Why I say that this civilisation is finished.

By Rupert Read.

It has been a huge privilege to be involved with Extinction Rebellion, for nearly a year now. For the first time in years I feel a growing glimmer of hope for humanity. Finally, we are seeing a mass mobilisation of people who are not willing to die quietly. An upwelling of people unafraid to call for the radical initiatives that we need to limit the scope of global overheating. As a spokesperson for Extinction Rebellion, I have been among those privileged to put the case for the action of our rebels to those in the media and in Government.

We need to be clear that there is no ‘safe’ level of warming. ‘Even’ 2 degrees (which is now almost unachievable) means the death of over 99% of the world’s coral reefs – permanently defacing the ecology of our planet, and probably means the end of ice in the northern hemisphere. The International Panel on Climate Change — which is still, contra popular belief, a relatively conservative body — is unambiguous in its latest report (1.5 degree) that 2-degrees means the displacement of millions of people through desertification and flooding. It means a much greater frequency and a higher magnitude of the extreme weather events that are increasingly blighting the world. It means an increase in violence and war globally because of resource scarcity and hotter temperatures. It is violence: 2 degrees is violence from the rich and stupid against the global masses. It means increased frequency of pandemic and pestilence, with greater threats to our health and the food supply we rely upon to nourish us. And because of the inherent unpredictability of the effects of 2-degrees warming, it could expose us to a myriad of other threats that we cannot predict and that could be far worse than our models suggest.

This is why Extinction Rebellion’s actions are so important, and in particular why the call for net zero UK emissions by 2025 is vital. Our movement has been courageous by communicating with brutal honesty exactly what is at stake over the climate emergency. There needs to be far more of this communication within the public sphere.

In my new book, This Civilisation is Finished, co-authored with Samuel Alexander, we attempt exactly this. We reject the ‘soft denialism’ so often present in the mainstream discourse about the climate emergency. A discourse that seems cherry-picked to present what is actually ecological apocalypse in as palatable and unthreatening a way as possible. Instead, we have found that minds and hearts are only truly concentrated when the scale and enormity of the threat to human and non-human life is exposed in its unveiled magnitude. When this occurs, people stare the threat in the face, the fight-or-flight response is activated and – as there is nowhere to run – they become energised by the necessity to battle for the survival of themselves and their children.

This is no exaggeration. The stakes of course are very, very high, here, because the climate crisis and the broader ecological emergency of which it is only the most urgent part puts the whole of what we know as civilisation at risk. By ‘this civilisation’ I mean the hegemonic civilisation of globalised industrial growth capitalism— sometimes called ‘Empire’—which today governs the vast majority of human life on Earth.

As I see things, there are three broad possible futures that lie ahead:

  • This civilisation could collapse utterly and terminally, as a result of climatic instability (leading for instance to catastrophic food shortages as a probable mechanism of collapse), or possibly sooner than that, through nuclear war, pandemic, or financial collapse leading to mass civil breakdown. Any of these are likely to be precipitated in part by ecological/climate instability, as Darfur and Syria were.

    Or
  • This civilisation (we) will manage to seed a future successor-civilisation(s), as this one collapses.

    Or
  • This civilisation will somehow manage to transform itself deliberately, radically and rapidly, in an unprecedented manner, in time to avert collapse.

The third option, at which XR aims, is by far the least likely, though the most desirable, simply because either of the other options will involve vast suffering and death on an unprecedented scale. In the case of (1), we are talking the extinction or near-extinction of humanity. In the case of (2) we are talking at minimum multiple megadeaths. But (2) would obviously be hugely preferable to (1), and thus the ultimate importance for us of getting our societies not only to mitigate but also to adapt, deeply.

The second option is very difficult to envisage clearly, but is, I now believe, very likely. Unless we are incredibly lucky or incredibly determined and brilliant (or almost certainly both) then we are facing, almost certainly, changes around the world which are going to bring an end to this civilisation. So we need to think about what comes after it. We need to think about it now, and we need to start to work toward it; because there are many sub-possibilities within possibility two, and some of them are very ugly.

One of the reasons I wrote the book with Sam is so that we can talk about how we can prepare the way for (2). I think that there has been criminally little of that preparation, to date. Virtually everyone in the broader environmental movement has been fixated on the third option, unwilling to consider anything less. I strongly believe now that that stance is no longer viable. And, encouragingly, I am not quite alone in that belief.

The first option might soon be as likely as the second. It leaves little to talk about.

Any of these three options will involve a transformation of such extreme magnitude that what emerges will no longer in any meaningful sense be this civilisation: the change will be the kind of extreme conceptual and existential magnitude that Thomas Kuhn, the philosopher of ‘paradigm-shifts’, calls ‘revolutionary’. Thus, one way or another, this civilisation is finished. It may well run in the air, suspended over the edge of a cliff, for a while longer. But it will then either crash to complete chaos and catastrophe (Option 1); or seed something radically different from itself from within its dying body (Option 2); or somehow get back to safety on the cliff-edge (Option 3). Managing to do that miraculous thing would involve such extraordinary and utterly unprecedented change, that what came back to safety would still no longer in any meaningful sense be this civilisation.

That, in short, is what I mean by saying that this civilisation is finished.

Extinction Rebellion is key to transforming the civilisation we have into something that will allow us to maintain human life either in the third option or in arming our global consciousness with the understanding of the need for deep adaptation in the face of the second option.

If not, we are left only with terminal collapse.

I hope that this book, in which I discuss XR at some length, will help us in these difficult and necessary thought-and-feeling—processes.

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Students, Sunrise and Rebels unite to defy extinction

Originally posted here: https://theelders.org/news/students-sunrise-and-rebels-unite-defy-extinction

On 15 March students from around the world will join a global Youth Strike for Climate, leaving school and college to demand that their leaders urgently take climate action. In this guest blog Farhana Yamin, CEO at Track 0 and Extinction Rebellion Activist and Jake Woodier, an organiser of #YouthStrike4Climate explain why.

Politicians beware. Young people are demanding answers from governments to some tough questions.

  • Why have scientific warnings about the climate and ecological crisis been ignored for so long?
  • What emergency actions can now be put in place to stop the extinction of life on Earth?

Tired of the apathy and denialist campaigns funded by vested interests, young people are taking to the streets and joining new social movements that are demanding solutions be put in place in 10 years or less.

That timeframe more or less matches the 12 year deadline given by the United Nation’s chief scientific body, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). In October 2018, the IPCC spelt out the consequences of what a hotter more disruptive climate would look like. Unless we cut global greenhouse gases emissions by 50% in the next 11 years, billions of people would be exposed to increased storms, wildfires, droughts, floods, acidified oceans and sea level rise which would result in water and food shortages and mass migration.

Students strike for climate in London in February 2019. (Photo: Socialist Appeal/Flickr)

Fearing for their future and acting out of solidarity with their fellow global citizens, this week hundreds of thousands of young people are expected to walk out of schools and colleges to join the school strike movement. They are inspired by 16 year old Greta Thunberg, who in August 2018 stopped going to school on Fridays to sit outside the Swedish Parliament and demand climate action. Since then, thousands of young people around the world have joined the Youth Strike 4 Climate movement with campaigns now active in around 71 countries. In Belgium, around 50,000 children and young people take to the streets every Friday. The UK’s student movement is gathering momentum. The first national strike resulted in 15,000 students and young people ditching classrooms to demonstrate a need for radical and urgent action to achieve climate justice for current and future generations. 

Anna Taylor, 17, co-founder or the UK Student Climate Network which is coordinating the mobilizations explains:

“The burden of holding powerful actors to account over their climate records has unfortunately fallen on the young. We’ve been betrayed by the climate inaction of previous generations. We’re having to rise up and fight for those around the world already suffering the devastating effects of climate change, and for our very futures.”

The youth led Sunrise Movement rally in San Francisco in December 2018. (Photo: Peg Hunter/Flickr)

Long held attitudes of moderation are now woefully insufficient given the global climate emergency we all face. From the “Green New Deal’s 10 year plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to zero in ways that generate clean jobs, supported by the youth-led Sunrise movement and championed by Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, to the Extinction Rebellion’s campaign of mass civil disobedience to dismantle the toxic systems that are putting all life on Earth at risk, it is clear that the desire to build a more inclusive society based on respecting nature’s boundaries is beginning to reshape politics.

No-one knows what will happen and no-one can say for sure whether or not fundamental ecological tipping points have already been breached. The good news is that there are millions of people – old and young – who are mobilising around the world to stop humanity from falling off a cliff.   

Extinction Rebellion protest at Oxford Circus, London in November 2018 (Photo: David Holt / Flickr)

We can and must succeed in catalysing a peaceful revolution to end the era of fossil fuels and economic systems based on the extraction and extinction of nature. Life on Earth literally depends on it.

That is why we will be supporting students on strike and all those working to defend life on Earth. As citizens around the world join together to courageously speak truth to power, we hope you will give your full support to strikers and rebels where ever you are.

Views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of The Elders or The Elders Foundation.

Tampa Bay Rebellion

Why we need a non-violent direct action movement against climate change, right here, right now

If the constant hurricanes and wildfires didn’t get your attention, the scientific bombshell should have.  In October the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released its latest report, Global Warming of 1.5 °C.  The panel is a UN body of thousands of scientists that analyses all the latest scientific papers to draw conclusions.  They found that in order to have a decent chance of avoiding the runaway climate change found above 1.5 degrees Celsius of warming, we must aim to cut carbon dioxide emissions by 45% by 2030 (based on 2010 levels), and then reach zero emissions by the middle of this century.

These numbers, and the scale of challenge they represent, horrified many people.  But I haven’t seen much reporting on what it means for specific countries. The United States emits higher levels of greenhouse gases per person than most nations, so the cuts must necessarily be even deeper.  I invite more statistical minds to improve on them, but according to my rough calculations based on population size and global emissions share (neither of which has changed drastically since 2010), in order to do its fair part the United States must cut emissions by around 85% in the next eleven years.

The IPCC’s recommendations are buttressed by calls for a global 20% cut in material consumption levels, dropping coal use by around two thirds, oil in half, and natural gas by a third, all by 2030.  Again, all of these targets will need to be higher in wealthy, high consumption countries.  Look at the figures and ask yourself if the IPCC, scientists with an inclination to say nothing they can’t prove, are appealing for anything other than the bare minimum of what they think might be necessary.  We need to aim higher than these goals to have a chance of at least meeting them.

Almost immediately following the release of the report came news of Extinction Rebellion, and their inspiring campaign of mass economic disruption.  On December 2nd a launch event for Extinction Rebellion US took place in Washington DC. The movement has since spread to over 35 countries and 200 local chapters.  We can all now have the pleasure of joining in as the US day of action approaches on January 26th, followed by the international day of action on April 19th.

There are numerous reasons why people in the United States may not have heard about any of these protests, the most obvious being the drama of the midterm elections.  We should care about who is put in office. The Trump administration’s assault on the environment is representative of an increasingly desperate fossil fuel industry. But when it comes to climate change, we haven’t the luxury of obsessing over it, as the click-dependent media that helped to put him in power would have us do.  If our movements are strong, worthy politicians will seek to follow them. Largely independent of Trump, plans are in the dirty pipeline to expand two major sources of greenhouse gases in Tampa Bay, and they have so far been met with almost no opposition. Nothing makes the people destroying our environment happier than silence.

Big Bend Power Station in Apollo Beach is the only coal burning plant located around Tampa Bay, and is one of the largest in the state.  Operator Tampa Electric (TECO) sent out a customer letter in May of this year detailing their hopes for modernisation.  The plan is to retire one antiquated coal-and-gas-fired unit and convert another to a modern natural gas unit (two primarily coal-fired units would remain in use).  It sounds like progress. This conversion however is gambling on the long-term continuation of the American fracking boom and all of its associated problems (fracked wells now provide two thirds of U.S. natural gas production).  The Trump government has spent the last two years trying to remove rules that oblige oil and gas companies to at least try to plug methane leaks, rather than letting it vent into the atmosphere, and those attempts can be expected to continue.  Because methane is some 86 times more potent a greenhouse gas as carbon dioxide, fracked gas is arguably just as bad for the climate as coal, if not worse. This proposal is not progress at all.

If we believe fracking is unsuitable for Florida, it’s hard to see why we should financially support it happening in other places.  Tampa Electric says the project, if implemented, will cost $1 billion, take ten years to finish, and should be expected to last thirty-five or forty.  These numbers should set alarm bells off in the heads of all climate activists considering the small window of time we have left.  Are we going to let them expend all this money and effort to make a one-time conversion that will make no discernable difference to electricity emissions?

The company has made much of its investments in solar, including one project at Big Bend itself, which they brag is the biggest in Tampa Bay.  The array produces 23 megawatts (MW) of electricity, or approximately 1.35% of the amount currently produced at the fossil power station.  Other projects are expected to bring their total solar to 600 MW, or 7% of their total generation, by 2023.  But sunny Florida ranks a sad 8th in total solar generation nationwide, with California producing over ten times our capacity and powering 17% of their grid.  TECO has the means to expand these solar plans rapidly rather than give a money stream to the fracking industry, and that’s where the majority of the $1 billion budget should be going (aside from the decommissioning costs of the coal units).

This investment is even worse when you consider that natural gas, whether fracked or not, is now in direct competition with renewables to replace coal, and TECO’s current funding of solar amounts to a mere $50 million.  In the decade leading up to 2016 their profits almost doubled to $250 million.  CEO Nancy Tower earned $1.5 million last year, while CEO of parent company Emera, Robert Bennett, earned almost $2.2 million.  All that matters in judging a proposal in terms of climate change is whether it lines up with the goals of the IPCC report, not whatever positive framing a company might use to present it to the public.  Construction is expected to begin in June 2019.

When it comes to the various failures of the big green NGOs in this country, nothing stands out like their disregarding of the climate change impacts of aviation.  Going on a flight is the most damaging climate choice that an individual can make. A fully-booked return trip from London to New York produces around 1.2 tonnes of CO2 per person (with the average American carbon footprint being about 19 tonnes a year).  Planes use vast amounts of kerosene over vast distances, with a global warming effect that is, according to the IPCC, around 2.7 times higher than the carbon emissions they produce (due partially to the height at which planes operate).  While aviation currently accounts for about 5% of global warming, it is also the fastest growing sector, at a time when other industries are at the very least under pressure to shrink their emissions.  The 20,000 planes in the air today are projected, under a business as usual scenario, to number 50,000 by as soon as 2040.  The EU predicts that if this exception continues to be made for aviation its share of global CO2 output could be 22% by 2050.

The ballooning of the sector hugely outstrips all slight improvements in fuel efficiency, as most of the significant gains on this front have already been made.  Alternative fuels (like hydrogen) and tech designs (like solar planes) remain little more than public relations stunts.  Even if such routes were feasible, planes are expensive, so airlines keep them in service for decades, and are not likely to retire them early and build new ones without massive political pressure.  Until a pathetic voluntary offset deal was struck in 2016, aviation was routinely ignored by national and international climate treaties because governments didn’t want to admit a simple fact: the only way to get a large cut in airline emissions is a large cut in the number of flights.  Despite American driving habits, flying already makes up 12% of all transport emissions nationally (it’s not clear how or if this number includes international flights).

With this information in mind, it’s possible that what is slated to happen at Tampa International Airport is even worse than what is happening at Big Bend.  The publicly owned airport has already spent a billion dollars on part one of a three phase plan, and intends to spend another billion.  It involves turning the airport into what some have called a “mini-city,” complete with offices, retailers, hotels, restaurants, and a giant car rental centre, with phase two expected to begin in late 2019.  More alarmingly, the final phase of the project is designed to expand capacity from the 19.6 million passengers of 2017, to accommodate 34 million in the coming years as demand grows.  This is classic expansionist spin: by building the extra gates and capacity, the airport is helping to stoke the increase in demand.

“It’s critical that we keep this airport up to date and support this kind of growth for the next twenty to thirty years,” Hillsborough County Aviation Authority chair Robert Watkins said in February.  I’m sure it will seem like a wonderful investment when Tampa is hit by a seventeen foot storm surge that puts the runways underwater.  In a world where oil consumption must be cut in half within twelve years, is it logical or fair to allow an airport to almost double its emissions?  Or should all that effort perhaps go into alternative modes of travel? If you’re currently objecting that our economy is highly dependent on flights from tourists, seasonal visitors and retirees, you are correct, and should be very angry at businesspeople and politicians who for decades have argued that this is a sustainable model.  Luckily, CEO Joe Lopano (projected compensation for this year: $625,000, one of the highest paid airport CEOs in the country) has another plan, which is to have Tampa International achieve carbon neutral status.  There’s just one problem: it only includes emissions from planes when they’re within the perimeter of the friggin’ airport.

Given the almost complete lack of dissenting voices against these projects from either the press or local environmentalists (with the quiet exception of Sierra Club), direct action that causes disruption and draws attention is the only tactic that is going to drag them into public consciousness in anything like the speed that is necessary.  These actions would be demanding and potentially dangerous. Last summer five workers were burned to death at Big Bend whilst trying to clean underneath an active boiler.  Airports are terrifying places to contemplate breaking the law.  But climate activists managed interventions against runway expansions at Heathrow Airport and other UK airports in the years immediately following the attacks on the London Underground, and the introduction of the “liquids as bombs” terrorism approach that annoys fliers to this day.  The U.S., with its paranoid and highly armed security apparatus, offers more challenges. But like all the others, we must overcome or subvert them.

The Extinction Rebellion protests are aimed primarily at political targets in capital cities.  Aside from the issue of geographic barriers that we face from way down here, actions against actual emission points are still important, and can supplement and build momentum for the general idea of the non-violent uprising (and we can of course find worthy structural targets closer to home should we so choose).  If we don’t oppose these plans that go full throttle in the wrong direction, and oppose them hard, they will make a mockery of any commitments our region makes — in the present or future — to 100% renewable energy. Climate change work that focuses on what we build at the expense of what we close down is missing the fundamental point.

Individuals can only choose honestly for themselves, but we must be brutally honest about what is a reason for holding back and what is an excuse.  As a childless, partially youthful white male, I have certain advantages when it comes to confrontational protest. But I’m also a green card holder in an age where even green card holders and American citizens are not safe from deportation, and it seems as if almost anything can happen.  I’m still more afraid of climate change than I am of the government. The chances are good that you also have room to maneuver in assisting with such actions.  As ever, we need supporters, such as legal experts, child care givers, drivers, writers, medics and mental health experts, cooks, artists and funders.  That means we need you.

This is a call to all the good people who support local businesses, care about plastic and straw pollution, voted to ban offshore oil drilling and expand transit spending in Hillsborough, decry the red tide and go on climate change demonstrations.  Now or never is the time for commitment and sacrifice. In my article on the Rise Up Climate march in St. Petersburg in September, I raised questions about whether it was worth our finite efforts to force a transition in a part of the world that is incredibly vulnerable to already locked-in climate change.  I still think that is an important discussion. But whether we remain here or not, there is now no doubt that we have a responsibility to suffocate major sources of greenhouse gas emissions on our doorsteps. If we fail to see any developments on this front, if the community appears to have insufficient will to survive, it will only become worthy of abandonment in another sense.  Tampa Bay is heading for extinction. The architects of that extinction are banking on our indifference. Are you ready to rebel?

The Extinction Rebellion Tampa Bay planning page can be found here.  Planning meetings are taking place weekly.  James Lamont can be contacted at jamesalexanderlamont[at]gmail.com. His website is Radical Beat.

A BRUTAL YEAR ENDS AS EXTINCTION REBELLION RISES.

This year has been brutal. Specifically because it heralded a drastic state-shift, a tipping point and planetary crossing over thresholds that should not be passed. We have stumbled from the hope of sustainability to a deeply painful reality of rapid environmental dismemberment.

We’ve seen the shredding of democratic principles and processes, we’ve been horrified by a rise in fascism, dragging its ghosts from the 1930’s/40’s, and have been appalled and enraged as billionaires flaunt and force their lethal agendas, regardless of the cost. But most devastating is the eco-destruction we can no longer escape or delegate to future times. In a blink of an eye, we suddenly crossed from the assumption of human civilisation’s unbridled bright future to the dawning realisation of our probable demise.

This psychological shock and unremitting assault is shattering. Our overly stressed deregulated nervous systems struggle to cope. On the one hand we experience a plethora of hot reactivity and outrage, on the other a frozen stupefied, bargaining disassociation. As the ground beneath dissolves with such velocity, it feels impossible to grapple with the enormity of the threat we face.

Part of me is doing every day tasks, shop, cook, get through emails, scheduling, turning up for teaching engagements, meetings, zoom calls, planning, trying not to use plastic, buying recycled Christmas cards, while the other half is screaming as I run down the high street, through supermarket aisles (in my imagination), shouting “Wake the F#!K up people.” In my everyday (real) transactions, I lean in to figure if others are also screaming inside.

This leapfrog into our encroaching dystopia, as it stalks our night dreams, rampages through the our day world, and tears apart our fragile cohesion, has made it hard to hold normal life together. I’ve found myself dragging, sometimes strangely lost, taking hours to do a simple task as my mind swirls searching for a some kind of secure landing, some kind of sense.

Everyday, I get stuck to the latest twists and turns while resolving to unstick myself. But it’s hard to avert ones gaze as rapid ice-cap-melt cascades into rising oceans, as catastrophic floods turn cities into black mould, and as an inferno raced 15 miles in 10 minutes levelling a small town, ironically called Paradise, just a few hours north of us.

With 60% of wild life gone, insects vanishing apace, daily despotic legislation poisoning yet another river, ocean, waterway, or killing some other kind of wildlife, or stealing more indigenous land, the true magnitude of our human ignorance is desolating. When the blue macaw parrot that inspired “Rio” was declared extinct this week, and when the crowning apocalyptic IPCC Report stated “we have 12 years” or go the way of that parrot, our hearts broke all over again.

Such bad news filled with sorrow, anguish and extraordinary trepidation at the colossal challenges ahead. Yet, underneath is also a calm, steady determination building apace each day. A clarity forged as pieces of the puzzle that form the systems we live within are unflinchingly dissected in our daily reads and viewing. We understand that the Wizard of Oz, pulling all those crazy-making levers, has been outed. Our fast learning curve is into the roots of our calamity. We have to get the vastness, depth, and fullness of the truth that our economic, social, religious, and political systems, built on imperialism, unregulated capitalism, white supremacy, and patriarchy have to be rapidly deconstructed for anything or anyone to survive.

So, is there any good news? Well, there’s no happy Hollywood ending here. Instead, this is a clarion call to the depth of our souls. It’s the moment to listen carefully into our spirit, to what is actually important here, and what stirs at the most profound level of our being. What is felt it in our bones. For that we have to adopt a fearlessness, a great courage that breaks through our timidity, the “should’s” and “should not” in order to re-prioritise and align with the sweeping changes needed.

Centuries of systemic conditioning and false narratives have to be abandoned. We have to strip down the layers to stand present, open, and real in the face of this great evolutionary initiation. We should not follow authorities just because they have positions of power, but tune instead into the voices that emerge from truth, from the unexpected. Such a voice, sounding clear over the waffling response of Cop24, is Sweden’s 15 year old Greta Thunberg

So we have not come here to beg the world leaders to care for our future. They have ignored us in the past and they will ignore us again. We have come here to let them know that change is coming whether they like it or not. That people will rise to the challenge. And since our leaders are behaving like children, we will have to take the responsibility they should have taken long ago.
— Greta Thunberg.

Voices from People of Colour, Indigenous, and women newly elected in Congress. From youth crashing into the halls of power asking for a Green New Deal . Voices at the heart of the chaos in France protesting the vast inequities spawned by decades of neoliberalism and predator capitalism that turned humans into fodder and consumers for profit. The voices of  the long enduring unsung heroes of Indigenous peoples who by-rights and by the depth of ingrained wisdom must be vaulted and respected as guides at this time. And from the land of my birth, the galvanising force of Extinction Rebellion moving like wildfire across the globe, sparking inspiration and the allegiance of hundreds of groups, and counting.

So where do you and I land in all this? Here we are, in the midst of a colossal global and civilisational transition from the era of oil, which is not only burning up the planet but is a deeply false and failing economy. With France imploding and yellow jackets showing up beyond its borders, with Egypt banning the sale of yellow jackets, and with Britain wobbling in the vortex of an arrogant elite cannibalising its own. As Russia, the USA, and Saudi Arabia go rogue on climate action and Australia remains silent, it is clear this is not going to be a nicely negotiated, peaceful transition. It’s going to be a slogging match, a devastation for parts of the globe, one already forewarned by Syria, Yemen, Puerto Rico, displaced migrants and the Pacific Islands disappearing under the ocean. So how do we find our way in all this?

For myself, self care and resilience has to be primary. This is going to be a long haul. Let’s try and stay well, balanced, loving. The tending to close relationships, family, is also primary, we need beloved partners and true friends. The reaching out to build community, alliances, networking, sharing. All that is implied.

The daily restoration of a clear, clean heart that can mount a challenge free of hate and division. The daily surrendering of pettiness and grudges. A forgiving heart that cleaves to love over and over. Practices that reclaim the sacred, that establish mindfulness, that free and nurture the body. Choices made, food eaten, products used, and actions taken that understand consequences and renounce harm.

As all this swirls in my being as we race toward the end of this calamitous year and as everything is devolving into tangles of complexity and impossibility. However, the heart itself speaks in simple terms. It has its own true voice if we care to listen. When you hear its prompting, trust it. Follow the guidance. Relish its undaunted, diamond-like clarity. Know that it knows all is resident within its conscious awareness. In the swirl of shadows and the ranting cries of our dismembering times, there is a mystic thread, a trail to follow through the jungle of confusion.

When you follow that thread, you will not tie yourself to the waning light of unreal hopes that come crashing down. Instead, you will claim your full empowered truth that rises to shine its undying light on your pathway forward. You may stumble, but you will know, in the passionate, disciplined, focused, flamenco-like dance that the heart is, you will know how to be. You will know where to go. And you will know when to leap.

Thanissara, Dec 12th 2018

@TomLennard Why Aren’t We Worrying More About Climate Change? Action not Words

This post was originally published here:

https://tomdlondon.blogspot.com/2018/10/guest-blog-tomlennard-why-arent-we.html?spref=tw

In July, Green Party candidate and academic Rupert Read declined to appear on a BBC programme. The tweet in which he justified this, read as follows: BBC Radio wanted to have me on today to debate a climate-denier in the context of the drought/heatwave. I said NO. I told them it was a disgrace that they still give climate-deniers airtime at a time like this. I won’t be part of such charades any longer. Please RT if you agree. @GreenRupertRead

Read’s contention is that giving climate-deniers airtime is a ridiculous move from the BBC, when there are more important debates about climate change; it is here, and is dangerous. This impatience is echoed by other activists, but ones that will not wait for a comfortable discussion around the pros and cons of different strategies. They are unwilling to make polite appeals to our government, when it is clearly in the pocket of big business and major polluters.

On September 25th I chaired a discussion entitled “Why Aren’t We Worrying More About Global Warming?”  where one of Extinction Rebellion’s main activists, Roger Hallam, spoke. At this event he laid out his arguments – arguments for starting a public rebellion against the government over their climate change inaction – and then he left before the Q & A began. 

Action, he explained, not words, are important in the little time we have to do something. We should not get caught in the over-analysis of the information. He painted a picture of activism as a sacrifice of personal freedom, and the importance of rule breaking to achieve ones goals. And knowing Roger a little, I can corroborate that he lives by these ideals. Here is a link to Roger’s speech https://ytcropper.com/cropped/EA5bd4dc118a72b

It is easy to view the non-violent action that Roger proposed as extreme and drastic – it is. It was only a week after the talk, on October 1st, that the IPCC released their damning report: we have only 12 years to keep climate change temperatures under control:https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2018/oct/08/global-warming-must-not-exceed-15c-warns-landmark-un-report And this is to put widespread devastation and societal unrest into emotionless facts and figures.

I am no longer convinced that political parties of the Left have enough energy or gumption to turn us toward serious responses and solutions to climate change. Political cycles are short and politicians have even shorter memories.

Roger’s walk away from the discussion, and abandonment of polite convention had a very polarising affect. It generated an emotional response –  and such responses are necessary for going beyond our willingness to rationalise and normalise the impending chaos.

Whilst the positive stories are definitely something that can keep us going in the darker moments outside activism, many people around the globe are engaged in great projects that facilitate us moving to a more ecological way of living. But these are alternatives, and not the mainstream, socio-political reality.

Extinction Rebellion’s method is to shock the system. They plan to do this in the coming months, starting with a big demonstration and direct action in Parliament Square, with the backing of George Monbiot https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2018/oct/18/governments-no-longer-trusted-climate-change-citizens-revolt

The present moment seems terribly fragile and frightening. Even the climate change deniers seem to be keeping rather quiet. But since the IPCC report the media has returned to its regular coverage of minutiae and gossip. It is a fragile moment that we live in, but fragile moments, are ones in which the status quo is broken. How things will look from the other side of a social revolution is much harder to say. But to be climate extremist in these times is nothing but common sense.

Tom Lennard @TomLennard

Kensal and Kilburn Better 2018 @KKBetter2018

You can become involved in the necessary campaign to force politicians to account over climate change at Extinction Rebellion – https://risingup.org.uk/XR/

For a recent, short analysis of the political strategy of Left Wing politics see Graham Jones’  “The Shock Doctrine of the Left” (published by Polity)

Now or never – a short story

Louise Williams heard the results of the IPCC report on 1.5 degrees and was inspired to write a short story. It’s the conversation she doesn’t want to have with her grandchildren.


Caris sat cleaning the tools while I knitted. She reminded me a lot of her mum when she was ten. Back then I had always assumed I’d have grandchildren, but in recent decades I wasn’t so sure. Lennon was busy around us, packing things into boxes, unable to sit still as usual.

“Granny,” Caris said, as if asking a question.
“Yes love?”

“We were doing history in school today, and they were talking about the turn of the century. Did you really have computers that were too heavy to carry?”

I grinned. “Well, yes, at first, then as I grew up they got smaller and smaller – more like the pods you get now, except everyone had them.”

“Granny, you don’t talk a lot about the olden days, do you? Our teacher said it was really different, though she’s too young to really know. Can you tell me?”

I sucked in some air.

“Lennon, how’s that packing doing? We’ll be off in two days, before the snow sets in.”

Caris stopped working and looked up at me. I kept knitting but found some words.

“It’s hard to explain, Caris. Truthfully, I guess I feel bad talking about it. When I was your age, my grandparents sometimes talked about the war and how rough things got. More often they didn’t tell you the whole story, but you just knew it was terrible. But for us growing up in the nineties, it was the opposite. We had so much, too much really…”

Just then Rob came in with our son-in-law Ethan.

“Grandpa!” cried Caris, “Can YOU tell me about the olden days? I’ve never heard you say much either.”

Rob grunted as he took off his boots. “Those days are long gone.”

Ethan piled up some of Lennon’s boxes. “He doesn’t like to think about what we lost,” he commented, and half-hummed a line from an old song we used to sing in the car: “If I hadn’t seen such riches, I could live with being poor.”

Rob bristled a little. “There’s some truth there, but you know that’s not why we won’t go over it.”

“Why then, Grandpa?”

Rob and I exchanged looks. We had talked about this before. How could we dazzle them with tales of luxury and secure living beyond their wildest hopes? How could we admit that…except now felt like the time to tell the story, before we moved inland for the winter storms. Perhaps it would be the last time we’d all make it together back to the lodge.

“What else did your history teacher say, Caris?” I asked.

“Um, she said that everything was a lot more connected and organised, and computers led to an age of information. But at the same time, people ignored all the warnings. Is it true, Grandma? Did people really know about the breakdown before it even happened?”

Everyone in the room paused, even Lennon, who was only six but wise enough to grasp the question. I answered.

“Yes, they did. We did. Well, we did and we didn’t. Things were clearly changing, but they also stayed the same and there was a lot of confusion.”

“There were a lot of folks intentionally confusing people too,” said Rob, and I could see his old anger rising up. Well, let him let it out.

“How do you mean?” asked Lennon.

“You can’t believe it, but there were people with a lot of money and power who wanted to carry on just as they were, selling their gas, running their airlines, and to hell with the consequences. So they deliberately confused the public: they’d query the science, skew statistics, put out fake facts…and instead of standing up to them and pointing out their private financial interests, the journalists kept inviting them onto the TV to give their case!”

He was pacing by now.

“Of course, some of these folks were actually in Government! There were politicians with big money in fossil fuels, so they strongly opposed renewable energy and gave the push for fracking.”

Caris’ eyes widened.

“You mean, the GOVERNMENT knew and they covered it up?”

“They didn’t need to cover it up,” I replied. “They just distracted us. Everyone knew. We learned about it at school. Every year there’d be a new report about record temperatures, rising sea levels. People didn’t put two and two together. There they were, rock stars raising money for an Ethiopian famine, not seeing that this was all part of climate breakdown, and one-in-a-hundred-year disasters would become one-in-every-ten, one-in-three…”

I broke off. The news footage started replaying back in my mind. The 2023 drought across East Africa. Images of emaciated mothers choosing which child to feed. The 2026 floods in South Asia. The third European heatwave. A succession of hurricanes battering central America while wildfires swept across Australia. One crisis appeal after another. The fall of Mont Blanc in 2031, which finally made Western governments sit up and take action, but by then the permafrost was melting, releasing vast quantities of methane, and it was too little, too late. The global food shortages, then climate refugees, firstly from Africa, then Spain, Greece, Italy. Boatload upon boatload. The riots, the protests, the collapse…

Lennon had sat on Ethan’s lap. “If everyone knew, why did no one do anything? Couldn’t people have stopped it?”

“It wasn’t that no one did anything,” said Rob. “Some went to prison for speaking up. Some Governments tried hard to change things. They were fighting a huge wave though. It’s not like our leaders now, who take decisions for the good of everyone, even if it’s unpopular. Lots of leaders back then just did what they thought the people – and the media – wanted. They didn’t splash out on public transport or a nationwide insulation programme, because it wouldn’t go down well. They didn’t dare tax our petrol. They could’ve had the balls to change things, and they didn’t.”

“But if everyone had gone on the streets and protested, like the big demo in 2040, they’d have had to listen, wouldn’t they? Why didn’t the people just rise up?”

Ethan chipped in.

“Some did – I remember our friends at school going on a march. But most people didn’t seem that bothered. Politicians would rarely be asked about climate change when they went out canvassing or appeared on TV. It’s as though the threat wasn’t immediate enough, rather like the image of a frog slowly boiling in a pan of water. And the American film was right – it was so inconvenient. It was the age of consumerism and convenience, and most people didn’t want to let go of even a tiny bit of that. I guess, deep down, they hoped it wasn’t as bad as the scientists said.”

Rob nodded. “I used to hear some folks say, ‘There’s no point me changing my life, because the governments can’t sort themselves out and China is building a new power station every month.’ They were right, in a way. We did all feel sort of helpless.”

“It’s crazy”, I said, “when you think about it. We had the highest rate of education in world history, greatest access to information, such a spread of wealth and resources, and the clearest evidence of the coming future possible. I mean, it wasn’t even the future – it was already happening in front of our eyes. And we could have transitioned quite painlessly into a greener way of doing things and probably been happier for it. But we failed. We hoped technology would magically suck all the carbon out without us lifting a finger, or we pointed at China and kept our own feet on the pedal, or we looked at Africa and the Maldives and thought, “it’s OK, I don’t live there.” In one way or another, the world allowed it to happen. It didn’t have to be like this.”

Caris lifted her head from my lap and looked up at us, her eyes sad.

“And what about you, Granny and Grandpa? What did you do?”

Original: https://joyinenough.org/2018/10/16/now-or-never-a-short-story/

 

EXTINCTION OR SURVIVAL? Imagining a Future for our Scorched Planet.

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In my lifetime, I’ve witnessed a lot of batshit crazy. I suppose I should feel privileged to live in a time of such unprecedented global challenges.

We were taught about global warming in school. It was all a bit flakey back then because the fossil fuel corporations had just started distorting and disputing the climate science. A school of science which incidentally they had pioneered. The basic principles were understood long before I was born. #ExxonKnew

When I started primary school, we were being taught that the apocalyptic climate collapse we’re witnessing now might happen in a few hundred years but if we recycled more and changed our light bulbs and used catalytic converters and stopped using CFCs everything would  probably be OK.

By the time I started secondary school, they were saying this cataclysmic tragedy might unfold in about a hundred years and we should probably all recycle more to be on the safe side. By the time I finished, they were saying maybe 50 years, if we didn’t take more meaningful action.

As I got older, they  revised it down further, saying probably within our lifetimes. Then the IPCC report. The World Scientists’ Warnings to Humanity. TWENTY THREE years of annual international climate conferences (COP24 will be in December this year). All too little too late and still held back by an industry determined to protect it’s short term shareholder interest.

Now, everything’s collapsing around our ears and it has become difficult to imagine a future in which organised human life on planet Earth is viable. Or life at all for that matter.  It turns out most of the recycling we’ve been diligently doing has been going to landfill and incinerators all these years. Increasing numbers of people believe that we’ve already passed the tipping point. An uninhabitable planet is now baked in to the mix.

Corporate media have starting to make the most monumental U-turn in history: We should now accept that an increasingly chaotic climate is the ‘new normal’. We should be preparing for more heatwaves and sea level rise of 60m. (normally I wouldn’t link to sky news but it’s interesting that even they are now starting to accept the stark reality). It has become undeniable. Much of humanity’s minds are being blown. Like frogs in boiling water, slowly realising our shared fate too late.

The Global heatwave is symptom of early stage cycle of civilisational collapse

Extinction_RebellionThe world’s ‘leaders’ (such as they are) have procrastinated and lied and squabbled and squandered decades that could have made a difference. The farcical folly of the greenwashing industry; recyling going to landfill and incinerators,  ‘catalytic converters’,  ‘carbon trading schemes’ and so on tell us all we need to know about their ‘leadership’ on the issue.

You need only look at the brutal corporate policing of protests from Standing Rock to Preston New Rd to understand how intractable the problem is.

The fact that at least FIVE pacific islands have already been lost to rising sea levels is not yet commonly known or understood. I had hoped that this news might have woken up more people when it happened. Two years ago.

Imagining Hope

I’m suppose I’m lucky to have been engaged with the problem of catastrophic climate collapse and human extinction for quite a long time. I’m not as panicked by it as people who are just coming round to the concept now, so I can at least offer a relatively calm perspective.

An aside: Jaron Lanier tells a great story about how the difficulty we have in imagining a decent future is actually the responsibility of silicon valley tech engineers, who couldn’t draw heads properly with basic polygons back in the 90s. Long story short, they settled on a formula for 3D VR that relied heavily on lone survivor, post apocalyptic scenarios, so they’d have less heads to render. The gaming industry became massively influential on mainstream culture, thus most imagined futures in contemporary culture became post-apocalyptic. It’s a bit of a stretch, given the collapsing everything but a funny story regardless…

Besides sharing funny stories, it seems the most useful thing I can do now is signpost to the best advice; coping strategies and solutions that have been shared with me in my few years on this earth.

  1. Don’t isolate yourself. Choose love and hope over fear and hate. Be kind and respect yourself and everybody else. Remember there are good people. Be one of them. Look out for each other. Be as patient, understanding and forgiving as you can possibly be.
  2. Knowledge is power. Don’t be misled by false hope. Train yourself to think clearly and critically. Challenge yourself to properly inform yourself. Speak and act out against lies and injustice. Focus more on the solutions not just the problems.
  3. Schedule your time effectively. Monumental changes are developing ever faster. Keep your ear to the ground but be wary of the hypnotic, paralysing power of the spectacle. Be as adaptable and fluid as you can be. Remember to make time to rest, practise self care, enjoy and share any lulz that come your way. Lulz are increasingly few and far between.
  4. Engage your friends, family, politicians, businesses and communities on the challenges we’re facing.
  5. Get active. Organise or join existing survival networks. Develop and maintain low-tech futureproofed communications systems, within and beyond your networks. Plan. Prepare.
  6. Expand class consciousness, unity consciousness and the practice of empathy. Be autonomous and take leadership from the most impacted. Don’t fall into the Tyranny of Structurelessness.
  7. Engage in peaceful, non-violent acts of civil disobedience to lobby for meaningful reform of corporate power. Occupy, strike, resist. Join the Extinction Rebellion.
  8. Consume less and as ethically as you can. Vote with your money. Spend less. Reuse, repair and recycle more. Buy local. Boycott the fossil fuel industry and other unethical corporations, starve them of capital. It’s only one plastic straw, bag. bottle. etc but it all adds up. Reject the fossil fuel lifestyle. If you take unnecessary journeys by fossil fuelled cars, buses or planes, stop now.
  9. Go vegetarian, or vegan if you can. Most people can do the former quite easily already. The latter is becoming easier and more accessible over time.
  10. Get off-grid, or switch to a green energy supplier. Grow your own food. Set up independent systems to harvest and filter rainwater.
  11. Go WWOOFING. There are world wide opportunities on organic farms all over the world. Small scale organic agriculture is one of the best solutions to a great many of the problems we are facing. I found WWOOFING to be a great way to relax and rebalance, peacefully cultivating nature while learning and being radically r3VOLutionary!
  12. Be urgent, but calm. Consider what is the most helpful thing you can do in the here and now. Do what you can. Don’t give yourself a hard time about the things you can’t do, or the things you can’t do yet.
  13. Share feasible solutions, love and hope with as many people as you can. Let it out if you need to but remember everybody’s struggling to cope with it all, consciously or subconsciously. Be sensitive.
  14. NETWORK NETWORK NETWORK
  15. Keep it lit, no matter how hopeless it looks.