‘Rebel for Life’. I love that phrase and the double meaning. Simple, with a big impact. That’s what we’re trying to do in Extinction Rebellion: Rebel against a system which is causing catastrophic climate change. The climate breakdown we’re experiencing now will impact all life on Earth within our lifetimes, and exponentially so within the lifetimes of our children. The evidence is irrefutable, and yet our leaders don’t seem get it. In fact most people don’t seem to get it, but that is changing.
Extinction Rebellion is a movement I have become part of over the last few months, and is something close to my heart. It’s great to finally meet and work with a group of individuals who feel the same way, and who are awake to the challenges we face; all the grief, anxiety, anger and despair, with the same aim of trying to provoke the changes desperately needed.
Traditional methods of driving change just aren’t working. Writing to your MP is all well and good, but what if they don’t listen, and are unwilling to educate themselves. Petitions get ignored, and scientists sidelined by powerful lobbyists backed by fossil fuel companies.
We attempted to get Norwich City Council to declare a Climate Emergency, however this was downgraded to acknowledging a Climate Emergency, with no increased commitment to reducing carbon emissions within a sensible timeframe. More political shenanigans by Labour councillors unwilling to face reality. Yes the council have done some good stuff on the climate front, but it’s nowhere near enough. In some ways I can’t blame them, as they truly believe they’re doing the right thing, but that’s because they’re not properly awake to the challenges we face yet. This is deadly serious. We need to adapt now, and that adaptation has got to be deep with fundamental lifestyle changes for all.
Thanks to the Green Party Councillor Denise Carlo for tabling the motion so eloquently, and to the backing of the Green Party Councillors present. A shame the Labour councillors don’t get it and are more concerned with political jockeying and short-term goals. It reminded me of why I’m loathed to watch Question Time anymore.
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change says we have 12 years to drastically cut carbon emissions if we’re to be in with a chance of limiting global temperature rises to below 1.5’C. Rises above that will see drastic increases in droughts, flooding, food shortages and extreme heat and weather events. We’ll see mass population displacement and migration, with the associated social, political and economic problems these bring. The bad news is we’ve almost certainly passed the point of limiting temperature rises to below 1.5’C, and we’re already seeing all these problems. It’s happening NOW.
And yet politicians, business leaders, and people in general don’t seem to want to acknowledge the Climate Emergency, or do anything about it. Even if a Climate Emergency is declared it’s only words, often not backed up by deeds, with policies driven by the idolization of unfettered and unsustainable economic growth; policies that often only benefit the superrich.
Again in some ways I can’t blame them. It’s hard to comprehend the scale of the problem and the impacts it’ll have. Much easier to live in denial and not wake up. And that’s what a lot of our so-called leaders want us to do: Don’t wake up, continue being compliant little consumers who can be exploited, whilst they sit amongst their riches secretly building emergency bolt holes for when it all goes wrong; yes, that’s happening, the world’s elite aren’t stupid.
The Norwich chapter of Extinction Rebellion took action last week, at the Norfolk County Council annual budget meeting, to try to drive home the point that change is needed. We strongly oppose the building of the new Western link road due to the increased carbon emissions that will result from both its building, and use. The money would be far better spent on other projects such as public transport, social housing, renewable energy schemes, and measures to prepare for sea level rises that will sink places like Great Yarmouth and King’s Lynn. The leaflet we produced explains more.
We disrupted the council meeting for around 5 hours by occupying the council chamber and making our voices heard through colourful and at times harmonious chants. I went along to help record the protest and broadcast updates via social media.
We don’t take this sort of action lightly, however as the leaflet says we’ve had enough of asking politely and not being listened too, of being sidelined, ridiculed and ignored. Our leaders are failing us, even though they don’t seem to realise it, and need to be woken up. We won’t take the destruction of planet and our futures, as well as the human caused 6th mass extinction event, lying down. Again, this is happening now and it’s not hard to find out about it; look at how insect numbers have plunged, the levels of biodiversity loss, sea ice diminishing to the point of blue ocean events in the arctic, or the fact that between 150 and 200 species are going extinct every day – a rate that is around 1,000 times greater than the background or natural rate.
Four of our number were arrested at the protest, and willingly so, a small price to pay for getting the message out there. Kudos and my personal thanks to them all.
I should say the police were courteous and gentle, and we have no complaints about how they conducted themselves. They’re just doing their job. It’s a shame our politicians aren’t.
The four people arrested were charged under a law dredged up from the archives, something created in the early 20th century to deal with movements like the Suffragettes. Oh…the irony. The county council even had a Suffragettes exhibition on display in the building, but obviously were blind to the parallels.
Following on from last week’s protest a group of Extinction Rebels also visited a South Norfolk district council meeting last night, to table a question requesting the declaration of a Climate Emergency. The request was refused by the council, with their action on cleaning up graffiti, fly tipping, and road advertising all being cited as reasons why they’re doing enough.
Cleaning up graffiti…they really don’t get it to they. How can that possibly help any of us in the fight versus catastrophic climate breakdown? This kind of ignorance is what we’re facing, and why Extinction Rebellion advocates non-violent direct action. We’ve got to rebel to stand a chance, following in the footsteps of movements like the Suffragettes, or individuals such as Gandhi; when the political system fails us it is our duty to rebel against it, and this is surely the biggest crisis faced by the human race to date.
We did invite Councillor Kay Mason Billig, Deputy Leader of the South Norfolk District Council, to meet with us to discuss the benefits of declaring a Climate Emergency. Councillor Billig politely refused, confirming there was nothing more she could do to assist with this request seeing as the council had refused it. She did wish us well with our campaign though…which is nice…she clearly doesn’t get it.
On a positive note did you witness the children striking for their future on Friday? It was truly moving to see thousands of pupils strike from school lessons to protest against the lack of action on climate change, a movement started by the inspiring Greta Thunberg (please watch her TED talk, and follow her on Twitter). Hearing their voices eloquently calling for change was amazing to watch, and I’m very much looking forward to the next #SchoolStrike4Climate on March 15; this is going to grow and grow.
Some politicians such as the progressive MP for South Norwich, Clive Lewis, came out in support of them, whilst others, including our Prime Minister, derided the action saying pupils should not damage their education by skipping lessons, and could face detentions and disciplinary action. As many pupils have said it’s their future being destroyed, and it’s time for change. Sacrificing a few hours of lesson time is more than worth it, and what is the point of learning if there is no future? Full credit to these children, they’re doing more than most adults for the cause.
I believe Theresa May said something along the lines of children and teacher time being wasted. I’m not sure she really has a leg to stand on after seeing the parliamentary shambles of the last few years. They have also wasted at least 30 years by not doing anything to avert this crisis; these facts have been known for decades.
I’m at the point of complete disgust and despair at most of our politicians and leaders, with a few exceptions such as Caroline Lucas, or Clive Lewis. Talking to them just isn’t working, and neither are letters or petitions. Direct action seems our only recourse.
We are all going to have to change our lifestyles in order to stand a chance, and for our children to stand a chance. The changes needed will be far-reaching; a topic for another blog, and for a Citizens Assembly to try to work out. I certainly don’t have the answers.
The question I was asking myself today was why do most people in this country, and in more developed countries across the world, seem to value their often luxurious and consumptive lifestyles more than they love their children? Why won’t they make even simple changes like using a car less, rejecting fast fashion, or cutting down meat consumption? I don’t get it. Many indigenous cultures claim we have forgotten how to love our children. I think they might be right.
You can follow Norwich Extinction Rebellion activity via our Twitter account, @NorwichXr, as well as our Instagram and Facebook accounts. Please feel free to come along to one of the weekly general meetings which happen most Thursdays; details on Facebook, or message me.
Rebel for Life.
I wonder why most politicians just don’t get it? Years ago I read about how the rich managed to change the economic orthodoxy from Keynesianism to neoliberalism (aka free market fundamentalism) by studiously avoiding party politics and instead concentrating on changing the ideas of opinion formers in education and the media. And they were successful. In the middle of last century the idea that governments should not manage the economy was thought of as lunacy. Now the opposite is the case. Although that is changing thanks to the financial crisis of 2008. And note that we are heading for another financial crisis, (Steve Keen, who won the Revere prize for the clearest warning of the financial crisis a decade ago, wrote a book ‘Can we avoid another financial crisis?’ in 2017. His conclusion was we cannot, as the system has not been reformed).
Neoliberalism is coming to an end. Trump, Brexit, the Yellow Vests in France, are all symptoms of disillusion with the status quo. As is the popularity of Jeremy Corbyn in the UK and Bernie Sanders in the USA, who proclaim themselves to be socialists not neoliberals – contrast this with Bill Clinton and Tony Blair, who accepted the primacy of markets.
Even if they are working, people cannot make ends meet, because the free market lowers wages and increases rents. In addition, Artificial Intelligence is about to destroy about half the jobs in developed world economies, so the economy will collapse anyway.
It is now time for a Green New Deal, putting people back to work in green jobs, saving the economy at the same time as saving the climate. Things are moving our way. Clive Lewis, our very own MP in Norwich South, is currently rewriting Labour’s economic policy to make it Green. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Bernie Sanders (the most popular politician in the US) are promoting the Green New Deal the other side of the Atlantic. The Green New Deal was started in the UK over a decade ago in the wake of the financial crisis by Colin Hines, former head of economics at Greenpeace International, who realised that talking about how bad economic growth is would not go down well in a recession, and instead decided to emphasise how many green jobs could be created by acting on climate, bringing together a number of economists and environmentalists, including Caroline Lucas MP, and Richard Murphy of the Tax Justice Network, who lives in west Norfolk, and founder of the Jubilee 2000 campaign Ann Pettifor, to form the Green New Deal Group http://www.greennewdealgroup.org. Richard Murphy and Ann Pettifor have both been advisors to Jeremy Corbyn, so I have high hopes for the Labour Party getting in to government and implementing the GND over here .
Now is not the time to give up on trying to convince politicians of the error of their ways, or to annoy them by direct action, now is the time to redouble our efforts to change their ideas. I went to the Green Belt festival in 2017 and heard a very interesting talk by a woman whose name I can’t remember (sorry – old age – I’m in my late 60s now and that’s what happens) about how she changed her approach to her (female) MP, who she had previously been unable to influence, by making her an embroidered handkerchief as a gift, and adopting submissive body language. She was successful in getting the MP onside. I also went to a talk by Hope for the Future, who are specialists in training people how to lobby MPs on climate change http://www.hftf.org.uk/. I think all these ideas also apply to local councillors.
I know this isn’t at all rebellious, so maybe it will go down like a lead balloon with people reading this, but I honestly believe it will have more chance of succeeding than getting MPs to voluntarily give up power by creating trouble in their constituencies. Remember MPs care more about power than anything – they have worked hard for years to get it; if we seriously threaten that power they will bring in the army. Far easier to convince them to do the right thing and combat climate change for the sake of their own children and grandchildren, who they must surely care about (most of them anyway – maybe Trump is an exception – but then he is a psychopath). I suspect the reason most of them don’t already do the right thing is not because they are inherently evil, but because they do not understand the seriousness of the climate crisis, because of the filter bubbles they are in. Remember the right wing press (which most MPs read) are all climate deniers, and personalised search engines (exposed by the book ‘The filter bubble’ by Eli Pariser) mean that people get information on the internet that confirms their own prejudices, so a climate denier looking up climate change on the internet will find lots of climate denial. And maybe the climate crisis isn’t as bad as we (or at least some of us) in XR believe it to be, because of our own filter bubbles (how many of you believe in Inevitable Near Term Human Extinction as described by Guy McPherson?)
New Green Deal is exciting. I totally get echo chambers and ‘bubbles’, but am a bit confused about your statement that the climate crisis might not be as bad as I think it is; there’s so much science out there that says it is, and it’s not in any particular bubble. I hope it isn’t as bad as those who know far more than I do say it is though! Good luck convincing politicians by conventional means, it’s not worked very well for the last 30+ years, but as you say, perhaps other people will have more success. Happy to chat face-to-face post meeting.
I was thinking about Guy McPherson in particular. Inevitable Near Term Human Extinction is taking it a bit too far. Michael Mann, who is a climate scientist (unlike McPherson who is, or was, an ecologist) says that McPherson is a cult leader. I note that the IPCC brought out a report in October saying we had to turn things round in 12 years, and Peter Wadhams, professor of ocean physics at Cambridge University, says the IPCC doesn’t go far enough
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yes, very much so, to christopherkeene
two points – as well as Guy McPherson I came across Dahr Jamil on the Thom Hartmann show yesterday on YouTube – Dahr is at the top of his game and is saying much the same as Guy – and Dahr has more halo – this is about filter bubbles of course and I favour the precautionary principle here as we really dont know, not even the top climate scientists – its all a very well informed and educated guess – even at 95% certainty – but any sane person etc etc
——the other thing is maybe the drastic lifestyle change silver linings could be stressed – like slimness, fitness, more active involvement with each other than with the great god Media again etc etc
I’ll have to look down if these names up. Thanks for the references. On promoting the benefits of lifestyle changes: I’ve been trying that for years on the cycling to work front, which has so many benefits. People in general just aren’t interested, even though cycling would often be quicker!