XR – Where Next?

By Chris Taylor

What a beautiful rebellion we have conjured. What a beautiful vision of care and compassion, regeneration and community. We lived it. We breathed it – in London and in places across the world as we flexed our muscles in International Rebellion.

And returning to our daily lives, fractures are starting to appear within the movement. Cracks that reveal tensions and differences. These are to be welcomed, embraced, for they reveal tender places that we need to give attention to. How we deal with them will shape whether the movement grows and flourishes.

We have the potential to reveal a pathway to a new version of human society. If we hold to our vision of a world beyond climate chaos and species extinction and if we act out of our values of regeneration and renewal we have the opportunity to pick up from where Occupy, The Arab Spring and Standing Rock have brought us. We have the chance to be the next wave lapping at the shores of a regenerative world.

So what about these fractures in the movement? How do we best deal with them? I have seen four in particular that I feel deserve our attention.

  1. Burn Out. I have seen many of my friends and fellow rebels return from London exhausted and washed out. Perhaps this is inevitable. We partied hard. We saw a chance and threw ourselves at it. Yet, if our culture is truly regenerative, maybe we are missing something.

It has taken us two thousand years to get to the brink of civilisation collapse. Rome will not be dismantled in a day. Let’s pace ourselves. It’s time to let go of the need as individuals to “make a difference”. This is the voice of ego and it leads to burn-out. Only “we”, the movement can create change. So let’s ensure we are deeply sharing power amongst us, passing the baton back and forth in a continual relay. And when we have time to rest, let’s do it well so we can return with energy afresh.

  1. Inclusion. There have been challenges, particularly from people of colour, recommending what we need to do to be more inclusive. It is of the utmost importance that we respond positively and deeply to these challenges. The global system that is destroying the Earth is built on empire, colonisation and patriarchy. Social inequalities and environmental destruction go hand in hand. All the evidence from history suggests that as social inequalities widen, environmental destruction accelerates.

Unless we dismantle the intricate structures of oppression that have silenced the majority of humanity, we will not save the planet. We will become just one more minority interest group trying to impose its will on the world. Only the radical inclusion of the colonised and marginalised will bring into the movement the wisdom and humility needed to live in harmony with the whole of existence. It is our work to do. It is not something separate from why we are here.

  1. Business. Controversy arose within XR when a group of entrepreneurs formed XR Business. Many were offended by this, saw it as opportunist or out of alignment with who we are. Others took a position arising out of economic analysis: capitalism is destroying the world so business cannot easily become part of the movement. All of these concerns are valid. Given our current situation we are right to be a little suspicious.

At the most fundamental level, the disintegration of our current form of economics is essential in achieving our three core goals. When the leading edge of concerned business breaks ranks and reaches out we would do well to hold them in the embrace of tough love. There is much that business must make amends for, much damage it must heal. And only a regenerative approach will hold them to this task. Those of us who have done the inner work, faced into grief and despair are well placed to hold others to the reality of what they have done. Who else will do it?

The success of all non-violent movements has come when they have been able to mobilise a mass of people AND hold a mirror up to the people who hold positions of power within the old system. Some of these people will crack. When enough do, pressure from the mass takes on a new power. This needs to be our approach to business – tough love and safe spaces to allow those at the leading edge to acknowledge the wrongs of the past.

  1. Strategy. This is less a fracture, and more an ongoing field of discussion. How do we maintain momentum?  How do we achieve maximum impact? How do we achieve our goals – not only here in the UK but globally? This is no easy task. And like all complex tasks it will take time to realise. While we feel the urgency of the situation we would do well to sit for a moment with the not-knowing of how next to proceed. Anything we do precipitously will be at best ineffective and at worst counter-productive. It risks adding to our sense of exhaustion.

I have heard many wise and considered voices within the Circle of Counsel exploring how to proceed: “Come back different”, “Go to the places where climate emergency is felt most already”, “Go to the belly of the beast – the financial heartland”. All of these feel like tactics worth integrating into a strategy based on building momentum and undermining the Pillars of Power.

How exactly we stitch them together is not yet clear. What I do know is that we must hold tight to our values of non-violence, compassion and regeneration. Whatever we do must bring us as individuals, as Affinity Groups and as a movement to a renewed sense of our our vigour, our own agency and our own interdependence with all that surrounds us. This is the path to the world we are seeking to birth.

As we move forward let’s remember something profound about the work we have decided to undertake. At one level this movement is about tackling climate chaos. At another it is about stopping the extinction emergency that is facing not only humanity but one million species across the planet. At another level still, it is about completely reinventing what it means to be human.

Unless we are able to create mindsets, behaviours, communities, organisations, societies that recognise our complete and total interdependence with the living planet we will not succeed at even the first level. This is why regeneration is so crucial a part of who we are. It must guide our every thought and our every action.

Onward in compassionate rebellion!

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Notes from a straggler

By A. S. Arthur

I have nothing to say about the science or news, I can only speak to my own experience. The climate crisis is something beyond words. You’re a reasonable person, likely you already know. I have nothing to say to that.

I was on Waterloo Bridge the night before the police took it back. I was there until quite late. At some point during the night, a group of drunk young Londoners struck up a discussion with the police; when were they going to get rid of us? They wanted to know. The protesters were stupid, wrong, an inconvenience. The police reassured them, agreed loudly: what we were doing was ignorant, pointless. They were going to get rid of us as soon as they could. No need to worry.

I stayed until four AM before leaving alone, unprepared for the cold. Despite the emergency blanket I’d been given I was freezing. I came back the next day to find it entirely cordoned off. A wall of police standing all the way across the street at both ends of the bridge. A friend of mine was up there, locked in under the truck. She was stuck there for hours before it was dealt with. For a while I could still reach her on Signal. She knew she had all our support, all our love. I told her so, while I could. Before the “Message read” notification stopped appearing. Before the police took her phone, took her voice away.

I followed a group of other stragglers back down across Westminster Bridge, through the pressing crowds of tourists, past the dozen shell games in progress to Parliament Square.

The atmosphere in the square was much the same as it had been the day before. Same atmosphere, different people. Those I’d established speaking terms with previously had gone, replaced by fresh faces, a shift change. I wandered about. Listened to the music playing in front of the Supreme Court. Handed flyers out to passers-by under the statues.

It was sunny still, I wanted to keep moving. I found myself on the far side of Parliament Square Garden, standing near a police officer in a blue hi-vis jacket; an intelligence gatherer. The ones you really shouldn’t speak to. I asked him about the night before. Was that just a de-escalation tactic, what the police had done with the drunks? Something they were trained to do; agree with troublemakers, encourage them to move on? He took offence to this. He’s a fully rounded human being, he said. All police are, they have their own opinions about the climate crisis. They can say whatever they want. In fact he agreed with our message, he told me, just didn’t agree with our tactics. That’s something you hear a lot. Everyone seems to agree there’s a climate emergency but our non-violent direct action is taking it too far. I blinked at this. Left him to his own devices. Wandered back across the grass to the lengthening shadows of the statues there. The statues of Nelson Mandela, Mahatma Gandhi and Millicent Fawcett. The statues erected by the government and by the people to overlook the Houses of Parliament. To overlook the seat of power. Non-violent direct action is taking it too far? I have nothing to say to that. Some actions speak for themselves.

Poem: To The Echelons Of Power

By Tom Burgess

To the echelons of power, wherever you are
It is not too late to turn, please
play a different role
Another world is waiting to manifest

Wont you pacify the grotesque hubris which has you
funding private escape pods
destined for far off planets
What do you have to offer the mystery of space?
Accept a profound disconnection with your origin and kin
The unfolding caverns of majesty require an imagination
one that goes beyond your sterile lunges for survival
You vampires of the common wealth
Do not build bunkers out of fear and petrol
Give to regeneration
Stop casting the most vulnerable as fodder
May the word collateral choke in your throats

What remains still extends grace towards you
Still the trees suffocated by indifference give oxygen
and the blessing of a raindrop on your skin is a whisper
Do not only hear a warning of scarcity and acid
In that whisper hear hope too
and turn
Join in and work for regeneration

Global Heating – the Elephant in the Room

By Eileen Peck

I wonder if others have had the same experiences as myself – coming across normally well-informed and caring people who don’t want to talk about global heating, and my feelings of anxiety when I try to bring up what seems to be a taboo subject? Not something to be mentioned in polite conversation!
If I hadn’t read George Marshall’s insightful ‘Don’t Even Think About It: Why Our Brains are Wired to Ignore Climate Change’ I would have struggled to understand just why so many of my caring and intelligent friends, even (dare I say it?), in the environment movement, feel ambivalent about XR. Why are they asking ‘Do they really need to be stopping ordinary people from getting to work?’
Why are so many going along with ideas (promoted, of course, by mainstream media) such as ‘This action will only impact on ordinary people, not those at the top’ and ‘Emma Thompson is a hypocrite flying in to support the protest.’ And, most importantly how do we encourage people to look at the emergency seriously and support the brave action being taken by the rebels?
‘Why Our Brains are Wired to Ignore Climate Change’ helped me to understand that the difficulty in perceiving the imminent danger of global heating arises from our primitive brain’s inability to see the bigger picture. The analogy is drawn with primitive man needing to worry about the tiger at the cave door before giving any attention to the bigger picture further afield.

And, don’t those who want to keep us from looking too closely at the ‘bigger picture’ ensure that we are kept busy with many tigers at the door: Gloom and doom pervade our mainstream media; terrorism and wars, crime and strife are our regular diet. The BMA even coined the phrase ‘The politics of fear’ which is seen as making people ill. We go about our daily lives dealing with getting ourselves to work, the children to school, paying the bills and generally dealing with the stresses and strains of everyday life. Global heating is low down on most people’s priorities. If we do start to think about it, we come close to feeling powerless and overwhelmed. How well I know those feelings!
If ‘Don’t Even Think About It’ has given me some insight into why conversations often steer clear of climate change, Matthew Crawford’s in ‘The World Beyond Your Head: How to Flourish in an Age of Distraction’ sees our ‘distractibility’ in the modern world as the mental equivalent of obesity. ‘Distractibility’ is fed by a constant stream of stimuli in the same way that obesity comes from being fed junk food.

Since reading about ‘distractability’ I’ve become ever more aware of the deluge of information under which I seem to be buried daily. I’m constantly distracted by adverts in every available space: the back of car park tickets, popping up on computer screens, even inside toilet doors when I go for a wee!

Yuval Harari in his ’21 Lessons for the 21st Century’ sees clarity as power and that censorship works not by blocking the flow of information but rather by flooding people with disinformation. ‘What happens now?’ ‘What should we pay attention to?’ He says: ‘We can’t take on all these pressing questions – we have to go to work, look after the children. The future of humanity is decided in your absence.’

So it is that conversations usually centre around holidays and everyday domestic problems, while the questions often asked are ‘Is it is really necessary to disrupt people getting to work?’ and ‘Aren’t there other ways to bring the government to get them to do what is necessary to tackle climate change?’
The problem is that ‘other ways’ have been tried. I hope I’ve got this right but I understand that:
• International conferences have been held and agreements on cutting carbon emissions have been made and broken. Even the US, the world’s second largest emitter of greenhouse gases, quit the Paris agreement.
• The UK government passed the Climate Change Act in 2008 which made the UK the first country to establish a long-term legally binding framework to cut carbon emissions. The UK government crow about their success at reducing carbon emissions but from my car-clogged corner of S E Essex I wonder just how this can be true. Then I notice the convey of freight-carrying container ships making their way up to the Thames to the Dubai deep port in Essex and have a light-bulb moment: Yes, our domestic manufacturing industry has been destroyed so our ‘stuff’ is now made in China and other overseas countries. We import goods and export carbon emissions!
• The UK government which says it is committed to reducing carbon emissions even gives the go-ahead to a new coal mine and to fracking.

In the face of this inaction what else can we do? With the power of the fossil fuel industry dictating to governments and calling the tune worldwide, I reckon that to deal with a drastic emergency, drastic action is required which is why I’m behind XR.
All I think is ‘Thank goodness for XR, why has it been such a long time coming?!’

What it’s like to be at an Extinction Rebellion protest

By Aram Hawa

From the 15th to the 18th of April I can proudly say I was involved in the XR protests which struck London this spring and brought business in the bustling city centre to a hurtling stop. Having not attended a protest since the Iraq war one back in 2003, I was joyously amazed at the turnout. Hordes of XR clad protestors began gravitating around Parliament Square as the sun approached midday, defiantly grasping their banners and thought provoking picket signs. Some were draped in fossilised carcasses, signifying the monstrous destination for humanity if their voices were not listened to, others were dressed casually, if not a little free spirited, but all wore the same expression of an emphatically determined activist who was about to do something a bit out of the ordinary.

I think people have a misperception that environmental activism is for tree hugging hippies who have an aversion to showers and shoes. Whilst undoubtedly there are these elements in the following, the vast majority of members are normal people who have become increasingly aware of the morbid nature of the planets future and have decided to act on it. It was so heart warming to speak to and watch elderly people politely yet defiantly refuse the demands of the police to remove themselves from the roads. What on Earth would drive them to do this and risk incarceration? Well, exactly that, the Earth. These well educated people were equipped with the latest scientific findings on the impending doom and havoc that climate change is threatening us with. Once you understand their behaviour in the global context of a planet warming up irreversibly, transforming lush green forests into barren deserted toxic waste lands and bountiful thriving seas into oscillating graveyards, their behaviour becomes completely rational! More than anything these people care, they care about the miseries we are inflicting upon the planet in our consumption based lives, they care about the thousands of animal and insect species which are being pushed to and falling off from the bridge of extinction, they care about the quality of life their grandchildren will have when the air they breathe is noxious and the water they drink is all but gone. Ultimately they care about the planet, encompassing all the sentient beings who reside here and the intimate and fragile relationship we have with our ecosystem. With this in mind, those elderly protestors amiably quarrelling with the police become the sane ones and the swarms of shoppers, tourists and commuters metres away become the ones deserving of a psychiatric health check up. How are they so comfortable living their lives when everything at stake? How can they contribute to the machinery which is making it so? Do they really not care despite everything being at stake? This is not something which can just be ignored. This is why XR must bring everything to a grinding halt in order for those who lead us to take a painful, unfaltering look at where our priorities lie.

The energy of being there is hard to describe, an infectious buzz pulses through the crowd. Organising the logistics was of course at the heart of the commotion but high faculty, stimulating conversations flourished in abundance. Protestors discussed what it was that brought them there, their fears and trepidations about the changing times, what they intended to achieve in reorganising the political architecture, all the while gregariously greeting and engaging with the bewildered commuters they were blocking. If I had to describe the whole experience in one statement it would probably go along the lines of – one of the most rewarding, emotionally infused, collectively harmonious, surreal experiences of my life.

I distinctly remember being sat on Waterloo Bridge with the thirty or so other protestors who were acting as the front line of defence against the teams of police sternly observing close by. One by one protestors were engaged with by police squadrons, isolated and sullenly informed of their supposed wrong doings. Most looked away at this point, others chose to question the foundations by which the police could instigate the arrest, it was a simple delaying tactic and the end result was always the same. Every time someone was dragged off into the back of a police van a cheer followed them, kind words of love and admiration for their commitment filled the air, a show of appreciation for the unknown price to be paid.

In the midst of this a women began singing at the front, her voice was sweet and her words brought about a stir in the crowd. Suddenly a number of protestors began to weep, it was strange to witness, there didn’t seem to be any single event which should have caused this reaction, but I understood. We, a group of misfits and strangers were all stood together at that moment in time with the sun gently blessing us with its rays and the wind tenderly dancing in our hair, how could such a world punish us with threats of imprisonment when all we wanted was to safeguard that which provides life and blood to us all? We stood peaceful and defiant, we knew what we were doing was right, throughout history small groups of well intentioned people have always been the catalysts for progressive societal change. That however does not lend enough weight to the ominous feeling of impending arrest by a militarised adversary. Personally, I have never felt such a connection to others as I did during that week. It is easy for a virulent disdain for mankind to develop when you are seemingly alone, constantly learning of the newest atrocities committed to a defenceless nature on a daily basis. I have never truly bonded with groups for shared interests in things such as sports teams and leisure pursuits, their deafening chants and pernicious rhymes always appeared superficial to me. It was different this time, for once I had found others who cared for the planet as much as I did, others who were also willing to risk the ridicule and scrutiny of everyone else in defending the rights of the Earth, others who were eager to discuss their ideas on what can be done to protect her from those who would wish to do her harm, it was truly humbling to be in the presence of such people with whom I shared so much. The song being sung reflected this sentiment, it was a truly beautiful spectacle to behold, one I will cherish forever. A moment which resonated with the entire experience of the protests; the chaos surging ravenously around, yet we, pious in our beliefs and determined in our actions, stood firm together, awaiting the smoke to engulf us.

And the arrest itself? By the fourth day of the protest and having witnessed hundreds of my brothers and sisters being taken away I began to feel within myself a mesmerising fire ignite, a shimmering manifestation of duty to the cause, a call to arms. I hadn’t come all this way, shared the highs and lows with my comrades to not take the final plunge.

Seeing photos of the dozens of cohorts of neon coloured police teams descending on Parliament Square to break our blockades, I quickly hastened with two other rebels from Oxford Circus. Upon arriving I quickly realised that the photos had not done the situation justice; hundreds of police officers stood circling the Houses of Parliament, like vultures in frenzy they shot each other glances and nods, ravenously deciding which victim to take next.

Without thinking twice I grabbed my rucksack and ran to the corner of the square, one of two remaining fortified positions that still bore the hallmarks of a committed group of rebels. I pushed through the crowd of intrigued onlookers, bursting through into the centre I threw myself to the ground, joining the fifteen or so other brave souls who in their beliefs and actions, were demonstrating their willingness to sacrifice their freedom for the greater good. It did not take long for my time to come. Two officers paved their way towards me, their heavy duty shoes echoed loudly across the callous street floor. As they squatted over me, their arsenal of weapons dangled cautiously close to my face, a baton, mace spray, handcuffs and others I couldn’t discern. They stared intensely, their expressions bore no emotions, the mask that is used to conceal ones humanity was wrapped tightly around their faces. They read to me the crime that I was committing, detailing the law which had designated obstructing the highway as a crime, they asked me if I understood. As rehearsed, I gave them nothing, not responding in any meaningful way, listening instead to the encouraging songs of the rebels which at the time seemed to take on a defiant childlike innocence.

The sentence was given, “You are now under arrest, you do not have to say anything but…” the words fell out of his mouth like a rapid river over a cliff edge. I was walked off past crowds of civilians and protestors, heading directly towards the den of police vans conglomerated around a patch of grass where the other detainees were being held in anxious anticipation.

To be honest, the next twelve hours were comfortable and at times comical. The officers, slightly bewildered by the mammoth logistical task before them of coordinating the cell spaces across London for the hundreds of arrested protestors, regressed into a relaxed state. The good will and intentions of the protestors rubbed off and laughter and kind words were exchanged. The long queues forced a harmonious engagement between both sides, allowing the officers humanity to seep through the gaps in their armour, cascading into an angelic bubbling of friendly human connection. Things carried on in this vein for the four hours that it took to check me into a cell, after which a thin bed and my book provided the nights entertainment.

Without being formally investigated I was released in the early hours of the morning. Upon being led out of the final security door I was greeted pleasantly with smiles, warming words and a well earned brew by the XR arrestee support group who had been waiting all night for us. How comprehensively XR had thought out this entire operation, the care and devotion which had gone into arranging such a post release reception filled my thoughts as I left the building, my admiration still growing for the organisation as I walked down the miserable and dreary London streets. I was of course heading straight back to the protests.

Positive, peaceful and unified – why I joined Extinction Rebellion

Image for ‘Positive, peaceful and unified – why I joined Extinction Rebellion’

By Eileen Peck

As so often happens, the idea came to me in the middle of the night. I was lying in bed pondering why I felt so very peaceful and calm, when the lightbulb moment struck. I have to confess that in view of what is going on in the world I, like many others I guess, have been feeling pretty stressed recently. Climate change, knife crime, terrorism, stories of gloom and doom regularly making headline news means that anxiety and confusion often fill my mind. So, what had happened the previous day to make me see things differently?

I’d been at the Extinction Rebellion protest in London and had met up with a huge crowd of energetic, inspiring, caring people who are prepared to give time and risk arrest for a cause in which they deeply believe.

My joining my local group of rebels came about because I believe that climate change is a real threat not only to the distant future but to life on Earth in the here and now. And because I believe financial interests are stopping the government from taking the action which we so desperately need.

Before my trip to Oxford Circus I was invited to a workshop where I was given lots of helpful information about our legal rights, how we should behave (non-violently) and what would happen if we got arrested. Most helpful were the phone numbers of solicitors who specialise in protest law. Role play helped us to prepare for how to deal with angry people – motorists and those angry that they had been stopped from getting to work or going shopping.

My day with XR in London turned out to be everything I expected: well-informed people spreading the word and encouraging each other. People handing out free food and drinks and passing around sun lotion. There was lots of singing and clapping. Yoga and first aid tents. Inspirational speakers. Chatting with strangers who I immediately ‘clicked’ with. The chanting of “We love you” and the shouting support when an arrest was made. The day was fun, orderly and inspirational. Emma Thompson described it as an “island of sanity” and how right she was.

The organisers have made it clear that this is just the beginning. We are now waiting for the government to respond to our demands and if the demands are not met, there are lots more very carefully organised and orchestrated non-violent disruptive events in the pipeline.

So, why did my day with the ‘rebels’ bring me such cheer? Why did my middle of the night flash of insight feel potentially life-changing? Life-enhancing?

I’ve come to see our regular exposure to bad news as a way of dampening down our joie de vivre. It produces fear, which can make us feel powerless, so we perhaps feel inclined to pull up the drawbridge and look after number one.

In my days as a sociology student, I was introduced to the idea of ‘hegemony’ which describes the largely unquestioned world view taken in by a population. The British sociologist Anthony Giddens described ideological hegemony as “shared ideas or beliefs which serve to justify the interests of dominant groups”.

The term hegemony is thought to have been coined by the Italian Marxist Antonio Gramsci in the 1920s. He used the term to describe how, in a democracy, the domination of one group over others can be achieved by political power, which depends on the population taking on certain values and ideas. His message was that what comes to pass does so, not so much because a few people want it to happen, but because the mass of citizens abdicate their responsibility and let things be.

I’ve come to see our regular exposure to bad news as a way of dampening down our joie de vivre. It produces fear, which can make us feel powerless

I’ve come to see that by focusing almost exclusively on the bad news, our mainstream media drip feeds us daily the idea that the world is a terrible, dangerous, place and that central to 21st century-life are competition, excessive material consumption and each man for himself.

But this obscures the fact that:

  • Plenty of people are working hard to help others
  • Co-operation is on the rise, with local shops, pubs and even failing companies being taken over by local people
  • The idea of a ‘good life’ of depending on excessive material consumption is being challenged
  • Random acts of kindness and selflessness are on the increase
  • And so much more

My lightbulb moment showed me that – as the ancient Greek Stoics said 2,000 years ago – I need to ‘guard my thoughts’ and look for the good stuff in the world. The climate change protestors are a highly visible, wonderful, example of people rebelling. All over the world, people in their everyday lives are rebelling and finding peace and happiness in a way of life which nurtures both the planet and each other.

My lightbulb moment showed me that I need to ‘guard my thoughts’ and look for the good stuff in the world.

I take great comfort from the words of the US historian and activist Howard Zinn who said: “Revolutionary change does not come as one cataclysmic moment (beware such moments!) but as an endless succession of surprises, moving zigzag towards a more decent society.’”

XR Activism is an anti-depressant

By Kirsten Downer

As a group of Extinction Rebellion activists glued themselves to a DLR train at Canary Wharf three Fridays ago, a message popped up on the group’s Facebook livestream: Activism is an anti-depressant.

Eighty-two-year-old Phil Kingston was among those up on the train roof to draw attention to the fact that the financial sector is driving the climate crisis, which is already displacing and killing people. And that without urgent action, billions of human beings will die by 2050.

There’s something about witnessing an octagenarian sacrificing his comfort and liberty for the benefit of other human beings which reaffirms ‘something I thought I’d lost’ to quote another message on the Facebook live stream. And of course it’s not just Phil Kingston – more than 1100 people peacefully got themselves arrested this April, in order to cause maximum disruption and push our society to save itself. Among them was Hanna, seven months pregnant, the last person to be removed from the Oxford Circus XR site.

Alongside the so-called ‘arrestables’ thousands more hearts, minds and hands created and supported the Extinction Rebellion phenomenon, whether by offering meditation on Waterloo Bridge, acting as independent legal observers, cooking and serving free vegetarian food for participants, or holding up colourful, witty banners at road junctions.

Waterloo Bridge, photo by Jamie Tarlton

We did this not for direct personal benefit, but for children living today and their children, and for the millions of people in the global South already suffering the impacts of climate change. XR is not perfect; the movement needs to work harder to involve BAME groups and keep highlighting the way structural inequalities drive climate change.

But in our actions we embodied something which our society denies, telling us that we’re apathetic and selfish: Love.  A reverence for life, common to all spiritual traditions across the world. And an instinctual understanding of interbeing – a Buddhist wisdom recognising that all is one and one is all. We are ourselves, but we are also all each other.

photo by Extinction Rebellion

We live in a society which denies this truth and actively works against it. No wonder we have an epidemic of anxiety and depression.  So I agree with the Facebook comment: activism can be a practice which feeds us. When we act non-violently and collectively, we embody the interbeing principle and this feeling of connection gives me delight, freedom, and fresh energy.

Peaceful activism is not just about sacrifice – you can feel adventure and purpose when (non-violently) breaking oppressive societal norms.  When we’re all one, I am you and you are me, it means you can let creativity and nature flow through you. It’s a huge relief to know it’s not all down to you, your ego and your mind. And being part of something so vast and creative means that things which looked absolutely impossible start to look more achievable. If this isn’t an antidote for depression, I don’t know what is.

Waterloo Bridge photo by Jamie Tarlton

In his book The Miracle of Mindfulness, Thich Nhat Hanh wrote that because people cut reality into compartments, they are unable to see the interdependence of all phenomena. But deep down it seems we all know it.

It was there as I approached Oxford Circus, and a complete stranger walked up to me, beaming, offering me one of her home-made flapjacks. It was there as arrestees were carried off into police vans while other participants yelled ‘We love you’. It was there in the woman serving me food at Marble Arch: ‘How did you get involved? Oh, I was just walking past earlier today.’ And the 71-year-old bearded man doing legal observing through the night at Oxford Circus, who’d travelled all the way from Wales to help out.

‘This Way to Save the Planet’ photo by Jamie Tarlton

It was there in all the passersby who thanked us, and the Oxford Street shop-worker who told me that although it made it harder for him to get to work, he agreed with the action because it was ‘for a good cause’ and that inconvenience was needed. It was there in the stories I heard of kids who no longer needed their asthma inhalers. And it was there in the woman who thanked the campers at Marble Arch: ‘I haven’t heard birdsong here in thirty years. Now I can.’

I laughed very hard many times during XR. And I witnessed many beautiful things. Spontaneous, deep conversations between strangers; dancing on Waterloo Bridge under a huge pink moon.  While there will no doubt be tensions and conflict within such a huge movement, during the week I began to believe that collectively, humans are capable of solving huge problems – if we’re just given the space and power to get on with it.

‘How did they manage all this?’ a couple asked me, taking in the solar panels, trees, stage, singing, musicians, performance, meditation, conviviality. ‘Hive mind’ was my answer. As ‘Being Mortal’ author Atul Gawande says: ‘We’re all so limited as individual human beings, and yet magic happens when we all string together. When that happens, we are almost unlimited.’