Tag Archives: Climate Justice

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.

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.