?You Gather? Heroic Vegan and Climate Activism #5

!Hi folk, how is your heroic activist journey going this week?

I’m working on improving my post-writing process (tell me what you think at the end). I want you to buy me, and buy the stuff that I make. By ‘buy me’ I mean resonate with me, feel a kinship with me, and help me build the Epic Tomorrows tribe. This isn’t merely for the sake of a brand or making me a living, (although that’s part of it.) This is for the sake of all life on Earth. The same goes for buying the stuff that I make. I’m not just making it to sell. I’m making it because it will be useful (hopefully) to many activists.

This week, I think what I have been struggling with most is a combined lack of face to face human connection (as usual) as well as a perceived lack of recognition for my talents, and for this blog. I am beginning to realise just how much work and effort will be required to build my blog audience. I have set myself a date of 10th February to increase my audience from 60 to 130, as part of a bigger exponential curve of increase up to 1000 followers by the end of March (the amended launch date of the Well Gathered spreadsheet). Apparently this is needed to make 30 sales at a 3% ‘conversion rate’. Well, it’s not quite that simple. Anyway, I have a lot of great resources to help me, it’s just a case of working through them.

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As human beings, as activists, and especially as vegan activists, it’s important that we eat healthily. This can include gathering some wild greens. Today on my walk in the lanes I was reminded of cleavers and pennywort.

I really didn’t want to go out on a walk, with the weather being so cold and wet, but a nudge from a new friend by text (a co-worker from Extinction Rebellion -XR) reminded me that I really should. A few days previously I had told him how good it is for my mental health to get outside and into Nature. I was quite comfortable with my aloneness -not the same as loneliness- as I struck into the lanes and fields.

Despite my isolation, through my work with XR I am gradually becoming part of a community of fascinating and caring activists. Most of the contact is online or by phone, but that’s okay. It’s good news, since ‘finding and strengthening community’ is one of five things on my slightly obsessive list of ‘the five most important things that I need to be working on until I achieve them’. FYI, the Well Gathered spreadsheet will include a sheet listing online well-being resources for activists.

On Monday I spoke with a new friend from XR who has offered me weekly one-way check-ins by phone i.e. offering to hold space as I share what’s going on for me emotionally and intellectually. A semi-professional therapeutic arrangement. We did end up discussing a bit, but it all felt very natural, boundaried and supportive. She is also one of the only four (!) people so far, who have subscribed to my blog by email.

Then mid-week, something really amazing happened. A political rapper from Atlanta, Georgia in America who I had written to on a whim asking if she would do an interview with me for Epic Tomorrows, got back to me and said ‘yes’. Queen Left is her artist name, and I predict big things for her in the world of hip-hop. Here she is on my new and improved front-page. What has music got to do with activism? Everything! Here is a vital tip for activists wishing to make connections with other activists, to amplify their campaigns. I contacted Queen Left on YouTube, via the ‘About’ section on her YouTube profile. Not all YouTube profiles reveal email addresses, but some do. It’s worth sniffing around. Choose someone who feels a little out of your league, but not way out of your league.

Through my contact with Queen Left I had a revelation about my website content. I had already been working towards incorporating more of the heroic and the mythic into my site. Truly we live in an age of monsters and heroines, dragons and epic quests, and viewing things like that can be a useful and inspiring way to deal with the complexity and ecological catastrophe of contemporary life. But as I was out on one of my increasingly regular Nature walks, just after Queen got back to me a couple of days ago, I suddenly had a vision of the ‘soundtrack’ for Epic Tomorrows.

Months back I started a site named ‘Music of the Resistance’ -MOtheR for short- which listed hundreds of rebellious music tracks via links to YouTube, Soundcloud etc. I had no idea whether it would ultimately prove to be legal, but I really enjoyed the process of building up the resource, and a few people submitted their own favourites to the website, which was the best part. I eventually abandoned that project due to the ambiguous legality and not getting on with the Wix platform I was using, and also not having the know-how or energy to transfer the information to another platform.

The music is still with me. I like rebellious music of all genres, according to a very wide definition of ‘rebellious’ to include classical and jazz (especially jazz) and even mainstream pop songs that have a rebellious edge or message. I also just like well-written and well-produced music. Since music is in my bones, why should I keep it separate from my blog? Am I not all about gathering every part of myself to serve the whole of myself, and to serve the whole of you, my reader? And don’t you love music too?

If we are to be heroines and heroes in the disaster movie of 21st Century humanity, then by damn don’t we need to do it to a stunning soundtrack?!

When I had this realisation the other day, I literally danced for joy. Queen Left is dancing too.

As always, write to me with your activist -especially vegan and climate activist- dilemmas and I will try to help you out with them. You can contact me about anything else too. Email: epictomorrows@gmail.com, address to Matthew.

?You Gather? Vegan and Climate Activism (for Singles) #4

!Hello you lovely activists, heroines and heroes! Are you rested after the ‘Christmas break’? Are you full of beans or your choice of protein (less of the animal protein please) and ready to go? Or are you still a little fatigued, like I am? Still a little overwhelmed and stressed out at the state of the world, as I am? Still a little sad at the way the world seems to be going, as I am?

And yet, I have so much joy in my heart, and yes, there is a growing energetic spirit within me, despite this nasty ongoing cold and cough I have. It is the joy of courage and determination that being part of the wonderful movement of Extinction Rebellion (XR) has given me. It is also the joy I have gained from getting back in touch with Nature recently, albeit a Nature artificially divided up into industrialised beef, lamb and milk pastures. In the leaf-mouldy footpaths in-between the fields, where edible succulent leaves grow from the shades of Devon banks (yes even in January), and where I imagine up fairy stories about the souls of extinct animals, my soulful strength returns.

The past couple of weeks for me has been dominated by XR once more, and yet I trust that the experience is also giving me valuable insight into activists and what would help us be more effective. My Well Gathered spreadsheet is addressing this question. (It will be given free to committed XR people).

Well Gathered will launch for sale to most of you on 29th March. I have put forward the launch date by a few weeks for about the fifth time, but I have the best possible reason this time -my government employed business adviser thinks that this is giving myself the best chance in terms of government benefits I can receive. I can receive Jobseekers Allowance payments at £70 for 12 more weeks before signing on to the reduced £60 per week New Enterprise Allowance payments for a further 13 weeks. During all this time I don’t have to look for work, and any business money I make doesn’t affect my benefits.

I have been wondering today whether I should narrow down my audience more to ‘climate activists’ rather than ‘vegan and climate activists’, especially as I am struggling a little to get my head around the different attitudes towards veganism and plant-based diets of different people who identify with these diets (sorry, vegans, ways of living), as well as the attitudes of meat and dairy eaters towards vegans and vice versa.

Just a couple of days ago I had a long chat with a fellow XR volunteer over the phone (the first time we had spoken) about the potential difficulty of encouraging urban vegan activists to de-stress themselves and recuperate by staying in the countryside and learning about land use and land-based livelihoods. We agreed that WWOOF could be a better used resource for urban activists to de-stress, and links could be made between WWOOF and XR.

But for vegan activists (and there are many vegans in XR) there is a potential barrier, in that Permaculture growing systems (established by some good WWOOF hosts) incorporate animals to be most energy-efficient, e.g. by rotating their grazing to prepare vegetable beds and use their manure for food growing. This is a standard energy-saving traditional farming technique (as opposed to modern industrial farming). It arguably kills many less living beings than mass-grown (polyculture) plant crops in a single large field requiring imported fertilisers, even if the animals are eaten near the end of their long lives. (Think of all the animal deaths indirectly caused by fertiliser production and transportation).

I identify as vegan myself for approximately 95% of the time (or does that make me ‘plant-based’, I’m still not sure?). Yet I have enough understanding of sustainable land use to know that some compassionate animal husbandry can be part of the answer for long-term relocalised food systems. And we do need to relocalise the whole of society. Flying around the world, whether people or food, is fucking up the atmosphere.

Speaking of fucking things up, I was arrested for graffiti-ing the front of Barclays Bank in Exeter (southwest England) the other day for an XR action. But it’s Barclays who are really fucking things up. Read this article, if you dare. So this occasion counted as in the 5% of the time that I am not vegan, as I accepted the cheese slice and then the biscuits that were offered to me in the police cell after the action. When I was released at 11pm I did have a fully vegan sandwich in Exeter’s 24 hour Subway, but that would have been more than cancelled out by the general ecological destruction entailed by any large multinational corporation, especially one as massive as Subway.

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I must admit, I felt pretty heroic on this action. I don’t think there is anything wrong with that. I bet there will be many activists reading this who like to get in touch with the heroic too. Indeed, in these extraordinary times of climate and ecological crisis, we need to call on the heroines inside all of us. We need to call loudly, firmly, to call inwardly to ourselves and outwardly to society.

You are heroic. I know what efforts you put in as an activist. I really do. With the activism-related information I gather as part of my efforts for Epic Tomorrows, I sincerely hope that I will save you some legwork. Damn, you’re busy! I know you are!

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Being a rural activist. I’m lonely. XR activists are spread all over the country and now the world, but it’s in the towns and cities they gather. My life is full of paradox, as living alone, I do get lots of work done, including work for XR and Epic Tomorrows. I also communicate daily with other XR activists working in all the different departments, especially the Regenerative Culture (including well-being) team of which I am a member, and the Media and Messaging team which I am in close touch with due to my role as an editor -and the founder- of XR Blog. Yet when the communications stop, when I close the laptop after spending too much time (again) online, I can feel suddenly isolated, even depressed. It’s a common story.

Nevertheless, something positive is starting to happen. Something that I remember writing about in a post a while back. Something about how online communications can eventually result in greater human connection than ever was possible before the internet, if these communications are pursued wisely. I refer to a long-term vision, not yet realised, of the deep connections formed in activist circles becoming more manifest in geographically based communities. Sure, it happens, but nowhere near enough, or not quite in the way I would like to see it. You’ll have to bear with me a few years on that one.

So now I find myself starting to have conference calls and phonecalls with my new XR friends that previously I may have only emailed. This in turn has encouraged me to get out into my village, and start to see again those old friends that were waiting for me to call round all along.

And I received quite a shock when the building developer putting up some flats across from the row I’m in, came round to measure my porch (to measure against the new porches across the way), and informed me: ‘My wife’s joined Extinction Rebellion’.

In more ways than one, XR is helping me gather myself socially, and I’m getting more grounded with it.

When it comes to dating, most of the time I am quite happy being single. Every few days I do get overcome by waves of loneliness, but I watch them pass. Very recently my phone informed me that ‘Zara has joined Signal’ (name changed to protect Zara’s identity). Signal is a secure messaging service, highly recommended for activists to say the least. I struggled for a second to remember who Zara was, and then I remembered she was a contact from the Ok Cupid dating site, from a couple of years back.

So now XR Namibia may be starting up. You think I’m joking. Wait and see. There’s no symbol on this map of XR groups over Namibia yet, but check it in one month’s time. Admittedly, that would have been an impossibly long-distance relationship…

Single activists probably get more done, I think, and now is a very urgent time to get things done in terms of the global climate breakdown and ongoing ecological catastrophe (surely you agree with me if you’ve read this far?). I am starting to meet lots of lovely women through activist conference calls and phonecalls. For now I am happy to admire from a place of detachment -I have my hero quest to pursue!

How about you?

For an audio representation of some of this content i.e. me rambling on, visit Soundcloud.

As always, get in touch with your vegan and climate activist dilemmas, and I’ll try to help, or at least signpost you to some good information. Info gathering is what I have a knack for afterall. Email me on epictomorrows@gmail.com

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Please don’t go out tonight

Please don’t go out tonight. Ecosystems are collapsing, and alcohol dumbs down your capacity for action and change.

Please don’t go out tonight. Especially if you are an activist. Why don’t you just have a quiet drink at home with some activist buddies, and plan your next arrestable action? 2019 has to be a year of massive escalation if we are to pressure our governments to act in an appropriate and timely way in response to climate breakdown and worsening ecological catastrophe.

As a mystic, gratitude is central to my practice. But it’s not enough to sit in meditation and feel grateful for my flat, my clothes, my books, my relationships that all, somewhere or other back along the karmic lines (and surely not very far back along them) depend on the oppression and exploitation of indigenous peoples and biodiversity around the globe.

I’m not about to give up my affluent Western / Northern lifestyle, it is so deeply ingrained in me. However the least I can do is use this privilege in 2019 to 1) get arrested as often as is practical, as well as manageable for my well-being, for the cause of drawing attention to Extinction Rebellion, which is to say the cause of all life on Earth, and 2) rather than just ‘make a living’, work towards generating as much monetary wealth as possible, so that I can redistribute it to where it is needed (including Extinction Rebellion.)

Here is a line from one of the books in my golden bookcase. Some of you will know or be able to guess at where this came from. It’s a very popular book.

‘When action is pure and selfless                                                                                            everything settles into its own perfect place.’

?You Gather? Vegan & Climate Activism #1

As none of you will know (unless you’re reading this on Facebook) I’ve been involved with some of that there ole climate activism recently (as the Devon elders of my village probably never say). The radical kind that gets you arrested and whatnot. Fridays (today is a Friday) I am now having as ‘regenerative culture’ days, where I fast for most of the day, reflect on groundedness and take a breather from my combined activist-entrepreneur lifestyle. Extinction Rebellion is the non-violent direct action campaign that I am involved with. See the UK page here. On one level it’s a blast. On another level, it’s a very serious business -the most serious thing I have ever been involved with in my life. Extinction Rebellion (XR) is the very good reason behind me neglecting this blog recently.

I don’t regret anything. I have made some great friends in XR, learnt a whole lot about human-caused climate breakdown and I continue to work for the movement, for radical system change in the light of The Evidence of worsening ecological collapse -it’s a good job I’m long-sighted. I support XR even to the point of being arrested in London for peacefully blocking roads with hundreds of others. This is what happened a couple of weeks back.

But now it’s time for me to step back a little, to concentrate on self-regeneration and making a living. If I can’t generate an income for myself, then I can’t afford the luxury of being deeply involved in an activist movement. Not unless I renounced materialism completely, which I’m not prepared to do. My time spent in monasteries in my twenties has given me some good meditation skills and helped cultivate something of a non-attachment to life, but I choose to be materialistic right now, to be able to generate some cash to move about a bit, and maybe even to generate enough eventually, to redirect it to support causes like XR. And I’ll be careful about where and who that income comes from too.

Today, a Friday fast day, I made sure to get some air outside, walking the footpaths of North Tawton village in the biting cold. I enjoyed the bite of both the wind and the hunger pangs which I know strengthen this body for potentially tough times ahead -on the global level which I have strong empathy for.

Earlier, before my walk, I reflected on the product I am building, for a later release now of 29th March 2019. I have been collecting data for this product -a spreadsheet for activists, particularly vegan and climate activists in southwest England- by bookmarking websites. In the midst of this gathering work I realised that the most important kind of gathering is collecting of the self, in this modern society that is full of much opportunity (for some, for the privileged entrepreneur like me) and also so much fragmentation (for most of us). It is the greatest personal, even spiritual, work in modern times to collect everything you need -information, practices, parts of yourself- that may have been rendered inaccessible to you for a long time, or even since forever.

During my activism and reading recently I have encountered problematic dynamics between vegans and non-vegans, and also a lack of comprehensive efforts between vegan and climate movements to join together on some actions and campaigns. I hope that with my upcoming informational product I will gather and curate information in such a way as to encourage climate and vegan activists to work together more. I am vegan myself (usually!), but not militantly. I do empathise with militant vegans, I am just not one of you. If you are one, I would like to support you in getting through to non-vegans, at least non-vegan climate activists, in a diplomatic way.

It may be trite to say ‘We could all do with getting along more’, but it’s true, and I think we will see more co-operation between various environmental activist movements as the global ecological situation becomes more urgent still.

However, we must mindfully gather ourselves together, before attempting to gather others.

Listen to the audio representation of this post on Soundcloud here.

Activist Diary #5

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 exhilerated 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.

Square in The Face and The Voice in The Night

Square in The Face

Rise For Climate is an international movement that today will see over 850 rallies happening around the world to demand climate justice from governments and corporations.

This is a great initiative, but will it be enough? Extinction Rebellion goes one step further. As members of XR we are employing mass civil disobedience (for instance, road blocks) to demand action NOW.

Sometimes I get accused of being miserable, of not knowing how to have fun, even of being ‘square’. But these people don’t see when I’m dancing around my flat or in a trance playing jazz dance on my electric piano. I may be square to some, if square means wanting to live meticulously in a way which improves the suffering lot of the species -including humans- on this planet. A lot which it is very reasonable to project will worsen due to climate breakdown in the coming decades.

I only appear square at face value because I am looking civilisation square in the face. You don’t face me by calling me names. If you dare face me, look at the dying civilisation reflected in my eyes.

 

The Voice in The Night

A few nights ago, in the middle of the night, a man’s voice stated to me plainly,

‘I didn’t know about it. Nobody told me.’

He was referring to climate breakdown and he was referring to the Extinction Rebellion.

I think this man has a job which involves some manual work. I think he works in engineering, but in some kind of assistant capacity. He is fairly switched on about trends in society and politics, but he knows next to nothing about climate breakdown (or what he would call ‘climate change’).

This man is indicative of the massive problem we have around climate breakdown -that most of even the most intelligent people in society are not aware of it.

This man’s voice was a warning to me. He was calling to me from the future. He was asking me to try my hardest to get through to him now, even though the whole machine of industrial civilisation wants to prevent our meeting and our communicating.

 

Activist Diary #4: Out on a limb

A few days ago I returned from a short trip to the wild west of Cornwall, where I had given two talks on Extinction Rebellion, the activist campaign run by Rising Up! of which I am a member.

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.