A re-post from my friend Stu of Extinction Rebellion (XR). Many of the subjects covered relate to Epic Tomorrows.
Yes, yes, I know. The climate is breaking down. It’s urgent. An emergency. We’ve only got a few years left to ‘fix’ it.
Indeed, we won’t fix it. Weather patterns will become increasingly unstable and unpredictable, and the effects it will soon have on how humans around the world grow food will be devastating, likely causing harvests to fail across entire continents and food prices to sky-rocket. Millions have already suffered due to the amplified instability. We’re facing imminent societal collapse (whatever that means), both around the world and in the UK. All of our lives are soon going to radically change.
None of this is particularly controversial. When a bus is driving with a certain momentum towards a person, it gets clearer and clearer that it will hit the person. After a certain point, it’s inevitable. And that’s where we stand now, with regards to the momentum of climatic change. The bus is about to hit us. Our lives are about to change. It’s not clear whether or not we’ll survive (as a species). Many species have already been run over. Two hundred species each and every day go extinct.
I’ve been with Extinction Rebellion (XR) from the start. I was one of the 15 people in April 2018 who came together and made the collective decision to try to create the conditions that would initiate a rebellion. I was a coordinator of one of the original five working groups, and I’ve been organising with XR day-and-night since then (frugally living off my savings so I don’t have to work, having quit an industry that paid me £1000/week). And I’ve been in RisingUp (the organisation from which XR has emerged) since the first RisingUp action in November 2016. I’m a RisingUp Holding Group member, and a member of the XR Guardianship Team.
And for the sake of transparency: that previous paragraph is all about me ‘pulling rank’ — I’m trying to convince you to listen to what I have to say…
And I’m here to say that XR isn’t about the climate. You see, the climate’s breakdown is a symptom of a toxic system of that has infected the ways we relate to each other as humans and to all life. This was exacerbated when European ‘civilisation’ was spread around the globe through cruelty and violence (especially) over the last 600 years of colonialism, although the roots of the infections go much further back.
As Europeans spread their toxicity around the world, they brought torture, genocide, carnage and suffering to the ends of the earth. Their cultural myths justified the horrors, such as the idea that indigenous people were animals (not humans), and therefore God had given us dominion over them. This was used to justify a multi-continent-wide genocide of tens of millions of people. The coming of the scientific era saw this intensify, as the world around us was increasingly seen as ‘dead’ matter — just sitting there waiting for us to exploit it and use it up. We’re now using it up faster than ever.
Euro-Americans violently imposed and taught dangerous delusions that they used to justify the exploitation and reinforced our dominance, while silencing worldviews that differed or challenged them. The UK’s hand in this was enormous, as can be seen by the size of the former British empire, and the dominance of the English language around the world. There is stark evidence that everyday racial bias continues in Britain, now, today. It’s worth naming some of these constructed delusions that have been coded into societies and institutions around the world:
- The delusion of white-supremacy centres whiteness and the experience of white people, constructing and perpetuating the myth that white people and their lives are somehow inherently better and more valuable than people of colour.
- The delusion of patriarchy centres the male experience, and excludes/hinders female assigned people from public life (reducing them to a possession or object for ownership or consumption). Patriarchy teaches dominating and competitive behaviours, and emphasises the idea that the world is a place of scarcity, separation and powerlessness.
- The delusions of Eurocentrism include the notion that Europeans know what is best for the world.
- The delusions of hetero-sexism/heteronormativity propagate the idea that heterosexuality is ‘normal’ and that other expressions of sexuality are deviant.
- The delusions of class hierarchy uphold the theory that the rich elite are better/smarter/nobler than the rest of us, and make therefore better decisions.
There are other delusions. These delusions have become ingrained in all of us, taught to us from a very young age.
None of these delusions have ended, although some of the arguments that supported them (e.g. phrenology) have been dispelled. They continue to play out through each of us, in our ways of relating, regardless of our identity. The current pride in the history of the British empire, or the idea that the USA is on the side of ‘good’, continues to enable neo-colonialism in 2019, taking the form of palm-oil plantations, resources wars, and the parasitical financial sector, to name but a few. The task of Extinction Rebellion is to dispel these delusions. We need to cure the causes of the infection, not just alleviate the symptoms. To focus on the climate’s breakdown (the symptom) without focusing attention on these toxic delusions (the causes) is a form a denialism. Worse, it’s a racist and sexist form of denialism, that takes away from the necessary focus of the need for all of us to de-colonise our selves.
My ancestors are European, some of whom claimed to ‘own’ people as slaves. There are black people with the name Basden in the Americas, and I have begun to mobilise my (white) family to make contact in order to seek to pay reparations.
However, my own accountability cannot be fully paid through this. The insanity* of the mind of the coloniser continues today. It continues in the extraction of fossil fuels, minerals and water from the earth. It continues in deforestation and industrial agriculture. It continues in a callous culture of consumption, which intensifies each Christmas. It continues in evictions and deportations. It continues in the ways of relating to those around us that perpetuate separation and division.
The result is isolation, pain and suffering. The result can be felt at the individual level — in the endemic levels of loneliness and mental-health illness. It can be felt at the community level — in the theft of land for plunder and profit by largely-European-and-US-based banks and corporations. And it can be felt at the global level — in the polluting of our air and oceans.
So Extinction Rebellion isn’t about the climate. It’s not even about ‘climate justice’**, although that is also important. If we only talk about the climate, we’re missing the deeper problems plaguing our culture. And if we don’t excise the cause of the infection, we can never hope to heal from it.
This article is calling to all of those who are involved in XR who sometimes slip into saying it’s a climate movement. It’s a call to the American rebels who made a banner saying “CLIMATE extinction rebellion”. It’s a call to the XR Media & Messaging teams to never get sloppy with the messaging and ‘reduce’ it to climate issues. It’s a call to the XR community to never say we’re a climate movement. Because we’re not. We’re a Rebellion. And we’re rebelling to highlight and heal from the insanity that is leading to our extinction. Now tell the truth and act like it.
* I use the term ‘insanity’ carefully, with the intention of highlighting the need for healing. Indigenous First Nation people helpfully taught me to see the mindset of the coloniser as a sickness. In no way do I intend to marginalise or discredit the experience of people who have been labelled ‘insane’ by a normative system, nor who identify as being ‘insane’.
** Climate Justice refers to the injustice that those who are affected first and worst by extreme weather events (the people in the poorer countries, the majority of whom live in the Global South) are not likely to be the ones who caused the climate emissions (the people who consume the most, including the pathologically wasteful cultures of Europe and Turtle Island (aka North America), and the rich who live/travel around the world).
In an hour and a half I board the coach from Exeter to London. Tomorrow I will be in Parliament Square with hundreds, perhaps thousands of others, for the declaration of Extinction Rebellion. Others who, like me, have realised that drastic measures are needed to wake up the governments of the world to the worsening ecological crisis -particularly to climate breakdown.
Of course, as a whole our governments know what is going on. They would rather sacrifice many of our lives than take on the hard and initially unpopular work of global system change that is so needed. If we were in their shoes, of course we would do no better. Changing our politicians within the current system won’t help us respond to this drastic emergency. With compassion and assertiveness, we rebel against our governments, and we do it civilly.
This starts today.
I feel petrified but exhilarated to be travelling to London at this important time. Today I put my habit of social anxiety aside. I must. Today is part of a wider series of events and trends globally that speak of a turning point in modern global history, and the stirrings of a mass mobilisation of people willing to peacefully ‘fight’ for their lives, as well as the lives of other species on this planet.
What we are beginning to witness, what we must help to manifest, are the rumblings of a leviathan of a movement that is projected to be far greater than the mobilisation of the Allied forces during WWII, and more decisive.
So how do I feel? I feel disappointed in humanity that I have to face these days that make me so anxious for myself and deeply fretful about likely future scenarios that my nieces and nephews will be growing into. I feel angry and bitter towards folk in the street that I walk past every day, their apparent obliviousness to what is going on as they consume, consume, consume. I feel angry and sad.
I feel resolute, after spending time with my blood-niece recently, that I will do what I can to help change the course of history at this pivotal time, even if that means being arrested for peaceful direct action, blocking the roads that taken us in the wrong direction for far too long.
I feel resigned to this potentially difficult path of civil disobedience that lies ahead of me. I feel wearied by it ahead of time. But I also feel the stirrings of a warrior within me. That warrior that must awake within me to carry me forward beyond the limited behaviours of my life that have carried me thus far. That warrior spirit that must awake within all of us if we are to truly rise to this deepest challenge of our times.
Once this spirit begins to awaken, joining with others in Extinction Rebellion, there is a great feeling of shared purpose, a joyful and deep purpose, perhaps the purpose we were all born for in these times.
It is this joy I want to share with you. I feel it only in moments, but I suspect that it will grow.
And grow and grow and grow.
Talking first at Penzance, and then at Porthtowan, I was really out on a limb, geographically and psychologically. I had never given the talk alone, and had only once before delivered it (with a co-activist).
It turned out that the whole two-day experience was productive but intensely draining, including a fair degree of psychological exposure and vulnerability, and some criticism absorbed because I wasn’t robust or clear in my thinking enough to rebut it. Criticism that would not have been forthcoming, I feel, if I had been better prepared.
Knowing something of the workings of my mind and the human unconscious in general, even as I was going through the whole experience I understood that I had engineered the situation to be a difficult one for myself, as a toughening experience on the extreme western edge of the UK to prepare me for the campaign ahead.
Even before the first talk which I gave in The Lugger Inn in Penzance, I walked right to the far edge of the beach, away from the shops, and literally ran across the boulders piled up there. Slipping could mean a serious injury or worse, but at the time it was imperative to maintain the highly strung mind-state that I had cultivated for that first talk.
Sat on the far edge of the boulders, I delighted in the company of juvenile gulls and cormorants, and practised the talk a little, reading to a brick wall.
Thankfully the audience at The Lugger turned out to be much more engaging than the wall, but they had a toughness to them; perhaps it was their Cornishness. I knew my talk was successful when a few people walked out during the early minutes of the second half of the talk. They hadn’t disagreed with the science of catastrophic climate breakdown, but when I started talking about the necessary solution of direct action to force governments to enter war-time level mobilisation, to reduce carbon emissions to zero within just a few years, in heated frustration they claimed ‘it can’t be done!’
I was glad to get the sign-ups for the campaign at the end of the talk.
The second night didn’t go so well. I was over-tired, and didn’t manage to give the audience much eye contact. I think this led to a lack of trust, which contributed to the break down of the talk before the end, with interruptions turning into a discussion at the wrong moment i.e. before I had a chance to fully explain myself. I got no sign-ups this second night, but at least we were all in agreement that ‘something needs to be done, and soon’. (I can still maximise the Facebook interest that this event generated).
Getting a lift back to Redruth from the venue with the owner of the Vegan Cornish Pasty Company and her partner, was the highlight.
The Cornish experience overall reminded me that Extinction Rebellion and the science and principles behind it, occupy the extreme edge of intellectual thought in this country, even though our contention is that they should occupy the mainstream of intellectual thought, such is the climate breakdown emergency that we are currently facing.
I was also reminded of the human need or drive to express underlying emotions and preoccupations in unconscious behaviours, which can become more conscious if we let them. Personally, I am becoming increasingly aware of a momentum inside me that wishes to act out the extreme, the wild edge of thought and emotion and behaviour. This need to act out the extreme is a reflection of the generally unexpressed urgency of climate breakdown that I see in the denial of the eyes of the people that surround me.
A few days ago I attended my first anti- badger cull rally, in Exeter, SW England (my nearest city). We marched from Belmont Park and through the town centre, with police escort. We ended up in the central pedestrianised zone of Princesshay.
I enjoyed the badger masks and the painted faces. I enjoyed the feeling of comradery on the march, although I felt a little on the outside. I despaired along with everyone else at the complete lack of science behind badger culling, which has been going on for fifty years. It is not disputed that cattle pass TB (tuberculosis) on to badgers, but there is no evidence that it happens the other way round. One of the speakers at the rally said that if the currently apathetic public knew the truth of what was going on, the truth of the government’s scapegoat policy towards badgers, it would be enough to end the reign of the Conservatives and trigger an emergency general election.
The problem is, the public generally have an ignorant trust of the people in power, whoever those people are. There is a cognitive bias in human beings, myself included, of trusting authority. Whoever is in power, most of us trust that they would not dare to implement a policy of genocide of native species, on no scientific basis, just to keep safe the votes of the farming community as a whole, not all of whom believe the lies they are told about the effectiveness of such culls. The culls are a cynical ploy to unite farmers in favour of the Tory government, and show that the government couldn’t care less about the actual problem of bovine TB, which is better treated by vaccinating farms and introducing stricter hygiene procedures.
For me though, the larger issue has to be climate breakdown. As this article shows, methane from livestock is a contributor to climate warming and thus the climate breakdown that is beginning to reach disastrous levels around the world. Additionally, inefficient farming practices result in nitrogen being released as nitrogen oxide and other greenhouse gases, further contributing to global warming. The use of artificial nitrogen fertilisers is most associated with livestock farming. (Of course, nitrogen is naturally occurring everywhere, but that is not the issue. The issue is an artificial increase in greenhouse gases). Moreover, if we, as a species, ate less meat and dairy, and cared more for the livestock that we did keep, not concentrating them in industrial complexes where diseases like TB spread more quickly and affect more animals, then quite probably the extra inhumanity of badger culls would not be resorted to. The badger culls are a ‘face saving’ measure, hiding the gross effects of industrial farming on animals and the planet.
So I handed out my cards to the cull protesters, for the non-violent direct action (NVDA) I will be engaging in this autumn to pressure the government to act more radically and immediately on climate breakdown. As I did so, I couldn’t help but feel a little frustrated. Badger culling is obviously a horrible practice, but surely the best way to stop it, along with so many other practices damaging to our environment, is to address the umbrella issue of climate breakdown. This wasn’t mentioned by any of the speakers at the rally. One of the demands of Extinction Rebellion of which I am part, is that the government reduce carbon emissions to zero by 2025. This would necessarily involve the decline of industrial livestock farming, as well as many other environmentally destructive practices.
I admire the passion and commitment and moral force of the cull protesters I marched with, and how much more of a force for change they would be if every one of them also campaigned, just as strongly, on climate breakdown.
The talk will be of national rebellion tomorrow at the third Exeter Rising Up! meeting in the community centre on Sidwell Street. I’m proud to have started the Exeter Rising Up! branch, and keen to get on with organising for Extinction Rebellion.
It seems to me that it is almost pointless, by now, to try to convince the general public about the more-than-likely coming climate catastrophe, by using science and careful, reasoned debate. It seems to me that the evidence is obvious to anyone who has the psychological and emotional resilience and readiness to act on it. So this is what I call on you to do -to act. The reason that so many of us have not acted before now is a feeling of powerlessness in the face of potentially threatening government institutions -the worst being that the government threatens to do relatively nothing about climate breakdown.
I would call it a reasonable supposition rather than a conspiracy theory that the most attractive strategy of the ruling elites over the coming decades may be to let us, ‘the masses’ die off in our millions, nay billions, so that they alone may inherit the Earth. Do they imagine that they will be protected by bubbles of advanced technology from the worst of climate breakdown? Well, perhaps they would be protected. Do we allow that gross solution, that wilful holocaust of 90% of the human race, to happen? Of course we don’t.
I used to think that activism, including non-violent direct action, was useless in achieving change. I used to smugly watch on television, activists being bundled into police vans or barricaded. However, since getting involved in the #VoteNoHeathrow campaign with Rising Up! this summer, I realised that disparate activist groups can work simultaneously on the same issue, alongside others using conventional channels such as Parliament, to achieve real change. Although the third Heathrow runway was voted through Parliament on the heels of our campaign, in reality the strength of support for #VoteNoHeathrow shows that the runway is unlikely to be built. Especially considering Extinction Rebellion.
Extinction Rebellion is an escalation of Rising Up’s general stance against the government’s inaction on slowing and ceasing carbon emissions. #VoteNoHeathrow continued where #StopKillingLondoners left off, and @ExtinctionRebellion is the next logical step. Extinction Rebellion (XR) is an escalating campaign culminating in significant infrastructure blocks, including road blocks, this November in London and potentially other cities. At least 100 of us now have signed up for arrest. By calculated non-violent direct action (we are well-trained) we will deliberately put ourselves in positions of illegality to draw attention to the immorality of the government and the international community of elites, on climate breakdown. We will be arrested and some of us may be locked up for a time. If this is what it takes, we reason, to put climate breakdown at the centre of the government’s agenda, then so be it. And if XR 2018 is not enough to do it, XR 2019 and 2020 will be.
A few days ago, on the coach back to Exeter from London, there was a point southwest of Bristol at which the coach had almost emptied and green and yellowed plains, punctuated by lines and huddles of shrub and tree, opened out on the left hand side of the M5 motorway. At this point, my body and mind relaxed tangibly and at once. I breathed deeply and felt satisfied that I had braved out the last few days in London, called there by a non-violent direct action (NVDA) campaign run by Rising Up. (www.risingup.org.uk).
Nothing else at this moment in my life could have called me to London. I find Bristol city challenge enough after living a rural existence these past few years, very sensitive as I am to the built environment and the psychogeography of moving crowds, their unconscious desires, my identity existentially threatened by sheepiness and strong individuals alike.
But Bristol is a fine city, as far as cities go, being as they are intrinsically problematic, ecologically. A few weeks ago, anxious for new forms of society in my life, eager to make up for years of ‘social phobia’ and social trauma, I came across an activist group on Facebook (which does have its uses) -‘Rising Up’. I soon met some of these fine people in a house in Easton somewhere. We shared good food and discussed the other world that is possible. Or rather, we discussed how to challenge this world more effectively.
A couple of weeks and a meeting or two later and I am on a coach to London to engage in my first NVDA (not that I’ve been involved in a violent one). Namely, hunger striking for 24 hours, and potentially longer, outside the Labour HQ on Victoria Street to help put pressure on Labour MPs to vote against the third Heathrow runway proposals, due to finally go through parliament (after earlier government approval) in the coming few days. Why? Because a third Heathrow runway is a contribution to climate breakdown, habitat destruction, the global rich-poor divide and leaden guilt in the collective human soul.
There were a good fifteen or twenty of us sat in a row hunger striking on Saturday June 9th, including Rising Up activists, local Heathrow residents and members of the experimental ‘Grow Heathrow’ land-based project occupying where Heathrow wants to covet. We received some good press coverage, including from The Guardian, and independent media providers Undercurrents and Real Media. Far from being a socially anxious shivering wreck as nightmarish projections might have me believe I would be, I enjoyed the feeling of solidarity with my new comrades and the chance to actually influence government policy (along with all the other fine campaigners from other groups protesting the third runway, who weren’t present with us). I also enjoyed people-watching. Sitting on the pavement for a few hours was the ideal opportunity to view all manner of human being, and sleek motor-vehicles with Middle Eastern flags crawling down the street.
Playing our cards a little wild, hearing that John McDonnell the Shadow Chancellor might not meet us the next day if we hung around outside Labour HQ, we hot-footed it to the union Unite building a few blocks away, parked ourselves, chanted and felt our emotional momentum rising as we protested the ridiculousness of Unite (and anyone) supporting a grossly unsustainable project just because it ‘creates jobs’. Afterall, wars create jobs. In the middle of the day I slipped off down a side street to get some water. I found a cute refined gallery-cafe in the bricked terrace, exhibiting modern (or post-modern?) Afro-Carribean, or African (or I’m not sure) art. Large paintings entitled ‘Fragility #1’, ‘Fragility #4’ etc, of gorgeous black women in colourful wrap around dress, and all featuring little porcelain Captain Cooks in the background. Fearful of being in the city as I was, and not dressed proper, and fragile to get back to the frontline, I could not express my appreciation. Shame, but nevertheless I emerged with water from the gallery-cafe waitress, victorious.
Turning our backs on Captain Cook, the Texan-Oil mentality of Heathrow and the dusty roar of plastic progress, we arrived at what would be our dwelling, meeting place, tea-drinking place and spiritual commune over the next few days, believe it or not, an anarchist-Catholic chapel and boarding house in Haringey. To the Catholic Workers there we are ever grateful.
In the evening, feeling like it was some macho test to stay up and watch the film (but that was all in my head) and I’m glad I stayed awake to soak in the Freedom Riders, of segregation-era America. ‘If they did that, which they did, we can do this, we can do so much more than this.’ The omnipotence of non-violence. Wholly applicable. Wholy.
The first night sleeping in the chapel, on the hard floor, my dreams were manic and pained. I was threatened by dark elements of the public and also by mysterious Arabs, (like Qatar investing in Heathrow). My demons fast purged, chapel purged?
The next day Sunday my friend Patti arrived and took some sketches of moments of us being human. See them here, and top of post. The weather was changeable but our spirits remained high. It was the Queen’s birthday one of these days, I couldn’t care less which, but troop-carriers and red arrows flying overhead were like some grand and ominous sign, a reflection of the weight and fire in us activists, but the waste and pyre of this state we live in. McDonnell on the periphery, meeting us or one of us.
[Oil flowing through London’s streets. Exhausted cars and polyester sweaters. Buildings in flames. Children in flames, toddling along oblivious.]
Then some of us left, bravest warriors to return to oil-drenched lives, and brave of us left to sit in oil, to carry on with no food, no air-freighted oil inside us at least -our guts were rather dry for the fight, the non-violent fight of the days ahead -we fasted. Little had I realised that we would be working as we not-ate, notating comms to dispatch to MPs and to the leviathans of the Queenly British press, and the indie (hard) pressed outlets, and anyone we could fucking get hold of.
Over the next few days, the London Underground, the blunder-thunder-round, the not-so-merry climate-bound, carrying hunger-strike placards and sticks, balancing banners, convening in cafes and on street corners, Roger-and-Simon led by their greater experience, deciding where to double-strike next. On Wednesday in the lobby of the House of Commons, some of us laid down to die. We hadn’t had enough -not quite yet -actually not by a long stretch of red chalk. I filmed some of it, and tried again and again, thwarted by a bored security guard. At first Robin shouted, shouted the threat, any shout an understatement of threat, even in the Houses of Parliament, of the climate catastrophe that could well await us. He was led out, as usual, used to police escorts by now. Clare was gone, procuring red chalk paint etc for some mischief on the morrow’s morrow.
That evening, on the Wednesday, I broke my fast with some wonderful hummous in a Turkish restaurant down the road from our digs. Quite appropriately, the megalomaniac Turkish president Erdogan did not cross my mind. I do wonder how much carbon is embedded in the arms that Theresa May sells him at all our expenses, and at the expense of the Kurdish people of Eastern Turkey and Northern Syria whom he oppresses.
As I travelled back home the next day, the remaining hunger-strikers travelled to Scotland to do this.
So thanks to all my new activist friends -due to the structure and vision of Rising Up, I now realise that NVDA can make a difference, has made a difference and will continue to make a difference.
Please urge your MP to #VoteNoHeathrow. Please spread the message of #VoteNoHeathrow and visit our social media pages for exciting videos and updates of our very necessary actions in this age of doublethink, ecocide, and the willful genocide of our children and grandchildren by political elites.
(Thank you to Roger, Simon, Clare, Ian, Ian’s-lovely-partner-whose-name-I’ve-forgotten, Robin, Jenny, Richard, Stuart, Calum, Annie [Grow Heathrow], Sibi, Cam, Marcha, Gwen, Christian, Jeremy [Green Party], Amy, Randell, Zoe from Undercurrents, Rikki from Real Media, Luka, Indie, Willow, Frieda and anyone I’ve forgotten)