Scotland Needs System Change, Not Climate Change, by Ian Paterson

We are a proud people, in Scotland. To what extend varies from person to person, but it’s a common Scottish characteristic and one that, at times, is a hindrance when addressing political issues.

There are sections of Scottish society who will not accept any criticism of the Scottish Government and this prevents a healthy level of scrutiny over much of its policy.

We have developed a narrative that plays into our desire to be seen as a modern and progressive nation, but we need comprehensive political system change badly in Scotland, of the type described by XR Founding member, Stuart Basden recently.

After staging our mock Citizens Assembly and occupying the Scottish Parliament, the BBC sought comment from a Scottish Government source and true to form the response came back that:

“The UN has praised the Scottish Government for our progress in dealing with Climate Change”.

Let’s just take an unbiased look at that record.

The fairest measurement is CO2 per capita – this way small countries can be compared to large ones, in a robust and fair way.

Scots output net 4.7 tonnes of carbon dioxide (CO2) per person, per year, according to the cited data sheet (one page) from the Department of Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy (2016).

So, is Scotland in the top-ten least polluting countries per capita?

No.

Is it in the top 100?

No.

Scotland lies at 147th out of 217 bespoke countries or territories.

The UK as a whole is 170th

If Scotland is in the worst third of countries for CO2 pollution, why does it get so much praise?

It is true that Scotland’s pollution levels used to be higher and it has reduced somewhat over the past two decades.

In doing so however, the Scottish Government have adopted an approach of providing much of our energy needs from green sources, whilst still supporting tax-subsidised North Sea oil drilling and sale of oil to foreign countries, so the pollution is attributed elsewhere, when the oil is burned.

We live in a relatively unpopulated country, meaning we have large swathes of natural land that contribute to CO2 mitigation and reduce our figures in a net carbon model.

In Scotland’s plan for Independence, prepared for the 2014 referendum, known as the ‘White Paper’, written by the Scottish Government, the document mentions oil 80 times. It was made clear that oil was central to any plan for Independence.

The plan was narrowly rejected 45% to 55% because it wasn’t comprehensively convincing, not because it was based on the destruction of our environment.

Whilst the SNP are the party of government in Scotland currently, it has to be said that if either of the two potential alternatives were in power – the Scottish Conservatives or Scottish Labour – that any deviation from a pro-oil stance would be highly unlikely.

The tone might differ, with the SNP claiming oil is vital to Scottish autonomy, the Tories voicing their support for oil business and Labour stating their support for oil-sector workers and jobs – but support would remain.

It is currently the policy of the Scottish Government to abolish Air Passenger Duty. This policy will make it cheaper for airlines to fly in and out of Scotland, and will reduce demand for greener forms of transport, along with reducing motivation for airlines to use less-polluting aircraft.

This is a clear statement of intent, to put the Scottish economy before environmental concerns.

It begs the question, does the Scottish Government value money above all else?

After reviewing how many lobbyist meetings have taken place in recent years, I would challenge every MSP to address their clear and obvious corruption.

Value does not come from how we are viewed on the world stage or by others but how we evaluate ourselves. For that reason, we cannot accept false praise, generated because we are gaming the system. We must not defend our government blindly, when it is not working in the interests of its people, but for commerce.

This is why a Citizens Assembly in Scotland is an imperative, to discuss climate inaction (and indeed to fairly tackle lingering questions of Independence and devolution too).

Holyrood must become the people’s parliament, which it emphatically is not, right now.

We must challenge our rose-tinted view, for our own health as much as for the sake of others. We are already beginning to see huge devastation in Global South countries, which are less polluting but more vulnerable than we are.

That’s on us.

To deny it is to condemn huge swathes of the global population to perish, at our expense.

For more information on the latest published statistics (38 pages), from 2016, please see here.

Advertisements

XR Glasgow Report

By Ian Paterson

Extinction Rebellion Glasgow formed in November 2018, and took our first actions the following month, including disrupting Christmas shopping by swarming in Style Mile shopfronts, and forcing BBC Scotland to close their front doors due to our Reclaim the BBC demonstration.

 XR Glasgow aren’t where we want to be yet, but things are starting to come together and we are on track to deliver a strong contribution during the International Rebellion of 15th–19th April 2019. Affinity groups are forming, with XR Glasgow students organising a Youth Strike on Feb 15th, and XR Glasgow is staging a mass action on March 2nd. So far in 2019, a wide variety of activities have already taken place…

Ae Fond Rebellion.

You may have seen XR Scotland’s Rabbie Burns inspired action, in the news recently too, as XR members occupied the Scottish Parliament and conducted the UK’s first ever Citizens Assembly on Burns Day, the 25th of January, with crucial contributions from XR Glasgow members.

I don’t actually know any Burns poems to quote to you and find the language archaic but I’m quite a fan of social commentator and poet, Gil Scott-Heron. He famously said “the revolution will not be televised” but I’m beginning to wonder if he was right about that, as News outlets seemed quite keen to broadcast our recent action at the Scottish Parliament.

Fun Fact: Gil Scott-Heron’s dad played football for Celtic FC in Scotland and was the first person of colour to do so.

You may take our lives, but you’ll never take our treedom!

When faced with the destruction of trees and natural habitat, to make way for building developments on Otago Lane close to her home, XR Glasgow member Cheyenne was quick to react and form alliances with a local ‘Save Our Lane’ group.

“The main criticism involves the destruction of a vital green area that is home to native wildlife such as otters, kingfishers and bats. The area is part of Glasgow’s Green Corridor and hence should be considered a protected nature conservation area. The initial application stated that trees of a certain maturity and height will not be cut down. However, this was not adhered to”, Cheyenne told me.

Glasgow is known affectionately as ‘Dear Green Place’ and wider Scotland fondly referred to as ‘Caledonia’ – the name given to this area by the Romans, due to the vast expanse of woodlands in our region. Sadly we’ve seen our forestry systematically destroyed to a tiny fraction of the size it once was.

As the old song by Dougie MacLean goes: ‘Caledonia, you’re everything I’ve ever had’, yet still we destroy her namesake. Come to think of it, ‘Dear Concrete Jungle’ doesn’t have much of a ring to it either.

Rebel & Rejuvenate.

Of course, a hard day of action requires time to reflect and rejuvenate and with XR Glasgow’s new ‘Book/Craft’ gatherings, people are able to come together, talk, listen and conduct vitally important talking and making therapy with one another.

“We need to form bonds and care for each other as well as planning actions and creating resources”, group creator, Anna, reflects. “It might also be a focus for people who don’t feel any of the Working Groups are calling to them just now, or are trying to work out how they want to get involved”, she goes on to say, so this event provides a welcoming and inclusive outlet for further discussion.

Youth Strike 4 Climate.

It’s true also, that some of the younger members, along with their families, have found our way of working hard to fit in with the demands of daily life. XR Member Sapna has developed an inspiring initiative to combat this however, with ‘Wee Rebellion’, an event attended by 250 parents and young people.

“It’s really difficult for parents, teenagers and children to get to meetings in the evenings but because of the way most people’s work schedules function, it’s the obvious time to have meetings to talk about issues and plan actions. Wee Rebellion will attempt to be a space for parents, children and young people to talk to each other about how they can engage with XR and to generally raise awareness about climate change with the hope of finding shared vision for change. At our first event, among other activities, there will be a discussion space for adults asking what are the barriers to participation for caregivers and what strategies can we collectively come up with to overcome them”, Sapna tells me.

Less nuisance, more news sense.

Although there are challenges to overcome, fortunately it’s now fairly easy for me to keep abreast of environment news, thanks to the new ‘Glasgow St’ online briefing paper. The brainchild of XR member Thomas, ‘Glasgow St’ has clear principles, which set it apart.

Being over-reliant on traditional media for your climate news may not be the wisest decision. With climate lobbyists and business interests attempting to influence the agenda, we must analyse and scrutinise it ourselves. G-Street’s wiki approach allows for a collective learning experience, which I’m sure will prove valuable to the whole XR movement. Users of Medium – take a look and contribute.

To keep in touch with XR Glasgow, like us on Facebook, follow @ScotlandXr on Twitter, and @xrscotland on Instagram. Sign up for our mailing list by emailing xrglasgow@gmail.com. From February we will meet weekly on Tuesdays at 7pm at the Kinning Park Complex.

 

 

 

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.