Update 25/4/21:the ‘Shell 7’ have been acquitted by jury, despite the judge stating ‘they have no defense in law’. This is a huge vindication of the strategy of the Shell 7 actions, which has resulted in significant press coverage and a proof of public support for activists who challenge governments’ and corporations’ inaction on the climate crisis-even to the extent of careful property damage.
Simon, along with six other committed activists, including Ian Bray, another XR co-founder, intended to cause at least £6000 worth of damage in order to get their case heard -and then hopefully acquitted, at the Crown Court in London. The first stage of their plan has worked -from tomorrow, April 12th 2021, the ‘Shell 7’ will appear at the Crown Court to start their ten day trial. If this trial gets enough media attention, and especially if the Shell 7 are acquitted, this could be a key nail amongst many in the coffin of this multinational which has willful deceit and complicity in murder, at the core of its policy and practice.
I watched the window smashing action on some news channel or other. I was involved in the initial Extinction Rebellion (XR) bridge blocks of November 2018 but for mental health reasons was not involved in the big London shutdown of April 2019. The destruction of property caused by the Shell 7 at such a symbolic location at the start of two weeks of peaceful Rebellion in London (resulting in over 1000 arrests) was a demonstration of tactical (although risky) brilliance. I reasoned that the wider more peaceful approach of XR -which had not generally so far involved smashing windows- would cushion with a halo this one more ‘aggressive’ action at Shell’s London HQ, giving a particular moral pertinence to it. In other words, the effectiveness of the Shell 7 action was co-creative with and relied upon the discipline of non-violence and even peacefulness displayed by thousands of XR activists during their taking of the London streets (as it turned out, on several occasions)…mass actions which involved no destruction of property. The recent smashing of a window of a branch of Barclay’s Bank by Gail Bradbrook, as part of the launch of XR’s Money Rebellion is a different tactical turn, in a different time and strategic context to the early days of XR, and much called for.
Recently I have been discussing with an American friend the difference between strategic and moral non-violence in mass social and political movements for change. My friend prefers the latter approach, from a Gandhian perspective. However with an action like that of the Shell 7, I would argue that moral and strategic non-violence are synthesised. The Shell action’s timing to kick off the April 2019 Rebellion in a passionate way, with that isolated display of ‘destruction’, was both strategically and symbolically appropriate (risking media and public backlash which turned out to be relatively minor). It was not completely non-violent by the Gandhian moral standard, but nevertheless it drew attention to the moral acceptability of the more peaceful two week rebellion that followed. The wish to cause £6000 plus worth of damage was an added tactical intent within the internal logic of the action itself, the tactical result of which is about to unfold.
Had the Shell action been performed in the middle or even at the end of the XR April 2019 Rebellion, I believe the impact in terms of media and public opinion could have been disastrous. To kick the Rebellion off, it turned out to be perfect. It is no accident that one of the Shell 7, Simon, was a key co-ordinator in the Actions and Logistics team of XR for the first mass actions in the UK.
One of my most pleasurable interviews, despite the poor internet connection, was with Lubem Gena, the media person for Extinction Rebellion Nigeria (yes, XR moves in Nigeria too).
The video below is Lubem observing one minute of silence for Ken Saro-Wiwa and the other eight members of the ‘Ogoni Nine’ who were executed by the Nigerian government with the complicity of the Shell Corporation.
For the sake of the Ogoni Nine and a habitable planet for human beings and a continued diversity of other species, please, support the Shell Seven and follow their trial which begins tomorrow. Write about it, shout about it, do arrestable actions in support of it…please do whatever you can.
I am now talking to Stu Basden who is one of the co-founders of Extinction Rebellion (XR) in the UK. They have been involved from the very beginning in all kinds of capacities. I first met them at their house in Bristol when I saw an advert for a free vegan curry with some kind of chat about activism, which led to my brief involvement with the Bristol branch of the Rising Up! (RU!) group. RU! Members went on to found XR. First of all, Stu, could you explain how you got involved with XR, what your role was first of all, and what your journey has been from the beginning up until the present day, including different roles you may have taken since the start?
Sure…I am now sat in my caravan, which is parked outside the house that I used to live in, where we met. The same street where the cafe was [Cafe Connect] that the first XR meeting took place, before it was called XR…there were fifteen of us and we thought, ‘Okay, we’ve got a group here -let’s go big…’ So yeah…it is just down the road that history was made…
But maybe I’ll jump back a little bit to talk about my own journey. In 2006-7 I was studying philosophy and theology and saw all the problems in the world; justice issues etc and ‘liberation theology’ was something I was really taken by. It took me several years to find a path until 2012 when I got involved with the climate movement 350.org. I was living in Toronto at the time. We set up a local group and that became the next few years of my life, until 2015. I was very involved and became the president of the group. That was divestment fights and pipelines and all of that. Towards the end of my time there I thought, ‘There’s something missing; we need to do something bigger than this’. 350 was the big name on the block at the time. I just saw today that Bill McKibben is stepping back from his role at 350…
So I came to Europe, and travelled around Europe looking at different social movements, doing research into housing struggles in Spain, refugee struggles in Greece, anti-coal struggles in Germany and land defenses in France. Then I came across Rising Up! -this new group that was going to do an action to shut down Heathrow airport in London. I signed up for that, which was the first Rising Up! action. Then I signed up for a RU! intro training. That was Roger (Hallam), Simon (Bramwell), and Gail (Bradbrook), the three founders of Rising Up! that gave that training. Within a couple of days I was like, ‘I think I’m in. This is it! So I’ll move back to the UK… (where I’m from). Let’s do this. I like this vision. I like this strategy…a lot has been researched and laid out, so let’s see what happens’.
So I moved to Bristol and got the RU! group set up here. We spent a couple of years developing infrastructure, like the tech, but more importantly the principles and values, strategy and vision that were behind XR (XR was born from RU!). Something that really attracted me was the concept of iterations: that we’re not going to get anything right the first time, in fact we may never get it right, but we can try things, experiment, and then learn from it and do things slightly differently…pushing the boundaries of acceptable activism…to normalise non-violent civil disobedience, which is something we have had clear success with.
Great. Do you want to say more about the different roles you have taken within XR, including training roles?
Okay, so when we started XR we had 15 people, and we decided on the initial working groups (WG’s). I was initially one of the co-ordinators of the tech and infrastructure WG. I was also involved from the start in the Regenerative CulturesWG. At another point it was more or less me and Gail running the Media WG, which I wasn’t the most skilled at, so I was relieved when others took over. I also helped run lots of NVDA trainings, which partly became embedded in the ‘Heading For Extinction’ talk as well as in the XR ‘DNA’ trainings. I also ran some facilitation training. Last summer as XR was really growing around Europe I travelled around giving training. We gave trainings in 10 different countries including weekend-long trainings. We involved the whole kit: NVDA, XR DNA, facilitation instruction and some conflict resolution tips.
Early on I remember Simon Bramwell saying to me, we need more facilitators in our activism. So that was something I already enjoyed doing -running workshops and facilitating spaces…then I discovered a group facilitation leadership course, which was a year long course in Process Work. This has now led to a five year long intensive study programme on Process Work, looking at group facilitation and ‘how can we deal with these difficult dynamics that sometimes come in, and what actually is the process, in each moment? How can we really find the conversation that’s wanting to happen?’ We’ve got so many ways of avoiding and talking around, so let’s find ways to allow the difficult stuff to happen. That’s something that really excites me now.
From a personal perspective I’ve always seen you as a facilitator. I was impressed by your facilitation of one of the XR gatherings in London a few weeks previous to one of the big XR actions….I also know you’ve been an ‘actions’ person as well. Wasn’t it with RU!, previous to XR, when you were involved in an action that resulted in you being in prison for a week?
That’s right. That was a campaign about air pollution. [Stop Killing Londoners]. We went down to City Hall in London. We started off the week sitting in the street but the police weren’t arresting us, so we took to using chalk spray on London City Hall, graffiti-ing ‘Stop air pollution!’ and after about the third time of doing that, and going to the court and saying, ‘If you release us, we’re just going to do it again’ they said they had no choice but to send us to prison ‘on remand’ for a week. [My note: In the UK, being held ‘on remand’ refers to a temporary holding of ‘offenders’ – to prevent them getting into further mischief- until they are taken directly to court to deal with charges against them].
Did you do much reflecting during that time of how the prison experience might be different for people from different backgrounds? Were you all white middle class activists taking part in the action?
Yeah…maybe a few working class but most of us were middle class. Certainly the four of us who ended up in prison were all white, and it shocked me to see how much of the prison population was black -probably 80%. This was in HMP Thameside in East London. I was like, ‘This is incredible. How on Earth is this the case, that there is this much racial injustice going on?’ We stood out there. We were ‘strange people’. There were some really friendly people there, but we didn’t have much time. I was in a cell with another activist, Ian Bray. The people were like ‘Dude, you’re crazy, why didn’t you just run away?’ We said we wanted to get arrested and taken to prison and they were like, ‘Why would you want to get in here?!’ We replied, ‘We’re experimenting with this injustice system…trying to find out what would be the effect of us going to prison…will the media pick it up etc’
I’m not sure if many people realise that many of the tactics of civil disobedience used by XR were discovered during the experimentation of Rising Up! actions…So I was wondering if you could now explain how the 10 Principles and Values of XR came about?
So that was largely the work of Gail Bradbrook, as well as myself and one or two other people. There was another organisation that we pulled from, then we developed the P&V collaboratively, which is always a hard thing to do. I was responsible for the final wording of the P&V, including the ‘mitigating for power’ bit which has caused issues for being grammatically incorrect! But these are really Gail’s work. I was more of a wordsmith, to get the P&V together in a more coherent way. It took us years to work on them. There were several iterations. When we had that meeting with the 15 of us and said ‘okay yes, let’s go for it’ that was in April 2018, but 3 months earlier in January we had had another meeting where Roger Hallam had proposed, ‘Okay we’re ready, let’s go for it’ and I think at that point as a collective we said, ‘We’re not ready!’ and it was in those next 3 months that we really got those values down as we knew they were really important. That was a big part of my work for those 3 months, fine-tuning the wording and doing the longer write-ups of them. I think the longer write-ups are really important and they’re often skipped over. For instance, what it is to ‘mitigate for power’ and what it is to ‘welcome everyone and every part of everyone’; does that mean we welcome people who are intentionally disrupting the movement? Let’s get into the intracacies and not have these as blanket terms or even used sometimes to push people out or to wield power over other people. So we did our best at the time, and there’s all kinds of ripples that have come about due to things we skipped over, thinking, ‘Let’s just get something out’, you know, and there are other bits that I think have been upheld magnificently -because we put the work in initially.
I and many people appreciate the work you’ve done, but I also wonder how the P&V can be developed in the future, without damaging the work that’s been done and the coherency that they provide…can there be an ongoing collaborative evolution of the P&V? I guess different countries apply them in different ways already? I’m wary of anything becoming too set in stone.
They’re not the ten commandments, right? Anything that gets calcified or stuck will become unhealthy. That’s the nature of the changing reality that we live in. I guess one of the problems that we’ve encountered in XR is that there is no-one who has the mandate to change the P&V, and there are entangled issues around that, such as ‘What about the translation into other languages? Who are going to be the people to do this?’ I’m not sure how it’s possible [to change them now] as in many ways they are the glue that’s held the movement together so far. And you will always have people who are attached to the original. I’m not particularly attached to them but I think that they are good and serve a really good purpose.
Okay so rather than change the P&V maybe we need to encourage people to go more deeply into them, for instance having study groups on the P&V.
There have been public discussion sessions in the last few months, one on each P&V. They are about to start up again, exploring them week by week, a different one each week.
Okay great. Now I wonder if you could say something in general terms, about the way that the XR strategy has panned out? Do you think demanding the creation of citizens’ assemblies by the government to deal with the ecological and climate crisis, should still be the main strategic aim of XR?
Okay. The strategic aim of normalising civil disobedience has been central and successful. That was a really important aim in which we’ve succeeded. When it comes to XR’s demands there’s always the question of, should we have demands at all? Demands create some incoherence -to make a demand of somebody, in some sense, is a violent act. You’re demanding rather than asking or inviting. There’s an incongruence in the meaning around that. There’s also the problem of, when you make a demand, who are you making the demand of? If you say ‘We demand system change’, that’s a big enough thing that nobody can do it, whereas to demand something specific, can be too small to be big enough to change the world in the way we need. I think citizens’ assemblies are a great idea but they’re not the only political idea out there to improve democracy. Of course, we don’t live in a democracy now -we live in the shadow of a democracy. Electoral politics has been beaten by Cambridge Analytica and other ways of manipulating people on a mass scale. We know that psychological warfare and advertising are really effective at getting people to change their beliefs and behaviour. That’s being done at a manufactured scale now, so we can’t say that electoral politics is democracy even though those who are elected would love to say, ‘the only way to do democracy is through elections’. So what do we go to beyond that, is the question, and citizens’ assemblies are one possible way of doing that. I don’t know what else is out there but I believe there are other ways of doing it. It’s just not an area of XR that I’ve been involved with, discussing these things.
That’s a great response. I wonder if you could now respond to problems of leadership culture in our society which are bound to become issues in any social movement as well, as social movements are always in part a reflection of the surrounding culture, and how the media manufactures leaders, to an extent, and how XR has really fallen victim to that at points – perhaps certain people have been too prominent and perhaps still are too prominent- I wonder if you have anything to say about that and whether that’s getting better…is this issue more about efforts to decentralise within the movement, which I know are ongoing, or the tactic of the media to always go back to the same people to represent a movement? I admire and respect leading figures within XR but I would hope to see a more decentralised movement with more diverse voices platformed.
So…there’s probably many answers to that, and let me just try one…to talk about the high dream for humanity -the far reaching vision of where we could be, and we’re not there yet by any means, is to say that our lives are so meaningful, and so full, that we don’t need celebrities or leaders to project ourselves onto. When humanity is bored of projecting everything onto leaders and celebrities and politicians -then these people will be done away with. But until we get to that point, ‘leadership’ will be part of the reality we live in, that continues to cycle. It will change and it’s always changing. Since we are in this moment now where people feel like the meaning has been stripped away from their lives, and they’re feeling disempowered,and in many ways are disempowered, they’re going to look for other people to express things and do things which they don’t dare to do or which they don’t think they can do. So let me just pause and think about your question…
I’m not the biggest face of XR in any way. In fact I was intending to be a bit more of a public face. As we were preparing for the Rebellion last year, I thought ‘Oooh, a great way to be visually captivating, would be to dye my beard in all kinds of funky rainbow colours’ thinking that the media team would love it. I showed up in London with this bright beard, and the media team took a look at me, whispered a little bit and were like ‘Stu, you’re far too “hippie” to be in front of a camera. Don’t do a big spokesperson role this time’. So my life took a different direction because of a decision to dye my beard….
We’re always going to have these ‘leaders’ and leaders at this point in human history are important. We don’t want to be in a place where there is no leadership or a movement where there is no influence; when we talk about leadership we’re talking about influence and as a movement we want to influence the world. I think the struggles come when a person speaks for a larger group, who doesn’t contain all the voices of that group, therefore they’re marginalising part of the group and that part of the group is going to feel excluded and hurt and they’re going to be angry about it. We’re in this imperfect process called ‘life’ and that’s part of the nature of things. Can we do better…? Possibly, but then we need to do a lot of work around what it means to have and to access power and have influence. There has been a move to decentralise, but when Occupy! for instance, decentralised they did so too quickly and gave away the power of the movement, and got into endless general assemblies which never got anywhere and petered out in a few months. I think XR has done well as a social movement to hold things together this far. When someone comes along with the energy to make things decentralise, they get into a powerful position, as maybe they haven’t done years of work around ‘whiteness’ and anti-oppression and racism, so now they bring this other problem in of colonialism and reinforcing hierarchy. Whereas many of us who were in RU! from the start; we’ve done years of work on this. Gail Bradbrook is a good example of this. She has travelled around and learnt from many social justice movements. So do we want to take her voice away and accidentally give it away to someone who doesn’t understand whiteness and racism? Well I’m not sure.
There is a move to decentralise which is important, and to do it carefully, by people who can speak to diverse voices and be held accountable when they don’t. Some people with big positions in XR are doing that speaking, and some people aren’t doing it as well. There’s never going to be a clear answer on this. It’s always going to be something to ponder, work through and discuss. And do the work. To read the books around racism, and around strategy and tactics, and the psychology of media and messaging, whatever it is…we need people who are skilled up. I think a really important part of these times now, if you’re feeling disempowered, then find ways to skill up. If you’re in lockdown and you’re unable to go out and do the things and organise in the way that you want to, there’s loads of stuff online to read or watch….Certainly Black Lives Matter are calling for white people now, to do that more and more. I hope that white ears are hearing those voices. I’ve been telling people about this book, ‘Why I am no longer talking to white people about race’. I was doing this for a year and a half before I realised, ‘Ah, I should probably read the book myself’ -There are no shortcuts here. We all need to do this work.
Thanks so much Stu, that was such an in-depth and broad answer to the question. I think I’ve got quite a superficial idea of decentralisation and why leadership issues arise, so I’ll be doing some more study.
Something to add is that when Standing Rock was happening and we had tens of thousands of people going to the camps and setting them up…I wasn’t there but I heard these stories of, you know, ‘So and so, the elder, has said…what we must do’, but then the question became, ‘Which elder? Under what authority are they an elder? Are they a hereditary chief? Or have they been installed by the Indian Actor some other thing? Whose community are they trusted by to say that they are an elder?’ One of the contradictions of white people doing anti-racism is that, yes we want to look first to those BIPOC voices, but ‘BIPOC’ is not one homogenous group that has one voice, so over time we have to develop our own analysis and our own understanding and have our own opinions which might at times disagree with people from those groups, or in those racial identities. How do we hold that? Saying, ‘I want to listen to you and really hear you, but I have developed my own analysis over time…I’m doing the work, but I hear your voice and don’t want to marginalise your voice.’
That’s a really important point. Otherwise, white people saying they want to centralise marginalised voices, without having a complex analysis of who they are to be saying that, becomes a patronising exercise. So moving on, I would like to talk about the article you wrote on Medium in January of 2019, ‘Extinction Rebellion isn’t about the climate’, the blog article which received tens of thousands of views, and which I was impressed by, at its accessibility despite its treatment of complex issues. I remember critics of XR using it as fodder on Facebook etc, saying ‘Look, see, they’re not all about the climate, they want to bring the whole system down!’ and some from XR responding with, ‘No, no, we are just a climate movement!’ -realising that those XR folk didn’t have a very deep analysis, basically.
One of the big regrets that I had about the article is that I didn’t explain its origins: it was in a group facilitation process about climate change, racism and colonialism, that I heard from a Black African woman, ‘Why would I want to get involved in the climate movement? When I’m being told that the climate movement is going to make solar panels for white people to be able to continue their exploitation, and that my continent, my land, my people have been exploited for the last 500 years. It’s built into my genetics that I’ve been fighting for the last 500 years’. I haven’t given credit to the way that this woman inspired me. She deserves the credit. She’s done a lot of emotional labour, to be able to say those things in that group, so one of my regrets was not to have centred her in my article, and to say that I feel such gratitude towards her, as so many people around the world have gained through my article, the clarity of analysis with which she spoke. That was the source that allowed this article to be written.
The other part was, after the bridges a lot of people were coming onboard to XR who hadn’t done the work around race and whiteness and were saying ‘this is a climate movement’ and of course we had intentionally talked about climate change and biodiversity loss, but then we didn’t anticipate that XR would get so big so quickly, it blew our minds (and bodies in many ways) and we didn’t have the trainings in place to talk about these larger underlying issues of anti-oppression and liberation and then I was seeing these people coming on board and saying these things, as if speaking for the movement; some decentralisation was great but people weren’t necessarily staying with the P&V of XR; a huge amount of energy was unleashed with an influx of new Rebels organising in a more decentralised way, but people were saying things which I judged to be racist. For instance ‘over-population is a problem. Look at all the brown people around the world. We need to stop birth rates in those countries’. Ouch! -you know? You get all these people talking about the climate and forgetting about the larger system that we’re involved in. So I’m glad that article did get written and did get picked up. I’m still getting weekly reports saying, ‘another 200 people this week have read the article all the way through’. At times that was thousands of people a week. I’ve not really written anything since, because it’s created such a big thing…maybe the next thing I write will be really big, but maybe it won’t be. I’ve been scared to write anything…but now I’m finally venturing out of my little cave of not writing.
I look forward to seeing what you will next make public.
It’s about the Amazon, and the Amazon being the lungs of the planet that are in danger and are very much being assaulted, and the indigenous peoples there are falling out of the global community. We need to step up and be alongside them and stop the onslaught that’s coming at them, and allow them to bring forth their wisdom about how do they look after this absolutely vital piece of the planet…It’s not just about preserving trees, it’s about preserving the tree keepers, who have patterns and knowledge about how the rest of us can also do restoration work around the world. It’s so vital and yet so threatened in this time.
What’s your perspective on XR’s ‘4th demand’ and how that’s coming about? Personally I think it’s very necessary movement building work. Maybe some people in XR have relied on the idea of mobilising without movement building first? Maybe if the language of the 4th demand, regarding climate justice and platforming historically oppressed groups, had been included from the start within the 3 demands, a highly signalled 4th demand wouldn’t now be necessary? Some people’s response to the whole 4th demand idea is that ‘we don’t need one because citizens’ assemblies are democratic and that’s what we’re arguing for’ but obviously that’s quite superficial.
Okay. I do think it is important to say that citizens’ assemblies are a way to bring in marginalised voices and give them a space. Behind that is the idea of deep democracy, valuing all voices. I am neither for nor against the 4th demand in any strong way -parts of me are going to be for it and parts against it. It’s complex. I don’t have a clear answer to it. I do have a concern that people might see it as ‘If we get a 4th demand that talks about justice, we can say, look at us, we are good white people. We’ve covered over our white guilt and we’re white saviours.’ That is a dynamic that’s present. It’s probably not present for everybody. Even if it is present it doesn’t mean that the 4th demand isn’t a good thing. Looking at what’s happening, it looks like the 4th demand is probably going to come into being in XR UK. There’s enough momentum behind it and it’s already there in several countries. Will it be adopted everywhere or will there be fights about it for years to come, I just don’t know. Like you said, if we had the language right in the first three demands and been more explicit about climate justice, that could have been better. I’ve found myself in a place where I just don’t know. I trust that those who are bringing this thing with such passion and momentum will be able to reflect on themselves and their own motivations, whether that includes ‘white guilt’ or other psychological complexes around being white.
Thanks for your openness and honesty about that. I haven’t done enough work around race and my own potential ‘white guilt’ and so on, and the concerns you’ve raised do resonate with me. Also I contacted my friend Chit Dubey, a co-founder of XR in India, assuming he would be for the 4th demand because he’s not white, forcing me to examine my unconscious racism. He is against the 4th demand, saying that XR are losing their focus and that ‘white people are obsessed with race’. I don’t quite know where that came from so I need to talk to him further.
My hope is that the people who are really trying to bring the 4th demand are not going to bring it and then stop there -they’ll take all of the energy, passion and drive, and do the work in groups together as white people -if they are white, and there are probably BIPOC people working on this as well- to go to the diasporic neighbourhoods of folk from diverse backgrounds and get into communication, have the conversations, build the trust across racial lines that have separated us for so long. It’s really comfortable in lots of ways to talk about a document and send lots of emails and have people’s assemblies but to actually get into groups where you don’t have the same accent or culture, and to get to know each other just as human beings -that is the work that I see as being really important. I also want to say, none of us have done enough work, right? It’s about keeping ourselves in a place of discomfort around this stuff, always looking for ways in which we can do more. Even that sentence, ‘looking for ways to do more’ doesn’t quite work for me! Sometimes it’s doing less but listening more…
Finally, what is exciting you now in your life? Perhaps you could talk more about the Process Work you have been engaged with and how that relates to your plans for the coming months?
Okay. I have been studying this stuff for three years and I still don’t quite know how to explain it. I think part of the issue there is that we have a language that is based on things in space, rather than processes. Everything is always in flow. I could describe a water bottle more accurately as something in the process of water bottling. It’s an active agent in this ONE process that is happening: the process that contains all the relationships between everything in the universe…Process Work is really exciting me. It’s based on Taoism; it draws from Jungian psychotherapy and core process oriented psychotherapy, it’s also called Process Science, and it’s based on quantum physics and some of the cosmology that is pushing the bounds of physicists who often retreat into equations because they haven’t got ways of talking about these things, when you can actually more accurately talk about myths to describe what happens in quantum physics, rather than normal scientific language. Process Work is drawing all of these things together -spirituality too- and asking, ‘What is the process that is happening?’ Something I’ve been playing with in my own thoughts recently is, one of the early discoveries of Process Work; things that happen in our dreams when we’re sleeping, also manifest in our bodies as bodily symptoms. So that it could be that you have a pain in your stomach and that you’ll be dreaming about fireworks. Then when you talk about your stomach you’ll get an image of explosions and you’ll go ‘Ah, this is the same process that’s happening; it’s just happening in different channels which are both the symptoms of a core process that’s trying to happen.
I was listening to Alan Watts the other day and he was talking about how the Earth is not just some rock that’s infested with humans and with life; the Earth is a geological entity that grows life. So life, and humans, are symptoms of the universe. Whatever this strange awareness process is, we are symptomatic of it. And just as a symptom in the body can also manifest as dreams or synchronicities in events around us or elements of relationships, the symptom that is ‘Stuart Basden’ is almost going to be teleporting around in various different ways -or the things that we commonly describe as Stuart Basden aren’t me in my body, but parts of something else jump into me to express themselves for a time, seconds or years, then they move on. I am in the living stage of life, but when I’m in the death stage of life, the information will still be there -nothing is ever lost. Information in the universe is never lost, as Stephen Hawkings has shown. ‘I’ will always continue…so let’s pay attention more to the process that’s happening in the moment, than the specifics of a conversation or social movement or whatever it is. There is always a dreaming reality behind what is going on. It’s invisible to us. Our eyes and ears can’t tell us directly but can pick up signals, but somehow these processes are happening.
What is exciting is doing a training, that allows me to get more in tune and to pick up the signals of the process of what is happening or is trying to happen even though what is manifest is sometimes trying to prevent it…if we can attune ourselves to what is trying to happen it will allow flow and allow us to enter into a flow of existence which will free up energy and possibilities that at the moment we can’t imagine, and we definitely need to get to places that we can’t imagine right now, to prevent human extinction within the next few decades…but maybe that extinction is what is meant to happen, but then we can trust that no information will be lost…in some ways it doesn’t really matter but in other ways it matters so much…there is something so miraculous about these bodies and about the world around us that is manifest, that putting all our intention and care into this world is a way of paying homage to it. I am deeply in love with life…It blows me away.
Really amazing…so when you talk about the essence of the Process Work being, getting in touch with the Core Process of what wants to happen, is that seen as a selfless thing that is trying to happen, or is it both selfless and of a self? Is it a combination of our personal unconsciouses, and also a universal unconscious? What is the concept of ‘God’ in Process Work or is there a kind of an agnostic perspective?
There’s a concept of the oneness, of the interconnectedness of everything which is the essence of everything, where there are no polarisations or dualisms, only relationship within a system in process. Then there is the ‘dreaming reality’ where there are the polarisations, and that’s where we have dream figures, or roles, or archetypes, we might say they are collective unconscious, or they are just in this ‘group’ or moment, while these figures inhabit us, and then there’s consensus reality -that’s the stuff that we agree on. Maybe a way to talk about this would be to say, ‘Here’s this plant: in consensus reality this plant is sorrel, a woodland plant. But then I could also talk about this plant as comforting. That’s not consensus reality, that’s the plant as it relates to me. Further from that, what is in the plant that is also in me, and in the entire universe? It’s up to us to investigate in each moment, what that is. I don’t know if there is God, or many gods. In some respects Process Work is a Nature religion. We talk about the Process having some kind of sentient essence.
Why aren’t we already naturally in touch with the maximum potential of each unfolding moment? What’s gone wrong?
I wouldn’t say anything’s gone wrong. This is the nature of the Process. Certainly we have all sorts of stories that come up that prevent us from being present in every moment and seeing what is happening in the process. That could be survival stories that we’ve had as children. It could be trauma, individual or intergenerational or collective, or species-wide, or even mammal trauma. How far does this go back? Life is trying to survive in a world where it always dies. So what are the things we’ve done to help us survive that were true in some circumstances which aren’t relevant now? It’s not just about survival but wholeness, seeing ourselves as the universe and including all parts.
Great, so how is Process Work informing your work with XR?
When coronavirus lockdown happened, everything I was organising was big summer gatherings for Rebels to come together and learn to be together…maybe have some conflict resolution processes and relationship processes…learning how to love and trust each other on a deeper level so that our work is more fluid and beautiful and enriching -that all stopped. So I thought this was a fantastic opportunity to not go deeper into XR but to skill up and go deeper into my private studies. I will probably come back into XR or another movement that has come by the time that I am ready to bring myself fully in….As for this summer and autumn, I’ve realised I’m more burnt out than I realised or have been admitting. Maybe I’ll turn up to the next Rebellion as a good soldier and get arrested a few times, I’m not sure. But the work of relating is always important and we’re always going to get into conflict. We’ll always have things that will jarr us as a movement or have tendencies to become rigid or calcified…or make us take sides and become polarised and fight things out. I’m not against this but if we stay there too long we’ll become divided and crumble, so we need ways to see the other side, not to oppress or marginalise any voice. The work I’m doing now is to facilitate and have those conversations, to create movements that are deeper and more trustful and stronger, and flow more easily…I’m not sure when I’ll be ready to bring myself fully back in, or even if I will…if I do it will probably be in a completely different way. My energy source for activism is close to depleted, so I have to find a new energy source and come in a new way. I’m not sure what that is yet. It’s important to say ‘I don’t know’.
And so ended the interview.This is me, Matthew, again. As an extra for YouTube, I did a little intro video to this interview. I’m reading from a script in the video, and it’s a bit messy, but I think I make some valuable points, so if you think you might like it, click here. (On my channel there’s also interviews with XR ‘founders’ in various countries around the world).
excerpt: ‘…to sustain human civilisation, it is essential to build a zero emissions industrial system very quickly. This requires the global mobilisation of resources on an emergency basis, akin to a wartime level of response.’
Epic Tomorrows’ review: Includes a forward by Admiral Chris Barrie, a member of the Global Military Advisory Council on Climate Change and Chief of the Australian Defence Force from 1998 to 2002. This report is concise, very readable and relatively free from jargon. The gist of it is that IPCC projections (key data for the Climate COPs, the latest being COP25 in Madrid) are way too conservative, excluding or downplaying extreme scenarios for the sake of political consensus on action.
When the end of civilisation is at stake, Dunlop and Spratt argue that conventional risk management as done by organisations etc, becomes irrelevant. Risk management by responding to possibilities (by scenario planning) rather than high probabilities, could be the best way forward.
A 2050 scenario is then sketched. Based on scientific data the report argues that we could be looking at the collapse of global civilisation by 2050, due to ‘high-impact low probability warming’ of 3 degrees by this date, with 2 more degrees of warming locked in. This is the projected scenario if global emissions don’t peak until 2030 (which by my reckoning doesn’t seem that unlikely, looking at the latest Climate COP in Madrid, and with one of the worst global emitters, the USA, poised to leave the Paris Agreement. Even the Paris Agreement relies on unproven technologies!). The 2050 scenario ultimate result…’a high likelihood of human civilisation coming to an end.’
In summary the report emphasises that security bodies (armies etc) are uniquely placed to mobilise and order the WWII level global infrastructure transformation that is needed to transition rapidly away from fossil fuel economies…Let us make sure that any military-led transformation of global energy infrastructures is decided democratically, with full co-operation of citizens globally, or what freedoms might be curtailed, and what human rights abuses may result?
activist strategy notes: Military and security force collaboration is key to the success of any revolutionary social movement, such as the one needed to force governments into WWII level mobilisation on the ecological and climate emergency. This could be a key text to persuade military personnel of the need for immediate action.
tactics: Try printing off this report and handing it to soldiers. I once trespassed into an army barracks with a megaphone to proclaim the climate emergency, but I didn’t have copies of this on me, unfortunately. Also try emailing this report to all military institutions in your country.
vegan dynamics: Consider what an urgent security forces-led mass transformation of agricultural systems from meat-based to plant-based would look like. Can you educate security forces now on plant-based agriculture as well as the ‘Existential….’ report?
life strategy notes: Bring a bit of ‘military organisation’ and toughness into your own life. Remain non-violent towards all life. (The window of a fossil-fuelled bank isn’t alive).
excerpt: ‘Scientific skepticism is healthy. Scientists should always challenge themselves to improve their understanding. Yet this isn’t what happens with climate change denial.Skeptics vigorously criticise any evidence that supports man-made global warming and yet embrace any argument, op-ed, blog or study that purports to refute global warming. This website gets skeptical about global warming skepticism. Do their arguments have any scientific basis? What does the peer reviewed scientific literature say?’
Epic Tomorrows’ review: The point is made on this site that genuine scientific skepticism is a good thing, and essential for the development of scientific understanding. However, man-made climate change denialism is not healthy skepticism. ‘Skepticism is a process, denial is a position’.
The Skeptical Science site is based on peer-reviewed science, and although started as a blog is highly professional and has won awards for communication in climate science. A year or so ago, I would occasionally have severe doubts about Anthropogenic Global Warming (AGW) after reading a particularly clever climate denialist paper. Returning to this site would always set me straight again.
The site is colourful, user-friendly and as light-hearted as possible whilst explaining serious science. It includes some graphics and pages that young adults may find fun (see the Best Sites for Young Adults list further down the page).
There is a regular feed of peer reviewed science articles on the front-page. The main climate myths (arguments used by AGW denialists) are listed conveniently down the left hand side of the front-page. There are ‘basic’, ‘intermediate’ and ‘advanced’ explanations of all myths.
activist strategy notes:It’s obvious that any social movement that is attempting to transform government and public opinion, must be based on the soundest science and must be able to communicate this effectively i.e. must have an excellent media & messaging strategy. Messy communication will lead to a messy understanding and thus diluted support for a movement. As an activist I would advise getting your main climate science information from just a few high quality, regularly updated peer-reviewed websites. Less is more.
tactics: Throughout this directory there will be many references to Extinction Rebellion (XR) -the only social movement I have had extensive experience of so far. XR is a useful reference point for movements attempting to respond to the global climate (and general ecological) crisis. As with any movement, there’s good and there’s stuff to improve on. Regarding climate science communication, I was dismayed to see XR jump on the IPCC Paris Narrative (!) bandwagon of saying ‘We have 12 (now 11) years to turn things around’. This vague rhetoric is a sloppy departure from the original hard-hitting talk of XRand a massive dilution of XR’s message and therefore call for support. It leads the public to believe that we will all be okay if we follow the IPCC’s recommendations, which is not actually XR’s position at all. Poor tactic!
We have already established that the very existence of the Universe is an act of Rebellion -the original act of Rebellion.
The Hubble Space Telescope and other measuring tools have shown the first galaxies took shape from around one billion years after the Big Bang or the Original Rebellion, as you might call it.
There are two main theories to explain how the first galaxies formed. The truth may involve both theories.
One theory says that galaxies were born when massive clouds of gas and dust collapsed under their own gravitational pull, allowing stars to be created.
The other theory says the young universe contained many small “lumps” of matter, which coalesced to form galaxies.
Every galaxy is a rebellion, because before galaxies, there were no galaxies. Extinction Rebellion is just such a galaxy.
According to the McDonald Observatory, ‘The galaxy-formation process has not stopped. Our universe continues to evolve. Small galaxies are often pulled into larger ones.’
Extinction Rebellion attracts other smaller social movements, gives them a platform and a new, larger centre of gravity.
‘Galaxy mergers happen fairly often. A large portion of the bright galaxies that we see today may have formed from the mergers of two or more smaller galaxies.’
Extinction Rebellion joins in solidarity with other global non-violent direct action movements for ecological and social justice, like Youth Strike For Climate and Earthstrike. Together we can form one uber-movement.
‘Mergers can take anywhere from a few hundred million to a few billion years to complete. They can trigger intense bursts of new star formation’.
Extinction Rebellion is making stars of all of us, but let’s not take too long about it!
‘Galactic collisions rarely produce head-on wrecks between individual stars. Even when two galaxies ram together, the distance between stars is enormous’
Extinction Rebellion and every other global non-violent direct action movement can work together without anyone getting hurt.
‘While galactic collisions rarely destroy stars, they often create them. As vast clouds of gas and dust in merging galaxies slam together, they can create thousands or even millions of new stars.’
The more Extinction Rebellion joins with other movements, the more new volunteers will appear in all movements.
Hello lovelies. Heroines, heroes, peaceful direct activists!Climate heroines, vegan heroes, rebels for Life.
I have finished the key entries in the first spreadsheet of my Well Gatheredworkbook which will be on sale in one month’s time. The first spreadsheet is a curated list of climate science and climate news websites. Here are the best of them:
And here is my guidance on how to use this particular spreadsheet within the workbook:
THE PARIS NARRATIVE: The IPCC is a useful scientific body as a starting point for the interpretation of climate-related data. Their best-case target of a 1.5C limit to warming is sound. However their scenarios and literature downplay the fact that 3 degrees of warming (AGW) above pre-industrial levels (1750) is already baked in to the Earth System (barring an industrial miracle -see below), although it hasn’t fully unfolded yet. See the excellent Extinction Rebellion talk, ‘Heading for Extinction and what to do about it’. Thus all IPCC 1.5-2C scenarios and recommended pathways for governments rely on global-scale, unproven carbon reduction technologies (technologies that take CO2 out of the atmosphere). This unprecedented technological revolution, requiring unprecedented global co-operation, would need to happen within the next ten years, and there are no signs whatsoever of it happening… It is this narrative of ‘mass carbon reduction’ that defined the non-binding inter-governmental Paris Agreement of 2015. According to the ‘Paris Narrative’, all carbon dioxide emissions reductions pathways towards 1.5-2C rely on the science fiction of this massive and expensive industrial revolution. Beware the Paris Narrative!
ACTION NOTES or HOW TO USE THIS SHEET FOR EPIC HEROINE & HERO ACTIVISTS!: For insight on how climate activism strategy relates to the wider Epic Tomorrows theory and strategy, please visit The Evidence. Use this sheet in the following ways. A) Nip your doubts in the buds, and calmly shoot your foes down in verbal flames. (See DENIAL BUSTERSsites in the spreadsheet) B) Get your facts straight, when talking to the media and engaging in NVDA / mass civil disobedience. C) Arm yourself for peaceful war with the knowledge in this spreadsheet. Your life quest to save all life on Earth depends on it. Do not overburden yourself with excessive knowledge. Choose your sites. Limit yourself. Less is more. Start with LINKS ON FIRE! Connect with others. Join Extinction Rebellion and associated movements. Eat less meat.
To get a FREE copy of this first spreadsheet in the workbook, just email me at email@example.com
This week’s rebel listening isn’t hip-hop or dance music. For a nice change I have been listening to some baroque music, particularly Bach’s six unaccompanied cello suites.Very relaxing to have on whilst working. And as Yo Yo Ma says, Bach was very clever at composing in a way where the listener’s ear is used to complete musical phrases…notes are suggested as well as played, allowing the single cello to sound like more than just a single cello. Bach may have been very privileged, but to me his music sounds rebellious.
This relates to how it has felt with me on my internet searches of climate science -related websites and from today, climate activism sites. I feel like I am just on the edge of discovering melodies and harmonies in activism and in representations of climate science. This place of undiscovery or nearly-discovery feels like a very fertile place from which to direct my web searches. I am using this intuition, combined with some logic, to direct my searches. I know that some of you, the people I am meant to reach, will benefit from the results.
Heroines and heroes, radical climate and vegan activists and others, things are really coming to a head. In the positive sweep of global history, we are reaching a pivotal moment. Either we evolve to the next level, as a species, or we go down in flames (or possibly a mixture, depending on our location). Everything is to play for, and we need appeal only to the highest virtues and traits, deities and questers. Today I appeal to Athena, Ancient Greek goddess of wisdom, courage, inspiration and strategy, amongst other things.
I am only a little embarrassedto report that after a meeting with my ‘work coach’ at the government job centre the other day, I am now bound to provide evidence of business sales at my next appointment on 29th April, meaning I have to move my launch date (again!) forward to 22nd April. During that launch week I need to make sales. This means I have to step back from XR afterall. It means I can’t be directly involved in the International Rebellion in London mid-April.
You may think I am involved in some Climate / Extinction denialism, to think like this.Quite the opposite. My personal view is that Extinction Rebellion will achieve great things this April, but not (yet) the stated aim of a national citizens’ assembly to work alongside the government to deal with the ecological crisis. I did want to be directly involved anyhow, but heigh-ho.
You may ask, how can I be a capitalist (a business person, an entrepreneur) when I know that neoliberal capitalism is responsible for the sixth mass extinction event, including climate breakdown, as well as entrenched social injustice within the human species?
For me it’s simple: I want peace. For someone who wants peace, and has studied (a little)the inevitable decline of global capitalism and the inevitable relocalisation of culture, a period of managed decline, including ‘Transition capitalism’ or what I call ‘ecopreneurial Descent economics’ (eDe) is needed to help mitigate the chaos and social unrest that always occurs between civilisational epochs. More on this another time, but essentially what I advocate for is a decade of private enterprise, the main purpose being to further global activism for system change (the end of capitalism), by dismantling large corporations and redistributing wealth. The way this private enterprise is conducted is just as important as the end goal of redistributing profit and using it to break up corporations. By ‘the way it is conducted’ I mean, what the substance of the business is (what is being sold) as well as how the business is resourced, owned, staffed, and directed. The business must play a clear and sustainable role in global system change, and have obsolescence designed into it (a planned disintegration phase as we move into the next post-capitalist stage of global civilisation).
My first product is the Well Gathered workbook -spreadsheets of useful websites for activists. In other words, curated lists. They include cross-referencing and suggestions for how to use the information. The information will always be free to those who can’t afford to pay.
It is absolutely vital that as activists in an over-complex world of competing forms and articles of knowledge, we build up a coherent picture of what is going on in the world, in order to act from a place of reasonable certainty. Ignorance holds us back, and it is only by being aware of the shifting whole, that we allow the whole to evolve to heal. This is a principle of Gestalt Therapy. What we deny (in ourselves, and on Earth) will sabotage our efforts at global transformation.
The serious stuff: if you want a free copy of the first sheet in the Well Gathered workbook, contact me. The first sheet is a curated list of climate science and climate news sites. I would like your views on it. How can I improve on it? If you help me out, you will get a free copy of the final product, and free product updates for life. Email address at the bottom of the post.
In my attempt to keep things light, I’m integrating my love of music into Epic Tomorrows. (Because activism should have a great soundtrack!). I finally interviewed Queen Left the other day. It was a really great interview, and you can listen to it on the Epic Tomorrows Soundcloud channel. Please skip through the first ten minutes of silence and mumbling (whoops!) I haven’t worked out how to edit it yet.
So tell me what you think of Queen Left.
This brings us to my recommended Rebel listening for this week.‘U.N.I.T.Y.’ by Queen Latifah, because Q.L. likes this track as much as I do, and because it’s partly where Q.L. got her name from.
By Queen Latifah and Athena, I strive onwards!
As always, feel free to comment or contact me with your vegan and climate activist dilemmas firstname.lastname@example.org. Also email me to get your free spreadsheet of climate science and climate news websites, with some suggestions on how to use the info. (The vegan sites will be coming soon.) I am doing my best to find answers for you. Also feel free to sign up to my posts by email, by clicking the button in the Epic Tomorrows sidebar. Finally, if you would like to order your copy of the Well Gathered workbook, let me know. Thanks.
‘!Hello you lovely activists, you heroines and heroes! Today’s post is dedicated to Medea, the sorceress who was the true power behind Jason of the Argonauts, the woman who enabled him to plough a field with fire-breathing oxen, defeat a band of skeleton warriors and the dragon that protected the golden fleece. In the original myth, Medea was not scorned by Jason, and so did not poison him. And they all lived happily for a while…!
Okay, it’s all about the climate this week folk…It’s been just over two weeks since my last post. I’ve been struggling with my own skeletal adversaries, and don’t even ask me about that slumbering dragon -I’m not ready for that!
I was due to interview the political rapper Queen Leftlast night. She was stuck in traffic in her home city of Atlanta, Georgia, USA and I was tired, so we postponed. But having the very human email exchange that we had has only given me more enthusiasm for the upcoming interview. Respecting these postponements, these flows of life…
I’ve been playing some more games with time recently.A few days ago I had a message from my solicitor to say that Devon and Cornwall Counter Terrorism Unit had gotten back in touch with her. I had instructed her to hold fire when they last contacted her, to see how long it would take them to chase it up. She was keeping my written response ready to send. They wanted to talk to me about a blog post I wrote for the Extinction Rebellion blog, where I mentioned that I would probably get myself arrested again in April, non-violently in the streets of London along with many other XR rebels. The CTU are attempting to scare me a little it seems, or make an example of me. But they are only responding to me making an example of myself. 🙂 A message for the police and the CTU (if you are watching me even here on my own blog) and I mean this kindly: We’re going to win chaps, one way or another, so give up now. If you have children and you want their future safety assured, take off your uniforms and join XR. And please do carry on reading to learn something about climate science.
I’m almost done with trawling through climate science websites! Literally and emotionally! I hope I’ve saved you heroines and heroes some time though. After extensive searching over several weeks I’ve dismissed the most deceptive and misleading of so-called ‘climate sceptics’ / deniers’ arguments over ‘hockey stick’ tree-ring proxy data, the related ‘Climategate’ and other controversies. I’ve discovered how massive, fragmented and often profligate the nature of modern knowledge is, and how hard it is for any of us, including us activists, to have an accurate overview of the truth of what is going on in the world in one small subject area at any given time, let alone to try to maintain an overview from week to week as data and conclusions grow and shift.
The area of climate science is no different, despite the urgent imperative that we respond coherently to climate breakdown as a species. In my online search I have also been reminded of how our egotistical tendencies, natural desires for social recognition and a secure knowledge of the universe and our place in it, give rise to bias and an unwillingness to maintain an openness to complex, ever-changing data and the variety of conclusions that can be drawn from them. It takes a certain kind of intellectual rigour and moral courage to be able to continually occupy a place of ‘I’m not really sure’, rather than identifying with a clear position of ‘believer’ or ‘denier’. It’s nice to see initiatives like Berkeley Earth which was set up in 2010 to scientifically deal with the valid concerns of so-called ‘climate sceptics’. Reassuringly for some of us, the first Berkeley report of 2012 concluded that the concerns of the sceptics were ultimately unfounded -though it took a fair bit of rigourous investigation to reach that point.
Without the openness of initiatives like Berkeley, we give so-called ‘climate change deniers’ -or alternatively, anyone with an outlying opinion on climate science at either end of the spectrum- too much power by not engaging with them properly and reasonably, and I might add, with compassion for their insecurity -an insecurity that we all feel.
As I think is implied by The Science of Doom, although it is not always useful to polarise people between anthropogenic climate change ‘believers’ on one side and ‘deniers’ on the other, it is sometimes a convenient and almost unavoidable way to frame the debate. But we must understand that there is a diversity of debate between the extreme positions of claiming to ‘prove’ that climate change is not predominantly human-caused, and claiming to ‘prove’ that humanity will all but have disappeared from the face of the Earth in under five years from now.
The truth is somewhere inbetween. Yes, of course the warming in recent decades is predominantly human in origin. But predicting the future is notoriously difficult. Nevertheless, after my extensive online search of climate science / news sites for the Well Gatheredworkbook I can confidently say that there is a reasonable likelihood of civilisational collapse before the end of the century as a result of climate breakdown, unless we reduce greenhouse gas emissions (mainly CO2) to near zero by around 2030 -not 2050 as the IPCC suggests. Ideally we should be looking at 2025. With a war-time effort it is possible. For the sake of my nieces and nephews, it is a no-brainer: the precautionary principle simply must be used here -human civilisation, perhaps even human survival (beyond a few thousand breeding pairs anyway) is at stake.
Okay, so this week’s rebel listening is a clear choice.Keith Flint, prodigy frontman, died just a few days ago. No I’m not going to link to an article on his untimely death. Suffice to say that I’ve had The Prodigyplaying many a time during intensive work periods for Epic Tomorrows.
So feel free to sign up to my posts by email, by clicking the button in the Epic Tomorrows sidebar. And if you would like to order your copy of the Well Gathered workbook, let me know. Cheers ~
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).
!Heroines. Heroes. Activists. Are you having a legendary time?
Forget about Valentine’s Day -we have work to do!
I’m starting to write this post with a burning in my writing hand. This can only be a good sign. The real reason for it is the young stinging nettles I picked from the hedgerow earlier to break my half day fast. (Come on vegans, learn how to forage in the coming climate chaos!!!) In my mythic imagination though, I can fantasise that the gods have instilled this burning in my being to bring out a communicator of heroic proportions. Let me be Metis, the Titaness of wise counsel!
Ah, how I love the play of synchronicity through my everyday life! As I search for an image of the goddess Metis online, a different meaning of the word Metis appears. The Metis Nation of Western Canada are a Nation of mixed indigenous and Euro-American ancestry. Their symbol, the featured image for this post, reminds me of both the mathematical symbol for infinity, and a super-heroine’s mask.
The Metis language ‘Michif’ is a mix of Cree and French. This brings me to another synchronicity. About a week ago I received a friend request on Facebook from ‘Daphnee’, a French-Canadian who is the co-ordinator for XR (Extinction Rebellion) Prince Edward Island in the northeast of Canada. Here they are.We started chatting online, resulting in agreeing to have a videocall (we haven’t yet) and Daphnee provisionally agreeing to be another editor on XR BlogI founded XR Blog for Extinction Rebellion and am now a co-editor on the blog with an increasingly international team.
I started messaging Daphnee from an off-grid wooden cabin in the middle of a young woodland in mid-Devon, where I go sometimes to take a break from modern technology (so it didn’t quite work this time!) and do some nourishing physical work. Worried as I am about the food and energy security of my future, it’s nice to know I can still split wood with wedges and a sledgehammer. During my couple of days in the woods I received a vision related to Daphnee, which I haven’t told her all about yet. I’ll let you know next time. Suffice to say, I am not a superstitious kind of person, but when I occasionally receive these visions I take them very seriously.
Anyway, I suppose you’re looking for news on how it’s going with developing my Earth-saving heroic informational product, designed with vital (but perhaps slightly impatient) vegan and climate heroines (and heroes) like you in mind??? Well, I can tell you that the Well Gathered Workbookis progressing nicely thank you!
In the last couple of weeks I have actually got round to starting the product building (yes, I know, it’s a bit late after all the fuss I’ve been making). I am starting with a spreadsheet within the Well Gathered Workbook which focuses on online climate science resources. I have been finding in my own exploration of these complex resources that, in my opinion, guidance for activists is definitely needed. I came across this site, which is a great resource (and I will be listing it), and yet, some of the links are out of date (possibly because the sites no longer exist) and there is not enough assessment of quality of the sites. In the Well Gathered Workbook climate science sheet I will be assessing quality of sites, including my ‘best picks’ from the sites listed on the site linked to above.
I’m also thrilled that two people got in touch to reserve their copies of the Well Gathered Workbook (okay, so one of them is a friend!).
In other activism related news (from my life!), I got back from a therapeutic day out the other day on a ‘Play Day’ (see Christie Animas’ amazing ‘Fooling’ here) to find a hand-written note pushed through my letterbox. For the second time in a few months, the Counter Terrorism Unit of Devon and Cornwall police wanted to talk to me to ‘discuss my interest in environmentalism.’ Yeah right.
I was unsettled, but not too much so. I contacted the excellent people of XR Exeter and they offered support. The next day I also phoned Green and Blacks, who offer advice for activists and free services from lawyers affiliated with them. Soon enough I had an email written for me by Kelly’s solicitors in Brighton addressed to Devon and Cornwall CTU, warning them off. The great result, which I was cc-ed into, is that for the time being I will be left alone. The attention was due to the action I related in this post.
If you are a hardcore front-line non-violent arrestable activist, I encourage you to sit through the fear induced by police visits like the ones I have received. Urgent climate and ecological breakdown demand that we be brave and sit through the scare tactics. I’m a very sensitive guy, and I’ve suffered from my fair share of mental health difficulties, but I can assure you that resilience in the face of the cops, like anything, gets easier over time.
However, this resilience will only be developed if you have robust self-care practices in place in your life.For myself, living alone in a flat and physically isolated for most of the time, these practices are particularly important to keep up. So I walk in Nature, I have enough phone-calls with friends, especially empathic activist friends, and I connect with family. I can’t tell you how nourished I felt the other day when I visited my sister, brother-in-law, niece and nephew. My bro-in-law is an excellent chef and cooked some amazing vegan meals -I mean seriously mouth-watering, from this book. Okay, so I know we don’t all have a great biological family. So which friendships can you cultivate to the point that they feel like family?
So I really feel like I am starting to gather well. ‘Gathering well’ is a mission that all modern people are called to upon to do, especially activists. And sometimes it takes a fair amount of heroism. Sitting through the scary stuff. You and I are increasingly called upon to gather our influences, our families, the practices that we know are good for us and the information that we know could be useful to us. Most of all we need to gather our courage and strength, so that we may begin to face the bumpy (to say the very least) transition to post-carbon, post-globalised humanity, on a soon-to-be vastly warmer world which in the not-too-unlikely worst case may reduce our population to a few thousand breeding pairs.
My role for Epic Tomorrows is to save you time (yes I know you’re busy heroically fighting the multi-headed monsters of the carbon industry and the industrial meat industry). Whether it’s gathering insight from my experiences as a front-line arrestable activist, or collecting and recording the in-depth insights I’m gaining from developing as a highly discerning surfer of the net, I trust that I will start to save you a little time. Obviously, the Well Gathered Workbook is my way of saving you time whilst (just beginning) making a living for myself.
By the way, for those of you who were expecting the Queen Left interview on 14th of February, Queen somehow didn’t get some emails of mine, so we are postponing the interview for a few weeks now.
So with my fingers still pleasantly burning from the nettles, I want to tell you to forget about Eros, that silly love-struck boy.Think of Metis the wise counsellor, gatherer of wisdom, who preceded Zeus chronologically in the Greek pantheon. Metis who caused Athena, fully armoured, to be born from Zeus’ forehead.
As always, feel free to comment or contact me with your vegan and climate activist dilemmas on email@example.com. I will do my best to find the answers for you. Also feel free to sign up to my posts by email, by clicking the button in the Epic Tomorrows sidebar.