A view from the Rhondda Valley

What is the difference between an environmentalist and an earth destroyer. I believe (I suspect all environmentalists believe this too) that we are not just a part of the natural world. We are the natural world. I think at times it’s as if we want to cut an umbilical cord to Earth and stand on our own feet. Full of pride we turn on her and try to destroy her. We in the environmental movement intrinsically know this. When we see our planet harmed it harms us too and we feel the pain. I have always felt this way.

I remember when I was a child of about five being fascinated by a picture of our Earth on a cover of a book, Earth was depicted with a human face. Continents were arranged to look like features. There was smoke stacks and aeroplanes flying. Ships sailing her seas. The Earth was smiling.  I have always felt deep inside me that Earth is a living organism and we are her Children. I’ve always felt protected by Earth. Even when we go through the darkest of times she gives. She protects and feeds every living creature on the planet. The sun is her heart.

A preconditioned notion of how living organisms should look and feel like blind us to the most incredible organism in our solar system. Maybe in our Galaxy. Our living breathing planet. We are not the most superior beings on Earth. We are beyond doubt the most destructive. I didn’t have to look at a cover of a book to feel this connection. It runs too deep in all of us.

I believe we can avert climate breakdown. Now I do thanks to Extinction Rebellion and Greta Thunberg. Before XR I think inside I was giving up. Been too hard and long watching our planet destroyed. Too many petitions. Too many marches. All to no avail. Too much greed. I watched us become addicted to consumerism as we started shovelling food into the giant’s mouth. Earth has protected me all my life and when I die I will be with her again in her streams and trees.

I also believe the very best human traits come to the surface when we are at one with Earth. She speaks to us through music and poetry. Our songs are the birds and our symphonies are the oceans and the wind. These are Earths words and songs. We are conduits. Our planet speaking through us, she helps us transcend base emotions.

Billionaires spend hundreds of millions on Art that depict a beautiful natural scene and these same people hungrily destroy all the beauty in the World. We are a species that was born from Earth. The connection we have can only be pure if we live in harmony. If we don’t live the way we are supposed to live then we kill Earth, ourselves and all life. I think if we are to survive we will of at last learned to live in harmony and a new dawn will rise. We will have grown up and come home.

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Respite Experience

I’ve just had my first experience of offering respite relief to someone who has been working really hard towards making XR work. I originally offered to host someone because I love where I live and it has been very healing for me living here. I also have spare space at the moment, so it makes sense to use it for something positive rather than leaving it empty.
I was afraid that a stranger coming, even someone from XR, might be difficult, so I started by being very clear about what was being offered. The offer was for self catering accommodation with a wood burner, gas cooker, mattress (but not necessarily bedding because we’re off grid except for mains water and we’re short of electricity at the moment) and some fresh vegetables (we have a market garden so it was easy to add an extra veg box to the list) and a few other basic food items. We have had a lot of Workawayers and WWOOFers over the years, so we realise how important it is to be clear at the outset what you are willing to offer and not to offer too much. The key thing for us was to emphasize that we would not be cooking for the guest and we would not necessarily be around for socializing – this was important to us as we tend to have a lot of people around and we need our space. Also, there was no expectation of them needing to do anything other than stay in the accommodation and rest.
What actually happened was that our guest was really thoughtful and interesting and I ended up spending a few hours working with her on the first day and talking A LOT, and then we invited her to eat with us each evening because she was so awesome! It was so much more rewarding than I expected and feels like we have made a new friend.

IT’S CHRYSALIS TIME

Lee Camp crystalized the nature of our predicament with one tweet:

“If you don’t like change, — You’re going to hate extinction!”

We are now in a phase of extreme pressure to evolve into a radically different society. If this were the lifecycle of a butterfly, we must now enter the chrysalis. This will only seem impossible to those who have not grasped the severity of our crisis. Failure amounts to an act of collective suicide. There is no guarantee of success, so everyone needs to engage. Evolve or die. #extinctionrebellion

Extinction Rebellion isn’t about the Climate

Go to the profile of Stuart Basden

 

Yes, yes, I know. The climate is breaking down. It’s urgent. An emergency. We’ve only got a few years left to ‘fix’ it.

Indeed, we won’t fix it. Weather patterns will become increasingly unstable and unpredictable, and the effects it will soon have on how humans around the world grow food will be devastating, likely causing harvests to fail across entire continents and food prices to sky-rocket. Millions have already suffered due to the amplified instability. We’re facing imminent societal collapse (whatever that means), both around the world and in the UK. All of our lives are soon going to radically change.

None of this is particularly controversial. When a bus is driving with a certain momentum towards a person, it gets clearer and clearer that it will hit the person. After a certain point, it’s inevitable. And that’s where we stand now, with regards to the momentum of climatic change. The bus is about to hit us. Our lives are about to change. It’s not clear whether or not we’ll survive (as a species). Many species have already been run over. Two hundred species each and every day go extinct.

I’ve been with Extinction Rebellion (XR) from the start. I was one of the 15 people in April 2018 who came together and made the collective decision to try to create the conditions that would initiate a rebellion. I was a coordinator of one of the original five working groups, and I’ve been organising with XR day-and-night since then (frugally living off my savings so I don’t have to work, having quit an industry that paid me £1000/week). And I’ve been in RisingUp (the organisation from which XR has emerged) since the first RisingUp action in November 2016. I’m a RisingUp Holding Group member, and a member of the XR Guardianship Team.

And for the sake of transparency: that previous paragraph is all about me ‘pulling rank’ — I’m trying to convince you to listen to what I have to say…

And I’m here to say that XR isn’t about the climate. You see, the climate’s breakdown is a symptom of a toxic system of that has infected the ways we relate to each other as humans and to all life. This was exacerbated when European ‘civilisation’ was spread around the globe through cruelty and violence (especially) over the last 600 years of colonialism, although the roots of the infections go much further back.

As Europeans spread their toxicity around the world, they brought torture, genocide, carnage and suffering to the ends of the earth. Their cultural myths justified the horrors, such as the idea that indigenous people were animals (not humans), and therefore God had given us dominion over them. This was used to justify a multi-continent-wide genocide of tens of millions of people. The coming of the scientific era saw this intensify, as the world around us was increasingly seen as ‘dead’ matter — just sitting there waiting for us to exploit it and use it up. We’re now using it up faster than ever.

Euro-Americans violently imposed and taught dangerous delusions that they used to justify the exploitation and reinforced our dominance, while silencing worldviews that differed or challenged them. The UK’s hand in this was enormous, as can be seen by the size of the former British empire, and the dominance of the English language around the world. There is stark evidence that everyday racial bias continues in Britain, now, today. It’s worth naming some of these constructed delusions that have been coded into societies and institutions around the world:

  • The delusion of white-supremacy centres whiteness and the experience of white people, constructing and perpetuating the myth that white people and their lives are somehow inherently better and more valuable than people of colour.
  • The delusion of patriarchy centres the male experience, and excludes/hinders female assigned people from public life (reducing them to a possession or object for ownership or consumption). Patriarchy teaches dominating and competitive behaviours, and emphasises the idea that the world is a place of scarcity, separation and powerlessness.
  • The delusions of Eurocentrism include the notion that Europeans know what is best for the world.
  • The delusions of hetero-sexism/heteronormativity propagate the idea that heterosexuality is ‘normal’ and that other expressions of sexuality are deviant.
  • The delusions of class hierarchy uphold the theory that the rich elite are better/smarter/nobler than the rest of us, and make therefore better decisions.

There are other delusions. These delusions have become ingrained in all of us, taught to us from a very young age.

None of these delusions have ended, although some of the arguments that supported them (e.g. phrenology) have been dispelled. They continue to play out through each of us, in our ways of relating, regardless of our identity. The current pride in the history of the British empire, or the idea that the USA is on the side of ‘good’, continues to enable neo-colonialism in 2019, taking the form of palm-oil plantations, resources wars, and the parasitical financial sector, to name but a few. The task of Extinction Rebellion is to dispel these delusions. We need to cure the causes of the infection, not just alleviate the symptoms. To focus on the climate’s breakdown (the symptom) without focusing attention on these toxic delusions (the causes) is a form a denialism. Worse, it’s a racist and sexist form of denialism, that takes away from the necessary focus of the need for all of us to de-colonise our selves.

My ancestors are European, some of whom claimed to ‘own’ people as slaves. There are black people with the name Basden in the Americas, and I have begun to mobilise my (white) family to make contact in order to seek to pay reparations.

However, my own accountability cannot be fully paid through this. The insanity* of the mind of the coloniser continues today. It continues in the extraction of fossil fuels, minerals and water from the earth. It continues in deforestation and industrial agriculture. It continues in a callous culture of consumption, which intensifies each Christmas. It continues in evictions and deportations. It continues in the ways of relating to those around us that perpetuate separation and division.

The result is isolation, pain and suffering. The result can be felt at the individual level — in the endemic levels of loneliness and mental-health illness. It can be felt at the community level — in the theft of land for plunder and profit by largely-European-and-US-based banks and corporations. And it can be felt at the global level — in the polluting of our air and oceans.

So Extinction Rebellion isn’t about the climate. It’s not even about ‘climate justice’**, although that is also important. If we only talk about the climate, we’re missing the deeper problems plaguing our culture. And if we don’t excise the cause of the infection, we can never hope to heal from it.

This article is calling to all of those who are involved in XR who sometimes slip into saying it’s a climate movement. It’s a call to the American rebels who made a banner saying “CLIMATE extinction rebellion”. It’s a call to the XR Media & Messaging teams to never get sloppy with the messaging and ‘reduce’ it to climate issues. It’s a call to the XR community to never say we’re a climate movement. Because we’re not. We’re a Rebellion. And we’re rebelling to highlight and heal from the insanity that is leading to our extinction. Now tell the truth and act like it.

* I use the term ‘insanity’ carefully, with the intention of highlighting the need for healing. Indigenous First Nation people helpfully taught me to see the mindset of the coloniser as a sickness. In no way do I intend to marginalise or discredit the experience of people who have been labelled ‘insane’ by a normative system, nor who identify as being ‘insane’.
** Climate Justice refers to the injustice that those who are affected first and worst by extreme weather events (the people in the poorer countries, the majority of whom live in the Global South) are not likely to be the ones who caused the climate emissions (the people who consume the most, including the pathologically wasteful cultures of Europe and Turtle Island (aka North America), and the rich who live/travel around the world).

‘Swarming’ – Stories from Christian Climate Action Affinity Group -Part Two of Three

FOUR

I hadn’t previously heard about ‘Swarming’, a system of road-blocking which involves a number of affinity groups blocking road junctions for 7 minutes and then leaving the road for 3 minutes. Police were informed in advance of the days when this would happen and we were committed to do all that we could to ensure the passage of emergency service vehicles. I was involved in speaking to the drivers of the first few stopped vehicles to let them know how long we would remain on the road and why we were doing this. Their responses were a mixture of anger, frustration, understanding and support. We offered drivers a chocolate or cake and told them how long before we opened the road. Then if they were willing, we explained why are doing this and offered a leaflet. I soon found myself responding to the drivers on the inside lane where there were many buses. About three quarters of bus-drivers opened their window and the majority of them accepted a leaflet. If their response was at all positive, I asked if they would be willing to open the door for me to speak with passengers.  I warmed particularly to one who opened the door before I could ask and said ‘’Would you like to come in?’’ I explained to passengers that I am a grandfather who has big concerns about climate breakdown and what our descendants are heading for, and asked if anyone would like a leaflet. One put up a hand and others followed suit. The driver smiled and said ‘’You’ve got time to go upstairs!’’

We were joined by many young people and our experienced coordinators asked if anyone would be willing to take that role and be given support in developing it. Two of them stepped forward. The job carries considerable responsibility in ensuring that the group gets on and off the road safely and responds to the unpredictability of motorists and pedestrians. I saw these two take charge like ducks to water, and was later stunned to learn that the younger is 17.

All who wish to take part in Extinction Rebellion actions commit to accepting a ‘binding framework for non-violent direct actions’ (see Extinction Rebellion Action Consensus). This includes a commitment to being ‘strictly non-violent in our actions and communications with members of the public, workers, the authorities and each other at all times’. To get near this ideal is probably a life-long learning process so it should be no surprise when we fail. Being faced with a very angry or distressed person is likely to trigger fear or helplessness. That is sometimes so for me. The big advantage of an affinity group is that the support of others can bring us through. One incident was when two angry motorists grabbed the banner and tried to drag it to the ground. The coordinator saw that the lights were red and quickly told us to leave the road. The motorists, satisfied that they had ‘won’ got into their cars and drove off.

The anger of individual drivers who stayed in their cars was often much easier to respond to than that of pedestrians. Being willing to try to connect with the concerns of both was much more valuable than leaving them fuming or shouting.  The encounter which has most stayed with me is of a distraught carer who was weeping about an elderly patient not being able to take medication on time. My colleague asked if she would accept the fare for the underground but she was unconfident about that way of travel, and suddenly  set off to try to find the next bus stop. I am reasonably experienced in nonviolent communication but realise that I, and probably most others, need much role-playing of these situations before doing this work again.

Swarming is clearly the most controversial form of action in which we took part. We are seeking to achieve the aims of letting Government and all politicians know that inaction or half-hearted action is at an end; and of alerting citizens to the reality of the deepening crisis. Our request to all who are critical of anything we do is to tell us and, if at all possible, also to suggest alternatives which will still achieve these aims.

(A word about safety for others who become involved in this kind of action. Where there are two or three lanes of traffic it’s essential to take care going into these lanes because cyclists and motor cyclists use them. Always peek into a lane when coming around the corner of a high vehicle. And if the traffic is on a bend, ensure that you and the coordinator can see each other so that the road is only re-opened if you are obviously safe.)

 

FIVE

The support system of well-being for CCA and XR met many needs. Whenever we came out of police custody people were there to greet us. One of our group was released at 5a.m. on a cold night and someone was there to ensure safety and care. I wore thermals and plenty of layers for outside lock-ons and took blankets but found that the cold still seeped through. Requests to our well-being people for more blankets were rapidly met and many protesters helped out too.  One brought an aluminium foil wrap and a nearby policewoman asked if I was already cold, explaining that this foil only maintains heat and doesn’t build it up: so if I was already cold it would keep me cold. I thanked her and said ‘’My daughter will be very pleased with you because she worries about me’’. It seemed to touch her.

On my final release from a police station, I was met by three support people and one of them offered to walk with me to find Piccadilly Circus Underground. As we walked along Regent Street on a November day, Christmas shopping was in full swing and Black Friday had already passed. This turning of the birthday of Jesus into an enormous money-making venture and gross consumption disturbed me; it’s exactly the opposite of the way of life which he calls his followers to live. I remembered his words ‘’You cannot serve both God and money’’. How many of the people around us are deliberately kept ignorant by mainstream media of the World Wildlife Fund’s research that we in the UK are currently using the Earth as though we have 3 planets. This reckless consumption is at a terrible cost to our children and grandchildren, the poorest peoples, and other-than-human life. I sometimes find it unbearable to stay with that reality because I feel overwhelmed by the extent and mindlessness of the process; but another aspect is because however much simple living I achieve, I remain implicated in the overall system. How can the fetish of more economic growth be justified by any politician or citizen in the materially rich countries? For Christians this is a crucial area and Pope Francis has given a sound lead by calling for de-growth in materially rich countries alongside healthy growth in poor countries. (Laudato si para 193).

Our well-being support people were an essential link in the chain of effectiveness of these actions, bringing food, warmth and human support at times of loneliness and stress.

By Phil Kingston

 

A Letter To My 11-Year Old

Dear Milly,

Us adults owe you – your generation – an apology. I think you know what I am going to say but I should say it anyway.

You know the way the weather is so unpredictable and even the meteorologists seem to consistently get it wrong? And you know the way Mummy with her asthma can’t go outside during any extreme cold or hot? And you have heard that hundreds of our animals are becoming extinct each day? And you know at primary school, one of your teachers seemed almost obsessed with informing you of the Sustainable Development Goals and burgeoning global warming? And you know the way I have become obsessed with how much meat-eating, car-driving and paper-using we all do?

Well, it’s because hundreds of knowledgeable scientists around the world are saying it is because we, humans, may well only have approx 80 more years to live on our precious earth. They are saying that unless we cut our carbon emissions to zero within 20-or-so years, it will become so hot and or wet on the planet, humans will not be able to live here any more. Yes, the earth will become uninhabitable by humankind.

Unfortunately, our friends in the environmental movements cannot seem to get our world leaders to act fast enough on these issues so hundreds of people have pledged to get themselves arrested carrying out repeated non-violent direct actions in order to highlight what on earth (literally) is going on. They say that renewable wind and solar energy should be used A LOT more but I have heard MPs say that it is too complex or too expensive… Not true apparently and certainly not compared to the cost of losing our home: OUR Planet Earth.

So I have come here to say sorry that we have made such a hash of things environmentally. You have stood with us at Balcombe (anti-fracking site) years ago and you have done your bit with Mummy even as you are fed up with rocking up to political events with so many strangers. So I am praying that as you reach adulthood, you will become more involved with this work to slow down this catastrophe and maybe even one day agree to let Mum get arrested even just once. It’s true that there are so many avenues through which to carry out this awareness-raising work but I have been an activist for so long, I feel it is time to make that sacrifice. To be honest, most cops can’t wait to get most of us out of the police stations if they arrest us at all!

I hope you can accept this apology knowing that we are doing our bit to address these issues now, albeit a little too late. Most of all, I am sorry that I sometimes drive you spare banging on about these critical issues. After all, as you keep reminding me, you are “only a kid”.

Love,

Mummy Andria

Photo: Milly having fun whilst protesting the arms fair with CAAT in 2013/14.

Extinction Rebellion WorldWide Map

Find an Extinction Rebellion group near you.

Don’t use f***book? Tweet @ExtinctionR and use #XRlinkup to be put in touch via email, or contact: extinctionrebellion@risingup.org.uk

White XR symbols indicate regional pages, which you can contact for more details of local groups.

If this embed isn’t working on your browser, you can also view the map by clicking here.

Thanks to the rebels who created and are maintaining this map, and of course to everybody mobilising for the international rebellion.

 

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