VICE: What Radical Climate Protesters XR Are Planning Next

(From https://www.vice.com/en_uk/article/43zbyp/what-radical-climate-protesters-xr-are-planning-next)

We went to the radical climate group’s offices to hear their plans for civil disobedience.

A coffin inside XR’s temporary headquarters. Photos: Jake Lewis

On Tuesday, as temperatures in London spiked at 21.2C – the warmest winter day on record – Extinction Rebellion (XR) gathered national media to lay out their next steps.

At the climate activism group’s temporary headquarters near Euston railway station, members spoke to the audience as brilliant February sunshine poured through the windows, as if to serve as a troubling reminder of why radical action is necessary. In XR’s case, that means mass civil disobedience as a way to force the government into actually doing something about our rapidly degrading environment – and if that ends in them being arrested, so be it.

XR co-founder Gail Bradbrook was fresh from an appearance at Westminster Magistrates Court. She and five others had been charged with criminal damage – Bradbrook allegedly spray-painted “frack off” on a government building – and all had pleaded not guilty. It had been an emotional day, not least because the judge was, coincidentally, sending them for trial on the 16th of April, a day after XR begin their full-scale international rebellion with coordinated actions on the 15th.

gail bradbrook extinction rebellion

Gail Bradbrook

At times, Bradbrook appeared upset as she delivered an abridged version of XR’s frank and profound talk on the appalling state of the climate. We heard how when it comes to damage control, all we have done to date is “rearrange the deck chairs on the Titanic”, and were repeatedly reminded of how “fucked” we all are. But Bradbrook offered nuggets of optimism too, and issued a call to arms to help restore our world.

Hope at XR comes in the form of action. “We can’t just leave it to the COP, we can’t just leave it to the Climate Change Committee’s review of the UK’s long-term target to sort it out,” insisted Farhana Yamin, a climate change lawyer and XR activist. “Because the entire system is out of kilter, out of touch, and it is certainly not working fast enough.”

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Farhana Yamin

XR is planning a relentless campaign of disruptive yet peaceful civil disobedience ahead of the dawn of the sustained rebellion in April, when it is expected that tens of thousands of people will shut down London indefinitely, until the government takes meaningful action over what XR call the “environment emergency”. Multiple actions over the coming weeks will serve as a means to “normalise” mass uprisings, but are also designed to educate and entertain. Some, however, will perhaps trigger shock and even alarm.

A torrent of symbolic, artificial blood will flood Downing Street to create “a sea of red” on the 9th of March, when hundreds of XR members say they are prepared to be arrested as part of The Blood of our Children protest. The idea is to make the gravity of the climate crisis viscerally clear.

extinction rebellion

Banners in the temporary XR headquarters

“There will be parents and children, as well as people taking on arrestable roles, like me, who want to make a point about intergenerational injustice,” said Paolo, an XR member. “The idea is to find that sweet spot where the police are obliged to arrest you, but it’s totally non-violent and peaceful. The people who’ve committed criminal damage will sit on the ground and wait to be arrested.”

Young people who have “inherited” the climate crisis are also mobilising among themselves. An XR youth faction was formed just days ago and now has eight members. Robin is 24 and a founding member of XR Youth. He joked that it’s his mum’s 60th birthday soon and that he might not be around for it if he’s arrested.

“We want to represent the youth voice,” he told me outside XR HQ, where he was about to lead a non-violent direct action training session for a group of young people. “If you were born in 1990 or later, you’ve never experienced a normal climate, so we’ve set that as our age range. We are the generation of fucked up climate, and we are the generation that’s going to take it forward.”

extinction rebellion

The temporary XR headquarters

Training people in peaceful rebellion is key to XR’s mission. Workshops are held most days of the week in local groups across the country, but next month will see the movement stage “mass rebellion training for thousands, with a festival atmosphere” at its Spring Uprising in Bristol.

More than a dozen music acts are confirmed, and there will be an art factory, a regenerative sanctuary and solution-focused talks. Alongside the training, this party element of the weekend event is key, said XR member and festival organiser Tiana Jacout, who was introduced to me as the “brains behind the bridges occupation”, i.e. the action in November of 2018 when thousands of XR members blockaded five bridges in central London.

extinction rebellion environment

The temporary XR headquarters

But perhaps the most effective way to seize people’s attention is by going after the very thing that is consuming the nation: Brexit. Although XR does not take a view on leaving the European Union, it is gathering hundreds of people to block the motorway out of Dover as part of its No Brexit on a Dead Planet event on the 30th of March. The action is designed to demonstrate that we could be looking at rioting on the streets if food supplies collapse, not because of Brexit, but climate change.

“It’s phenomenal that while your house is on fire, all the government can do is squabble about getting a slightly shittier trade deal with their closest allies,” said Jacout. “People are squabbling over how food will get to England and not looking at the larger picture of whether there is food available to come to here in the first place.”

Climate Refugees – How does it Feel to Flee Your Home Country?

By Kate Goldstone

There’s a lot of cruel nonsense talked about refugees. Some people think refugees only leave their home countries because of greed, because they’re simply economic migrants, because they want to tap into another country’s social security system or take other people’s jobs. But when you put yourself in their shoes, life as a refugee looks very different.

Maybe you escaped from war or rape, murder, starvation, dictatorship, terrorism, or violence. Maybe you’re making a life-or-death journey to give your children a better life. And just maybe you’ve had to flee your home country because of climate change. It’s happening.

OK, so climate change refugees are, so far, quite rare. But as the climate steadily warms and already-hot regions around the equator become too hot to support human life, we’re likely to see climate change refugees from all over the planet relocating to survive. How much sympathy will you feel for them? How welcome will you make them? It all depends how deeply you can imagine yourself in their shoes, how much you can empathise.

How it feels to leave your home country

You might not realise it until you leave, but everything about the place you were born and brought up is dear and familiar. Away from home you slowly realise that everything – absolutely every aspect – of the place you’ve moved to is baffling and strange. Not just the language, not just the way things are done. The food in the shops is puzzling and unfamiliar. The currency, the laws, the rules and regulations, the people, the clothing, the road signs, the cars, the sense of humour, nothing really makes sense any more. Even the air, the smells, the light, the way the evenings fall and the days begin, are different. You don’t even feel like you belong in your own skin any more.

You say the wrong things, in the wrong way, to the wrong people. You keep getting cultural stuff wrong, missing the mark, never feeling quite at home, or quite comfortable, or like you belong. You have no friends, no family, no support network. And, often, there’s nobody to help from a human perspective, from an emotional view point. Just cold-faced officials herding you through the system like cattle.

How would you feel if climate change forced you to leave your home, the things you love, everything you recognise and feel safe with? Can you imagine how distressing, terrifying and unsettling it’d feel? Would you be able to sleep at night? Would you wake every morning with feelings of sadness, of despair, of desperate loss?

Do you think it’s fair to lump your fellow humans into one big, unhappy, suffering category, simply anonymous members of a ‘refugee crisis’? This is how refugees are often treated whatever their origin, age, race or gender. Even though many governments and politicians are hell-bent on dehumanising them, refugees are exactly like you and me.

How many climate change refugees can we expect to see?

What’s the climate change-led refugee crisis looking like so far? Take Bangladesh. Most of Bangladesh lies just above sea level. The rainy season sees as much as a fifth of the entire nation flooded, and it’s only going to get worse as sea levels rise. According to National Geographic,Interviews with dozens of migrant families, scientists, urban planners, human rights advocates, and government officials across Bangladesh reveal that while the country is keenly aware of its vulnerability to climate change, not enough has been done to match the pace and scale of the resultant displacement and urbanization, toppling any prospect of a humane life for one of the world’s largest populations of climate migrants.

As Refugees International says, “In 2018, a UN scientific panel released a major report warning that – absent immediate and ambitious action – climate change will have severe and irreversible impacts. This is especially true for the world’s poorest and most vulnerable people. Among the report’s key findings are that higher temperatures, more extreme weather, rising sea levels, and other effects of climate change will contribute to human displacement, migration, and conflict worldwide.

At the same time the United Nations Refugee Agency says, “The Earth’s climate is changing at a rate that has exceeded most scientific forecasts. Some families and communities have already started to suffer from disasters and the consequences of climate change, forced to leave their homes in search of a new beginning. For UNHCR, the consequences of climate change are enormous. Scarce natural resources such as drinking water are likely to become even more limited. Many crops and some livestock are unlikely to survive in certain locations if conditions become too hot and dry, or too cold and wet. Food security, already a concern, will become even more challenging.”

The World Economic Forum also expresses concern, saying, “A new study in Science finds that as crops fail in agricultural regions of the world, more people will seek asylum in Europe in the coming decades. If the current warming trends were to continue, the research predicts that by 2100 Europe will receive around 660,000 extra applicants each year.

Whatever the number of displaced people turns out to be, whichever regions of the world they escape from and flee to, there are eventually going to be millions of us leaving climate change-affected countries to find safer, better lives. You might be one of them. If you’re flooded out of your home, it’s impossible to grow food on your land any more, or climate change related violence is threatening your family, you might have to leave.

Would you expect compassion from your new country?

If it happens to you, you’ll expect your new country to treat you with kindness and respect. You’ll want the people to be welcoming, and the officials to help you settle down quickly. You’ll expect the right facilities and support at every stage. And you’ll be even more distressed, lost, and frightened if it didn’t happen.

A refugee isn’t a problem or an issue to solve. A refugee is a fellow human being in need. Far too many governments around the world already dehumanise refugees, painting them as a big problem, people we should be suspicious of, people we should protect ourselves against. And that’s not human. It’s a disgrace.

 

 

We Have the Facts, We Will Have Climate Justice

In a world where governments care more about money than the environment, it has been left to the people to decide which shade of green we want for our planet! With an estimated 18 billion pounds of plastic waste entering the world oceans from coastal regions annually and Donald Trump looking to re-open coal mines in the USA, it is now down to the people to make the change. But we need the support of the government, we need them to wake up and take responsibility and write legally binding agreements to cap the global temperature rise by less than the tipping point! 2 degrees is not good enough, because at 2 degrees mountain glaciers and rivers will start to disappear, 10% of the world’s population will be displaced due to sea level rise and A THIRD OF ALL LIFE ON EARTH WILL FACE EXTINCTION! As a population we need to band together to pressure the officials to enforce a mandatory cap in temperature rise at 1.5 degrees above pre-industrial levels and become carbon neutral by 2030! Because by the time we reach 2050 it will be too late.

In 2014, just 5 countries accounted for 70% of global CO2 emissions, including: China, the United States, the European Union, the Russian Federation and Japan. This sparked the launch of the “land mark agreement” to combat climate change in 2015 – COP 21, The Paris agreement, which THE USA HAS NOW PULLED OUT OF! China is so far the only country to make a major difference, announcing plans to invest over $3 Billion in renewable energy! Whist the EU’s aim is to become carbon neutral by 2050 and cut energy use by 20% below business-as-usual projections by 2020. This is NOT good enough! We are the 3rd largest contributor to CO2 emissions globally and our member states are among the wealthiest countries in the world. With these stats, there is NO EXCUSE for not making more of an effort to become carbon neutral! Because of our governments idleness we are now on track for a global temperature rise of 2.7 degrees C, 0.7 above the tipping point.

Despite all these statistics, there has still been no legally binding agreement to combat climate change since 2009! And there are still countries refusing the latest agreement (Katowice 2018), including the USA, Russia and Saudi Arabia. Knowing this, how can we rely on governments who are not willing to make a sacrifice to save the planet? If the temperature continues to rise there will be no trade, there will be displacement of people and there will be extinction!

We have the facts. We have the power. We will have Climate Justice.

Works Cited

Howard , B. C., Gibbens , S., Zachos, E. & Parker, L., 2019. A running list of action on plastic pollution. [Online]
Available at: https://www.nationalgeographic.com/environment/2018/07/ocean-plastic-pollution-solutions/
[Accessed 19th February 2019].

news, s., 2018. What Will Happen As The World Gets Warmer?. [Online]
Available at: https://news.sky.com/story/what-will-happen-as-the-world-gets-warmer-10336299
[Accessed 19th February 2019].

United states enviromental protection agency, n.d. Global Greenhouse Gas Emissions Data. [Online]
Available at: https://www.epa.gov/ghgemissions/global-greenhouse-gas-emissions-data
[Accessed 19th February 2019].

 

 

 

 

THE METHANE BOMB

It was probably more hope than expectation, but in the early years of the 21st century, it looked as if atmospheric concentrations of the hyper-greenhouse gas, methane had pretty much stabilised. This was good news as the gas has the capability of sending planetary heating into overdrive. In the short term – say a decade or two – methane is capable of warming the planet up to 86 times more rapidly than carbon dioxide. The gas doesn’t hang around in the atmosphere for much more than ten years or so, but then it breaks down into carbon dioxide and water – both greenhouses – which means that its warming influence continues. Even after 100 years, in fact, the global warming potential of the gas is still more than 30 times that of carbon dioxide.

 

Now, both the hope and expectation seem short-sighted as new research reveals that methane levels in the atmosphere are on the rise again. A new open access paper published by the American Geophysical Union (1) provides evidence for atmospheric methane levels starting to climb once more in 2007 and accelerate significantly for the period 2014 – 17. Such a hike is unexpected and was not factored into the calculations that came up with the emissions reductions framework for the Paris Climate Agreement. Consequently, the probability that global average temperatures will rise far above the 2°C dangerous climate change guard rail is now even greater.

 

A big concern is that it is not clear where the methane is coming from. There seems to have been an especially significant increase in the gas across the tropics and sub-tropics and at northern mid-latitudes, and more intensive farming and the warming of methane-hosting swamps and bogs have been fingered as possible culprits. Far more worrying is the possibility that chemical changes in the atmosphere, as it warms, might make it more difficult to break down methane. If true, this would be very bad news indeed, because it would mean that this extremely potent greenhouse gas would hang around for longer, thereby significantly increasing its global warming potential.

 

And there could be plenty more methane to come. Trapped beneath the vast tracts of permafrost at high latitudes are colossal quantities of the gas. The geographic region of most concern is probably the submarine permafrost that floors the East Siberian Continental Shelf, where an estimated 1400 billion tonnes of carbon, in the form of methane, is lurking beneath a frozen carapace that is thawing rapidly. According to one research team as much as 50 billion tonnes of this is available for sudden release at any time, which would – at a stroke – hike the methane content of the atmosphere 12 times. A discrete methane ‘burp’ on this scale could, it has been estimated, advance global warming by 30 years and cost the global economy USD60 trillion – a figure close to four times the US national debt. The occurrence of such an outburst is far from certain and there are other issues to consider, including how much methane is absorbed by the ocean as it bubbles upwards. Nonetheless, this cataclysmic scenario provides yet another reason – if more were needed – why we must slash our own emissions to zero as soon as we can.

 

(1) Very strong atmospheric methane growth in the four years 2014‐2017: Implications for the Paris Agreement

https://agupubs.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1029/2018GB006009

 

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.

 

 

Stop the clocks, planetary version

Stop all the clocks, put away your mobile phone

Take a good look at your loved ones

Silence the noise and think for a moment

Take heed of the fact, this world is done.

 

Note the aeroplanes with jetplumes,

Tracing white lines in a bright sky

The stars and the planets whose beauty belies

The fact our home will soon be gone.

 

It is our north, south, our east and west,

Our place of birth, our place of rest,

Your source of all eternity, and so much beauty

We thought the world would last forever: we were wrong.

 

The planet will not last long now, with what we’ve done

Behold the sun, the moon the stars,

We’ve poisoned the ocean and burned up the woods

And seize what chance to try to save what’s good.

IS IT ALREADY TOO LATE?

Despite the fact that ITV once broadcast a fly-on-the-wall documentary about me called Disasterman, I have always had a fairly positive outlook. Staying optimistic in light of the environmental bombshells published this week, however, is not easy. At times like this it is difficult not to wonder if, whatever action we take, we may already be doomed.

The first bombshell exploded at the weekend, when the results of a major new study (1) revealed that the global population of insects of all types was plunging by 2.5 percent a year. Should this rate of decline continue – and there is good reason to think it could even accelerate – then a quarter of all insects alive today will be gone in a decade. Before 2070, half will have vanished and none will survive to the end of the century. It is impossible to play down the scale of this blossoming catastrophe. Without insects we will starve. Full stop! This would be as near as it gets to an extinction event for the human race, and not one that happens in the dim and distant future, but one that will increasingly impact on our children and their children. As ever, this should not really come as a surprise. We know the cause – a conspiracy of climate change and industrial-scale intensive agriculture. The solutions too, are clear; a complete rethink of our diet, how we grow our food and how we manage our world – for the good of all life, not just our own.

On Tuesday, hard on the heels of the insectageddon bombshell came another, this one in the form of a new report by the UK’s Institute for Public Policy Research (2). This flagged up how the accelerating impacts of climate change and other environmental problems, threatens a collapse of the world’s social and economic systems. Once again, this is hardly news to those of us who have eyes and use them, but the report draws attention to a number of key points; not least the fact that mainstream political and policy debates utterly fail to recognise the problem. It is off the radar and kept there by Brexit, trade wars and comparable issues that pale into insignificance against climate breakdown and environmental degradation. Not only can most policy makers not see the elephant in the room, they are not even in the room.

These two reports are simply the latest in a near continuous torrent of bad news that acts to sap the will. In the face of this mind-numbing deluge, it would be all too easy to throw in the towel; to turn our backs on the environmental crisis that threatens our survival; to plead that it’s just too hard to tackle. But we can’t afford to do this. It is too late now to prevent dangerous, all-pervasive, climate change that will affect every one of us and make the lives of our children and theirs a real struggle. It is going to be tough anyway – that’s now a certainty – but the longer we delay and the slower we are to take serious action, the worse it will be. This is why Extinction Rebellion is calling for a net zero carbon world by 2025. However bad the news gets, this is still something worth fighting for. What choice do we have?

(1) Worldwide decline of entomofauna: a review of its drivers

https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0006320718313636

(2) This is a crisis: facing up to the age of environmental breakdown

https://www.ippr.org/research/publications/age-of-environmental-breakdown

 

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.

Rainbow Grey

Snow blind?

No, snow kind

snow softs

wafts gentle in overnight

transforms my world –

no, not with white

(too stark, too bright)

 

the landscape’s stilled by

innumerable flakes of small

an infinite, invisible fall

away from noise

from angry reds,

grassroot greens and rusty blues –

all turn to grey and yet retain

a trace of all these hues

 

my vision IS for system change

but how?

today it takes an awestruck bow

to nature

wonders if we could witness a gentle miracle –

immense but no less radical

can I relinquish all the safety of my past belief

allow snow melt to wipe out grief

and find a vision grey drawn from this sky

which blankets all the bleak of ‘’will we live or die’?

to find the colour in the snow

leave space for many miracles to land

in that expanse which lives in ‘I don’t know’

 

it may be a fairy tale at best

but grief responds to this immediate request

and effects an inner system change

gruesome future stories rearrange

themselves and drop into a humble silence

which allows for being at peace

as the metaphor of many flecks of grey

prompts release

of the thought that many tiny unseen actions hold the power to change the view

for some cold feathered one – for me or you:

 

receive this muff of grey which wraps itself around the sun

embracing system change which dignifies and includes every one.