For the love of Earth

By Lee Burton

Scientific theories can be approached with skepticism, in fact there isn’t anyone more sceptic than a scientist. The scientific process involves testing against a prediction, practically and mathematically, and siding with whatever the results that arise, even if they’re against individual interest.

When it comes to the causes of climate change the theory here is that mankind is contributing to global rise in temperature through fossil fuel and agricultural industries releasing carbon dioxide and methane gasses. This is a theory that is pretty water tight through the evidence of our existence; without the greenhouse gasses emitted naturally by plants, animals and evaporation then all of the infrared rays radiated from the sun would escape into space making it too cold for life to exist.

On a much smaller scale scientific experiments can replicate the greenhouse gas effect. A common test followed in schools involves two plastic bottles filled with soil, a thermometer in each bottle both next to a light source that is at the same wattage. Filling just one of the bottles with carbon dioxide and then heating both the bottles for 20 minutes at the same distance you’ll find that the bottle with carbon dioxide will be at a slightly higher temperature. We’re currently recreating this experiment on a global scale.

It is not just coincidence that with the industrial revolution in the mid 1800’s that carbon dioxide has risen substantially, and although it is true that carbon dioxide is released naturally through volcanoes and the clashing of tectonic plates, these changes happen over millions of years and not decades.

With the above in mind it is quite hard to contemplate why the term ‘climate change denier’ even exists.

It has been mentioned, often by those in positions of power, that we should be sceptic about the predictions of climate change. The most concerning prediction is that the average global temperature will be 1.5 degrees centigrade by the year 2030, that’s just over 10 years from the time of writing this. If you were skeptical of this the best that can be said is that this is too soon, that could be true, but the most important question to ask with the existing evidence is is it worth the risk? Quite simply no, and the IPCC have been clear; we must drop our carbon emissions by 35% within that 10-year time span.

Even the most irrational among us should support climate change laws and live a life that consists of consuming less red meat and dairy, purchasing of less plastics and cutting down our drive time commutes. The worrying point to make though is that this alone won’t be enough.

Two out of three of the above is much easier said than done. Not eating red meat and dairy should be relatively simple, for the sake of our diet we shouldn’t be eating too much of it anyway; according to the WHO (World Health Organisation) 50g a day of red meat can increase your risk of cancer. The amount of plastics you purchase and your drivetime commutes are mostly determined by your location, e.g. if you live rurally, lack public transport options, have financial difficulties and/or only have a supermarket as a shopping source. Some of these restrictions sound like feeble excuses, but unfortunately private businesses and governments are not providing enough free plastic alternatives and are cutting back on council funds. The predominant problem lies within the economy as it shouldn’t be this hard to fulfill what should be seen as the basics.

Over 40% of our electricity generation is still reliant on fossil fuels and over 40% of all plastic waste is packaging, the banks measure our progress on GDP with all this at our source. In essence, you can buy an electric car but the car is still provided by a power station run on fossil fuels, it’s the source that needs to be replaced.

So, what can we do? As the great David Attenborough has recently said ‘there is still hope’, we’re not yet at 1.5 degrees centigrade. On top of our lifestyle changes we need to be communally active. Get involved in local environmental charities who are everywhere providing plastic-free shops, planting trees, building eco bricks and protesting peacefully against a government muddling through Brexit and living in the short term. Continued pressure from these groups coinciding with changing our commercial habits (as much as we can) will force supermarkets to use recyclable materials and pressure governments to invest money into renewable energy sources. Because if we can’t change our political system, we can at the very least play it at its own game by making environmentalism popular and commercial.

All of this might sound ambitious and/or idealist, but it’s the spark for a much bigger challenge. If you live in the UK you have a privileged opportunity to make a change, most of the world needs to make similar economic upheavals but are not necessarily in the same position to do so. For example, it’s ill advised to protest in the People’s Republic of China, a communist country and the biggest plastic exporter in the world. You wouldn’t protest at all in Saudi Arabia as it is illegal, and they’re one of the biggest oil producers in the world.
It’s also worth noting that putting the United Kingdom in context with the rest of the planet its pollution looks rather tame, so climate change must be looked at as a world-wide problem.

Climate change is not an insurmountable issue yet, it’s a matter of opportunity and influence. The UK might seem small in terms of contributing to pollution, but it also has the commonwealth, Royal Family and trading relationships that have a huge effect on the countries around it. It wouldn’t be so unrealistic that in a country where the industrial revolution began for it to be a leading example with an economic revolution. Community organisations and charities leveraging the advantages of free speech and democracy can sway politicians with green energy investment and maybe even remove the narrow monetary measurements of growth, but it’s imperative that it starts now before it’s too late.

References
https://www.ipcc.ch/sr15/chapter/summary-for-policy-makers/
https://www.who.int/features/qa/cancer-red-meat/en/
https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2018/nov/06/uk-renewable-energy-capacity-surpasses-fossil-fuels-for-first-time
https://www.gov.uk/government/consultations/plastic-packaging-tax

An open letter to Extinction Rebellion by Wretched of the Earth

[Originally published on Red Pepper:
https://www.redpepper.org.uk/an-open-letter-to-extinction-rebellion/ ]

“The fight for climate justice is the fight of our lives, and we need to do it right.” By grassroots collective Wretched of The Earth.

May 3, 2019 · 11 min read

This letter was collaboratively written with dozens of aligned groups. As the weeks of action called by Extinction Rebellion were coming to an end, our groups came together to reflect on the narrative, strategies, tactics and demands of a reinvigorated climate movement in the UK. In this letter we articulate a foundational set of principles and demands that are rooted in justice and which we feel are crucial for the whole movement to consider as we continue constructing a response to the ‘climate emergency’.

Dear Extinction Rebellion,

The emergence of a mass movement like Extinction Rebellion (XR) is an encouraging sign that we have reached a moment of opportunity in which there is both a collective consciousness of the immense danger ahead of us and a collective will to fight it. A critical mass agrees with the open letter launching XR when it states “If we continue on our current path, the future for our species is bleak.”

At the same time, in order to construct a different future, or even to imagine it, we have to understand what this “path” is, and how we arrived at the world as we know it now. “The Truth” of the ecological crisis is that we did not get here by a sequence of small missteps, but were thrust here by powerful forces that drove the distribution of resources of the entire planet and the structure of our societies. The economic structures that dominate us were brought about by colonial projects whose sole purpose is the pursuit of domination and profit. For centuries, racism, sexism and classism have been necessary for this system to be upheld, and have shaped the conditions we find ourselves in.

Another truth is that for many, the bleakness is not something of “the future”. For those of us who are indigenous, working class, black, brown, queer, trans or disabled, the experience of structural violence became part of our birthright. Greta Thunberg calls world leaders to act by reminding them that “Our house is on fire”. For many of us, the house has been on fire for a long time: whenever the tide of ecological violence rises, our communities, especially in the Global South are always first hit. We are the first to face poor air quality, hunger, public health crises, drought, floods and displacement.

XR says that “The science is clear: It is understood we are facing an unprecedented global emergency. We are in a life or death situation of our own making. We must act now.”  You may not realize that when you focus on the science you often look past the fire and us – you look past our histories of struggle, dignity, victory and resilience. And you look past the vast intergenerational knowledge of unity with nature that our peoples have. Indigenous communities remind us that we are not separate from nature, and that protecting the environment is also protecting ourselves. In order to survive, communities in the Global South continue to lead the visioning and building of new worlds free of the violence of capitalism. We must both centre those experiences and recognise those knowledges here.

Our communities have been on fire for a long time and these flames are fanned by our exclusion and silencing. Without incorporating our experiences, any response to this disaster will fail to change the complex ways in which social, economic and political systems shape our lives – offering some an easy pass in life and making others pay the cost. In order to envision a future in which we will all be liberated from the root causes of the climate crisis – capitalism, extractivism, racism, sexism, classism, ableism and other systems of oppression –  the climate movement must reflect the complex realities of everyone’s lives in their narrative.

And this complexity needs to be reflected in the strategies too. Many of us live with the risk of arrest and criminalization. We have to carefully weigh the costs that can be inflicted on us and our communities by a state that is driven to target those who are racialised ahead of those who are white. The strategy of XR, with the primary tactic of being arrested, is a valid one – but it needs to be underlined by an ongoing analysis of privilege as well as the reality of police and state violence. XR participants should be able to use their privilege to risk arrest, whilst at the same time highlighting the racialised nature of policing. Though some of this analysis has started to happen, until it becomes central to XR’s organising it is not sufficient. To address climate change and its roots in inequity and domination, a diversity and plurality of tactics and communities will be needed to co-create the transformative change necessary.

We commend the energy and enthusiasm XR has brought to the environmental movement, and it brings us hope to see so many people willing to take action. But as we have outlined here, we feel there are key aspects of their approach that need to evolve. This letter calls on XR to do more in the spirit of their principles which say they “are working to build a movement that is participatory, decentralised, and inclusive”. We know that XR has already organised various listening exercises, and acknowledged some of the shortcomings in their approach, so we trust XR and its members will welcome our contribution.

As XR draws this period of actions to a close, we hope our letter presents some useful reflections for what can come next. The list of demands that we present below are not meant to be exhaustive, but to offer a starting point that supports the conversations that are urgently needed.

Wretched of the Earth, together with many other groups, hold the following demands as crucial for a climate justice rebellion:

  • Implement a transition, with justice at its core, to reduce UK carbon emissions to zero by 2030 as part of its fair share to keep warming below 1.5°C; this includes halting all fracking projects, free transport solutions and decent housing, regulating and democratising corporations, and restoring ecosystems.
  • Pass a Global Green New Deal to ensure finance and technology for the Global South through international cooperation. Climate justice must include reparations and redistribution; a greener economy in Britain will achieve very little if the government continues to hinder vulnerable countries from doing the same through crippling debt, unfair trade deals, and the export of its own deathly extractive industries. This Green New Deal would also include an end to the arms trade. Wars have been created to serve the interests of corporations – the largest arms deals have delivered oil; whilst the world’s largest militaries are the biggest users of petrol.
  • Hold transnational corporations accountable by creating a system that regulates them and stops them from practicing global destruction. This would include getting rid of many existing trade and investment agreements that enshrine the will of these transnational corporations.
  • Take the planet off the stock market by restructuring the financial sector to make it transparent, democratised, and sustainable while discentivising investment in extractive industries and subsidising renewable energy programmes, ecological justice and regeneration programmes.
  • End the hostile environment of walls and fences, detention centers and prisons that are used against racialised, migrant, and refugee communities. Instead, the UK should acknowledge it’s historic and current responsibilities for driving the displacement of peoples and communities and honour its obligation to them.
  • Guarantee flourishing communities both in the global north and the global south in which everyone has the right to free education, an adequate income whether in or out of work, universal healthcare including support for mental wellbeing, affordable transportation, affordable healthy food, dignified employment and housing, meaningful political participation, a transformative justice system, gender and sexuality freedoms, and, for disabled and older people, to live independently in the community.

The fight for climate justice is the fight of our lives, and we need to do it right. We share this reflection from a place of love and solidarity, by groups and networks working with frontline communities, united in the spirit of building a climate justice movement that does not make the poorest in the rich countries pay the price for tackling the climate crisis, and refuses to sacrifice the people of the global South to protect the citizens of the global North. It is crucial that we remain accountable to our communities, and all those who don’t have access to the centres of power. Without this accountability, the call for climate justice is empty.

The Wretched of the Earth

Argentina Solidarity Campaign

Black Lives Matter UK

BP or not BP

Bolivian Platform on Climate Change

Bristol Rising Tide

Campaign Against the Arms Trade CAAT

Coal Action Network

Concrete Action

Decolonising Environmentalism

Decolonising our minds

Disabled People Against the Cuts

Earth in Brackets

Edge Fund

End Deportations

Ende Gelände

GAIA – Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives

Global Forest Coalition

Green Anticapitalist Front

Gentle Radical

Grow Heathrow/transition Heathrow

Hambach Forest occupation

Healing Justice London

Labour Against Racism and Fascism

Lesbians and Gays Support the Migrants

London campaign against police and state violence

London Feminist Antifa

London Latinxs

Marikana Solidarity Campaign

Mental Health Resistance Network

Migrants Connections festival

Migrants Rights Network

Movimiento Jaguar Despierto

Ni Una Menos UK

Ota Benga Alliance for Peace

Our Future Now

People’s Climate Network

Peoples’ Advocacy Foundation for Justice and

Race on the Agenda (ROTA)

Redress, South Africa

Reclaim the Power

Science for the People

Platform

The Democracy Centre

The Leap

Third World Network

Tripod: Training for Creative Social Action

War on Want

Wretched of The Earth is a grassroots collective for Indigenous, black, brown and diaspora groups and individuals demanding climate justice and acting in solidarity with our communities, both here in the UK and in Global South. 

XR / Critical Mass demonstration in the City of Lancaster

By Lawrence Freiesleben

The Time:  17.30 – or 5.30 p.m. if you prefer old time.

The Date:   Friday 26th April 2019

The Place:  Dalton Square, central point in the City of Lancaster.

The Aim:    To take temporary control of the City’s central one-way system.

At this point the Mass is not yet Critical. So far, all anyone might notice is a few eccentric cyclists and standers-about. For the present, sitting on the bench opposite a slight knot of people, knowing the plan and anxious to eat something long delayed from lunch, it’s inspiring to watch the numbers build.

By 17.45 a swelling crowd occupied much of the area around Queen Victoria’s Memorial and I don’t think that long-reigning monarch would have been amused – either by us or by where Empire inevitably leads.

It was time for me to change from observer to participant. Ditching a warm jacket (excellent North Shields charity purchase from some years back) for the home-sloganized, Extinction Rebellion T-Shirt, I joined the friendly throng and soon spotted a fellow member of the South Lakes XR Group, Liz Boothman.

Two other younger members, Bella Matarewicz and her sister Rosa, soon arrived to increase the enthusiastic assembly. Undaunted by being refused space for their bikes at Oxenholme railway station, they had come to join the equally important walking group, planning to march through the City’s pedestrianised areas. Meanwhile the cyclists would be orbiting the encircling one-way system as slowly as possible.

Organised by members of Morecambe and Lancaster XR groups in conjunction with the cyclist’s rights group Critical Mass, banners placards and signs were handed around – along with safety pins to attach them. After a general welcome, instructions about the routes, and a rousing send-off by Labour M.P. for Fleetwood and Lancaster, Cat Smith we were all ready. A call went out for any cyclists confident about breaking into the traffic to take the lead.

Halting the traffic and setting off, our clamouring company of cyclists were of all ages, from children to pensioners. A dedicated and enterprising boy of about thirteen scooted along and amongst us, zipping left and right to put flyers under the wipers of parked cars. Interested bystanders, and drinkers in wayside pubs, perhaps amused by our ragged procession, were keen to take leaflets, happy to investigate what we were about. What heartened me most about our repeated circumnavigation of the city’s centre was the amount of encouragement and support we received – even from drivers being held up. The fact of climate emergency is obviously getting through to everybody – with now the media joining in: “Climate Protestors are telling us the deadly Truth” ran the Financial Times last month. Only the government is still dragging its feet.

At points on our orbit there were several prolonged horn blasts which were not so friendly. These were soon counter-blasted by children and other riders with whistles and bicycle bells, as well as cyclists carrying those audible music devices on their bike racks . . . Sadly, it turns out (as anyone reading this probably knows) that these are just called ‘portable speakers’. I may be Luddite in my attitude to technology, but I still prefer gadgets to have an imaginative or catchy name.

None of my photos – many taken optimistically over my shoulder whilst cycling, turned out to be quite what I wanted. The images of a cheap camera are a poor substitute for memory and a sense of connection, but they serve well enough as record.

Dating back even to before my involvement with CND in the early 1980’s, I have long had a recurring dream about cloaked protestors on bicycles. The Climate Emergency behind this consciousness-raising demonstration may be just as dark as the threat of Thermonuclear War, but the event itself defied the black sense of despair or inevitability which the dream has always given – its sense of prophetic unease. This Critical Mass/XR event was contrastingly uplifting – and for a while on the southern section of our gyratory, the sun even briefly glimmered.

To Power

By Matt Byrne

In 2015, I was working in Mariupol, Ukraine, setting up office and rolling out a humanitarian response to the ugly, harsh and continuing conflict in the Donbass. Daily our team would trek towards the ‘line of contact’ separating the two warring sides, passing kilometres of WWII style trenches, and heavily fortified checkpoints packed with Ukrainian soldiers, who would go give our vehicles a quick once over before letting us through. Invariably, we found that those still living on the frontline, in their bullet pocked and shell-mangled houses, were the elderly and people with disabilities. Those, who by their own admission, had nowhere else to go, this was their home.  At night, over a beer, we would listen to the shelling less than 15 kilometres away as the two sides delighted in keeping each other up all night. 

In my spare time, my chosen reading material was This Changes Everything by Naomi Klein. As I looked up from the pages of the book, out of my window to the industrial skyline of the city, ringed as it is by steel and chemical works all across the horizon and the port to the Azov Sea to the south, I noted the light film of black soot that covered my window sill if I left it open for the day, the giant chimney stacks perpetually spewing smoke and the soapy film that ran down the middle of the street every time it rained. Needless to say, I didn’t get very far with the book. It was all too much for me, the people of Mariupol were getting a raw deal, short-changed from all sides. I already felt small, adding climate change to the mix, made me feel powerless, useless.

Watching XR take off and command global attention, seeing non-violent civil disobedience do exactly what it is intended to do, is changing that sense of powerlessness inside me. Hearing the flimsy response of the UK authorities that police are being diverted from ‘violent crime’ in order to manage the blockades by the rebels or reading academics who recommend ‘tea fetes’ as a more viable tactic to obtain sympathetic public opinion is a testament to the work of the movement thus far. In these feather-ruffled responses, I hear a call for business as usual. But the courage of the rebels has been heard and noted with the various declarations of a climate emergency in the UK, the Committee on Climate Change’s report for a net zero carbon free UK by 2050 that they are pushing to be signed into law now, and the global surge of protest movements demanding change. These are revolutionary times we live in and it appears that a global wake-up call from the streets has put the heat under the decision makers.   

In 1968, Howard Zinn, wrote ‘this is why civil disobedience is not just to be tolerated; if we are to have a truly democratic society, it is a necessity. By its nature it reflects the intensity of feeling about important issues as well as the extent of the feeling.’ He was writing about those who risked and endured incarceration by objecting to the Vietnam War but his words are as valid today as they were then, if not more so. The CCC pointed to the level of intensity seen in the recent protests as part of its advocacy for cutting carbon emissions to zero starting today.

Recently, I have participated in on UN led sessions monitoring progress towards the 2030 Sustainable development goals. Climate change and the need for action has not been neglected in these discussions. That said, as I observe the member states and participating agencies wrangle over terminology and monitoring indicators, I am struck by how this is also business as usual, very well intentioned business but far from the revolutionary type required given the emergency timeframe we are living in. The urgency is lacking.  So, back we go to Zinn, who concluded; “A new politics of protest, designed to put pressure on our national leaders, more effectively, more threateningly, more forcefully than ever before is needed”. The streets rose up, the urgency appeared.

That said, I also realise to be effective you need to have rebels on the so-called ‘inside’ and ‘outside.’ You need networks of influence that punctuate all levels of the political and justice systems. You need networks that represent the full gamut of those affected by climate change; youth, the global south, diversity, ethnicity, the dispossessed. We also have to mobilise ourselves against emergent threats such as fossil fuel dominated Climate Leadership Council which lobbies for legal immunity from cases taken against them for climate and environmental damages caused by their actions.

Rolling town hall meetings were an instrumental part of the 2016 Bernie Sanders campaign mobilizing the great surge in grass roots support for his candidacy. Coming from Ireland, I have watched in admiration, the great societal leaps spurred through the debates and decisions taken by a national level citizen’s assembly. Public support can be mobilized and maintained through a campaign of holding local level citizens assemblies and XR has chosen its tactics wisely by adopting them.

I may be too much of a dreamer but guerrilla tactics that provide a social service like providing renewable energy to underserved public services (like hospitals or clinics) in marginalized areas can also drive the message home to people that there is a climate emergency and the system is failing us now, not at some unspecified point in the distant future. The clandestine Gap organization in Rome is exactly this, a vigilante group performing ‘illegal’ acts of repair to the cities crumbling infrastructure. Partnership with renewable energy providers, if they were willing to take the risk and it appears that a number of businesses are, could be an interesting mechanism for responding to some of the manifold grievances that are sure to be raised in the citizens assemblies that link climate injustice to social neglect and marginalization.  

The people living in Mariupol, still live with ongoing conflict, landmines, shelling, dispossession, loss of income, loss of family members, restrictions on movement and hostage to an unhealthy, toxic environment. They have innumerable daily challenges to confront but with nowhere else to go it is still their home. This is our home, we have nowhere else to go. We will not be victims, if we stand together, we are strong, a better future awaits.

I am inspired and forever grateful to those that took to the streets globally to demand exactly that.

XR Machynlleth post-London healing debrief session

By Beth Maiden, XR Machynlleth regenerative culture group

Almost everyone I talked to in the wake of April’s rebellion in London described taking part as ‘overwhelming’, even if they had a great time (which most had)! Actions like these are very intense and complex, and it’s hard work for most of us to participate. Hard work physically, emotionally, and spiritually.

Suddenly, for days, a week, two, we are like a tiny pop-up nation, requiring systems for decision-making, communication, care and support, and more. Feelings run high as we co-create community, trying to respond collectively to a fluctuating, unpredictable environment that can change in an instant.

Then, just as suddenly, we are home, coming down from it all. Trying to make sense of what just happened, how it felt, what worked, what didn’t. What was joyful, what was painful. The whole roller-By Beth Maiden, XR Machynlleth regenerative culture groupcoaster of feelings we’ve just ridden.

We’re often so focused on the ‘action’ part of activism that we forget that driving it all is emotion. We act because we feel something. And when we are acting, we keep on feeling – highs, lows, joy, grief, anger, love, hope, elation, and of course the comedown after.

And so we need space to process. Space to share all that comes up for us – the common ground, and the different experiences. Space to celebrate. Space to release grief and pain. Space to gather back in all of the parts of ourselves that are so easily lost in these big overwhelming actions and in the fight of everyday life. Space to be witnessed as whole, imperfect, feeling beings. Space to witness each other.

Regenerative space.


A regenerative culture is one that is committed to creating those spaces, so that we can process and heal and ultimately, stay in the movement and not burn out.

Here in Machynlleth, members our Regen group hosted a healing/debrief session for local folks who had gone down to London.

I’m sharing a simple template of what we did for other groups to use/copy/adapt if wanted:

We weren’t totally sure what the session would be like – we just knew that we wanted to hold space for activists to get together and share process all they had seen and felt and experienced in London and since returning.

We booked a community room in a local church for 3 1/2 hours. We advertised the session as a debrief specifically for folks who had been to London. We encouraged people to bring along food to share, cushions, blankets. We also invited people to bring a small object that represented how they feel or felt about the action, to create a temporary community altar.

We had three of us to hold the space – two who had taken part, and one who had not (to hold the space while and allow for the other two to participate).

  • We had time to grab a cuppa while we arrived and came to sit in a big circle. There were about 20 of us from the local area. We agreed that this was a safe, confidential space.
  • For the first hour we simply went around the group. Each person took a few minutes to introduce themselves, talk about what they did in London, sharing thoughts and feelings while the group listened.
  • Then we ate together. This was really special – some folks hadn’t seen each other since the action, whilst in London everyone had felt very close. It felt really powerful and important for activists to be back together again, revisiting the experience with others who ‘get it’ about what it was like. We also lit candles on the altar.
  • After food, we worked in pairs, taking turns to share and offer active listening. One person would talk for one or two minutes, whilst the other would listen closely, without interrupting or strongly reacting. Using a timer to ensure we all got the same amount of talking/listening time, we asked three questions: How did I feel at the action? How am I feeling now? and What are you hoping for going forward, what seeds have been planted?
  • Then we joined pairs, to make ‘pods’ of four. Again using a timer (five minutes each), each group took turns to talk and listen. This time, the question was ‘What do I need?‘. This might be what I need right now (touch, words, silence…), or what I need more generally – from my community, from XR, from my self – to feel supported and remain a part of this movement.
  • Lastly, we had a closing circle to once again move round the group and share reflections on the action as a whole. Each person took a few minutes to share ideas on what was great about the action and its aftermath, and what could be done better, and we wrote these up on flip-chart paper for future planning.

Feedback after the session was that it was healing, nourishing and really necessary. As it was a dedicated space for people who had shard a very specific experience, people generally felt safe to share a wide range of emotions, they knew others would listen and understand. And whilst not everyone understood the purpose of the session at the beginning, we found that everyone had a lot to say once things opened up! There were tears and a lot of laughs, and the whole thing felt very profound. We intend to host these kinds of sessions after every action, to keep offering space for the regeneration that is so important to the sustainability of XR.

So Much For The Good News

By Bill McGuire

There was actually some good news on the climate breakdown front last week, but don’t break out the champagne just yet. A new study, published in Nature Communications revealed that Arctic melting, as a result of accelerating global heating, will add around US$70 trillion – about five percent – to the climate breakdown bill. And why is this good news? I hear you ask. Well, apparently, the figure was expected to be higher – at around twice this. Of course, this is not good news at all. Just another piece of a jigsaw that, when completed, will disclose a picture of a planet trashed beyond redemption and a civilisation on its knees.

The new study makes a fist of estimating the cost of the global consequences of changes that occur across the Arctic region, even supposing that nations stick to their Paris Climate Agreement pledges, and it makes for depressing reading. The bill is the equivalent of almost a year’s global GDP, but the economic burden will not be borne by all countries equally. The poorer nations – especially across Africa and in South Asia – will take a far greater hit, driving increasing hardship and raising global inequality.

Harsh though they are, be in no doubt that the research findings massively underestimate the true cost of the impact of global heating at high northern latitudes. This is because the study only takes account of two factors: (1) the release of greenhouses gases as a consequence of thawing land permafrost, and (2) the absorption of more of the sun’s heat as white ice is replaced by dark land and sea. It does not consider a clutch of other critical feedback mechanisms, each of which presents a colossal threat in its own right; notably the release of methane due to thawing submarine permafrost, modifications to the Gulf Stream and associated currents caused by the melting of the Greenland Ice Sheet, and changes in the ability of the great Boreal forests of Canada and Eurasia to continue to suck up carbon.

Furthermore, I suspect that even the authors of the new study, would agree that the final figure would need to be taken with a very large pinch of salt. As far as I am concerned, at least, lumping together models of climate feedback mechanisms that are poorly constrained with economic models that often bear little relationship to the real world (how many predicted the 2008 crash?), results in numbers worth about as much as ones picked randomly out of a hat.

In all honesty, the only thing the study actually tells us is that the impact of global heating on the Arctic will be catastrophic and extremely costly – but we know that already. Arriving at a figure that seeks to monetise a small part of the threat is meaningless and does nothing to help anyone. So, take the results on board, always bearing in mind that the true picture is far worse. Draw strength from this and keep the pressure on the decision makers to take action to tackle the climate emergency. Not next year, or a decade down the line, but now – today!

Bill McGuire is Professor Emeritus of Geophysical & Climate Hazards at UCL and author of Waking the Giant: How a Changing Climate Triggers Earthquakes, Tsunamis and Volcanic Eruptions. He was a contributor to the IPCC 2012 report on Climate Change & Extreme Events and Disasters.

Speech from XR Berlin die-in,

By John Ames
47 years ago, in 1972, an incredibly influential report was released by the group of scientists and professionals known as the Club of Rome. Working with MIT, they commissioned a group of modellers and systems analysts to describe the global system as deeply as possible. Together they built ​ World3​, and showed clear evidence of how the combinations of population growth and resource use would strain our planet. The natural end result would be huge ecological damage limiting the earth’s ability to support life – both animal and human.


It caused serious alarm, and many promises were made by the world. The obvious catastrophe laid out in the book was the foolishness of expecting infinite growth on a finite planet. We were warned to change our economic goals, and soon, to prevent environmental (and societal) collapse. Their projections suggested rising material wealth until the first quarter of the 21st century, after which the damage to the environment would become so severe as to severely impact our way of life. Their projections have been shown to be highly accurate. They did not need to know exactly what technologies would be invented to show roughly how capital and human numbers would expand, and the damage that would inevitably cause.

Around this time, Big Oil started two campaigns. One was to study the science of climate change, with internal communications and published journals showing they knew full well the dangers of huge greenhouse gas emissions. The second was to try to cast doubt on the science, and convince the public that it was not a real issue. Unfortunately, they were largely successful.
20 years later, and 27 year years ago, in 1992, the world’s leaders met for the Earth Summit in Brazil, and signed the Rio Convention. 190 coun​tries agreed to reduce their emissions and treat climate change with the seriousness it required. They agreed on the ​ precautionary principle​ , a principle stating that when some science is still needed to prove something beyond a doubt, but there was clear evidence of risk, the cautious option would always be chosen. This principle is invoked for keeping GMOs out of Europe, for instance. The economic (and political) sacrifices from cutting emissions proved to be too much for most countries though, and the following Kyoto protocol has fallen victim to the moral hazard of “whoever cuts first, loses; whoever cuts last, wins”, prompting foot dragging and withdrawals from many countries..

In 2004, they published an updated Limits to Growth… the 30 year update. World3 was further
refined, the previous projections compared to the observed trends, demonstrating clearly the general accuracy of their thesis. They highlighted possible future scenarios where we started strong emission cuts at different time points and severity. Starting directly and strongly at 2004 would have led to the best future scenario. For every year we waited, the future we were giving to our children, grandchildren, fellow citizens and nature itself became ever darker.

They emphasised that we must begin immediately. We still did not.

In 2015, world leaders met again, and following lengthy discussions and concessions, the Paris
Agreement was undersigned by 195 countries. The limits originally decided have since been clearly shown to be wholly inadequate for keeping warming below 2 degrees, even if they are faithfully implemented. So far, they have not been.

Four years later, we are still planning policy that goes in the wrong direction. New runways, coal
power stations and other counterproductive things. And now the UN and IPCC are both screaming warnings as loud as they can. That is why we are now rebelling. Finally.
There is no doubt in the science. There is no doubt in our broad understanding of the systems and mechanisms. The only surprise for scientists is how much quicker it is now progressing. We are seeing feedback loops we had never expected – As the global system gets worse, a result of that damage is to then speed up the future rate of damage. Therefore we are not seeing linear growth in temperature with rising CO2 concentrations, we are seeing an increasing rate of temperature rise and system damage.

Many systems have ​ tipping points in them, points where we lose control of the problem after a
certain point. After we cut down enough rainforest, the microclimate to sustain such forests will not exist any more, and we will turn our planet’s lungs into savannah. After we heat up the tundra enough, we will release huge quantities of methane, a gas around 50 times better at trapping the sun’s energy than CO2, causing even faster warming. These events would seriously undermine our chances of a happy ending.

What is the solution from those in power? They nibble at the edges of the problem. Rearranging the tablecloth and silverware while our house is on fire. Rearranging the deckchairs while the iceberg slowly emerges from the darkness.

These are not bad people. There are greedy people changing the dialogue for their short-term
survival. There are stupid people who believe the free market signals and human ingenuity can fix all problems, including super wicked ones like climate change. There are people who silenced their doubts and concerns with the reassuring lies and misinformation of vested interests. But there are no bad people.

The fact remains. The 10th biggest polluter in Germany is Ryanair, and air travel industry expands 6-8% globally per year. The rainforest in Brazil is being cut down at an alarming rate again. 95% of the things we buy are no longer in use 6 months after we buy them. GDP growth is still the greatest and only goal for every government in power.

Realistically, their behaviour is rational. Fighting against this will require sacrifices. We must consume less, and submit to less convenience. No politician wants to give that news to their voters. They only want to maximise the current “happiness”, ie GDP growth, now, and ignore anything that will happen beyond the next election. This “short termism” saps political will for meaningful change, and we have listened to their “beautiful words” for too long. How can we expect them to commit radical solutions without our clear support and understanding?

The Fridays for Future movement was originally written off as “Young and naive”. The media and politicians helpfully informed us that they don’t understand how the world really works. Alternatively, perhaps it is we that are “old and cynical”; we that lack vision and imagination, we that are not willing to fight for the world we and our children deserve. Seeing they needed support, scientists founded their own group, ScientistsforFuture, to show that there is no more doubt in academia. And also, supporting the same movement, is Extinction Rebellion; a group of concerned citizens, hoping we can follow in Mahatma Gandhi or Nelson Mandela’s footsteps. We believe we can finally force the issue with non-violent and creative demonstrations, using peaceful disobedience as our best weapon.

We need to acknowledge the global state of emergency for what it is. How many more “hottest
summer since records began”s do you need to be convinced? This is bigger than normal politics. This is not a matter of supporting left or right, the only important direction is forwards.
Only through working together with all the countries of the world do we have a chance. We cannot wait for other people to do this for us anymore, it is time we took control. We need the courage to really try to change our direction, with bold new economic organisation. We need the courage to be the global leaders in this, and to lead by example. And we need to rebel until our governments make that happen.

I will leave you with a slightly adapted speech from a timeless movie…
“We know things are bad – worse than bad. They’re crazy. It’s like everything everywhere is
going crazy, so we don’t go out any more. We sit in the house, and slowly the world we are
living in is getting smaller, and all we say is: ‘Please, at least leave us alone in our living
rooms. Let me have my Netflix and my steak and my cheap Ryanair flights and I won’t say
anything. Just leave us alone.’ Well, I’m not going to leave you alone. I want you to get MAD! You’ve got to say: ‘I’m a human being, god-dammit! My life has value!” (From “​Network”, 1976).