Tag Archives: Climate Change

I’d rather be in the woods

I really would rather be in the woods, engaged in bushcraft training, foraging, learning about plants, animals and trees. Helping others learn about them too. That would be great. The year long bushcraft course I finished last year with the Woodcraft School, which was actually two years long due to the pandemic, was brilliant. I want to be sitting around a campfire with mates swapping tales after a hard days graft. But I just don’t feel I can at the moment.

Me and my camp
Me and my camp

I think I’m having one of those days where everything feels a little bleak, hard work, headachy, not to mention frustrating and emotionally taxing. October was pretty intense on the protest front, helping to support Just Stop Oil as we took action in London. November is turning out to be similar. Not that I could think of doing anything else at the moment, the crisis being so urgent.

Like many others I’ve taken holiday from my day job to support the Just Stop Oil protests, and am often busy in the evenings and at weekends doing similar. It’s tiring, but what else can we do in the face of a Government that simply won’t do what’s needed? These ordinary people from all walks of life are some of the kindest, most compassionate and self-sacrificing people I’ve ever met. It’s a privilege to work with them, learn from them, cry with them and do whatever I can to help get their stories and message out there.

The UK Government want to open up over 100 new oil and gas projects, when all the science is saying we can’t afford the climate wrecking emissions from doing so. Just Stop Oil are demanding no new oil and gas licenses are granted, and that we transition to renewable energy. We have enough oil and gas reserves to keep us going for years, we don’t need to open up new ones that take decades to come online, are 9 times more expensive than renewables, and won’t do anything to help with the cost of living crisis or our energy security.

People around the world, especially in the Global South, are dying right now because of floods, droughts, fires and famine. A report from Oxfam in May this year said it was likely one person is dying from hunger every 48 seconds in Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia. It’s only got worse since May. Thirty three million people have been displaced from their homes in Pakistan due to flooding, and now disease is rife. The list of climate related disasters goes on.

On the home front we’re protected from the worst impacts, however the summer heatwave where temperatures went over 40C for the first time saw over 3,000 excess deaths. The London fire service had their busiest period since the blitz due to fires caused by these temperatures, and sixty homes round the country were lost as a direct result. Harvests are failing both where I live in East Anglia, and around the world, which is going to drive food prices up even further and will mean even more people go hungry.

You don’t have to believe Extinction Rebellion or Just Stop Oil when we tell you just how serious the crisis is. Thousands of scientists are screaming it from the rooftops. Antonio Guterres, the UN Secretary General, said this week we’re on course for Climate Hell. The International Energy Association and Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change are saying we can’t have any new oil and gas projects. Sir David King, ex-chief Scientific Advisor to the UK Government says we have 2 or 3 years left to act to slash green house gas emissions. Saint David Attenborough is saying the same. We need to act now or we face societal collapse.

I am so scared about not only what’s going to happen to me as I grow older, but for my niece and nephew; will they have a chance to grow as old as I am? I’m 47, they are 9 and 11. It’s the same for all my friends’ children. I just feel like I have to do something to give them a chance at a survivable future, and hopefully one they can thrive in. I know this sounds awful, but it’s the truth, one that’s not being talked about enough.

The protests by Just Stop Oil on the M25 this week have rightly sparked outrage amongst the general public. Traffic has ground to a halt meaning people can’t get to work, have missed funerals, may have missed or been late for hospital or doctors appointments. It’s terrible that it’s come to this. The people taking this action know they are going to be hated, but don’t think they have any other recourse. Everything else has been tried: writing petitions, talking to MPs, writing letters, standing on a pavement with a placard or going on a march. Civil resistance is all we have left. Actions have included blockading fuel depots and disrupting oil refineries, road blocks in London, disruptive actions outside Downing Street and other Government departments. Soup and cake has been thrown at artworks, not damaging them, but causing media uproar and public backlash from some quarters.

These actions create the tension required for discussion to happen, for the climate crisis and the action needed to mitigate it – we can’t stop it – to get into the media and for the Government to take notice. Our criminal Government could stop the Just Stop Oil actions right now by agreeing to not allow any new oil and gas projects. It’s a straightforward demand that all the experts are saying needs to happen, right now. Sunak is at COP27 saying action needs to be taken, the crisis is urgent and we need to hit our targets, but it’s all nonsense. He and his party are doing the opposite of what’s needed and falsely accounting UK carbon emissions to make us look good. COP 27, like COP26, is full of fossil fuel lobbyists and I hold out very little hope it will result in any concrete commitments for change. Meanwhile year on year the situation gets more and more dire, people are suffering and dying, and our futures are going up in smoke.

I do understand why many of the public are getting angry about the civil resistance taking place. It’s really shit, however I’m also getting pretty frustrated with how misdirected that anger is. This isn’t a popularity contest, however the Government are being negligent and are far more deserving of your ire. I learned this week that hundreds of lawyers wrote to the Government to say that if average temperatures rise 1.5C above pre-industrial averages we will lose the rule of law. They are talking about societal breakdown. The UN said last week that there’s no credible path to keeping temperates below +1.5C. The Government’s continued inaction on the climate crisis, and continued support of the fossil fuel industry, is therefore criminal. They are still subsidising oil and gas companies to the tune of £236 million pounds a week, when instead they could be investing this money into renewables and helping with the cost of living crisis. The ‘windfall tax’ they’ve imposed on energy company profits has massive loopholes, allowing the likes of BP and Shell to offset profits versus new development costs. BP and Shell are making billions of pounds, profits for a really small minority, whilst the majority suffer.

Back to the frustration. As a spokesperson for JSO (Just Stop Oil) you hear and see all the criticism, either during interviews or online on social media platforms, or in the media. Here are several of the common topics, with my comments:

  • You’re all hypocrites, you drove to those actions, you wear clothes made from oil products, eat food that uses oil, have a mobile phone etc
    • Yes, it’s true, we’re hypocrites. We can’t be anything else in the current system. We can recycle as much as we like, stop flying, go vegan, but we still exist in a system where not using oil and gas is impossible. Taking action or being noticed whilst campaigning for change, and not using fossil fuels, is impossible. What should we do, go and live in a cave and wear a hemp sack? Doing nothing isn’t an option. We’re not saying stop using oil and gas tomorrow, we’re saying no new oil and gas projects. We need a just transition to a new way of living.
  • The traffic delays are causing loads of pollution and green house gas emissions. You’re making the crisis worse by your actions.
    • Ok. Deep breath. The increased emissions/pollution from delays pale into complete insignificance versus the emissions caused by continued fossil fuel exploration, construction, increased overall car use, and the continued and increasing production of all the things we’re told we need and have to buy, but don’t really need. This argument is so tiring, and doesn’t make sense. People could also just turn their engines off if they’re in a traffic jam.
  • You’re losing public support. You need public support. You’re damaging the cause.
    • There’s no evidence to suggest JSO actions are damaging the environmental cause. In a recent poll 66% of respondents supported direct action on the climate and ecological crisis. People may dislike this style of civil resistance, but it get’s results. People are talking about the issue. The media are publishing articles and interviewing us every day; they wouldn’t if we just stood on the roadside with a placard. Previous movements that used civil disobience to get results were loathed at the time, like the Suffragettes. Martin Luther King was the most hated man in America. The LGBTQ+ community had to fight for the rights they have today. They got results from taking direct action, results which everyone recognises today were the desperately needed.
  • Go and protest in China or the US, they’re the big polluters. The UK is responsible for less than 1% of emissions. Us cutting emission won’t do anything. Stop disrupting our lives.
    • One, the 1% stat doesn’t really take into account all our emissions, such as those from the production and transportation of all the goods we consume that a manufactured abroad. Two, this doesn’t account for our historical emissions – we’re a world leader on that since the industrial revolution, and have a responsibility to acknowledge an act. Three, we need to set an example, we can be world leaders at that, and on green tech and a green transition. We really do have a responsibility to face up to our colonial past and the exploitation of the Global South for profit. So we’ll continue to take action in the UK against our criminal Government and the oil and gas industry.
  • You’re delaying ambulances. People are dying because of the actions you’re taking. People can’t get to hospital appointments etc.
    • Yes, it’s really terrible when any delays like this take place, or if ill people get caught up in disruption. I hate it. Worth noting that the South East ambulance service recently said no ambulances had been delayed as a result of protests. JSO and XR also have a blue light policy and always let emergency vehicles through road blocks. It’s still awful if anyone is delayed, but 1000’s round the world are dying right now due to the climate crisis, our futures are at stake, and the Government is doing the opposite of what’s required. What else can we do?
  • You’re nothing but a cult, full of brain-washed idiots!
    • I like this one, it’s quite new. If we’re a cult, we’re a cult that is supported by thousands of scientists, and scientific bodies, the UN Secretary General, the IEA, IPCC, and 1000’s of ordinary people who work as teachers, doctors, nurses, carpenters, students or retired folks. Strange sort of cult really, campaigning to preserve life

There are no doubt lots of other examples. Maybe mention them in the comments and we can discuss further.

I just want to touch on the media’s role in all this. They are complicit in the crisis and just aren’t telling the truth, or giving the public the facts they deserve and need to know. I know I shouldn’t be surprised, but just how little people are aware of how dire the situation, and how they haven’t really emotionally connected with it, is still amazes me. The 1.5C target being blown means nothing to so many folks, and I’m not surprised given how little attention the media give the climate and ecological crisis. Reporters don’t challenge oil and gas execs enough, and certainly don’t hold the Government sufficiently to account. Mainstream media is controlled by billionaire oligarchs with an interest in maintaining the status quo, at the expense of everyone else. The media have a duty to report the truth, the same way that we have a duty to rise up versus a morally corrupt and criminally negligent government.

It’s really hard sometimes. I get why people feel the way they do, the anger and frustration, the hatred, I wish people could look beyond the disruption to the reasons for it, and who is ultimately responsible. I was encouraged today to hear people stuck in traffic saying they get it, and support the direct action being taken. I hope this marks a shift in public perception. I hope people spare a thought for those now on remand or serving prison sentences for the action they’ve taken to try to save lives. We’ll see.

One thing for certain, we’ve just got to keep on taking action, and trying new forms of civil resistance to bring about change. Do something and have a chance at a survivable future. Do nothing and perish. Not really a choice there.

Please consider joining Just Stop Oil or Extinction Rebellion out on the streets, or any other organisation taking non-violent direct action. There’s lots of ways to get involved, and plenty of support.

I’d really rather be in the woods though.

I just realised that as the police are starting to arrest reporters and film-makers covering protests, and to arrest ordinary folks on charges of conspiracy when they haven’t actually done anything, there’s even a risk I could be arrested for writing a blog post like this. The Public Order Bill currently going through the House of Lords is terrifying, and a subject for another blog post. If you don’t hear from me for a while you know why (only semi joking).

Picture of Gideon by way of goodbye for now. I asked him about COP27. He pondered for a bit, but reckons there isn’t much hope, especially as humans seem to be interested in cat pictures more than the reality of the climate crisis. Not that he’s complaining, he’s quite vain. Then he went to sleep.

Just start doing something

Today has to go down as pretty memorable in terms of stuff that’s happened in my lifetime, although not in a particularly good way. Liz Truss resigns, the shortest ever UK Prime Minister; not in terms of stature, rather in terms of term served. It really seems like the blind leading the blind in the Tory party at the moment. A shambles. Complete chaos. Other adjectives no doubt apply. The ‘Have I Got News For You’ Twitter account summarised things quite well:

  • BREAKING: Only 67 more Cabinet ministers till Christmas.
  • BREAKING: The Government.
  • Truss resigns. U-turn expected imminently.

I mean, you really couldn’t make this up.

Here’s a nice picture of Gideon, my cat, just to calm things down a bit before I continue. He doesn’t really care about UK Politics, although he is a bit vexed about me going down to London repeatedly to complain about the Government and Oil companies, leaving him without lap time and treats (lies).

Gideon getting some well earned lap time
Gideon getting some well earned lap time

If this blog post ends up not making much sense it might be because I’ve caught covid again. I caught it the first time around in September 2021 and it wasn’t too bad, aside from losing my sense of smell and taste for a bit. This time I have the annoying persistent cough and am generally feeling a bit crap, hence this post might go off-road. Gideon says it’s my fault for going to the germ filled capital and leaving him to fend for himself (the latter is also lies).

Alright, on to the serious stuff. Because the farce going on in the Houses of Parliament at the moment is nothing compared with the challenges facing ordinary people in the UK. Or the challenges we face on a wider front due to the climate and ecological crisis. Thousands in the Global South (non-western nations) are already dying.

I was thinking about it today, and whilst the Tories can’t even agree on a Prime Minister and Cabinet, the following is happening:

  • UK people are being forced to choose between heating or eating, or can’t afford either. Children in the UK are suffering now, and 1000’s of the elderly may die this winter due to the cold.
  • I read about a kid today who pretended to eat stuff out of an empty lunch box cos his family can’t afford food, and he doesn’t qualify for free school meals. He didn’t want to be embarrassed in front of his friends.
  • Inflation and interest rates are hitting ordinary folks hard, whilst the rich just get richer. Big energy companies like BP and Shell are making record profits at our expense, and the Government refuses to tax them.
  • Division in the UK, between the rich and the poor, as well as different communities, is getting worse. One has to conclude this is an active policy by the Government to make sure we don’t unite against them.
  • Harvests are failing around the world due to extreme weather, driving up food prices. I read East Anglian potato harvests are down by as much as 50% due to the hot and dry weather.
  • Floods in Pakistan have killed thousands and displaced 33 million people. Imagine for a minute if that happened in the UK.
  • Floods in Nigeria kill 100’s and displace over a million. One person every 36 seconds is estimated to be dying from hunger in East Africa. Drought and famine in Somalia, Kenya, Ethiopia and South Sudan – list not exhaustive. These crises are all exacerbated by Climate Change but you won’t hear about it as much because, you know, it’s Africa rather than Florida.
  • The Amazon and rainforests around the world continue to be slashed and burned to make room for farming – mostly cattle or to grow animal feed. The Amazon is now at, or may have crossed, a tipping point towards savannah/desert.
  • Wildfires still rage, heatwaves are getting worse and killing people, conflict for remaining resources is increasing often breaking out into all out war (e.g. Ukraine).
  • The refugee crises just gets worse and worse, many of them climate refugees, and we want to fly them to Rwanda.
  • Civil liberties, the right to protest and freedom of speech are being restricted and criminalised by the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Act, and now the Public Order Bill; please look the latter up as it’s truly dystopian and scary, and will turn the UK into a police state like Russia, Syria or Iran.

I’ve not added lots of climate and ecological items to the above list, but lets not forget oceans are dying from over-fishing and acidification, insect numbers have plummeted, rare habitats are still being destroyed, we’re still slaughtering mammals for sport or ‘scientific research’, and parts of the world are becoming uninhabitable. Greenhouse Gas emissions are still going up, and we’re seeing dangerous levels of methane released from the permafrost that could trigger a rapid extinction level event. Oh, and storms really are getting fiercer and more frequent.

People often ask when societal collapse is going to happen? When will the apocalypse strike? I think it’s already happening right before our eyes. Given all the above how can it not be? We’re hanging on by a thread and whilst it could take years, there may be no coming back from it now.

I really think mainstream media is very much to blame for a lot of this. They fail to report key issues, concentrating instead on trivialities and celebrity culture. They vilify or ridicule ordinary people taking action to try and bring about change, and scare off anyone else who was thinking about taking action. A few billionaires own the majority of mainstream media. I think it’s safe to assume they’re just protecting their own interests at everyone else’s expense, and most are blind to it because we’re hit with their messaging day in day out. Just watch the film ‘Don’t Look Up’ to see what’s happening; terrifyingly accurate.

But it’s ok, because the world’s Governments have got this all in hand, haven’t they?

Bollocks they have. COP26 was a failure, and COP27 is likely to be too with fossil fuel companies having far too much influence, and green washing endemic. In politics short-termism is rife, egos abound, lobbyists make sure the Government doesn’t upset the status quo, and the police and criminal justice system is clamping down on any dissenting voices. Any politicians who make it into serious positions of power seem to only have their own interests at heart, or are narcissists, or frankly psychopaths.

So what can we do? Just start doing something at least. Recently I’ve been down in London taking direct action with Extinction Rebellion and Just Stop Oil. Why? Because nothing else is working and civil disobedience has a track record of bringing about a change. Writing letters, signing petitions, talking to your MP or even going on marches have very limited if no impact. Check out this film clip from Zoe Broughton of Lora Johnson, a Just Stop Oil activist.

Lora tells it like it is, whilst being arrested ✊

At the moment 100’s of Just Stop Oil supporters are being arrested down in London for demanding a different future, an end to new oil and gas projects. 1000’s of Extinction Rebellion activists have been arrested over the last few years for demanding the Government tell the truth, act now, and form citizens assemblies to guide us through a just transition.

We’re not saying stop using oil and gas right now, we’re saying we can’t afford the emissions from any new projects, and yet the Government wants to license 130 new oil and gas fields. This goes against what climate scientists, the IPCC, Sir David King, Antonio Gueterres, Sir David Attenborough and many others are saying. We have 2 to 3 years to rapidly reduce green house gas emissions and transition away from fossil fuels or it’s game over. Renewable energy is 9 times cheaper and much quicker to build than extracting new oil and gas, which can take decades to come online.

Why on earth would we want new oil and gas, it’s only purpose at this stage is mega profits for a minority at everyone else’s expense, especially those that live and are dying in the Global South.

Politicians and mainstream media, and members of the public led by this toxic media, are vilifying ordinary people fighting for a future which doesn’t involve more famine, war, death and societal collapse. Here a film mash up I made of a recent Just Stop Oil protest in Trafalgar Square. I’ve got more in the pipeline from last week.

These protestors, ordinary people of all ages and from all walks of life, are some of the kindest, most selfless and courageous people I have ever had the privilege of calling friends and taking peaceful action with. They’re people that have properly emotionally connected with the danger we’re in, not just understood the facts and figures. They are retired, students, have jobs and have taken holiday, or yes they might be between jobs sometimes. And yes they still have to use fossil fuel products because that’s the system we’re stuck with at the moment; we’re all hypocrites to one degree or another.

Yet we are being called selfish, arrogant, and accused of destroying the cause we’re fighting for. Critics say we block emergency vehicles when in fact we have a blue light policy which means we always let them through. The media have slammed two young women for throwing tomato soup on a Van Gogh they knew was covered in glass protection, and two climbers for shutting down the QE2 bridge for two days. People say I agree with your cause but not your methods and that we’re hypocrites; that’s ok, just do something.

You're all hypocrites
You’re all hypocrites

So many claims are being made, many of them false, about our actions, however look at what is happening. Spoke persons from Just Stop Oil (JSO) and Extinction Rebellion (XR) are being invited on TV and Radio shows to debate these issues. The newspapers are covering our actions. The public are talking about the climate and ecological crisis, new oil and gas, and insulating homes. People are starting to understand that the cost of living and energy crises are linked to the climate and ecological emergency; we can solve them together with a just transition. And thousands are joining movements like JSO, XR, Enough is Enough and Friends of the Earth. Yes, JSO actions can be regarded as radical and down right annoying, however they push the window, and as a result more people join the more moderate activist flanks.

People hated the Suffragettes and Dr Martin Luther King when they were active, yet the actions they and many others took are regarded as justified and necessary now. Martin Luther King explained the need to create tension to drive change far better than I can.

MLK theory of change
MLK theory of change

Please look beyond the headlines when you hear about people taking non-violent direct action to demand change, to demand a survivable future, to demand we stop ecological destruction and new oil and gas projects. They’re not doing it to piss you off, or because they want self-attention, they’re doing it because they’ve realised we’re screwed and this is the only option left to them. And now the Government want to clamp down even harder on these legitimate protests.

Please, whatever you are capable of: Just start doing something.

Just Stop Oil are taking action in London throughout October and into November, meet 11am ish outside Downing Street. Extinction Rebellion are planning to get one hundred thousand people out on the streets next April. There’s a big multi-movement march planned in London on 05 November. Don’t be a bystander, get involved in the fight for our futures.

A calming cat picture of Gideon to round things off, hiding in a wrapping paper tepee for some reason. He is still vexed about me going to London, but really thinks humans are making a right old mess of things and need to step up.

Not sure if I should get ill more or less often if it makes me write blog posts like this. I think I’ll go and watch Question Time to relax now, that should be interesting.

Norfolk – life in the slow lane (in a good way)

Norfolk. UK. It can be an odd place. There are the obvious jokes that seem to apply to any county that isn’t close to a huge metropolis, or which is agriculturally focussed. After 25 odd years of living here I still find the lack of serious hills a bit boring at times; having grown up in East Sussex with the South Downs, Norfolk can seem a bit flat until you get to the North coast.

It’s a beautiful county though; huge skies and horizons, the Norfolk Broads, the coastline and endless beaches, the picturesque little villages you stumble upon where time still seems to run more slowly than the rest of the world. The people are friendly and hospitable, and not hesitant about sharing a story or two, in fact it can be hard to get away if you engage them in conversation.

Today I went on a slow bike ride around a bit of the the Norfolk Broads, around Neastishead and Irstead, not far from Wroxham. I was deliberately pedalling slowly, just looking at everything, and pausing frequently. There were children playing in the country lanes, neighbours chatting on village greens and staithes (in a mostly socially distant manner) over a glass of cider (ok, can of scrumpy maybe). Nature was thriving everywhere with birds singing, mice foraging, lambs gambolling and even a glimpse of an Otter. And the plants, mighty Oaks and water loving Alder, hundreds of different wildflowers I can’t even begin to name, all buzzing with insect life.

What’s my point? I was just wondering why people feel the such a compulsion to holiday abroad, getting on a plane, flying to a concrete hotel complex somewhere in the world, with a sterile beach and swimming pool, food they ultimately complain about, with accompanying travel stress and carbon footprint. We have all this on our doorstep. Norfolk isn’t unique in having loads of places to explore and things to do. Coming out of lockdown why don’t we all fly less and visit the wonders on our own doorstep? I’m certain local businesses would appreciate it for a start, and connecting with nature in our local area is so good for folks.

I really enjoyed my slow bike ride today, and wander round Alder Fen Broad, then Barton Broad. Highly recommend visiting them; although maybe just leave Alder Fen Broad alone as it’s lovely and quiet, a bit of a hidden gem; so many Dragon Flies!

Exploring hidden pathways is fun, and did anyone else read Swallows and Amazons as a child?

I’ve really got to get myself a canoe. Sometimes paddling beats pedalling.

Anyone know the story behind the statue above Irstead Church doorway? Some kind of Broads Serpent maybe? I love how a ride round your local area can inspire your imagination.

Barton Broad offers another chance to see an example of car woodland; not much of this around anymore.

It’s been fun exploring my local area whilst I’ve been on holiday. I’m back to work next week, but hoping to work a bit less and get out a bit more!

Finally, for my Extinction Rebellion friends: Next Rebellion announced today, 01 September, Parliament Square in London if you’ve not got a local rebellion. Coincides with Parliament reopening. With Boris saying ‘Build Build Build’ (all the wrong ‘builds’ too), and 4C temp rises now predicted, it’s time to Rebel For Life; We want to Live!

Extinction Rebellion – where are we at?

Hi – this is a reflective post on Extinction Rebellion, with whom I’ve been involved for about a year and a half now, if not longer; recently time is starting to blur a bit. It will most likely be of interest to active rebels, but I’d invite anyone to read it and comment, as it’s useful to hear other opinions. I originally started writing it in a response to a post on social media, but apparently it’s a bit too long to fit in the comments!

Extinction Rebellion…Oct 2018 to June 2020

It was such a relief to me when Extinction Rebellion (XR) started in Norwich. Turning up at that first meeting in October 2018 to find there were lots of people like me, very concerned about the environment and ecology, and the path that we’re still on; 4oC temp rises, mass extinction, societal breakdown, mass migration and war, famine, drought, ecocide etc.

At the time the above were my main concerns, and still feature right up there on my worry list. Thinking about the future and what’s going to happen to everyone (humans, animals, plants, planet) genuinely does stop me from sleeping, and often makes me think everything pointless, because I’m not sure there’s anything we can do to stop this runaway train (unintentional link to HS2 there). There’s just not the willingness politically, or amongst business leaders, or amongst most of society in the UK to make the drastic changes we so desperately need. People don’t want to give up there comfortable, high-consumption, cosy and safe lifestyles; and by people I do mean most people in the western world. I totally acknowledge this is a challenge for me too!

I still think most people, even if they now know climate change is real, don’t really get the implications, or the impacts already being felt by the Global South and indigenous populations. Yeah, there were those fires in Australia, and didn’t South Africa run out of water, and what about those orang-utans (etc etc), but at the end of the day I can worry about that a bit then go back to my cosy lifestyle, as it’s not on my doorstep.

It’s not on my doorstep yet anyway. It will be soon but people don’t want their bubble broken, or to be taken outside of their comfort zone. It’s damned scary. Blissful ignorance is…well…blissful.

But once you’re properly awake, you can’t go back to sleep. And that’s why it was such a relief to find a group of people in Norwich, and nationally, who wanted to try and do something about an issue that has been on my mind for years and years. I think many of us, even if it’s at an unconscious level, have known something is wrong all our lives. Here was a group of people that really understood the depth of the crisis and changes needed. To us it’s obvious why you shouldn’t build another airport or more roads, damage vital habitats to build a railway or more houses, or push an unfettered economic growth policy. It’s obvious the modern way of life and capitalism is ultimately killing us. It’s now more obvious how this links in with Social Justice. All of this still isn’t obvious to most people though, and I can’t really judge them on that; it’s a hard topic and not widely discussed or accepted.

I’ve was never involved with any kind of activism before XR, and I think that’s pretty representative of a lot of our membership, aside from some of our ‘leaders’ (hesitant about using the word leader, probably mean more founders). We’re just ‘normal’, run of the mill UK people, with ‘normal’ jobs and lifestyles. And yes, a lot of us are middle classed, and very privileged; I for one acknowledge that. Until recently I didn’t know much about other movements and struggles, and for example I still view organisations like Unions with distrust (but trying not to judge).

Sure, I was worried about the NHS, Brexit, human and animal rights, racism, fairness, and a host of other issues, but for me these all paled into insignificance versus the Climate Crisis and Ecocide. In the end these two things have made me an activist, and got me out onto the streets. I think this is still the case for lots of XR members; the climate and ecological crisis is the issue that trumps all other issues, as if we don’t solve that there won’t be anything else left to fix. I still believe that to an extent. And I think a lot of rebels still want us to focus on that, and feel we might be trying to bring too many other issues into scope.

However, since those early XR days, I’ve learnt loads thanks to talking to lots of other rebels; I could reel off a long list of names and talks I’ve been too, but you’ll probably know who I’m referring to if you move in those circles. XR has been a gateway to the world of activism and learning more about the issues we face locally, nationally and globally. One of the biggest areas of learning has been around Global/Social Justice, and how it’s all linked. We can’t fix the climate and eco crisis without addressing Global Justice. And by Global Justice I mean acknowledging and taking action to stop the exploitation of the Global South and indigenous populations, and to support them on the front-line of the climate crisis; they’re already dying in their thousands.

It also means acknowledging and doing more to combat racism and inequality in our own country, for the same reasons, and that includes within XR. We need everyone’s voices (I exclude racist and some other categories from ‘everyone’) and to engage with all communities, not to distance ourselves from them, or say we don’t need them; I have personally seen this happen. We also shouldn’t take actions without understanding the impact it can have on communities which one doesn’t originate from. More empathy, outreach and understanding needed.

What can we do to make XR better? What can we do to fix what could be viewed as a make or break few months? I don’t have all the answers and shouldn’t expect to; we need everyone’s help with that.

What don’t I want to see?

I don’t want to see current rebels, who joined for the same reasons I did, leaving because they think being middle classed and privileged means they’re no longer welcome, or because it means they don’t really have a right to protest. I think I need to acknowledge and use my privilege in a constructive manner, to hopefully to make things better. I also acknowledge the ‘not feeling welcome’ bit is how a lot of BAME/LGBTQ must feel all the time.

I don’t want to see XR paralysed by internal politics, especially at a national level. I don’t want to see us starting to rely on a hierarchy that will stop us from doing anything; we’re a self organising system with demands, principles and shared values. We shouldn’t be held back because suddenly one of our previously key members/leaders is doing something we find is at odds with those principles and values; let’s move on.

There are quite a lot of very self righteous people (I hope I’m not one of them) around at the moment who are getting too judgemental perhaps. Too many egos? Maybe XR is being used as a platform for other causes where it’s not really appropriate to do so?

I also really don’t want to lose the grass-roots rebels we have, that would diminish us. I feel that if you’re part of something you care about, and think it might be broken somewhere, then it’s better to try and at least fix it before leaving; if you think it’s worth your time and effort, and isn’t going to bring you too much stress or ill-health.

What do I want see?

I want to see the 4th demand (Social Justice) put in place as soon as possible, and don’t want to have to wait for months of endless talk and meetings for this to happen. I personally think if the majority approve it in local groups, they can just add it at a local level, and national can catch up.

I want to see our existing rebels get motivated and out on the streets again for the right kinds of actions; targeted actions versus government and corporations. Not actions that are going to adversely impact already stressed communities.

I want to see peaceful mass actions at a local level. Sure, we should go ahead with national actions and large scale well considered, well-messaged, and well-managed Rebellions, but local groups shouldn’t just wait for these to happen, or be reliant on central ‘leadership’.

I want to see more outreach and discussion with working class and BAME communities. I would love XR rebel numbers to grow from their ranks, but if that’s not possible please can we learn from them, act in harmony with them, and support each other? I am certain we can do this with the BLM movement.

I want to see more education and trainings to help people understand how the climate and eco crisis is inextricably linked to Global/Social Justice. This will surely help bring communities together; more integration and learning on both sides. We need more actions specifically on Global Justice, or XR rebels turning out to support actions organised by these movements.

I want middle class XR members to understand why it’s more difficult for working class, LGBTQ, and BAME communities to rebel, and to support them where they can so they feel they are able to, so we can create a united movement across society. I think this is starting to happen, but we have a long way to go still.

I want people not to be afraid to speak what’s on their mind, ask questions, challenge statements, enter in to discussion. It’s the only way we really learn.

I desperately want people to pause more often for self reflection and to think about what they’ve learned, whether they need to learn more, and whether that means they need to alter their trajectory at all. Really – Before you judge a man, walk a mile in his shoes (empathy). We shouldn’t get paralysed by self reflection though; sometimes happens to me.

I want more people helping and doing stuff, rather than just talking about it, or criticising. I want less meetings and more actions.

I am probably wanting too much, and again acknowledge I am speaking from a privileged position, and that I still have lots to learn. Yep, I’m one of those middle aged, white, middle classed white blokes, but I don’t think that means I should just shut up; it does mean I should listen more though.

I move through periods when I think anything is possible, to periods of despair and grief, especially when I move outside my own echo chamber (but even whilst within it).

I’ve just got to carry on believing change is possible, and hoping we can work out how best to bring about that change as time goes on. But time is ticking, and frankly I’m increasingly anxious (or terrified ) about how little of it we have left to make the significant changes needed. Maybe only months, maybe years; those tipping points are looming. I am increasingly tempted to do what some have done, try and buy my own patch of land, somewhere remote, and prepare for the worst.

How do I feel better? By organising and participating in targeted non-violent direct action and positive outreach, centred around the climate and ecological crisis, as well as global justice. It feels right to me, when they’re the right sort of actions/outreach, and when they have some sort of impact. More of those sorts of actions, and I hope with an ever increasing number of Rebels, as well as cross-overs with other movements and communities.

Finally, a plea.

As we come out of lockdown I’m hoping we don’t go back to where we were prior to Coronavirus, and that we don’t let our government and business leaders take us back there by investing in the wrong areas, to drive more profit and growth for the benefit of a very small fraction of society. We new a new baseline to work from.

There are many positives to take from lockdown, such as being able to work from home, not needing to travel so much, consuming less in general, and how local communities have rallied around to help one-another.

I hope we can ‘Build Forward Better’, a green and sustainable future investing in the right things, which doesn’t include projects like HS2 (remember we can work for home), massive new road schemes, or housing developments on endangered biodiverse habitats.

I hope people realise that long term happiness and satisfaction is more about who you have around you, functioning communities, being able to play, being able to enjoy nature, being able to talk to your family and neighbours. It’s not so much about having to go on holiday abroad twice a year, or constantly buying new stuff you don’t really need at the expense of our environment, ecology and the Global South. Let’s stop sleep walking towards our own destruction.

We can be happy without all of that, in fact we can be happier than we are now, with less stress, mental and physical illness. We should be able to support one another across society to make this happen; a transition to a fair, sustainable, resilient, and green world.

Now stop reading my ramblings and go enjoy some nature, dance in the rain, play some music, talk to a neighbour, play a game, or just be in the moment for while.

Love and Rage.

Please stop scalping Mother Earth

I haven’t written to the Council for a bit, or to my MP, however after pedalling round my local country lanes over the last few days I felt motivated to write the below. I might also submit this to the local newspaper tomorrow to see if they’d life to print a version of it. I’m sharing it on my blog as I’m sure many of you will feel the same way. Here’s a nice photo before getting into the letter; let me know quick if you spot any typos!

Norfolk waterway

Norfolk waterway with willow trees and cow pasture

03 June 2020

Dear Sir/Madam,

I’m sure like me being able to enjoy Norfolk’s glorious countryside over the last few months has been of great solace during lock-down. We have an amazing variety of habitats, plants, mammals and birds, and I was delighted to see the Swallowtail butterflies when I cycled up to Hickling Broad the other day.

I am currently working from home, as are many people; those fortunate enough not to have been furloughed or made redundant, or our committed key workers who run the risk of catching COVID-19. I try to get out once a day for some exercise, which generally involves a bike ride or a walk around the Salhouse area. At the weekend I go on longer rides taking in many of the county’s country lanes, teeming with wildlife and bird song.

One of the upsides of lock-down is that I’ve been able to get out in my local area a bit more, to appreciate nature in all its glory as Spring turns to Summer. The hundreds of varieties of plants and wildflowers, the insects in their multitudes that feed on them, the birds and mammals eating the insects; a wonderful trophic cascade. A couple of week’s ago I spotted a Stoat bouncing down a lane, hunting along the hedgerow, a sight that filled my heart with joy. It was accompanied by the magnificent sound of Skylark’s song overhead.

In the last two weeks it all seems to have dramatically changed, leaving me very sad, and filled with considerable rage.

Now when I cycle down the same routes the roadside verges, once teeming with life, are quiet, shrunken and lifeless things. They have been shorn down to the bare minimum, often the naked earth, as if Mother Nature herself has been scalped. Gone are the wildflowers and plants, the brightly coloured beetles, the butterflies around the nettles, the birds finding food for their young. There is no sign of the Stoat; there’s nothing for it there anymore.

I don’t understand why this is done. I have checked the information on the Norfolk County Council website on the page linked to below:

https://www.norfolk.gov.uk/roads-and-transport/roads/road-maintenance/trees-hedges-and-grass-verges

It says that roadside verges are only cut for safety reasons and not appearance. They are cut to ensure visibility and safety at junctions. It also extols the virtues of ‘almost 10 miles’ of roadside nature reserves; 10 miles, out of the 1000’s of miles of roadside verges we have in the county.

Now I get the safety and junctions point, and to an extent the visibility bit on some stretches, but the cutting goes far above and beyond this. Most cutting, aside from in the very few designated roadside nature reserves, is extreme, leaving very little cover. I am guessing this is to reduce the frequency of cutting, or is just down to ignorance or lack of care for the habitat being destroyed. I guess it’s also possible the contractors doing this work are assessed and have to make sure it’s clear where they’ve cut, and that the council is getting their money’s worth. I imagine there is a whole governance and sign off process around it that’s miles distant from caring about the safety of the plants, mammals and birds whose homes are being destroyed, or the vitality of the habitat that brings so such joy and relief to walkers and cyclists alike.

It’s not just roadside verges. There are reports of park or common land where wildflower meadows that have been allowed to grow, being dramatically cut back, with nesting birds disturbed or killed. Local residents in those areas have been rightfully devastated and angry to find their little bit of nature gone; it’s really bad for people’s mental health.

It appears the temporary reprieve nature had in many parts of the county, due to lock-down, is over. The stay of execution has expired. Not only are roads getting busier again, packed with traffic with a corresponding increase in roadkill (I passed a beautiful grass snake half squashed near Ranworth the other day, and lets not even get into hedgehog deaths), but we have restarted our relentless pursuit of dominance over nature. It’s got to be controlled, cut, shaped, moulded and turned to our purpose.

I request we change the way we’re looking at this. Roadside verges and hedgerows provide some of the last remaining habitat in the UK for our native flora and fauna. We’ve simply got to realise we’re a part of nature, not apart from nature. By destroying it, and roadside verges are just one simple but effective example, we’re harming ourselves and future generations.

Instead of cutting nearly everything back, which seems to be the case in most places, why can’t we reverse the policy and only cut at real key points, such as at junctions as the Norfolk County Council’s website references. On straight stretches of road, with a clear line of sight, there really can’t be any excuse for cutting down to the bare earth. We’re in a climate and ecological emergency, and desperately need to protect our remaining biodiversity. Instead of just a handful of ‘roadside nature reserves’ why can’t we have just a handful of ‘roadside cutting zones’ with the new normal being verdant habitat for wildlife. Give the plants, mammals and nesting birds a chance.

I’d like to talk about a couple of other things, just to support this.

The UK has been hunted, developed and farmed to within an inch of its life for thousands of years. We have very few wild places left, and a massively reduced diversity of plants and animals. Very few bits of ancient woodland, or habitat that has reached its climax state, remain. We are highly critical of other parts of the world who are destroying their own perhaps more obviously biodiverse habitat, such as rainforest, for example for agricultural purposes. The poorer nations doing this are often doing so to provide goods and services for us. They’re doing now what we’ve done to our own country for centuries, and our own corporations are encouraging them to do so in the name of progress and economic growth.

We’re massively exploiting the Global South for things like food, precious minerals for our mobile phones, palm oil and fossil fuels, with profits mostly going to line the pockets of the elite in the Global North. We’re privileged hypocrites and most of the time we don’t even realise it. Can’t we spare our remaining bits of nature the chop, and try and set a bit of an example for other nations? This also links in with social and environmental justice, but that’s a topic for another day.

The Coronavirus originated in China, and it seems evident that anthropogenic (human based) pressure on natural habitats caused the outbreak. Human incursions (habitat destruction, pollution etc) into natural habitat, stressing natural systems and balances, caused this horrible virus to jump to humans, leaving us with a global pandemic and widespread tragedy and grief. I’m not saying that cutting verges and hedgerows will cause a similar outbreak, but it’s the same principle; destroying nature harms us in the long run, and we’ve got to learn to live alongside it and not try and tame it all the time.

I was really hoping that we could emerge from the pandemic with a new strategy for life, a refreshed system, with no going back to old harmful and destructive practices. I know many people are trying to change the way they live, with working from home becoming the new normal, and perhaps reduced consumption rates and associated emissions. Please can we do all we can to encourage this, including stopping the highly destructive practice of roadside verge and hedge cutting where it’s not needed? It may seem like a little thing, but all these small steps add up to something bigger.

And if we can get a new normal, with more working from home and much less traffic on the roads, we could scrap other environmentally and ecologically destructive projects such as the Wensum Link Road, or housing developments on County Wildlife Sites such as Thorpe Woodlands, or plans to expand Norwich airport. We desperately need to invest in a greener and more sustainable future, and to relieve ourselves of the suicidal notion that unfettered economic growth is either possible, a positive measure of success, or leads to happiness and satisfaction.

I humbly request that as a county we revisit the policy on grass verge cutting, as well as decisions made in a different era on developments that are no longer needed, and which don’t make any sense when we know we need to reduce emissions and protect biodiversity.

If we don’t act now, we wont leave anything for future generations. Please stop scalping Mother Earth.

Yours sincerely,

James Harvey

Salhouse resident

 

P.S. Photographic evidence of excessive roadside verge cutting available upon request

 

 

Wild plants and flowers part 2

Time for part 2 of my wild plants and flowers blog, where I attempt to identify the various species I find roundabout where I live in Norfolk. I think  there must be hundreds of different plant species out there at the moment, I keep seeing new ones every time I go out for a walk or cycle ride, so I’ll only cover a fraction of what’s on my doorstep.

Is this week 6 in lockdown? I can’t remember how long I’ve been working from home now but it’s starting to get a little dull with the lack of office banter. At least I’m mostly still getting out for my daily cycle or walk, although I did miss a couple of days last week due to it being a bit wet and just not having the motivation. I’ve said it before but I do feel very fortunate to have such wonderful countryside and scenery on my doorstep, even if Norfolk does lack any serious hills or big forests; the Broads make up for it!

I really like what some enthusiasts are doing at the moment; using chalk to label the names of plants they’re finding in villages, towns and cities across Europe. Brilliantly educational for people out on their daily exercise, especially children. I suspect there was a time when kids were just taught the names of wild plants, and what they can be used for, as a matter of course, but that knowledge has faded. Using chalk to label the plants, which will wash off harmlessly in the next shower, is a great idea; and yes strictly speaking it might be illegal, but so are the air pollution levels in many towns, or driving whilst using a mobile phone, or fly tipping, but people get away with that all the time. I think we can let a bit of educational and colourful graffiti that is bringing a bit of joy slip.

On Sunday I rode my bike up to the coast at Happisburgh because I wanted to see the sea. It was actually the sound of the waves hitting the shore that I wanted to hear, rather than seeing it. Pedalling the country lanes was lovely, the verges covered in plants and flowers, insects buzzing and kestrels hovering. I also saw a stoat hunting along a hedgerow with its distinctive black tipped tail, but too fast to photo.

It was a 62km round trip on my bike, taking about two and a half hours. I want to start building up my cycling distances again in case I decide to do another long cycle tour once we’re out of lockdown. I’d really quite like to cycle round the coast of Britain again, which I first did in 2013. It was a wonderful trip, and I learnt so much about my own country; you can read about it on my Bike around Britain blog.

Before I get onto this week’s plants, here’s a short bit of film I took up at Happisburgh, in case you’d like to hear the sea too (and the wind).

On to plants.

The photo of this first one is from several week’s ago, and also contains a few other hedgerow species. Focussing on the plant in the middle with the arrow shaped leaves; Lords and Ladies, also known as Cuckoo Pint (Arum maculata). Some of the country lanes round me have banks crowded with it.

Lords and Ladies

Lords and Ladies (Arum maculatum)

It’s got lots of other names, some of them quite evocative such as Jack in the pulpit, Devils and angels, Friar’s cowl and Adder’s root; these names might be down to the different plant parts looking like male and female genitalia. Later in the year it produces a fruiting stalk that grows up from the centre, with distinctive orange-red berries. You can see this around July/August and into Autumn. The flower, a cobra like hood, is nestled in amongst the leaves and is different again. It smells like rotting meat which attracts flies, which in turn pollinate the flower, pretty cool. I’ll try to get some photos of the different parts as they appear. Lords and ladies is poisonous as it contains oxalate acid crystals. These crystals are spiky and can irritate the tissue of your mouth and digestive track if swallowed. If you’re allergic to such things it could cause your throat to close up. I have tried a little bit and it’s definitely got a sharp and heated aftertaste, that builds with time; apparently the older you are the longer it takes to notice.

Lords and ladies is native to the UK, in England, Wales but not so much Scotland. It’s a perennial, and prefers the shaded areas. The plant contains large amounts of starch, so was used in washing for collars etc. I’m told that when the ‘gentry’ used to select their washerwomen they’d look for those with the sore red hands, as they’d be the hard workers; their hands were afflicted by the oxalate acid in the Lords and ladies.

Ground Ivy 1

Ground Ivy and interesting ladybird

I’ve included a couple of pics of this next one, Ground-ivy (Glechoma hederacea). I like this first picture because of the interesting ladybird, and the pretty small purple flowers. Ground-ivy is another one of these plants that has multiple names, including Alehoof, Gill-over-the-ground, Catsfoot and Creeping charlie. I prefer Alehoof as before the introduction of hops Saxons used it to brew beer. It’s another native perennial and common throughout most of the UK, flowering from March to May.

Ground Ivy 2

Ground Ivy (Glechoma hederacea) – nice little purple flowers

I found this one in a graveyard, but it pops up all over the place and is considered an invasive weed by many. It’s actually a member of mint family, which you can tell by its square stem. I also don’t think anything that can be used to brew beer should count as invasive or a nuisance, although it can spread rapidly by runners or seed. I believe the leaves can be eaten in salads, but the plant might be toxic to livestock. Apparently it has lots of traditional herbal medicine uses, but I really don’t know if any of them are effective; treating eye inflammation, tinnitus, lung herb (bronchitis), as an astringent or a diuretic. I have a feeling a lot of uses were just made up, the old placebo effect.

 

 

I really want to cover wild garlic on this blog, also known as Ramsoms, however I’m learning there are probably several varieties.

Three-cornered garlic

Three-cornered garlic – Allium triquetrum

This photo I think is of Three-cornered garlic (Allium triquetrum), which is the same family as Ramsoms, and no doubt still counts; it certainly smells strongly of onions. I think this particular variety counts as an invasive species as it can smother out native species, meaning it’s illegal to plant it out in wild. If it is this then I’m seeing a lot of it on the banks of country lanes round me. For reference it flowers April to June and likes shady spots.

 

Wild Garlic - Ramsoms

Wild Garlic (Allium ursinum) – broader leaves

The variety I wanted a photo of has broader leaves, and I found loads of it when I was down South last. This is what I regard as Ramsoms (Allium ursinum), and the two photos that follow are courtesy of the Wild Food UK website – https://www.wildfooduk.com/edible-wild-plants/wild-garlic/

 

Wild garlic flowers

Wild garlic flowers

This species is definitely native, and the flowers are quite different. It can be found over most of England and Wales, and Southern Scotland, in damp and shaded areas, especially woodland. It flowers from April to June. I love it for making pesto, and the whole plant is edible, however I would avoid digging up the bulbs so it can regrow. Garlic has a number of health benefits including treating high blood pressure and cholesterol. I’ve no doubt it has loads of other benefits too, including the obvious of keeping vampires away. I reckon you can use it pretty much anywhere you’d usually use garlic, so I think I’ll try adding some to guacamole next time I make it. Don’t get it confused with Lily of the Valley which looks similar but is poisonous; doesn’t smell anywhere near the same though.

Following the trauma of trying to work out which wild garlic is which, here’s something a little easier, and which again there is loads of around me at the moment.

White Deadnettle

White Deadnettle (Lamium album)

White Deadnettle (Lamium album) is very common alongside footpaths, hedge-banks and roadsides, but apparently gets rarer as you travel north. It’s a perennial and flowers from March to December. Like Red Deadnettle covered last time it won’t sting you. I’m told it can be eaten like spinach but I’ve not tried it. Herbal medicine wise it has been used to treat catarrh, and the flower used for treating sore throats and bronchitis. Apparently it might also be effective as a sedative.

Whilst it might have uses for humans, I think it’s of more use to the different varieties of insect I see feeding off it. Not mowing the roadside verges is definitely helping our insect friends thrive at the moment.

 

Yellow Archangel

Yellow Archangel (Lamium galeobdolon)

Here’s another Deadnettle, which I’d somehow failed to consciously notice before now, despite it being common in England and Wales. It’s a perennial flowering from May to June, although I saw it out in April this year; maybe another symptom of climate change and average temperatures going up. This one is called Yellow Archangel (Lamium galeobdolan), and I love the bright yellow hooded flowers. This example appeared to have slightly variegated leaves, which I don’t know if is usual or not; from the pictures I’ve seen I don’t think so. I believe you can eat the young leaves and shoots, and that the leaves taste slightly spicy. I might have to try making a tea or soup from it. All these plants seem to have multiple potential uses, and this one is again a diuretic and astringent, amongst other things.

Whist I’m doing ‘nettles’ I ought to cover the well known and often disliked Stinging Nettle (Urtica diocea), which I’ve no doubt most people can recognise.  This is common pretty much everywhere, and most definitely counts as a native perennial. It grows in woods, wasteland, gardens, field edges and footpaths, and is much loved by several species of butterflies, for their caterpillars. It’s definitely worth keeping a small patch in your garden, and not just for the insects. The small hollow hairs on the nettle leaves and stems are what sting, containing formic acid and histamine.

Stinging Nettle

Stinging Nettle (Urtica diocea)

Stinging Nettles are amazing plants as they have so many uses, and as they grow pretty much everywhere, and quickly, you can easily get hold of lots of them. They contain Vitamin B, as well as A, C and K, the aforementioned formic aid, minerals such calcium, iron, magnesium, potassium and sodium. They  also contain between 19% and 21% protein, so they’re truly a superfood. I have made nettle soup from them, and thrown them in stews like spinach, you just have to remember to remove the hairs first by crushing and rolling them. That reminds me, I think you can use the pith from the inside of the stem to treat nettle stings, which could be handy, although you’ll probably sting yourself getting to the pith. Pretty much a superfood I reckon, and will be useful if the supermarket shelves go empty. It flowers from May to September.

Nettle cordage

Nettle cordage

One more use for the amazing nettle; you can make cordage out of it. Collect a load of stems, perhaps keeping the leaves for food, and split them down into long fibres by crushing the nodes, squishing the stem and separating, removing the pith. To make nettle string you dry the fibres for at least 20 minutes, then twist two lengths together in a twist and kink motion, which would be much easier to demonstrate than describe with words. Over the course of an evening round a campfire you can make quite long lengths of cordage that can be used for all sorts of things.

I think that’s your lot for today as I’ve noticed my word count has crept over 2000 and I don’t want people to fall asleep. I also want to save Umbellifers for next time, when I’ll perhaps cover the likes of Hemlock, and Hemlock Water Dropwort, both of which can kill you reasonably easily, although one is more painful than the other. And Hemlock is absolutely everywhere! That’s one of the reasons I don’t really like eating anything from that family, as I don’t want to get Cow Parsley mixed up with something that’s going to send me over the River Styx in a speed boat. I’ll see if I can find some Cow Parsley and Hogweed too though.

As before please don’t take any notes I’ve made concerning medicinal uses as gospel, as there are lots of different opinions out there, and different people are allergic to different things. Please do your own research.

I’ll leave you with a picture of a cat in a box, because cats love boxes for some reason, especially this one.

Cat in a box

Cat in a box – Boxus catus

Until next time, stay frosty.

Wild plants and flowers – Part 1

Over the last couple of months I’ve been able to get out a bit more, either before the lockdown started on my bushcraft course, or for my daily exercise regime now we’re having to practice social distancing. I’m grateful that whilst Coronavirus has brought hardship and grief to many, at least it came along in springtime, and with good weather to boot. I am enjoying walking or cycling through the Norfolk countryside, exploring hedgerows and copses, fields and Broads.

As well as birds and mammals getting busy with nest building, courtship and young, insects are buzzing and plants are growing. Since starting to learn about wild plants I’ve been amazed at the number of different types one can find in a small area. Different habitats can hold a multitude of different species; sunlight hitting a cleared woodland ride can cause dormant seed banks to germinate into colour, soggy marshland paths produce verdant green borders, and the hedgerows of Norfolk country lanes are just alive with plant life, in turn providing food and homes for animals and birds.

This year more hedgerows and road borders are being spared the chop and left to grow, leading to what seems to be an even greater abundance of springtime life. When I come upon a roadside verge that has been mowed, or a hedgerow that’s been flailed, I really notice the difference; sterile, smells empty, no colour, less buzzing and birds. It’d be great if Councils left far more of these areas to grow, and if people could leave at least a corner of their gardens to go wild, all providing vital habitat for plants and animals who are otherwise up against it.

As there are just so many plants to cover I’ve decided to split my blog into a few posts. I’ll cover ten or so species each time and see how far I get. Most species will be native to the UK, but they’ll be the odd non-native that slips in just because they’re interesting or have a pretty flower, or because I didn’t realise they were non-native. The definition of a native species seems to vary, but in general it’s a species which has evolved and is self-sustaining in a region, and which has not been introduced; although it could have arrived and colonised an area by natural non-human based means. To count as native the plant species needs to have been present in an area since ‘historical times’. Unfortunately I need another definition for ‘historical times’ at this point, as for example Sweet Chestnut (Castanea sativa), whilst widespread in the UK, is technically non-native as the Romans introduced it; good food source and building material.

I’ve already included a picture of Daffodils (Narcissus), of which there must be hundreds if not thousands of different species. Their brilliance in early spring can drag you out of the winter doldrums, and they also have a number of different medicinal properties which I won’t go into right now (colds, burns, wounds). If I do mention any medicinal properties please don’t take my word as gospel; do your own research and don’t believe everything you read. I’m pretty sure none of the plants I cover will cure COVID19.

I probably should have thought about how I was going to order this a bit more, rather than just going through my photos including them as they come. But that didn’t happen so here goes.

I’ll start off with the beautiful Wood Anenome ( Anemone nemorosa). I have to credit the second of the pictures below to the Wildife Trust website, as I needed another photo after realising the one I took a month and a half ago was from behind; not my greatest photography moment. The Wood anenome flowers from March through to May, although I think they’re about done this year. It has 6 or 7 petals (actually sepals) that can be purple streaked, surrounding yellow anthers. It’s low growing with slightly feathery leaves. I don’t know of any modern medicinal properties and think it’s probably quite toxic if you were to eat it. I always feel like Spring is firmly on its way when these appear.

The Wood anenome is an ancient woodland indicator species (AWI). An AWI is a plant species which is slow spreading, rather than a pioneer species that spreads by windblown seeds. They flower early before the tree canopy blocks out the sunlight, and are generally shade tolerant. Their rate of spread by natural means is limited to about a foot a year (if that), mostly via roots and bulbs, so when you see a carpet of bluebells, or a sea of Wood anenomes, you know they’ve been there for a long time. The definition of an Ancient Woodland is where there has been continuous tree cover since AD 1600; we have very little of it left in the UK, and projects such as HS2 definitely aren’t helping. If you’re in a wood and you see an AWI such as Wood anenome it’s a good sign the woodland has been there for a long time, and deserves respect and protection. One side note; the trees in an ancient woodland could still look young if it’s an area of coppice that has been managed for centuries, such as a traditional hazel coppice, so you won’t always see ancient Ent like looking veterans.

Next up is Jack-by-the-hedge, or Garlic Mustard (Alliaria petiolata), which flowers from April to June. The footpaths and hedgerows around me are full of this at the moment, but it can be found in woodland too. It’s a native biennial, biennial meaning it’s life-cycle goes across two years; it’ll flower in its second year. Perennial plants differ from biennials in that they live for more than 2 years, and can flower every year (not always though).

Jack-by-the-hedge

Jack-by-the-hedge or Garlic Mustard

I really like Jack-by-the-hedge. The leaves have a strong garlic taste, and can be eaten raw or boiled. You can eat the seeds that come later in the year which are also garlicky. Definitely a contender for Ransoms, otherwise known as wild garlic, which I’ll cover later or in another post depending on when my photo comes up!

Pedalling down country lanes at the moment I’ve seen a number of fine examples of the next entry, Greater Periwinkle (Vinca major). As suspected this plant was introduced to the UK, and can now be found throughout southern England. I’ve seen it in hedgerows where it trails and climbs, putting out these amazing purple flowers. I don’t think it has any particular uses, although maybe you could use the trailing stems to make rudimentary cordage.

Greater Periwinkle

Greater Periwinkle – amazing purple flower

There are a lot of small white flowering plants around at the moment, and it’s easy to get them mixed up.  This next one could easily be confused with Greater Stitchwort, I reckon anyway, but is in fact Field Chickweed, or Field Mouse-ear Chickweed (Cerastium arvense). I’m finding this along field edges at the moment, as well as roadsides. It’s a perennial, flowering from April to August, and is edible, although I’ve never eaten it and apparently you might want to cook it because of the texture. Pretty distinctive 5 sets of paired petals and yellow anthers.

Field Chickweed

Field Chickweed or Field Mouse-ear Chickweed (Cerastium arvense)

On the subject of when plants are appearing and flowering in Springtime, it’s worth talking about how things seem to be happening earlier and earlier every year as average temperatures increase due to climate change. I was introduced the concept of Phenology by a conservation scientist recently.

Phenology is the study of periodic plant and animal life cycle events and how these are influenced by seasonal and interannual variations in climate, as well as habitat factors.

What I hadn’t thought about before, but now seems blindingly obvious, is the impact plants emerging, flowering and going to seed at different times, due to climate change, will have on other species that might rely on that plant. If for example plants are starting to grow earlier in the year, then caterpillars that feed on those plants may appear earlier. The problem is that they may be around before the bird nesting season, meaning a species of bird that relies on that caterpillar for feeding its young may now be caught short on food supplies. That’s just one example and I’m sure there are loads of other worrying changes of a similar nature that will impact our flora and fauna. Thank you to Dr Charlie Gardner, conservation scientist, for that info; I hope I got it right!

Climate change impact lesson over, back to plants. Here’s another one the Romans introduced because it’s a good food source. Alexanders (Smyrnium olusatrum), or hedge parsley, is a biennial, flowering from April to June, and there’s absolutely loads of it on the road edges and footpaths around me. I think it might be regarded as a bit of an invasive pest of a plant, and it certainly has quite a strong smell when there’s lots of it together. You can eat all of it which is handy; the leaves can make a white sauce or can be used as a herb, the younger stems cooked like asparagus, the roots make an alternative to parsnips and the flower buds can be eaten in salads. I’ve yet to try any but it’s on my to do list, I just get a bit nervous around the Umbellifer family, of which Alexanders is a member, as several of them can kill you very easily. Best not to get them mixed up really, and I’ll cover some of the poisonous ones on a future blog post.

Lesser Celandine (Ficaria verna) is another common plant I find in Norfolk, and throughout the UK. It used to be called Ranunculus ficaria but the Latin name has changed now, just to confuse matters. It’s a member of the buttercup family, as one might guess from the bright yellow flowers, and has other names such as pilewort. It also has quite distinctive heart shaped leaves. The name pilewort comes from its traditional medicinal use where the bulbous roots were used to make an infusion to treat haemorrhoids. The roots look a bit like haemorrhoids, which perhaps where the idea came from, but I have no idea as to their effectiveness; limited I suspect. It flowers from March to May, is a perennial, and can be seen carpeting banks and beside footpaths.

Lesser Celandine

Lesser Celandine (Ficaria verna)

The photograph below isn’t perhaps the best example of the next entry, Red Deadnettle (Lamium purpureum), which is the first of several nettles I’ll include. This one doesn’t sting, flowers from March to October, and is again pretty common throughout the UK on verges, waste ground and field edges. I believe it does have uses in herbal medicine due to its astringent and diuretic properties, as well as being anti-inflammatory, anti-bacterial and anti-fungal, so you could use it for a wound wash or to make a poultice; nature is pretty funky when it comes to keeping wounds clean and helping them heal. It’s really not hard to find this if you go out for a wander.

Red Deadnettle

Red Deadnettle (Lamium purpureum)

Another Ancient Woodland Indicator species can be found in our native Common Bluebell (Hyacinthoides non-scripta). This is a favourite of many, including me, not just for the colour that carpets woodland before the tree canopy closes, but also for the heady perfume they emit; such a lovely scent. It’s a perennial flowering from April to June, and is illegal to pick. I think it might be under threat from the Spanish Bluebell which was introduced and is escaping into the same habitat as our bluebell. When walking in the woods it’s good to take care to not step on bluebell leaves which are easily damaged; these plants take a long time to spread! Usage wise I think you can make glue from the sap and mushed up bulbs, but it really doesn’t seem like a good idea. They are also poisonous to eat, so let’s just leave them alone and admire their purple amazingness and heady scent.

I’m not really sure of the exact species in my next photo, but it’s a Horsetail of some description. It was in a marshy bit of ground so could be a Marsh Horsetail (Equisetum palustre), or one of several other types, maybe Equisetum arvense. I don’t think gardeners like it very much as apparently it’s invasive and doesn’t flower, but I liked the vibrant green of it, and the intriguing shape and structure. I don’t know if it has any medicinal properties.

Horsetail

Horsetail (Equisetum sp.)

Wood Spurge is another AWI species, and pretty common in Southern England and Wales. It’s a perennial flowering from March to May, with yellow-green disc like flowering structures making it easy to recognise. As with other AWI’s it spreads slowly via underground rhizomes, creeping long the forest floor. The milky white latex sap from Wood Spurge is poisonous, and used to be used to burn off warts. Take care if you try this as leaving the sap on for too long can make your skin permanently photo-sensitve.

Wood Spurge

Wood Spurge (Euphoria amygdaloides)

I think that’s my ten species for this post, with Daffodils included as a bonus. There are hundreds of plants I could cover, but I’ll concentrate on the ones I can find locally, and also the ones that are featured on my bushcraft course. There are around 30 I need to learn the Latin names for, as well as their uses, so I’ll feed those into future posts if I can find them. There are just so many cool plants out there like Wood Sorrel, Foxgloves, Primroses, Bugle, Herb Robert and Pignuts, to name but a few.

If you spot any plants I’ve misidentified please let me know. I’m using a variety of books including the excellent Wild Flowers of Britain by Roger Phillips, as well as an App on my phone called ‘Picture This’ ,which doesn’t always give the right answer but often points me in the right direction.

More plants and flowers next week, possibly interspersed with an alternative offering should I be inspired to write something else.

Stay frosty 🙂

Bluebells, blossom, birds and beards by the broad

I don’t know what day of the lockdown it is, and haven’t really watched the news today. Sometimes I just want a break from all the bad news, anxiety inducing headlines, speculation and frankly at times moronic questions from journalists during the daily press briefings.

I’m getting particularly sick of hearing conspiracy theories about how the virus might have originated. I really don’t believe the Chinese manufactured it in a lab; it’s far more likely this has come from nature due to our continuing destructive practices bringing us closer to infectious diseases. We really need to address the ecological crisis, which of course is tired to the climate emergency. And don’t get me started on 5G nonsense, whether it be how 5G can spread the virus (give me strength) or other unscientific theories. Conspiracy theories don’t do anyone any good, and of course you can’t really argue with people that really believe them as they just claim your counter-arguments are all part of the conspiracy. It would be nice if some people weren’t so credulous, and eager to try and convince others of their lunacy. In severe cases it can really put lives at risk, and cause unnecessary disruption.

I’m pulling together photos from my recent wanderings for a blog post on wild plants you can find growing on your doorstep at the moment, however this is quite a lengthy enterprise. It’s amazing how many species you can find along paths and roadside verges. In lieu of that, here’s a short film from the woods down by Salhouse Broad I took today. Many Bluebells, a lot of Blackthorn blossom, birdsong and the odd beard.

Working from home is giving me many more opportunities to get out into nature in my local area, for my daily bit of exercise. I really hope others are getting the same opportunity, whether that be in the city, where nature can still be found thriving, or out in the countryside. Once we’re out of lockdown I hope that working practices will change for many, allowing more time at home with friends and family, perhaps a slower pace of life, and more time to appreciate the natural wonders we have in the UK.

The current crisis also seems to have stimulated a gardening resurgence, both for people growing their own food, as well as planting more nature friendly species to help wildlife. Both these are great things; growing your own food will make us far more sustainable and less environmentally damaging as a nation, and our insects, birds and mammals need all the help they can get at the moment.

 

We just need to remember to try and plant native species where possible, and ponds don’t need to be sterile ornamental things. The wild pond in my garden has birds visit it everyday, as well as a hedgehog at night; far more entertaining than coy carp, in my opinion.

Nature may appear to be thriving in many places in the UK at the moment, but it’s not all good news. On my cycle ride the other day I noticed yet more hedgerows have been torn down alongside a road where I believe new houses are to be built. Hedges provide such vital habitat for nesting birds and shelter for mammals, as well as wildlife corridors. I really don’t know why the hedgerows have been removed, especially during bird nesting season which I think it illegal. There still seems to be flailing (violent machine hedge-cutting technique) going on too, which I hate, not least because it sprays wood splinters all over the road causing me punctures; I’m more worried about the impact on wildlife though. I really wish we could try and live and ‘develop’ in a more harmonious way with the wildlife we have left. At least roadside verges seem to have received some respite this year, with less mowing; it’s amazing seeing all the wild plants and flowers growing.

Perhaps the lockdown will allow people more time to appreciate nature, notice its beauty, and take in the destruction happening. We need to get out of this state of denial and ignorance. We need nature as much as it needs us to protect it. Maybe lockdown will give people the pause and thinking time needed, and once we emerge we can turn the decline in biodiversity around, and put the health of the planet, ourselves, and that of future generations ahead of profit and so-called ‘growth’.

Plant blog to follow 🙂

Rebel for Life

‘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.

Rebel of Life

Rebel of Life

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.

Climate Emergency flyer for Norfolk County Council protest

Climate Emergency flyer for Norfolk County Council protest

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.

Council protest - 11 Feb - XR Norwich activists in action

Council protest – 11 Feb – XR Norwich activists in action

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.

Time is running out

Time is running out

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.

Extinction Rebellion

I’ll start this post with some autumnal pictures. It’s my favourite time of year, incorporating beautiful colours in the countryside, crisp and bright days, and the Norwich beer festival; always a must visit.

Walking or cycling through the countryside, breathing in the fresh air, is a true delight. And  there’s always the joy of jumping into piles of leaves, or taking in a magnificent sunset. I don’t have any recent sunset pictures, as sometimes it’s good just to take it all in without having to photograph it. I do have the privilege to cycle past Whitlingham Broad on my way to work each morning though, which always offers a calm moment before the day starts in earnest.

Each year I wonder if we’ll see the same next year. What will have burnt, been blown down, or perished from either drought, habitat destruction or any one of a number of other human caused blights? The wildfires in California, or the increased frequency of ‘once in a hundred years’ storms, are just a few examples.

There’s no doubt we’re in the midst of an environmental crisis now. The symptoms of Climate Breakdown are everywhere to see and this is just the beginning. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, or Climate Breakdown as it should now be called, says we have just 12 years to avert catastrophe. I hope this is true and we’ve not already passed the tipping point.

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2018/oct/08/global-warming-must-not-exceed-15c-warns-landmark-un-report

I’m not going to include lots of links to evidence, to scientific commentary or opinion, as it’s easy to find on the web, however if you have any doubts this is true, or are in denial, I recommend doing a bit of research (I can supply some pointers upon request).

A lot of us have had enough of this now. Of the failure of governments, corporations, and indeed most of the people on the planet, to do anything to avert the impending catastrophe. We are failing future generations of children, and indeed all life on the planet. We can’t however dwell on the past too much, or start blaming previous generations, that won’t help.

For what has probably been several years this has been weighing heavily on my mind, and I’ve experienced a full range of emotions on the subject which I now realise, with the help of friends and wiser people than I, are down to grief. You’d have thought I’d have recognised the symptoms given previous life events. Sadness, a bit of denial, despair and depression, anger, and now hopefully acceptance. You can’t move on and do anything constructive about an issue you’re grieving about unless you can accept it’s happened or happening, and the truth. If you’re going through this yourself I can thoroughly recommend looking up Joanna Macy, the deep ecologist, and the work that reconnects. It helps.

On a side note I’m really starting to think that a lot of the mental health problems we’re seeing at the moment might be related to all of this. At some level, even subconsciously and especially amongst children, are we all recognising the problem and threat? Is this why levels are depression and anxiety are soaring?

Last night I decided to go to a talk organised by Extinction Rebellion. It was a game-changer as far as I’m concerned. The talk was hosted by Rupert Read, a Green Party politician, academic and reader of philosophy at the University of East Anglia where I studied. He gave the same talk at Churchill College in Cambridge recently, and I’d really recommend everyone listen to it, challenge it if necessary, and try to understand it.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uzCxFPzdO0Y

If you do nothing else, or don’t ready any further, please watch at least some of this!

Yes, this stuff is really scary, terrifying. I was beginning to think that very few other people saw it the same way I’ve been seeing it. It makes one feel very alone, and question whether you’re one of the ‘crazies’. I don’t feel that way anymore. They expected maybe 50 odd people to turn up last night. There were around 120 of us crammed into the room, a brilliant turn out given it was only organised the week before. There were people from all walks of life too, lest you think it was just fringe hippies and malcontents. Finally a group of like-minded I can relate to, who are as worried as I am, and who are willing to try to do something about it.

We really do have just years to try do something about this. It’s something that will not just potentially cut your children’s lives short, it could do so for your own life, or at least future wellbeing. As Rupert says in his talk there are three possibilities at the moment.

  1. Complete breakdown of civilisation, which will start within our lifetimes – there won’t be much of anything left, we didn’t do enough, quickly enough
  2. An alternative civilisation – a partial collapse of what we have today, but things are left intact to some extent, we just about did enough
  3. A successor civilisation – we transform our current civilisation now, and quickly, bringing about the chance for massive improvements and a better way of life for all on the planet

I reckon number three is the sensible choice to strive for, if it’s not too late, but it’s also the hardest route to take, and possibly the biggest challenge we’ve faced as a species. To make it work it’ll need everyone to get on board, completely change their lifestyles, and priorities. It’s harder than previous challenges we’ve faced on subjects such as equality, voting rights, and discrimination. We are after all talking about people who are currently rich, comfortable, and enjoying a life of comparative luxury (most people in the UK relative to other parts of the world) needing to set much of what they currently value aside. However, if we can start to transform civilisation we’ll be in with a chance, and we could end up being in a much better place than we are now on many counts.

People may ask isn’t the Paris Climate Change Agreement supposed to avert all these problems? Doesn’t the IPCC report offer hope? The answer to that, in brief, is no. The Paris agreement is effectively burnt, especially if the US pulls out. It doesn’t go far enough and won’t prevent the temperature rises that are going to cause so many problems. These reports and agreements don’t take into account things like feedback loops from ice-melt and the permafrost thawing. If methane emissions soar (releasing the dragon), which is entirely possible, we’ll see the release of massive amounts of a greenhouse gas far worse than CO2.

It would appear therefore we have years to try to fix this, and we need to get as many people involved to completely change the way we live, consume, travel, grow our food, enjoy our leisure activities etc. I’m not sure this is possible but surely it’s got to be worth a go? It really is time for people to wake up to this, for people to start talking about it and for action to start happening on a major scale. And we have to approach this in the right way, not with accusations and trying to force people to see your point of view, but by providing information and the facts, and asking them questions, so they can reach their own conclusions, go through the grieving process, and come out the other side to add a positive contribution. This is much bigger than Brexit, or the NHS crisis, yet it’s not anywhere near the top our governments agenda. They are letting us down.

That’s where Extinction Rebellion comes in (@ExtinctionR

https://rebellion.earth

Governments and corporations aren’t doing anything quickly enough, or anything at all in many cases. They need to start listening and the only way to make that happen appears to be via non-violent direct action, which is what Extinction Rebellion is trying to organise. We need to stop the destructive spiral that is going on at the moment and make change happen.

I’d invite anyone reading this (there’s got to be at least 2 or 3 people who got this far), to check out Extinction Rebellion yourself. Spread the word. Get involved and consider non-violent direct action to make the government listen. There are ‘Holding actions’ we can undertake to slow things down. There’s going to be some good stuff happening in London this weekend. This has the potential to be huge, and even if it doesn’t work I don’t want to be in situation in 10 or 20 years time wishing I’d tried to do something. It’s got to be worth a shot whilst we still have a chance hasn’t it?

In the meantime though, I might do a bit of prepping, just in case…