirds. You can find her on Twitter: @JanetRWeil.
UN Secretary-General António Guterres stated, “we are in trouble. We are in deep trouble with climate change.” And that, “It is hard to overstate the urgency of our situation…we are still not doing enough, nor moving fast enough, to prevent irreversible and catastrophic climate disruption.” This statement came alongside the news that emissions had risen to a new high in 2018 after 30 years of supposedly attempting to cut them.
we adapt to the inevitable effects of “catastrophic
climate disruption” under the capitalist system Or, is it a
barrier to a sustainable future-fit for the good of all?
need three basic elements to sustain life: food, water and shelter.
When our species emerged some 40-60,000 years ago we maintained
ourselves as hunter-gatherers. This period lasted for 90% of human
history. Cooperation was crucial for our survival.
slavery and the concept of private property emerged before written
history with basic agriculture and the production of surpluses.
People became property, and the state evolved to defend property
rights through the use of coercion. Between the 9th and 15th century
in medieval Europe, the shackles of slavery gave way to feudal
society and the legalised bondage of serfdom wherein the three basics
for life were exchanged for service and labour on the land.
dates from the 16th century and flourished at the expense of
feudalisms inability to adapt. The central characteristics of
capitalism are: private ownership of the means of production, profit,
waged labour, the accumulation of capital, prices, and competitive
elites arose in slavery and feudalism, so too did the unequal
of food, water, and shelter for the vast majority of its people.
has mirrored that as Oxfam reports that the, “World’s 26 richest people own as much as poorest 50%.”
Whereas, the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation revealed that the
food system fails to properly nourish billions of people. More than 820 million people went hungry last year,
while a third of all people did not get enough vitamins.
Approximately 9 million people die of hunger globally each year.”
least 2 billion people use a drinking water source contaminated with
faeces…Nearly two million children a year die
for want of clean water and proper sanitation…The UN Development
Programme, argues that 1.1 billion people do not have safe water and
2.6 billion suffer from inadequate sewerage. This is not because of
water scarcity but poverty, inequality and government failure.”
shelter? Globally, ” one in eight people
live in slums. In total, around a billion people live in slum
conditions today”. In 2005, the last time a global survey was
attempted by the UN, “an estimated 100 million people were
As many as 1.6 billion people lacked adequate housing”.
are symptoms of a cancer called poverty. A sickness intrinsic to
question to ask yourself here is: are these people likely to be
joined by millions more given what we know, at present, about the
effects of “catastrophic
climate disruption” under capitalism?
the media, and entrepreneurs scrabble around for quick fixes. All of
them involve market solutions. But the logic of the capitalist market
is to make money. Thus, catastrophe
can also be seen as an opportunity to turn a profit.
reports that, ” A top JP Morgan Asset investment strategist
advised clients that sea-level rise was so inevitable that there was
likely a lot of opportunity for investing in sea-wall construction.”
And speculating on insurance policies, Barney Schauble, of Nephila
Advisors LLC believes that, “the broader public’s failure to
appreciate the risks of climate change is part of what makes it such
a good area for investing.” Moreover, “there is evidence
that many players in the corporate-military-security industrial nexus
are already seeing climate change not just as a threat but an opportunity…
climate change promises another financial boon to add to the ongoing
War on Terror.”
we are told will eventually provide solutions to climate change. This
is a crude phantasm of an ideology that seeks to forego any
alternative thinking and to “kick the can down the road.”
“green new deal” appears in several shades of grey.
Whether the so-called, “war-time mobilisation” some people
call for could be realised in one country is debatable. But globally?
That would take cooperation on a scale inconceivable given that in
the 20th century The League of Nations, and later
the UN were implemented to maintain peace. Nevertheless, countless
millions were slaughtered in capitalisms’ wars.
now? Consider the debacle that is Brexit. And the farce of climate
and similar types of enterprises are argued for as solutions. But as
long as markets exist they too have to conform to its iron laws.
Cooperatives will have to compete with each other to buy raw
materials and inputs, and then sell its commodities on the market
with every other seller of an equal product. Thus, if a cooperative
produces goods to sell on the market, to obtain money, to pay wages
via profit, then it has to conform to all of the economic laws of
is capitalism’s raison
d’être, and growth
quote, “it is easier to imagine an end to the world than an end to capitalism,”
becomes credible with the knowledge that, “just 100 companies
are responsible for 71% of global emissions,
” many of which are state entities and the residue potent
friends of state actors. Likewise, “the U.S. Military
is the World’s Biggest Polluter .” All powerful adversaries of
anyone who wants to oppose the status quo.
But, for those who think this barrier can be overcome have one great advantage. Imagination. The ability to envision a different world. One fit for the good of all. To imagine it, clarify it, and start to build it. And those that believe the barrier could be breached should begin by inscribing on their banners the dictum -“Toward One World.”
Fisher is a married business woman and artist. She has five children
aged 32 to 13 and is studying part-time for an MA in Creative Writing at
The University of Brighton. For the next couple of months, she will be
writing a weekly blog on the BPEC website about environmental issues,
particularly focussing on climate change and biodiversity loss. Claudia
does a lot of work with the newly formed civil disobedience group Extinction Rebellion. In this blog she will share her journey with you, in the hope that you will join her. Thank you for reading.
I have a question for you.
prompts a middle-aged woman who has never participated in any form of
activism before to throw herself wholeheartedly into civil disobedience
and more? The answer is simple.
‘Our house is on fire.’[
These are the words of a 16-year-old student, Greta Thunberg.
What does Greta mean? Our house is on fire? Let’s start with that
image. What would you or I if we knew our house was on fire? Make a cup
of tea and wait to see if the flames caught hold? Let the children sleep
upstairs for fear of frightening them unnecessarily? Walk off and leave
it, hoping it would put itself out? No of course not. That would be
pretty confident that the first thing every one of us would do is wake
the children and get them out as quickly as possible. We’d pick up the
phone and dial 999. We’d shout ‘HURRY!’. We’d put the hose on and fill
buckets with water. We’d form a chain gang with our neighbours. In
short, we’d do anything we could to dampen those flames.
go back to Greta, whose one-woman school strike for climate has captured
the imaginations of hundreds of thousands of young people across the
For months Greta skipped school every Friday, preferring to sit outside
the Swedish Parliament on her own, rather than be with her friends in
class. She explained that the world was facing such a dire and urgent
climate emergency, she saw no point in studying for a future she would
explains that we, the human race, are facing climate breakdown with
wildfires, flooding, droughts, rising sea levels and heatwaves. The
planet is entering the world’s sixth mass extinction with around 200 species estimated to go extinct each and every day.[iii]
And what are we doing? Pretty much nothing. We all carry on as before
and think people like me are extremist, alarmist, totally off their
rockers. Or we notice it’s a bit hotter than usual, but that’s nice
isn’t it, in a country where traditionally the weather is a bit rubbish?
We can start producing wine now. So, it’s not all bad. And anyway, what
can we do about it? We all have to live, don’t we? We have to eat and
get about and have fun? We don’t want to stop all of that, because isn’t
the kind of easy living we are used to what it’s all about? Well, the
answer is, we have to stop. We have to think. To assess. To evaluate.
Then we have to act. We have to. Because this is not sustainable. It
Every day nearly 100 million barrels of oil are extracted from the ground.[iv]
That is energy made billions of years ago. Yet we dig it up, harness
its energy and release its by-products. Like Pandora’s Box, we let it
out and can’t put it back. I tell my children that their actions have
consequences. Yet I have been guilty, and still am guilty, of taking
actions and making decisions that will have consequences, not
necessarily for me, but for generations to come.
ecologist and they will confirm that this beautiful blue planet of ours
has a finely balanced eco-system that has evolved over a very, very
long time. I think understanding just how long really helps with getting
a handle on how serious this situation is.
of my MA in Creative Writing, last year I wrote a piece about a
three-hour period where, as a result of severe sleep deprivation and
stress at my son’s serious illness, the balance of my mind was briefly
overturned. In order to reconcile the significance of those three hours
with the greater scheme of things I started researching. Trying to
understand time. For me those three hours felt like an eternity. But
what does eternity really mean? This is what I found out, and be warned, you could find it quite mind-blowing.
the Earth formed at midnight and the present moment is the next
midnight, 24 hours later, modern humans have been around since
11:59:59pm—that’s 1 second.’[v]
all that time, in the 23 hours 59 minutes and 59 seconds of all
existence, the world’s ecosystems could get along with their business of
generating, living, evolving, dying and starting over again
uninterrupted. Then we humans came along.
‘And if human history itself spans 24 hours from one midnight to the next, 14 minutes represents the time since Christ.’[vi]
23 hours 58 minutes 36 seconds of that one second of the previous
24-hour clock, humans were part of the ecosystem. Spending every second
surviving. Living amongst all other life. It is really only in the last
two hundred years, since the beginning of the industrial age that we
have had any kind of impact on our environment. This is equivalent in my
illustration to 1 minute and 24 seconds of a 24-hour period that has
been expanded out of one second of another 24-hour period.
about it. That kind of time span, a mere 200 years, in comparison to
life on earth is equivalent to a fraction of a blink. And the scientists
tell us we have only 11 years left to change our ways, before global temperatures breach the 1.5ºC guard rail.[vii] Beyond that we will have an unstoppable increase. Temperatures of 2-5ºC will cause famine, mass migration, wars and societal break down. Life will at best be miserable, at worst unsustainable.[viii]
years. To stop carbon emissions. To clean up our act. Going back to my
illustration, 11 years equates to a mere 4.62 seconds of a second in 24
hours. Which is why waiting till climate change hits home, waiting for
governments to do something, waiting for the changes to be unstoppable
just isn’t an option. The UK government have pledged an 80% reduction in
carbon emissions by 2050. If this target wasn’t so tragic it would be
laughable. It’s like pouring a thimbleful of lukewarm water onto that
house fire and expecting that drop to make a difference.
to act like our house is on fire. Because it is. And this middle-aged
woman for one is not going to stop until that fire is out. Totally out. I
will risk my losing my comforts, my freedom and my life. It is too
important to stand by and do nothing. Because the fire is taking hold of
the ground floor. The flames are licking up the stairs and my children
are sleeping in that house. I need to get them to safety.
More next week about my entry into a different world of possibilities and hope.
On 15 March students from around the world will join a global Youth Strike for Climate, leaving school and college to demand that their leaders urgently take climate action. In this guest blog Farhana Yamin, CEO at Track 0 and Extinction Rebellion Activist and Jake Woodier, an organiser of #YouthStrike4Climate explain why.
Politicians beware. Young people are demanding answers from governments to some tough questions.
Why have scientific warnings about the climate and ecological crisis been ignored for so long?
What emergency actions can now be put in place to stop the extinction of life on Earth?
Tired of the apathy and denialist campaigns funded by vested interests, young people are taking to the streets and joining new social movements that are demanding solutions be put in place in 10 years or less.
That timeframe more or less matches the 12 year deadline given by the United Nation’s chief scientific body, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). In October 2018, the IPCC spelt out the consequences of what a hotter more disruptive climate would look like. Unless we cut global greenhouse gases emissions by 50% in the next 11 years, billions of people would be exposed to increased storms, wildfires, droughts, floods, acidified oceans and sea level rise which would result in water and food shortages and mass migration.
Students strike for climate in London in February 2019. (Photo: Socialist Appeal/Flickr)
Fearing for their future and acting out of solidarity with their fellow global citizens, this week hundreds of thousands of young people are expected to walk out of schools and colleges to join the school strike movement. They are inspired by 16 year old Greta Thunberg, who in August 2018 stopped going to school on Fridays to sit outside the Swedish Parliament and demand climate action. Since then, thousands of young people around the world have joined the Youth Strike 4 Climate movement with campaigns now active in around 71 countries. In Belgium, around 50,000 children and young people take to the streets every Friday. The UK’s student movement is gathering momentum. The first national strike resulted in 15,000 students and young people ditching classrooms to demonstrate a need for radical and urgent action to achieve climate justice for current and future generations.
Anna Taylor, 17, co-founder or the UK Student Climate Network which is coordinating the mobilizations explains:
“The burden of holding powerful actors to account over their climate records has unfortunately fallen on the young. We’ve been betrayed by the climate inaction of previous generations. We’re having to rise up and fight for those around the world already suffering the devastating effects of climate change, and for our very futures.”
The youth led Sunrise Movement rally in San Francisco in December 2018. (Photo: Peg Hunter/Flickr)
Long held attitudes of moderation are now woefully insufficient given the global climate emergency we all face. From the “Green New Deal’s 10 year plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to zero in ways that generate clean jobs, supported by the youth-led Sunrise movement and championed by Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, to the Extinction Rebellion’s campaign of mass civil disobedience to dismantle the toxic systems that are putting all life on Earth at risk, it is clear that the desire to build a more inclusive society based on respecting nature’s boundaries is beginning to reshape politics.
No-one knows what will happen and no-one can say for sure whether or not fundamental ecological tipping points have already been breached. The good news is that there are millions of people – old and young – who are mobilising around the world to stop humanity from falling off a cliff.
Extinction Rebellion protest at Oxford Circus, London in November 2018 (Photo: David Holt / Flickr)
We can and must succeed in catalysing a peaceful revolution to end the era of fossil fuels and economic systems based on the extraction and extinction of nature. Life on Earth literally depends on it.
That is why we will be supporting students on strike and all those working to defend life on Earth. As citizens around the world join together to courageously speak truth to power, we hope you will give your full support to strikers and rebels where ever you are.
Views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of The Elders or The Elders Foundation.
This speech was planned to be read during the Youth Strike 4 Climate, in Exeter on February 15th. Youth Strike for Climate is an international movement that is gaining traction and support all the time. February 15th was the first mass countrywide UK action. Exeter was one of the biggest events. XR unequivocally supports Youth Strikes. Some Youth Strike members are also XR Youth members, including in Exeter. Thanks to ‘Jack’ for the YouTube video above. Jack, please get in touch -one of our editors would like to create some content with you!
by Molly Bovet, 17 years old
To those with the
greatest power, from those who must break the system to claim it:
There never should
have been a ‘time for waiting’, and now even those stolen years have run out.
generation has failed to keep us safe in this time, and now we, your children,
are left to pick up the pieces and provoke you into action. The promises that
have been made and the plans that have been discussed so far are too vague and
have, at best, twelve years left before the state of our planet becomes catastrophic
and we run out of time for action; that is not time that can be wasted like the
politicians and major companies of the world have wasted the years leading up
are the ones who have created this mess and now we are here to force you into
action. You are the ones with the power to help us.
are raised to be quiet when they’re angry and to do as they’re told, but this
is one issue that we cannot be silenced on.
just the past twenty five years, you have emitted more CO2 than the entirety of
the human race before you. The climate we have been born and raised in, the
climate that you have created, is born of obliteration.
may even see climate collapse as soon as within the next five years, and if we
don’t amend that, cultural collapse will inevitably follow within our
these horrific facts are things that we have had to seek out ourselves; our
schools do not equip us with the knowledge and ability to mitigate the worst-case
scenarios. Nor do they teach us about the direness of our climate situation or
how we can live low carbon lifestyles.
do not want to live in fear but you give us no choice. We trusted you, the
adults, to keep us safe but you have failed to secure our future.
You want to raise good kids, people who will be kind to one another and the world around them, work passionately and take their educations seriously. These kids are here, begging at your feet to spare us a future in flames. We will care for this earth and its creatures. We will love every precious second that we are here; just as long as you do the same.
This is my only planet
by Holly Errington
This is my only planet
I must defend it
This is your beautiful planet
You must help us
Tired of endless excuses
Governments saying “We’ll fix it later”
And walking away with a smirk
Their pockets full and our planet empty
We will not settle for later
We don’t care if you think we’re crazy
We can band together
are happening now
Do not let others pollute your vision
Be a protector of precious life
Let us hold hope by the hand
Pray that we will be sitting amongst wildlife
In years to come
Talking about our defiance
Against this ecological destruction
We Have the Facts, We Will Have Climate Justice
by Lauren Fenton, 18 years old
In a world where governments care more
about money than the environment, it has been left to the people to decide
which shade of green we want for our planet.
With an estimated 18 billion pounds of
plastic waste entering the world oceans from coastal regions annually and
Donald Trump looking to re-open coal mines in the USA, it is now down to the
people to make the change.
But we need the support of the government, we need them to wake up and take responsibility and write legally binding agreements to cap the global temperature rise by less than the tipping point.
Limiting global warming to 2 degrees Celsius is not good enough. A two-degree increase in the average global temperature means that mountain glaciers and rivers will start to disappear, 10% of the world’s population will be displaced due to sea level rise and A THIRD OF ALL LIFE ON EARTH WILL FACE EXTINCTION!
As a population we need to band together to
pressure the officials to enforce a mandatory cap in temperature rise at 1.5
degrees C above pre-industrial levels and become carbon neutral by 2030. By the
time we reach 2050 It will be too late.
In 2014, only 5 countries accounted for 70%
of global CO2 emissions: China, the United States, the European Union, the
Russian Federation and Japan. This sparked the launch of the “land mark
agreement” to combat climate change in 2015 – COP 21, The Paris agreement,
Which THE USA HAS NOW PULLED OUT OF.
China is so far the only country to make a
major difference, announcing plans to invest over $USD 3 Billion in renewable
energy. Whist the EU’s aim is become carbon neutral by 2050 and cut energy use
by 20% below business-as-usual projections by 2020. This is NOT good enough! We
are the 3rd largest contributor to CO2 emissions globally and our
member states are among the wealthiest countries in the world. With these stats
there is NO EXCUSE for not making more of an effort to become carbon neutral!
Because of our governments idleness we are now on track for a global
temperature rise of 2.7 degrees C, 0.7 above the tipping point.
Despite all these
statistics, there has still been no legally binding agreement to combat climate
change since 2009. And there are still countries refusing the latest agreement
(Katowice 2018), including the USA, Russia and Saudi Arabia. Knowing this, how can
we rely on governments who are not willing to make a sacrifice to save the
planet? If the temperature continues to rise there will be no trade, there will
be displacement of people and there will be extinction!
We have the facts.
We have the power. We will have Climate Justice.
I can’t sleep, so I got up to write this. The possibilities of XR are on my mind. What will Brexit, or an absence of Brexit, throw up? Will the UK government be weakened to the point of collapse? Will an emergency general election be called, and if so, will that be the moment for XR to ramp up the civil disobedience to achieve the aim of a Citizen’s Assembly for the UK, decided by sortition?
Personally I am inspired by the historical example in this country of the monarchy gradually losing power as Parliament gained power, (aided by the beheading of a king, but we don’t need to go that far. Have mercy on Theresa May, please. It can’t be easy for her). Could the same happen again, with Parliament fading to play a role similar to that which the queen plays now? Could a Citizen’s Assembly usurp the majority of the current Parliament’s executive roles, and could the unfolding ecological catastrophe make that process swift -could it happen in 5-10 years?
I am inspired by the possibility of a fairly rapid, peaceful revolution. It may be unlikely. About as unlikely as someone like Trump becoming the president of America.
Whatever lies ahead, we can sure there will be some hardship to endure in this country in the coming decades. With increasingly erratic weather and potentially even temperature rises enough to stop wheat germination, food shortages are not unlikely to occur.
It’s time we toughened up, physically and mentally. We can do this by conditioning ourselves gradually, in a regenerative way. It is possible to be kind to ones-self whilst also experimenting with self-imposed hardship, or on a spiritual level it could be called renunciation. This is partly why I make a regular habit of fasting. It’s also why I sleep on a hard floor, with just one layer of duvet between me and the carpet. It has got to the point where the hard ground feels like a comfort, an anchor against the potentially overwhelming light-headed fear of an impending Dark Age. Sleeping on the floor also helps assuage my Global Northerner’s guilt and helps remind me of the enslaved people’s and species on which my privileged life depends.
More than anything it is a practice which helps me feel strong for whatever is coming. After a while it doesn’t feel hard at all. I hope you will try this out for one night -to make friends with what is most solid and real. In any case, where was your mattress made, and by whom? What materials went into it? How much of the Earth’s resources would we save if we all discarded the need to sleep on a mattress?
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 of 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 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 are 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 a 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 perpetuate 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).