In Support of Life

As we prepare to tackle the issue of global warming let us resolve to genuinely fix this problem.  The consequences of inaction or wrong action are dire.  Effective and prompt action is needed.  Towards this end, let us keep in mind that global warming is a symptom of our culture. Thus, if we want to effectively address the issue of global warming, we must address its root causes.

Global warming is not the first instance in which our culture has disregarded the needs of the natural world.  A cursory look at the state of the forests, oceans, prairies, rivers, and lakes will tell us that we have a history of being irresponsible and destructive citizens of the Earth.  Indeed, this history portrays us as a greedy, self-absorbed culture that cares little for life besides our own.  And even with our survival on the line, only time will tell whether we will act responsibly.

In any case, I propose that if we wish to adequately address the climate crisis then we need to examine the principles that drive our culture.  I will begin by proposing some principles that should be at the heart of a healthy culture.  I have five such principles.  To the extent that you agree with these principles, you might agree with my further analysis.

First, we should support life.  After all, we are nothing if not for life.  This is pretty simple.

Second, we should support Mother Nature.  Our lives are utterly dependent upon the ways of Mother Nature.  The food we eat, the water we drink, the air we breathe are all circumstances that are intricately entwined in the ways of Mother Nature.

Third, we should support honesty and integrity.  Without integrity, the systems of life on Earth fall apart.  Without honesty, we are told by those who destroy the ecosystem that they are supporting the ecosystem.

Fourth, we should help each other out.  We are all alive today because of the help of others in our lives.  We would not survive our infant years but for the help we receive from our parents and caregivers.  Our communities sustain us.

Fifth, we should support dignity in life.  None of us wishes to live without dignity.  We should support life with dignity for all.

To the extent that we all support any one of these principles, we should ensure that the institutions and rules of our culture support that principle. And here is the rub.  Our culture, along with its rules and institutions, lays waste to each of these five principles.  Life is on its way out.  Mother Nature has been disregarded for millennia by western culture.  Honesty and integrity are but hollow promises in our halls of government and on our media airwaves.  The homelessness in our streets attests to the facts that neither do we help each other out, nor do we ensure the dignity of life for people in our culture.

Of all the people I know personally, I don’t know anyone who wishes to get rid of life on Earth.  I know no one who thinks that the ways of Mother Nature can be disregarded.  No one thinks I should lie to them, or refuse to help my fellow neighbor, or deny dignity to anyone.  We are a culture of well-intentioned people who have taken a wrong turn and are heading down the path of destruction.  Where have we gone astray?

I suggest that we are a culture preoccupied with the pursuit of power and wealth.  In fact, it is this pursuit of power and wealth that drives decisions that go against each of the five principles I have named.  It is this pursuit of power and wealth that is driving us into the climate crisis.

The pursuit of power and wealth is ingrained into the fabric of our culture to the extent that most of us equate the pursuit of power and wealth with the pursuit of life itself.  I think that it is time for this confusion to stop.  It is plain to see that when the wealthy among us are pursuing power and wealth they are no longer pursuing life.  Any multimillionaire alive today has all that they need in order to live in our culture.  It is deeply ironic that the rules and institutions of our culture are being used to increase the wealth and power of those who need no more wealth and power.  It is clear to see that for the wealthy; the pursuit of power and wealth should not be confused with the pursuit of life.

Furthermore, let us recognize that money has no intrinsic value.  You cannot eat money.  You do not build a house out of money.  Money does not warm you on a cold winter night or move you from home to work on Monday morning.  Money itself does not support life.  Money is a thing in our culture solely because we agree that it is a thing.

Because of this agreement, it is hard to live without earning money.  Food and housing and transportation have all been folded into our economy in such a way that those of us who are successful at the wealth and power game have an easy time getting needs met while those of us who are not successful suffer.  And thus, people who are not wealthy need to earn money in order to live.  We conflate the pursuit of money with the pursuit of life because the rules of our culture demand that we make money in order to eat and put a roof over our heads.

But is it not time to stop pretending that this economic system is helping us out.  Who among us really feels fulfilled in the work that they do to make money? Most of us work at jobs aimed first and foremost at lining the pockets of those who need no more money.  The success of every company and industry and corporation depends upon the profit that it brings its owners, not the benefit it brings to life on the Earth.

Our economy is designed to transfer power to those at the top of the economic pyramid.  It does this at the expense of people and life.  While we must acknowledge that most people must earn money in order to create “value” and thus live in our culture, we also should acknowledge that the system itself is destructive.  The “value” that we are creating is in many cases not valuable.  This system values consumption at the expense of life, profit at the expense of community.  This is the system that has ushered in global warming.

The people of America spoke at Standing Rock demanding that oil pipelines not be built from the fracking fields.  The pipelines were built anyway at the behest of the oil corporations looking for profit.  The people of the world have gathered in the streets at the climate talks calling for real solutions to global warming.  Meanwhile, the rich and powerful in control of the talks have ensured that corporate profits get priority over real solutions.

In western culture, we play the game of who can gain the most power and wealth.  In this game, the winners win because they cut costs and exploit resources.  If you try to run a business ethically, without cutting costs and exploiting resources, you lose out to those in the industry willing to cut costs and exploit resources.

In this game, the winners work on Wall Street while the losers lose their farms.  The winners sit in the boardrooms of corporations while the losers work overtime in order to afford food and housing and health care.  The winners decide monetary policy while the losers drown in debt.

Our economy, by the very nature of the rules of western society, will destroy life.  We are seeing this take place in front of our eyes.  Most of us are caught up in this system even though we disagree with the outcomes.  We are forced to chase wealth because those are the rules of our culture.  People who gain wealth, be it ethically or not, get to buy food.  People who don’t suffer.

It is time to do away with our allegiance to the principle that people should pursue power and wealth.  It is time to stop letting this corrupt principle drive decisions in our culture.

 

George Palen is an educator from California. 

Painted As The Activist Elite (by Ian Paterson, Extinction Rebellion Glasgow)

Bio: Ian Paterson is a Medical Repatriation worker from Glasgow, who enjoys eco travel blogging, being working-class, avoiding capitalism and saving the planet.

The sneering comes in the undertones of commentators, whilst offering their dissection of our movement. We are an ‘activist elite’, they intimate – a posturing group without diversity.

Climate Change is Firing Up Middle Class Activism’, screams the headline in the FT (Dec 9th) in Pilita Clark’s sweeping analysis. Although it’s warming to read that she knows personally of two separate individuals with no history of activism, who are now “part of a burst of middle-class climate activism that has few precedents and no famous leaders”, it is a mixed message that contains a subtle sour aftertaste.

Meanwhile in Glasgow: I’m sat in my second Extinction Rebellion meeting, held within one of the great Glasgow University’s lecture rooms. Whilst sat in the 24th best university in the UK – an establishment I could only have wished to attend – I look around me. It is not class that unites us, of that I am certain.

I was brought up by a single mother on benefits and was unfortunately expelled from school at age 14, for truancy. I found it hard to focus on educational matters during teenage development but it always seemed oxymoronic to remove me for not attending. And so began an unqualified working-class life of dead-end jobs; retail, offices, targets and sales.

Around six months ago and after a two decade long battle with enforced capitalist employment, I finally found myself settling into a job role which focused on my passions and helping people, as a Medical Repatriation Consultant. I immediately saw a change in my behaviour. I started to donate blood, began to help migrants, joined leftist people-power campaign group Momentum, and I joined Extinction Rebellion.

As I glance back around at my colleagues in our Glasgow University meeting room, I see doctors, nurses, students, Green Party, SNP and Labour employees, recycling industry workers and the unemployed. What unites us is not class but a detachment from Capitalism.

Doesn’t the economic system, which dominates our industry, promote selfish, irresponsible, instant gratification? Doesn’t removing yourself from that system help people return to their natural state of cooperation, altruism and empathy?

Back in the media: “What relationships do you have with front-line communities in the global south, indigenous communities and how are you acting in solidarity with them?” Dalia Gebrial (Oxford Uni, LSE) poses in an interview with Novara Media (Nov 26th). It strikes me as unusual that editors working for Novara, are channelling questions through the host, when a multitude of questions from the general public await and go unrepresented throughout the interview. Echoes of Alex Salmond’s staff, influencing debate on his TV show, spring to mind.

“Do you not think it’s precisely the problem, saying that we need the global south to join us, rather than them leading the movement” Clare Hymer (Novara, Momentum, Warwick Uni) goes on to add in the same interview, suggesting a colonial superiority forms part of the tone of Extinction Rebellion.

The interview culminates in the host, Michael Walker attempting to salvage balance, in saying “it’s all very well pointing out the limitations of a movement, but what’s the value of critiquing the movement… do you think there’s actively something bad going on with Extinction Rebellion?”. No charges are filed.

How exactly Hymer and Gebrial expect the global south to lead on this matter is not offered during this interview – only critiqued. If you look at global south nations’ emissions, they are often dozens of times less polluting than Western countries’ are, and the global south generally has far less opportunity, infrastructure and empowerment to tackle climate issues.

All we can do is offer Novara the benefit of the doubt; that these academically wealthy, New Media journalists are attempting to provide a voice to the voiceless. And indeed if that is the case, then I’d welcome them to share this article, as it was written by a working-class nobody, from a city with the lowest life-expectancy in Europe, devoid of educational opportunity and without voice in the media.

In the face of critical comments, I see Extinction Rebellion colleagues listen intently, in an effort to use all this information as constructively as possible and my hope is rekindled.

As Gillet Jaunes have just won their minimum wage increase and workers’ rights, our attention should turn to winning an even greater prize in planetary survival, through the immeasurably more ethical means of non-violent direct action.

 

 

 

 

 

So It Has Come To This?: Rebelling Against Toxic Climate Media

TOXIC CLIMATE MEDIA #1
Here is the original article as published by The Ecologist.
Below is the same article copied and pasted, with The Ecologist’s mistakes noted as comments in bold.
Here is the original article that was sent to The Ecologist.
We do not wish this to be an attack on the editor of The Ecologist personally, but have no qualms in holding this incident up as an example of how the liberal climate in the environmentalist media refuses to allow the honest and mobilising environmental writing that is called for in these increasingly desperate times. In short, neo-liberal economic values, negating the need for deep systemic change in our society, have infected the environmentalist media, even on the supposed political left.
………………………………………………………………………………………………………

‘So It Has Come To This?

[Question mark was added by The Ecologist. Takes away urgency and arguably changes whole tone of article. When asked to change it back, The Ecologist said they couldn’t ‘because of backlinks’]

[Photograph of a protest march is inserted here in The Ecologist article, with no consent. the protest march is misleading as Extinction Rebellion believes marches will get us nowhere.]

Extinction Rebellion is a new group [Extinction Rebellion is a campaign, not a group. Rising Up! is the parent organisation] advocating for direct action to confront climate change.
ROGER HALLAM reports: [Matthew Tehanu and Julian Langer as content and copy-editors were ommitted, with no explanation, along with links to their blogs which are possibly seen as too radical i.e. truthful, to the liberal Ecologist.]

In complexity theory, when a system comes under increasing pressure there is often a period of calm before a “phase transition” – when the system breaks down into new state. This calm is about to break.

The conventional campaigning has, yet again, revealed its failure to influence the political establishment. Thirty years since scientists told us that we are heading for ecological collapse, a majority of Labour and Tory MPs voted through the UK’s biggest carbon intensive infrastructure project – the third runway at Heathrow Airport.

Rebellious struggle [this subheading, added by The Ecologist, arguably fossilises Extinction Rebellion as an object of intellectual enquiry, breaking the momentum of the original piece which has an urgent, motivating tone.]

Once completed, the expanded Heathrow will produce more carbon emissions than the entire country of Portugal. No act confirms more clearly the pathological criminality of our political class.

So it has come to this: rebellion! 

This November we will rebel. We will go to London and block transport and government infrastructure. We will be arrested. Once released we will do it again.

To stop us they will have to imprison us. We will appeal to people to rise up and join us. But whether they do so is not important. What is important now is for us to make a stand – to engage in a direct political struggle that is appropriate to the crisis we face.

Climate catastrophe [same criticism as for subheading above]

We must speak the blunt truth – we are heading for extinction.

Finally after decades of emailing, donating, marching; after years of growing depression, desperation, and despair, we have reached this point.

We will no longer tolerate the destruction of this beautiful planet. The humiliation of seeing this crime of all crimes take place year in and year out throughout our whole lives. We have decided that crying alone in the dark is no way to deal with our piercing grief at this horror.

We are going act and action is the antidote to despair. This is our choice today.

Not so long ago we were told by scientists in no uncertain terms that if we exceed 350 parts per million (ppm) of CO2 in the atmosphere we would face catastrophe. We are now at 410.

Rights and duties [same criticism as for subheading above]

The increase used to be 1ppm a year, then it rose to 2ppm, we are now approaching 3ppm. In a decade or so we will be crossing 450ppm – the equivalent of the Paris limit of 2C.

In the words of Professor Peter Ward, at 500ppm “all bets our off”. He means that we will have triggered the geophysical feedbacks that will lead to our extinction.

After years of denial we finally have to accept the terrible truth – those in authority are going to kill us – the infliction of unimaginable suffering on billions of innocent people. This is what is planned – openly and wilfully. There is no greater crime.

So the time for facts and figures is over – the speculations, the distractions – the talks that lead to more talks. We are adults and no longer children.

[a very significant section here about our duty to rebel against the government was cut out]

Already, around the country, hundreds are answering our call. We started our presence in London, Bristol, and Stroud. We now have groups in Frome and Exeter. The rebellion is spreading.

Get involved

Extinction Rebellion (XR) needs you! We are calling for a national mobilisation on the biggest scale ever.  We demand that carbon emissions be reduced to zero by 2025.

This aim is in line with The Climate Mobilisation (TCM) in the USA. We can do this, but we need your help.

Please ‘like’ our Facebook page, follow @ExtinctionR on Twitter, and message us to offer support.

As well as the civil disobedience on the frontline, we seek media specialists, writers, editors, public speakers, software designers, performers and artists of all kinds to help spread the XR campaign.

[final thoughts: the main crimes are the header image of the march, and the question mark in the title. A lot of content has been cut out, which is standard editorial practice for many publications. However, we feel that the cut content included some of the more radical phrasing, which was integral to the overall tone of the original piece.]