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).
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‘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

 

Nature Rebels

By Allan Rowell

 

It occurred to me that the title of this essay is a double-entendre, (a phrase with two meanings): ‘Nature writ large, rebels’, and also a ‘group of people rebelling for Nature’ – either way works.

As human beings we are a part of the natural world, though many of us have forgotten this simple truth. As such it is entirely appropriate to describe Extinction Rebellion (XR) as the natural world rebelling through us and equally appropriate to describe XR as a group rebelling for Nature, for, as Buddhism, other ancient spiritual teachings and in recent years science confirms – We are One – one people, one life force, one planet.

As someone with an interest in permaculturetransition towns, the local food movement, and nature conservation, I believe that XR (more specifically the websites of XR and Rising Up) can become a ’lighthouse’ for others new to these interests to educate themselves about what the real problems that we collectively face are. It is increasingly clear that the large conservation NGO’s struggle to deliver this information, as they would be ‘biting the hand that feeds them’.

XR Grass

Looking forward from Rebellion Day on the 17th November 2018, it may not be sustainable to ask people to allow themselves to be arrested again & again, marvelous as that is for sparking public interest. I’d like to see groups of activists taking part in re-wilding projects on any scale, from small areas of grass on housing estates, to public parks or other areas of green spaces in their local areas. Re-wilding can be seen as a rather grand idea, at its largest scale it envisions vast tracts of the uplands reforested, reintroducing locally extinct wildlife.\

My own interpretation of re-wilding is a much more local affair. Given the reduction we now see in insects including pollinators there is little doubt that there is a crisis going on in our countryside: mono-cropping practices and chemical fertilisers & pesticide use have combined to produce an enormous threat to these species, but also the other members of the ecosystem that feed on them. We need to regenerate these ecosystems in our local urban areas offering suitable habitats to the remnant populations of these species, until they can return to a safer countryside once sanity returns to the world.

 We must also face up to the fact that our current civilisation is very likely to collapse in the not too distant future. We need to plan & take action for this now by planting fruit trees & other perennial plants in our local areas. Try not to worry unduly about this, it may not happen in your lifetime, think of it as supporting those generations who will follow this civilisation, do it with love for life in your heart.

rewilding

Apple trees recently planted in local park by ‘friends of group’

As it happens this is all occurring when there is increasing opportunity for groups & individuals to participate in the planning and deployment of new habitats in public parks & other green spaces. The reduction in funding from the government to local councils means that the councils are struggling to afford the costs of upkeep of these areas, and friends of parks groups are popping up everywhere.

What has been seen as appropriate ground cover for these areas has historically been grass, manicured lawns – green deserts for many wildlife species. What is now required, at least in part, are areas of wildflowers creating habitats for threatened insects, and feeding areas for birds & other wildlife. Taking part in projects like this will also educate our children & grandchildren in skills that they may well need in their lifetime.

Think of it as the Countryside Stewardship Scheme for urban greenfield sites, where 5 metre wide borders around playing fields are sown with wildflower meadows and fruit trees. These things can be done through official channels, or otherwise. One method that I’ve found effective to deter council staff from cutting newly sown wildflower meadow is to place tree stumps around the area.

leaves

Tree stumps spread around wildflower meadow

Another essential habitat are trees; these are necessary for birds to nest in, but are also additional habitat for insects, providing veritable larders for some species of birds. There are many conservation NGOs already promoting the planting of trees, but as with other NGOs they struggle to inform about one other crucial reason to plant more trees, this no doubt is another case of not ‘biting the hand that feed you’.

Carbon sequestration (meaning: to seize). Growing trees takes carbon the primary greenhouse gas out of the atmosphere and holds it both within the structure of the tree and also within the soil. The whole world needs to plant more trees over the coming decades on a massive scale, but as with rebellions, everything must start with small steps.

 

Love Life.

Eyewitness Account from Declaration Day

From small groups of people rallying up to fight against the profitable eviction racket (known as bailiffs) to a full-blown protest in Parliament Square demanding our oil-lobbied politician rethink about their response to climate change, people are rising and demanding change across the UK. On Wednesday the 31st of October, Extinctions Rebellion peacefully took over London’s busiest intersection to purposely disrupt the mindless routine of the city. 24 hours prior to the organised rebellion, scientists stated that since the 1970’s, humanity has made extinct 60% of mammals, birds, fish and reptiles. By the time our grandparents will turn 90, that number will have risen to almost 80% unless immediate action is taken.

A pool of different eclectics, faiths, and ages poured into the event projecting a heartfelt and welcoming communal vibe. Like a spell, people would fall silent cradled by the melodic pagan-like hymns sung while their smiles and shining eyes spoke more than a thousand words could. The palpable energy pulsating from the drumming and chanting crowd showed the love for our blue earth, and their cry for action was fierce. Amplified by the microphone, Green MEP Molly Scott Cato stated: “We are not here because we understand the importance that our planet has to our survival, rather because we all feel a deep energetic connection with mother Gaia”.

Out of the many speakers, Greta Thunberg, a 14-year-old who has been school striking for climate change, stood in front of thousands to share her message of action. With the latest UN reports stating that we have no more than 12 years before climate catastrophe, the teenager’s perspective of “climate crisis has never been treated as a crisis” deeply contrasted with the child-like inaptitude of our leaders.

Families shed tears of pain for the conditions in which they were inevitably going to leave the future to their younger loved ones. “It is painful for me to accept that the youth of today will never be able to experience the life that I had growing up because we wiped it out”, expressed one grandparent.

In the two and a half hours of public highway obstruction, police officers mingled and conversed with protestors. One officer paid personal attention to the well-being of certain protestors who had locked their arms and laid down on the road.  The mood seemed cheerful and friendly between protestors and law enforcement, giving off the illusion of a festival rather than a protest. A touching moment was briefly captured when Tom, a steward for Extinction Rebellion, approached the yellow-jacketed men and women with “Save Our Children” stickers. The momentary hesitation from their part was replaced by a handful of officers gingerly huddling in with outstretched hands to accept the stickers with prideful smiles. However, the harmonious atmosphere quickly came to an end when a false emergency ambulance was called in by the police to break the crowd apart. Within minutes, new stern faces populated the area shouting, pushing, and intimidating the crowd off the road.

The tug of war between civil disobedience and law enforcement created a divide amongst the activist. With most of the protesters dancing and singing on Parliament Square, the police swarmed the protestors locked to the gates of the Parliament. To create an aversion, a member of “Grandparents for a Safe Earth” decided to lie down with the activists despite having been pushed away by the police several times. The commitment of these individuals being ruthlessly arrested for asking for an emergency response to our polluted laws shocked many bystanders.

But we are not easily intimidated. Extinction Rebellion will take over Parliament Square again from the 12th till the 17th of November to demand carbon neutral strategies from our elected representatives.

 

 

What do we have to live for?

By Robin Boardman

As originally published by The Bristol Post here. Fair play to The Bristol Post for publishing Robin’s piece in full -written from a police cell. Here is the more readable version, without all the adverts…

What do we have to live for when the world around us is falling apart? Runaway climate change, as mentioned by the UN Secretary General last month, now poses an existential threat to the human race. Everyone gone forever.

We have the right to challenge this collapse. The recent Extinction Rebellion demonstration outside the Magistrate’s court in Bristol exercised this right. To freely challenge unjust laws is a privilege which our ancestors fought and died for. Our society is built on their sacrifice and we must honour them by protecting it for future generations.

The destruction of the environment is not necessary for our prosperity. Indeed, as many studies have shown, environmental destruction acutely damages our physical and mental health. A legal system which fails to protect the environment is failing to protect us and therefore must be challenged.

That is why we risked arrest and why we are prepared to risk prison sentences in the future. In the face of societal collapse, we need to remember what gives our lives meaning and what gives us the strength to go on. In the words of climate scientist, Professor Kate Marvel, “We need courage, not hope, to face climate change. We need the courage to challenge the corrupt system when we know human life is at stake.

The three of us arrested outside the Magistrate’s court follow in the footsteps of over 300 brave water protectors who have been arrested since January 2017, while campaigning against Cuadrilla’s Preston New Road fracking site. Last month, the #frackfreethree, Simon Roscoe Blevins, Rich Roberts and Rich Loizou; a soil scientist, a piano restorer and a teacher were sentenced to a year and a half in prison each for peacefully protesting. Their sentence, the first of its kind since 1932, illustrates the corruption of our legal system. Upstanding citizens are sent to jail while corporations walk free with blood on their hands.

Together we can build on the efforts of Mission Lifeforce to create a world where ecocide (the destruction of ecosystems by humans) is a crime; where ordinary people have a meaningful say on the future of our country, rather than leaving it in the hands of a corrupt political system, and where we can appreciate nature and our lives rather than sleepwalking through them.

In the back of the police van on Jamaica Street, I heard our call for change being sung through the streets. It was a beautiful moment that filled every part of me with the assurance that what we are doing is right and just. While bystanders may attack our tactics, at this point we are out of options.

Species are dying out faster than when the asteroid hit our planet. Climate breakdown threatens billions of lives. This escalating crisis demands escalating action. We need to be dramatic and bold in the face of such dark times.

Join Rising Up Bristol on Oct 31st, as we declare an Extinction Rebellion against the UK government for it’s criminal inaction on climate change and the sixth mass extinction.

We are so very nearly out of time. Help us to do what is right.

****

For more information check out www.rebellion.earth or drop us an email at extinctionrebellion@risingup.org.uk

Like @RisingUpBristol and @ExtinctionRebellion on Facebook.

Follow @RisingUpUK and @ExtinctionR on Twitter and @ExtinctionRebellion on Instagram.