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.

The launch that was as soft as a feather

Tomorrow is the soft launch date for my first product -a spreadsheet for activists. By ‘soft launch’ I mean in this instance that I was going to give it away to family, friends, and those who have helped me out with market research.

But it isn’t ready.

It isn’t ready because I have been spending all my time on Extinction Rebellion. I’m not bitter and I’m not resentful. Extinction Rebellion (XR) is teaching me a lot of skills -skills that I have never gained from any ‘regular’ paid job. People skills. Software skills. Management skills and leadership skills. These are all skills that will help my business.

Moreover, I am in the thick of the XR movement. I am learning about other activists, what makes them tick and what information may be useful to them. I never consciously engage with my fellow rebels from a place of market research, but I know that subtly, these interactions will later inform my understanding of my business audience, for which I am grateful.

I haven’t failed to launch my product. I’ve actually sent the bare bones of what I have so far to a good friend of mine. I did that today, so I launched a day early. My new plan is to keep relaunching after every short burst of feedback from a friend or a few. To reiterate this softly softly launch until it gets bigger and harder. Until next year when I intend to be in a position to charge for it (that plan hasn’t changed).

Do you think I failed? I don’t think so. Here is my launch: soft as a feather.

Launch of free curated spreadsheet for activists on 30/10/18 -but only if you give me feedback :-)

Email me at matthew.tehanu@gmail.com to get your free copy of the spreadsheet. I will only be dishing them out until I get 50 engaged respondents -that’s fifty people who give me constructive criticism to feed into the next version. These respondents will get free updates on this product for life, and this product will always be free to active members of XR and Rising Up! (You know who you are). Everyone else, if you wait until January, you’ll pay for it. 🙂

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It’s going to be messy, but I don’t care. I’ve waited for too long to get a product out into the world. What better date to launch it on than the 30th October? This will be exactly one year since I started the Epic Tomorrows blog and exactly one day before the announcement of Extinction Rebellion in Parliament Square, London. Extinction Rebellion (XR) is the NVDA movement I am involved with and for which I co-edit the blog extinctionrebellion.org

XR is the movement that, using the vehicle of mass civil disobedience in London this autumn, resulting in multiple arrests, will demand of the UK government that carbon emissions are reduced to zero by 2025, to prevent catastrophic climate breakdown, and that a democratic citizens’ assembly is created to bring about this decarbonisation.

Due to spending all my time organising for Extinction Rebellion, my blog-business development has fallen by the wayside -or so I thought. Trusting the process of my unfolding life and business, I can now see that that all my experience of activist organisation over the past few months has directly informed the development of my ideas for information products for activists.

On 30th October I will soft launch a free version of my first information product, a curated spreadsheet of websites useful to activists, simply made with MS Excel, with a guiding document on how to use the spreadsheet. It will be messy, it will be a work-in-progress, and it will only contain a couple hundred entries, but I am confident that I have wisdom, empathy and experience enough that many activists will find this to be a useful list. Since I have been hanging around with a lot of climate activists and vegans in recent months, and have recently made the change to total veganism myself, this first free version of the spreadsheet will be weighted in these directions.

I am a generous person (ask anyone who knows me well).

Anyone who gives me significant constructive and honest feedback, (not just, ‘hey, great spreadsheet’ or ‘this spreadsheet is a pile of shit’) will get free updates of this product for life. I have come far enough against the odds to know that eventually, this will be a resource you will feel blessed to have access to. It will take me a little while to get it to that level, so bear with me. More than that -I’m asking you to help me build this thing. If you help me build it at this early stage, you’ll always be a part of it and you’ll never have to pay. If you are an active member of Extinction Rebellion, you will also never have to pay.

In January 2019 I will start charging for the product.

The theory behind my product, and behind Epic Tomorrows, is that disconnection is the final cause, or the umbrella feature, of much catastrophe in modern globalised society, including the likely collapse of global civilisation within the next century. The extent to which we connect and re-connect is the extent to which we can mitigate the collapse and turn it, broadly speaking, into a managed transformation into a more advanced version of human society.

For the activists amongst you, like myself, the need to connect and re-connect is particularly urgent for you to be an effective activist. A key element of this connection is to those information resources that help you ACT! Being an effective activist also means being a healthy person of course. You know this, but you probably struggle with putting it into practice, like I do.

My free spreadsheet and accompanying guide (try them out) will eventually expand to include all these areas of connection and re-connection for activists:

1) Activist to activist (community building)

2) Activist to wholeness / potential, of theirself

3) Activist to basic sustainable physical resources 

4) Activist to wholeness / potential, of regenerative culture

5) Activist to informational, emotional and other resources

6) Activist resource to activist resource

7) Activist org / movement to activist org / movement

There is urgency for ecopreneurs such as myself to disrupt the precarious situation of neoliberal globalised capitalism in enterprises which re-connect what neoliberal capitalism has helped disconnect. This re-connection can help subvert capitalism into a more sustainable and relocalised version of itself, into a truly regenerative culture. This culture isn’t ‘socialism’ by the way, although some socialists I’ve met are friendly to my vision.

If I can kill three bloated corporations with one stone, as the saying should go, and help activists with system change, help set an example for ecopreneurs for system change, and provide a basic living for myself in the meantime, then Epic Tomorrows is serving its purpose.

Email me at matthew.tehanu@gmail.com to get your free copy of the spreadsheet. I will only be dishing them out until I get 50 engaged respondents -that’s fifty people who give me constructive criticism to feed into the next version. These respondents will get free updates on this product for life, and this product will always be free to active members of XR and Rising Up! (You know who you are). Everyone else, if you wait until January, you’ll pay for it. 🙂

 

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.

When will the floodgates burst?

When will the floodgates burst? When will the barriers that have been built up between our godly games and our true Nature, be overcome? When will these dams of damnation be overwhelmed by the waters of a globally united ocean of human beings, a final swell of justice to meet the final swell of injustice that is man-made climate breakdown?

There is nothing to unite us like a common enemy, and that common enemy is the fear and greed at the heart of our ruling institutions and entrenched interests which allows climate breakdown to continue unabated.

As activists and knowers of the truth, we must suffer the disparagement of our peers for our long-sightedness. Worse, we must suffer abuse and ridicule by those that we are fighting to protect and save, because they know no better. Politically, most people are in pushchairs, and so us activists who are more advanced, must suffer the tantrums of the masses, even as we are trying to put out the worst fire in human history.

Imagine trying to put out a house fire, with toddlers screaming in every room, and every time you move to pick one up to remove them, they punch and kick and bite you, because somehow they cannot see the fire or feel it, even as it is burning them alive.

It is my intention and belief that the cool waters of justice will soon begin to flow, that a tipping point in the climate of understanding of the UK public will occur this autumn as a result of Extinction Rebellion. The UK public will irrevocably wake up to the reality of global climate breakdown in a way that they haven’t yet woken. Most will feel incapacitated even as they wake, but a precious few -enough- will wake up enough to take action.

What action? The only appropriate action is to hold the government to account right now on global climate breakdown. Holding to account means obtaining practical measures right now for the reduction of carbon emissions to zero by 2025. If the government doesn’t listen, the only appropriate action is civil disobedience.

Please support our campaign. Please support Extinction Rebellion.

Activist Diary #3

A few days ago I attended my first anti- badger cull rally, in Exeter, SW England (my nearest city). We marched from Belmont Park and through the town centre, with police escort. We ended up in the central pedestrianised zone of Princesshay.

I enjoyed the badger masks and the painted faces. I enjoyed the feeling of comradery on the march, although I felt a little on the outside. I despaired along with everyone else at the complete lack of science behind badger culling, which has been going on for fifty years. It is not disputed that cattle pass TB (tuberculosis) on to badgers, but there is no evidence that it happens the other way round. One of the speakers at the rally said that if the currently apathetic public knew the truth of what was going on, the truth of the government’s scapegoat policy towards badgers, it would be enough to end the reign of the Conservatives and trigger an emergency general election.

The problem is, the public generally have an ignorant trust of the people in power, whoever those people are. There is a cognitive bias in human beings, myself included, of trusting authority. Whoever is in power, most of us trust that they would not dare to implement a policy of genocide of native species, on no scientific basis, just to keep safe the votes of the farming community as a whole, not all of whom believe the lies they are told about the effectiveness of such culls. The culls are a cynical ploy to unite farmers in favour of the Tory government, and show that the government couldn’t care less about the actual problem of bovine TB, which is better treated by vaccinating farms and introducing stricter hygiene procedures.

For me though, the larger issue has to be climate breakdown. As this article shows, methane from livestock is a contributor to climate warming and thus the climate breakdown that is beginning to reach disastrous levels around the world. Additionally, inefficient farming practices result in nitrogen being released as nitrogen oxide and other greenhouse gases, further contributing to global warming. The use of artificial nitrogen fertilisers is most associated with livestock farming. (Of course, nitrogen is naturally occurring everywhere, but that is not the issue. The issue is an artificial increase in greenhouse gases). Moreover, if we, as a species, ate less meat and dairy, and cared more for the livestock that we did keep, not concentrating them in industrial complexes where diseases like TB spread more quickly and affect more animals, then quite probably the extra inhumanity of badger culls would not be resorted to. The badger culls are a ‘face saving’ measure, hiding the gross effects of industrial farming on animals and the planet.

So I handed out my cards to the cull protesters, for the non-violent direct action (NVDA) I will be engaging in this autumn to pressure the government to act more radically and immediately on climate breakdown. As I did so, I couldn’t help but feel a little frustrated. Badger culling is obviously a horrible practice, but surely the best way to stop it, along with so many other practices damaging to our environment, is to address the umbrella issue of climate breakdown. This wasn’t mentioned by any of the speakers at the rally. One of the demands of Extinction Rebellion of which I am part, is that the government reduce carbon emissions to zero by 2025. This would necessarily involve the decline of industrial livestock farming, as well as many other environmentally destructive practices.

I admire the passion and commitment and moral force of the cull protesters I marched with, and how much more of a force for change they would be if every one of them also campaigned, just as strongly, on climate breakdown.

@ExtinctionRebellion (Activist Diary #2)

The talk will be of national rebellion tomorrow at the third Exeter Rising Up! meeting in the community centre on Sidwell Street. I’m proud to have started the Exeter Rising Up! branch, and keen to get on with organising for Extinction Rebellion.

It seems to me that it is almost pointless, by now, to try to convince the general public about the more-than-likely coming climate catastrophe, by using science and careful, reasoned debate. It seems to me that the evidence is obvious to anyone who has the psychological and emotional resilience and readiness to act on it. So this is what I call on you to do -to act. The reason that so many of us have not acted before now is a feeling of powerlessness in the face of potentially threatening government institutions -the worst being that the government threatens to do relatively nothing about climate breakdown.

I would call it a reasonable supposition rather than a conspiracy theory that the most attractive strategy of the ruling elites over the coming decades may be to let us, ‘the masses’ die off in our millions, nay billions, so that they alone may inherit the Earth. Do they imagine that they will be protected by bubbles of advanced technology from the worst of climate breakdown? Well, perhaps they would be protected. Do we allow that gross solution, that wilful holocaust of 90% of the human race, to happen? Of course we don’t.

I used to think that activism, including non-violent direct action, was useless in achieving change. I used to smugly watch on television, activists being bundled into police vans or barricaded. However, since getting involved in the #VoteNoHeathrow campaign with Rising Up! this summer, I realised that disparate activist groups can work simultaneously on the same issue, alongside others using conventional channels such as Parliament, to achieve real change. Although the third Heathrow runway was voted through Parliament on the heels of our campaign, in reality the strength of support for #VoteNoHeathrow shows that the runway is unlikely to be built. Especially considering Extinction Rebellion.

Extinction Rebellion is an escalation of Rising Up’s general stance against the government’s inaction on slowing and ceasing carbon emissions. #VoteNoHeathrow continued where #StopKillingLondoners left off, and @ExtinctionRebellion is the next logical step. Extinction Rebellion (XR) is an escalating campaign culminating in significant infrastructure blocks, including road blocks, this November in London and potentially other cities. At least 100 of us now have signed up for arrest. By calculated non-violent direct action (we are well-trained) we will deliberately put ourselves in positions of illegality to draw attention to the immorality of the government and the international community of elites, on climate breakdown. We will be arrested and some of us may be locked up for a time. If this is what it takes, we reason, to put climate breakdown at the centre of the government’s agenda, then so be it. And if XR 2018 is not enough to do it, XR 2019 and 2020 will be.