Endangered species laws – the epitome of double standards

By Karl Ammann – Time Magazine ‘Hero of the Environment’

Well on the way to climate breakdown and the sixth mass extinction of species on our planet, you would be hard pressed to know there have been international laws in place since 1975 with the aim of ensuring that ‘international trade in specimens of wild animals and plants does not threaten their survival’. So how are the bureaucrats who should be enforcing the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) doing on that front?

Amongst other failures on their watch:

• Wild tiger numbers have halved to under 4,000 since the 1990s; 

• The South China tiger has almost certainly become extinct in the wild; 

• There has been a huge increase in Asian tiger farms despite a 2007 decision by CITES parties stating that tigers should not be bred for commercial purposes (with the suits in the CITES Secretariat having not once lifted a finger against China’s massively documented non-compliance with that decision); 

• The number of African lions nearly halved from 1993 to 2014, with just 25,000 or so now left in the wild (and yet the CITES Secretariat, bowing to pressure from the rich and influential American trophy hunting industry, still doesn’t recommend they be given the top level of ‘protection’ under CITES);  

• The elephant population of Tanzania’s Selous Game Reserve dropped from 100,000 in the 1970s to 13,000 in 2013; 

• The illegal ivory trade increased by close to 300% between 1998 and 2011; 

• The illegal rhino horn trade in 2014 reached its highest levels since the early 1990s; 

• There was a 9,300% increase in rhino poaching in South Africa between 2007 and 2014; and 

• The western black rhinoceros was declared officially extinct in 2011. 

CITES itself is comparatively well drafted, the problem is with the suits who should be enforcing it. Administered by the UN, time and again we see them bowing to commercial interests and, without being xenophobic, window dressing to protect runaway Chinese consumption of the planet’s few remaining endangered species.

I’ve been trying to get the CITES Secretariat to properly implement and enforce their international, endangered species laws for decades. With English wildlife lawyer Richard Hargreaves helping me out in his spare time for free since 2011 we’re now ready to publish our first book, ‘Slave Apes’, exposing the rot and double standards within the Secretariat.

With my pictures and evidence from the front lines and Richard’s words and analysis we have everything we need to prove, without a shadow of a doubt, the worst case of double standards imaginable when it comes to protecting endangered species. Put simply, this has left the pair of us unable to rule out FIFA level corruption amongst the very bureaucrats who should be overseeing the full implementation and enforcement of the world’s only international endangered species laws.

In short, in ‘Slave Apes’ we’re talking about the suits at CITES punishing third world Guinea for illegally exporting dozens of live, baby chimps from the wild to lives of squalor, horrendous conditions and remorseless commercial exploitation in Chinese zoos. That’s correct but the problem is we have all the evidence proving this trade was instigated at the Chinese end of the supply chain and that the CITES Secretariat have not just failed to lift a finger against China in that respect but actually protected them from punishment and having to place these chimps in sanctuaries as required under CITES.

Our first book could just as easily have covered the CITES Secretariat’s failings and protection of China when it comes to the massive growth in their tiger farming industry or, similarly, the massive growth in the trade in lion bones from South Africa to Asia (where they’re passed off as tiger, thereby increasing hunting pressure on the world’s few remaining wild tigers). It’s just that in ‘Slave Apes’ we have the strongest, most incontrovertible evidence against the CITES bureaucrats possible

Finally, although I’m not UK based, if you would be interested in lobbying the UK’s CITES officials to call for an end to the rot and double standards within the CITES Secretariat in Geneva I understand they’re based at Horizon House, Deanery Road, Bristol, BS1 5AH.

Keep up the great work!

‘And the whole of creation is waiting for us to become human’

(Translation of a graffiti inscription by poet ‘Johannes’, Lake Constance, Switzerland)

With the suits at CITES being administered by the UN, the one problem we have with ‘Slave Apes’ is finding a publisher brave enough to publish. So this is basically a call-out on the off-chance that anyone involved with XR can recommend a literary agent or, ideally, a publisher we may not have tried who may be interested in getting ‘Slave Apes’ published. If you know of anyone please contact me at karl@karlammann.ch

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Earth Day, 2019: Some Of Us Have Seen What’s Coming

By Cody Petterson
For the first time in 15 years, I sat down in my car the other day and broke down sobbing. On the side of a dirt road, surrounded by mountains. Waves of sadness, frustration, rage, and despair welling up.
I’d spent the day planting and watering seedlings, which I’ve done for half a decade now. We have 300 acres on the north slope of Volcan Mountain, between Julian and Warner Springs. The property got hit by the Pines Fire in 2002, which killed two-thirds of the conifers. I grew up hiking in Cuyamaca, before the fires, and I got it in my mind to restore the conifer forest on the property. It took months to figure out what was what, heading up to the mountain once a week, taking pictures, coming home and trying to identify all the species, reading late into the night about botany, and forestry, and silviculture. I collected thousands of cones. I learned how to get seeds out of them and to stratify, germinate, and pot the seeds. I started growing seedlings in the backyard. I put together a working group with US Forest Service, US Fish and Wildlife, CALFIRE, and the US Natural Resource Conservation Service. We collected and sent 30 bushels of fresh cones up to the USFS nursery in Placerville, and I eventually got a thousand seedlings from those seeds.
I planted every which way I could, learning something new each time, year after year. The first year I planted in the open. The seedlings baked. Next in the shade. They baked. I learned to water every two or three weeks, which isn’t easy across 300 acres of steeply sloped terrain. The pocket gophers ate them from below. I caged the bottoms. Rabbits severed them at the base. I caged them above ground. Rodents climbed up and down into the cages and defoliated the needles. I caged the tops. The rodents ate the needles on all the branches that protruded from the cage, and the hardware cloth cages heated up in the sun and the metal killed all the branches and needles that were in contact with it. 
And all the time, the relentless heat and dryness killed any seedling left without watering for more than two or three weeks. Winter rains are good, but there’s no snow-melt anymore, and a winter rain doesn’t help a seedling survive in October when there hasn’t been a drop of rain in 8 months (the second half of 2017 was the driest on record here). In spite of thousands of hours of thought, and worry, and work, and care, I’ve lost probably 650 out of the 700 seedlings I’ve raised from seed and planted with my own hands over the last 5 years.
That day, after a long, dirty, hot day of planting, I walked to one of my favorite spots, a ring of granite boulders sheltered by a huge, gnarled Canyon Live Oak. There, lying shattered and rotting in the middle of the ring, was half the 60 foot tall tree. The other half was still standing, but covered in the telltale, tiny D-shaped holes of Gold-spotted Oak Borer (GSOB), a beetle that gets into the phloem, xylem, and cambium of our native oaks and kills them rapidly. GSOB arrived in San Diego on firewood from southeast Arizona fifteen years ago and has been slowly advancing north, laying waste to our native oaks. It’s killed maybe 80,000 so far. I wandered around to a dozen nearby trees, all big, ancient oaks. The trunks of every one were spotted with GSOB holes. I stood there stunned. The whole millenia-old forest was dying, as far as the eye could see. I wandered back to my truck, numb.
I sat down in the driver’s seat, staring out the window. At the oaks, dying in mass. At the stately, hundred-foot-tall Bigcone Douglas Fir, towering above the oak canopy. Each Bigcone drops maybe two hundred to a thousand cones, depending on size, every three to five years. Each cone has around 100 viable seeds in it. Maybe 40,000 seeds on average per tree, every few years. Times a few hundred trees. An average of somewhere around a million seeds a year fall on our stretch of mountain. And yet there’s not more than a dozen saplings growing naturally on the entire property, 300 acres. I sat there thinking about what that meant, year after year, a million seeds dropped and maybe one or two survive, and those only on the dampest, darkest parts of the mountain. It meant the days of the Bigcone are done.
I sat thinking about those thousands of oaks on all those slopes, and ridges, and hills. Dying. I thought of the Shot Hole Borer, working its way up through our canyons, killing all San Diego’s Coast Live Oak, and willow, and sycamore, and cottonwood. I thought of the Bigcone pushing their way up through the oak canopy. Last of their kind. I thought of all my seedlings. The hundreds I’ve planted over the years and the hundreds filling my patio and yard. I’ve lost too many to count, but I can somehow remember the moment I first saw each one had dried out, or been pulled under by gophers, or stripped bare by rodents, or gnawed by rabbits, or trampled by cattle from the neighboring reservation.
I’d thought about it all a thousand times. I’ve lain in bed so many nights trying to wrestle with it. I don’t know why, but that afternoon something in my mind buckled under the weight of it. I thought, ‘How do I tell my kids?’ and I started to cry. They’ve grown up with me storing seeds and acorns in the refrigerator, germinating seeds, potting seedlings, watering them, five hundred at any given time in the backyard, working in the greenhouses, unloading all my dusty tools and empty water bottles from the truck when I get back in the evening from the mountain. Their dad working in any spare moment on reforesting is all they’ve ever known. I thought of this photo we took a couple of years ago, sitting in front of all our hundreds of seedlings. So happy. How do I tell them that I don’t know what to do with the six hundred seedlings in the backyard? That if I keep them potted in the yard, they’ll get root-bound and slowly die, and if I try to outplant them on the mountain, they’ll die even faster? That there’s no place left in the world for these trees they’ve grown up with? And then the question that was probably there the whole time, waiting to surface: How do I tell myself? I think of all the love I’ve put into saving that forest. All the years. All the thousands of hours. All the thought, and worry, and hope, and faith. How do I tell myself that it’s all gonna die? I’ve spent so long among those trees. It’s not like trees in a park you visit. I don’t go to a different trail or campground or mountain every week. I go to the same mountain, every time. I know every corner of those three hundred acres. I can see the whole forest when I close my eyes. Those trees are like friends to me. I know their peculiarities, their personalities. I can identify some of those trees by their acorns alone. It’s honestly too much. To know they’re all doomed. And if my forest is dying, the same thing is happening everywhere on earth. My mind leapt back 20 years to when I was doing fieldwork up in Kenai, Alaska. I remembered driving past hundreds of miles of conifers dying from Spruce Bark Beetle, which had exploded without the cold winters to keep its population in check. I must have blocked it out for twenty years. But it was right there, just below the surface of my consciousness, foreshadowing.
The sadness, the fear, the despair comes over me in waves when I think about it. The whole biosphere, sixty-six million years of adaptation and speciation, is dying. I took personal responsibility for repairing, conserving, stewarding my half-mile square of it, and it finally hit me–what I’d been wrestling with unconsciously for a long time–that I can’t save it. No amount of wisdom, or sacrifice, or heroism is going to change the outcome. It’s been wearing on me for years, but when you’re raised on Star Wars and unconditional positive regard, you think that no matter how long the odds, you’re somehow gonna pull off the impossible. It’s been years of working, day-in, day-out, against odds that were unimaginably long. Only, they weren’t long. They were impossible.
And at the crescendo of sobbing and loss, the saddest thought I’ve ever had came to me: I wish I didn’t know. What else can you say, when faced with a catastrophe of such vastness, with the unravelling of the entire fabric of life on earth? I mean, we need to fight to save what we can, but the web of life as we know it is done. All the beautiful things we saw as kids on the Discovery Channel. The forests I grew up in. The mountain lions, and the horned owls, and the scat and the tracks in the washes. We’re so early in this curve, and the changes that are already baked in will be so profound. I don’t think humans are headed for extinction. We’ll survive, though many of us will suffer and many die. But all this life with which we’ve shared the planet, much of it won’t make it. I wish I didn’t know. I wish I didn’t know those ancient trees dying up there on the mountain. I wish I’d never hiked through Cuyamaca before the fires. Wish I’d never looked beneath rocks for lizards in the canyons before the bulldozers came. Or heard the frogs singing.
Some of us have seen what’s coming. Some of us feel, deeply, the oneness of all life, feel its fabric fraying. On the first of April, 2019, just after 3 o’clock, some faith–some fantasy inside me–died, and I felt despair for the world I’ve known and loved. We will not save what was. The world, the systems, the interrelationships, the densely woven tapestry, the totality we were raised to love will collapse. My responsibility now is to my children–to all our children–and the world that will remain to them. To rescue as much as we can from that global conflagration, from the catastrophes of famine, and flood, and fire, and conflict, and exodus, and extinctions that await. To end our dependence on fossil fuels, immediately. To dramatically change our food production, our transportation, our land use. Our way of life. To defeat anyone and anything that opposes or hampers that work. If there were ever a truly holy war, this struggle–to save the whole of life from ourselves–is it. There can be no compromise. No increments. No quarter. There is nothing left, but to go forth–with the grief, and desperation, and granite-hard determination–and transform the world. Utterly. Immediately.

Dr. Cody Petterson is an anthropologist and environmental activist. He is president of the San Diego County Democrats for Environmental Action and serves on the boards of the San Diego River Conservancy and the Resource Conservation District of Greater San Diego. He lives with his wife and two children in La Jolla, California, where he enjoys his passion for native habitat conservation and restoration.

Trees

I am any forest or woods, and I am under threat.

Not just the big threats. All the little threats, thousands and thousands of them.

I welcome visitors. I enjoy their enjoyment of everything I have to offer.

But I am still under threat. Day by day I lose some of my inhabitants as they get disturbed by humans. Sometimes I lose lots of hectares for the greed of humans. I get fragmented by any activity like this, and of course the damage footprint is much, much larger then the actual development area.

It’s any concentration of people that cause the damage, and especially when they don’t go home at night.

I can’t recover if they don’t go home at night.

They don’t really know they’re doing it, but if some of my wildlife has to scatter because the quiet bit of forest they’ve found is discovered by walkers, riders, mountain bikers, joggers, runners, dogs, cars, motorbikes and lots more.Everyone has access to everything for all the hours in a day, for all the days in the year, and the number of visitors continues to grow by leaps and bounds. I sometimes have quite rare flora and fauna come to the forest to set up home but it’s very difficult for them.

I’m not trying to blame anyone. Every one has their priorities, from those who own, those who manage, those who protect, those who use, and of course those who damage.

I do get a bit upset though when some people say they are protecting me but they aren’t. And of course, I can’t protect myself from threats. I’m just a forest after all.

So, I need anyone that’s interested to become my friend. No axe to grind.

If people could just work together to get the balance right, I could give so much more. They might have to give up some access for the short term, but I would multiply that for the long term, for your children’s children.Humans seem to act weirdly when they become part of organisations. They start to write things and believe things that really aren’t true. Do they really believe their statistics and graphs and asset banks are telling the truth?

I gave up my wood to support your conflicts and your industry and you’ve planted lots of the wrong kind of trees, and you’ve learned a lot so that you now try to plant broad leafed deciduous trees now instead of conifers, and if you can restore me towards what I used to be, Ancient Woodland, I would repay that many fold. That will take hundreds of years, but that’s how far ahead you have to look.

Remember if you clear fell on top of a hill, more water will flow down the streams because the water will flow with less impediment and my trees aren’t taking up the water. Just don’t blame me when it goes wrong for you.

By the way, if you clear felled some small areas and created more rides and verges with mowing done at exactly the right times, not to suit you, I would really show you what biodiversity is all about. The clear felled areas create many pockets of micro climate, sheltered and private, and the verges will be a haven for plants liked by butterflies, moths and insects. Think about joining up fragments of forest to create corridors and larger areas.

It’s not rocket science, though sometimes I think it might as well be. After all, I take in carbon, give you oxygen, store water, support biodiversity and give shade, to name but a few things. They say everyone should plant trees in their lifetime for the next generations to enjoy, and it’s more true now than it ever was, given the precarious situation. In my undisturbed areas I hold the memories of centuries.

It’s your choice. How on earth are you going to do it?

Going Under

By Bill McGuire

If your children or grand children live within sight of the sea, then be afraid. Very afraid. Sea-level rise is set to be one of the most devastating and disruptive consequences of climate breakdown and the prospect of the oceans drowning coastal communities by the end of the century is growing by the day. The prevailing view sees perhaps a metre or so of sea-level rise by the century’s end – enough in its own right to doom low-lying islands and coastlines – but the true picture may be far worse. A number of studies suggest that sea levels by 2100 could be two or three metres up on today; perhaps as much as five metres. A truly terrifying scenario.

uk_sealevel_rise

How the UK would look on an ice-free Earth

Global sea levels rose by around 20cm during the 20th century and are climbing now at close to half a centimetre a year. Much of this is due to the expansion of the oceans as they warm, but melting ice is playing an ever more important role in hiking the rate of the rise. The problem is that the Earth is not heating up uniformly, and the bad news for us is that temperatures across the polar regions are climbing far more rapidly than anywhere else. Of course, this is where the vast majority of our world’s ice resides; in total, a staggering 24 billion cubic kilometres of it – close to seventy per cent of all the fresh water on Earth. The great ice sheets of Greenland and Antarctica have been bastions of stability since the end of the last Ice Age around 10,000 years ago. During the second half of the 20th century, however, and especially in the last few decades, they have started to crumble, shedding vast quantities of freshwater into the oceans.

Until recently, attention has been focused on accelerating melting of the Greenland and West Antarctic ice sheets, which are the most sensitive to rising temperatures. The last 20 years or so has seen a huge increase in the melting rate of the Greenland Ice Sheet, which is now shedding close to 400 billion tonnes of ice every year. Even more worryingly, the melting rate is increasing exponentially, which means it will continue to accelerate rapidly.

The news from West Antarctica is not good either. In the five years from 2012 to 2017, ice loss from the West Antarctic Ice Sheet shot up threefold, from 76 billion tonnes annually, to a colossal 219 billion tonnes. In total, more than 2.7 trillion tonnes of Antarctic ice has melted in the last quarter century, adding three-quarters of a centimetre to global sea level. At the new rate, the contribution over the next 25 years would be 1.5cm. Not really too much to worry about. If, however, the rate of increase is maintained over this period, then the annual rise by the mid-2040s – barely more than 20 years away – would be close toa catastrophic five centimetres a year. And this is without the growing contribution from Greenland and from the increasing expansion of sea water as the oceans continue to warm. It is not known how the melt rate will change in coming decades, but it is a sobering thought that even if the rate of increase stays as it is, low-lying lands and all coastal population centres would be threatened with permanent inundation by the century’s end.

As if this wasn’t bad enough, new research from East Antarctica paints an even more disturbing picture. The East Antarctic Ice Sheet dwarfs those of both Greenland and West Antarctica. Complete melting of the Greenland Ice Sheet would raise global sea levels by around seven metres, while melting of all the ice in West Antarctica would add another five or so. If East Antarctica lost its ice, however, it would push up sea levels by a staggering fifty metres or more. Until recently, the East Antarctic Ice Sheet was regarded as largely stable, and some studies even suggested that it might have been growing. The new study (1) reveals, however, that this is now changing, and changing with a vengeance. What was a sleeping giant is now beginning to wake up.

Satellite data reveals that a cluster of colossal glaciers, which together make up about an eighth of the coastline of East Antarctica, are starting to melt as the surrounding ocean gets progressively warmer. The loss of the giant (It’s about the size of Spain!) Totten Glacier – just one of the cluster – would, on its own, raise global sea levels by more than three metres. The new data show that it and its companions are now moving increasingly rapidly seawards and thinning as they do so, meaning that even the worst predictions for rising sea levels may be optimistic. As with the many other indicators that flag the remorseless breakdown of the stable climate that fostered the growth of our civilisation, the collapse of the polar ice sheets sends us the message that time has run out. Prevarication is no longer an option. Only serious and determined action now will give us any chance of avoiding a climate calamity that will swamp the world’s coastlines and displace hundreds of millions – if not billions – of people.

(1) https://www.nasa.gov/feature/goddard/2018/more-glaciers-in-antarctica-are-waking-up

 

Bill   McGuire   is  Professor   Emeritus   of  Geophysical   &   Climate Hazards   at  UCL   and   author  of   Waking   the  Giant:   How   a  Changing Climate Triggers Earthquakes, Tsunamis and Volcanic Eruptions. He was   a   contributor  to   the   IPCC  2012   report   on  Climate   Change   &Extreme Events and Disasters.

 

Rebellion At The Palace Gates

 

Cold Stone and Fierce Love

My heart is breaking. Every fibre of its delicate sentience is being violated by a reality as harsh as holocaust. Its soft tissues are torn to shreds. I can barely breathe though the pain of it.

Yesterday I attended Extinction Rebellion’s funeral march in honour of extinct and soon-to-be extinct species. It left me broken.

My heart, my fragile human heart, was not made to contain the grief of these times we are living in. It was not made to hold the extremes of death and rage that it is now living with, each day, each breath, each warm, tender pulse.

Participating in yesterday’s ceremony allowed the devastating reality of the global environmental situation to land in me in a way that it never has been able to before. Walking behind the mock coffin amidst the sombre group of a thousand mourners made the extinctions we were there to honour and those that we are threatened with—including that of our own species—shockingly palpable. The fine armour of denial habitually worn to shield my heart from the horrors we are living through fell away somewhere between Parliament Square and Buckingham Palace.

I’ve been trying to shed this armour all my adult life, loosening it and pulling it off piece by piece, only to feel it re-grow again when my attention turned elsewhere for a while. Yesterday a whole layer of the stuff tore off. Being part of the procession, surrounded by others who have shed or are in the process of shedding their denial, overwhelmed any unconscious attempt to turn away from the reality of our global crisis.

Raw, un-shielded, the enormity of the situation broke in on me, the cold facts printed on banners carried by the mourners pierced me like blades of ice.

“200 species lost each day due to human activities.” I find no way to rationalise this fact, nor to bury it. It screams from beneath the soil, eclipses both sun and moon.

Add up the figures:

200 species lost each day…

1,400 species lost each week… 

6,000 species lost each month… 

72,000 species lost each year…

720,000 species lost each decade… 

…through the ravaging of nature by misguided human ingenuity and blind greed.

At the current rate of extinction we will have wiped out all 8.7 million species on the planet in a little over 100 years, and ourselves with them.And the rate of extinction is currently accelerating.

It is impossible to reconcile these numbers with what passes for everyday normality. Our civilisation is literally destroying life on this planet, in the pursuit of consumer paradise. I stagger in the face of the brutality, institutionalised ignorance and systemic denial that allows this to continue. My heart breaks anew with the acknowledgement of my own complicity, however slight compared to many.

Each single species is the labour of ages, an irreplaceable strand in the web of life, a precious jewel in the sparkling constellation of this miracle Earth. To fully feel the loss of one strand is horrible. To be implicated in the loss of 200 per day is devastating.

How to conceive of the conscience of those whose interests in short-term personal gain blind them entirely to the evil they perpetrate?

How to endure the cold faces of business-as-usual sleepwalkers, completely mindless of the damage their consumer lifestyles are causing, utterly careless of the irreparable destruction their everyday choices are supporting? 

Their hard eyes seem made of virtual reality. Their greed is like titanium claws, or like chainsaws, ripping through living fibre. Their unconsciousness of the insidious evil our lives are embedded in is like fracking fluid flooding the chambers of the heart.

“60% of the Earth’s biodiversity destroyed in the last 50 years by human greed and ignorance,” read another banner. By next year that number will only have increased.

How can this be happening? How can it be that I’m only now fully waking up to this reality?

Tears pour down my cheeks from a pool of grief so vast it looks to me like the night sky, an enveloping darkness.

I thought I was getting used to all this. I thought I was finding an equanimity. After decades of environmental awareness and radical choices to limit my impact and re-connect with the living Earth, I thought that I was in touch with the situation. But yesterday’s funeral procession shattered that equanimity. Walking behind the coffin brought home to me the bitter reality of what is going down in a new and savage way. Today I am reeling with a fathomless grief and incandescent rage that is like an image from the book of revelations.

Extinction Rebellion is an apposite name for the movement rising up to fight against the continued and escalating devastation. The heart ignites in rebellion at the inhumanity of the mass extinction we are causing and which if allowed to continue will sweep us away too. The soul of the Earth which resides in all of us floods us with rebellion at what is clearly unconscionable conduct on the part of those who are overseeing the global destruction as well as those who are participating in it—either knowingly or in ignorance. And so we rise up, with fierce love in our breaking hearts, in the name of life, to rebel against extinction.

On the 31st October we roared our declaration of rebellion outside parliament. Last Saturday we took rebellion to London’s bridges and blocked them for a day. Earlier this week we took rebellion to the streets of London and disrupted some of the normality that is destroying our Earth. And yesterday we processed rebelliously from Parliament Square to Buckingham Palace, stopping outside Downing Street on the way to let our tears fall on the road and our songs echo off the government buildings of Whitehall.

There was something deeply mythical about it. I felt a bit like I was in the Iliad: through the streets the procession moved, calling for climate justice in the name of life; our way was lined with police officers and surrounded by the cold stone monumental architecture of establishment power; one could almost sense the divine forces at play overhead which these two colliding factions were representing here on Earth! Although the police gave no obstruction and we left the monumental architecture behind at the entrance to Pall Mall, the invisible friction grew more intense the closer we got to Buckingham Palace.

There was a third element also, which it took me a while to notice but with which there was actually a more intense collision than the with other. This was the more insidious form of inertia represented by the onlookers who read the banners we carried and the pamphlets we distributed but remained unmoved. Some simply laughed and took photos, enjoying the spectacle of the procession before carrying on with their day; others grumpily pushed through the crowds, resenting the delay, intent on their own business. I felt that the disengaged eyes of these passers-by held more resistance in them than the establishment powers flanking the procession, and the invisible force they represented to be far older and deeper than any of the bright warring gods or even the Earth itself.

So many worlds, so many realities, conflicting and inexorable.

When we arrived at the fountain in front of the palace the air was almost crackling with the friction of subtle forces. It looked almost hopeless, our little bundle of rebellion, in the face of so much cold stone and inertia. But there was a power in it that was far greater than the sum of its parts: the power of life and love rising up to shake the foundations of a destructive and ailing system. However small our number, the grief and rage we expressed there before the seat of the nation’s sovereign power was great and marked a historic moment.

There before the palace gates we laid down the coffin. There before the empty windows of the palace we let more tears fall, welling up from our love of the Earth and despair at the failure of those who are titled our leaders to even acknowledge the emergency. There we called upon the Queen to act in response to the existential crisis we face as a nation and a commonwealth. And there we declared that her failure to do so renders the social contract null and void and our rebellion justified in law and conscience. I wonder if she heard us. I wonder if she cares.

I wonder too what powers are preventing her and her noble officers, the British aristocracy, from acting in accordance with the law of the land and the dictates of conscience to respond appropriately to the emergency we, as a nation, are in.

But I know this: whatever these powers are, wherever they operate from, however much destruction they succeed in wreaking upon the Earth or any other part of this sacred creation, their power will one day fail. For they are not love, and only love prevails.

I know this also: however much my heart breaks, however much grief pours through me in the face of what is being lost here every single day and what will continue to be lost in the days, weeks, months and years to come, love will remain, and that love will cause me to rebel against the criminally destructive status quo that is jeopardising our future and that of all beings on Earth.

Nature Rebels

By Allan Rowell

 

It occurred to me that the title of this essay is a double-entendre, (a phrase with two meanings): ‘Nature writ large, rebels’, and also a ‘group of people rebelling for Nature’ – either way works.

As human beings we are a part of the natural world, though many of us have forgotten this simple truth. As such it is entirely appropriate to describe Extinction Rebellion (XR) as the natural world rebelling through us and equally appropriate to describe XR as a group rebelling for Nature, for, as Buddhism, other ancient spiritual teachings and in recent years science confirms – We are One – one people, one life force, one planet.

As someone with an interest in permaculturetransition towns, the local food movement, and nature conservation, I believe that XR (more specifically the websites of XR and Rising Up) can become a ’lighthouse’ for others new to these interests to educate themselves about what the real problems that we collectively face are. It is increasingly clear that the large conservation NGO’s struggle to deliver this information, as they would be ‘biting the hand that feeds them’.

XR Grass

Looking forward from Rebellion Day on the 17th November 2018, it may not be sustainable to ask people to allow themselves to be arrested again & again, marvelous as that is for sparking public interest. I’d like to see groups of activists taking part in re-wilding projects on any scale, from small areas of grass on housing estates, to public parks or other areas of green spaces in their local areas. Re-wilding can be seen as a rather grand idea, at its largest scale it envisions vast tracts of the uplands reforested, reintroducing locally extinct wildlife.\

My own interpretation of re-wilding is a much more local affair. Given the reduction we now see in insects including pollinators there is little doubt that there is a crisis going on in our countryside: mono-cropping practices and chemical fertilisers & pesticide use have combined to produce an enormous threat to these species, but also the other members of the ecosystem that feed on them. We need to regenerate these ecosystems in our local urban areas offering suitable habitats to the remnant populations of these species, until they can return to a safer countryside once sanity returns to the world.

 We must also face up to the fact that our current civilisation is very likely to collapse in the not too distant future. We need to plan & take action for this now by planting fruit trees & other perennial plants in our local areas. Try not to worry unduly about this, it may not happen in your lifetime, think of it as supporting those generations who will follow this civilisation, do it with love for life in your heart.

rewilding

Apple trees recently planted in local park by ‘friends of group’

As it happens this is all occurring when there is increasing opportunity for groups & individuals to participate in the planning and deployment of new habitats in public parks & other green spaces. The reduction in funding from the government to local councils means that the councils are struggling to afford the costs of upkeep of these areas, and friends of parks groups are popping up everywhere.

What has been seen as appropriate ground cover for these areas has historically been grass, manicured lawns – green deserts for many wildlife species. What is now required, at least in part, are areas of wildflowers creating habitats for threatened insects, and feeding areas for birds & other wildlife. Taking part in projects like this will also educate our children & grandchildren in skills that they may well need in their lifetime.

Think of it as the Countryside Stewardship Scheme for urban greenfield sites, where 5 metre wide borders around playing fields are sown with wildflower meadows and fruit trees. These things can be done through official channels, or otherwise. One method that I’ve found effective to deter council staff from cutting newly sown wildflower meadow is to place tree stumps around the area.

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Tree stumps spread around wildflower meadow

Another essential habitat are trees; these are necessary for birds to nest in, but are also additional habitat for insects, providing veritable larders for some species of birds. There are many conservation NGOs already promoting the planting of trees, but as with other NGOs they struggle to inform about one other crucial reason to plant more trees, this no doubt is another case of not ‘biting the hand that feed you’.

Carbon sequestration (meaning: to seize). Growing trees takes carbon the primary greenhouse gas out of the atmosphere and holds it both within the structure of the tree and also within the soil. The whole world needs to plant more trees over the coming decades on a massive scale, but as with rebellions, everything must start with small steps.

 

Love Life.

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