The Barrier

By Andy Matthews, Isle of Wight XR

UN Secretary-General António Guterres stated, “we are in trouble. We are in deep trouble with climate change.” And that, “It is hard to overstate the urgency of our situation…we are still not doing enough, nor moving fast enough, to prevent irreversible and catastrophic climate disruption.” This statement came alongside the news that emissions had risen to a new high in 2018 after 30 years of supposedly attempting to cut them.

Can we adapt to the inevitable effects of “catastrophic climate disruption” under the capitalist system Or, is it a barrier to a sustainable future-fit for the good of all?

We need three basic elements to sustain life: food, water and shelter. When our species emerged some 40-60,000 years ago we maintained ourselves as hunter-gatherers. This period lasted for 90% of human history. Cooperation was crucial for our survival.

Chattel slavery and the concept of private property emerged before written history with basic agriculture and the production of surpluses. People became property, and the state evolved to defend property rights through the use of coercion. Between the 9th and 15th century in medieval Europe, the shackles of slavery gave way to feudal society and the legalised bondage of serfdom wherein the three basics for life were exchanged for service and labour on the land.

Capitalism dates from the 16th century and flourished at the expense of feudalisms inability to adapt. The central characteristics of capitalism are: private ownership of the means of production, profit, waged labour, the accumulation of capital, prices, and competitive markets.

As elites arose in slavery and feudalism, so too did the unequal division of food, water, and shelter for the vast majority of its people.

Capitalism has mirrored that as Oxfam reports that the, “World’s 26 richest people own as much as poorest 50%.” Whereas, the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation revealed that the food system fails to properly nourish billions of people. More than 820 million people went hungry last year, while a third of all people did not get enough vitamins. Approximately 9 million people die of hunger globally each year.” 

And water? “At least 2 billion people use a drinking water source contaminated with faeces…Nearly two million children a year die for want of clean water and proper sanitation…The UN Development Programme, argues that 1.1 billion people do not have safe water and 2.6 billion suffer from inadequate sewerage. This is not because of water scarcity but poverty, inequality and government failure.”

And shelter? Globally, ” one in eight people live in slums. In total, around a billion people live in slum conditions today”. In 2005, the last time a global survey was attempted by the UN, “an estimated 100 million people were homeless worldwide. As many as 1.6 billion people lacked adequate housing”.

These are symptoms of a cancer called poverty. A sickness intrinsic to capitalism.

The question to ask yourself here is: are these people likely to be joined by millions more given what we know, at present, about the effects of “catastrophic climate disruption” under capitalism?

Politicians, the media, and entrepreneurs scrabble around for quick fixes. All of them involve market solutions. But the logic of the capitalist market is to make money. Thus, catastrophe can also be seen as an opportunity to turn a profit.

Bloomberg reports that, ” A top JP Morgan Asset investment strategist advised clients that sea-level rise was so inevitable that there was likely a lot of opportunity for investing in sea-wall construction.” And speculating on insurance policies, Barney Schauble, of Nephila Advisors LLC believes that, “the broader public’s failure to appreciate the risks of climate change is part of what makes it such a good area for investing.” Moreover, “there is evidence that many players in the corporate-military-security industrial nexus are already seeing climate change not just as a threat but an opportunity… climate change promises another financial boon to add to the ongoing War on Terror.”

Technology we are told will eventually provide solutions to climate change. This is a crude phantasm of an ideology that seeks to forego any alternative thinking and to “kick the can down the road.”

The “green new deal” appears in several shades of grey. Whether the so-called, “war-time mobilisation” some people call for could be realised in one country is debatable. But globally? That would take cooperation on a scale inconceivable given that in the 20th century The League of Nations, and later the UN were implemented to maintain peace. Nevertheless, countless millions were slaughtered in capitalisms’ wars.

And now? Consider the debacle that is Brexit. And the farce of climate change conferences.

Cooperatives and similar types of enterprises are argued for as solutions. But as long as markets exist they too have to conform to its iron laws. Cooperatives will have to compete with each other to buy raw materials and inputs, and then sell its commodities on the market with every other seller of an equal product. Thus, if a cooperative produces goods to sell on the market, to obtain money, to pay wages via profit, then it has to conform to all of the economic laws of capitalism.

Profit is capitalism’s raison d’être, and growth its imperative.

The quote, “it is easier to imagine an end to the world than an end to capitalism,” becomes credible with the knowledge that, “just 100 companies are responsible for 71% of global emissions, ” many of which are state entities and the residue potent friends of state actors. Likewise, “the U.S. Military is the World’s Biggest Polluter .” All powerful adversaries of anyone who wants to oppose the status quo.

But, for those who think this barrier can be overcome have one great advantage. Imagination. The ability to envision a different world. One fit for the good of all. To imagine it, clarify it, and start to build it. And those that believe the barrier could be breached should begin by inscribing on their banners the dictum -“Toward One World.”

Newsletter #16 – Beware the Ides of Earth March

Welcome to the 16th Extinction Rebellion Newsletter!

This week saw an incredible turnout from the Youth Strike movement, with strikes in over 130 countries! In the UK, strikers received support from the newly-established XR Youth, who threw an afterparty on Westminster Bridge.

Speaking of celebration, this weekend also saw an amazing Spring Uprising event in Bristol.

And at the same time, Earth Marchers in Wales made their first steps on their journey to join in London’s International Rebellion.

Wherever you’re coming from, if you’re joining the International Rebellion you might want to read the new briefing/guide which contains all the latest details. And in case you missed it last week, check out our legal briefing (pdf) – a must-read for anyone considering risking arrest.

Before April 15, there’s plenty else to keep us busy. On the 30th of March we’ll be blockading Dover – there’s also a brand new briefing (pdf) for this action. Shortly after that, we’ll be painting the streets; due to a technical hitch we’ve had to make a new Facebook event where the old one had many hundreds of attendees – so please share this one far and wide to let people know it’s still happening!

And the rebellion will be global: this weekend will see large-scale declarations of rebellion in both France and Australia. We at XR UK wish our fellow rebels abroad the best of luck, and we can’t wait to come together with one voice on April the 15th!

Wherever you are in the world, if you’re looking to take action right now, then look no further: as part of a campaign to get the world of culture telling the truth about our emergency, XR is encouraging anyone to take part in the Letters to the Earth campaign (more details in Announcements).

On top of this, our BBC Campaign group is looking for as many people as possible to submit questions through this easily-accessible form – let’s show the BBC how much appetite there is for truthful climate coverage!

We’ll be bringing easily-accessible actions like the above to your attention every week – but we hope these are seen as part of a deeper, population-wide effort to save our children’s future. If you’d like to get more directly involved with XR, please check out our volunteers page. To help out in your area, get in touch with your nearest XR group. If you can’t spare time, but can donate money instead, please see our fundraiser page.

Check out what’s on near you with our full list of upcoming events, available to view on our website rebellion.earth/events. Or create your own event by filling in our talks and trainings form. If you’re new, or haven’t already seen it, remember to check out our Campaign Overview Document.


Contents

  • Recent Activity
  • Upcoming Activity
  • International Highlights
  • Announcements
  • Extreme Weather
  • Latest News and Data
  • Recommended Content
  • Good News Stories

Recent Activity

Second Worldwide Youth Strikes in over 2200 cities & towns

15 MAR

They did it again, and this time even bigger and better! Last Friday, over 1.6 million young people in 130 countries skipped school and created the biggest global climate march ever. In the UK, over 26,000 students walked out of their classrooms to demand action on climate change for their future. In London thousands of students marched from Parliament to Buckingham palace and occupied Westminster bridge. They are putting politicians globally on the spot with their numbers and creative messages. Feeling inspired? Join the XR Youth Network and check out our Facebook page.




Spring Uprising

16 – 17 MAR

Extinction Rebellion’s Spring Uprising was a storming success with talks and workshops throughout the weekend bookended by a jam packed musical line up including Dizraeli, Nick Mulvey, Sam Lee, and many more.

Thousands of Rebels came together from around the world to learn and grow together. Among the numerous events offered in five spaces, there was opportunity to nourish the mind, body and soul.

There was extended discussion of how to cement the movement in international solidarity, a diversity of action tactics practiced through clowning and flocking workshops, as well as Non-Violent Direct Action trainings done with hundreds of participants. Physical trainings were balanced with workshops on decolonising the movement, as well as developing emotional resilience in a world of uncertainty.

Reboot the Roots, Reclaim the Power, and Occupy all contributed to the array of workshops on offer, with local environmental groups and campaigns showcasing their work in the central “Solution Zone” throughout the weekend.

As each days’ bursting schedule came to an end, an array of musical talent was on offer in to the night to put the regenerative culture of the movement in to practice.

“It was only at the Spring Gathering that I realised how deep this movement goes in to people’s lives. The talks, skill shares and assemblies were amazingly effective but it was the conversations with people from all ages and backgrounds, that really blew me away.”

Jamie

“Fabulously inspiring to see so many people connecting, thinking together, having fun and ready to act.”

Gail

It was a weekend not to be missed and we can’t wait for the next one!

Earth March

As the Cornwall marchers begin their crossing of Dartmoor, and the March gets going in Wales, rebels across the rest of the country are getting ready to join in the journey. The latest entry in the journal, written by Mary Roddick, reads:

Excellent and inspiring day with the XR Cornwall Earth March for Life. I joined them for the single leg to Lostwithiel at St Austell railway station where I was warmly greeted and quickly integrated into the smallish but sturdy group. The weather hadn’t been particularly kind to them and ill health taken a toll, maybe due to the huge amount of work that has gone into the organisation. Today, though windy enough to keep our banners dramatically fluttering, was mostly dry, occasionally brightish and cool enough to feel comfortable on the hills.

Highlights were an unexpected tea break on a farm, spectacular views back down to St Blazey and the sea and a couple of unsolicited donations from a passing motorist and some pedestrians in Lostwithiel. The time and miles passed quickly with easy camaraderie and interesting conversation.

I learnt about and tasted 3 varieties of foraged wild greens as well as getting advice on how to collect and include seaweed in my diet.

I thoroughly recommend joining them for as long as you can manage even if it’s just for a day.

If you’d like to join any part of a march, read our guide and check out the Facebook group to find a route near you. If you’re more into cycling, take a look at the Rebel Riders; and if you’re an intrepid runner, you might be interested in Sue Cooper’s heroic plan to run across England.

Local contributions

Decentralisation is a key element of XR’s ethos. So while high-profile actions will often take place in the big cities, we’re eager to celebrate all the amazing actions across the country and the world every week. If you’re involved in your local XR scene, in whatever part of the world, and if you’ve got a story to share, please email xr-newsletter@protonmail.com with ‘Story Contribution’ in the subject line. For major bonus points, it’d also be really helpful if you could write the story as you’d like it to appear in the newsletter!

Upcoming Activity

XR Critical Mass – Bring your bikes

21 MAR | 13:15 – 14:15 | Parker’s Piece, Cambridge
29 MAR | 18:30 – 21:00 | Waterloo Bridge, London
29 MAR | 18:45 – 20:15 | The Forum, Norwich

Following the lead of the Critical Mass movement – whose 25th Birthday is this month – XR groups are taking over the streets by bicycle. XR Cambridge is gearing up for their 3rd bike ride this week, while XR London and Norwich are joining the monthly cycles in their respective cities for the first time.  

Call for more local groups – XR Groups across the country are encouraged to replicate this action in their Towns and Cities. Come together, take over the road, and promote Extinction Rebellion in the build up to No Food on a Dead Planet: Dover Blockade and International Rebellion. Local Groups interested in doing this can email xr-action@protonmail.com with any questions.

We’ll cycle together as a group, asserting our right to be on the road. This is not illegal. We have the same right to the road as cars do. We’re not blocking traffic. We ARE traffic. We’ll go as slow or fast as we want, and won’t leave anyone behind.

XR Cambridge will meet at 13:15 at the Reality Checkpoint in the middle of Parker’s Piece for a briefing, aiming to set off at 13:30.

XR London will gather at 18:30 on Waterloo Bridge, leaving around 19:00.

XR Norwich will meet at 18:45 in front of The Forum, leaving around 19:00.

This will be an opportunity to practice an action, build existing relationships, and make new ones.

Dover blockade

30 MAR | 10:00-15:00 | Dover, Kent

While politicians bury their heads in the sand and get on with business as usual, Extinction Rebellion is planning one of their most turbulent actions to date to highlight the extreme vulnerability of the British people to our food insecurity. On 30th March XR calls on rebels to join them in peacefully and non-violently blocking the roads out of Dover. As much as 50% of the UK’s food is imported through ports like Dover – this food is crucial to feed our nation. While newspapers resound with predictions of empty supermarket shelves as a result of Brexit, this is nothing compared to the misery of climate crisis induced famine and hunger.

We understand this action will be controversial, but don’t worry, this is a symbolic one-day action which will cause major disruption, but not stop medicines or food supplies getting through.

If you are interested in joining please sign up for the action.

We need as many people as possible to join us for this so please check out the Facebook page for more details and get involved! See here for a detailed briefing (pdf).

XR Paint the Streets Worldwide

30 MAR | Worldwide

Rebellion Week is less than a month away so we’re calling on rebels worldwide to join us for a week of non-violent direct action starting 30th March to cover the streets in XR messaging. We need help to spread our message with stickers, posters, banners, music, art and much more to alert people to the climate and ecological emergency we’re sleepwalking into.

The original event was deleted by accident, but we’ve put this one back up.

Every affinity group can take part in their location – stay tuned on the event for updates! Deadline for designs to submit on the GDrive (link in event description) is SUNDAY 24th MARCH at 12:00 noon GMT.

In this action, anyone can join at any level of commitment, and everyone can play their part –

  • From handing out flyers on street corners,
  • To slapping a few stickers on your way into work every day,
  • To standing up on the bus and speaking the truth to fellow passengers,
  • To replacing the adverts on train carriages and bus stops,
  • To performing in high streets and squares….and so on!

Please see our Facebook event to find out more.

International Rebellion

15 – 28 APR | Worldwide

That’s right, International Rebellion Week is almost upon us. We hope you’ve booked time off work to join us for this open-ended period of non-violent direct action where we’ll be shutting down our cities and calling for a full-scale Rebellion to demand decisive action from governments on climate change and ecological collapse.

This is the moment we demand we are heard. Further details to come in due time – watch our Facebook page for further updates. You do not need to be arrested to take part. Please tell everyone you know about this event, invite all your friends, and spread the word. There is no greater cause on Earth than Earth itself, and the struggle for a true democracy to protect life on this planet, our only home.



International Highlights

Canada

1 MAR

Rebels interrupted question time at the Nova Scotia legislature on March 1, singing and chanting for three minutes before being escorted out waving Extinction Rebellion banners. This action follows on from XR Canada’s national week of rebellion in February, to put continued pressure on government to declare a climate emergency. Nova Scotia officials have not acknowledged the climate crisis, though Halifax, the capital of the province, has recently declared a climate emergency.

One determined rebel made the same demand when she entered the council chambers during the Charlottetown city council’s monthly public meeting. Other rebels sat in the public gallery but she refused to leave the chambers unless she was allowed to display a banner reading “Declare a climate emergency”. She was arrested and charged with causing a disturbance.

New Zealand

12 MAR

Extinction Rebellion Auckland funeral marched, complete with coffin and bagpipe player, into Auckland city council to deliver a message to the Environment and Communities group. They were pleased with the response, as they were invited to an upcoming Climate Summit. Afterwards, rebels gave heartfelt speeches outside the building, asking that we all “hold grief in one hand and hope in the other” and demand a better world.

France

16 MAR + 24 MAR

Extinction Rebellion France took part in the Marche du Siècle (March of the Century) in Paris, joining the crowd of 100,000 people demanding climate and social justice. Environmental, political and social groups, along with thousands of individuals, united to send a strong message: climate breakdown will affect everybody. Peace, joy and music propelled the marchers; the many musical groups included a full brass band. Similar marches took place in cities around France.

And this Sunday, thousands of French rebels will be gathering in Paris to declare open rebellion.



Finland

16 MAR

To protest logging policies in their country, Extinction Rebellion Finland interrupted the Forest Economy Seminar at the University of Helsinki. Seven rebels performed a hauntingly beautiful dance before being ushered out of the room, while others displayed an XR sign and handed out leaflets.

Declaration Day in Australia

22 MAR | Brisbane, Melbourne, Sydney, Adelaide

On Friday Australian rebels in four major cities will simultaneously gather at government buildings, to demand that their government declare a climate emergency. More details, including meeting times and specific locations, are on their facebook page.

Announcements

Letters to the Earth: Deadline for Submissions

Deadline: 29 MAR | Midnight

Submit your written letters of response to the climate and ecological emergency for presentation at theatres and arts venues across the country on 12th April, a day of joint action from the cultural sector. This can be a letter to or from the earth, past or future generations, those in power, other species. The idea is open to interpretation: it can come from a personal place, be dramatic in form, be a call to action. The invitation is open to all – to think beyond the human narrative and to bear witness to the scale and horror of this crisis.

The pieces will be made rights free and available for anyone to download and present anywhere in the world from 15th – 28th April as part of the Rebellion.

Deadline: Friday 29th March | Midnight

Email your submissions to letterstotheearth@gmail.com – subject line ‘Letter’

Find out more: https://www.letterstotheearth.com/

Zero Hour – Getting to the Roots

We are happy to announce our support of Zero Hour’s new campaign #GettingtoTheRoots. Follow this link to join in their worldwide education campaign, become an ambassador and bring climate justice education to your community.

Affinity Group stories for XR Blog

Are you part of an affinity group that has participated in direct action?

We ask for your stories of courage, struggle, compassion and collaboration, of whatever you have experienced together. This is an offshoot of the #HumansofXR project, to show the world that this movement is their moment too. Creative writing and mixed media all considered. Please email xrblog@protonmail.com with your A.G. name in the subject line.

XR Blog also seeks submissions on an ongoing basis, from rebels from all walks of life. Minimal writing experience is required. If you’re stuck for content we can provide a variety of writing briefs. Please contact us on xrblog@protonmail.com

Extreme Weather

Torrential rain in Papua triggers landslides

At least 50 people have been killed by flash floods in Indonesia’s eastern province of Papua. Flooding is not uncommon in the area — in January 70 people were killed by flooding and landslides in Sulawesi island.

‘Major humanitarian crisis’ after cyclone slams southern Africa

‘Cyclone winds and floods that swept across southeastern Africa have affected more than 2.6 million people and could rank as one of the worst weather-related disasters recorded in the southern hemisphere.’

Drought turns part of Iran into a new dust bowl

‘[T]he dust storm season has expanded, sometimes spanning half the year—and so, as a consequence, has the volume of respiratory problems’. In the provinces of Sistan and Baluchestan agriculture is ‘now all but impossible and everyday life a struggle […] the region risks becoming uninhabitable’.

Latest News and Data

Overfishing and climate change blamed for 80% decline in sooty terns on Ascension Island

Climate change creates a new migration crisis for Bangladesh –‘Over the last decade, nearly 700,000 Bangladeshis were displaced on average each year by natural disasters’ – in-depth article for National Geographic

UK failing on 14 out of 19 global targets for the UN’s Convention on Biological Diversity

Climate change denier invited to comment on school strikes for BBC Nine

Dahr Jamail: ‘We’re Living in the Warmest Decade Since Record-Keeping Began

Some of the above stories and lots more in his latest ‘Climate Disruption Dispatch’

Recommended Content

A journalist spent time with Extinction Rebellion New Zealand, and wrote an in-depth piece describing recent XR activity, the bigger picture in NZ and globally, and, most poignantly, his own thoughts and emotions when facing the immensity of the crisis:

“I grieve for the loss of the world I so deeply wanted to share with my partner, growing old together into a sweet, carefree senility. We are both 29. The sort of world that would allow that course of life to unfold will not exist by the time we’re ready for it. I grieve for the birds and animals that will go extinct. I grieve for the trees that will wither and die. And most of all I grieve for the people who will never have the chance to live the sort of decent life that everyone deserves.”

This article suggests that solar power in schools could provide economic, educational, and social benefits in Jamaica, as well as the obvious environmental ones. It describes the systemic problems which need to be addressed in Jamaica:

‘Countries like Jamaica will always struggle when parliamentarians and the traditional press remain eager bedfellows– there are more chickens with teeth than investigative journalists. The poor get their news with their ears and the viability of renewables and solar school stories are not reported over the airwaves. The people are kept ignorant.’

The author tells me that people there frequently protest about issues that affect them. He hopes that XR can harness that spirit to get a foothold in Jamaica, by highlighting the links to socio-economic issues.

How to revive our fantastic mini-beasts– an interesting mixture of information about the catastrophic decline in insect populations around the world and useful tips about how all of us can take small steps to help our insect friends. The article refers to recent scientific studies, carried out in Germany and Britain and explains how the collapse of the insect populations impacts on bird life. But my favourite part comes at the end, where there is a list of easy things we can all do in our garden to help.

On Contact: Civil Disobedience to Stop Ecocide’ – Chris Hedges interviews XR co-founder Roger Hallam

Rebecca Solnit makes an impassioned argument in The Guardian to reject the broken politics that enables both climate change deniers and violent extremists like the attack in New Zealand and come together for our collective future.

Regenerative Culture / Good News Stories

Antonio Guterres organises climate action summit

The international student strikes last Friday caused many people to take note, and question how they could do more. Luckily, one of those people was António Guterres, secretary general of the United Nations. In this opinion piece, he acknowledges that the response to the climate crisis so far has been insufficient. In response, he has organised a climate action summit in New York in September. He is asking world leaders from governments and the private sector to arrive with ambitious, concrete plans in key areas: emissions reductions, renewable energy, withstanding climate impacts, investing in the green economy, sustainable infrastructure, sustainable agriculture and management of forestry and oceans.

‘While climate action is essential to combat an existential threat, it also comes with costs. So action plans must not create winners and losers or add to economic inequality: they must be fair and create new opportunities for those negatively impacted, in the context of a just transition.’

Emissions reductions policies can work

A recent study has suggested that policies to reduce carbon emissions in 18 countries with developed economies may be starting to work. The countries, including the UK, France, Germany and the US, saw emissions decline significantly between 2005 and 2015. The changes were mostly due to replacing fossil fuels with renewables and an overall decrease in energy use.

‘”New scientific research on climate change tends to ring the alarm bells ever more loudly,” said co-author Charlie Wilson . . . “Our findings add a thin sliver of hope.”’

Geothermal power could become more accessible

Geothermal power is very low emission, like wind and solar, but more flexible as it can provide energy whenever needed. Until now it’s application has been limited to regions with very hot water caused by volcanic activity. However, a Swedish company has developed technology to harness power from low temperature heat, and a recent boost in funding means they are about to scale up their work.

Thank you

Thank you for reading this, our 16th newsletter. There’s so much exciting stuff going on that we barely have time to write this sign-off. Keep up the good work! If you have any questions or queries, please get in touch at xr-newsletter@protonmail.com.

This newsletter was written collaboratively by a hivemind of 12 rebels.

As we enter this crucial phase in human history, our Rebellion will need money to make sure our message is heard. Anything you can give is appreciated. Please visit our Fundrazr page.

Alternatively, standing orders or money transfers should be made to our Triodos Bank Account (Sort code: 16-58-10 Account No: 20737912) in the name of Compassionate Revolution Ltd (the holding company for Rising Up!).

Alternatively, if you’re a PayPal user (or more comfortable with PayPal), PayPal payments can be made to info@risingup.org.uk.

For queries contact Dave Nicks (dave.nicks@btinternet.com).

The economics of extinction: a reason for rebellion


Professor Jem Bendell and Rabbi Jeffrey Newman

What would a sane society do, knowing that one of its luxury food supplies was being exhausted? Consume less perhaps? Or grow more? Japan, knowing that the Bluefin tuna is going extinct, does neither. Bluefish tuna make the most profit for fishermen the nearer they are to extinction, as their rarity endows all the more status on their consumers.

Some might think that is a quirky Japanese behaviour or an anomaly of economics, but actually the free-market system in which individuals compete for profit is resplendent with such stupidities. How else could the investment in fracking or tar sands be explained? Or the way Brazil is consuming the lungs of the Earth to pay back its debts. Or the way industry externalises the cost of processing much of its waste, poisoning the Earth and its future consumers?

The logic that leads to these flaws has long been understood, and there have been waves of visceral protest as the ideology of markets became more entrenched. It is two decades since we were shutting down city centres hosting WTO and World Bank conferences; and almost a decade since Occupy camps squatted in the sacred places of decadent high finance. This time our issue is more than economic justice – it is the way governments are standing by as the global house we live in is burning down. We now see clearer than ever how a stupid financial system is driving an environmental breakdown and mass extinction which will undermine our very civilisation.

But for all the dissent about this situation, there’s little agreement or clarity on where within the financial system the real problem resides – or what could be done about it. Explanations from the marching crowds often invoke privatisation, corruption, greed, the power of banks, or the shrinking state. Deeper analyses point to something that many are unaware of, even economists. It is how private banks, not the government or central banks, create our money supply when they issue loans. It is this practice of issuing money as debt that over time creates a scarcity of money which encourages perpetual economic growth whether a society needs it or not. That means more junk, monotonous work, energy burned, natural environments ripped up, more waste, more money locked up in tax havens, and more unpayable debts. Lifting the veil on the monetary system reveals the interconnection between our social and environmental suffering. Through complex chains of profit-taking, the extortionate financial rewards taken by banks leads to people relying upon food banks while we trash the foundational bank that is a healthy planet.

Therefore, after decades of work on reforming corporations to be more sustainable, we both came to understand that we can’t change the way business does business unless we change the way money makes money. Given our perilous situation with the unfolding environmental breakdown, this change is more urgent than ever. As it oscillates along the knife-edge of debt maximisation and debt default, the current system is simply not fit for a future of climate-induced disruption.

But understanding the driving role of the financial system doesn’t give us a course of action and it certainly doesn’t help us to curtail it. For starters, we exist within the confines of this system. Many of us have little capacity to take radical action because we are working off our debts, or earning wages suppressed by employers servicing their own. That is hardly surprising in an economy with more debt than money.

So what might we do? We can move our money to building societies. But that won’t reform the big banks. We can work together to build alternatives at the local level, such as credit unions and mutual credit currencies. Yet in the UK this has proven difficult, as they are less available and less-funded than their competitors. So we might buy into crypto-currencies, yet many of them are run by speculators who make bankers look saintly!

So the only possible way to put the financial system into a reverse thrust is through government who, after all, unleashed the financial beast over thirty years ago.

It would seem though, that the present UK government imagines a different mandate for itself. In his 2018 party conference speech Chancellor Hammond claimed already to have ‘rebuilt the financial system’ since 2008.He said nothing about energy security, food security, climate change, the global migration crisis or indeed any future concerns except a future Labour government. One can’t imagine the sixth Mass Extinction keeping him awake at night. Rather than existential threats he focused instead on linguistic ones, repeating the term ‘21st century capitalism’ as if the next 80 years of economics were already written.

Hammond is out of touch with a public increasingly alarmed by climate predictions. After 30 years of warnings but no meaningful action, the current (very conservative) estimate is that dramatic changes are needed within the next twelve years, just for a chance of avoiding ‘run away’ climate change. Less optimistic readings of the data indicate that rapid and uncontrollable climate change has already begun. That will mean failed harvests and with it, exploding price rises and, understandably, social unrest. A new paradigm of Deep Adaptation  to environmental breakdown is needed to reduce harm and risk in a very uncertain future. As friends and neighbours we might stockpile food, nurture our gardens and install solar power, but government is needed to build the sea defences, mobilise emergency food production and distribution, rebuild transport systems and integrate large numbers of people fleeing droughts, floods and related conflict.

Governments around the world need to develop climate-smart monetary and investment policies. Such bold policies must involve a scaling down of our non-reserve banking system and an increase in government’s issuance of electronic money instead of bonds. All central banks must be instructed to stop buying bonds from companies with large carbon footprints and instead only buy bonds of firms providing low-carbon solutions for a climate-disrupted future. Governments should also ensure there are networks of local banks with a requirement to lend to enterprises that are focused on cutting emissions or drawing down carbon, as well as developing resilience to disruptive weather. Making that the RBS mandate in the UK is a ‘no brainer’. Government should also look at enabling local governments to issue their own interoperable currencies, as a way of helping local communities become more self reliant in preparation for future disturbances. Treasury officials could begin their education on these ideas by talking to the folks at Positive Money. Meanwhile our diplomats could get cracking on negotiating a global carbon tax, embedded into trade law at the WTO, with government commitments to invest revenues for carbon cuts, drawdown, adaptation and reducing impacts on the poor.

Given how bad things are with the environment we don’t know if such dramatic changes will be too little too late. But it is worth a try. And we are convinced that without an attempt to transform the monetary system then we aren’t really trying.

Let’s for a moment imagine what such changes could support. We can imagine what thriving ecosystems look like, so we let’s imagine a thriving economy. Waste would be minimised, and toxic waste eliminated. Most of what we needed would be produced nearby. There would be no unemployment and no shortage of money to pay for valuable work. Housing would be affordable as it was in the 1970s. Children would see more of their parents. Enterprises and population centres would be governed and managed less as pawns of London, Brussels, Berne, or Frankfurt and more by the people who have a stake in them and their continuance.

There must come a time when when it becomes necessary to flout the law to bring down an immoral or incompetent government. Philosophers call it the ‘right of rebellion’. Naturally they differ on the details, but generally a rebellion these days must use non-violent methods, and it must be against a government which is grossly incompetent, malignant, or treacherous. In upholding a financial system determined to burn all the fossil fuels while not protecting the people from the catastrophic consequences, governments are surely being grossly incompetent, malignant and treacherous.

On April 15th international rebellion week will create all manner of creative, exciting and loving peaceful civil disobedience to show the UK government and its financial masters that we can no longer support interlocking economic and political systems that threaten to curtail the life of our children. It is time to tell the truth, act in accordance with it, and set up Citizens Assemblies with mandates that include both financial reform and Deep Adaptation.

If international rebellion doesn’t startle our politicians into making the climate crisis their central agenda, then we must stretch the rebellion into our everyday lives. How many coordinated withdrawals and loan defaults might bring down a targeted bank? How many local councils issuing inter-operable currencies could create an alternative to the Bank of England? How many people joining networks with their own currencies, like Fair Coop, Credit Commons and Holochain, could make these viable alternatives? If government does not heed peaceful calls to change our economic system so that climate sanity is an economic norm, we may well find out.

We realise that initially our suggestions may be dismissed by some office holders in our current system. Religious texts remind us that privileged people “who detest the one who tells the truth” (Prophet Amos 5:10) are neither new or unusual. But the joy of generations coming together in a new spirit of fearless love, reminds us of the divine invitation to “let justice roll on like a river, righteousness like a never-failing stream!” (Prophet Amos 5:24). We therefore invite more leaders in our current system to join this sacred flow of a peaceful rebellion for life on Earth.

Professor Jem Bendell is founder of the Deep Adaptation Forum and teaches leadership at the University of Cumbria.

Rabbi Jeffrey Newman is Emeritus Rabbi of Finchley Reform Synagogue and leads Shema (Jewish Action on Climate Change).

Further reading on monetary issues:

Currencies of Transition: Transforming money to unleash sustainability. Bendell, Greco (2013)

Re-imagining Money to Broaden the Future of Development Finance Bendell, Ruddick, Slater (2015) UNRISD

The future of sharing: it’s all about freedom, Open Democracy

Thwarting an Uber future for complementary currencies. Bendell & Slater 2017

The science of global warming

By Zeeshan Hasan
Unfortunately, many people still doubt the dangers of global warming and climate change. In particular, elected politicians intent on avoiding unpopular carbon taxes and higher fuel prices continue to assert that the relevant scientific issues are doubtful. The fact is that the non-scientist public has been deceived by a large number of books and newspaper articles by ‘skeptics’ of climate change who themselves often have no understanding of the science involved. Fortunately, a glimpse into the real world of climate science is available through Global Warming: Understanding The Forecast by David Archer, an ocean chemistry professor at the University of Chicago. Archer’s book is an introductory climate science text which aims to make the basics of climate science comprehensible to any one with a high school background in science.
The basic science of how carbon dioxide emissions raise global temperatures is outlined by Archer. On the one hand, the earth is constantly being heated by sunlight. On the other hand, the Earth is also cooled by loss of heat into space as infrared radiation. These two continuous mechanisms of heat gain and heat loss by the Earth result in a thermal equilibrium at the average global temperatures which we experience.
Heat gain from the sun is relatively constant, varying only slowly over time; however, heat loss into space has been reduced significantly by humans over the last century. Atmospheric ‘greenhouse gases’ such as carbon dioxide have the property of absorbing the infrared radiation which carries heat from the earth into space, and thus reduce the cooling of the earth. This effect of carbon dioxide is called the Greenhouse effect; it was discovered over a century ago and is undisputed. Since the Industrial Revolution, humans have been continuously burning fossil fuels such as coal, oil and gas, and thus adding huge amounts of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere. This has resulted in an increase of the carbon dioxide concentration in the atmosphere from 320 parts per million in 1960 to about 400 parts per million today, or about 20%. This additional carbon dioxide functions like a blanket or greenhouse around the planet, slowing down loss of heat into space. If the same amount of solar heat comes into the Earth, while simultaneously heat loss from the Earth to space is reduced by additional carbon dioxide, then the Earth has to get warmer. At a higher temperature the Earth’s heat loss by radiation into space increases, because hotter objects lose more heat through infrared radiation than cooler ones; and the planet once more reaches a stable temperature.
A good analogy to the above is a pot of food simmering on an oven above a low flame; putting the lid on the pot does not change heat gain from the oven, but reduces heat loss through evaporation from the open pot and thus makes the food cook at a higher temperature. Our carbon dioxide emissions are effectively putting a lid on the earth, making heat from the sun ‘cook’ the planet at a higher temperature.
The question is whether a hotter stable temperature of the globe would be one capable of sustaining human life as we know it. Climate scientists have evidence from ancient ocean sediments that increasing the level of greenhouses gases in the atmosphere can cause temperatures to rise. Such an event took place 55 million years ago, when thousands of billions of tons of greenhouses gases were released into the atmosphere (probably because of a peak in volcanic activity). This event is known as the Permian Eocene Thermal Maximum (PETM). During the PETM, global average temperature rose by about 5 degrees C and 90% of life on the planet perished. Such an increase in global average temperature today would have terrible consequences, rendering much of tropical and sub-tropical Asia, Africa, central America and southern Europe too hot and dry for agriculture. The consequences would be famine on a scale never seen before, and billions of deaths.
Dangerous global heating events like the PETM may seem distant and irrelevant. But as a comparison, burning all world’s known reserves of coal would release about 5000 billion tons of carbon dioxide, comparable to the surge in greenhouse gases which caused the PETM. Our current course is to exploit not only existing coal reserves but also oil and gas. So it is entirely within our power to destroy our planet.
Continuing our current policies of exploiting all fossil fuels available will literally ensure the end of the Earth as we know it. The only way to stop it is to keep fossil fuels in the ground and switch to solar, wind or nuclear power, none of which emit carbon dioxide. This will require worldwide imposition of carbon taxes to raise fuel prices and make investment in alternative energy feasible. The leaders of all countries need to make some hard decisions, which they have failed to do in 20 years of climate negotiations. They will only do so now if the public demands it of them. The public now needs to make their voices heard loudly and persistently to force politicians to reduce fossil fuel use.

11 Years Left

by Claudia Fisher

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Claudia Fisher is a married business woman and artist. She has five children aged 32 to 13 and is studying part-time for an MA in Creative Writing at The University of Brighton. For the next couple of months, she will be writing a weekly blog on the BPEC website about environmental issues, particularly focussing on climate change and biodiversity loss. Claudia does a lot of work with the newly formed civil disobedience group Extinction Rebellion. In this blog she will share her journey with you, in the hope that you will join her. Thank you for reading.

I have a question for you.

What prompts a middle-aged woman who has never participated in any form of activism before to throw herself wholeheartedly into civil disobedience and more? The answer is simple.

‘Our house is on fire.’[

These are the words of a 16-year-old student, Greta Thunberg. What does Greta mean? Our house is on fire? Let’s start with that image. What would you or I if we knew our house was on fire? Make a cup of tea and wait to see if the flames caught hold? Let the children sleep upstairs for fear of frightening them unnecessarily? Walk off and leave it, hoping it would put itself out? No of course not. That would be ridiculous.

I am pretty confident that the first thing every one of us would do is wake the children and get them out as quickly as possible. We’d pick up the phone and dial 999. We’d shout ‘HURRY!’. We’d put the hose on and fill buckets with water. We’d form a chain gang with our neighbours. In short, we’d do anything we could to dampen those flames.

Let’s go back to Greta, whose one-woman school strike for climate has captured the imaginations of hundreds of thousands of young people across the world.[ii] For months Greta skipped school every Friday, preferring to sit outside the Swedish Parliament on her own, rather than be with her friends in class. She explained that the world was facing such a dire and urgent climate emergency, she saw no point in studying for a future she would never have.

She explains that we, the human race, are facing climate breakdown with wildfires, flooding, droughts, rising sea levels and heatwaves. The planet is entering the world’s sixth mass extinction with around 200 species estimated to go extinct each and every day.[iii] And what are we doing? Pretty much nothing. We all carry on as before and think people like me are extremist, alarmist, totally off their rockers. Or we notice it’s a bit hotter than usual, but that’s nice isn’t it, in a country where traditionally the weather is a bit rubbish? We can start producing wine now. So, it’s not all bad. And anyway, what can we do about it? We all have to live, don’t we? We have to eat and get about and have fun? We don’t want to stop all of that, because isn’t the kind of easy living we are used to what it’s all about? Well, the answer is, we have to stop. We have to think. To assess. To evaluate. Then we have to act. We have to. Because this is not sustainable. It cannot last.

Every day nearly 100 million barrels of oil are extracted from the ground.[iv] That is energy made billions of years ago. Yet we dig it up, harness its energy and release its by-products. Like Pandora’s Box, we let it out and can’t put it back. I tell my children that their actions have consequences. Yet I have been guilty, and still am guilty, of taking actions and making decisions that will have consequences, not necessarily for me, but for generations to come.

Ask any ecologist and they will confirm that this beautiful blue planet of ours has a finely balanced eco-system that has evolved over a very, very long time. I think understanding just how long really helps with getting a handle on how serious this situation is.

As part of my MA in Creative Writing, last year I wrote a piece about a three-hour period where, as a result of severe sleep deprivation and stress at my son’s serious illness, the balance of my mind was briefly overturned. In order to reconcile the significance of those three hours with the greater scheme of things I started researching. Trying to understand time. For me those three hours felt like an eternity. But what does eternity really mean? This is what I found out, and be warned, you could find it quite mind-blowing.

‘If the Earth formed at midnight and the present moment is the next midnight, 24 hours later, modern humans have been around since 11:59:59pm—that’s 1 second.’[v]

And in all that time, in the 23 hours 59 minutes and 59 seconds of all existence, the world’s ecosystems could get along with their business of generating, living, evolving, dying and starting over again uninterrupted. Then we humans came along.

‘And if human history itself spans 24 hours from one midnight to the next, 14 minutes represents the time since Christ.’[vi]

But for 23 hours 58 minutes 36 seconds of that one second of the previous 24-hour clock, humans were part of the ecosystem. Spending every second surviving. Living amongst all other life. It is really only in the last two hundred years, since the beginning of the industrial age that we have had any kind of impact on our environment. This is equivalent in my illustration to 1 minute and 24 seconds of a 24-hour period that has been expanded out of one second of another 24-hour period.

Think about it. That kind of time span, a mere 200 years, in comparison to life on earth is equivalent to a fraction of a blink. And the scientists tell us we have only 11 years left to change our ways, before global temperatures breach the 1.5ºC guard rail.[vii] Beyond that we will have an unstoppable increase. Temperatures of 2-5ºC will cause famine, mass migration, wars and societal break down. Life will at best be miserable, at worst unsustainable.[viii]

Just 11 years. To stop carbon emissions. To clean up our act. Going back to my illustration, 11 years equates to a mere 4.62 seconds of a second in 24 hours. Which is why waiting till climate change hits home, waiting for governments to do something, waiting for the changes to be unstoppable just isn’t an option. The UK government have pledged an 80% reduction in carbon emissions by 2050. If this target wasn’t so tragic it would be laughable. It’s like pouring a thimbleful of lukewarm water onto that house fire and expecting that drop to make a difference.

We need to act like our house is on fire. Because it is. And this middle-aged woman for one is not going to stop until that fire is out. Totally out. I will risk my losing my comforts, my freedom and my life. It is too important to stand by and do nothing. Because the fire is taking hold of the ground floor. The flames are licking up the stairs and my children are sleeping in that house. I need to get them to safety.

More next week about my entry into a different world of possibilities and hope.

Extinction and the Green New Deal

by Kevin B. Korb

We have known collectively the dangers posed by the combination of modern civilization and human population growth since at least the 1960s. During that decade Paul Ehrlich published The Population Bomb (1968), which carried forward Thomas Malthus’s argument from the 19th century that exponential population growth models apply as much to humans as to other life forms and that relaxing the natural limits on resources and their utilization would provide only temporary material comforts soon overwhelmed by an expanding population. In The Limits of Growth (1972) the Club of Rome computer modelers expanded on these ideas by developing and testing a simulation of human population and economic activity incorporating natural resources and pollution. While their model was crude by recent standards, it did behave in qualitatively sensible ways. The story it told was that however you varied the inputs, e.g., extending resource limits or slowing population growth rates, if you stayed within anything like reasonable bounds, then the model showed a collapse of the population, through impossible levels of pollution, say, sometime during the 21st century. Neither of these pivotal books dealt with anthropogenic global warming explicitly, but the message was clear and still hasn’t changed: unfettered population and economic growth, at least on the models of both we have so far adopted, will be a disaster for our species and our environment. Nothing much has changed.

Rep Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Sen Ed Markey’s Green New Deal (GND) seeks genuine change. It’s modeled on President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s New Deal, in the sense that FDR’s New Deal radically changed America for generations. The name also evokes the mobilization behind the World War II effort that happened shortly thereafter. The point is that radical mobilization efforts are eminently possible when the threat to a nation is existential, and human-driven climate change certainly poses an existential threat. The GND, if passed, would be a clear, resounding dual statement of intent: first, the intent to counter the threat to civilization posed by human population growth and economic activities; second, there is a more local statement of intent of economic and political justice for American minorities.

The bill is strictly aspirational, calling out the urgency of the situation, rather than laying out a specific pathway. It’s stated goals are not of a kind that could lead to direct actions. What GND shares with Extinction Rebellion most notably are our common view of the urgency of the situation and the optimism that if there is a common will to respond, that we can do something worthwhile to diminish the worst outcomes of anthropogenic global warming.

Some of the Main Goals laid out in the GND are:

  • Guaranteed jobs with family-sustaining wages for all people of the US
  • Maximizing the energy efficiency of all existing building in the US
  • Moving to electric cars and high-speed rail and away from air transport
  • Universal health care
  • Moving to sustainable farming
  • Moving to 100% renewable energy

Of course, the introduction of the GND has provoked a vigorous response from opponents. The most prominent objection, perhaps, is that it would be too expensive to be practicable. Certainly, refurbishing every building in America to maximize energy efficiency can’t be cheap. The obvious rebuttal, however, has been voiced by Greta Thunberg and other young activists: inaction will be far more expensive than action. Indeed, the GND in its initial Whereas’s states that inaction will lead to $500B in lost annual economic output in the US by 2100. Such a sum applied now, on the other hand, would clearly make a strong start to doing something about climate change. Aside from that, any dollar estimate of harm is never going to be a worst case estimate, since severe climate change is fully capable not just of direct economic impacts, but also of spurring warfare and social collapse, in ways where the real valuations entirely outstrip the speculative dollar valuations of harm. The right wing who harp about the expense are simply not yet prepared to think clearly about the consequences of the choices in front of us. (In my view, it is well past time that the decision bypass the obstruction.)

The whole point of the GND is that what is practicable depends upon the context, and what is practicable in times of war is of an entirely different scale to what is practicable in normal times. We are not in normal times. This is a time of war, and our enemy is us.

Breaking News -Four Youth Strikers arrested in London for obstruction of highway

Photo credits: Snowflake Foxtrot

Fourth arrest:

Policeman, picking him up: ‘Are you okay?’

Young man approx 14 years old: ‘The planet is not okay, and that’s what matters.’

Policeman: ‘This isn’t going to help the planet’.

Me, with at least 10 other cameras around filming: ‘His voice is being heard, that’s what matters’.

Words: Snowflake Foxtrot