A Letter To My 11-Year Old

Dear Milly,

Us adults owe you – your generation – an apology. I think you know what I am going to say but I should say it anyway.

You know the way the weather is so unpredictable and even the meteorologists seem to consistently get it wrong? And you know the way Mummy with her asthma can’t go outside during any extreme cold or hot? And you have heard that hundreds of our animals are becoming extinct each day? And you know at primary school, one of your teachers seemed almost obsessed with informing you of the Sustainable Development Goals and burgeoning global warming? And you know the way I have become obsessed with how much meat-eating, car-driving and paper-using we all do?

Well, it’s because hundreds of knowledgeable scientists around the world are saying it is because we, humans, may well only have approx 80 more years to live on our precious earth. They are saying that unless we cut our carbon emissions to zero within 20-or-so years, it will become so hot and or wet on the planet, humans will not be able to live here any more. Yes, the earth will become uninhabitable by humankind.

Unfortunately, our friends in the environmental movements cannot seem to get our world leaders to act fast enough on these issues so hundreds of people have pledged to get themselves arrested carrying out repeated non-violent direct actions in order to highlight what on earth (literally) is going on. They say that renewable wind and solar energy should be used A LOT more but I have heard MPs say that it is too complex or too expensive… Not true apparently and certainly not compared to the cost of losing our home: OUR Planet Earth.

So I have come here to say sorry that we have made such a hash of things environmentally. You have stood with us at Balcombe (anti-fracking site) years ago and you have done your bit with Mummy even as you are fed up with rocking up to political events with so many strangers. So I am praying that as you reach adulthood, you will become more involved with this work to slow down this catastrophe and maybe even one day agree to let Mum get arrested even just once. It’s true that there are so many avenues through which to carry out this awareness-raising work but I have been an activist for so long, I feel it is time to make that sacrifice. To be honest, most cops can’t wait to get most of us out of the police stations if they arrest us at all!

I hope you can accept this apology knowing that we are doing our bit to address these issues now, albeit a little too late. Most of all, I am sorry that I sometimes drive you spare banging on about these critical issues. After all, as you keep reminding me, you are “only a kid”.

Love,

Mummy Andria

Photo: Milly having fun whilst protesting the arms fair with CAAT in 2013/14.

Inspiring your audience – How to ‘Sell’ Climate Change Action

Featured

By Kate Goldstone

 

The battle against runaway climate change is one that every one of us faces. Our children face it too. But across the world climate campaigners are struggling – and often failing – to capture the public imagination, to persuade their audiences to act, to get things moving. As an ex-marketer I think it’s important to explore why it’s sometimes such a challenge to wake our audiences up, and how we can work more effectively to bring millions more protestors into the fold.

The history of climate change

The history of the scientific discovery of climate change (1) kicked off in the early 1800s, when the natural greenhouse effect was first pinpointed. By the 1960s the warming effect of CO2 was clearer, but some scientists began wondering whether human generated atmospheric aerosols might have a cooling effect on the planet.

The ’70s saw the warming powers of CO2 confirmed, and by 1990 both computer modelling and simple observations confirmed greenhouse gases were deeply involved in climate change. Worse still, human-caused emissions were bringing about noticeable global warming. Now we understand a lot more about the causal relations between our CO2 habits and climate change, and there’s no doubt that the human race is at fault. It’s definitively a human thing.

What’s been done so far?

Five decades on from those first indications, it can feel like not a lot has changed. People are still burning fossil fuels, driving everywhere, still flying like there’s no tomorrow, even though our tomorrows are going to be seriously limited if we carry on. Governments are still sitting on their hands, entire nations are sticking their fingers in their ears and pretending everything’s OK. Wildfires are raging, coastlines are flooding, extreme weather is on the up… but nothing much seems to be happening, or at least nothing on the grand scale we need at this point.

Why so little real climate change action?

From an individual perspective, is there anything more scary that the planet you live on, the place that keeps you alive, turning against you? The thing about climate change is, it’s massive. It’s everywhere. It affects every human, plant and animal on the planet, of every kind, in multiple ways, very few of them positive.

Climate change means bad weather. Really bad, unpredictable weather. It means the wholesale destruction of property and crops. It means water wars and mass migrations. It means widespread economic difficulties and it might even destroy whole societies, entire nations. Countries on the Equator will probably become uninhabitable through the heat and lack of rain. People will starve. Because vast swathes of land will no longer be suitable for them, countless precious members of the animal kingdom will die off and become extinct.

From a government perspective, climate change is a really tricky fix. Because governments are only in power for a short time, their viewpoint is a short-term one. They’re not comfortable bringing in unpopular climate change measures that restrict their constituents, cost them money or make their lives less pleasant, and that – as we know – is fatal. It means most of them are doing absolutely nothing, or very little, to mitigate climate change. And it leaves the public, you and I, with very little wriggle room.

If, like me, you’ve stopped flying altogether, barely ever use a car, have fitted energy-efficient light bulbs and other kit to your home and gone veggie or vegan, there’s not a lot else you can do. It’s incredibly frustrating watching governments fiddle while Rome burns. But no wonder it’s so hard to get most people off their backsides and into protest mode, when the problem feels so big, so hard to surmount, so horrifying to even contemplate. It’s very discouraging seeing our leaders doing bugger-all about it, and it’s saddening to see so relatively few ordinary people putting their neck on the block as well.

The remarkable power of optimism

According to an article in New Scientist magazine (2) decades of environmental doom-mongering have fallen on deaf ears. It says that a ‘new environmental campaign with a message of hope’ is what we need, a fresh way to campaign called ‘Earth Optimism’.

Fans of Earth Optimism say the successes we’ve experienced in protecting individual species like the scimitar oryx and Togo slippery frog, the overall decline in Amazon rainforest destruction, and our brilliant work on renewable energies are worthy of celebration. They all reveal the power we have at our fingertips as individuals.

Yes, the movement is accused of naivety, of wearing rose-tinted specs. But at the same time they’re not claiming that everything’s lovely. Rather, they believe we can’t expect people to rise to a challenge like this without inspirational examples of success.

Do environmental campaigners come across as too doom-mongering? Do we come across as ‘guilt-tripping party poopers’ as the article suggests? If you’re in need of a boost, you can follow Earth Optimism’s Tweets here (https://twitter.com/earthoptimism?lang=e)

Taking a marketing perspective

You could say we need to create the marketing campaign to end all marketing campaigns. And marketing is usually about optimism. A positive marketing message is always more powerful and influential than a negative one, which is why we tend to get so frustrated with party political promotion, which focuses a lot harder on negative information about competing parties than positive messages about their own policies.

The more we moan and weep and tear our hair out, the more we’re putting people off. The more dreadful facts and terrifying revelations we put out there, the more we drive people to bury their heads in the sand and keep them there. Do we in fact need fresh, new messages and an Obama-esque ‘yes, we can’ mindset? Do we need to shift the narrative to inspire people? What do you think?

Can we do it? Yes, we can!

If you doubt we can do it, think plastic. You have more influence than you think. Just look at what we’ve done about plastic pollution in the short time between David Attenborough’s epic Blue Planet series, which highlighted the issue, and now. All over the world ordinary people are using less plastic, handing back plastic packaging to the supermarkets it came from, changing their shopping habits, turning up en-masse to clean the world’s beaches and rescue plastic-stricken sea creatures.

Give us a cause and we’ll follow it. Give us a job and we’ll do it. But when we’re left to stew in our own juices as our politicians prevaricate, we’re completely disempowered. Maybe we need to break the task into bite-sized chunks. After all, none of us can save an entire planet’s climate on our own.

Can you think of a way to translate an enormous, unwieldy problem into something people can get their teeth into, get behind, get sorted? Can you think of an optimistic way to express an issue that we need people to focus on? How would you sell climate change action?

Sources:

(1) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_climate_change_science

(2) https://www.newscientist.com/article/mg23631473-200-reasons-to-be-cheerful/

Nurses to Extinction

The old woman coughs hoarsely into a handkerchief, pulling the mask from her face. We use morphine to keep her free of the agitation of respiratory distress, and nebulized drugs to keep her airway open, as well as make the cough productive. Eating and drinking are hard to do when you are constantly on an oxygen mask. Even with the oxygen off your mouth, there is oxygen flowing into your nose. This is not really helping her to live, merely setting trails to her dying with tubes and wires.

The webpage London Air gives you very measured and description of how air pollution can affect conditions like Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disorder (COPD). It does however not give any insights into the emotions of those suffering from the disease, often caused by our bad air quality, nor of those who care for them – London’s many fine nurses, healthcare assistants, allied health professionals, and doctors. We do the best we can with people panicked and traumatised at their own bodies’ failure. The ravages of COPD are quite ghastly to behold. Many patients bounce back into hospital a short time after their admission with the same problem, but with a poorer prognosis. Our treatment of them has only been a sticking plaster, placed over the cracks. We do our best to keep people happy and enjoying that bare, reduced life they lead in hospital. Back out in the polluted streets and modern slums of London we do not see or hear them – they are invisible – save when they re-emerge from this “illspring.”

The “sticking plaster” seems for me symbolic here, as it mirrors our government’s attitude to dealing with climate change. For a small cut, a “sticking plaster” is ideal, but climate chaos is a huge, scarifying wound – capable of destroying communities, dwellings, lives and –as time may tell – societies. Nothing small or temporary will do. I did not want to be a “sticking plaster” in the battle against extinction and the poisoning of our environment. Nurses have long been patient advocates. But that advocacy remains locked to our clinical area for the most part. We should remember the bravery of some of the first modern nurses such as Mary Seacole, who, derided and scorned, journeyed into battles to take injured soldiers away from harm’s reach or tend to their injuries.

But long before the Crimean War, women, and occasionally men, provided help to their communities when it was not always safe and went against the authorities’ wishes. What were the state-sanctioned Stuart witch trials of England other than an attack on local “healers” and “pellars”. Most of these people did the best they could with a lack of science and scant resources. It was in some sense a power grab enacted by James I – drawing influence away from local knowledge and talent and making the country ready for the Age of Reason, which was all too keen to throw the kernel of medical wisdom away with the chaff for being folksy. The 17th century Stuart regime was faced with a crisis, in the form of the 1665 plague, a terror that took the lives of 100,000 people. The clinical heirs to the folk wisdom of ill health, the plague doctors, were not able to offer good remedies. The rich fled London. Industrialisation and human misery helped to spread the damage. This history offers us a smaller scale parallel of our modern situation. The difference is that we can stop extinction with our knowledge and tactics, whereas early modern clinicians had little hope of stopping Bubonic epidemics. Not to detract from their humanity and human sensitivities, but nurses are made for crisis situations, whether that be widespread disease or climate change.

Nurses should feel empowered by being trusted figures in the community, the inheritance of a job that is a vocation nor a career. We can speak about climate chaos, as well as report from the frontline of pollution and degradation’s effects on our nation’s health. We have the social connections of those wise women of times forgotten, but with a deeper pool of knowledge and more possibilities of working together within our networks.  We can relay the suffering of those in poverty and lingering in chronic illness and give voices to the voiceless. We can be more than mere “sticking plasters” in sum. Which is why, as your fellow nurse, I would passionately urge all of you to join Extinction Rebellion.

Tom Lennard @tomlennard

You can get involved with the Extinction Rebellion health workers group at “XR Health Workers”.

 

 

 

 

Rebellion Day- Edinburgh

By Paul McBride

 

   After reading articles and watching a couple of videos released by Extinction Rebellion recently, I was interested enough to ignore the rain and go along to their first Scottish event. I would have joined the march to St Andrews House but had to rush off to look after my grandson. My grandson is a beautiful four-month-old child and like all of us he deserves better than the desolate future currently being sold to us all. The message being promoted by Extinction Rebellion is a message of indisputable truth. The truth of science and the truth of inaction by our politicians and their affiliates/ influencers who set the political agenda.

This is a truth that I sign up to.

Fortunately there is no need for meticulous research based analysis, the evidence is already in the public domain. The challenge is not rediscovering the truth but generating enough support for people to accept the truth as a reality and to act accordingly.

Accelerating environmental degradation will leave billions with two choices:

DEATH OR MIGRATION.

These choices will be non-negotiable. They will not be confined to a predictable crocodile tears response for the war-torn ravages in the Middle East or famine in sub-Saharan regions, but will transcend all borders physical and political, all creeds, all colours and all bank balances. Unless you reside at the very top-tier of the elite power broking class your Mercedes-Benz and your holiday house on a sunny foreign coast will not cocoon you from the unstoppable force of nature. The time of comfort and turning a blind eye has run out. We have arrived at a critical junction in human history where all of us have an urgent responsibility to recognise that rapid systemic change is the only option left to protect the lives of our children and our grandchildren. Continuing to vote vicariously for the 0.01% and their narcissistic apparatus will never open the doors of their entitlement, riches or protection to you or your family.

It will be too late to come together when the human crisis is no longer confined to the millions already fleeing war, persecution and poverty.

It will be too late when tens of thousands dying in the sea between North Africa and Europe is no longer the ugliest political football being kicked around the corridors of power – to allocate quotas of morality.

It will be too late when our own government go beyond the mere normalisation of destitution imposed on its own citizens through policy to protect the profits and false integrity of global corporations.

*

It is in truth not for glory, nor riches nor honours that we are fighting, but for freedom – for that alone, which no honest man gives up but with life itself.

*

These words written almost 700 years ago resonate louder now than they ever have. They resonate not for the declaration of a nation-state nor for the responsibilities of a population to defend and support that nation, but for citizens the whole world over to unite, to rise up and defend our planet. Our planet that supports all nations and all populations.

In public politicians pay no more than lip service to the fast approaching horrors, their “kick the can” monologue makes it conceptually more straightforward for billions to accept the end of the world as we know it, rather than contemplate the seemingly unattainable intellectual leap to dismantle, rethink and rebuild all glaring redundant notions of status quo. Political mainstreams have become inextricably linked to global corporate entities, their mutual aims enshrined in the propaganda that is piped into our lives on a daily basis. Their deception professionally glossed over by significantly the largest share of the 600 billion in advertising dollars spent in 2018, dollars that carefully nurture society to follow their trends and “other” those who don’t. Are voters in modern democracies happy to endorse this model or are they just hamstrung by the institutional variations on a theme that are made available at polling booths? The collusion of government and corporate entities, too easily delegitimise challenge through their ideologically aligned media partners. When the monologue is confronted it simply turns up the volume, changes the agenda or allows rigorous fact based objection to drift off, under or unreported to the margins of the media and illegitimacy.

By inaction and collusion our leaders have abdicated their right to lead. The systemic road blocks are so entrenched that the responsibility to administer the change necessary to prevent global annihilation is all of our responsibility. Right now, we in the UK have the privilege of a formal education, access to information, access to communication and the freedom to express our views publicly. It is our duty to the world while these privileges still exist to use them to their full extent and not only initiate appropriate change but ensure it. Each one of us has a pressing obligation to step into the void of reality left by politicians and the elite and take ownership of the agenda relating to climate change and its global human consequences. At present the only guarantee we have from our duplicitous leaders is the inevitability of a dystopian future. Time is not on our side. I for one do not want to be part of their future. People must act now, people must act in significant numbers, people must break the stigma of being ‘othered’ by our peers and we may be lucky enough to avert the worst outcomes of disaster we charge blindly towards, fuelled by the indecision and negligence of those who purport to lead.

 

Rebellion Day- London

By Tim Jones

The sky was bright and clear, the late Autumn sun still low at eleven o’clock. From Blackfriars Bridge we watched as they occupied Waterloo. We were nervous as we waited for our signal. When we had arrived, just before ten, there were only a dozen others gathered on the north side. We looked to be outnumbered by the hovering police. But by quarter to eleven, when we had moved cautiously onto the pavement of the bridge, we were at least a hundred. We had no idea what would happen when we got the signal.

  We laughed as we stepped onto the roadway of the bridge and lifted our banners across it. We were Londoners from all over the world, from all over Britain. The police were calm and friendly – they had, in fact, blocked the traffic for us. We were full of colour. The number of young children, drawing on the tarmac with chalk, was a joy to see – and a great relief. I had thought we might be dragged off in the first ten minutes but there were three or four hundred of us by midday – a critical mass of people moved to action by love. The news came in: Lambeth, Westminster, Waterloo and Southwark had all been taken.

  In love there is a latent turbulence, an animal uncertainty. It can be a thrill or a terror. Will we be worthy? Will what we love be snatched away? These days I’m scared, a lot of the time. It’s easy to believe that forest fires and hurricanes and sudden drought are things that only happen in far-off foreign places where they’re probably used to it. But this year’s Summer dried up our ancient damp soil and our worms are all dying. The land, soaked with chemicals and slurry, will not keep giving. Apparently the warm weather is good for our vines – so we’ll have something nice to drink when the rest of our produce has to be imported. What will we joke about in the pub when the migrants come in serious numbers? Will they welcome us ‘on the Continent’ if we have to move first? The Atlantic has always been kind to us but that will change and we learned nothing from Fukushima: what would our poets say about their lakes turned still with radiation?

  I felt slightly ashamed of these fears when, on the bridge, we heard witnesses from Ghana, West Papua, The Caribbean Islands and Mongolia, where the cost of our lifestyles and the exploitation of corporate imperialism has been felt for decades.

  Everyone patted George (Monbiot) on the back or got a quick photo with him. We huddled around Phil and his companions who lay on the floor with their hands chained together. Phil has been one of many heroes this week. I met him last Sunday at our training. He’s 82 and the thought of his grandchildren facing a broken planet breaks his heart. I don’t know how many times he’s been arrested so far this week. I can’t remember being so impressed in such a short space of time by so many people.

  There was a collective sense of elation – of happening. But also an anxiousness, an urge to act. A message came from my sister, that our dad had been arrested on Lambeth Bridge – he and my mum and sister had travelled down from Sheffield, leaving at 4am. Then we heard an announcement that police were moving in on Lambeth and that they had fewer rebels than on the other bridges so could any groups go west to support? We gathered and decided to go.

  I should say something about my affinity group. We formed last Sunday, fairly organically, out of a hall of a hundred or so people. We had shared a few messages through the week and spent only a few hours together but, by the time we were hurrying along the South Bank, weaving through the ambling crowds of tourists, there was a sense of absolute trust between us. They are all kind, unassuming and wakeful. Despite different approaches to how things should be done, we decided things together.

  Once we’d passed Westminster, which was full of people but clearly still inaccessible to traffic, we saw the profile of Lambeth Bridge. A small crowd with their flags flying above them clearly held the centre but there was no movement at all on either side, so it seemed clear that the police were blocking access. Then, out of the blue, I saw my other sister. She was strolling along and only noticed me when I waved. ‘What you doing?’ I asked. ‘Just looking for someone to hang out with,’ she said, before confirming our suspicions that Lambeth had been sealed off. So we turned back to Westminster Bridge to see what we could do there.

  Under the shadow of Big Ben, we heard, after some more speeches and music and shifts holding the banners, that the gathering on Westminster Bridge had been declared ‘legal’ by the police. As a group we were mildly disappointed and, perhaps, quietly relieved; some of us were positively annoyed. (Having been respectfully warned in good time, the police were in control of the whole business. In future we might have to be a bit more continental in our approach.) A festival atmosphere ensued. I met my mum, sisters and my dad – he’d been released after an hour or so in a van. I got the stories of him standing his ground and then, as per the training, ‘going limp’. He only weighs about nine stone but it took six officers to carry him away – it was good training.

  As evening set in we congregated on Parliament Square. We were cold and tired but glad, still, to be there. It was a singularly transgressive pleasure to walk onto the forbidden well-watered grass and sit for a final moment of communion. People spoke some beautiful and terrible truths about where we are and what needs to be done. I don’t believe in the dogmas of organised religion, nor do I believe in the definitions of nationhood or the absolutism of ideology. But I believed in everything that was said: Christian, Buddhist, Jewish, Muslim, Marxist, Liberal. We have to accept the truth of conservatism, too – especially when it holds to its name. All these voices speak truth when they speak rebelliously against the order of power, against conformity, against destruction, against superficiality and speak rebelliously for reality, for creation, for regeneration, for a constant active renewal of love. The police stirred when it was announced that three trees would be planted in the pristine grass of Parliament Square. We stood and moved in closer, a few hundred bodies between the law and the trees. I don’t know how long they’ll be there. But we’ll plant more. What is there to do, in moments such as these, other than to quote a great rebel: ‘Even if tomorrow I knew the world would go to pieces, I would still plant my apple tree.’.

  Beyond the elation of the day, things look bad. We have to relinquish any hope that our way of life can continue. But, even if Nature were not about to put an end to it, is this really a way of life we hope to continue? For many years I have experienced a void between how I feel and what I do. What did I do on the 17thNovember? Almost nothing. But I was there, I was awake, it was a beginning. Now we can do two things: we can lessen the devastation by rebelling and not stopping until things have changed, and we can build a new and better hope that begins and ends in the living world.

  On Sunday morning I met one of my new friends from my affinity group: Marco, who had travelled the long journey by train from Italy to rebel with us. He said something that moved me very much: now, more than ever, we are called upon to wage love.

Tim Jones is a secondary school teacher from London

Extinction Rebellion – Halloween and Guy Fawkes Night

On the 31st October 1517, Martin Luther nailed his 95 Theses to the door of the Wittenberg Church. The awareness of this action’s long-term significance may have escaped him at the time. With swathes of people turning against the Catholic Church, which had been the most powerful force in Europe for countless years, any doubts about its effect cannot have lasted long.

On the 31st of December 2018, Extinction Rebellion issued a “Declaration of Rebellion” against the British Government. The event was passionate and inspiring. One hopes it will have a similarly galvanising effect as Luther’s hammers had upon the Church. Indeed, it will need to if we are to survive the ecocide standing before us.

This time of year has a feeling of rebellion. The haze of Summer, which somehow seeps well into September, starts to lift. Suddenly we are plunged into darkness and our clocks go back. An extra hour’s sleep never feels quite enough. Halloween is a time for Trick or Treat – far more of an American tradition than a British one. There’s something anarchic about the whole idea that I find appealing – the act of sanctioned, carnivalesque begging. Is giving sweets to strangers paying homage to that sense of hospitality we fear losing, or are we symbolically paying tribute to monsters we have no way of controlling?

Imagine if this practice happened constantly throughout the year? The Trick aspect of Trick or Treat is presented as a last resort if children do not get the treats they want. But really Trick is more of a word for the whole masquerade of Halloween, and its anti-authoritarian semblances, for dressing up as ghouls and ghosts. Halloween is about joyful anonymity through masquerade. It feels in some sense like an age-old protest. Or at least an exorcism of bad spirits.  

Costume parties run into November. And in Britain unlike the US we have Guy Fawkes Night. When I was a child, it always struck me as unpleasant to celebrate someone’s execution with bonfires and burning effigies. It took an imagination like Alan Moore’s to reinvent the Guy Fawkes imagery as an act of rebellion against a future British fascist state in his comic V for Vendetta to symbolically spin something out of Guy Fawkes’ vengeance at years of smouldering mannequins. On the night of the 3rd November, I sat in a plush London cinema watching the film version; a tear ran down my cheek at the inhumanity and the cruelty the film portrays. The message is very much that a certain ruthlessness, based on revenge, is if not necessary then at least inevitable for a mass popular uprising. The lead characters “V” and “Evie Hammond” delight in gleeful destruction – art as political violence.

In some senses, the Extinction Rebellion is similar – more subtle and much more forgiving than the swashbuckling anarchist of the aforementioned tale. Rather than taking pleasure in chaos, Extinction Rebellion presupposes that worldwide chaos is already occurring. Waking people up to their fate involves not blaming or taking out our anger on those who stand against us: the government and big business. Their resistance involves presenting us with half measures to global warming: they cannot face up to destruction, they will waver until the last minute to Midnight. It is only through grieving the extinction that is presently happening that we can hope to change the status quo. People do not know what they have until it is gone. Sadness is powerful and also political. Meanwhile, we have to be creative and artistic against a backdrop of violence and destruction. We have to speak truth to the emotions that lay in the realm beyond a climate apocalypse: both a collective mourning for what we are losing and a collective joy in what we are building anew.